Written by Liam Dryden
Even if you’re new to the creator scene, chances are you’re already aware that earning an income solely through YouTube is becoming more and more difficult. New advertising restrictions and a higher barrier for entry to the platform’s Partner Programme both mean that ad revenue is often negligible; and even landing brand deals or selling merch can be extremely difficult with a smaller or less active audience.
Because of this, many creators are branching out to alternative platforms and methods to support their content financially — and through this, some have even found success in turning their passion into a full-time job! Crowdfunding has proven one of the most effective methods in recent years, and this has been largely in part due to Patreon.
So what is Patreon?
Patreon was founded in 2013 by singer-songwriter and entrepreneur Jack Conte, who wanted to create a service that operates “like a kickstarter for people who release stuff on a regular basis.”
True enough to this, Patreon is similar to other crowdfunding sites, in that creators can offer different and bigger rewards at increasing levels of monetary support; but the big difference is that becoming a Patron means signing up for a regular subscription. To this end, it’s important when becoming a Patreon creator that you know your limits, can manage expectations, and are able to offer your audience rewards that are worthy of their support!
How does it work?
When you visit a creator’s Patreon page, one of the first things you will see is a brief explainer of what they’re creating. Patreon creators aren’t just jilted YouTubers — they’re musicians, they’re streamers, artists, writers, podcasters… and sometimes, a little bit of all of these!
On the right of the page, a creator will often have a list of Tiers — these are rewards for support, increasing in levels of value depending on how much the patron is capable of pledging. Patreon deals in US dollars; and so reward tiers can range from as little as $1, up to much higher increments. How high you go with your reward tiers depends on two things:
- How much you think your audience members would be willing to support your content.
- How much you can offer in return for this level of support.
What kind of rewards should I offer?
The most important thing is making sure that you are capable of fulfilling whatever benefits you promise your patrons; whether it’s an issue of time, resources, or both, managing your audience’s expectations is key. After all, this type of support is a little more transactional — and therefore requires a little more commitment and responsibility from the creator (that’s you)!
Before launching your own Patreon page, it’s worth browsing the pages of other creators (particularly those of a similar audience size to yours) to see what sort of things they are offering their supporters. Rewards can be anything from exclusive content, to early access, to more interaction with the creator — as long as you know your value, the options can be limitless.
To better help you keep track of who’s owed what, Patreon has recently introduced a built-in Benefits Tracker — which you can manually check off when each patron has received their rewards. Rewards can be fulfilled on a one-time basis, or recurring; again, it depends on the value, and what you’re capable of handling alongside your other projects.
Are there any benefits to Patreon besides money?
One of the big upsides to Patreon’s tools for managing your patrons is the ability to see everyone by name. For the creator at least, this develops a more intimate relationship with those audience members that are willing to do that little extra bit to support you!
A lot of creators using Patreon have found that it has helped develop their community in ways that they would never have expected from a financial support platform; to the point where it doesn’t feel like fans are “buying your attention” or anything gross like that. A good creator will know how to use their Patreon to “give back” to their audience in a way that can sometimes benefit even those that aren’t patrons; for example, setting a goal on Patreon in order to fund a certain project/video/etc can be a great way for patrons to see where their support is going — and a good incentive for non-patrons to consider supporting you.
Patreon can also serve to make the content you’re working on just a little bit better — and also encourage you to consider branching out. With a smaller audience on Patreon than your wider internet following, it’s like having a built-in focus group of people who are quite literally invested in your content, who you can use to gain valuable feedback and learn what they’d like to see more/less of. Random unsolicited feedback can sometimes be an online creator’s nightmare — but when you know the person is fully backing you, you know that they want to see you succeed!
Okay, I’m sold — where do I start?
Moving forward, in proper TL;DR fashion, we recommend taking the following steps to launching your Patreon:
- Open an account (obvious).
- Browse similar creators to you. Find out what rewards they are currently offering their patrons.
- Write your page bio. Explain a) what you’re making and b) why you’re looking for audience support.
- Add a video to your page. Good Patreon pages have a dedicated video explaining why you use Patreon; but if you don’t have time, an example of your work is also good to include.
- Create your own reward tiers. Remember to be realistic about what you can offer patrons at the beginning — don’t promise the moon!
- Set a goal. Whether it’s to fund a new camera, or even just to make sure your monthly bills are paid, prospective patrons appreciate seeing exactly where their money is going.
- Launch your Patreon! Announce it on all your socials, include it in every video description, post periodical reminders every few days.
- Update your Patreon feed. Give people (especially non-patrons) a reason to keep coming back to the page — even if it’s just a hub to share your latest video!
Follow all these steps, remember to know your value and manage expectations, and you’ll be well on your way to creating a sustainable income — and an even stronger community!