I started my YouTube channel and Patreon campaign just over a year ago, and during the last 6 months my growth has been essentially flat. (See the screenshot below)
I’ve been thinking a lot about why and how this 6 month income plateau happened, and have identified three things that I’ve done as a creator to contribute to it:
1. Inconsistency with pledge rewards and payouts.
If you say you’ll deliver, you need to deliver. This is something we all know in theory, but in practice there are plenty of excuses for why we mess it up. Mine was mainly that I was searching around for some “thing” I could do that would draw in people beyond my circle of family and friends. I made a “monthly molecule of the month” file, a little chemistry cartoon that was just available for patrons. It took a full day (typically) to do the drawings and convert them to the appropriate size for desktop, phone, and ipad wallpaper. And, month after month, no one downloaded them. Literally no one. I tried a patreon exclusive newsletter. 1 out of 23 people read it. I tried sending things in the mail, and ended up spending more on postage than what the pledges were bringing in. I promised to draw personalized cartoons for people and add them to a periodic table of patrons, and was inconsistent with how and when I posted the drawings. I said I would send out certain rewards and then there were a few months I was too stressed and overworked with other projects and didn’t send/post them out, which made me feel like crap and caused me a whole lot of internal stress. All of this waffling hasn’t caused me to lose many patrons (I’ve lost 1 since starting), but it has made it very difficult for me to get into a routine where I know what I’m doing and the potential patron knows what to expect.
2. Not knowing your audience.
In the first 6 months of launching my patreon campaign, 23 people signed up and pledged. And I spent my entire first year envisioning some OTHER type of patron than them. One who would look at a “molecule of the month” cartoon and think, “I must have that, I will sign up!” One who would hear that I’m releasing videos early on Patreon and be like, “Me! I must have that!” But the fact is, the patrons I already have are probably an accurate representation of the type of people who will sign up in the future. It has not been smart for me to chase an imaginary or hypothetical audience while ignoring what my actual patrons want. And, as it turns out, my current patrons do not care what I offer them on patreon. At all. They pledge because every week I do school visits where I teach science lessons in an underfunded public school system as a volunteer, and supporting those efforts makes them feel good. They pledge because they like my science videos on youtube (a lot), and the emotional connection they had with those videos is powerful enough they wanted to give back or become involved in some way. They pledge because they view me as a “cool contact” to have, and they like to tell their social circle, “Hey look who I know and she just released this video.” 3 of them are family members, 2 of them found me from my videos on YouTube and signed up, and the remaining 18 of them are all personal friends or a sibling of a personal friend. Does this mean that I’ve given up studying what reward levels I can do to entice new people to join? Hardly. But does it mean that too much time spent on rewards is wasted? Yes, it does. The videos that I publically release on YouTube are my main thing, and it took me way too long to realize that.
3. Not promoting enough.
My own mother didn’t sign up to be one of my patrons until almost 5 months after I started my patreon account. During that 5 month period of time, she INTENDED to sign up, but she didn’t REMEMBER to do so because of two reasons: First, I didn’t ask. Now, obviously I have a bit of a hangup with self promotion if I feel uncomfortable asking my own mother to sign up on Patreon. If I had said, “Will you please sign up?” she would have said, “Sure, hon. Will you show me how?” I knew that. And I still felt uncomfortable asking. I preferred to just wait it out, knowing that she’d get around to it eventually. The second reason it took her 5 months to sign up is that I didn’t (and still don’t) talk about Patreon enough. If I had posted more to social media about Patreon, would my mom have signed up sooner? Definitely. When she did sign up, she told me how glad she was that I was doing this, and that she was sorry she “just forgot” about it and “didn’t get around to it” for so long. She forgot about it because she wasn’t reminded. And she wasn’t reminded because I did not talk about it enough. It’s very easy to forget about something you only hear in passing once a month. I know for a fact that I currently have 2 friends who want to join my periodic table of patrons. They know that they can do so by pledging at $10 a month. And if I continue doing what I’ve been doing, they will probably live the next several years of their life with that “someday I’ll get around to it” attitude, or they’ll forget about the possibility entirely. Because a blurb at the end of videos and a monthly “thank you patrons” post on facebook is NOT ENOUGH for people to feel invited to join me on Patreon.
I hope you are able to avoid the same mistakes. And if you’ve experienced an income plateau and gotten out of it, I’d love to hear from you!