As part of Patreon’s Marketing team, I can tell you one question we get from creators all the time is, “am I running a successful Patreon page?”
This is a difficult question for us to answer for one reason: success is relative. The goals of Patreon’s creators are as diverse as the types of things they create. If Patreon answered the “am I successful” question with a yes or a no, we’d be breaking a cardinal rule that all creators — hell, everyone — should follow: never compare yourself to others.
A better question is, what does success mean to you?
I love this question for two reasons. One, it forces you to think about how you view yourself, rather than how you look to others. Two, it can help clarify your creative motivation to make sure you’re working toward goals that matter to you.
To help you answer to that question, it can help to break success up into different categories. Here are three examples of ways to categorize success on Patreon (though there could be many more):
Financial: You gauge success by how much money you make from your art. It doesn’t necessarily mean you’re trying to get rich. Success on Patreon could mean earning enough money to cover the costs of your creative business. Or maybe you want to quit your day job and become a full-time artist.
Creative: You gauge success by the content you create. Maybe your band wants the freedom to create whatever kind of music it wants. Or maybe you are a blog writer, and success means publishing a certain number of blog posts.
Engagement: You gauge success by your audience. Perhaps you want your videos to be seen by a certain number of people. Or maybe you’re all about community, in which case having a super engaged audience may be more important to you than how big your audience is.
You don’t have to pick just one. In fact, you may find that your definition of success fits in multiple categories. But the point is to get specific. Figure out what success means to you. Then, once you figure that out, it’s time to make a plan.
You’ve figured out what success on Patreon means to you. Now’s the time to set some goals.
But as you’re writing out your goals, remember this: with goal setting, a little can go a long way. Setting lofty or vague goals today is a sure fire way to be discouraged tomorrow. On the other hand, setting quantifiable and realistic goals can have the opposite effect: it can help motivate you (and your patrons).
Keep these things in mind when setting goals for your creator page.
Your grand, creative vision is super important and can help motivate you when times get tough. But it’s important to know the difference between vision and goals.
While becoming the best guitarist ever may be your vision, it's a bit grand for a list of monthly goals. A more feasible short-term goal might be to learn a couple new musical scales, or to learn five guitar solos. When you meet those goals, you’ll feel like you’ve accomplished something, which will propel you further towards your broader vision of becoming the ultimate shredder. \m/ \m/
The same goes for when you’re setting goals for your creator page. Ask yourself what you’d like to accomplish in the next month, and is that goal feasible? If your Patreon goal is to get rich and famous over the next month, you may want to rethink your plan. However, if your monthly goals are to earn twenty more patrons, and to create five pieces of patron exclusive content, you’re on the right track.
Once you’ve set some realistic goals, share them with your patrons using Patreon’s goal feature. Sharing your goals with your patrons will motivate them as much as it will you.
Okay, so you were $200 short of your monthly earnings goal. Don’t freak out.
When I failed to complete National Novel Writing Month last year, I felt super discouraged. However, in reevaluating my goals, I learned that my full-time job as a blog writer just didn’t allow me enough time, or energy, to churn out a novel in a month. I had set an unrealistic goal for myself given the other responsibilities in my life. I was bummed with the outcome, but I learned a lot about writing in the process, and I got a lot of new material for future projects.
So when you don’t meet your goal, instead of freaking out, try to figure out what went wrong. Was your goal too ambitious or was your timeline too short? Or did a hurdle come up that you hadn’t foreseen? For example, if you missed your goal of earning 20 new patrons by the end of the month, think of other ways to approach growing your business, such as running a Special Offer, or testing different promotional tactics.
Then, when you figure out what went wrong, make new goals based on what you’ve learned. Doing this allows you to turn your “failure” into valuable insights about your creative business.
Here’s an interesting statistic: forty-five percent of creators who earn $2,000+ a month through Patreon work on their creator page at least 6-hours a week.
Now, if you’re like me, you may be saying to yourself: after working a day job, running errands, and grinding on my craft, I can barely find time to cram a slice of pizza into my face, let alone reevaluate my tiers or plan a new Special Offer rollout.
Still, the data seems to indicate that there is a correlation between how much creators make on Patreon and how much they work on their creator page.
Since time is a scarce and valuble resource, here are a couple things to help you get the most out of your Patreon work flow.
If six-hours a week sounds like too much for you, don't worry. Instead, figure out how much time you do have, and then build a schedule you can stick with.
Start by figuring out how many hours you need to achieve the goals you set, and then set aside time in your calendar to work on Patreon.
Remeber — a schedule should be encouraging, not grueling. Set a schedule that you can meet, and follow through with it. If you find it too easy, you can always increase the time you work on Patreon next week. The key is to build momentum without overwhelming yourself.
Some days, work comes harder than others. But instead of getting mad when the muse doesn’t show up for work, get inspired. Check out some creators you admire or watch the training scene from the first Rocky movie. Being uninspired has derailed everyone at some point, so when it happens to you — and it will — have a pep talk ready to get back in that creative flow.
Also, if you’re feeling uninspired, look at it as an opportunity to learn about what fuels your creativity. If gratitude motivates you, think about your loyal patrons and fans, and how fortunate you are to have them as an audience. Or learn about ways other creative people motivate themselves.
Lastly, if you find yourself teetering on the edge of burnout feel free to take a break. You’ve earned it.
When thinking of starting a creative career, being business savvy may not be the first thing that comes to mind. After all, isn’t that why you become an artist — to break free from the establishment and to ditch the suit and tie? However, no matter what success on Patreon means to you, knowing a few things about business can help you reach your creative goals.
But since building a creative business can be challenging, here are a couple tips.
Let’s say you gained the support of twenty new patrons over the last month. Go ahead and break out the Champagne. You earned it.
However, your job isn’t done yet. Once you earn your patrons’ support, your new job is to ensure they are happy and content. Happy patron, happy castle.
Use Patreon’s polling feature to learn how satisfied your patrons are. In a poll, ask them what kind of benefits they’d like you to offer, and then consider turning that feedback into a new membership tier.
Another way to learn what your patrons want is to spend more time with them. Give them a place to hang out by integrating Discord with your creator page. Also, when time allows, respond to their messages and comments, both on social media and Patreon. Not only will connecting with your patrons make you feel all warm and gooey inside, but you’ll also learn a lot about your audience in the process.
Your fans can’t support you on Patreon if they don’t know about it. That said, some creators find telling their audience about their creator page difficult.
Make talking about Patreon easier by finding a message that feels authentic to you. When you’re brainstorming your message to fans, feel free to throw out anything that feels fake or icky. If you feel weird about the Patreon pitch you’ve crafted, then the message may be conflicting with some of your core values. Taking the time to create a message that you believe in can transform telling your fans about Patreon from an anxiety provoking experience to an empowering one.
Once you find a message that’s right for you, share it with your fans. Post about your Patreon page on social media, or share it in a video on Youtube and Vimeo. If you’re a musician, you could talk about your Patreon page with your fans in person, either at your merch table or on stage.
I know it seems like your fans will be annoyed by your promotions. But in reality, not only do they want to help you succeed, they will also be excited to gain access to all your patron exclusive content.
The goals of Patreon’s creators are as diverse as the types of things they create. We hope this post helps you think about what success means to you, and what steps you could take to make magic happen on Patreon. As always, we’ll be cheering you on the whole way.