So, your podcast has attracted a following, and you’ve decided to build a membership business on Patreon. Congrats!
Launching on Patreon can be a great way to monetize your content and further engage with your listeners, but it can also feel overwhelming at times. Never fear. We’ve assembled a step-by-step guide to help podcasters like you plan a successful launch, starting two months out and culminating on launch day.
Drew Ackerman, founder of the popular Sleep With Me podcast, recommends looping in your listeners early in your planning process. He suggests asking questions like “What shows do you support? What rewards do you like or would you want?” Ask these questions wherever you communicate with your listeners, whether it’s in an emailed survey, social media posts, or a call to action in the podcast itself. Listeners might suggest rewards you hadn’t considered or introduce you to podcasts you didn’t know about.
However, listener feedback has other benefits beyond market research. Ackerman says this helps listeners understand why you’re building a membership business and gives them a chance to “have some buy-in and feel valued.” If they feel invested in you and the process, they’ll be more inclined to support you later on. Next, start supporting other creators on Patreon so you understand the patron experience and become part of the ecosystem. “Put yourself in your future patron’s shoes,” Ackerman says. “Did you ever use any of the rewards? Getting an idea of what the experience is like from the supporter standpoint is really important.”
After you’ve researched other podcasters and creators, now’s the time to create a draft of your Patreon page. Patreon U can with this. Also, start planning your rewards and member tiers. Remember that you can always add new rewards and tiers later on, but it’s harder to change them once members start supporting you. Consider starting with two to three tiers so you won’t overwhelm yourself or your members. Offering too many choices can lead to decision fatigue where they don’t make any decision. Those that do support you may not be able to keep up with a zillion rewards, so your efforts could be wasted. Plus, committing to creating too many different rewards each month can be a recipe for burnout. How much time can you realistically devote to rewards each month? What’s manageable for you that can add value for your supporters?
Gillian Pensavalle, the creator of the Hamilcast, a podcast about Hamilton: An American Musical, has three support tiers: The Pride of Mount Vernon for $1/month, a Mind at Work for $5/month, and the Ten Dollar Founding Father for, appropriately, $10/month. She offers instructions for members who want to pay some other amount, but keeping it to three tiers keeps her member model simple and doable. Those who pay $1/month get listed on the Hamilcast support page on the website, and those who pay $5 or more per month get access to a private Facebook group, which includes behind-the-scenes videos and a chance to ask questions for upcoming guests.
Other podcasters might offer rewards such as early access to podcast episodes, member-only or ad-free episodes, livestreams, or polls to vote on topics for upcoming episodes. Keep in mind that the most effective rewards--such as private Facebook groups or the opportunity to ask questions of guests--are the ones that help drive engagement with your members.
One month out from launch is also a good time to think through logistics. Where are you hosting your podcast? Are you hosting elsewhere and linking to your Patreon page? What about videos? Is everything working properly?
As launch day approaches, you may start to feel jittery. This is a good time to check in with your fellow podcasters and your most loyal listeners to keep you accountable to your plan.
Ackerman says he had a plan for launching Sleep With Me on Patreon, but as his launch approached, he got cold feet. “As soon as I launched my Patreon, I think it was out of fear, I went away from my plan,” he says. “I got afraid of asking people for money.” He’d planned to ask listeners to pay $5 or $10 per month but instead, he lowered his ask to $1 per month.
Ackerman later realized his most loyal listeners would have paid whatever he asked, but a flood of early supporters were only paying $1. Several months later, a listener set him straight, saying things like “You’re really devaluing your show. You put all this work into it and you’re only asking for a $1.” Ackerman went back to his original plan. Now his lowest support tier is $5/month, which includes two ad-free episodes a week early, among other perks.
“If you’re feeling feelings, make sure you have people at Patreon or other podcasters and check in with them,” Ackerman says. “If I would have talked to my listeners, I would have gotten a much better reality check.”
Many podcasters are uncomfortable asking their listeners for money, so it can be helpful to focus on the benefits of membership. For instance, “top listeners can get additional podcasts each month and other bonuses” or “patrons can go behind-the-scenes like live video Q&As and other exclusive content.”
Two weeks away from launch is also a good time to tease the launch on your social media accounts and create anticipation on your podcast with a pre-launch announcement. You can also draft or schedule social media posts leading up to launch day.
You made it! Time to celebrate.
Once your Patreon page is live, you can include the link in your social media profiles, plug it in your podcast announcements, promote it via email, or wherever else you communicate with listeners.
Ackerman suggests making launch day activities feel more relational than transactional. “It’s about making it fun for the people who are involved versus doing a big launch in the hopes that it’ll get you more people,” he says, adding that he still remembers his very first patron (she’s stuck with him). Perhaps you’ll do a livestream, a countdown, or podcast shout outs to your early supporters. “Do something fun for the people who are invested, even if it’s just a couple of people,” he says.