📙 #027 - Super Stupid Patreon Maths
In which we work out the price of a postcard, both money, time and on my soul.
Hi, I legitimately don't know how Gorilla Sun writes a weekly newsletter; code I can do, but writing actual words takes _forever_. Perhaps this is why I like making videos. Last week was very "handwritten" postcards focused, so we’ll continue that theme!
# Mini Handwriting Server
(The server is mini, not the handwriting, although I guess it can be). I spun up a small server over here: https://handwriting.revdancatt.com/ that allows you to type words in and then get a pen plottable SVGs back out.
It isn't the prettiest thing, and I've limited it in all sorts of ways, mainly the amount of text you can put in it and the format of what it's writing on (that’s a whole separate post).
A few things are going on under the hood; the first is the lovely API abstraction. Because I don't want to give away the raw data or code that blends and generates the letters, that code has to live on the backend server.
The nice thing about this is that if I scale everything up, the architecture is already roughly in place, so bolting on various frontends or programs that talk to the API should be "easy."
Another thing, which was probably a mistake, is that it's trying to do a "best fit" for putting words into the postcard, which means it's doing all the calculations over and over, on average, 16 times, until it reaches the ideal font size. This is a hangover from some "art code" I was using. The version Kitty can access allows you to specify a fixed font size that is unsurprisingly much faster (around 16 times 😁).
It's generally not a problem for automation because it still takes less time to generate the text for the next letter or postcard than plotting the current one. I'll probably update it at some point.
Anyway, I thought it was a fun and interesting exercise to put out into the world.
# Kitty Corner (shop)
Speaking of the postcards, as I mentioned a couple of #Weeknotes videos ago I plotted too many for the #ptpx postcard exchange, and a few people asked if they were for sale, so I've put them into the shop.
The idea behind all this automation is to try and get as hands-off with both the design and the writing on the postcards as possible. Ultimately, I become the meat lump (the weight loss is going well, thank you) needed to turn the cards over and put new ones on the plotter, although I may well replace myself with Lego at some point.
Anyway, I figured it'd be fun to have a place in the online shop where whatever Kitty comes up with can go.
I haven't gone quite as far as hooking into the Shopify API yet, but it can only be a matter of time. At which point, we may well have a generative postcard plotted on-demand service.
You get a mild discount (10%) for buying a bundle of four at a time.
Technically if they became super popular, I'm fucked because of time * maths, more below.
# Stupid Patreon Maths (LONG)
As I embark on making the pen plotting tutorials (soon™️), I'm idly toying with setting up a Patreon. The reason why I haven't is that I don't really have anything more to give, lol. I write up most of the stuff I do in this newsletter, make blog posts, or make a video about it. I don't really have time to make even more stuff and don't particularly feel like holding other things back so that I can stick them behind a paywall.
One option I considered was sending monthly postcards to patreons. Looking at other creators, the "sending stuff out in the mail" level was around £10.50.
So I decided to do some maths, hang tight or skip to the end 😬
The four postcard designs, seen above, take 16m 26s, 17m 52s, 19m 34s, and 16m 2s to plot, respectively. They take 1h 9m 54s for a bundle or an average of 17m 28s per card.
It takes Kitty about 2½ minutes to write an AI-generated message on the back, so we'll say, on average, 20 minutes per postcard, with me flipping it and placing a new one during the whole process.
Patreon charges 8%, plus a payment transaction fee of around 3.4% + £0.35. So a "postcard level" of £10.50 - (£0.84 + £0.357 + £0.35) = £8.95½
Most postcards will be sent outside of the UK, so that's £2.20 standard international postage, meaning I'd make a "profit" of £6.75 per member at that £10.50 level.
Assuming I can plot three an hour, that's £19.50 per hour.
But time is also a limiting factor; three paying members use up an hour of my time. I'm not sitting around unable to do anything else in that time, but realistically, I'd be stopping and starting a lot.
Anyway, we'll be nice and give me a lunch break and say I work 7 hours daily, that's 21 postcards daily. If I work five days a week, four weeks a month for a total of 20 days, I can produce 420 postcards a month. Nice!
420 * £6.75 = £2,835/month, doing nothing else but flipping postcards and trying to figure out where I fit in all the other work I'm supposed to be doing 🤷♂️
Now, obviously I'd get Kitty to generate A2 or A1 sheets and then cut them down, meaning she could do 16 or 32 cards at a time. Given that I could do one sheet a night (10 hours per sheet, take the previous night sheet off the plotter and put a new one on each morning), I could cut my time to about ½ an hour a day cutting up the sheet + an hour plotting the addresses onto envelopes. Thirty-two cards a day, 20 days a month = 640 cards, assuming a 3% loss/error/damage = 621 cards/£4,191.75 per month.
Being successful would be a total pain in the ass. This seems like it's something that's fun at ten members or 10,000 members but terrible at any point in between.
Honestly, I can see why selling digital NFTs is so popular. Admittedly, most of the Patreon accounts I looked at that were sending things out were sending out sticker sheets or postcard-sized prints and then printing out all the address labels, which seems a lot easier.
It's fair to say that the idea is still up in the air.
Going back to the shop for the moment, Shopify fees are 2% + £0.25 per item, and I'm selling one card for £5, so after fees of £0.35 and average shipping of £2.20, I make £2.45 per card.
Using the maths above of being able to plot 420 individual cards on demand per month, it would cost someone £2,100 to DDOS (distributed denial of service), the shop, me and the art studio if they bought individual cards, for which I'd make £1,029 profit, and they'd have to wait four weeks. £25,200 ties up the studio doing nothing put plotting postcards for a whole year. Honestly, if I sold more than 21 a day, I'm kinda screwed.
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# THE END, THANK GOODNESS
I published a video on YouTube...
...for a couple of reasons, beyond it was fun to do.
The first is "content strategy" suggests that having a few "evergreen" videos is a good idea. Pen plotting and drawing machines are very niche on YouTube, and I can tell from the dashboard analytics that a lot of my video views come from people searching for "handwriting machine" about 80% from India, 15% from the USA, 5% from the rest of the world. My current videos don’t actually show how to do it, so this one can pick up some of the slack.
The other reason is since posting a lot of handwriting plotter stuff, I've been getting a LOT MORE, like SERIOUSLY, a LOT of people asking me for more information, and I thought I'd save time in the long run if I made a video about it ('cause I'm going to need all that time for plotting postcards, right!?)
Another excellent video about pen plotting SVG fonts is here:
from Cadin. It's super helpful, too.
Well, that was far too much maths(🇬🇧) and not enough pretty pictures for one newsletter. Well done for making it through this one.
The next one will be more about my birthday NFT project, which will be much less time-intensive for us both. At least the time will be upfront.
Love you all