Money’s been at the front of my brain lately. I need to make more, and stat. I’m in one of those dry spells that always come ’round at some point or another in creative business. I’m not panicking; I know well enough that eventually it rains. Still. I’ve called all my feelers back from their holiday and sent them all out. I’ve got both eyes peeled. An ear to the ground. But I know better than to sit around letting my cliches do all the work.

Flattr logo imageA few weeks ago I added a button to the bottom my blog posts. Did you notice? If you did, I bet you didn’t know what it’s for. Go peek down there.

Flattr is a social micro-payment system. It’s like Facebook’s “like” button, but with cash. It’s simple, clever, and I think it has tremendous potential to help make blogging a sustainable endeavour.

Here’s how it works, a little more specifically:

  1. You create an account on Flattr. To do so, you enter the basic info and you also open an account. There’s no using Flattr without also using money. The project was started by Swedes, so the currency they use is the Euro. In this day and age, I don’t much care what currency I use. Perhaps in the future they’ll add support for other currencies so those of us not in Europe won’t have to get dinged by exchange rates and fees. Do note that the Euro is worth more than the U.S. and Canadian dollar right now, so the minimum deposit may be slightly more than you think.
    1. Everybody must make a deposit – there are no moochers in Flattr. In order to have your work Flattred, and therefore to make money, you also have to give Flattrs. Nice.
  2. The deposit you make sits in your Flattr funds account, which you manage through a dashboard. You choose an amount to automatically add to your funds each month (the minimum is €2 per month, which isn’t very much at all).
  3. Each time you Flattr someone’s work by clicking the button on their site, you’re committing to pay them some of your funds at the end of the month.
  4. At the end of the month, the money in your funds account is distributed evenly to all the people whose work you Flattred. So, say you have €2 of funds. If you Flattr two things in a month, each of those accounts will receive €1 from you.
  5. At the end of the month, you receive money into your revenue account from the people who Flattred your work. You can withdraw that revenue whenever you like.

I’m in love with this idea, but there are a couple of caveats.

Flattr is only as useful as the size of the population that uses it is big. For a month, I was the only person in my community who used it. I received no Flattrs that month. This month, though, some more people in my community are beginning to use it. I’ve got four Flattrs right now. That’s not very much, but it’s more cents and maybe even dollars than I was making by blogging last month. Until it really catches on, we early users of Flattr are essentially investing in the project with no promise of return. The good part about that, though, is that it’s a very small investment and I’m confident I’ll make my few Euros back. If I don’t, it’s not enough money to significantly affect my bank account.

As we all know, blogging is work – it’s just not work that directly pays us very much. Even if you run ads on your site, you’re probably not making much money from them. Flattr allows people to support your work whenever they’re compelled to. One of my four Flattrs is on my general Books page. I take that as one person deciding to support me because they enjoy my books (hell, the way royalties work, I could potentially make more from some of my books simply from people Flattring that page). One Flattr is on my recent post about homophobia. I know a lot of people were moved by that post, and I was moved by their responses. Two are on my post about going to Portland for the Summit of Awesome. Maybe those two people were just excited and wanted to pay a little bit for my drive down there.

When I read posts and articles that move me or inspire me or make me think, I would absolutely, without hesitation allot that writer some of my Flattr funds. The sweet part about Flattr is that that’s all it takes – you feel compelled to pay someone, you click a button. CAKE. And it’s just as easy to implement on your site. There are WordPress plugins, and they provide a list of links to instructions for how to use Flattr on Blogger, Tumblr, and more.

Flattr’s currently in closed Beta. I didn’t wait painfully long for my invite, and they’re now occasionally giving members invites to distribute. So if you’re interested in using it, I encourage you to go over there and sign up for a beta invite, and pay attention to current users to see if they get any invites to give away.

Here’s a list of bloggers in my community who are using Flattr. If you’re using it, let me know and I’ll add you to the list: