5 Things I Learned From My First Month On Patreon

At the beginning of August, something amazing happened. After five years spent enduring a horrible relationship with a major corporation who bought my music blog with false promises of cash and helping to make it the full-time job I wanted it to be, I was able to reclaim my blog and all its data. This was a great success for my team and I, as we had been unable to make any changes to our site for half as decade, but it was also a wake up call. While the corporation who previously controlled our site had refused to pay a single cent of the money owed to us, they did cover all costs associated with hosting and maintaining the site. After seven years of existence, my site had become rather large, and now those costs were my responsibility.

In a panic, I turned to ad networks and Google adsense for help. Many were willing to assist us in getting on our feet, but no one could provide guaranteed income within one month’s time. The best we could find was a quality ad network with quarterly payouts, which we joined. The team behind it were/are great, and we are happy to be a part of their network, but the fact remained that our bills were piling up and most could not wait for the end of the quarter. That’s when we thought to turn to Patreon, and today I want to encourage anyone with a blog of their own to do the same.

Patreon, for those unaware, is like a digital tip jar that creative people use to generate monthly income. Users choose a monthly contribution based on what they’re able to give, and on the fifth of every month 100% of the contributions given to your project are placed into your bank account. Signup is free, and it only take about half an hour to setup a page. As an example, here’s a quick look at the Patreon page my site currently maintains:

Simply signing up for Patreon is not enough to generate contributions. Like anything in life, you have to give people a reason to care, and Patreon makes doing so incredibly easy with their state-of-the-art platform. From providing a private community for backers, to allowing you to create rewards for various levels of contributions, there are many ways to engage your readers in a meaningful way.

I’m certainly not the most successful Patreon user, but in a single month my team and I were able to receive another contributions to cover all costs associated with our site. In fact, we made so much we are even able to create merchandise, which has been a dream of ours since  the site was created way back in 2008. I know many of you have blogs of your own, and I also know many of you pay out of pocket to maintain those sites. Patreon provides a means to cover those costs through the support of your readers, and below I’ve outlined 5 tips to ensure your Patreon campaign is a success.

ABOVE ALL, BE HONEST WITH YOUR AUDIENCE

Why do you need money? Why are you using Patreon? What will the money be used for? These are all important questions that you should be able to answer BEFORE you launch a Patreon page. Potential backers will want to understand the need for money and  the plans for its use prior to contributing to your campaign. Be professional and honest, explain your costs and how you’ve worked to get ahead in spite of seeing next to no return on internet advertising, but in order to continue to develop you need help from the people who depend on your site to get their news, reviews, etc. on a regular basis.

Here’s an excerpt from my site’s Patreon page, which you can feel free to personalize and use to promote your own site if need be:

The costs to continue operating UTG will run us $50 a month. Every dollar made beyond that point will be divided amongst our editors and contributors. Our hopes is to be able to offer something to everyone who gives their time and hard work to our site, but we need your help to make that happen.

We are asking everyone to contribute $2 a month to our site. If you can contribute more, or if you would rather make a one-time donation, that would be great as well. The various reward tiers are listed below.

After seven years of stories and reviews we have reached a point where our staff is largely comprised of adults trying to balance work and school, work and family, or all three. We have bills to pay and mouths to feed. We have tried very hard to not ask for handouts, but in order to build the future we envision for UTG we must ask for your support. Thank you for everything.

ENGAGE YOUR BACKERS FROM DAY 1

As mentioned in my opening paragraphs, Patreon provides an exclusive community portal for backers of your project where you can engage with them directly whenever you desire. I would recommend making your first post as soon as contributions begin to roll in, with additional posts going live at least once a week. As a site, there is not much in the form of ‘exclusive’ content you can provide Patreon backers, but you can let them in on the behind-the-scenes action that keeps the site alive. Tell them the content you are working on, the interviews you have been conducting, and every other facet of the business they cannot learn about by visiting your site. This will further your bond with backers, which in turn will make them more likely to continue contributing to your site.

MAKE A VIDEO IF POSSIBLE

A hard fact all writers must face in this digital age is that people will often choose video content over the written word as long as the message/content remains largely the same. Patreon understand this, and they encourage every creator to make a video promoting their Patreon page. These clips reside at the very top of your Patreon page, but they can also be shared/embedded on other sites. You never know how backers will learn of your page, so it’s important to provide as many paths to learning about your efforts as possible, and that begins with a great informative video.

If you don’t have any video skills, don’t fret. Videos are not required by Patreon, but they are highly recommended.

BOOST YOUR EXPOSURE WITH A PROMOTED POST ON FACEBOOK

I know everyone is on the anti-Facebook train these days, especially when it comes to the way they limit the exposure posts made by pages receive, but the fact remains that Facebook is one of the largest referrers on the internet. Almost everyone uses Facebook on a daily basis, even if they only log in for a few minutes, and with a promoted post you can tell a good number of them about your efforts on Patreon. You know that saying about how you have to spend money to make money? In this case, it’s true. A promoted Facebook post can reach thousands upon thousands of people who would otherwise never see your request for support. Paying to reach your own fans may suck, but it’s better than never being able to pitch them on your need for support.

PROMOTE OFTEN

An all too common mistake in the world of Patreon is thinking people will stumble across your page without frequent promotion. Unless people are seeking a site to donate money to, and through doing so they are specifically searching for your blog, that chances of them randomly coming across your Patreon page are incredibly low. I understand you don’t want to overwhelm your readers with requests for financial contributions, but a few tweets/mentions a week is likely not going to drive anyone away. My recommendation would be a maximum of 3-4 plugs a week, but honestly you know your audience better than I do. Just be sure to not let the Patreon page slip your mind. If you don’t remember it, no one else will.


James Shotwell is the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. He is also a professional entertainment critic, covering both film and music, as well as the co-founder of Antique Records. Feel free to tell him you love or hate the article above by connecting with him on Twitter. Bonus points if you introduce yourself by sharing your favorite Simpsons character.

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.