If you’ve followed any channels on YouTube or artists on Deviantart, you’ve probably come across someone using Patreon to fund their creative efforts. If you haven’t, here’s how it works:
You create things and people pledge money to support you (usually a monthly amount, starting as low as $1 depending on what options you specify). You provide special rewards to your patrons (copies of your work, sneak peeks at projects, behind-the-scenes info, etc). Patreon takes a small cut and you get money for doing what you love!
This is a fantastic opportunity for creatives. It doesn’t matter if you’re doing art, film, podcasting, books, comics, or some other creative work. If people like what you’re doing and are willing to support your efforts, you can get paid. Some people are making thousands of dollars a month this way.
The Simple Patreon Formula
Production + appreciation = Patrons.
It’s really as simple as that, at the heart of it. I considered including “quality” in this formula, but when it comes to the arts this is a very subjective term. Watching shaky-cam behind-the-scenes footage of a favorite YouTuber could be great patron-fodder. Is it quality? Not really, but it’s priceless to a fan. The sketches and in-progress snapshots of a painting as it is created may not be considered a “quality” product, but it produces a wonderful bonding experience between the creator and patron.
The quality items that you produce will be the same ones you’d produce if you weren’t on Patreon: A book release per year, a painting every three months, a weekly podcast. The point isn’t to add to your workload, but to give you a way to produce income in between new releases and sales of your work.
If you are producing work on some regular basis, then it’s possible you could build a fan base of patrons. Because Patreon is a form of crowdfunding, you don’t have to ask a lot of any one person. Even $1 per month adds up if you have 100 (or 1000) people who like what you’re doing. All you need to do is offer something that is worth that $1 per month and give people a reason to stick around.
“But I only have a few [books, paintings, videos] published”
You may be thinking only people who are really prolific or well-established could make a go with Patreon. It’s easy to think that only people who are already hugely successful will do well there, especially if you look at the Patreon home page and see all the big numbers. People with hundreds or thousands of patrons, making thousands of dollars per month.
That’s what I thought at first. Sometimes it takes seeing a friend try something new before you are ready to jump in yourself.
So let me introduce you to a friend and colleague of mine: Thea van Diepen. When I first encountered her on Facebook, it seemed she was just getting started. I think she may have already self-published one book, or maybe it came out soon after we met. She had great energy, inspiring vision and lots of enthusiasm. It turned out that she’s very artistic in variety of ways. Check out some of her projects:
Her books are fantastic (she even published a book from the future!). Her web comic is adorable. Her enthusiasm for life, the universe and creativity is contagious.
In 2015, Thea went on Patreon. And guess what? People started supporting her.
Why is it working? Because we like what she’s doing, so we’re willing to part with $1 or $5 or $10 per month to help her keep doing it.
People don’t just offer monthly Patreon options, but also project-based options. For example, the folks at Enigmatic Mirror Press are putting together an anthology and are using Patreon to fund it. What projects do you have in the works that people are excited about? Perhaps they’d like to pledge some money towards a copy of the finished product.
There are a wide variety of creatives with many different ways to leverage this tool.
The psychology of it
Something important to consider about Patreon: this isn’t just about people calculating how much they’d pay if they bought all the books the author wrote and then deciding what level of patronage will get them all the books without paying as much (although sometimes that happens, too). It’s not just a financial transaction, or another way to pay for a product.
You need to start looking at yourself, and your work, in new ways.
When someone pays to stay connected to you (an artist or author), it draws them closer to you. They feel connected. If you do your Patreon communication well, they feel like part of your inner circle. In fact, if you think of your patrons as more than just “customers” and allow them to help shape what you create, you’ll form an even stronger connection. Some creators ask for opinions about potential book covers, ask patrons to vote on names for characters, or poll patrons about color schemes for paintings. When someone is participating, whether by offering an opinion or paying — even a little bit! — to keep you going, there’s a deeper sense of pride and accomplishment when you release a new piece of work. Because they helped make it happen.
That’s the beauty and joy of patronage.
The power of motivation
There’s another important psychological aspect to consider. If you know that you have a quality product, but you’re struggling to find the motivation to keep at it in the midst of other life demands, Patreon can provide another vital benefit: Motivation to finish. When you know that you have patrons who are putting money towards your work every single month, you’ll want to have something to show them. You’ll want to make progress, so you can give them excerpts from the latest chapter or show them the latest sketches.
Sometimes, we creatives need a little motivation. Sometimes we need a deadline. And knowing that there are people waiting and hoping for a little something every single month can provide the extra push that we need to make our creative work a priority.
Think it over
Patreon isn’t for everyone. And if you don’t know why people enjoy you and your work, you may be disappointed with the results. So think about it. Mull it over for a while. Ask your readers what they like about your stories. Ask your viewers why they watch your videos or listen to your podcast. Consider what kinds of rewards you could offer your patrons.
Drop a comment below and brainstorm aloud about your work, your WIPs and how you might use a tool like Patreon.
- An article with more in-depth info about Patreon
- How to be successful on Patreon
- Setting up shop on Patreon
- Things to know before you launch a Patreon page to support your writing
Share your experience with Patreon!
If you’ve used Patreon or support someone who does, drop a link in the comments below and tell us what you like about it.