Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Running a Patreon (Artist Edition)

Lately I've been getting a string of artists asking me how to run a Patreon.  While I'm not sure why they picked me (my numbers are under $100 a month- I am not what you'd call a shining success on Patreon), I'll do my best to answer honestly, in hopes that it can help some of you.

The number one question I'm asked, and usually the ONLY question I'm asked is:

How do you do it?

Just. Do. It.

Just do the thing.

I launched my Patreon after YEARS of trying to court sponsorships with online shops that had a similar niche interest, and years of getting belittled and shot down.  Given my blog audience at the time (zombies), I figured the Patreon would crash and burn as well- I even asked my partner, Joseph, to pitch in $15 a month just so I could release the ArtSnacks Vs SketchBox videos and not appear a failure.  Fortunately, a couple friends helped me hit that mark quickly (thank you so much, Candace!), and I never had to actually recruit my boyfriend as a backer, but I really launched my Patreon on a whim and a prayer.

If you're interested in the history of my Patreon, and more behind the scenes info, check out this vlog:



So brainstorming off that, I've come up with some other relevant questions that should help you get started on your Patreon:

Note:  Some things have changed drastically since March, when that video was recorded:
1. I have lost several Patrons, I'm at 23 Patrons, and $83 a month
2. My Youtube ad revenue has gone down significantly due to Youtube sitewide changes, so at most I now make $17 a month

So now would be a great time for you to consider financially supporting my content.  And if you plan on committing to creating a Patreon, please use my referral code!

What do I need to start?

An existing product that has value, that is worth supporting.  This can be a webcomic, a resource of some type, or even just a popular commission option.

It helps to also have a mission statement, an outline of how your work benefits others, and how the Patreon money is spent. 

An idea of the sort of tiers you want to offer (you can edit these to suit your audience at any time)

Do your research!  Check out Patreons by creators you respect, whose work is similar to yours- NOT just the popular Patreons.  There's a follow option that sends you notifications without charging you, so if you're interested in a Patreon, but don't yet have the funds, that's a great way to stay on top of things.

Why Launch a Patreon?

This is really up to you.  If you don't think you need to launch one- don't.  It's not an easy money tree, but it is a way for people who enjoy your content to help you make more of it, and to gain access to things you might not otherwise make available.

Examples of such exclusive content:
  • Monthly digital sketchbooks (I would release one, but we haven't hit $125 a month yet)
  • Backer only tutorials
  • Backer only process posts
  • Backer only Q&A sessions
  • Backer only bonus comics

When do I start to make lots of money?

When you're super popular, and your fanbase is willing to throw money at you for what you have to offer.  That doesn't mean you shouldn't launch, it just means don't expect to make big bucks in the first month- that's just not reaslistic.

All of the mega Patreons you see have been YEARS in the building.  That creator has spent years building an audience- on DeviantArt, on their webcomic, on their Youtube channel, on Twitter or Tumblr, and they have a longterm audience willing to back them.

You can be super popular, or at least, have the pageviews, and still not make a decent amount per project or per month.  That isn't an indication of your quality, just an indication of what your audience is willing to spend for your content.   You may have to find sneakier ways to monetize (ads) but even that's an uphill battle, as the majority of Western internet users feel all ads are evil, and adblockers should be used at all times.

Types of Patreon campaigns (for artists)

Funding:

Per Project:  Backers are charged per project released.  This can be per Patreon post, per blog post, per video, per comic page, ect. 

Monthly:  Backers are charged a once monthly pledge amount. 

Types of Campaigns:
  • To fund an art education resource that is already free to readers- Nattosoup Studio Art and Process Blog
  • To fund a webcomic that is already free to readers- Questionable Content
  • To fund web resources that are already free for use- Shooting-Stars
  • To fund web assets that benefit other artists, that is free to consume- Paper Cat Press
  • To sell commissions- Kelly Leigh Miller
  • To sell fanart- Sakimichan (note: Sakimichan is the outlier for most Patreons- do not expect this result)
  • To sell art tips behind a paywall
  • To sell comic pages behind a paywall (generally used by creators of adult only content, furry artists)

Types of rewards:

  • The good feels- the knowledge that your pledge enables an artist to continue to offer their work free of charge
  • The good feels- the knowledge that your pledge keeps a roof over someone's head, and cat food in some cat's mouth
  • Physical- post cards, mini prints, sketches, charms, commissions
  • Access to information- Backer only tutorials, backer exclusive content, early access content
  • Voting rights- backer rights to decide on the content the creator focuses on
  • Backer exclusive Livestreams
  • Backer exclusive Q&A's

What My (Nattosoup) Patreon is for:
To fund this blog, to fund the Youtube channel, to offset HTBACA time costs

So think of my Patreon like a PBS fundraising drive- my work is only made possible thanks to support of readers (and viewers) like you.

What My Patreon is NOT for:
To sell art
To put education behind a paywall
To sell comics
To sell charms and other small merch
To fund 7" Kara (I would launch a separate Patreon campaign for that)

These are all viable options for funding your work, but not the way I wanted to run my own Patreon campaign, as I felt they greatly detracted from the fact that I'm already providing something of great quality, free of charge.

How do you entice Patrons?

The answer will vary greatly based on what you have to offer.  I've noticed a couple things about my Patrons, which led me to shift my tiers to try and best serve them:

1. My Patrons are almost all artists or artsy minded
2. Many of my Patrons have webcomics

So I changed my $15 a month tier to a sponsorship tier, where I would promote their projects on the YouTube channel or the blog, to help get more eyes on their work.

How do you promote your Patreon:

Here on the blog
Sometimes on HTBACA (it's not always appropriate, so I don't mention it every ask, but it is on the about page)
In most YouTube videos as a verbal request
In most YouTube videos as an endcard
Linked on my Twitter
Linked on my Instagram

When I post my weekly link roundups (which are helpful, and well worth at least following my Patreon for), I cross post to Facebook, and remind them that this is made possible due to the generosity of my Patrons.

Why Won't Anyone Back My Patreon?  It's just a buck!

First off, take a moment to check out how many Patreons YOU back, and what sort.   Think about why you back those Patreons, and what you feel they have to offer vs what they actually offer.

People tend to be impulsive, visual creatures.  That's why the impulse items are at the checkout line- you're standing around, sorta bored, waiting to check out, getting hungry- and there are all the chocolate bars.  You have a long time to think about those chocolate bars in front of you- how good they'd taste, how hungry you are, how it's only a buck.  You are a captive audience.

Now think about the internet.  You aren't captive ANYWHERE.  Even loading screens on games are becoming a thing of the past- everything is immediate for you.  No one is forcing you to spend a moment to think about what you value, or what helps you achieve your goals.  No one is forcing you to think about repaying those artists who helped you, or tipping a couple bucks a month for a webcomic you enjoy.  And even if you did have to think about those things, going to Patreon is a separate step away from the product you're already consuming.  Once the chain is broken, its that much harder to get someone to commit, even if it's only a dollar.
 
People also assume that support is someone else's job- someone else is doing it.  Systems like Patreon really work best when everyone contributes a little bit- all those $1 and $2 add up when its done en masse.  Unfortunately ALL of those people assume its someone else's job to contribute- someone else has you covered.  Or they're busy.  Or they're broke.  Or they forget.  There's loads of reasons why someone might enjoy your work, but not be able to support it financially.

I believe that once Patreon has better in-site integration, we'll solve one half of this problem, but until then, you're really going to have to fight for those bucks.  It would also help if there were a unified system of tipping and payment apps that could all pull from the same source- once you make an account, you never have to add your info again. 

Other tips:

  • Be persistent in promotion- it takes people around 7 views to even click on a link, much less commit
  • Believe in yourself and your work- people will naysay it
  • Strive to produce work WORTH backing
  • Try to remain confident, or at least, appear confident online

If you're already providing a product for free, don't remove it's presence due to lack of Patreon support.  I know it's super tempting, but it also appears childish.  If you must, give your readers a chance- explain that this is a financial situation, and that you cannot afford to run it without support on their end.

Patreon isn't a get rich quick scheme, and literally every other artist online thinks they're ready to have a Patreon.  There is a LOT of competition, especially among webcomic and commission based Patreons.  Try to find something worthwhile that makes yours worth backing, and try to find an audience outside of the fished out barrel of webcomics.

The Verdict:

Keep in mind that while it may seem like my Patreon is a success, it's funding three art education endeavors that require the same amount of work as a full time job.  My Patreon funds this blog, my YouTube channel, and my efforts on How to be a Con Artist, which also includes convention outreach and sales lost due to answering convention questions.  How to be a Con Artist hit it's fourth birthday last week, this blog will hit its eighth birthday around September, and my YouTube channel will hit it's eighth birthday soon as well (and it's third birthday in November for frequent updates).  None of these endeavors have achieved the level of recognition or reward that I had hoped, and the Patreon is an attempt to recoup some of those losses.  Although you may not have heard of me or my work before, I am not new to the comics and art education scene, and my Patreon is by no means an overnight success.  I have only hit the number I've hit due to the generosity of my friends.

Ready to make that Patreon page?  Start with this helpful referral code!

Other Patreons to Check Out
Shooting-Stars (Photoshop brushes, digital resources)
Paper Cat Press (webcomic news, comic opportunities, artist interviews)
Alakotila (creator of Spider Silk webcomic)
Loom (sketchbook exclusives, tutorials)
Lean Into Art (art education, podcasts, comic educations)
Respheal (Galebound webcomic)
StArt Faire (webcomic magazine)
TriaElf9 (webcomics)
Dojo G webcomics)
Riko (City of Blank webcomic)
Kate Slinger (creator of West webcomic)
Keii4ii (creator of Heart of Keol webcomic)
Phenylketonurics (creator of  There's No Such Thing as Jason- I.T)
SareSai (creator of FireWire webcomic)
Neila (creator of Magic Remains)
The Diva Lea (various comics and webcomics)
Cosmic Fish (creator of the webcomic, Cosmic Fish)

Speaking of bucks, let me remind you that if you're reading this post, if you benefitted from the information shared here, you can show that appreciation by joining my artnerd community on Patreon.  Why yes, I have one too!  And yes, I surely would love your contribution, the same as you'd probably love mine.