Wait But Why

is creating high-quality blog posts

4,147

patrons
Here's our situation. Back in 2013, my kindergarten bff and long-time business partner, Andrew Finn, and I were running a test prep company we had started five years earlier. We're the excitable types, and whenever we come up with an idea for a new creation, we try to figure out if there's a way to make it happen. I'd been lamenting to Andrew how badly I was itching to do one of my creative side-projects full time. He knew how much the side projects meant to me and had always been a big supporter of them. The shame was that they weren't things we could do as a team. At some point in this conversation, the light bulb flickered on and we decided to start a new blog. And Wait But Why was born.

In the first few months, a couple things happened.

First, people discovered the site and a sizable readership developed. This was incredibly exciting.

Second, we learned that running a blog is annoyingly expensive. There's the hosting and the site maintenance and the money Facebook started charging us to reach a large portion our followers and the Mailchimp fees and the food and apartment and clothes I need to not die. The tricky thing is that around the same time, Andrew and I were both introduced to a new character: Tim the Wait But Why Nazi. TWBWN turned out to be very particular about every single thing that appeared on the site. He despised banner ads, hated the concept of marketing things to our email subscribers, didn't want to create "premium content," and didn't want to raise money from investors. TWBWN seemed intent on making Wait But Why the least profitable business venture of all time.

So Wait But Why was a hit with readers and also a money-flushing toilet. Something had to give.


Then we discovered Patreon. At first we felt super icky and weird about asking readers to support the blog, but the more we thought about it, the more sense it made. If even a small portion of our readers had a desire to support the site, we might be able to have our WBWN cake and eat our non-money-flushing cake too. We gave it a try. 


It turns out a lot of our readers were more than happy to support Wait But Why. Within a couple months, Patreon had solved most of our problems. The site was breaking even, and our runway, for the first time, looked long.

When our Patreon support reached the next level, we made our first hire: Alicia, whose official title is Wait But Why's "Manager of Lots of Things." Alicia has been so good at her weird-ass motley crew of a job that Andrew and I can't imagine how anything ever happened at the company before she was here.

Today, Wait But Why is an unpredictable operation. First there were short weekly posts. Then there were longer, more sporadic posts. Most recently was a post that took me three years and is currently being released as a long post series. We're planning on starting a podcast when the series is done (we've already recorded a few episodes), along with getting back to short, regular posts. We have an app in the works. In 2017 we threw a big one-day in-person event for our readers, called Wait But Hi, that took place in 168 countries, and we have another in-person event in our plans. There's a lot of random shit happening over here, and it's all supported by Patreon.

When you're a Wait But Why supporter, you're not really sure what you’ll be supporting—all we can tell you is that you're supporting me and Alicia working full-time on things we think you'll like (along with the general costs of the site). We can't tell you for sure exactly what those things will be, but we can promise we'll always be putting our all into it.

More than anything, Patreon maximizes our ability to make an impact. It's why we can put everything out for free and reach anyone with an internet connection. It's the quiet little engine that powers the Wait But Why universe.

We don't do official "rewards" for patrons, but patrons usually get a sneak peek at what we're working on, and during 2019 I started a random monthly vlog exclusive to patrons. We plan to stay in touch monthly in 2020. We also treat patrons kind of like our company board—if there's a big decision to make, we know we can always email patrons for advice.

I'd also like to note that those who decide to support us should never feel weird about ending their support at some later point. We know how tight a life budget can be, and being a supporter for any amount of time is a great help.

Anyway, thanks for reading, and a huge thanks to our supporters for enabling Wait But Why to become what it is today.

Tim

Tiers
Pledge $1 or more per month
YOU GET TO BE ON A BOARD. You know how sometimes someone says they're on some advisory board and they sound fancy? That's kind of what happens here. After pledging, you'll receive a link to join our "inner circle" email list, which we'll use when we need feedback or suggestions or when we're lacking disciplinarians and need someone to put our asses in line. We also might let this list know about upcoming plans for the site before we announce them publicly. (This all goes for any pledge from $1 up.)
Pledge $3 or more per month
THREE'S A CROWD. Don't know what that means but it was a famous saying involving the number three so I ran with it. In any case, for the price of a cup of coffee (in New York at least) a month, your pledge will add up to a very meaningful amount over the course of a year.
Pledge $5 or more per month
ALL CHINESE EMPERORS CAN READ WBW FOR FREE BECAUSE OF YOU. More than 1 million people visit WBW each month, and if each of them pledged just a penny, we'd hit our goal. None of the 494 emperors in China's history have pledged anything yet, but your monthly pledge has them all covered.
Pledge $10 or more per month
YOU'RE KIND OF A HEROIC PERSON. Pledging $10 or more a month puts you in hero territory. We all have a handful of monthly $10 costs, and we seriously appreciate you carving out one of yours for us.
Pledge $25 or more per month
I DON'T KNOW WHO YOU ARE, BUT I HAVE FEELINGS FOR YOU. After a year at this level, you'll have singlehandedly covered a full week of WBW hosting. Legit.
Pledge $100 or more per month
I CAN'T BELIEVE THIS IS EVEN A TIER. No site should ever expect this level of generosity from any reader, and if anyone decides to donate at this above-and-beyond level (which single-handedly pays for a month of our hosting over the course of a year), just know that somewhere out there, we're drowning in an uncomfortable amount of gratitude.
Goals
89% complete
Any funding we raise on Patreon is hugely helpful, but this is the goal that would allow us to keep Wait But Why going, ad free, for a long time. See the text on the right for more details.
1 of 2
Here's our situation. Back in 2013, my kindergarten bff and long-time business partner, Andrew Finn, and I were running a test prep company we had started five years earlier. We're the excitable types, and whenever we come up with an idea for a new creation, we try to figure out if there's a way to make it happen. I'd been lamenting to Andrew how badly I was itching to do one of my creative side-projects full time. He knew how much the side projects meant to me and had always been a big supporter of them. The shame was that they weren't things we could do as a team. At some point in this conversation, the light bulb flickered on and we decided to start a new blog. And Wait But Why was born.

In the first few months, a couple things happened.

First, people discovered the site and a sizable readership developed. This was incredibly exciting.

Second, we learned that running a blog is annoyingly expensive. There's the hosting and the site maintenance and the money Facebook started charging us to reach a large portion our followers and the Mailchimp fees and the food and apartment and clothes I need to not die. The tricky thing is that around the same time, Andrew and I were both introduced to a new character: Tim the Wait But Why Nazi. TWBWN turned out to be very particular about every single thing that appeared on the site. He despised banner ads, hated the concept of marketing things to our email subscribers, didn't want to create "premium content," and didn't want to raise money from investors. TWBWN seemed intent on making Wait But Why the least profitable business venture of all time.

So Wait But Why was a hit with readers and also a money-flushing toilet. Something had to give.


Then we discovered Patreon. At first we felt super icky and weird about asking readers to support the blog, but the more we thought about it, the more sense it made. If even a small portion of our readers had a desire to support the site, we might be able to have our WBWN cake and eat our non-money-flushing cake too. We gave it a try. 


It turns out a lot of our readers were more than happy to support Wait But Why. Within a couple months, Patreon had solved most of our problems. The site was breaking even, and our runway, for the first time, looked long.

When our Patreon support reached the next level, we made our first hire: Alicia, whose official title is Wait But Why's "Manager of Lots of Things." Alicia has been so good at her weird-ass motley crew of a job that Andrew and I can't imagine how anything ever happened at the company before she was here.

Today, Wait But Why is an unpredictable operation. First there were short weekly posts. Then there were longer, more sporadic posts. Most recently was a post that took me three years and is currently being released as a long post series. We're planning on starting a podcast when the series is done (we've already recorded a few episodes), along with getting back to short, regular posts. We have an app in the works. In 2017 we threw a big one-day in-person event for our readers, called Wait But Hi, that took place in 168 countries, and we have another in-person event in our plans. There's a lot of random shit happening over here, and it's all supported by Patreon.

When you're a Wait But Why supporter, you're not really sure what you’ll be supporting—all we can tell you is that you're supporting me and Alicia working full-time on things we think you'll like (along with the general costs of the site). We can't tell you for sure exactly what those things will be, but we can promise we'll always be putting our all into it.

More than anything, Patreon maximizes our ability to make an impact. It's why we can put everything out for free and reach anyone with an internet connection. It's the quiet little engine that powers the Wait But Why universe.

We don't do official "rewards" for patrons, but patrons usually get a sneak peek at what we're working on, and during 2019 I started a random monthly vlog exclusive to patrons. We plan to stay in touch monthly in 2020. We also treat patrons kind of like our company board—if there's a big decision to make, we know we can always email patrons for advice.

I'd also like to note that those who decide to support us should never feel weird about ending their support at some later point. We know how tight a life budget can be, and being a supporter for any amount of time is a great help.

Anyway, thanks for reading, and a huge thanks to our supporters for enabling Wait But Why to become what it is today.

Tim

Recent posts by Wait But Why

Tiers
Pledge $1 or more per month
YOU GET TO BE ON A BOARD. You know how sometimes someone says they're on some advisory board and they sound fancy? That's kind of what happens here. After pledging, you'll receive a link to join our "inner circle" email list, which we'll use when we need feedback or suggestions or when we're lacking disciplinarians and need someone to put our asses in line. We also might let this list know about upcoming plans for the site before we announce them publicly. (This all goes for any pledge from $1 up.)
Pledge $3 or more per month
THREE'S A CROWD. Don't know what that means but it was a famous saying involving the number three so I ran with it. In any case, for the price of a cup of coffee (in New York at least) a month, your pledge will add up to a very meaningful amount over the course of a year.
Pledge $5 or more per month
ALL CHINESE EMPERORS CAN READ WBW FOR FREE BECAUSE OF YOU. More than 1 million people visit WBW each month, and if each of them pledged just a penny, we'd hit our goal. None of the 494 emperors in China's history have pledged anything yet, but your monthly pledge has them all covered.
Pledge $10 or more per month
YOU'RE KIND OF A HEROIC PERSON. Pledging $10 or more a month puts you in hero territory. We all have a handful of monthly $10 costs, and we seriously appreciate you carving out one of yours for us.
Pledge $25 or more per month
I DON'T KNOW WHO YOU ARE, BUT I HAVE FEELINGS FOR YOU. After a year at this level, you'll have singlehandedly covered a full week of WBW hosting. Legit.
Pledge $100 or more per month
I CAN'T BELIEVE THIS IS EVEN A TIER. No site should ever expect this level of generosity from any reader, and if anyone decides to donate at this above-and-beyond level (which single-handedly pays for a month of our hosting over the course of a year), just know that somewhere out there, we're drowning in an uncomfortable amount of gratitude.