I went from 60 to 20 hour work-weeks; my earnings went from $2700 to $600 back up to $1000 - all in my first year as a new mum. My income has dropped roughly a quarter, not so much if you consider my hours were cut down to a third. The biggest difference is that my income now comes from 3 different sources, no longer from just Patreon, and I only spent time/money/energy on the things I love doing.
I have been a Patreon creator since February 2016. During my best month the total patronage was $2700+. One of my strengths, according to my patrons, was to always deliver more than I promised. Which was easy to do, because I worked 60+ hours a week. Until last year…
I became a first-time mum in July 2018. By the time I returned from maternity leave, and the little one was 4 months old, we started daycare 1 day a week & my parents also have her 1 day, so I was able to put in 20-24 hours a week - at best. Sleep deprivation is still very much a thing & caring for the little one when she’s sick still results in less art-time. I try to draw when she naps, although oftentimes I find myself doing housework haha.
My own fulfilment is important for my physical and mental well-being, so I try to make time for things like running, maintaining the garden, playing videogames (rarely), going to the movies with my husband or spend time with family and friends. I’m lucky to have a husband who supports me so well, and who also spends a lot of time with the little one. Admittedly some of the things are harder to prioritize, when work is also a hobby and already comes last so often…
For the first 4-5 months I tried to maintain my income, by aiming to put out the same amount of content in less time. Of course that didn’t work, so I ended up overpromising & underdelivering. I’ve lost a good chunk of income due to an unexpected charge in October, followed by the “new fee debacle” and getting rid of all my physical reward tiers.
I made some pretty radical changes (and some costly mistakes) and I saw my earnings drop to $1600 in October, and then to below $600 last month…
It took me 5 months to realize that the way I organized things before I got pregnant was no longer sustainable. At 20 hours I was still forced to produce 5 to 6 pieces of art each month, spent a lot of money on production and another 2-3 days to pack and ship everything. I no longer have that kind of time… so I decided to pull the plug out of everything that was causing me stress* or wasn’t cost-effective.
(* I have post-partum PTSD, so work-related stress is something I have to avoid too)
Here’s what I did in April:
- I removed 3 physical reward tiers and encouraged these patrons to continue their support at a digital tier by lowering their pledges to $1, $2 or $5.
- I was able to pause my campaign in May (thanks to a big commission the previous month I didn’t have to worry about finances) to really take the time to give my patreon page a big overhaul, focus on improving my store, create a new commission form and take a much needed break (lots of gardening & running).
- I adjusted the rewards for each tier, to the point where it wouldn’t stress me out, even if I or the little one would get sick. I need to be able to complete everything I promise in half the time (12 hours a week).
- I set myself new goals for this year: I want to make $1000 on Patreon, 800+ Euro through my store and 200 to 500 Euro through commissions. These amounts are before expenses like production or shipping fees (about a third of my total income).
- No longer having all my eggs in one basket makes it easier to not stress out over the monthly dip in patronage, or a bad month for store sales.
So when my total patronage fell below $600 last month… iirc it was $545 at its lowest, I panicked a little. This drop severly impacts how much funds I can put towards the production of new merch for my store, so I decided to reintroduce a new physical reward tier on July 10 that would cater to my most loyal fans & would give me the extra cash to have something new to list in my store every month. Within 10 days all $25-slots sold out and I’m now back at ~$1000/mo. So now I can focus on my other two goals!
Making these necessary changes definitely caused me and my husband some anxiety, because my income experienced a huge drop before I was able to climb back up. But I am happy to say it did climb back up, and did so in a more sustainable way. I’m more conscious about what I spent time, energy and money on now - and only pursue things that I enjoy & are worth doing. This is a luxury position to be in, and I would not have been able to do this without the support and encouragement from my patrons.
I left some details out, but this post is already pretty lengthy as it is. Happy to be mentioned in the post if you can used any of this, or talk to a writer if you have additional questions Thanks for asking the community this question, I really wish some advice was available when I struggled with this balance!