Many creators have this preconceived notion that the only way to make money with their craft is to amass a large following.
However, this hasn’t been the case for husband and wife duo Greg Newkirk and Dana Matthews who run the popular paranormal site Planet Weird. A mere 175 patrons provide over $6,000 a month via Patreon to support their project, The Traveling Museum of the Paranormal and the Occult.
And it isn’t just the world’s only traveling paranormal museum, it’s also Greg and Dana’s full-time job.
All thanks to their Patreon supporters, the couple are living their dream: traveling from coast to coast in their Toyota Scion (affectionately known as the “Adventuremobile”) filled to the brim with their personal collection of paranormal artifacts.
Greg and Dana believe there are two reasons they have such a devoted following:
- They created a project (the museum) that people were excited about
- They maintain really thoughtful benefits for people already invested in that product.
Here’s how they did it.
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They looked for what was missing in their niche
“There’s a lot of people that are doing podcasts, web series, and blogging, and that’s great! A lot of them have been able to build a monstrous fanbase, but it’s because they’re doing something unique in the space,” Greg said.
Even though the couple maintain other projects under their umbrella business, Planet Weird, their Patreon campaign is built around the museum because it is “something unique” that’s been missing in their area.
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The couple have both been involved in the realm of the paranormal and the occult since they were kids. It’s their world. And throughout their careers, they’ve worked on all sorts of projects from web series and documentaries to their Week in Weird website.
“But it wasn’t until we started doing the museum, which was something that didn’t exist before and was completely new to the landscape, that people really were like, ‘Oh wow! That’s really fun and engaging,’” Greg said.
They knew their audience, and their audience didn’t want to just read or watch something, they wanted an experience.
The museum is one of the few collections that people can hold, touch, and interact with things that are new to the paranormal community.
“There’s only three or four big paranormal museums and they’re mostly tucked away up in the New England area,” Greg explained. “Most people don’t have the opportunity to interact with stuff like that, so we like to take it to them and do these little two to three-day pop-up museum exhibitions and let people hold something that’s supposed to be haunted.”
It doesn’t hurt that these artifacts are really interesting.
Museum visitors can interact with a piece of the Amityville House or the Roswell site. They can gaze into “The Dark Mirror” made with black scrying glass that is commonly used for divination practices. Dana guesses that 75% of their visitors have an experience with the mirror, from seeing images of deceased loved ones to feeling their mouths filling up with blood.
“In the paranormal community a lot of the subjects get kind of dry,” Dana explained. “So for us it’s always just a matter of making it engaging and fun so that even if you know nothing about the paranormal, you might leave the museum being like, ‘That was awesome. I’m totally into this!’“
Greg and Dana found the thing that worked for their specific audience. What works for yours might be completely different. The key is to create a truly unique product that fills a missing need in people’s lives. It could be an independent media outlet about Canada or a video series about building a record-breaking street car. What project do people wish existed?
So yeah — the museum is cool. But why do people support a traveling exhibit that they might not have consistent access to? Two reasons:
- Their supporters care about the mission
- They get to be personally involved
They sell their patrons on their mission
The mission of the museum is clearly laid out on the Patreon page:
"Your monthly museum membership will directly fund a number of projects aimed at expanding the museum’s ability to educate the public about the paranormal, stimulate research into the unexplained, and preserve artifacts that may be haunted, cursed, or paranormally-significant.”
Their supporters care not only about their own experience, but the education and research of the paranormal.
“I think it’s really important for us to know that our followers feel as invested in our mission as we are. And I think that that shows when we have such a small number of highly engaged patrons,” Greg said.
This way, Greg and Dana’s patrons know they are supporting something real and tangible — a concrete mission beyond just “support us!” or “donate to our channel!”. They’re supporting an actual, traveling museum, and their support will go directly to improving the museum, getting or preserving certain artifacts, and more. If you’re a patron, you can clearly understand exactly what you’re helping build and preserve. It’s real, it’s tangible.
As their business grows, Greg and Dana work to make sure their supporters grow with them.
The couple’s five-year-plan is to have a brick and mortar business. They’ll continue their traveling exhibit but will have a place to return to and further educate people on the paranormal.
“The five-year plan really is to arrive at a space that is an extension of everything that we’re doing and a lot of our colleagues are doing in a place that we can continue sharing this stuff with the world in a really engaging interactive manner,” Greg said.
“And also make it a place — the idea of calling it like a Weird HQ — where people that are equally as interested in the subject matter can kind of come together and talk about stuff and do weird experiments,” Dana added.
This plan is built on the foundation of how to give back to the people who helped them reach this point.
“That’s just unbelievably important,” Greg said. “And I think that’s part of the way that we’re going to get where we’re going is to continue giving things back to the people who are helping us get there.”
As your own creative projects evolve, keep in mind why people support them. You want your supporters to grow with you.
In addition to supporting a clear concrete project or mission, Greg and Dana provide fun and personal benefits to their patrons, as well, all of which keep them engaged with the museum, no matter where in the country it happens to be.
They use really personal benefits
The museum’s items aren’t behind glass cases, and Greg and Dana use that same interactive mentality with their supporters. Take these supporter benefits for example:
- Live sessions including Q&As with haunted artifacts
- Access to the private notes and photos of objects new to the collection
- Monthly gifts, like crystals and other magical goods, that are handmade by Dana and mailed to patrons with instructions on how to use them
“I think it’s a matter of knowing how to give people something special,” Dana explained. “There is that personal connection there. Our fans and the people that support us — they know they’re helping build something that they’re involved in.”
These personal benefits keep their patrons invested, and the supporters are good about telling Greg and Dana what works and what doesn’t. Anytime they have an event or a live stream, they offer people the opportunity to give feedback, something they believe has been really important.
“Sometimes people are a bit shy about it, and you have to read between the lines. And the easiest way to read between the lines to see what they’re engaging with. They make it obvious between the post they like or the things that they show up for … and they wouldn’t do that unless they really were into it,” Greg said.
The highest tier is a position on the museum’s advisory board where patrons can help guide the organization’s decisions. Eight patrons currently give over $250 a month to sit on the board.
This board isn’t a name-only honor. “They know everything that’s going on in the background,” Greg explained. “If they’re willing to give that much to us, we want to give something equally valuable back to them.”
Greg and Dana believe that’s the REAL secret to their success: “Give something of value back to the people who are going to help you achieve the things you’re trying to achieve, and they’ll stick with you.”