As content creation morphs into its own form of business, creators look for ways to stabilize their income. Some look to social media to monetize, others make and sell merchandise (merch). But there’s a centuries-old way to focus on creating while making money — patronage. That’s where having a Patreon comes into play, and if you’re here, you may have heard a little bit about it already.
Anyone can use Patreon as a source of revenue. It has no up-front costs, and there are just a few things you need to make it successful. So, should you jump on the trend? In this post, we’ll go through everything you want to know about how to start a Patreon — why it was founded, gauging if it’s right for you, how it works, and launching your own Patreon campaign.
Like many great businesses, Patreon was founded by someone who wanted to solve a problem. Patreon’s origin story goes back to when Jack Conte was making videos online. He noticed YouTube monetization was unstable and largely dependent on an algorithm for views. Conte called his Stanford friend Sam Yam and asked for help creating something that could help. The idea alluded to Renaissance-style patronage under which artists could create freely with financial support. They got to work on a platform that allowed creatives to ask for the support they needed. Then in 2013, Patreon was born.
Unlike Kickstarter — which funded large projects in advance with one campaign — Patreon allows creators to make recurring high-quality content in exchange for a monthly donation. So, how exactly are content creators making money to work instead of working to get paid? Let’s see what goes on behind the Patreon curtain.
How Patreon Works
Patreon lets your followers and fans become your biggest supporters, financially speaking. Basically, Patreon cuts out the third parties like Youtube, Twitch, Spotify et al. that take a huge chunk of your profits. They implemented and proved the theory that if you focus on creating content fans love, those followers will pay for it. This model frees you from third-party limitations that curb your creative freedom and take all your cash.
What does Patreon get in return? Around 5% to 12% of your revenue, depending on the benefits that you want.
Signs that Patreon is Right for You
When getting started with digital marketing on a new platform, a lot of questions arise. Like social media, Patreon offers ways to connect with those who follow you, but what if you’re concerned supporters will be turned off by a paywall? How do you know if Patreon is worth it for you? Should you just keep developing your content on your own?
Here are some signs that you should hop on Patreon:
You have an audience. Patreon won’t help much in finding new audiences for you, so you have to bring your own or have a growth strategy in place.
Your content is cost-effective. If you’re raising $1,000 a month but need $20,000 to create, Patreon will barely make a dent.
You need a boost to make better content. Patreon gives you that external motivation every month reminding you that people want to see what you make.
If the above sounds like what you’re looking for, start your Patreon page and tell your followers to meet you there. Let’s go through how to get started.
How to Start a Patreon
Patreon is totally free to start. In fact, if you never get a patron on the platform, you’ll never pay a dime. Their job is to manage your community. They’re not looking to make money if you aren’t either. With the following steps, you can learn how to start a Patreon and launch a campaign:
Start by registering for an account with an email or online account.
Next, go through the questions about the type of content you create. Do you make videos? Manage communities? Is your content 18+?
Choose which currency your patrons will see when they visit. Choose from US dollars, British Pounds, and Euros.
Connect Patreon to your social media and choose a custom URL.
Add a high-quality profile photo (at least 256 x 256 pixels) and cover image (1600 x 400 pixels).
Add a text and video introduction for what your channel is about. Remind people why they’re there. Some of your followers may not know what Patreon is.
Set up your tiers for how much money followers can give every month.
Set goals for your Patreon. Tell followers your goals (for patrons or monthly revenue) and what you’ll do once you reach each goal. For example, once you reach 1,000 patrons, you’ll do a live stream Q&A or release a new EP.
Understanding and Using the Patreon Tier System
When figuring out how to start a Patreon and use their tier system, it can be tricky to define what to ask for. You might find yourself wondering what’s too much or what’s too little. What can you offer that will be worth that donation? Remember, your fans are there to support you, not to buy from you. Each tier offers an incentive to give (called benefits) not a product.
Patreon tiers are made so patrons can choose what they’re capable of giving every month, not how much the benefit is worth. While perks are great, they’re not the main reason why fans become patrons. Not every tier has to give a long piece of content or merch. The first one or two can just give access to your Patreon community and exclusive updates.
If you’re just starting out, try offering one to three tiers for your fans to choose from. The first can be anywhere from $1 to $3, the second $3 to $6, and the third about $10. As you grow your Patreon, add more tiers for people that want to give a higher amount. You’ll be surprised how many people will want to give more if given the chance.
What to Offer as Benefits
To reward your patrons for their ongoing support, you may want to offer them benefits. There are a few go-to options for patron benefits that creators love. Among these, you’ll find:
Physical rewards (like Patreon’s merch)
Votes on future content
Recognition (a mention in your newsletter or video)
You can get creative with what you offer. If you do coaching or consulting, create a large tier that gives a limited number of fans a monthly session as a benefit. If you’re an artist, give them a digital download for the first tier or two. If you’re a community leader, Patreon has a full list of ideas of benefits you can offer, including courses.
Setting Goals on Patreon
When visitors see your page on Patreon they can see your tiers and your goal(s). For those learning how to start a Patreon, this can be confusing. We’ve gone through what the tiers are and how to use them, but how does this differ from your goals?
Goals on Patreon can be either how many patrons you want to reach or how much you want in monthly earnings. You can set several goals and attach events to them. For instance, you can set your first goal as $50 and announce that once you reach it, you’ll do a giveaway or have a special guest on your podcast. These goals incentivize new patrons to join and help you succeed. As you achieve them, you can set new ones to keep you and your community going.
If you’re curious about whether your community would be on board with Patreon, start a conversation with them. After all, this is something you’ll be embarking on together. See what they know about Patreon and what kind of content they’d like to see there. Consider running polls or surveys on your social media to get an idea of what to create for your launch. Once you’ve decided, you’re all set with the information you need to get started. Happy creating!