Until recently, I had not heard of the fundraising app known as Patreon and, when I did, I brushed it off as another Go Fund Me application where friends and family might throw a few dollars your way before the repeated posting gets annoying and they hide the content forever.
Then I noticed a Patreon posted by a writer I adore. Her work is edgy and fun and new. I clicked. I learned. I loved. Now I support her through a tiny monthly pledge that comes automatically out of my PayPal account. In return, I get access to her words of wisdom (which, as a new author, is invaluable), snippets of her works in progress, and access to short stories that she doesn’t release anywhere else.
When I researched this relatively new application, I found it is actually a new twist on an old concept of artists and writers seeking out wealthy patrons for support. The difference is that today’s artists and writers are not looking for a single rich patron. Instead, they are seeking many everyday lovers of the arts to support what they love in a way that benefits everyone involved.
Since beginning my research, I have seen this tool used for the publication of online magazines, for music tracks and narration, for sketches and stories and workshops in various stages of completion. Some charge by post. Some charge by month. Some have one cost. Others have tier pricing. Some even have rewards. The one I follow currently offers increasing rewards as you increase in amount of support. Rewards may include a poem a week, writing prompts, tips for querying, ability to name a future character, or feedback on the first ten pages of a work in progress (WIP).
One of the things I really like about Patreon is your ability to keep it running for as long as your followers want your content and you can produce that content. This also seems to be the most draining part of the application. Your followers will demand getting what they pay for. That means you must produce: weekly, monthly, yearly, continuously. Those that succeed do so by following a very strict calendar of posts. They have rewards they can consistently provide.
The benefits of the hard work that goes into maintaining a Patreon site are loyal followers who you know appreciate your particular skill and style and income. I spoke to several authors who use this tool. Most indicated an income stream of between 100 and 300 dollars per month. This may not seem like a lot but, as one new author said, “For those who are struggling to get a career off the ground, this is a bill or two that wouldn’t otherwise get paid,” and you cannot even imagine what that means to those of us determined to make this writing thing work.”
One author indicated earnings in excess of 500 dollars per month, but according to her that is after many hours of nurturing and massaging the content and the needs of the followers. “It is a marketing strategy. You have to treat it as part of your job.”
Another author indicated earnings of less than 100 dollars a month. “I decided early on,” she told me, “that I just couldn’t write fast enough to build this platform in a money-making way. Instead, I keep going to give back to other writers. Whatever I make each month, I divvy-up between Patreon creators I support.” What a great idea!
There is one thing that everyone I talked to agreed upon: You have to have a tough skin to maintain an account such as this. You will lose followers as their finances change. You will often feel like you are pouring hours of work into a void. It may take months or years to establish a site that actually makes enough to pay a bill.
Self-promotion is tedious.
The bottom line for most of us utilizing social media is community and connection. After much research, I believe Patreon is a great way to foster that while giving back to those we aspire to be ourselves someday.
Do you have a Patreon account? Tell me about it below. I would love to check out your content.