Minkeys, gather around and hear a tale (or is that tail?) of Jungle fun, learning and a little bit of everything in between.

We’re about to tell you why the Freelance Jungle is heading to Patreon

WTAF is Patreon?

Patreon is a crowdfunding platform used by people like Amanda Palmer to fund their creativity. She uses it as an alternative to having a label to make albums and tours. People give amounts large and small towards helping a creator create. Contributors receive rewards and exclusive, fun stuff. Nifty!

In terms of contributing to the Freelance Jungle, it’s a monthly fee. It starts at $2 a month, right up to $100 a month.

The bulk of funds raised will be used it to rebuild and fix the leaky parts of the Freelance Jungle as well as transform swamp into oasis on a website level as well as add additional offerings and so on. It’s all outlined on Patreon.

I have a soft spot for crowdfunding because I believe it creates the ability for the creator to produce what is needed without holding back. I worked with the guys from Pozible in their early days and grew in affection for the idea and process. I also have worked on both failed and successful crowdfunding campaigns. And I support them a lot too.

It suits my “rebel with a cause” aesthetic. And I hope it gives you the opportunity to show your support on your terms without feeling pressured or excluded.

We are at the mercy of Facebook

When the rad muffin that is Daniel Pinne (you can read his brain in this Facebook live blog for the Jungle) said he would pay for the Freelance Jungle as a resource along with a blog on Facebook changing groups to paid, the wheels were already turning.

The admin team and I were already looking at Patreon and payment options. I was nervous (my perpetual state) but seeing people say they’d pay for the resource was heartening.

While using Facebook membership feature for groups seems like the straight-ahead option, there are a few things not to like.

  • We don’t want people that cannot commit financially to the Jungle to miss out on what we already provide
  • Paying what you can afford won’t be an option with Facebook. We wanted to be able to offer alternatives to people based on what they felt they wanted to contribute
  • Even as a paying customer, you cannot influence, predict or stop being at the mercy of Facebook changes. We don’t want to wake up one morning and find they’ve deleted the group or the only option is to ask you to pay. That’s why we’re building out the website as our contingency plan.

We’ve built a community on their shifting sand. Can you imagine if we lost it?

It’s the same with Meetup. I could lose my community of 500 people on Meetup.

It’s a constant risk related model.

If Facebook update features and change how we communicate, I want us to have an alternative. I also want us to enjoy some freedom. I want to shift our digs off the sand with a Patreon-shaped moving crew.

Key learnings informing change

Community management of this scale has a massive amount of potential, but it also needs to be able to sustain itself.

I don’t want the Freelance Jungle to be one of the projects that falls by the wayside through burn out, lack of management and/or choosing the incorrect commercial associations that turn people off. Or if I fall off my perch physically, emotionally or financially.

Personally, two impacts this year have lead me to get a little more proactive about expanding and creating a self-sustaining Freelance Jungle.

The first is my need to retreat around Xmas time from the Freelance Jungle to recover. At that time, I was getting increasingly bullied online by people that didn’t agree with how I run the Jungle.

I was also dealing with the anniversary of a friend’s suicide, my partner and I had a Boxing Day car accident, and we came home to 12-hour days in the shape of thankless home renovations.

Nicole and Hayley and Jinny saved my tofu-flavoured hide. They taught me to let go. And the experience taught me to not take the abuse so easily dished out on the internet and to work towards strategies to prevent it for myself, the other admins and Freelance Jungle members.

And that we were vulnerable from losing what we have if I don’t push this forward properly.

The second is that from April this year, I have been undergoing a battery of tests and treatments which is culminating in a diagnosis as of this week and major surgery at the end of August.

Again, the admin team are primed and ready. Nicole is taking my role completely for at least a fortnight. I will also be stepping right away from leading the fold while I heal. That’s going to be a work in progress over several months.

Despite the enormity of it all, I am (kind of) looking forward to it.

Without work, I also get that time to have the break I coveted while also thinking up new and interesting ways to support and surprise our beloved minkeys on my return. Not being the day to day leader, I can get stuck into doing some of the big vision plans.

Call it a kick up the bum, but the health scare has taught me I want to (if I can) make the Freelance Jungle less side project and more actual working vision.

But I do not want to be the person allowing the help provided to be bought and sold. Hence trying this model.

It’s fun. I am a bit weird. Patreon is a creative playground. The admin team are of similar ilk to me in terms of future. No one wants to beat people to death with sales promos.

Seems a whole lot less problematic to me.

Here’s hoping, anyway.

What I am proud about with the Freelance Jungle is:

We’re out and proud about stress and mental health

It’s the only Australian business network I know where people are not only open about their stress levels, they are also out about their mental health status. I take that as a massive achievement, especially in business. In business, bravery wins. Yet here are hundreds, if not thousands of people that are willing to join in conversations about mental health and stress reduction each day in the Freelance Jungle. You have no idea how much that makes me feel to have fostered a space where that can happen.

Our group functions without a focus on sales

I’d say 98% of you are happy this isn’t a link drop off centre. Yet many feel the jobs situation to be heavy handed. I know people think the whole “no pitch/no jobs” ethos is difficult to navigate at times.

To be honest, you aren’t the only one who mourns the loss of jobs. I’d love to be able to say “Help, I broke something, come at me minkeys!” too. Yet I had to weigh up the cost on that convenience against my own mental health.

More on that later. And more on a solution, too.

The group runs on genuine intent – and will continue to do so

From the survey to the Meetup to the Facebook group and now, website and coaching etc, there has never really been a moment where I have thought “when can I buy a golden yacht off this project?”

The aim of the Patreon is to cover costs, pay for much needed facilities and expand the offering.

We’re not going all Richey Rich on you, trust me.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not a complete mung bean chewing hippie. My wall has a quote that reads “I’m an anarchist but I still want room service” for a reason. I don’t believe that you must be poor to do good. I believe that sustainable change comes from ensuring a project is viable resource-wise.

In the last 12 months, while the group has continued and not much has gone on in front of public eyes, I have been researching models, speaking with people, digging into movements and looking at everything from NFP to start-up models to push forward with.

I haven’t found one that has fitted quite as much as the scrappy, art of asking-esque power of something like Patreon.

My aim is to keep the group going how it is without commercialising it too much or influencing it to the negative.

I’m hoping Patreon can supply the right support without creating issues.

I know the directory is a leaking band-aid

I have done everything I have done with Freelance Jungle cheaply over the years. I’ve still managed to spend $10K on providing it to you across Meetup, Facebook and web in the 8 years it’s been running.

No shit, I added it up. Bloody expensive side project I have here, right?

I can see your frustration at the directory. But I made a promise to myself not to spend more money on the Jungle this year. But I know the limitations are avoidable.

Catch 22.

Hence Patreon helping unlock those impediments to success.

Accountability needs to be a part of the community

There needs to be some accountability on the part of the members to do more than send us (mainly me) messages stating “you should do this” or “you’ve failed me because…”

The community of the Freelance Jungle will remain accessible to all. But not at the expense of the admin team’s freelance business, mental health, family or physical health.

Or anyone else’s for that matter.

I think we all need to learn to be a tad more adult with our relationship with Facebook. There’s too much demanding and stamping of feet. It’s an exercise in social media fitness as well.

The events this year have proven that even small financial commitments make people more likely to stay true to their word and turn up.

This is the equivalent kind of commitment overall to our community as we grow.

We must take a punt on you

I’ve heard heaps of times “I’d totally pay for the Freelance Jungle”.

Alright then- let’s see what happens!

If you don’t, well, at least we haven’t broken what we had or put anyone in (further) debt with no return.

We reckon you’ll do what you can to support this.

We found a way to do the jobs thing

Jobs are coming back to the Freelance Jungle… but with a twist (you saw that coming, right?).

Ok so here’s the deal.

We are launching a group called Jungle Jobs. It will ONLY be accessible to paying Patreon members. And you’ll need to get us to $200 a month in support funds. That’s accumulative and access is not restricted based on how small or large the individual commitment.

We figure this helps us solve the issue of people only using the Freelance Jungle for jobs and creating the wrong atmosphere. Plus, we see the support as proof you’re legit in your desire to be a part of the community.

With the Jungle jobs group will also come 3 rules:

  • If someone’s brief is lacking in info or their pitch needs work, that’s between you two. Admins won’t be cleaning up job postings and pestering you guys to supply the right info
  • If the job screws up between you and another person, that’s on the people involved, not the admins. You must exercise your due diligence to ensure it’s a suitable job and you get paid on time. That’s why you’ve been copping tough love of getting your admin shit together since…well, forever
  • They are decent paying jobs. We stand by reasonable payment for work. No $50 logos or $500 website requests will be permitted

The group will also present links and jobs we come across and work resources to help with that.

Yes, we will monitor the content and look after things. But we’re not hand-holding like we did before as it was identified as creating more issues than it solved.

Sounds simple? Well, here’s hoping it is that way.

And there will be plans to add (some kind of) job board to the website at some point somehow.

Community requires commitment, large and small

Nicole, Hayley, Jinny and I want to continue to bring you the Freelance Jungle you know and love. We also want to be able to expand it, play with it and bring it more to life. You guys have been itching to help us do that with suggestions, offers to pay and “You should totally collect these answers/threads and let me pay for them” style prods.

We’re giving you the (lo-fi/non-sales-drenched arsehole) style way to do just that.

It’s also a process in learning while we do so. Learning Patreon ropes, building out assets for you and all that jazz. Especially with Nicole taking the lead with it all, too while I catch up on Netflix and books in recovery.

We’re hoping our community that we love and cherish will rock the next phase of the Freelance Jungle right along with us.

Rewards will begin with delivery in November

As you may be aware from the Facebook Live announcement and from reading this blog, part of the genesis of this idea has come from me (Bek) having significant health issues and needing surgery. That is happening in late August. It will take weeks to months for me to recover. This means that I will need time to get things organised properly for you. PLUS, it is also a way of doing everyone in a batch rather than leaving it to the other admins to send out stuff as you sign up one-by-one.

You can choose to join when it is right for you. Just remember that I won’t be running to email and post offices until November.

Keen to see the rewards and what we’ve got planned? Head to The Freelance Jungle Patreon page now!