Wealthy merchants commissioning artists dates back to ancient times and became its own legitimized economy during the European Renaissance. Traditionally, creatives struggle to earn a living unlike their technically-skilled counterparts. But thanks to patrons, artists can enjoy a comfortable lifestyle while they focus solely on what they do best.
Today, Patreon.com is the leading arts patronage network online. It focuses on helping content creators monetize their expertise and build communities of online support.
What is Patreon?
“Patreon powers membership businesses for creators by giving them the tools they need to acquire, manage, and energize their paying patrons.”
Patreon draws its primary user base from social media content creators. These users can split their content between what is freely available to all and what members must pay to access.
Many are under the impression that the only way to earn cash as a creator is to collaborate with brands. But in reality, there are several ways for creators to earn a living when publishing authentic content. Patreon is a great solution that offers a unique crowdfunding experience that both creators and fans love.
How content creators use Patreon
Influencers and creators can sign-up for Patreon to manage all of their top fans in one place. Followers join a creator’s Patreon by paying a monthly or per post subscription.
The creator can choose which cost structures they prefer, as well as what their various memberships include. Most Patreon users offer 2-4 membership options for their fans.
With each new subscriber, creators earn money, and with enough subscriber support, many creators are able to earn a decent living.
What type of content is available on Patreon?
There is very little content that Patreon does not support. Additionally, creators can add their social media accounts, a Discord page, and website.
Among the most common types of Patreon content are:
- Behind-the-scenes looks
- Live streams
- Virtual group events
- Group discussions
- Private/direct messages
Most Patreon users create more than one type of content for their subscribers. The ultimate goal is for creators to build closer relationships with their paying fans.
How does the Patreon model impact influencer marketing?
One ongoing challenge in influencer marketing is getting consistently authentic brand endorsements. It can be tempting for some creators to promote products that they’ve never tried or dislike in order to pay their bills.
Platforms like Patreon take the pressure off influencers to monetize their craft through brand endorsements alone. Creators can cater to their most dedicated fans and get rewarded with positive cash flow.
Because of Patreon’s creator benefits, brands can focus on recruiting the right influencers to promote their products. Influencers who genuinely love the products that they promote regularly generate better engagements and conversions.
“Influencer marketing is the most effective way to build a valuable brand—IF it’s done well. What’s the secret? Trust. When people trust someone’s endorsement of your brand, when they can sense the relationship is real, they believe it—and they’ll buy.”
– GRIN, Authentic Influencer Marketing
Lastly, Patreon offers brands an additional way to vet their influencers. Brands should focus on those creators who they believe in, and it’s not unusual for influencer marketers to follow their favorite influencers on Patreon.
How can brands use Patreon?
Patreon is designed to bring followers and creators together in a more intimate way. But just because the platform caters to these groups doesn’t mean that brands can’t benefit from it, too.
Recruit Patreon creators
Even though Patreon’s creator discovery options are limited, marketers can search for their favorite social media creators and follow them on Patreon.
Most Patron accounts have the option to follow a creator for free. But marketers may also choose to invest in a creator membership to get an up-close and personal view of an influencer prospect for their next Patreon influencer marketing campaign.
Leverage Patreon in your influencer marketing campaign
Brands already partnering with Patreon creators can launch a campaign that includes that creator’s Patreon audience.
For example, Patreon members might enjoy exclusive discounts or product sneak peaks. So long as the campaign delivers value to the creator’s audience, this approach can be very effective.
Creators can also use their Patreon to promote special events, such as a brand sponsored virtual conference or contest.
When asking a creator to promote your brand on Patreon, it’s important to keep in mind that most creators guard their Patreon members from overt brand mentions. If your relationship with that influencer is strong, there are many ways to integrate your product on a creator’s Patreon page without alienating paying members.
Access crowdfunding for unique content
An increasing number of brands are also launching their own creator accounts on Patreon. For marketing teams that consistently create brilliant content, Patreon can act as a crowdfunding solution for scaling brands and startups.
For example, you can use your Patreon page to offer members special discounts, early access, or even solicit feedback on new products/services. It’s a great way to generate additional revenue while also building your brand community.
Top 7 Creators on Patreon
Orion’s Charge launched after the artist lost their corporate job and became a TikTok celebrity. The creator focuses their content on mindfulness and impeccable communication.
Their Patreon community is actively engaged in Orion’s Charge’s efforts to write and publish a memoir-style book about “a young woman blindly engaging in toxic relationships as she believed everything she felt and thought.” Members get regular updates, Zoom groups meetings, and exclusive videos not available on TikTok.
2. Kinda Funny
Kinda Funny is a team of content creators who recently formed their own production company. They achieved popularity as a YouTube channel and podcast before building their audience on Patreon.
As a creative team, Kinda Funny reviews movies, discusses general entertainment, and puts on random stunts and skits.
3. Kina Grannis
Kina Grannis is the founder and owner of KG Records. Before starting her Patreon, Kina worked in the music label industry. She decided that she wanted to create music on her schedule and in her favorite styles. Not only does she write and perform songs, but she also shoots and edits her own videos.
Patreon now serves as her primary fan base. Members get previews on upcoming singles, free music downloads, direct contact with Kina, and discounts on fan merchandise.
The Fantasy Footballers is a podcast team that discusses NFL and fantasy football year-round. Each episode features informed discussions on “every trade, transaction, start, sit, must-have waiver wire pickup and fantasy football sleeper, bust and breakout.”
Podcast fans are known as “foot fans.” The podcast founders created a Patreon to fund and grow their brand. Thanks to their Patreon, all members of the podcast team work for The Fantasy Footballers full-time. Subscribers get bonus content, branded gifts, and direct contact with podcast members.
Li created Extra Ordinary Comics to fund their artist’s journey. The graphic novelist’s portfolio exists online, and fans may enjoy those comics for free at any time.
Extra Ordinary Comics is one of the more unique Patreon accounts online because fans get to experience front-row seats to what a comic artist’s creative journey looks like. Li offers comic rough drafts and pre-releases to Patreon members, as well as time lapse drawings for aspiring comic artists.
Caitlin Cimini is the founder of Rancho Relaxo, a fully-functioning animal rescue farm focusing primarily on horses, chickens, pigs, goats, dogs, and cats. The shelter has been in operation since 2015, and Patreon helps Caitlin keep the organization running.
Rancho Relaxo uses its voice to advocate for animals heading for slaughter or suffering from abuse by their owners. As a registered nonprofit, Patreon members can support the shelter and also enjoy tax deductions on their donations.
Captain Disillusion used to create comedy Sci-Fi videos as a hobby. Today, he manages a professional career in analyzing unusual media to find out whether a salacious video/photo is real or fake.
Captain Disillusion retains his quirky humor as he breaks apart odd, viral content online. He delivers his findings through video posts, and his Patreon members gain access sneak peeks, outtakes, and media tutorials.
Top 5 Patreon alternatives
There’s no denying that Patreon is one-of-a-kind. It’s robust platform allows hundreds of thousands of creators to design, write, compose, shoot, and edit for a living.
But there are a few downsides to Patreon, such as:
- Difficulty for users to find/discover new creators unless they know the creator’s handle
- Rising costs for creators
- Inconsistent content violation guidelines
- No promotional capabilities (ads, sponsored posts, etc.)
As a result, other similar platforms have emerged in the last few years as legitimate alternatives to Patreon.
Podia resembles online course websites like Coursera and Udemy but includes a much wider range of digital content options for creators. Users can choose to buy individual pieces of content (like a course or episode) or choose from available exclusive memberships.
Podia’s top advantages include:
- Email marketing features
- Tech tool support (embedded checkouts, video hosting, etc.)
- Capability with most downloadable content types
Many consider Hy.page to be Patreon’s biggest competitor. The platform integrates fan memberships with bio links so that social media followers can become financial supporters of their favorite artists more easily.
Hy.page has raving reviews on G2 and Capterra. Additional advantages include:
- Best versatility between social media accounts and Hy.page profile
- One-time payments and recurring subscriptions
- Fan special requests
- Doubles as a content management system (CMS) for creators
- Robust analytics
Memberful is one of the only leading creator-supporting solutions that offers a free trial and integrates smoothly with WordPress and MailChimp. Overall, it works much the same way as Patreon.
Advantages of Memberful include:
- Easy plugins for top CMS tools
- Free trial for creators
- Robust analytics
For creators who are leery of overbearing content restrictions, SubscriberStar is the best option. Creators can attract supporting fans for publishing all types of art or to promote political and religious views.
Additional advantages of SubscriberStar are:
- Privacy for creators and their paying fans
- Seconds well as a CMS to post, edit, and schedule content
- Strong software integrations
- Robust analytics
5. Buy Me a Coffee
Small-time and side-hustle creators love Buy Me a Coffee. There are multiple subscription options, including one-time payments or donations. It is also one of the most user-friendly alternatives to Patreon.
The platform’s top advantages are:
- Easy user profile and website navigation
- Engaged, human-to-human customer support
- Best for creators managing income through PayPal or direct deposit
Conclusion: Bringing Patreon into your influencer program can enhance your recruiting, social campaigns, and content creation.
“The expansion of the creator economy is proof that ‘creator’ can be a legitimate job title. Creators are the next generation of media, marketing, and commerce, and marketers who want to engage them need to treat them as they would any other business partner.”
– Insider Intelligence, Influencer Monetization 2021
New developments in the creator economy open the doors for more people to become professional creators. Not only does this growth offer greater opportunities for brand-influencer partnerships, but it also pioneers new channels for sponsoring content that integrates products authentically.
Patreon is a major milestone for the influencer marketing industry. Brands that set aside time to understand Patreon will get a better perspective of their creators and creators’ audiences.