Finding balance between Patreon promotion and excluding non-patrons

Hi! I wanted to discuss a creator problem we chatted about recently in Seattle with @cheyenne.m.barton and others as I bet you have some experience with it.

The problem - negative reactions to promotion
It can be hard to know what to do when non-patrons react negatively to your Patreon promotion. Finding a balance between bringing people to your Patreon vs making those that can’t afford it feel bad can be a tricky one. We’ve heard from a few creators that they’ve even got comments on their social pages with things like “you only make content for your patreon now." This hurts, especially when you’re still working out how to even promote yourself. One negative comment can undo hundreds of good ones if you allow it to.

A potential solution
If you’re still giving away the same amount of content for free as you’ve always done, try to remind and reassure yourself that you haven’t taken anything away. You can let any non-patrons know that they still get the same stuff for free because you have a Patreon. You could give some context about how much time and money your creations take - I know @AmericanSexPodcast_Sunny once asked her listeners how long they thought an average podcast episode took to make and people thought less than 5 hours! Often it’s coming from a place of lack of context or understanding, so try not to take it personally : ) Read through all the positive comments and supportive ones from your patrons to help get a sense of how large this sentiment in your community truly is.

An example
You may want to write it differently than this, but I think the sentiment is valid and I like that the creator is feeling confident enough to defend their time and livelihood.


Is this a problem you’ve struggled with? Do you have any tips for others on how to find the balance? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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This is such a balancing act. For context, I produce a free-to-read webcomic.

I’ve been up-front with my audience from the start that Patreon and merchandise pay for everything I do and patrons get ‘bonus content’ - like DVD extras. When I share my comics on social media, on my own site and on webcomics sites, I make it clear that ‘this free webcomic is made possible by supporters on Patreon.’ And I thank new patrons by name across all social media - which gives me a good reason to mention Patreon in a thankful - not soliciting - way. And I regularly stress how much work is involved in production my comic.

Regarding the original case in particular, I like to think the creator’s community would defend the creator. It’s kind of funny that someone is making a ‘Back in my day’ comment about podcasts. And doesn’t professional wrestling have a rich tradition of pay-per-view?

I tend to think reacting to trollish comments with kindness and self-deprecating humor is the way to go, but since it’s a wrestling podcast, maybe hitting them with a folding chair is more apropos. :slight_smile:

— Steve

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I’ve been producing free how-to content since 1999. When I started my business in 2005, writing books and teaching online classes, I had endless complaints from people who thought I had some nerve trying to make money from what I do. “Can’t you just tell me?” or “Can’t you just give it to me?” became common refrains.

My solutions:

I learned to tell the difference between someone who supports me, and someone who is just in it for the freebies.

I have a couple thousand followers—and 35 patrons. Most of those folks have been following me from site to site, and supporting my projects for years. I have another couple dozen who buy from me regularly. If they ask for something, I try to make it happen. If anyone else asks, and I don’t recognize their name, I run a quick search through my sales records, and my email subscriber list. Are they someone who is following me on social media, subscribed to my emails, taking my classes, or purchasing items? They have my attention. Are they someone who came out of nowhere, and is just asking for something for free? I point them towards free things that already exist. I try not to create one sided relationships, where I’m doing all the giving, and not getting anything back.

I learned to say NO. No, I can’t just give you the information in my class, because I’m charging for that.

I offer all my classes as pay what you want, with a very low minimum. If you can’t toss me the minimum for a class, I have years of free how-to content posted online. If you absolutely must know how to make this thing I’m teaching in the class, you’ll have to wait until you can pay for it.

I learned to remove complainers from my orbit. If someone has a complaint about a sale, or a policy, I’ll listen, but if someone is complaining that I’m trying to earn a living. I happily tell them, privately, that they can stop following me any time. It’s a big world, and if you only want to hear from hobbyist artists, or those who have the means to make things without making a living from them, those folks are out there. Follow them. Some of them are friends, and they’re awesome. But if you follow me, you’re going to see some free things, and some things to buy. I try to limit my commercials, but mama’s gotta eat. If that doesn’t end the complaining, I remove and block and ban, so we don’t bother each other any further.

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I’ve spelled out in my intro a ball-park of how many patterns I have to sell just to break even on the costs of production per month. (spoiler: it’s probably a lot more then people think!), and that commissions often can end up being below minimum wage. So (assuming folks read my intro), folks are hopefully somewhat aware of how much time/money goes into pattern production.

Also, I’ve tried to be careful that non-patrons aren’t losing a single thing. Most of what I offer to my Patrons is either ‘perks’, or points of access. (For example, my $50 tier bundles a monthly knitting class into my rewards – no one’s bitten yet, but I have a very small audience so I’m not too surprised). But yes, you can just pay me to come teach you to knit, if you like. :slight_smile: And Patrons have first-dibs on questions for the podcast, but that doesn’t mean that non-patrons won’t get their questions answered. (I may revisit this if I end up only answering Patron questions, but for now, it’s not a problem. Actually, I have a general shortage of questions right now, but the podcast is a new thing, and I need to promote it more :smile: )

However, this is something I’m grappling with on offering my first Patron-Exclusive pattern. I do (eventually) want to release that pattern to the public. Most club patterns seem to have exclusivity rights of a year, so I was thinking two years. But I’m not sure if that would just anger people?

In a tangential-but-related note, I also make a point of offering a lot of ways to get my stuff without paying money for it. If you want a free pattern? Well, I do have one (and I will have a second soon). Want something else for free? Sign up for my e-mail newsletter; test-knit for me, or enter one of my giveaways, and you can get other patterns for free that way! (That’s what I do to the folks who ask for patterns for free, I direct them to where they can get them!)

Just my thoughts. :slight_smile:

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Most of my Kickstarter projects have had a ridiculously expensive reward which includes me flying to wherever the backer is, and teaching a class for up to five people. So far, no bites, but I keep offering…

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