My Patreon Experience

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After 5 month of using patreon, I want to write about my experience and with it, maybe I can give some insights for other artists as well. First off, I know the platform since around 3-4 years and decided to make it an outlet in January 2015. I also support up to 8-10 other artists at a time.

Time to reflect upon some stats.
It is not that I hit the wall, but it is not making me a fortune right now either.
This journey is by far not over for me

Patreon is not a tool you set up once and then leave it working for you, it is just not the way things work. What I learned to do instead is to see it as a valuable venue, a booth if you so want that can help you to be discovered by new fans. And you are able to change the presentation instantly to see what works and what does not. Which - in a physical booth or shop would not be so easy to achieve.

So far it has been a great ride, and most of it because of my awesome patrons, it helped immensely boost my productivity. I have experimented like crazy and pushed my learning of new techniques to a maximum.

A recent poll shows that there is some decent interest in some of the rewards I´m already offering and some interest in stuff I have no interest in, such as Video tutorials.

Soon, very soon when half of these deviants will be patrons...;)


Don´t get me wrong, I like video tutorials and do them every once in a while, but there are reasons why I don´t do them regularly.

The most valid reason I can call is because most of what I do is the result of imagination and experimentation. I can record that but you will have a hard time to follow as many of my existing video are a proof for. The technique is rinse-and-repeat and I´m tired of doing the same stuff over and over. I can point out great techniques that I use, but only a few people care and those are not necessarily patrons. In the end there is enough video material out there for the technique already (for free). So why even bother?

That brings me towards the nicer things I learned about using Patreon:

  • Whatever you do, you have to do it anyways
  • Focus on the $1 rewards
  • You have to do post content upfront even if you don´t have any patrons
  • You have to promote your campaign, patreon does not do this for you (yet)
  • You don´t do what you do for your patrons, you do it for yourself or the fun of it
  • Except for a few artists, there is no way for maintaining a considerable income
  • In the best case, people support you for what you do, not for the rewards
  • Patreon is a tip jar.


Seeing patreon as a tip jar pulls a lot of pressure out of it

I see it as a hat from a street musician who does what he does best. He may not get rich through that performance but it pays better than the job as dishwasher and helps him to learn something about people on the side. And btw. he can do what he loves when he has the time to.

The market is changing and there are more people on patreon than ever.
Popular artists probably have a less harder time to setup a successful patreon campaign, so, if that is you - yes, it definitely makes sense to jump on the wagon. The more the merrier..

A huge following is not necessary

I would say a huge following is not necessary for being successful on Patreon at all. It may help but more important is a good concept. You have a concept if you offer a webcomic or a story where you add chapters from time to time.

It is easy for people to follow this kind of content if they are interested in your story.

For musicians it might be a no-brainer as well. Making a new album available on a per-content basis to patrons is a wonderful opportunity.

For visual artists it is kind of different.

There is no best practice

For others Photoshop files are probably a great teaser. I don´t care much about them and many of my patrons neither, so I decided to skip them but keep at least 2 of them in a monthly package. One for a sketch and another for a more refined illustration to see the difference.

What I have observed is that the most successful artists deliver content on a weekly basis. I believe this is nice if you don´t have a family or if you have people you can hire to do the online publishing stuff. But I have a life, commissions, lectureship and conventions to attend, so I can not do this. If there would be more interest, my point of view could change. But as it is now I don´t see any sense to change from the monthly model that gives me enough time to handle my production and learning curve.

The things that obviously work best, don´t work best for everyone

Mashups or crossover and fanart is nice (and there is no way for me to stop doing them). Actually it is the best content for a platform like Patreon. However, since nearly every second artist does them, that makes it less special and for patrons hard to decide for one artist. Right now it might be a good time to separate yourself from the crowd with your own voice.

I found it is the best to do what you want to do and not what you believe is a trend. In the last 5 month I have created and posted more works online than in the last 2 years together. And even though the effort leads to an impressive number of a cumulated 350.000 impressions of my works on various platforms there are only 8-10 true paying supporter yet.

I don´t want to sound dashed and I´m thankful to have this support!
However, it may sound sobering for others who just start out and want to get their feet on the ground.

Future Goals

Right now I´m working on another skull ( for a convention in August), another Elvgren tribute piece and another exclusive Ghibli - Ancient Kaiju. As also a little video tip on how to emulate wet color in Photoshop.

But other than that I have established a new publishing and production plan for Patreon that allows me to pull at least 3-4 pieces a month for prints that I have with me on conventions.

This production plan is necessary to keep up the growing interest on art-shows. So in this regard I could be as low as $1 on Patreon, I would still go with full force because what does not pay on digital does pay in print - so that effort is never useless.

It is just the way we view things. For me patreon is a huge kick in the butt and a good one.

See below an excerpt of the 67 (!) pieces from the last 5 month at a glance. How many pieces have you created in the last 5 months? And what was your incentive? I´d really love to read what your experiences are and if patreon was somewhat useful for you in that regard.

Maybe you feel an incentive to support me now or later - I´ll be there;)































Thanks for your consideration, you can find more works here: http://www.patreon.com/fantasio

cheers

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Oliver aka Fantasio is a creative blogger who likes to share his insights about art, marketing and social media. Follow Fantasio on twitter or facebook

4 comments:

  1. Thanks for this insight. I'm interested in Patreon, but not sure if or how I could make it work for my art (I'm an embroiderer, mainly). I like the way you describe it as a 'tip jar', that makes a lot of sense. It's good to hear how it's worked for others - all the best with it!

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    Replies
    1. thank you for the comment! I´m glad you found it useful. It is definitely a wonderful opportunity for artists. Especially crowded places like Etsy is for new artists difficult to come by. The obvious thing is that Patreon is most useful for digital content. But why shouldn´t it be possible to give fans of your embroidery the a benefit of being the first to get a catalog or the chance to catch up with early offers? You could even promote this offline. You could use it as a newsletter because that is what Patreon is at its core; a place to connect artists and fans. I believe this can work for any goods.

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  2. Hi Oliver,
    I arrived here looking for experiences using Patreon, since I am considering opening an account. However, I am well aware that having decent income from patreon (say, at least 100 dollars/month) is a full time job and I wonder if it is worth the time. I also see colleages in my profession (I am a pianist/composer) that are quite succesfull in "real life" but have zero followers on Patreon, so obviously is not working for them.

    The "tip jar approach" seems to be honest. And being there just to have one chance more of being discovered by potential fans is also a good reason.
    Let me ponder further...
    have a nice day - JMS

    Juan María's music on Spotify

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    Replies
    1. Hi Juan Maria,

      thanks for your comment!
      I'd say it is different for everyone. Opposed to a big Kickstarter campaign, no one bothers if a patreon campaign goes on slowly.
      After the time I used patreon now (roughly 2 and a half years) I'm also not in the top 20 earners but as you wrote, I make a decent living in real life and am not depending on it.

      However, I see it as a core-base. Patron is not for fan-winning, there is Instagram or facebook for that. Patron is the place for true fans that want to support you for whatever reason.

      I have changed my patreon over the time very often, and will most likely keep changing the look or tweak the engagement here or there, but my policy is that every new work will be released there first. It is dead-simple.

      The number crunching is also simple as well, if you post often (best is weekly rewards) then you can earn a lot more than me. Since I work in bursts, there can be months with 10 pieces and 4 months with just 1. This is actually bad for patreon and me, but loyal fans will stick, that is what I can say so far ;)

      If you try, let me know your experience as well.
      Wonderful work by the way, keep it up!

      Best,
      Oliver

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