- Creators on Patreon can make an income by placing exclusive content behind paywalls, which their patrons can access by pledging a monthly fee.
- Having a large fanbase doesn't necessarily translate into substantial Patreon revenue, though. Creators have to consider factors like marketing and subscription incentives to turn fans intro patrons.
- Business Insider spoke with four creators — a podcaster, an illustrator, a music videographer, and a video game designer — with more than 13,000 combined patrons to find out how they were able to monetize their fan support.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
More so than just about any other platform, Patreon has enabled artists and creators of all backgrounds to turn their passion projects into full-time jobs. The website allows creators to put up a paywall and charge subscriptions, ranging in price from $1/month to high three digits, to exclusive content.
Many of these passion-economy entrepreneurs share their work on multiple platforms, using social media to reach a wide audience. They funnel their most dedicated audience to Patreon, where they have the option to pledge a monthly fee in exchange for access to exclusive content. For the creator, this provides a monthly source of recurring revenue.
While anyone can launch a Patreon page, converting fans into patrons requires a degree of finesse. Creators must decide which perks to unlock at which subscription tiers, what price points to use, and how to maintain lines of communication with their various supporters. On top of this, of course, they still have to produce the quality content that sustains their fan base in the first place.
To get a better idea of how to successfully build and monetize a following, Business Insider spoke with four Patreon creators — a podcaster, an illustrator, a music videographer, and a video game designer — whose collective accounts are responsible for more than 13,000 patrons per month. Although these creators declined to share their exact revenues, they represent some of the site's top-earners, according to Patreon. Below are their tips for cultivating, maintaining, and growing a Patreon following.
Build a community in which fans can immerse themselves.
Behind its technical bells and whistles, what Patreon really offers fans is an opportunity to connect with someone whose work resonates with them. Patrons are looking for ways to ask creators questions, offer feedback, and see behind-the-scenes action. They also want the ability to communicate with each other, to discuss the latest releases, and build relationships with likeminded people.
Kate Allen, the illustrator and mental health advocate behind TheLatestKate, sees this community aspect of Patreon as its most fundamental appeal. Her work combats the stigma surrounding mental health by using cute, animal-centric illustrations paired with encouraging slogans to inspire positivity. For her and her patrons, the main draw of her page comes from the supportive atmosphere it creates.
"Your fans are mostly looking for you to create a positive environment. They want a place where they can connect with you as an artist, see you as a real person, and see some behind-the-scenes things," said Allen. "They are already connecting with what you make, they just want a bit more of you."
Allen, whose page has nearly 900 patrons and offers four subscription tiers ranging from $2 – $25/month, interacts with her supporters directly on her Patreon, responding in comments and asking content-related questions whose answers she takes into consideration when planning her upcoming designs. Other creators use Discord, a third-party communication platform that is popular amongst gamers and fandoms.
Give extra love to your most dedicated supporters.
Lloyd Ahlquist and Peter Shukoff are the creators of Epic Rap Battles of History, a high-production-value series of music videos in which Ahlquist and Shukoff portray characters from history and pop culture engaged in battles of witty verbal sparring.
The page offers three tiers of support, ranging from $5 – $25/month, and has accrued nearly 1,100 subscribers. But at the end of every video, a list of their top supporters' names appears, drawing attention to the series' most financially supportive patrons.
These superfans pay $25/month for this privilege, a subscription tier that also entitles them to a host of other benefits, including free merchandise and all the benefits of the lower tiers.
Ahlquist says that promoting fans so publicly serves multiple purposes: it advertises the duo's Patreon (their videos are hosted on YouTube); it incentivizes fans to subscribe to their most expensive level of support; and it emphasizes the importance of fans to the continued production of the show.
"The names double as a credits reel — like these are the people who helped this come to life — but they spark people's curiosity," said Ahlquist. "So people click on our link, find our Patreon, and that's how we get a lot of our new supporters."
Incentivize loyalty with rewards that can't be bought.
For diehard fans, provenance beats out purchase any day — anyone with money can buy merchandise, but a souvenir with a backstory is much more valuable. The team behind "Dungeons and Daddies," a fantasy podcast that follows the misadventures of four dads, understands how compelling exclusive content can be.
To capitalize on that sense of rarity, they offer merchandise that is only available to patrons who have subscribed for three consecutive months. They offer four subscription tiers, ranging from $5 – $50/month, and currently boast more than 8,000 patrons.
This has the effect of encouraging patrons to subscribe, of course, but it also conveys a sense of loyalty, says Freddie Wong, one of the four hosts.
"I think it's more of an interesting proposition when you can say, 'I got this thing that no one else can get,'" said Wong. "You're getting something physical and tangible, on top of access to a Discord server."
Create emotional investment by letting fans in on your creative process.
American McGee, a video game designer with more than 3,200 subscribers on Patreon, welcomes feedback from his top patrons and actively uses their input when designing games. His page offers eight subscription tiers, ranging from $1 – $500/month. Similar to Allen, the mental health illustrator, McGee attributes much of his page's success to the feeling of camaraderie that he works to maintain.
McGee goes one step further than simply hosting exchanges and listening to feedback; he also invites patrons to test his games out while they are still in beta, which serves multiple purposes.
First, McGee's fans receive access to unreleased games, which incentivizes them to subscribe to his Patreon; this allows McGee to monetize his entire game-developing process, not just the end product. It also provides him with valuable feedback, as these insights act as free user development.
Finally, it gives his current subscribers an emotional stake in the success of the game. Their depth of involvement in its production gives them reason to play and promote it, even act as ambassadors for it.
"Patrons literally have stake in its final form, which really keeps people engaged," said McGee. "Crown-design is really critical — as a business model — to our success."
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