Review: Monetizing with Buy Me a Coffee, Does it Work?

Last Updated on by Michael Brockbank

A lot of people look for ways to monetize their blogs. Some pick eCommerce while others include systems like Adsense and affiliate marketing. But what about a donation button? Buy Me a Coffee is one way to accept donations on your site…and it works.

Well, it works in the sense that it does exactly what the site claims. You still need to drive supporters to actually use the donation button or links.

And that’s a different tale. Today, I’m focusing more on whether Buy Me a Coffee is a viable system or not. And based on my experience so far, it is a nice option for bloggers and video creators.

What is Buy Me a Coffee?

Buy Me a Coffee is an easy way for others to support a creator through tips or donations. It can be used in a variety of ways, such as on websites as a button or links in YouTube video descriptions.

If you haven’t heard of Patreon, Ko-Fi, and other financial support systems, Buy Me a Coffee provides a platform where your fans can “buy” you a coffee to show support. It’s a way that content creators, artists, and other professionals can make a bit of money from patrons.

And in a world where YouTube can get stingy with monetization, it’s not a bad idea.

Many creators make a living from their supporters. And if you enjoy someone’s work, there’s nothing wrong with showing it as a $3 donation.

NOTE: One downside to Buy Me a Coffee is the “Anonymous” donations. While the system doesn’t record personal information, it still shows you (the user) the payment.

So when you collect funds in PayPal, it will still show the individual making the donation. Donations may be anonymous on the front-end of your page, but you can still see who gave you money.

How Does Buy Me a Coffee Work?

Buy Me a Coffee gives the audience a way to support a creator through the use of donations or tips. If someone enjoys the content you create, then they can buy you a coffee at a set dollar amount you determine.

The payouts are processed immediately using PayPal or Stripe, depending on how the creator set up the account. Creators can also set up monthly subscription plans, membership rewards, or sell extras from their BMC page.

Building Your Page

On your profile page, you can have a few different elements to describe who you are and what you’ll do with the money. There are also social buttons available so supporters can share the page on Facebook and Twitter.

On your profile page, you basically have:

  • Your name and a link to your primary website.
  • An image or video to show visitors.
  • Any established goals you might have for what you’ll do with the money.
  • Your story to engage visitors.
  • An update section where you can comment with others and share upcoming news and events.

Obviously, the more fleshed out the profile is, the better are your chances of getting support from visitors. However, you’re only allowed a certain amount of space for images and text. So, be as succinct in your needs as possible.

Setting Goals and Donation Amounts

Buy Me a Coffee lets you set goals for donations. For example, I currently have a goal to buy an Elgato Cam Link so I can stream with a Canon camera. It’s of better quality than my webcam, but I can’t live-stream without an HDMI to a USB device like the Elgato.

Goals are easily set in the system, and you can modify how much each “coffee” is worth. You can set this in $3, $4 or $5 increments. Personally, I chose the lower option.

You also have the option to enable monthly support. This means Buy Me a Coffee will automatically withdraw money on your behalf from the supporter’s account. It’s kind of like offering a subscription fee to those who donate.

Or, you can enable a yearly fee with discounts.

Instead of your patrons paying fees to systems like PayPal, you can opt to pay them yourself. This means supporters will send the exact coffee amount instead of worrying about fees. This is something I enabled as I don’t see anything wrong with paying the fees myself.

On a side note, you can change the term “coffee” in your profile. So, instead of asking someone to buy you a coffee, you could say something like, “Buy Me a Sandwich.”

Direct and Immediate Deposits for PayPal

I can’t speak for Stripe, but PayPal donations from Buy Me a Coffee are processed almost immediately. When I received my first donation, it was in my PayPal account rather quickly.

This is nice considering how some systems require a certain dollar amount to be met before processing the funds. Buy Me a Coffee does it on the spot.

Supporters also have the option of leaving a brief message within the donation.

Now, there is a “Partner Commission” taken out of donations. For instance, out of the $3.00 coffee I received, PayPal took out $0.39 and Buy Me a Coffee received $0.15. So, I netted $2.46.

Actual screenshot from PayPal.

Still, it is $2.46 more than I had the day before.

Upload an Image Gallery

One of the newer features to Buy  Me a Coffee is the image gallery. You can upload and share photos from the “Posts” section of your account.

These galleries are shareable to the public or you can make them “Members Only.” If you’re a photography, artist or graphic designer, this might be a great way to engage your audience and inspire memberships.

Personally, I might give it a try to share images of my home life to members only. Then again, I need to find time to manage that as well.

Is Buy Me a Coffee Safe?

So far, I’ve collected quite a bit of donations from supporters. I haven’t experienced any negative effects or receive any kind of spam through Buy Me a Coffee. It’s a secure website while using PayPal’s own secured portal to donate funds.

This means it’s powered by PayPal’s own security systems. As I’ve been a user of PayPal since 2003, there are few systems on the Internet I trust more.

I know some people have had bad experiences with PayPal. Fortunately, I am not one of them.

Since you also have access to use Stripe, you can choose which payment processing method you want. Either of these platforms is as safe as most banks, so you’re in good hands.

How Do I Use Buy Me a Coffee?

You can use the system in a variety of ways. In reality, it all depends on your platform and marketing campaign for donations. And yes, even donation buttons and links can benefit from strong marketing campaigns.

In fact, I am going through the process of fine-tuning my membership rewards for monthly subscribers.

WordPress Plugin

The WordPress plugin is probably one of the quickest ways to add both the donation button and widget to your blog. After adding your profile username to the plugin, you can add the button as a sidebar widget.

The “widget” for Buy Me a Coffee adds a clickable element to the bottom of your site that allows visitors to make donations. It works similarly to how the OneSignal Push notifications work on this website.

For example, if you look at the bottom right corner, you’ll see the red and white bell icon. With Buy Me a Coffee, it’s the coffee cup image with a custom flavor text you create.

As a Link

A common option is the Buy Me a Coffee link. This is a link to your profile page where you can accept donations. This is a branded URL displaying your name to help inspire confidence and trust.

For instance, the link for my account is https://www.buymeacoffee.com/writersanctuary. Notice the page extension is for Writer Sanctuary. It also works how it’s displayed in the image above using: https://buymeacoff.ee/writersanctuary.

It just redirects back to the first URL.

You can use links in a variety of ways, which makes them one of the most efficient methods for sharing. You can use them in:

  • Emails and newsletters for your website.
  • Social media updates such as Facebook and Twitter posts.
  • Links on your blog like I did a moment ago.
  • Link for banners and images you create on a website.

You can distribute the donation link as you would any other. Personally, I’ve used the links in my YouTube videos in the description area, which is where my first donation originated.

And recently, I received three “coffees” during a live stream from a viewer.

On-Site Buttons

The system comes with a way to create a button for your website. You can choose specific colors, the text and even modify the font. However, the block of HTML that comes with this option is quite large.

Still, it’s an easy way to add a donation button, especially if you don’t have experience creating your own.

For Writer Sanctuary, I made a button in the sidebar with the URL using the Shortcodes Ultimate plugin. But I believe there are a number of button plugins you can use to add the URL.

Because it is a link, you can also simply create your own graphic and use a href coding. For example, I’ve created some cool-looking button images in the past with Photoshop.

If you don’t have Photoshop or other graphics programs, Canva is an awesome free tool that delivers a lot of flexibility for specific images.

Offering Supporter Rewards

One aspect of Buy Me a Coffee is being able to offer membership rewards to supporters. I’ve seen people on the system offer a collection of sketch drawings, books, and other digital products.

In other words, you can offer supporters exclusive content.

The platform also provides ways to offer individual membership reward tiers based on what you provide. So, if you want to create a $2 basic membership as well as a $5, you can offer different rewards for the two.

This is a common aspect of many platforms such as Patreon. It gives people more of an incentive to donate as they’ll get access to stuff not available to everyone else.

For example, you could show behind-the-scenes videos or prime text content only to those who donate.

Adding a Widget

One of the newer features is the addition of using a widget. The widget works a bit like how notifications work on this blog. You’ll see the coffee cup icon on the bottom left, and when clicked, the donation screen expands.

This is outside of the WordPress plugin I mentioned earlier. In this method, you can copy and paste the code directly from Buy Me a Coffee.

It’s another way you can drive support from those who love your content.

The instructions say to place the copied code into the <head> section of your pages. However, I was able to get this to work just fine simply using a Custom HTML widget in the sidebar of WordPress.

It doesn’t show in the sidebar, but it still launches the widget perfectly.

Delivering Extras to Supporters

One of the newer aspects of Buy Me a Coffee is the Extras you can provide. You can sell eBooks, commissioned art, exclusive video content, or create your own from scratch.

In fact, you can set up your own ZOOM event and sell tickets to supporters directly from BMC. Going over the templates that are available, I’ve even come up with a few ideas of my own.

At any rate, the Extras in Buy Me a Coffee are available to help you generate even more revenue. By offering something more engaging, it has the potential to drive income.

Does Buy Me a Coffee Actually Work?

PayPal Deposit from 3 Coffees

Although I haven’t had the account for very long, I can say that I do get direct deposits into PayPal almost immediately. As of September 23, 2019, I’ve had five “coffees” given to me by viewers and blog readers.

After fees, this amounts to about $13.70 in tips. However, the page gets enough attention on a regular basis that I am trying to put together a “thank you” package of some kind. Probably an exclusive eBook for freelance writers.

At any rate, I have made money from this system and will continue to use it until I see a better alternative. For now, though, the money does go into PayPal where I have instant access to the funds.

So, yes, I can say that Buy Me a Coffee does work for donations and tips. But to get the most out of the platform, you need to put a bit of work into giving people a reason to send you money.

Can You Use Buy Me a Coffee on Sites Like Blogger?

Using the code snippet from Buy Me a Coffee, you can add the donation link easily into Blogger and other free websites. However, you’ll need to keep in mind the terms of service for those sites.

Some platforms, such as WordPress.com, will actually strip away iFrame coding when you try to save the button.

Since there are a few methods to add a BMC button to your site, there are some ways to get around coded widgets. For instance, you can make your own little graphic button and simply add your BMC profile link.

In fact, I’ve demonstrated how to use a simple graphic from Photoshop to create a donation button for free websites, including WordPress.com.

Just remember that not all free platforms are going to allow money-making systems in this fashion. Take a quick glance over the TOS and make sure you’re not doing something that can get you banned.

Because you don’t want to spend all that time building up a free website only for the host to kick you off.

How Does Buy Me a Coffee Differ from Ko-fi?

When it comes to what you can do with Buy Me a Coffee and Ko-fi, it all boils down to two distinct differences: fees and memberships.

For instance, Buy Me a Coffee is free to use but charges a 5% transaction fee. Ko-fi is free unless you want to unlock all of the goodies on the platform. Then, it’s a $6 per month gold membership. All of these goodies are already available on Buy Me a Coffee.

If you want to set up membership levels, Ko-fi does not currently have this ability. You can only set up one membership level, and the monthly fee is directly tied to your one-time donation amount.

So, if you want to set up tiers for different levels of paying supporters, Buy Me a Coffee is the better platform.

Get Donations from Your Blog or Videos

There are all kinds of ways to monetize a blog or a YouTube channel. Among them, I’d say that Buy Me a Coffee has great potential. So far, I’ve seen a positive impact and like how easy the site is to manage.

The biggest issue you’ll have is how you share your donation link with the world. Though, coming up with membership rewards is another chore of its own.

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Michael Brockbank

Michael has been a freelance writer since January of 2012. He has completed more than 8,000 jobs for a variety of clients ranging from animals to travel. Currently, he is the Content Marketing Team Lead of GreenGeeks Web Hosting.

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