Creator Gloria Calderón Kellett says Patreon makes her life possible. We were lucky to snatch a quick moment with the executive producer, writer, director, and actor at SXSW last month to chat about her experience. Her sitcom One Day At A Time, currently airing its final season on Netflix, follows a Cuban-American family living in Los Angeles. Gloria, who co-created the show, has spent over 15 years working for household names like CBS, ABC, and CW and on shows including How I Met Your Mother, and Rules Of Engagement.
And it’s her experience in TV that really makes her appreciate the intimate, fan-focused aspect of the Patreon platform. Working with dominant networks such as Netflix, Gloria said, is amazing, but depends on people knowing your work is there and being able to find you. “I really love the idea that we’re headed into a place where things can be curated for us, [where] we can choose exactly what we want to follow, choose exactly where we want our dollars to go to and support, which is why I think something like Patreon is very cool.”
Instead of capturing a general audience, a membership-based business allows you to focus instead on your superfans who want to engage with you as an artist and your work. While anyone on the internet can follow, watch, and experience the free content creators put out on social media, the membership adds an extra layer to audience engagement and dynamics. The exclusivity of a membership platform means that your most devote fans have access to completely original, and often customized, content.
Patrons will usually sign up for a membership program for one of two reasons: 1) to support a specific artist or creator because they have a personal connection, want to contribute, and enjoy their work, or 2) to take advantage of the exclusive opportunities that come with being a patron, whether that means more interaction with the artist, personalized swag, gifts, or other benefits.
To Gloria, this creates an amazing dynamic between creators and fans. “Connection with fans is everything because it gives you a direct pipeline into what your work means to somebody, what is resonating with them.” Serving underrepresented voices as a female Hispanic producer, director, and writer, Gloria sees a lot of value in a community that sponsors new and unsung talent.
Her personal experience with Patreon, though, is a bit more second-hand. “As a fan, I get to support and feel like I’m a part of nourishing artists that I love.” While not a Patreon creator herself, Gloria has an insider’s understanding of what it’s like to run a membership-based business because that’s how her husband makes his living. Artist and cartoonist Dave Kellett is the creator behind webcomics Sheldon, which is about the daily life of a 10-year-old computer genius and billionaire, and Drive, a weekly futuristic space opera. An award-winning author and speaker, Dave also co-hosts ComicLab, a podcast that focuses on the art and business of webcomics.
A membership-based business offers more than a deeper connection with an enthusiastic audience. It’s valuable for the artist in many other ways as well. Earning a sustainable income from patrons allows creators the freedom and flexibility to pursue and constantly improve on their work. Along with creative independence, they also have the accountability that comes with sponsorship to encourage them to grow their businesses and continue to produce content.
While it may seem like visual artists or podcasters like Dave can make the most of a membership-based business, the platform supports a wide variety of creators: videographers, musicians, writers and journalists, business or interest-based communities, even brick-and-mortar stores.
Any business can become partially or fully membership-based, whether its goal is giving art tutorials, or running an animal sanctuary. But each creative project is different and building a thriving business out of art takes effort. Patreon’s goal is to streamline the process so that creators can lighten the load of running a business and focus on making an impact.
Gloria’s advice? “Give yourself time. If you’re launching a new creative project, it takes a minute to build an audience, to build what you’re doing and get better and better at creating the content.” She says it’s best to know upfront that new business owners make mistakes, but forgiving themselves and moving on regardless is key. “Just keep at it! That’s I think the best way to grow your business.”
But for Gloria and Dave, Patreon is more than a fan base for creative projects. The platform helps them create and maintain a lifestyle that supports two artists and a family. “We get to have a life where we get to do what we love and Patreon has given us that.”