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Can't Talk | September 25, 2020

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Can't Talk Staff

So, our Patreon has been up and running for several months now, and it is so awesome, you guys. We cannot tell you what a privilege (and a relief!) it is to pay some bills and offer new content, like The Crafting System podcast.

Even with the generous support of our Patrons, we are still an outlet that cannot pay any of our contributors or ourselves. In the interest of making sure our integrity is intact, we wanted to be fully transparent about why that is.

Prepare yourself for numbers.

First, let’s talk about income. Our amazing Patrons donate around $175 per month; how much we receive changes a bit every month for reasons like declined credit cards and fees from Patreon and the service that deposits the money into our bank account.

We also have ads on our website and some of our YouTube videos. In the year or two we’ve had ads, we’ve accumulated about $30 in our account with Google; Google doesn’t pay out until you’ve reached at least $100, so it’ll be a while before we see that money.

In August, we were thrilled to have a sponsor for some of our PAX content; The sponsor paid us $500, and that money was used to buy equipment for us and for our staff; to provide our staff with a small food budget to offset her con expenses, and to buy marketing materials for the convention. We invested that money back into the convention, which we’ll talk about in a few minutes.

In short, Can’t Talk Media currently depends entirely on Patreon for its income.

So where did that money go, and why can’t we pay anyone who works for us, writes for us, or otherwise does rad things for us?

We’ll start with our monthly and annual expenses.

Website hosting costs us $20/month. That seems high, we know, but we get just enough traffic that our provider limits our bandwidth and our site slows to a crawl on a shared server. We were forced to upgrade to a dedicated server, which costs a lot more. (Is bandwidth the right term? We don’t even know, guys.)

Podcast hosting costs us $8/month times three podcasts for a total of $24/month. We decided early on that we didn’t want all our podcasts sharing one feed because we all thought that would be annoying for you, our listeners. We know that we have listeners that don’t enjoy all of our shows, and we wanted people to be able to subscribe separately to each one rather than dump everything into their podcast catcher whether they asked for it or not.

There is a small yearly fee for maintaining our web address (somewhere around $12/year).

Additionally, because neither of us are finance people, we pay someone to do our taxes each year for $350.

We also have a phone line; that costs $10 a month. (More about that later.)

Amelia will say she found us the only free business checking account on the planet. She is pretty impressive, guys.

So far, we’re at $1,010 a year, which works out to about $85 a month.

What are we doing with the rest of the money? The next category sums that up pretty well. Monthly and annual expenses aren’t the only ones that come up. Equipment breaks. Staff members need business cards, shirts, and equipment for conventions. The money we receive from Patreon that doesn’t immediately go into paying our bills, we set aside for these one-time or occasional expenses.

These are some of the expenses we’ve incurred so far. All but $200 of these were pre-Patreon and paid for out of our own pockets. 

We paid a significant amount for our logo design and the template that makes the website look nice; I think, all together, we have paid somewhere around $400 for design. If we wanted to change the look or design, we would have to pay again. Staying current online means sometimes that’s a thing you have to do.

We invested in audio equipment last year. We bought two mics and a portable, digital recorder for PAX. That allowed us to provide the content you saw, including the Paxlets on YouTube, the sponsored content, and the podcasts and interviews. Bell also bought a new mic, stand, and pop filter for her closet, er, office, that improves her sound quality. All together, these pieces of equipment weighed in at about $600.

We have, to date, spent approximately $800 on marketing. These expenses included holiday cards, business cards, con swag (buttons, drink tickets for the party we co-hosted with BTA, and the awesome hand sanitizers), and shirts for ourselves and members of our staff to use at conventions.

We have a phone line for Can’t Talk, which we set up so that when our Canadian staff members come to the United States to cover conventions, they don’t have to buy expensive US data plans during their trips. The handset cost $180.

We’ve spent about $300 at the post office to send out prizes to winners of giveaways, mail Christmas cards, and ship equipment to our staff at conventions.

We’ve spent about $100 on equipment for our staff’s personal use and meals for staff at conventions.

We spent $115 on streaming software and equipment for Twitch.

We’ve paid $50 for checks to, you know, pay bills that we couldn’t pay with plastic.

That’s about $3,500 of one-time expenses (the ones we could think of off the tops of our heads, anyway.) Adding monthly expenses from 2013-2015 into the mix, we’re looking at over $5,000 of out-of pocket expense incurred before we launched our Patreon.

Now let’s talk about things we’d like to pay for, but that have been donated by our wonderful staff and supporters.

Conventions: Plane tickets, food, and hotel costs to cover conventions like PAX Prime, Phoenix Comicon, Calgary Expo, and PAX South can easily run over $1,000 per con, per staff member. We pay for those out of our pockets and can’t cover those expenses for any of our staff, as much as we would like to.

Livestreaming on Twitch: We stream many games on our Twitch site, all of them paid for by us or the staff that is streaming. Games cost anywhere from $20-$100 dollars apiece, and gaming equipment and Internet service are also expensive.

Website coding, development, and maintenance: Neither of us are trained in any kind of computer code. Everything we do we (mostly Amelia) either spend hours learning, or someone we know who does know how to do this stuff is awesome and donates time to help us. This has happened a few times since we opened our doors, and we are incredibly grateful.

We also put each and every article under contract, and those contracts were drawn up by our awesome Rosie for the price of a dinner or two (legal advice and contract writing normally costing way more than we have). Those contracts ensure that every article written for our site belongs to the writer, not us, and may be removed and sold to a paying market at any time. I think we’re probably the only outlet doing this, and it is something we have insisted on from the beginning. We know it sucks to work for free, and we wanted to protect our writers and their rights in any way we could.

Ness, Can’t Talk’s third editor (and also the third leg that keeps us from falling over), is an editor by profession. We don’t know how much her services would cost if we paid for them. We know we can’t afford her.

Beth, who recently joined Can’t Talk as our resident transcriptionist, is donating her services to make the Can’t Talk Podcast accessible to more of our community. If we were to pay her what she deserves, that easily would be $100 or more per episode.

All of our podcast guests have donated their time, knowledge, and wisdom to us.

The audio equipment used to record The Crafting System was purchased by the hosts, Ness and Eris;  Ness also paid for The Crafting System’s logo. Additionally, the endless hours of audio engineering Amelia, Kayte, and Ness invest into our podcasts are entirely unpaid.

If we could afford it, we would pay everyone who helped us a fair rate. We are so, so grateful for them.

Podcasting things we didn’t pay for include a gift of a two channel mixer, an ambient mic, pop filters and other equipment (from Amelia’s rad brother) and hours of help editing audio (mainly from her husband).

At this time, all the articles that appear on the website, whether written by us, our amazing staff, or our contributors, are unpaid. If we paid each person who contributed an article in January (excluding Amelia and Bell) $25, we would be paying out about $400 for that one month alone. Additionally, all the editing work is also unpaid and done by Ness, Bell, and Amelia. If we were paying for this content and editing work, we would be bankrupt in less than a month.

The time our staff puts in is worth many thousands of dollars in editing, reporting, overhead, and other expenses. The time Bell and Amelia put in is even greater. Can’t Talk Media is a part-time job for us both, often clocking in at 20 hours a week or more.

Honestly, without our amazing staff, Can’t Talk might have folded over the summer of 2015. Bell was struggling with mental health, and Amelia was running much of the project by herself for months. Amelia has another business that she runs by herself, and she was sinking under the weight of taking care of everything. We are grateful every day to our amazing staff who came on board expecting no pay and supporting what we do by donating their time, their words, and their energy to the project. Without them, we couldn’t do this at all.

Neither of us expected to recover our expenses from past years; we want to keep investing. It’s exciting to know that we will continue to be able to pay for our basics and perhaps, as we grow, we will be able to start paying for articles (although we won’t be able to pay a competitive rate for a long, long time). Behind the scenes, Bell and Amelia have had about a million talks and some arguments about how to handle finances, pay people, and make sure we are also getting paid for our time and energy (well, we’re not, but in theory).

This project is a massive investment of time and resources, and the payoff we’ve received is entirely in pride and the feedback we get from our community that something we said made a difference in their lives. We don’t want to stop doing that, and we’re happy to do the work because we feel it’s a circle of giving: We give our time and energy and words and money, you give your ears and support and words and some money—and together we create something really cool.

(From Amelia)

Amanda Palmer said it best in this quote from her book “The Art Of Asking”:

“It’s hard enough to give fearlessly, and it’s even harder to receive fearlessly.

“But within that exchange lies the hardest thing of all:

“To ask. Without shame.

“And to accept the help that people offer.

“Not to force them.

“Just to let them.”

Amanda Palmer taught me how to stop saying no, I can do it all myself, and to start allowing people to join us and create something that all of us have a hand in. Can’t Talk Media isn’t mine and Bell’s anymore; it’s all of ours, and I like it better this way. To all of you who are willing to help us and join us in this creation, we say thank you. With all our hearts.

(Post written by Amelia and Bell and edited by Ness.)

Correction: This post was updated on February 12th, 2016 at 9:01 am to reflect the following correction: What are we doing with the rest of the money? The next category sums that up pretty well. Monthly and annual expenses aren’t the only ones that come up. Equipment breaks. Staff members need business cards, shirts, and equipment for conventions. The money we receive from Patreon that doesn’t immediately go into paying our bills, we set aside for these one-time or occasional expenses.

These are some of the expenses we’ve incurred so far. All but $200 of these were pre-Patreon and paid for out of our own pockets.

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