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  • Writer's pictureKaren Ruffles

How does Ko-fi work? A quick guide for artists and art lovers.

In case you've not spotted it on my socials, I recently added a Ko-fi page to my business toolkit. With the online art market constantly shifting and previously reliable income streams drying up, it's important for freelancers like me to always have an eye out for other options. Why this one, and why now?

My Ko-fi page (dashboard view)

First up, it's essential that any account I sign up to has an actual benefit - it needs to offer something I don't already have in terms of a different audience or function. Kickstarter which I use regularly has a built in community of highly motivated backers who like the extras that come with investing in something early on - be that bragging rights, exclusive rewards, or a special offer by way of thank you for helping me launch something. I have, well, this website obviously, social media, some portfolio sites and I sell on 3 other platforms. I still had a few things that just didn't quite fit in any of those spaces.

Stephen model under construction

I'm working on a big new multi-media extravaganza featuring the monsters which I hope to have ready for launch next autumn. This involved making some new desk models of the monsters which I want to use as drawing reference of course, but also to create new, longer stop motion animations. A small part of the overall plan but expensive. I need some new kit and creating traditional stop motion takes an enormous amount of time - a 30 second clip can easily eat up a couple of days. This is where Ko-fi's most basic function as a tip jar comes in. I know people like watching this stuff, along with my drawing videos and so on, so now folks can drop a couple of quid in to help keep this kind of content coming. I've used it to tip other people who do podcasts and so on that I've found entertaining or useful.

My pencil jar

I like that I can choose the amount and make it so folks are buying me something relevant, that's a nice touch. How customisable a page is does depend on what subscription I have to the service - there are fee free options that are more limited, through to gold accounts with all the whistles and bells. I've opted for something in the middle that lets me give a bit back and have more functionality without committing myself to too much.

I currently have one off and recurring options for this bit - another reason for choosing Ko-fi was that I can add subscriptions. That would allow me to offer exclusive backer only content like specially created work or art tutorials. I can make it so that when I hit a certain level of support that pays for me to do that, and I have a free afternoon (I know they exist, I've seen other people have them), I can do a little side quest. That's something I'll probably have in place by the new year.

The other main function I wanted was somewhere to host limited commission spots. Sometimes as with the last few months things happen I hadn't planned for. One way of making a little extra money occasionally is to do an offer on specific kinds of work - for example right now I have little custom drawings with framing and shipping thrown in. That's a great deal for customers which alongside limited availability encourages people to go for it now while it lasts.

Because it's below my standard rate which I have to maintain if I want to continue sleeping indoors, and I'm limiting the type of work to keep it on budget I don't like to host these alongside my regular sales. It's not a set of anything so doesn't work for Kickstarter, plus I'm still shipping rewards from my Reflections project after the exhibition finished a couple of weeks ago. Ko-fi is perfect because it's a quick and simple way of doing things for artist and art buyer - it took me minutes to set mine up with some samples and guidelines and it's self contained which makes it easy to keep track of.


The only real downside to Ko-fi that I have encountered so far is that it's comparatively difficult to engage with a wider network on site. This is something I've noticed with other newer platforms, TikTok is a pain in the bum for that as well. But does it need that? How much would I actually hang out there? If I'm wanting to support someone it's because I've just been enjoying something they were doing and want to chip in, so I'll get to the end of whatever it is and pop over to do so, then I move on.

As creator I think that's something to bear in mind - if you set up a page make it friendly, add some interesting things to read and look at so people can see you are delivering, but remember it's going to be something else you have to signpost on your socials etc. One final thing that might be of particular interest to any new creators out there, as well as commissions it has the option of setting up a little shop on site so if you're starting out and could use a one stop option to get you started, Ko-fi could very well be it.

This is of course my cue to invite you to visit my Drawing in Dark Ko-fi page to buy me a pencil or bag yourself one of the remaining commission spots- see you there!

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