What is Patreon and how it works

You may have noticed these orange buttons on my site, with text "Become a Patron". If you click the button, you are directed to a page where you can choose between something called rewards, and different tiers varying from $1 to $100 (or more) per month. What is this Patreon thing, then?

Patron means many things, including a (repeat) client of a store or a hotel. It also means a person who, especially in form of money, supports another person or a group. Kings, popes and other people of power, used to support artists and pay for them to create their art. This is commonly known as art patronage.

Patreon is a sort of a crowdfunding platform. They talk themselves about memberships, as you can become a sort of a member of exclusive groups, and receive membership rewards. It's meant for different kinds of creators to getting paid for creating stuff. Some creators appear to be gaining a pretty good income on Patreon, but don't expect it to be given when you are just starting. You may have to do lots of work, especially if your friends and followers aren't too interested in supporting you.

You can pledge to your favourite creators, depending on their settings. Some creators expect you to pay per patron only content, others have monthly tiers. My tiers are monthly based, so you can get as much content as I share for only a dollar per month. The various tiers usually feature different types of rewards. All the tiers can be deleted or paused at any time, and you are not expected to pay forever. When you quit paying, you'll also quit being able to access the exclusive rewards.

If you can't pledge that dollar, you can also follow your favourite artists and show your support this way. All the public content is there for you to view, comment, download and otherwise interact.

Currently Patreon features video creators, writers, visual artists, designers, musicians, illustrators, educators, filmmakers, and who knows what. I found out about it through some ASMR folks on YouTube. Looks like TED-Ed Team is also using Patreon.

As a creator you can build your own Patreon page, with some information, images, and obviously your membership tiers. Use this link to sign up and we will both earn bonuses (as in extra money) when patrons pledge to you. Good deal, isn't it?

Creating a Patreon page doesn't cost you anything. The site takes a small fee automatically from each payout. In case you don't gain any patrons, or take out your payments, you are never charged of anything. You can also use the pledges you have collected to pledge to other creators on the platform.

Your page is where you can share many types of content, including text, video and livestreams, audio, PDFs, and images, plus create polls. You can share your content as public or exclusive only for a chosen membership level. The exclusive content is the most usual reward, but you can create other kinds of rewards as well. For example, my highest tier includes all the other content and a handwritten postcard or letter once a month. In case you decide to have such reward, it's recommended to limit the quantity of memberships of this kind. Limiting the quantity is one of Patreon's features.

There's not that much limitation on what sort of rewards you are allowed to offer, nor what sort of creators can join Patreon. Harassment, doxing (doxxing), illegal stuff, and content which promotes sexual violence, self harm and such isn't tolerated, and hate groups and such are banned. However, if your content is of adult nature, it is okay, within restrictions. According to the Community Guidelines, "Content with mature themes must be marked as a patron-only post" (retrieved Mar 16 2019).

You can choose the reward tier amounts, what you offer in return, and how often you offer it. As mentioned earlier, you can choose between charging your patrons monthly, or when you publish paid content. Both options have their perks. Monthly charges are more constant, and basically will come in whether you post stuff or not. However, if you have promised certain things in return the pledge, it is best to publish something regularly. The paid content based charges are good if you don't want to get to a regular publishing pace, but want still to get paid for whatever you publish.

As a creator you have to choose a category for your page. This category can be changed later. You might not find a perfect category for yourself, especially if you are like me and create lots of different kinds of things. That's okay. The category appears to be mainly used on Patreon's Explore page, and either way it's not that serious.

For inspiration on how to use Patreon, I recommend looking into what others are doing. Basically the simpler appears to be the better. There's not that much information and advice on what sorts of rewards you should use and what to do on Patreon.

Some creators use very complicated rewards, such as sending mystery boxes to their patrons. However, it is good to remember that those sorts of rewards that require shipping can be quite taxing for you, as well as cost a lot depending on the postal fees of your country. Your patrons can be from anywhere on our beloved planet, thus you may end up sending stuff to a country opposite side of the globe. Most rewards are digital in kind, something to read, listen, or see on the platform, or downloadable stuff.

A visual artist, illustrator or photographer could offer high resolution downloads of her artwork, custom wallpapers, or even ability to commission work. A writer could offer short stories or other exclusive posts, and access to early drafts. A podcaster or video maker could offer exclusive downloads, bloopers, crediting patrons, or ability to pick topics for her content. For some of my membership tiers I offer Twitter follows. Talk about buying followers, huh?

In case you post audio content, Patreon creates a private feed for each patron who pledges to you. They can, then, listen your audio with their favourite podcast player. Thus, you can create a private premium podcast using this platform.

Eventually, though, the idea behind this platform is forming patronage between you and those who pledge to you. Some creators don't even give any special rewards, but rather use it for simple crowdfunding. You pay me, I create. Kind of a recurring tip jar. It's an intriguing concept, especially in this world where everyone expects something in return for all the help and support they give. However, if getting or giving something in return the support is more of your thing, the rewards system is for you.

This is why I call Patreon a platform. It allows creating different types of memberships and patronages and posting many kinds of content. The flexibility allows you to come up with new ideas and new kinds of usage. Just remember to read the community guidelines and other terms before getting too creative.

What could you do with Patreon?

Mervi Eskelinen

Hello, I'm Mervi!

An artist, nerd and business sorcerer, dedicated to make world more beautiful and strange with art, illustrations and logos + to help you figure your sustainable business out.

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