Here at Patreon we talk a lot about how we can help creators thrive. We know running a creative membership business is a lot of work, and we’re constantly looking for ways to help you grow and achieve the success you seek, and deserve. Which means we have many conversations and meetings that begin with someone asking the room
Look, we know creators come to Patreon for many reasons, and that not all goals are financially-focused. Some creators value the freedom to create whatever art they want while others come to Patreon so they retain control of the relationship with their audience. But the vast majority are looking for sustainable financial success; we get asked frequently what creators can do to earn more.
Recently, we decided to take a look at the real experts: creators who had, themselves, increased their earnings over a short period of time. We asked what these creators did to spark that change and their answers were thrilling, running the gamut from big risks to simple steps. We’re excited to share the insights with you in hopes you, too, can spark some positive change, and we’ve listed a few suggestions to help you take action. Here’s to you getting that raise you so deserve.
First, let’s walk through the research process -- our Data Science team took to the numbers and looked for an inflection point, a sudden change in earnings, among creators. Specifically, we looked at creators who had hit an earnings plateau, and then saw an increase over three months. The creators we looked at had been earning under $1,000/mo for months, then earned over $1,400/mo just 90 days later.
With our initial data secure (i.e., the pool of creators who had received a 40% raise in just three months), we started digging into details. We manually studied creator pages, we sent a survey to creators, and we conducted 1:1 interviews with creators to get live insights and more details. We saw that the financial growth was accompanied by audience growth, with some creators acquiring as many as 1,200+ new patrons in that time period. One creator reported that they went from getting one new patron a day to averaging three or four new patrons daily.
Our Questions for Creators At each stage of the process, we got closer to answering the following three questions:
- What did the creators do to cause this earning boost?
- What motivated the creators to take such actions?
- Why didn’t they do it before; what might have been blockers that kept this from happening in the past?
Before we get to the “what” these creators did, let’s talk about the “why”. The creators we talked to had an array of reasons for taking action to spur financial gain and audience growth, and it’s important to remember that success looks different for everyone. Your vision of #KillingIt could be drastically different from another creator in your field or otherwise. Some creators had very specific growth goals, such as acquiring 50 new patrons or earning a set amount of funds so they could quit their office job and focus on their craft. Others were impacted by life events, and needed money to move or for a project they were working on. Some were just fed up about the demonetisation on other platforms, and had realized that better fans (the best fans!) are on Patreon. (That’s true, by the way.)
The “why” itself isn’t the most important piece of information, but having a “why” -- having a reason, a goal, or driving force -- can be crucial. Clarity helped these creators increase their income, and might prove to be a powerful tool to you, as well.
✏ Take action: Write down your “why” (larger audience? Money for new equipment? Travel to produce more content?) and what it would mean for you. You don’t need to share your answers with anyone, but being honest with yourself will help you stay motivated to make any necessary changes in your pursuit of your goal.
With goals in mind, and motivational winds at their backs, creators got to work. There were three major themes of action among creators who saw financial and audience growth in that three month period.
- Revamped Tiers and Benefits
- Changed Promotional Tactics
- Re-Engaged After a Hiatus
Let’s walk through these, yes?
Creator Action #1 | Revamped Tiers and Benefits One of the best ways for creators to see impactful and near-immediate success is to update their tiers and benefits. Is it scary to change what you’ve been offering your audience? Absolutely! Many creators reported that they were initially fearful of the process, and some even went directly to their audience, asking them what they wanted and alluding to a coming change in offerings. And then? They took “a leap of faith” and went for it.
Creators approached the revamp in three main ways:
- Enhancing their existing levels with new, exclusive content such as behind-the-scenes footage or time-sensitive special offers.
- Adding new levels with completely new offerings, like hyper-exclusive 1:1 chats or opportunities to attend live events.
- Upselling patron-only content, such as sending a gated newsletter to patrons, asking them to upgrade to a higher tier in order to get the all the info.
“Sometimes it’s difficult to change things around and you get kinda scared… but you need to try,” Marco, from BlitzGuitar.
BlitzGuitar got 138 new patrons in three months by refreshing tiers and benefits and creating patron-only content.
✏ Take action: How could you change your tiers and benefits? What would be the easiest move, and what is the scariest? Write down your ideal format for tiers and benefits with offering that are realistic and feasible to fulfill, and see where you can start making some changes.
Creator Tip #2 | Change Promotional Tactics Fact: most people become patrons because creators told them to. We know that active language encourages long-term participation and fosters community while emphasizing your commitment to your audience. Make sure when you talk to your people, you’re not being passive, but are using phrases like “join me” and “if you loved this, check out more at…” and “exclusively at” to be direct in your message.
And creators do have to be the ones out there, doing the talking; in a separate patron-only survey, we learned that over 75% of them discovered the creator’s membership business because the creator mentioned Patreon in their creative work, on social networks, or other marketing efforts. In fact, 40% of patron traffic comes from social media. Self-promotion can be really hard, but The creators who are seeing the most success are the ones who are talking about how, why, and what they’re doing on Patreon.
The most effective marketing strategies we see among creators are:
- Bringing your audience “along for the ride” by sharing pics, videos, and anecdotes from your life. This could be done on social media to promote your Patreon membership program, or as gated content, accessible only to specific membership tiers.
- Talking about specific values membership bring to the fans -- tell them how epic their involvement will be!
- Getting vulnerable within reason; an emotional connection to you as the creator can be key in converting a fan to a patron.
- Directly speaking to your audience -- it’s okay to tell them what you want and why.
- Teasing the benefits behind the membership “paywall” -- patron-only content is a great driving force for superfans!
- Creating compelling events and a call to action -- use time-sensitive events to your advantage. If you’re released a new album, book, live-taping a podcast, or attending a conference, think about how you could create a membership benefit around that experience that’s realistic for you to fulfill.
“So we said ‘we’ve got at trip planned at the end of the month and for $15 you get access to the details of this journey and can join us on the expedition.’ The people would pay their own way on the journey, but would get all the details, planning ideas, announcements and full itinerary when they joined the $15 tier, along with other existing benefits. It worked!” Jerry Wills, from Xpeditions
Jerry and Kathy Wills, the explorers behind Xpeditions, used upcoming adventures as part of the marketing strategy that helped them gain 150 new patrons in 3 months. Jerry recounted how they teased the details of new, exciting expeditions they were planning to take, and closed access to the itinerary and other details unless patrons converted to their $15 tier.
✏ Take action: Take a look at your marketing plan, and if you don’t have one - create one. Now’s the time commit to a promotion schedule you can manage. Make a list of all the promotional tools you have, all the touchpoints you can leverage to contact your audience: an email list, YouTube subscribers, social media accounts, and live event opportunities. Then write out a manageable approach: biweekly newsletter sent via email? Mention Patreon on YouTube twice a week? Share Patreon-related posts on one social media channel daily, Monday through Friday? Start with the easiest move, the low-hanging fruit, and then build as you get more confident in your approach.
Creator Tip #3 | Re-Engage After a Hiatus Been absent from the Patreon scene for a while? Hey, there’s no shame in taking a break; life happens to everyone. We know it can feel weird to come back to something you walked away from, and you might have some legitimate feelings that need validation before you can move on. You might be afraid to try again, or feel icky from stopping last time. You might wonder if this time will be different. We encourage you to get curious and see what happens when you try. And, do you want to hear some good news? A comeback is the perfect moment to get your fanbase excited to see you here again. If you’ve been away from Patreon for a while, why not come back strong, with new, revamped tiers and benefits? And while you’re at it, a solid marketing plan? That’s what the creators we heard from did. They discovered creators who were enjoying success they, themselves desired, and were inspired to grow in similar ways. They took notes, planned, and then, they leveraged their “comeback” moment as a tool to rebrand their membership program and refresh their tiers and benefits. It also served as a big talking point in their promotional work.
“Although I had a Patreon account for some time, I just recently branded it, and began adding a lot of Patreon exclusive content. I then spread the word to everyone at my YouTube channel.” Curtis, from Spaz Boys Comedy.
We were really impressed to see Spaz Boys Comedy take off, garnering 1271 new patrons in three short months. When we spoke to Curtis about what they started doing differently, he said that they just started using Patreon in earnest for gated (patron-only) content. He already had a solid YouTube following, so it was just a matter of telling his audience that they could get even more comedy at Patreon.
✏ Take action: If you’ve been avoiding your Patreon membership business and need to cut yourself some slack about it, please do. Consider this your permission to have taken a break -- a sabbatical -- and then to have come back. It’s all good, we promise. Now start thinking about what will make you and your audience happiest this time around. New brand artwork, refreshed tiers and benefits, an updated marketing approach? Spend some time crafting your ideal membership business, and then do the easiest thing on your list to create it. Then, move onto the next thing, and the next. You got this!
So now you know what creators did and why, and hopefully you have some ideas about what you want to do to spark your own inflection point. Before you charge off, boldly and bravely into the face of your future, we want to share a quick word about why these creators took action now. Are we going to get all deep about it? Maybe. Because when we asked creators why they hadn’t taken the actions before, the common answer was fear. Creators used all types of words to report it -- risk aversion, doubt about ROI, confusion about how to proceed. But it all boils down to being afraid that “it” won’t work, whatever their personal “it” was. Fear is just a part of a creative business person’s life. We know that fear, we have it, too. But we believe that what we’re doing benefits many people, and we press on with persistent hope anyway. And that hope fuels our dedication to making something amazing. We know you’ll have fear sometimes, but we also know you have hope and a drive to do incredible things. We believe in you.
Now, go forward and get to work sparking that growth. We’ll be cheering you on all the way.