I don’t. Not really, anyway. I’ve been at this for five years, and I haven’t technically had a proper vacation with no work in that span of time. For all intents and purposes, I work three jobs - my ‘full time job’ at a game studio (though as of the beginning of July, no longer full time), my main Patreon (which involves critiquing my students’ drawing homework, managing the community, creating new lesson content, etc.), and my work illustrating a web comic which has its own nascent patreon.
For all intents and purposes though, if we’re just looking at the one Patreon campaign, then I think I’ve done a pretty good job of balancing it against everything else.
I have a habit of taking what I enjoy and turning it into work - so at its core, there is no balance. It’s all one big homogenous mixture and if I had any free time, I’ve got a docket of projects I’m dying to get to, which while still being a lot of fun for me, are work. In fact, it always seems that the projects that demand the greatest investment of time generate the least revenue - but they also tend to be the most fun (like the web comic).
I was, in a twisted way, fortunate enough not to have any relationships for most of this period. I’m now living with my girlfriend (who I met through the community I’ve built). Balancing that can be a little challenging, but she does help to drag me away from work every now and then. On the flipside, I also drag her into work, and have her helping out in meaningful ways.
Self-care isn’t really something I think about that much. Either I’m repressing something that’s going to bite me in the ass later, or I’m just more emotionally stable than most (although my lovably grumpy demeanour allows me to vent things off in small amounts here and there). Every now and then though, I will purposely go out to a movie - you know, a place where you’re locked in for a set period of time, where you’re not in any position to take care of any problems outside of the bubble of that movie theatre. Good movie or not, I find it very relaxing.
As for advice, either design your patreon to be sustainable for the long haul, or leave a lot of room for change. I’ve seen a lot of people trying to use patreon as a platform to get paid for personal drawing commissions - pledge at this tier, get 1 commission per month. Forget about the fact that this usually results in underpricing one’s self, but a bigger concern is what happens if no one asks for any commissions for a few months, and then all at the same time, everyone comes collecting? Your system breaks down, and with it, so do you.
Be very careful when tying any kind of personalized work to a monthly payment. Keep the connection between the dollar value and the product or service rendered vague. My patreon is built around a free set of drawing lessons with assigned homework - people pledged at certain tiers are eligible for homework critiques during that month. The patreon pledges themselves are a mixture of supporting what is already freely available, and paying for additional services. The tiers are also priced low relative to the service being offered, and the suggestion is made that things “balance out” between those who submit for critique, and those who don’t (of which there are many, since it takes a lot of time and effort to do one lesson’s worth of homework). If a patron has not taken advantage of that for several months, I am not required to make that up. On occasion, I will, but there is no guarantee nor expectation there.
Furthermore, don’t be afraid to change your terms. If the demand is becoming too much, increasing your prices is a good way to decrease that demand and bring your workload back into a manageable range (I’ve done this several times, and each time it resulted in an increase in revenue rather than a decrease, though that depends a lot on the relationship you have with your supporters). Reorganizing is just a part of doing business, just be sure to strategize when you do it. Bundling a change with some new feature or offering can help blunt the sting, and make it seem less like “moneygrubbing”.
Lastly, good will is a currency. My lessons have always been free, and for about two years, I critiqued the homework anyone submitted for free as well - patrons and non-patrons alike. Once it became too much to handle and I was forced to implement a cost-barrier, the fact that I’d done so much time up until that point made my community celebrate what I’d given them, rather than bemoan the fact that I was now asking for money. Years later, they still talk about what I’ve given them, rather than what I’ve asked for in return - despite the fact that the patron manager’s “Total Processed” counter reads $94,105.62.
I invested the effort and time at the beginning - while the community was small and doing everything for free was feasible (kind of, it was still a lot of work) - and now because the community is entirely welcoming of certain measures to reduce my workload (like increasing prices, restructuring patreon tiers, and most recently, bringing on teaching assistants to spread the load), I’m entirely able to make a considerable amount of money each month, while technically balancing my work and life.
The only problem is that my “life” consists of two other jobs.