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The Patreon Creator’s Guide to Managing Work and Family

Balancing family and business obligations can be challenging. Just ask John Wahl, one of the dads behind the entertainment website Mega Dads. “At Mega Dads, our entire focus is about balancing work, family, and playtime,” he says. “Finding that perfect harmony is something that everybody struggles with, but it is possible.” Running a membership business can offer creators a degree of flexibility and autonomy that help them manage both. With that in mind, we talked to Wahl and other Patreon creators on how they make it work.

These tips are applicable not only to parents but for any caregivers with work and family obligations making demands on their time. Of course, as Wahl points out, what works for one creator may not work for another, so use what works for you and your business and tweak or adapt the rest.

1. Create a schedule.

Set aside time to create so you can meet your content goals and keep your patrons updated. “Time is the most precious commodity we have,” Wahl says. “Whether your Patreon is your full time job or a passion project, it’s important to plan out and schedule projects and stick to it. Being efficient with your time means more time that you can spend with your loved ones.”

2. Use free time wisely.

Not everyone has regular childcare, so it may take some creativity to find pockets of time where you can get your work done. “When I record a show, I usually do it early in the morning or later in the evening, when I don't have to contend with the constant ambient noise of leaf-blowers, aircraft, sirens... and kids!” says Larry Bleidner, creator of That LARRY Show. He also says that “the watchword is adaptability.”

3. Change your environment.

Some people need to get out of the house to be productive. “When I'm researching and writing shows, I work better without distractions, so I'll take my laptop to the park, library, or sometimes even my car,” Bleidner says. “I also find a change of location stimulates creativity, so I often work away from my home office.”

4. Stay open to inspiration.

Inspiration for your next blog post, video, or podcast can materialize at any time, so be prepared. “I keep a small digital recorder on my nightstand,” Bleidner says. “Great ideas can materialize in the middle of the night, and I don't have to turn on a light to write and awaken my wife.”

5. Protect your creative time.

You need time to record that podcast, write that blog post, or create that video, so schedule that time and set boundaries. “Sometimes, when both career and child demand your attention, telling a child to wait is the best parenting you can do,” says Jenny Ballif, creator of Science Mom. “If the ‘Writer at Work’ sign is above the computer my kids know to only interrupt me for true emergencies. Requests, questions, and play have to wait until after the writing.” That said, Ballif also sets aside time for family and doesn’t edit videos or work on new content during dinner or family movie night.

6. Include your family.

While some creators keep family and work time separate, others blend the two. “Obviously everybody’s business is different, but with Mega Dads we’ve managed to include our kids in the content we create with features such as Small Talk and Family Game Night,” Wahl says. “If you have a chance to include the family in what you create, do it.” Family Game Night reviews on the Mega Dads website include commentary from both kids and parents.

7. Celebrate even small victories.

Seeing your hard work pay off may help family members understand why you’re spending time on your business. Chris Cade, a single full-time father and creator of a Patreon page for inspirational content, shares updates with his son. “Every time I get a new patron--for any amount--I show him the email notification and we give each other a fist bump to celebrate,” he says. “It helps me stay positive and remember this is a marathon, not a sprint.”

“It helps me stay positive and remember this is a marathon, not a sprint,” says Chris Cade.

8. Automate what you can.

Many aspects of a membership business, including emails and social media posts, can be automated to free up your time. Cade uses Ontraport to automate email marketing and SmarterQueue for social media. “Theoretically, I could die and nobody would ever know because my pinterest and Facebook posts would keep going, and my emails would continue,” he says.

9. Outsource your weaknesses.

We all have our strengths and weaknesses, so outsourcing weak areas can save time and aggravation. For Cade, that means outsourcing graphic design. “I use Freelancer and Fiverr to find design talent, and once I find great talent, I keep going back to the same people for similar projects,” says Cade. “For example, one designer I love for creating my eBooks. Another one is fantastic for memes.”

10. Set realistic goals.

When you’re managing a family and a business, burnout is a real possibility, so take breaks when you need them. “We both work full time jobs besides the work we do for Mega Dads, and when creating a Patreon it can be tempting to produce as much content as possible,” Wahl says. “But don’t overdo it. If you find yourself creating more and more content at the expense of spending time with your kids and family, it may be time to dial things back a bit.”

“But don’t overdo it. If you find yourself creating more and more content at the expense of spending time with your kids and family, it may be time to dial things back a bit,” John Wahl says.

11. Take breaks.

Giving yourself a rest can help energize you and keep the creative juices flowing. Illustrator and fantasy artist Temrin tries to try unplug in the evenings, leaving time for non-work things like exercising or relaxing. “Unless [my partner and I] decide to play some online games with friends, the computers are generally offline in the evenings,” says Temrin. “Some days we even mute or turn internet connections off on our phones, which can really help.”

12. Adjust as needed.

As your family grows or your responsibilities change, you may need to course correct, tweaking your processes or your content schedule. Dutch illustrator and digital artist Frenone discovered this after having a baby in July 2018. “It took me five months to realize that the way I organized things before I got pregnant was no longer sustainable,” Frenone says. She ultimately “decided to pull the plug out of everything that was causing me stress or wasn’t cost-effective.”

Thanks to a big commission in April, Frenone was able to pause her campaign in May while she overhauled her page and took a much-needed break. She removed three physical reward tiers and encouraging patrons to continue their support at a digital tier. She also “adjusted the rewards for each tier, to the point where it wouldn’t stress me out, even if I or the little one would get sick.”

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