We started Fable and Folly to create a future where audio fiction producers can make a good living telling their stories. This vision requires a path to multiple, healthy sources of revenue, with crowdfunding on Patreon being a key component for many of us. But we were stuck, like many others, at less than $50 a month when we needed Patreon to be closer to $900.
To be a $4,000 a month creator, we have to start behaving (and thinking) like a $4,000 a month creator.
We launched our Patreon in December of 2015, and for more than a year we found ourselves in a constant struggle to make anything more than $20 to $50 a month.
I became convinced that Patreon ‘just doesn’t work’ for smaller independent podcast creators. It was so easy to believe the problem wasn’t us.
We were told this was normal. I became convinced that Patreon ‘just doesn’t work’ for smaller independent podcast creators. It was so easy to believe the problem wasn’t us.
After more than a year of bashing our heads into the apathy wall, we were ready to throw in the towel.
It would have been very easy to just walk away. We clearly weren’t good enough, big enough or famous enough to generate real support on Patreon. Or so I had come to believe.
In August of 2017 I stumbled across a list of the top performing Patreon accounts. To my surprise, these weren’t just celebrity podcasts. There were other independents like me on the list. Only these folks were generating multiple thousands of dollars a month in support.
I had one question to answer: What are they doing that we aren’t?
Which brings us to the most important tool at our disposal.
Pledge $5 or higher to a quality show that is making more than double what you want to make.
Then pay attention. You are about to learn exactly what it takes to become a creator that makes significant revenue via Patreon.
Will everything they do apply directly to all creators? Of course not. Will their commitment to creating content for their fans and supporters cause your jaw to drop? You bet.
It’s very tempting to skip this step. I get it. I was there, searching for the easy fix. But trust me, there is no such thing.
No Patreon strategy will work if you don’t challenge the limiting beliefs and lack of knowledge that are keeping you from growing the support of your fans.
I remember so vividly what it was like back then. Months would go by without any bonus episodes for our supporters. And then a fan would stop supporting us. And their exit form would state that we weren’t “as active as they expected.”
Will their commitment to creating content for their fans and supporters cause your jaw to drop? You bet.
I would get angry and frustrated. We were only making $20 a month. What did our fans expect from us?
But I was seeing it all backwards. And it took becoming a patron for me to wake up.
This is about respect and looking at a pledge from the point of view of our patrons. In business terms, value is defined by the customer, not the business. The customer has certain expectations that come with a $5 a month pledge. Back in 2017, patrons were spending just over that amount for Netflix, which offers hundreds of new TV shows and movies every month.
And here I was complaining about having to create a bonus episode. Looking back, I can’t help but shudder at how lost we were. We couldn’t even manage to thank our patrons most months.
Becoming a patron of a successful Patreon creator opened my eyes. They cared about me. They knew who I was. They sent me messages. They rolled out multiple updates and features per month.
And this change in mindshift changed everything.
Now some of you are reading this and thinking, “I get it. But give me something specific I can do, already!”
So I will. I’m going to give you my proven strategy for growing your Patreon:
- Select one higher level tier that isn’t working (not a lot of supporters).
- Add one thing to that tier.
- Notify your existing patrons, your listeners and your followers on social. (Be sure to tease them with a sneak peek of what they’re missing out on.)
- Monitor how many new signups and upgrades to that tier you get over the next 30 days.
- Lackluster response? Return to step 2.
But what do you add to a tier? And what should you avoid? I’ve written a series that walks you through what works for tiers and what doesn’t: Our Patreon Growth Experiment.
BONUS: Measurement. Measurement. Measurement.
I needed visibility into what was worth investing our time into. Which tiers are worth focusing on and why?
Our turnaround from a stagnation to growth required more than a mindset change. I needed visibility into what was worth investing our time into. Which tiers are worth focusing on and why?
Answering this question requires insight. Insight requires visibility into your data. Patreon provides you access to your raw data, but it’s not great at providing insight into what’s working and what isn’t. For example, why can’t you see your retention information on the Patreon dashboard? Or what tiers are driving your growth?
I created a free Google Sheet you can use to monitor your tier performance and develop insights to help fuel your growth. Check out the sheet and full instructions here.
I did everything I could to make this dashboard as easy to use as possible, but it’s still a pain to download your data from Patreon and upload it into Google Sheets. And then troubleshoot if something goes wrong.
Seeing what is working and not working is priceless, but getting this framework set up inside Google Sheets can be a barrier to some.
I was approached by a lovely developer who has launched Creator Metrics. This is a paid service that shows you charts of your supporter data. It has a couple neat bonus features such as the ability to automate an email to anyone who leaves you. I’d love to see a stacked tier growth chart on the dashboard, but aside from that, it’s super sharp and always up to date.
If you want a dashboard, but find Google Sheets intimidating or too much of a pain to update, this may be for you.
My partner, Eli Hamada McIlveen, is now able to work full-time on Fable and Folly business. We couldn’t have made this step without the increased and continued support of our fans and listeners through Patreon. Meaning we can now create more content for our fans, leading to more growth opportunities for Fable and Folly and the shows we represent.