Patreon is building a space where creators don’t have to deal with algorithms and ads, but that doesn’t mean you can escape the numbers. They’re everywhere: views, likes, watch time, patrons, income... So, how do you look beyond facts and figures? We invited Patreon creator Leesa Renée Hall to lead a workshop on how to understand these numbers without obsessing over them.
It’s naive to say that the numbers don’t matter because they do. They help us understand growth and, let’s be honest, they get creators paid. But if you let those numbers carry too much weight, you’ll start feeling burnt out, frustrated, and panicked when they inevitably bounce up and down.
"I wasn't feeling good about myself because I was worried about the numbers." — Leesa Renée Hall.
If you’re looking for some guiding principles to help you navigate the wonderfully weird world of being a creator, you’ve come to the right place. Leesa’s workshop explores the journey to building a sustainable creative business on Patreon and proves that it’s never a straight line.
As an anti-bias facilitator and mental wellness advocate, Leesa Renée Hall helps people explore their unconscious biases by going on an Inner Field Trip®. The Toronto-based creator first started gaining online attention when her reflective writing prompts about white fragility, spiritual bypassing, and white privilege went viral in 2017. She started getting small donations from grateful readers who found value in her blog and wanted to show their support.
After talking to her colleague about Patreon, Leesa realized it could be a great next step. So in October 2017, she launched her Patreon channel. In order to track her own growth, Leesa decided to dive into the numbers and set goals for herself and her business. Within six months, she reached her one-year goal and took it as a sign that she was doing something right.
Leesa’s channel grew quickly and organically. But about a year after launching, Leesa noticed her patrons started to drop off more quickly than she was attracting new ones. A few months after that, she started to experience creator burnout and stopped producing prompts. "As a creator yourself, there's a point where just creating the art becomes a burden," Leesa says.
When COVID-19 hit, Leesa tried a few marketing strategies to get her numbers up but her community was continuing to dwindle. The steady decline led the creative-minded writer to develop an unhealthy relationship with the numbers. She was feeling irritated and worried, and even started to dread looking at the notification section on her creator page. So, she decided to take action and develop a better mindset around the rise and fall of her followers.
Even though this step might seem like obsessing over the numbers, we promise it’s not. Looking at percentages is actually different than simply counting your followers or subscribers because it can help you wrap your head around large numbers. So, what should you be calculating? According to Patreon’s benchmark, 1-5% of your total followers, friends, and subscribers will fund your creations.
Action #1 — Find your platforms Identify which social media platforms you’re actively using.
Action #2 — Add it up Add up how many supporters, friends, subscribers, and followers you have in your social media sphere. Tip: Ignore likes, shares, views, and comments. Those who follow you are the ones who have committed to seeing your work on a daily basis.
Action #3 — Calculate 1% and 5% of your total number
(Total number of social media followers x 1) / 100
(Total number of social media followers x 5) / 100
Action #4 — Evaluate your percentages Do your expectations match up with reality? Think about the target you were working towards and then think about the number you’re looking at now. If they’re not matching up, that’s a good sign to change up that goal. Remember that every creator’s numbers will look different and it’s ok to fall below that 1%. Looking at percentages is simply a way to understand your community in a different way and set realistic goals for the future. For example, a low percentage could be a sign that your fans and followers just don’t know about your Patreon or that the content you’re offering isn’t totally resonating with them. That could be a great opportunity to reach out and ask for feedback.
"We’re processing too much change too soon and too often," says Leesa. The pandemic has changed a lot for creators. A lot has been lost and it’s ok to grieve those losses. Many creators are grieving the loss of expectations, stability, income, intimacy, and connection.
These next exercises will help you take control of your mental wellness and get in touch with your deepest thoughts.
Action #1 — Perform a mental health assessment It’s ok to feel run down, trapped, angry, or even hopeless about the future. But with some self-reflection, you can pinpoint exactly what’s weighing you down and discover ways to lift yourself back up. Leesa uses a checklist to assess how her attention to the numbers is making her feel (check out page 6).
Action #2 — Go deep with writing prompts Grab a journal and a pencil, put on some calming music, and get ready to go deep. Leesa’s writing prompts are designed to help you think about those big questions in an uncensored and unrestricted way. Before we go through the questions, let’s talk about how to approach each prompt using the GPS method.
G__o over - Skim all the questions__ P__onder - Think about where in your body you feel a reaction to each question__ S__tart the Timer - Begin writing a stream-of-consciousness answer__
For a quick exercise, spend 2-5 minutes on each question. For a longer one, try setting the timer for 30 minutes and seeing where your mind takes you.
Prompts to get you started:
- Who are you beyond the numbers?
- What purpose do your creations serve beyond the earnings?
- How will your creations help you create a lasting legacy? What does that even mean to you?
Ultimately, these two steps helped Leesa reset her relationship with the numbers. And they can help you do the same. In the past year, Leesa’s numbers have shot up, trickled down, and plateaued but “I’m in a very good place,” she says, because she has prioritized what her creations offer the world.
Before you wrap up these exercises, ask yourself one final question: What will you do so that history will never forget your name? Every time you feel yourself obsessing over the numbers or questioning the purpose of your creations, come back to this question. As long as you have your legacy in mind, you’ll be able to focus on what really matters.