A couple months ago I posted about why I thought my income on Patreon plateaued for 6 months, and today I’m sharing notes on how I pulled out of that slump and doubled the number of patrons I had in two weeks (from 23 to 46).
TL;DR version: You are the primary person who recruits patrons. Taking this responsibility seriously and asking creatively (and frequently) are incredibly important.
As a disclaimer, I am still small and haven’t yet managed to earn enough to cover my opperating costs, but I hope my story will help give you ideas for growing your own audiences. Here’s a summary of what I did and (best as I can tell) where my new patrons came from:
1. Ask for support - the invitation
I posted this video to my YouTube channel, my personal facebook account, and pinned it to the top of my Science Mom Facebook Page. The video explains that the cost of my video production and school outreach has grown beyon my capability to sustain it, and invites people to contribute.
Number of new patrons: 9
One came almost immediately from one of my YouTube subscribers. The others came from Facebook friends and followers. The real strength of the video was that it gave several of my most active fans something concrete that they could share and use to invite others to join, and it educated people as to why and how they could help support me.
2. Talk up and share reward tiers.
Over the first week of my effort to increase patronage, I posted to social media every single day (something I had never done previously). Most of my posts were highlighting new people as they joined the Periodic Table of Patrons, my 10 dollar reward tier. As people shared their personalized cartoons, they created a good amount of discussion and comments and other people joined at that level as well.
Number of new patrons: 12
All are either direct friends of mine or friends-of-friends. The thing that worked great about this reward tier is that people who got it wanted to share it. Everyone I drew a card for posted it proudly on their social media pages and it was great publicity for my patreon campaign.
On one hand, this tier seemed to be working well. Lots of positive feedback and I was busy drawing into the wee hours of the morning trying to stay caught up as orders came in. On the other hand, it was yet another example of how much better I am at giving away time and money than earning them.
When someone joined the table at 10 dollars, I spent between 5 to 7 hours drawing a personalized cartoon of them. Then I printed and framed the cartoon and gave it to them so I would have a more visually appealing social media post to share. Paying myself 2 dollars an hour for my time, I was negative 5 dollars each time someone joined this reward tier.
Also, there were a fair number of people who wanted to contribute 10 dollars but didn’t want to be on the table. So I made a new 10 tier and changed the Periodic Table of Patrons, pricing it at 50 dollars. Pricing art is difficult. As @Jack said in a recent blog post:
“there’s the art world who think I should be adding a zero to the end of the price in order to reflect the true value of the work and there are the people who wouldn’t normally ever consider buying art.”
Priced at 50 dollars, I don’t expect to have new patrons join the table until my platform has grown considerably. It might be years down the line. But I’m happy with the growth to date and very pleased that we reached our first funding goal. I could ramble on with more details about the pledge levels and what I posted, but it can all be summed up by saying that most of this growth was driven by people coming together for a tangible cause (give science activity books to school kids and help Science Mom do more school visits) and most of the patrons are still my own personal friends.
3. The Membership Model Shift
Until last week, I had been using Patreon primarily as a tip jar. My idea was that I’d make high quality science education material free to everyone, and that a certain percentage of the people who enjoyed my stuff would then reciprocate and become patrons. One of my videos, The Science Behind Slime, had 3 worksheets and 2 foldable books that were free downloads on Patreon. I linked to the Patreon post in the video description, and more than 800 people have clicked over to get the slime books and worksheets:
(As an aside, @carla I would love to know whether the post view numbers here are for the last two weeks or an aggregate of all click-through views to date. I’m assuming it’s a total of all click-through views the post has had since it was first posted?)
These slime printables had been free for more than two months, and to my knowledge not one person responded to the invitation at the end of the post to join me on Patreon.
Number of new Patrons: 2?
So last week I split the content. 2 of the worksheets and 1 of the foldable books remained on the public post, and 1 worksheet and foldable book were moved to a “patron only” post. Then I altered the invitation and my welcome page, indicating that Patrons get access to bonus worksheets and printables. Since then, 2 people whom I don’t know personally have pledged. Can’t say for sure whether they came from my slime video to Patreon or not, but what I can say with some confidence is this:
Most of my personal friends and aquaintances who are willing to join me on Patreon have already joined. Future growth will depend on inviting my fan base to participate, and as much as I didn’t want to put things behind a paywall, I think it’s necessary.
4. Press Releases, Interviews, Stickers, and Platform Building
During this two week effort to grow my patreon audience, I also sent out press releases and requests to do guest posts or interviews. If any of ya’ll have a podcast and want me to come on and chat, I’m willing! I haven’t seen any measurable return here yet, but this type of effort takes time and I do have a few posts and interviews scheduled over the next two months. Hopefully they will help me to connect with like-minded people.
Another change I made was to start putting stickers on the back of the books my patrons donate to elementary school kids. I had done a decent job of helping my patrons feel part of my school outreach by sharing picture of my school visits, but up until now I had missed out on the potential connection to be formed between the kids and parents I see at school visists and my Patreon page. Hopefully these stickers will help:
To be honest, after this last two weeks of effort, I’m tempted to sit back and say “Well, I gave it my best shot and now I’ll stop marketing and just create things.” But that would be a mistake. Growth will only continue to happen if I continue to invite, ask, share, and celebrate the support I have.
I’d like to give a quick thank you to @8bit and @Jack for their posts and comments here in the Patreon Community the past month, which were helpful to me in making this shift and becoming more active in marketing. I have a long way to go yet, but feel like I’m heading in the right direction.