How to Launch and Grow a Patreon Community
This article is divided into three sections on how to use Patreon to convert your audience into a paying community.
Click on the link to jump to that section:
Adding new streams of revenue to your creative business: How two creators leveraged their audiences to grow a Patreon following that generates 5-figures per year (with minimal extra work).
NOTE UP FRONT: If you do not currently have an audience (blog, YouTube channel, Instagram following) this post isn’t for you.
If you DO have an audience and are looking for more ways to turn all of the work that you put into creating content each week into more $ then keep reading.
Alright, now that we got rid of all the losers (aka people who spend more time outside with lives than hunched over a computer, piece of paper, easel, or workbench, like us) let’s get rolling.
As you are aware, there are a number of ways creators can generate revenue.
Ads, sponsors, merchandise, and direct community support are the main avenues that most go down.
We are big fans of the final two because YOU have the control over the message that is sent out to YOUR community. Not some corporate company’s ad or slapping their sponsor name everywhere.
We’re going to focus on how you can build revenue via your audience and community through a little platform you may have heard of called Patreon.
If you haven’t heard of Patreon, crawl out from underneath that bridge you’ve been living in (although it’s way cheaper than rent, tbh) and check it out.
Patreon is a platform that lets you get paid on a monthly basis by people who want to support your work.
This gives you a sustainable income, while maintaining full creative control, and allows fans to connect with you on a much deeper level.
It’s a play on the words patron and patronage, so you can get paid for your creative work, just like creators all the way back in the day who had wealthy businessman that commissioned their art such as Mozart, Da Vinci, Shakespeare.
If you are a creator, digital artist, blogger, writer, podcaster, whatever and don’t have a Patreon account setup, this post is intended to give you some guidelines on getting started.
Here are two case studies, one a blogger and one a YouTuber that are now generating $1,000+ extra per month with their Patreon accounts.
In this article we go through:
- The exact process both creators went through to launch their Patreon accounts
- Breaking through mediocre Patreon pages and best practices so that you can do the same
- Pros and cons of using Patreon
Like many creators, we wanted to engage with our audience and build an additional revenue stream for our dog training blog ThatMutt.com.
We’re going to show you step-by-step how we launched a successful Patreon page for our blog’s audience and now earn an extra $1,000 per month through the platform.
And many creators are earning a lot more than our $1,000/mo!
As we touched on above, Patreon is a way for creators to get paid for what they’re already creating such as blog posts, videos, art, comics, etc. Fans pay the creator a few dollars per month or per creation. Both the examples we’re going to share are set up on a per month basis.
We see a lot of people trying to build an audience on Patreon without success so we wanted to share the exact process we used to start our Patreon page from scratch.
Preparing for a Patreon launch
When you’re planning your Patreon page, we suggest sharing it with friends, family and your personal network to get some feedback, support and “life” on the page before announcing it to your wider audience.
You don’t want to send your fans to a page that has $0 in backers. You want to send them to a page that already has some activity. This adds to the excitement for them and helps them feel like they’re part of a real community.
That Mutt’s Pre-Launch
With That Mutt’s Patreon page, our planned launch was November 2016.
Here were the starting stats for ThatMutt.com at that time so you have an idea of the size of our audience and what we had to work with:
- Avg monthly blog pageviews: 120,000
- Newsletter subscribers: 11,500
- Facebook fans: 4,700
To prepare for the launch, we planned the various Patreon “levels” people would be able to select for their support.
Each level came with its own unique perks. In our case, we said as the levels got higher they would also include the rewards from the lower, smaller levels.
Our levels were modeled after The Lawn Care Nut’s Patreon page since we knew Allyn had been successful.
These were our original Patreon levels during our launch:
$1/mo – Reward our dog with a treat. (An easy way for our fans to thank us.)
$5/mo – 4 new and uniquely designed That Mutt stickers + a new sticker every quarter
$7/mo – Automatic entries into all the blog’s contests/giveaways. Roughly 3 giveaways per month.
$50/mo – Personalized, one-on-one dog training. A way for our fans to get direct dog training help when needed. They would have access to emailing back and forth and get feedback quickly.
$75/mo – Personalized coaching for our fans interested in starting or growing their own dog walking or pet sitting business. They would also receive digital products such as our dog walking ebook and dog walking business forms.
$125/mo – Sponsored link in all of That Mutt’s newsletters, generally for brands. Getting a few of these on board really buoyed the dollar amount on our page. We have started moving our newsletter sponsors off of Patreon and invoicing them instead. More on that later, too!
Patreon allows you to set as many levels as you’d like.
After selecting our levels for That Mutt, we began designing the promotional material and the stickers we would be giving away. We worked out a deal with a friend who is a designer. He designed our stickers in exchange for a spot as one of the sponsored links in our newsletter (the $125/mo level).
We started putting our actual Patreon page together such as the header image, one or two posts on the page, etc. Then we began reaching out to our personal network of friends, family, acquaintances, people we have dirt on (just kidding).
We sent them all a personal email explaining what Patreon was and how it worked and asked them if they could sponsor whichever level they felt like. This was important as a way to “salt the tip jar,” so to speak.
Our friends and family accounted for roughly $200 of the first month’s pledges. We asked that they stay on through the launch and then it was up to them to continue or not. Some stuck around for 2-3 months and the rest continue to support us today.
The plan was to get about 10 of our friends to join and add some life to the Patreon page. This let us figure out the kinks to the platform and find out how people understood the idea as a whole since most people are not familiar with Patreon.
Their feedback was really helpful in streamlining the process, defining the level descriptions (we removed a few levels) and understanding how the platform works. Patreon is not perfect but we still like it enough to keep our page going. See some of the pros and cons later in this post.
The Lawn Care Nut’s Patreon pre-launch
Allyn runs a successful YouTube channel called The Lawn Care Nut. He launched his Patreon page in June 2016.
At that time, he had roughly 55,000 YouTube subscribers
His Patreon levels are similar to That Mutt’s as we modeled ours after his:
$2/mo – Thank you (An easy way for fans to say thank you)
$5/mo – A new, uniquely designed Lawn Care Nut sticker every quarter
$7/mo – Entries into monthly giveaways (multiple giveaways per month)
$25/mo – Personalized lawn coaching (back and forth emails, videos, personal coaching)
$250/mo – For anyone who wants to go crazy!
Allyn launched Patreon to his YouTube community by posting a fun video explaining how his “super fans” could support him on a monthly basis and get cool stuff in return. The three major hooks were the stickers, the lawn coaching and the giveaways.
In his video, he included screenshots of his actual Patreon page and quickly walked people through exactly how they could join, the different levels available and what people will receive.
You should officially launch your Patreon page once you have about 10 friends or family members signed up. Unfortunately we’ve seen some people launch a Patreon page only to get 1 or 2 signups and then the page seems to die off from there. It’s important to plan some momentum!
Use your most effective/active channels for reaching out to your audience and announcing your Patreon page.
For The Lawn Care Nut, YouTube was best. Most successful Patreon pages are from popular YouTubers, so YouTube users are generally more familiar with Patreon and how it works.
In fact, outside of his original launch video, Allyn said he did not have to do much to promote his Patreon page. Thanks to his dedicated community, he got almost all his signups immediately and a few more trickled in over about four weeks.
Most of his original Patreon signups have stuck with the group since the launch.
In That Mutt’s case, we didn’t have a robust YouTube channel, so our email list was by far the most effective channel. That’s what drove almost 100% of the traffic to our Patreon page along with the conversions.
To prepare for the launch, we mapped out 3 emails we were going to send to our list (11.5K subscribers at the time) leading up to Dec. 1, which is when people’s first payments would be withdrawn. We framed That Mutt’s Patreon launch as a positive new direction we were heading with involving the community more into the content.
The emails explained what Patreon is because most people don’t know anything about it. The emails also covered the different levels of support, how to join and what the next month’s giveaways would be.
The most challenging piece was that no one knew what Patreon was and we had to explain it to them. We also had to help some people with the technical basics like setting up a Patreon account in order for them to support us.
In addition to the emails we sent, we also wrote a blog post and promoted it via our Facebook page. By far the most effective channel for signups was our newsletter list.
Month 1 Results for That Mutt: $391 (post Patreon’s 10% fee)
Month 1 Results for The Lawn Care Nut: roughly $1,500 (post the 10% fee)
Re-thinking our Patreon strategy: Working with brands
Now ~$400 in the first month isn’t too shabby! But we knew a couple of these were our friends and we were looking to pour some gasoline on the fire.
After That Mutt’s launch, we reached out to all our past sponsors both for potential giveaways and to see who would be willing to sponsor our email newsletters (our $125/mo Patreon level).
During this process, one of our past sponsors offered to give away a new product every month to everyone who pledged at our $7/mo level.
This increased the value of our $7/mo pledge well over $20. We worked with that sponsor to put a cap on how many people can take advantage of the offer (100 people). While this limits that level’s potential growth for now, it was definitely worth the coordinated effort to boost its value and fill the 100 spots.
In our case, the sponsor was mailing patrons a physical product and would need their name/shipping information, dog size for the product.
We also encouraged anyone that received one of these products to leave an Amazon review.
Since the sponsor was launching new products this was hugely beneficial for their brand building. And because the Patrons are actually paying to receive these products, this isn’t a free product for review scheme (discounted yes, but not free).
With your own Patreon page, we recommend you add as much value as you can on your own across your different reward levels and then partner with previous or new sponsors to really juice up the offering.
Allyn offers regular monthly giveaways exclusively to his $7/mo Patrons. These giveaways are often valued at $200+ and sponsored by lawn care brands like Toro. This has helped increase the reward value for his Patrons without him having to buy the prizes out of pocket.
Working with brands has been extremely helpful for growing both That Mutt and The Lawn Care Nut’s Patreon pages because it’s added more value for the patrons.
Everyone benefits because the sponsor gets some good leads and potential new customers while the patrons/supporters get to enter fun giveaways and try new products.
The first 3 months – growing your Patreon page
For the first 3 months after launching your Patreon page, you’ll likely need to keep promoting the concept to your audience. It will still be a new idea for some of them and they may have missed your original emails, videos or Facebook posts about the launch.
We see a lot of creators who launch their Patreon pages and then they don’t do anything to continue promoting the page other than mentioning it on Facebook or at the bottom of an email. Unless you have a large or extremely loyal audience, this won’t be enough to grow or maintain your monthly pledges.
For months 2 and 3 for That Mutt, we planned new sets of emails to send to our list with more emphasis on the new products recently added to the $7/mo level with our joint sponsor.
This was by far our most popular level (and still is) as the value was well beyond the $7/mo pledge. In retrospect, it would’ve been a good idea to partner with a sponsor for our launch but in our case it did help increase our results for month 2 and 3.
Allyn puts a link to Patreon in the description of every new video, and that’s all he needs to do to promote his Patreon page.
He said he gets about 2-3 new signups per month at the $7/mo level and his $25/mo lawn coaching level is always capped out at 50. This is the benefit of having such a loyal audience!
While Allyn often gets people asking him to open up more spots at his $25/mo coaching level, keeping it limited to 50 people keeps it manageable. He has chosen not to open up more spots at this time because he knows he’ll be stretched too thin.
Month 2 Results for That Mutt: $668 (post Patreon’s 10% fee)
Month 2 Results for The Lawn Care Nut: $1,600 (post 10% fee)
Month 3 Results for That Mutt: $1,034 (post 10% fee)
Month 3 Results for The Lawn Care Nut: $1,770 (post 10% fee)
We like using Patreon for our blog and plan to continue using the platform. We also recommend it to other creators because it’s an easy way for fans to pay you for your work. That being said, it’s not perfect. Here are some of our general observations about Patreon followed by some quick pros and cons.
1) Putting a cap or limit on certain reward levels adds interest.
Consider putting a “cap” on the number of pledges for certain rewards to add more scarcity and value. When we put a cap on That Mutt’s $7/mo reward level it really drew more interest. FOMO is real and people didn’t want to miss out on a limited opportunity to get a free product every month and they felt special to be “in the club.”
Allyn limits his $25/mo reward level to 50 patrons. The reward for that level is one-on-one personalized coaching.
By limiting the number to 50 he’s able to spend more time and focus on those 50 patrons and it also adds more interest to that level. There’s people watching and waiting for a spot to open up each month so they can join!
2) You can make your earnings and number of supporters public or private.
On Patreon, you have the option of hiding your monthly “pledges” or keeping that information public. Both That Mutt and The Lawn Care Nut have chosen to keep this info public.
For That Mutt, we felt that if people could see the amount others were backing us it would help with validation that this is a serious project and real people/companies are backing it. Everyone loves a winner, right?
3) Some people view Patreon as “charitable giving.”
Avoid using language like “donations” or “giving” when describing Patreon. Instead, explain that it is a way for people to get awesome rewards or to pay you for your work.
We originally positioned That Mutt’s messaging around how Patreon was a way to “support the blog.” This was a mistake. People viewed us like a charity.
A lot of the responses were along the lines of:
“We’ve maxed out our giving this year.”
“Wish you luck but can’t support you now.”
“Will the money be going to a dog rescue group?”
Once we switched the messaging to the awesome stuff they’d receive, the value really showed.
A lot more people joined to “get things” vs “support the artist.” It was an interesting learning curve but in retrospect makes sense. People want to get things they perceive as valuable more than they want to donate money.
4) Patreon takes a 10% fee so larger projects are better elsewhere.
10% is high given that typical credit card processing fees are 3% or lower. Because Patreon takes 10%, we actually removed some of That Mutt’s original Patreon levels off of the platform and switched them over to PayPal or Gumroad.
For example, we still have our $125/mo reward level for brands but found it’s easier for most brands to pay us by PayPal or check and that way we don’t lose 10%. While this obviously decreases our monthly earnings on Patreon, it actually increases our monthly revenue overall because we weren’t losing 10% off of every newsletter sponsor.
5) Some projects are better NOT on Patreon.
Moving our $125/mo level away from Patreon has been a good choice for another reason: most brands have never heard of Patreon. And to be fair, Patreon is not really designed for brands. It’s a “crowdfunding” platform.
When we have to explain to brands over and over how Patreon works and what it is, some companies lose interest in working with That Mutt. It makes more sense for us to invoice brands in a more traditional way so we are able to focus on our partnership and the value we would bring vs. explaining how Patreon works.
Pros and Cons of Patreon
We’ll quickly share some of the pros and cons of Patreon to help you decide if it’s right for you.
Pros of Patreon:
1. It’s simple and you don’t have to invoice or manage the billing.
2. It’s a nice way for creators to earn some extra revenue.
3. Good way to build your community and connect with fans.
4. Some fans want to support you but don’t know how. Patreon gives them a way to easily do this.
5. Patreon has a good support team. If you have questions they generally get back to you that day.
3 Cons of Patreon:
1. Patreon is still pretty new and has to be explained to people. Your audience might not know what Patreon is or how to sign up. In general, no one in That Mutt’s audience had heard of Patreon so we had to do a lot of “hand holding.” Some needed help with the basics like creating an account in order to support us. Some had troubles logging in once they’d created an account, etc.
This was not the case with Allyn’s and The Lawn Care Nut. His audience was more familiar with Patreon.
2. Patreon is growing and has had a few hiccups. We noticed Patreon was having a few technical errors which made things even more frustrating for our audience and for us.
There was a day or two during That Mutt’s Patreon launch where fans were not able to log in, and there were times when Patreon was totally down for unannounced maintenance! This happened TWICE when we had just sent out an email to our list specifically about joining Patreon! Talk about frustrating.
It does seem like Patreon is working better today as we’ve noticed few issues recently. Phew!
3. It takes a few days to transfer your earnings to your bank. This is understandable but might be a minor inconvenience for someone who needs the money sooner. You can set your funds to automatically transfer each month or you can manually transfer it yourself and get the money a little sooner. Typically, Patrons are charged on the 1st of the month and your earnings will deposit around the 5th.
Our path forward with Patreon
We like using Patreon for That Mutt and plan to continue maintaining and growing the community there. Some of our projects, like the newsletter sponsors, are better suited outside of Patreon, but we like how the platform allows us to connect directly with our fans. We also removed our $50/mo and $75/mo levels as they did not seem to be connecting well with our audience.
For The Lawn Care Nut, Patreon has been a great way to connect with fans through the one-on-one monthly coaching and monthly giveaways. As Allyn continues to grow his number of YouTube subscribers (he’s currently at 119,300) his Patreon community will grow as well.
Overall, we recommend Patreon as a platform for bloggers, YouTubers, writers, artists and other creators to earn some extra revenue. For most people it will not be your entire income but a nice way to increase your existing revenue.