Patreon 101: How to get paid for pursuing your passion

Do you ever wish you had a patron – someone who supported your talent and paid you to do what you love doing, so you could do more of it (and worry less about money)? If Shakespeare and Da Vinci hadn’t had patrons, we wouldn’t have Romeo and Juliet or the Mono Lisa today. Patronage was such a win-win-win for creatives, patrons and humankind, someone ought to reinvent it for modern times. Wait – they have. And it’s called ‘Patreon’…

Patreon was created in 2013 when the founder recognised that creative people were not being sufficiently rewarded and remunerated for their passion and work. Eight years on, Patreon now supports over 200,000 creators who have earned more than $2 billion thanks to payments from 6 million+ patrons.

Everyone wins

Patreon is a platform that gives creative people a sustainable income through memberships. You let your fans become patrons (members) by paying a monthly subscription for whatever level of membership they choose. For example, £5 a month might get them early access to content. £10 might get them extra videos. £20 might get them exclusive behind-the-scenes stuff – and so on.

This arrangement means you get paid for doing what you love, while retaining creative control. You know what monthly income to expect, so you can plan for your creative business. In return, your subscribers can connect with you on a new level, access a community of fellow fans and get great satisfaction from supporting something they have a passion for.

Creative freedom

There are no algorithms, no rules about what you should share and when – that’s entirely up to you. You’re also free to decide what kind of benefits and bonuses to offer your fans.

Patreon is very flexible. It’s a platform for anyone, who creates anything and has an audience they want to reach. The main industries that tend to use it are podcasting, music, gaming, visual artists and publishers. But there are also niche markets…

There’s a creator that makes underwater habitats for hamsters – cages that sit in a fishtank.

There’s a musician who creates unusual instruments – such as an organ made out of singing Furbies (furry robot toys from the 90s).

There are lots of therapists and coaches – including a mental health practitioner who uses Patreon as a space to share live streams on topics such as coping techniques. She has created a community and a safe space for mental health discussion and general advice.

Reopen for business

Before the pandemic there was a lot of digital and real-life integration. For example, musicians would set up meet-and-greets before gigs for Patreon subscribers. Venues that were forced to close their doors during lockdown found ways to reopen for business on Patreon – such as bars offering cocktail classes and comedy clubs sharing digital shows. And the past year has seen an increase in live streaming and forums where subscribers can chat directly with the creators.

Popular uses

Many creators want to benefit financially from the steady income Patreon can offer. For others, it’s all about having a direct connection with their community. Patreon is also ideal if you want to fund a particular project – and in return, you might show fans the intricate process of bringing that project to life. Behind-the-scenes sharing is very popular. Subscribers have the opportunity to peek into your life, which deepens the connection between you and your fans.

Is it for you?

On average, creators see 0.5% to 10% of their public audience supporting them on Patreon – so the bigger and the more engaged your audience is, the more success you’ll have on Patreon. If you don’t already have an engaged social media presence, you should probably work on that first before creating a Patreon subscription.

Get clear about what you want to do on Patreon. Do you want to blog? Share personally about yourself? Test new music? Skill-share? Lead workshops? If you’re stuck for ideas, ask your audience what they want to see and what’s most important to them.

Patreon is full of great resources to help you make the most of the platform. See their blog and check out their workshops, designed to help support you at each stage of your venture.

Tips for getting started:

  • Think about how you’re going to promote your Patreon presence to your audience. You need to build a bit of hype and start a mini marketing campaign a few weeks before you launch. Consider what might entice subscribers – a giveaway? A launch event?
  • Keep talking (and talking and talking) to your fans. Patreon’s data suggests that your audience would need to see your post about Patreon seven times on average, before they click through to visit your page – so don’t be shy about repeating yourself.
  • Uncomfortable asking your fans for a subscription fee? Educate your audience on why the current system isn’t working for you. Some creators simply say the subscription fees are to “pay my bills”. Others may need to raise funds for a vital piece of equipment.
  • Tell people what benefits they’ll get in return for their subscription and remind them of these perks you intend to offer. Be honest and be authentic – your audience will understand we all need to make a living.

The beauty of Patreon is that it connects brilliantly talented creatives with people who are rooting for them. So although you may provide your subscribers with all sorts of fabulous content, some patrons pay solely to support the creator and not necessarily to receive anything else in return.

 

This how-to guide was inspired by one of our live Zoom Dives – with Gee Linford-Grayson – Community Lead at Patreon.  

Zoom Dives are deep-delving discussions between our founder, Carolyn Dailey and hand-picked business experts from the creative world. You can listen to Carolyn and Gee’s full discussion here.

Fancy catching our next Zoom Dive, live? See our Events calendar and sign up for free

Meanwhile, feel free to plunder our Knowledge bank for more advice on financing your business.