Passing your hat round

As a busker, I’ve stood in the street many times with a hat on the ground in front of me for people to throw coins into while I sing or play music. It’s not exactly begging, and it’s not exactly transactional work and it might be gift economy. People who like what I do throw in a few coins and hopefully we all have a better sort of day as a consequence.

Putting your hat out online is in some ways similar. Be it a virtual tip jar, a ko-fi account, or Patreon, or a funding site… if you’re a person who makes stuff and shares it, this can be a good way to go. The internet is full of free stuff, but making content has a cost – time, energy, electricity. 

For some of us, it’s a challenge because it feels too much like begging. There will be people who treat it as asking for something for nothing, with no regard for what kind of busking gig you have. Putting your hat out means asking people to take you seriously and to value what you do. That’s also a vulnerable place to be, because if people don’t respond in ways you find affirming, it can feel really exposed. Putting out the hat also acknowledges that you aren’t selling a million books every year, or whatever it is that you do, and that’s a vulnerable move, too. It can feel an awful lot like asking for help, and many of us aren’t good at that, either.

If you’re going to put your hat out for coins, you need to feel confident that you’re doing something people will value. Ideally you need to have done enough of whatever it is to have people feel invested in you, and to prove that you’re serious and can keep going. If you’re asking for ongoing support – as with the Patreon model – it’s really important that you can keep putting things into the world. People are unlikely to keep supporting you if they don’t feel satisfied by what they get out of that. Mutual respect is a really key part of this process.

If you’re considering tossing coins in someone’s hat, let me add that small donations are worth a lot. Most creators are financially marginal, and the price of a cup of coffee makes a difference. Even the creators you may believe should be doing well probably aren’t. The vast majority of creative people working professionally are just scraping by at best, working other jobs or depending on other sources of money. This is not a get-rich-quick scheme, it’s more a trying not to starve while making nice things scheme. 

Coins tossed in the hat aren’t just useful financial support. It’s also incredibly validating to be supported in doing whatever it is you do. It’s a very loud round of applause. For the same reasons, it’s a really good thing to leave likes, reviews, and other kinds of positive feedback. Most of the creative people I know are anxious folk half convinced that everything they do is terrible and unworthy. A few words from a fan can be life changing.

I have ko-fi and Patreon, and if you like what I do, your support is greatly appreciated.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

2 responses to “Passing your hat round

  • LadyColubrid

    It is really unfortunate to me that our societies value things like tech workers, doctors, lawyers, etc more than anyone else, in a monetary and often social prestige kind of way. Other than the select few artists (including musicians and actors) who are elevated to celebrity status. I say this as a tech worker myself, who is uncomfortable with making more money than people around me who work just as hard and are skilled at what they do.

    It is even harder for most artists, because we tend to see it as something done for the love of it. Therefore, why pay you to do something so “fun”? Get a “real job” which implies some sort of begrudging suffering perhaps. I don’t know what to do about changing this other than supporting smaller creators when I can, and trying to vocally offer my two cents into the stream of culture around me.

    On that note, I have been supporting Nimue’s Patreon for a long time, and I am very satisfied. It is a delight to see the little poems and songs, and the occasional surprise book come my way. I read almost every blog post so it also feels good knowing I’m supporting more being written.

    And to address the more emotional side of things… I tend to share your posts with “this is one of my favorite authors”, and your thoughts have been invaluable along my druidic path over the years. I hope you are able to enjoy a quiet cup of tea for a moment 🙂

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