Since the dawn of TFD, one of our biggest questions as a team and as a media company has been “How do we find a way to sustainably fund ourselves, and grow, while keeping a (relatively), small, tight-knit community?” Publishing a ton of sub-par content to jack up the traffic for our ads, or spending more time on gaming SEO than on working with awesome contributors and experts, were never part of our vision — even if it would have grown our wallets in the short-term.
We also never turned to crowdfunding, even though, particularly at the beginning of things, something like a Kickstarter would have been extremely helpful. Hank and John Green were kind enough to give us a small grant at the start of TFD to help us become a real company and WordPress (with ads!), so we felt we’d already received more than we could have expected. A Kickstarter would have felt, at that time, like we were being greedy.
And since then, between sponsored content, a book, our Amazon roundups, and other forms of partnerships with clients we feel strongly about, we’ve found ways to pay our bills comfortably each month. We’re by no means Scrooge McDucks, but we’ve been able to steadily increase our freelance budget each month, even if it’s still extremely small by many standards. We’ve grown, and more importantly, have been able to say “no” to things we believe would be unethical or grating to the community we hold so dear — and saying “no” in business is often much more satisfying than saying “yes.”
But we want to continue to grow, and we are lucky to have a tight-knit community who wants to support us in any way they can. To that end, we went back and forth for a long time about the idea of a subscription model, or a Patreon. For the subscription, we ultimately felt that writing about financial literacy is something everyone should have access to, regardless of their ability to pay, and we simply don’t yet have enough content to justify putting some of it behind a firewall. Our newsletter, too, is something we want to be available to everyone.
A Patreon felt like something we could manage, and we’ve been so flattered by the amount of times readers have asked us to start one so they could contribute. But the model of “special gifts and bonuses for patrons” felt like it would be complicated to manage, and again, we’re already turning at max capacity with the content we have now — it would be difficult to generate something worthy of being called a “bonus” each week for our group of donors. Patreon is an awesome option, but when you’re already stretched very thin, it’s a more active than passive kind of subscription service.
So we thought — why not a shop? Lauren is a fantastic (and frankly, underutilized right now, outside of the book) designer, and has long been wanting to create beautiful products for the TFD community. Using Shopify (an awesome platform!), we’re able to create a full range of products that are made and shipped on demand, so once the shop is live, we can just focus on creating new featured products each month, rather than having to run an inventory out of the office. It felt like a great way for our community to support us while buying something beautiful that they could show off on social media, give to friends, and simply enjoy at home.
So, after several months’ worth of work — and 99% of credit goes to the indomitable Lauren here — we have the TFD shop! Our first batch of products covers everything from mugs to downloadable prints to totes, and as I mentioned, we’ll be featuring a few exciting new products each month. And if you order these products soon (by November 30th, to be exact), shipping is guaranteed by Christmas, so we humbly encourage you to consider TFD for your friend-gift-giving needs!
Yes, of course, the TFD ethos is that you don’t “need” a new mug or tote bag (even if it’s super-beautiful!), but another ethos we definitely have is “support projects you enjoy, because even though we’ve gotten used to everything being free on the internet, running something like a website definitely costs hella money.” So we hope you guys view the shop in the way we do — a beautiful way to support your (we hope) favorite money site. And if you don’t have it in your budget right now, we totally understand, but if you do, consider this a way to tip the good gals of TFD!
And most important, we want your feedback on the shop! We know you guys want a day planner — and trust us, we want to give you one — but those are extremely expensive and time-consuming to create, so we’re going to have to continue figuring out the best way to bring a beautiful one at a great price. It’s definitely on our to-do list, and in the meantime, let us know here what you’d love to see more of! We’re always open to feedback, and want to make sure this shop is truly by the people and for the people, heh.
Thanks for taking the time to look around, and we hope you find something you love!