Are you a writer, artist, or creative type? Do you want to turn your labors of love into a slick side hustle?
We’ve got righteous news—whether you write web comics, draw fantasy maps, or post video essays to YouTube, Patreon.com can help you monetize your creativity and earn a little side cash for something you used to do for free.
What Is Patreon?
Founded by musician Jack Conte and developer Sam Yam in 2013, Patreon is a membership platform that provides content creators with the business tools they need to run a subscription content service. Patreon also provides a platform for artists and craftspeople to build relationships with and provide exclusive content to their subscribers—or “patrons,” as the site calls them.
Think of Patreon as a never-ending Kickstarter campaign: instead of crowdfunding a specific project, Patreon lets fans of online content subsidize their favorite creators, supporting their continued creative work through monthly subscriptions, and receiving exclusive content in return.
The site allows users with “creator” profiles to receive funding directly from their patrons, either on a recurring basis or per item of content. Creators typically display ongoing revenue goals on their Patreon profiles and can set maximum limits of what they can receive from their patrons every month. They can also set monetary tiers that place exclusive content like behind-the-scenes glimpses or early access to videos behind paywalls.
As of May 2017, the average pledge per patron on Patreon was roughly $12, and new patrons pledged to Patreon creators at a rate of one new patron every 5.5 seconds.
Patreon takes a 5% commission from each patron’s pledge, and patrons can back out of recurring pledges at any time.
Or, to put it more simply: You post awesome content online. People donate money so you can keep posting awesome content online. And sometimes people pay extra money so they can see your content early or request specific content from you.
Who Uses Patreon?
Patreon users are sorted by the kind of content they create, including categories like Education, Science, Drawing & Painting, and Crafts & DIY. The site is particularly popular among YouTube videographers, web comic artists, podcasters, musicians, and writers, as well as every other category of creators who regularly post their content online.
In fact, while the site was originally founded to attract musicians, as of February 2014, almost half of Patreon’s creators were producing YouTube videos; the remainder are mostly writers, web comic artists, musicians, and podcasters.
Why Use Patreon?
Why should you join Patreon? More than 50,000 creators can’t be wrong!
Patreon is host to a diverse cadre of creators who use the site’s tools to interact with subscribers, take requests, and reward loyal patrons with exclusive goodies—and you could join them as soon as today.
But even though Patreon can be a powerful tool for monetizing your creative projects, it’s not the right fit for every creative type out there.
But never fear! Our 3-step guide will help you figure out, point by point, if becoming a Patreon creator is right for you.
You should start a Patreon if:
1. Your Work Requires Little Overhead
Unfortunately, you can’t rely on Patreon income to fund your art’s creation.
Remember that Patreon isn’t a crowdfunding site like Kickstarter: the art comes first…then the patrons.
If whatever you’re making requires costly materials or other upfront costs, make sure your wallet can cover your expenses without your patrons’ help.
Otherwise, you might discover months down the line that you’ve been losing money all along—and by then, there might not be anything you can do to right the ship.
2. You Already Have an Audience
Patreon isn’t where you go to expand your fan base.
Unless you’ve already got a significant online following, mailing list, or subscriber base, you probably won’t have enough consumers invested in your work to make a Patreon campaign profitable. There’s nothing sadder than a Patreon profile with no patrons, after all.
But if you’ve already got a steady base of followers from your Twitter account, creator website, or YouTube channel, you just might have enough resources to draw from to launch a successful campaign on Patreon.
3. You’re Looking for Motivation
If you’re looking for that extra kick in the pants to get creating, having a visible number of patrons impatiently waiting for your next podcast/painting/short story to drop might be just the thing you need to shift your rear into gear.
Not only will your patrons’ expectations encourage you to create, but the money they give you will let you devote less time to your day job and more to the work you love.
However, if you’re not somebody who thrives under pressure, then a Patreon might just stress you out—and ultimately do far more harm than good.
How to Launch a World-Class Patreon Campaign
So you’ve decided that starting a Patreon’s the right move—what now?
Well, like any tool, there’s a right way and a wrong way to use Patreon…and I’ll bet a double-chocolate-chip cookie you’re looking for the right way to begin.
A successful Patreon campaign begins on day one—so we’re going to teach you step by step just what it takes to launch a great Patreon page, attract patrons, and start getting paid for the work you love right away.
1. Create an Attractive Profile
Once you create a Patreon account—either with an email or by logging on through Facebook—click your Profile icon in the top right of the home screen to begin creating on the site.
Here’s everything a well-dressed Creator page needs.
- Enter your name (the name you want displayed on your profile), enter what you’ll be creating for Patreon (you can change this later), and choose a category that best fits your content. This information will help Patreon market you and help patrons interested in what you’re offering find your page. You’ll also be asked if your content contains any adult or sexual imagery.
- Once Patreon sends you a verification link via the email you provided, you’re ready to start setting up your profile—particularly your About page. Tell your future patrons all about yourself and your work, and make sure they know exactly why they should support you. Use this section to preemptively thank your fans and paying patrons—Patreon reports that a huge percentage of top-earning creators do this!
- Create a vlog for your profile—just a simple talking-head video explaining the same information on your about page, plus a few extras. Since this video is meant to attract users from other platforms to your Patreon, explain just what Patreon is to them, and why you’re asking for their support. Make sure they know that your baseline content will remain free, but that supporting you on Patreon will give them access to exclusive or early-bird content…and help you keep creating the art they love.
- If you created your Patreon account through Facebook, you’ll already have a profile image ready-made, but you’ll still want to upload an eye-catching cover image as well. If you or your business or channel has a logo of some kind, this is where to stick it—otherwise, choose something that grabs viewers’ attention but also exemplifies the kind of content you’re hawking.
2. Offer Tantalizing Patron Rewards
What do you want to give your biggest fans?
On your profile’s Rewards page, create a new rewards tier, then enter a dollar amount, a title, and a description for this particular patron reward. Optionally, you can limit the number of patrons who can reach a particular tier, and even upload a cover image for your reward.
Our advice is to create several tiers of varying amounts to encourage maximum audience engagement: not all your patrons will go for your top-dollar rewards, but just about any fan will be willing to pay a dollar a month just to keep the exclusive content flowing!
Ideally, your rewards should be something your patrons can’t get any other way. Maybe patrons can pay a certain amount to request a certain piece of artwork or have their first name included in a story. Maybe certain patrons get login information for a private site where you post making-of materials or other behind-the-scenes content from your art. Or maybe your top-tier patrons just get to see your content a few days before everybody else.
But no matter what juicy rewards you decide to offer, there’s no replacing quality bedrock content to attract followers and fans. Focus on keeping your standards high for your regular content releases before you start offering extra goodies.
3. Set Achievable Goals
We don’t just mean to set reasonable expectations for yourself…though that’s a wise course of action both on and off Patreon.
No, your Patreon Goals page can be another place to encourage users to become your patrons—and to encourage current patrons to donate more.
There are two basic types of goals you can set:
- Earnings-Based Goals: Goals based on how much you make from your Patreon. For instance, you could announce that once you begin making $300 per month from your Patreon, you’ll hire a video editor to help you produce two video essays a week instead of one.
- Community-Based Goals: Goals based on how many patrons you amass. You might announce that once you reach 500 patrons, you’ll hold a mock interview with your novel’s characters and field 50 questions from your patrons in their “voices.”
Your Patreon goals should both sound like something you could feasibly reach and offer something enticing to your regular viewers. And above all: once you reach a goal, release the content you promised promptly. There’s nothing worse than patrons who feel like you’ve cheated them.
4. Thank Your Patrons
Make your fans feel loved and wanted—on the Thanks tab, enter a personalized message that each new patron will receive when they pledge to support you. Give this plenty of personality. Remind them that their help and support is the reason you’re able to keep creating the content you love. Give them a lethal dose of the warm ’n fuzzies.
5. Promote, Promote, Promote
This is Marketing 101—after all, nobody will donate to your Patreon page if they don’t know it exists.
Include links to your Patreon everywhere you regularly post content, and pitch your rewards and goals to new and returning viewers alike. Remember that Patreon is still a relatively new service; make sure people know what you’re asking for, and how it will help you—and benefit them. Remind them that you’ll still be posting free content, then entice them with the extra goodies hidden behind your reward tier paywalls.
Promote your Patreon the same way you market all of your other content, and mention your page often. For instance, if you post videos on YouTube, include a bumper at the end of each video about your Patreon, and remind your viewers of the exclusive benefits your patrons receive.
6. Create Quality Content
This should go without saying, but even the most show-stopping Patreon campaign ever launched isn’t a replacement for regular high-quality content. Remember that no matter how tempting your Patreon rewards are, they cost money—and by and large, your audience is here for your regular free content, not some dubious goodies hidden behind a paywall.
Your Patreon should not change the way you do business. A successful Patreon campaign can be a source of extra money—or even a significant revenue stream—but you’ll only be successful so long as your “regularly scheduled programming” stays awesome.
But don’t stress out about it too much. Just keep on being your typical awesome self, and your loyal fans will keep on loving you…Patreon or no Patreon.
If you’re looking for more TCK Publishing-style money-making tips and tricks, untold secrets await within:
- Crowdfunding for Authors, Part 1: What, Why, and Where
- Merch, Swag, Goodies, and More: How to Make Great Tie-In Products for Your Books
- Kickstart Your Writing Career with Kickstarter