Thursday, July 31, 2014

Patreon 6 Month Follow-Up Report

I'm nearing the 6 month mark of my existence on Patreon and wanted to share my thoughts!

For the most part, I still stand behind my positive first impressions of Patreon.  I believe it's an amazing way for artists to connect directly with their audiences in a uniquely intimate way that's only going to gain momentum as time goes on, especially with the infusion of funding that Patreon has recently received from investors.  They're well on their way to making this format bigger and better!

My Art page on Patreon.  See my Artisan page here.

Building Audience Engagement

Hosting on Patreon has only made me grow fonder and closer to the special few who have sought to support me not just with their words, but with their wallets.  This is important as I feel like I am nurturing an important list of clientele who, due to their relationship with me, will also feel more motivated to spread the word about my art, word of mouth still being the most powerful marketing method available beyond any method we could pay for.

Engaging with people on Patreon has also had the wonderful side effect of motivating me to finish work not just for myself, but so I can have something amazing and worthwhile to share with my patrons.  It's a positive form of pressure that really energizes me as an artist.

The funds I do get from Patreon have had real results, such as allowing me to upgrade my old paints and to purchase a yearly membership to Artist Market Online.  Again, I've created engagement because my Patrons are a part of helping me succeed, further building a rapport between us.

Doing the Math

As of this writing, I am making $50 per painting thanks to 4 patrons and they have helped me to meet 2 of my goals.  This generally results in $50 extra a month on top of my current income because I usually only produce one detailed painting a month.

For those who say that this isn't a lot, I still believe my time on Patreon to be worthwhile because I have built my rewards in such a way that I am not doing too much extra work that I wasn't already doing before to share with my fans (more on this in the next section).

Chances are that my current patrons will stay if I can keep my material meaningful and engaging to them, meaning that my Patreon page is more than likely to gain exponentially higher return on investment as time goes by.

EDIT:  I had a question about charging per Creation or per Month, as you are able to choose either method on Patreon.  I have my Patreon set up per creation since that seems to work the best for me.

I am not always sure I'll have time to finish something, so that removes any pressure from me if I don't deliver, as I'd hate people to pitch
in and then get nothing that month either because I wasn't able to produce, or I was working on a project under an NDA that couldn't be shared on Patreon. If I don't produce anything, patrons won't have to worry about spending any money and being disappointed in their investment in me, which could lead to a bad reputation on my part.

However, I can see a monthly pledge working really well for comic creators who have very concrete schedules of production and releases. They'll always know when they're going to have pages out and exactly how many they can expect for a month so that their patrons will never be disappointed or feel like their investment was misplaced.

Patron Rewards

The way I have crafted my rewards by fashioning them as a natural extension of what I am (or planning) to do with my art business has made them much more manageable and proactive for my business.

For instance, I host Q&A sessions each month which are meant for my Patreon patrons, but are open to the public, so I'm not completely excluding a large part of my audience.  I had planned to do this before, but had never gotten around to it.  Patreon provided important motivation for me to get serious about sticking to a video production and broadcast schedule, which is a great move for my art business.

I also provide my Patreon patrons with sketch diaries of my paintings, which I used to do on this very same blog.  However, they are private and only for Patreon patrons now.  To make up for this loss to my blog, I still produce a video compilation of my creative process for the public at large which covers much (but not all) of what I talk about in the sketch diaries so that my regular fanbase won't feel neglected.

My Patreon patrons also get to see these process videos a week ahead of my regular fanbase, which still helps them to feel special.  My patrons also get to interact with me privately on these sketch diaries, which are open to their comments, where they can engage with me directly during my creative process.

Sketch diaries and videos were already part of my business model, but I have monetized them in such a way that is more friendly to my fanbase rather than alienating them.  I advise others to consider doing the same on Patreon.  Find a way to make interesting exclusives and consider doing time-based releases that still help your patrons feel special, while still leaving material for your non-Patreon fanbase.

Web comics on Patreon use this strategy to great effect by providing rewards for patrons such as exclusive stories, week early releases, and other such enticing digital content (ie. My $5+ patrons also get exclusive wallpapers!).


Patreon is a wonderful way to create engagement with your audience and is especially smart for creators who produce regular ongoing digital content, such as podcasts and web comics.  It is less effective for painters and other 2D one-off creators, unless you can find a way to create rewards that do not take you too much time to fulfill or that work in synergy with your current promotion efforts.

Even though it may not be as effective for painters as it is for podcasters, this may change in the future as Patreon becomes more widespread and improves their format, especially their currently limited categories.

Patreon also represents an opportunity for painters to get creative with what they're offering.  Just because it doesn't seem as good for us now as it is for others doesn't mean we can't discover brand new ways to creatively engage our fanbase!

That's what I'm planning to do and why I have no intention of leaving Patreon any time soon.

Reader Questions

  1. Are you on Patreon (or a patron)?  What are you creating there and who are you sponsoring?
  2. How do you handle your rewards?  If you're a 2D artist, what rewards are you offering for your patrons?
  3. What are some particularly groovy rewards you've received on Patreon?

(I'll share my answers in comments!)

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Using a Mailing List to Promote Your Art

Now that I've returned to conventions, I've been sharpening my marketing strategies and trying to figure out more efficient ways to keep in touch with my fanbase as a freelance artist.

While I do hope to work with more studios and publishers in the future, it's useful for me to nurture my independent career by also nurturing my direct relationship with my fans as well.  After all, I have a lot of personal projects that I do for no one else but myself and the fans that offer me opportunities under my control instead of at the whims of another entity.

Benefits of a Mailing List

For one, I've realized that the advantage of a mailing list is that while not everyone is on every social media outlet ever, most everyone has an e-mail.  Even if my newsletter gets put in the Trash, it's still a central method at which I can communicate directly with everyone without relying on the sporadic shotgun method of hitting all of the social networks and hoping someone sees it.

This is especially relevant in an age where our posts are getting lost to social network feeds that now require small businesses to pay to even be seen (ie. the recent neutering of the reach of unpaid posts on Facebook Fan Pages).

What to Use

I personally use Mailchimp, which is free to use up until you hit 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails a month. After which, I'd be happy to pay, considering the usefulness of this service!

Essential Setup of Your Mailing List

After setting up your mailing list, these are the two essential parts of your list that you need to set up as well.

The Signup Form

The signup form is a form you create that is linked to your specific mailing list.  Mailchimp lets you customize it with a theme that you can match to your website and gives you a short link which you can share by linking directly to customers.  Mailchimp also provides signup form integration with Facebook and Wordpress widgets.

Check out my signup form to see an example of one in action!  You can also see the Wordpress signup Widget in action on my website.

The Autoresponder

An autoresponder is also linked to your unique list and is the automatic e-mail which is sent out after a subscriber signs up for your list.  Mailchimp has a default one, but it's wise to customize this e-mail to your business to make a more personal connection with your fans.  I use my autoresponder to inform my new fans about what kind of updates they can expect from me, provide quick links to my social networks, and pitch my Patreon page in an unobtrusive way.

The autoresponder is also a great way to reward your new fans and make them feel special!  For instance, I offer a link in my autoresponder to a free gift of a coloring book that would usually be a paid item.  Other ideas for shareable promo items could be downloads of your art as wallpapers or a discount code to your shop.

Here's a screenshot of my autoresponder (or you can see it in live action by signing up for my list, if you like!)

Click to enlarge.

Segments & Groups

EDIT 8-25-2012  I've discovered the use of Segments and Groups within Mailchimp and added this section. They're quite invaluable to a tidy list!
Utilizing Groups within your mailing list's subscribers means you can have a Sign Up form with checkboxes detailing what kinds of updates the person would like to receive (aka. the Groups that you can make dictate the kinds of updates) while also cutting down the number of lists you have and redundant signups.

I made a Group and corresponding list Segment in my mailing list for people who might be interested in following my Ladies of the Months series outside of Kickstarter to test this out.

You can see the checkboxes/Groups in action here.

 You'll have to remember to update your Automation/Autoresponder to respond to the individual list segment/Group too!

For the full technical instructions for this process, check out Mailchimp's documentation on the subject.


Promoting Your List

So now that you have a list, don't forget that it exists!  Here are some ideas to gain new subscribers.

- Etsy Shop - Include a link to your singup form in your shop announcement and in your automatic sale letters so your customers can remember to keep up with you.  (The same goes for your social network links!)

- Giveaways at Conventions - Host an exclusive giveaway at conventions to entice people to sign up for your mailing list.  Doing this also encourages people to come back to visit against, which provides an extra opportunity for them to be tempted by your shinies.

- Monthly Giveaways for List Members - I already do exclusive monthly giveaways for my Patreon patrons, but I have seen other artists encourage signups on their mailing lists by offering exclusive giveaways only for those on their mailing lists.  This makes your fans feel extra special!

Maintaining a Newsletter Schedule

One of my biggest mistakes was to overshoot my goal and try to keep a really active newsletter.  Create a schedule for yourself that you know you can maintain!

For instance, I used to do a mailing list every month, but the fact is because I work so slowly, I didn't have a lot to share each month.  In the end, it was easier for me to do a quarterly (once every 3 months) newsletter instead.

It's also smart to keep your newsletter text short and sweet!  Big chunks of text do okay in journal entries, but people have very short attention spans for e-mails.  Keep your text relevant and to the point!

I hope this info helps some of you out there who might be struggling with how to communicate with your fanbase or who were just not sure what to do with a mailing list in the first place.

If you have any tips for mailing lists I didn't mention, please do share in comments.  Good luck, everyone!