If you’ve viewed anyone’s personal website or portfolio lately, you likely noticed a little button somewhere that said “Support me on Ko-fi.” If you’ve never heard of Ko-fi, you probably weren’t sure what that meant. But don’t fret—we dove in and demystified the service to figure out exactly what it is and who’s most likely to use it.
Update, 9/8/21: Checked content for accuracy and updated pricing.
Ko-fi is a platform that’s similar to Patreon in that it allows people to make donations to various users, who are typically creators. It’s a great (and easy!) way to fund (or even simply supplement) income and help pay the bills or fund upcoming projects. It kind of feels like a combination of Patreon, DeviantArt, and a personal blog, which makes it more casual and approachable.
However, Ko-fi also differs from Patreon in a few key ways:
- It works more as a one-time tip jar (meaning it doesn’t ask for monthly donations or subscriptions).
- Donations can be in virtually any amount and aren’t limited to preset tiers.
- It can also double as a basic storefront in addition to a place to make donations.
- Ko-fi users aren’t required to put out content on a regular basis.
- Users have the option to open up commissions.
- Ko-fi does not charge any fees!
Currently, Ko-fi’s platform supports over 500,000 creators of all varieties, like writers, illustrators, developers, streamers, podcasters, cosplayers, artists, game designers, small businesses, and more. It’s an easy way for creators to receive a little income from anyone who is a fan of what they do, and to even raise some money for art supplies, upgraded equipment, and continued product releases. Creators might also use Ko-fi in addition to other supplemental income options like merch, ad reads, sponsorships, tours, and even other fundraising sites.
When it comes to famous users, Ko-fi isn’t always able to match the prestige of sites like Patreon. Those sites play host to famous celebs and YouTubers, like Philip DeFranco.
Despite this, Ko-fi does its best to regularly highlight a curated selection of featured Ko-fi creators and businesses, like artist Monarobot, illustrator Mochi Buddies, cosplayer and photographer Black Bettie Cosplay, author and ancient historian Ellie M Roberts, U.K. podcast production company Long Cat Media, and pilates instructor The Girl With The Pilates Mat. These are some of Ko-fi’s most popular top earners, and the wide variety of art and goods they create proves how versatile and powerful Ko-fi can be for creators.
Ko-fi is simple at heart. You create a page, your fans donate money, and you get the money. Fans can make one-time donations or set up recurring donations, and creators can release new content whenever they see fit. It’s literally just a digital tip jar. You can add update posts as needed, and fans can send you messages of encouragement when making a donation.
There’s even an option where you can add rewards for your supporters. This is similar to how things work on sites like Patreon where, if they choose to become one of your regular supporters, they can receive content or goodies kept behind a paywall that one-time donors won’t have access to like extra images, early access to videos, exclusive blog posts, or even a fun behind-the-scenes blooper reel. It’s up to you how much you want to offer your supporters on your Ko-fi page.
Using Ko-fi is incredibly simple, for both visitors and creators. For visitors, when you’re on a user’s Ko-fi page, simply click the “Support” button. You can “buy them a coffee” for the amount they’ve set, or increase your donation if you’re feeling generous. From there, you can enter your name and an optional message, then pay via PayPay or a debit or credit card.
For creators, setting up an account is almost as easy. You’ll enter in all of the standard information, set a username, add a photo and bio, and connect a payment source like PayPal or Stripe. This process literally only takes a minute or two and is all you need to do to get your page up and running.
To make your page more engaging for visitors, there are a few other steps you can complete beyond that. The most important would be to link your personal website and Twitter account to your Ko-fi page—and vice versa—so your followers have a way to find you and your work. You can also add an introductory post or video, create a funding goal (like for a new computer, additional art supplies, or upgraded recording equipment), or even upload images of your work in your gallery. Everything’s pretty customizable and designed to be easy to use.
Perhaps the site’s only downfall is its total lack of a mobile app. Having an app available for creators would make it much easier for them to manage their account, add updates, and stay in touch with supporters. However, Ko-fi is looking into developing an app, and currently has a typeform open where creators and supporters alike can suggest features and discuss what they’d like to see in a future app.
Two of Ko-fi’s best features are its options for creators to open up commissions and open up a Ko-fi shop storefront. Together, these two options do a great job rounding out the site’s overall functionality and make it a simple one-stop shop where artists can truly connect with their audience. You can easily set the number of commission slots you want to open up and turn them off whenever you’re too booked to handle another.
Ko-fi also gives creators the option to open up a Ko-fi shop, wherein you can sell digital and physical items like stickers, prints, wallpapers, game mods, tutorials, sound files, merch, books, or crafting kits. It only takes a few minutes to open up your Ko-fi shop and add products. Ko-fi even gives you enough space to add images, videos, and a description of your product. You can also set your own price and note if the product has a limited stock.
The nice thing about Ko-fi, as opposed to crowdfunding sites, is that it takes 0% of donations. Despite the site helping creators receive over $4 million in donations every month (and $50 million so far), Ko-fi never takes a cent no matter how much money you get in a single donation, and no matter how many donations you get. Ko-fi also keeps ads off of your page and won’t sell your information.
The only thing putting a dent in your total donation income is payment processor fees. Both PayPal and Stripe will still apply their normal transaction fees. Typically, these range between 2-3.4%, but that can vary depending on currencies, location, and other factors beyond Ko-fi’s reach.
You’re probably wondering how Ko-fi makes money then, which is an excellent question. Ko-fi earns money from donations to its own Ko-fi page, from Ko-fi Gold subscriptions, and from a 5% platform fee levied on commission and shop sales for creators that don’t have a Ko-fi Gold subscription.
So what exactly is Ko-fi Gold, then? It’s basically the site’s premium tier, that offers additional functionality and customization options, eliminates all fees, and has tons of other bonuses. Ko-fi Gold isn’t terribly expensive, especially if you are pulling in a good amount each month. While donations are free for everyone, you’ll pay either $0 plus a 5% platform fee if you’re using Ko-fi free or $6 per month plus a 0% platform fee with Ko-fi Gold.
With Gold, you’ll unlock commissions tools and the option to set up recurring donations for supporters, eliminate site ads, get a sneak peek at the latest site features, get analytics bonuses, have the ability to change your username to a rare, short Ko-fi name, and the option to change the word “coffee” in your site button to (pretty much) any other word you like.
If you’re just a casual user of the site, this might all be overkill. However, if you’ve got a large following and want to open up commissions and sell lots of goodies, it’s a darn good bargain.
If you’re a creator of any type of art or good, Ko-fi is a smart choice and absolutely worth taking a moment to sign up for. After all, there’s nothing bad about setting out a tip jar and letting people drop in a buck or two if they like what you do.
The fact that Ko-fi doesn’t take any fees from your donations and limits fees from commission and shop sales to 5% makes it a decent place for burgeoning creators to start out. It doubles as a website, letting you connect with supporters, commission and sell goods, and connect with a larger community—what’s not to like? So if you’re a creator, go set up your Ko-fi account. And if you know a creator on Ko-fi, consider making their day with a donation.
Set up your own Ko-fi account
Create a profile, fund your art, and connect with your supporters now on Ko-fi.