Laura Lawless loves to teach French… as long as it doesn’t involve standing in a classroom every day.
Laura has been writing instructional French content for over 19 years. As a new French graduate looking for work, she taught herself HTML and landed a job maintaining a French website for a network. She was paid via ad revenue and affiliate sales.
In 2014, she left the network over creative differences. At her old site, she had hundreds of thousands of readers. But she didn’t keep their email addresses.
When she left to make her own site, Lawless French, only about 10,000 people made the transition with her; from that, only 1,000 stuck around long enough for the new site to gain traction.
“I went from earning money to earning nothing. I was literally starting over because, you know, you can’t make money from ads unless you have traffic,” she explained.
Within days of launching Lawless French, she turned to Patreon to start rebuilding her income. At launch, she pulled around $200/month from a handful of supporters grateful for her free, educational content.
The one thing she does charge for is le mot du jour (“the word of the day”). It’s been the largest driver behind her growth on Patreon.
In this article, we’ll walk you through how Laura increased her Patreon income by 50% in three months… all by using Patreon’s WordPress plugin to manage le mot du jour.
Note: Want creative freedom for your own project? Go straight to your community using Patreon**.
Five days a week, Laura posts a French word with information, including part of speech, a sound recording, translation, examples of the word in sentences, and related words. For example, you can see her work for the word ‘geler,’ meaning ‘to freeze,’ below.
The word of the day is one of her most popular creations. “People love that kind of bite-sized content,” she said. Because of that, she suspected it could be a money-maker.
“In June of 2015, I sent out a survey asking people what they’d be willing to pay for the word of the day. There were around 15 people that said, ‘I’d be willing to pay $5 per month,’ and around 5 people that said, ‘I’d be willing to pay $10 per month,’” she recalled.
At the time, she wasn’t sure there was enough interest to justify the long hours. But in January of 2017, she was ready to give it a try anyway.
Every day, she would post the word of the day directly to her Patreon page. Over the course of six months, she gained 20 patrons. Fortunately, that was just the beginning.
Posting the word of the day to her Patreon page was tiring. Because she’d been managing WordPress and typing out HTML for so long, it would be so much easier for her to post the word of the day to her website instead of directly to her Patreon account.
But, she couldn’t just post straight to her website because she didn’t have an easy way to make her content (a mix of text and audio) accessible only by patrons. But in December 2017, she discovered and installed Patreon’s new plugin for WordPress sites.
(If you need help with the installation, there are instructions here**.)
In short, here’s how it works.
The Patreon WordPress plugin enables Laura to publish the mot du jour to her website blog while still keeping it viewable only by her patrons. First, she tags the post as ‘mot du jour’ and adds it to the ‘mot du jour’ category.
Just below the ‘Categories’ widget is the Patreon widget.
She enters the dollar value of the tier corresponding to ‘word of the day’ access. That means that any Patrons who support Laura at $5 or more per month can see her word of the day posts.
Once Laura sets the access level, she pastes her HTML for the post and publishes it.
She used ‘geler’ as a free example for this article, so everyone has access.
Normally, non-patrons see this when they visit her site:
The plugin allows her to set a custom message for anyone who hasn’t paid to access the daily words. But anyone who is paying $5 or more per month will automatically see the full post (as long as they’re logged in).
Laura quietly announced the switch in December, then started tracking patron numbers.
Instead of the 2-3 new patrons per month she had been getting, she started getting 2-3 new patrons per week. That’s four times as many new patrons arriving every month. Over a span of three months, the influx of new patrons accounted for a 50% increase in her Patreon income.
The best part?
She wasn’t working any harder than she was before. In fact, she finds that posting on her website is easier than posting directly on Patreon.
When she was posting le mot du jour on Patreon, she “felt weird” about making a whole blog post just to direct people to Patreon. It seemed like a lot of effort just to tell site visitors, ‘Hey, it’s over here. Come see.’
Plus, “I just felt like it wasn’t that interesting for my readers,” she said about advertising Patreon words of the day. Now, “the post is right there on the homepage, and it’s like each word is its own little ad for someone to sign up,” she explained.
She loves how easy it is to use.
“It’s easier to post. I don’t have to go to a separate site, which… it’s not a big deal, but when you work online, every few minutes you save can get you away from the computer that much sooner,” Laura said.
As with every new good thing, getting the word of the day running smoothly was a process. Laura’s patrons missed seeing the full ‘mot du jour’ post arrive in their inboxes every morning, so she integrated with If This, Then That (IFTTT). Doing so allowed her to broadcast an email to her patrons with a link to every le mot du jour post.
They can’t see the post in its entirety, but it does let them find the post with ease.
“I know that clicking on a link is not as convenient, but I think publishing directly on my site is better,” she explained, because of the ease of use and increase in patronage she’s seen.
If you’re considering the plugin, she has two pieces of advice:
“Don’t advertise it until you have people with different devices and different operating systems test it. That way you can work out any kinks before you announce it to your thousands of newsletter subscribers,” she said (she learned this the hard way).
Doing so lets you confirm that it will work for most of your users — and that it will look the way you want it to.
She recommends starting with a post schedule that you know you can handle.
“Right now, I’m offering the word of the day five days a week. Someday, I might go up to seven days a week, and people will be thrilled if I do that,” she explained. “But what I have not done is start seven days a week, because that might be untenable. And if I were to offer seven days a week and then go back to five, people would get upset.”
“People get used to what you’re offering and if you cut it back, they get really upset. If you start small, and then gradually increase to something more impressive, that’s a better direction to move,” she added.
For Laura, using the plugin was a simple strategy that produced a measurable impact on her income. While she still isn’t making what she used to before starting her own website, it’s enough to keep her motivated. In the meantime, she and her husband are living off their savings in Guadeloupe, a French island in the Caribbean.
She admits that she’s “a little jealous” of creators who make art that lends itself to sneak previews and ‘in progress’ updates.
Finding ways to engage patrons hasn’t been easy. “I’m a writer/teacher. I’m not the typical Patreon creator. But I still managed to make the plugin work for me,” she said. “I’m kind of jealous other creators have those options, but that still doesn’t mean that other teachers can’t adapt Patreon for what they have to offer,” she added.
Note: Want to offer gated access to content on your website? Sign up for Patreon and give our WordPress Plugin a try.