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Successful Business Models and Letting Your Fans Pay You

We hear creators say “I hate asking my fans for money” a lot.

We get it; your fans are used to engaging with you in a “free” manner and now, on Patreon, your creative content comes with a literal price tag. The reality is, your audience has always paid to enjoy your work. Prior to and off Patreon, your fans likely pay for your content through ad revenue and their eyeballs. They don’t even feel like they’re paying you (and neither do you, frankly) which is why shifting that thinking and behavior requires direct education from you.

In order to be successful on Patreon, you need to tell your audience about the value exchange: you are committed to making awesome things your fans love AND will pay to have you keep it up. Instead of money going to ad tech companies who want to monetize their attention spans, your fans now have a direct connection to you, your livelihood, and your life. We know 76% of patrons come to Patreon because creators told them about it. So once you get them here, how do you want your fans to empower your creative career? That’s up to you.

Success looks different for every creator. Let’s talk about the three core business models that do well on Patreon:

Membership

Membership is the best business model that Patreon delivers for creators who want to make a living by doing creative work… without creating loads more work in the process. If you’re wondering where or how to start, we recommend a membership model that can generate sustainable success.

Why are we so excited about membership? See what our CEO and founder, Jack Conte, and some of our most successful creators have to say about it.

When creators invite their most passionate fans to become patrons, they are welcoming those fans into an inner circle. Membership unlocks behind-the-scenes footage and experiences, special discounts, merch and other rewards, plus an exclusive community of like-minded fans. Patrons who love membership programs are the fans who both believe in the creator and enjoy the status of being in the inner circle, with exposure to unique opportunities and rewards.

Subscription

Where a membership business model depends on the two-way relationship between creator and patron (can’t have an inner circle without those passionate people), a subscription-based business is more transactional and direct from creator to patron. Think of Netflix: you pay a fee and get the content you want, but you’re likely not all up in the Netflix forums, awaiting the latest Netflix-brand merch to drop. There isn’t the same sense of community here, even if the fans are just as passionate. Creators who thrive with subscription models have consistent, maybe even serialized content, and patrons will pay month-over-month to get early, or exclusive, access to it.

Ongoing Support

Maybe you just want to do your thing and you’re happy if your fans join you for the ride? Maybe you don’t want to manage a passionate community or gate your content? That’s totally fine, too! The ongoing support model works well for creators who have a strong fan base that just wants to be part of the journey. Many creators using the ongoing support model have one benefit tier, and it’s $1, which is enough to fill them with gratitude and fortitude to keep going. Some creators think of this as a tip jar: creators feel supported by their audience and the audience feels good about supporting the creator (plus they get bragging rights that come with supporting a creator).

Creators are using Patreon to make a living in many ways, and some are finding a hybrid of business models works best for them. Check out this blog for more ideas around business models you can use to achieve the success you seek.

We know it can be super tough to ask your fans for money. We really do. We also know you’re worth every penny. So get clear on your business model and how you’d like your fans to empower your creative career. Then, don’t ask them to do it, tell them how.