Today’s post is another guest post from the lovely Savina Francisco. If you missed her first guest post you can find it here: Tips for Artists – Frustrations of an Art Buyer. Savina is an emerging artist, focusing on animal and fairy tale art. You can find her on Facebook at: Amberwing Art. Let us jump right into it!
How to Reward your Patreons
Last month I created a list of issues I had when I tried to purchase art from artists. This last month I’ve been surfing Patreon, in search of art accounts I’d like to subscribe to there in the coming months and I’ve come across a whole new set of issues. Like I did last time, I included the issue and a possible solution. These are just my opinion, of course, but I hope they’re helpful to some!
1) OFFERING THE SAME THINGS I CAN GET FOR FREE.
This is probably the biggest one. If it looks like your Patreon only shows content that I can get for free (even if it means waiting a little while), I definitely won’t be subscribing.
SOLUTION: Yes, I love supporting fellow artists, but frankly, most of us aren’t rich and if I have to choose between subscribing to your Patreon and getting that cool new art video that was just released – you need to give me something that’s going to make paying for your Patreon worthwhile. When I subscribe to a channel, I want to feel like I’m paying to get behind the scenes access – things that everyone else is missing out on.
Here’s the rub: Of course you want to promote your current work, so you have to show it on your public social media channels, But your Patreon content needs to be stuff that you only show your patrons, otherwise they’ll just stick to your Instagram account.
Find balance, consider showing your patrons the things you normally wouldn’t show, like mistakes, rejected pieces, etc., or, as you’re creating your work, take a few extra minutes to video yourself or maybe even create a 5 minute how-to of one small area of the piece that you’ll be doing anyway (how to attach gold leaf, how to create feathers in watercolor, how to cut a mat board, etc.).
Remember that people who enjoy your art want to see EVERYTHING – every little thing in your studio that you take for granted is interesting to your patrons and can be used to create interesting content. You can even create an artist’s video or blog diary, where you do a 5 minute video whenever you feel like it, where you talk about that week’s frustrations, triumphs & fears, what you created or didn’t create, etc.
Were you feeling depressed and couldn’t bring yourself to sketch this week? Tell your patrons about it in a video! Or if you’ve just sketched out a cool new little faery or wizard or another character, make a short video where you show him/her to your patrons and tell his/her story! Even if you share the sketch with your other social media, just keep the video for your patrons only.
2) HIGH REWARDS IN THE LOWEST TIERS
This one is from both a potential patron AND an artist’s perspective. I’ve seen so many artists give away some of the best rewards in the lowest tier! Some examples are wallpaper, .pdf’s of their artwork, access to all of their videos – these should all be reserved for the second tier and higher.
SOLUTION: In the lowest tier, I’d expect to get one great video per month, with a few interesting posts, like a blog post, a sketch post, etc. — For $2-4 per month, I’m expecting very little.
– For $5, I’d expect maybe a couple of videos (if you do videos) or higher value content per month, like Patreon-only blog posts, access to your sketches, ability to vote on sketch topics, etc.
– For $10, I’d expect a new wallpaper per month, either a couple of new videos per month or access to a lot of already created content, blog posts, etc. – this is the tier where there are expectations.
But remember, it should all still be content that they can’t get for free on your other social media accounts!
In the highest tiers, you can offer any merchandise you sell, like a t-shirt, a sketchbook, a set of tarot cards, etc., after they’ve been a patron for 2 months (or whatever period you decide on). Also, not to proselytize, but keep in mind that releasing a wallpaper, which is a hi-res version of your artwork, on a low tier is the perfect enticement for someone to steal your work and sell it as prints or merchandise.
3) TIERS THAT APPEAR TO BE AN AFTERTHOUGHT AND LOW REWARDS IN THE HIGHEST TIERS
I can’t tell you how many accounts I’ve gone to where there’s either barely anything in a tier or there are rewards that are more appealing in a lower tier.
Each tier should have at least one big-ticket item that makes me want to pay a little extra for it. I’ve seen so many accounts that have all the goodies in the first tier and the other tiers don’t have anything special. As a patron, I’m very happy, but as an artist, I want to cringe.
SOLUTION: Have a friend or fellow artist go through your account to be sure that you’re not giving away valuable items in the lowest tiers and to also be sure that each tier has something big and a few small things that make your subscribers want to choose that one over the tier below it.
4) MORE THAN ONE STYLE
A lot of artists create in more than one style (ex: Imaginative Realism and Manga or Fantasy and Furry). If it’s not clear from your description or video what style you’ll be creating in, you’re going to lose a lot of patrons (me included!), even if they absolutely love one of your styles. People don’t want to put out money if they aren’t completely clear on what they’re getting.
SOLUTION: If you do more than one style of artwork, make it clear in your description which you’ll be doing on your Patreon, or if you’ll be doing both. If they’re drastically different styles, like in the example I gave, I’d strongly suggest choosing the one you most enjoy or doing a separate Patreon account for each.
Many people who like one style don’t like another; for example, I dislike Manga and furry and if I know that half of what I’ll be paying for is to see your Manga or furry artwork, I won’t sign up for your Patreon.
By the same token, if I know/see that you do more than one type of art, but you don’t specify which one you’ll be showing on your Patreon account, I also won’t sign up. I can’t tell you how many artists I’ve wanted to subscribe to there but haven’t because their account shows more than one style, but doesn’t tell me what I’ll be paying for.
5) CAN’T TELL WHAT TYPE OF ART YOU DO/ONLY ONE IMAGE IN HEADER
Similarly to #4, the accounts that only show one image on their page and don’t have any public art posts won’t get my subscription, because I can’t tell if that’s consistently going to be what I’ll be seeing on their account.
SOLUTION: It’s important to find a balance between showing a few things publicly to entice patrons to subscribe and giving away everything. A few public posts of your finished art and sketches will do the trick. I’m pretty tenacious, but most people aren’t; if they have to search out your other social media channels to figure out if they like your work enough to subscribe or not, you’ve already lost them.
6) ONLY ONE OR TWO TIERS/NO HIGHER DOLLAR TIERS
Let me give you my money! If people have come to your Patreon account, they’re considering subscribing to it – don’t limit how much money they can give you. If the rewards are good and I like the artist’s work a lot, I’d definitely be willing to pay $20. There are plenty of people who have even more disposable income than I do who are willing to pay $50 per month or more, so don’t stop them! Sure, you may only get 1 or 2 of them, but those high dollar patrons are your biggest supporters.
SOLUTION: If you’re worried that higher tiers mean more time on your part, there are tons of great rewards that you’re probably ALREADY creating that could go there.
For higher tiers, consider using things that you’re already working on that you don’t show on social media, but that won’t take lots of extra time to create, like rejected thumbnails, video bloopers, old sketches (including sketches from when you were a kid – people LOVE to see those), monthly or quarterly sketchbook “tours” where you show what you’ve sketched that month (including the bad stuff), etc.
– Or you could offer a limited number of monthly critiques if you enjoy doing that.
– Or you could offer a monthly Q&A, hang out or drawing session with you, where you and your patrons draw something together.
– Or you could offer fun little polls or even things like trivia about you or your artwork.
When I like an artist, I want to see as much about their artwork and their art life as possible – and I could sit and watch them draw/paint for hours, so don’t discount offering videos of yourself painting – you don’t even need to narrate it, just record yourself painting what you’re painting anyway throughout the week/month.
Don’t you love seeing your art idols work?
The important thing is just to get out of the “donation mindset” that I’ve seen so many artists seem to have with their Patreon accounts. Patrons aren’t being kind and donating to you, we’re paying for your content. You could really replace the word ‘Patron’ with “Subscriber,’ because that’s what we are. Most people don’t want to just donate every month, they want a return on their investment. So think about what you’d want to see on one of your art idols’ accounts and…give your patrons that!
7) MAKING TOO LITTLE PUBLIC
This is a really common one: thinking that everything has to be hidden. The problem with that is that anyone who’s on the fence isn’t going to subscribe because the tier descriptions aren’t clear and they aren’t sure if they’re going to get the content they want to see.
SOLUTION: As I mentioned above, balance is important – creating some public posts that are interesting is really important so that you can convert the fence-sitters (which most people are, even if they like your work). BUT…make sure to read #1.
8) UNAPPEALING REWARDS
a) Early access to/notification of artwork releases is nice for padding a tier, but it won’t entice me to pay for that tier if I’ll be able to see it for free if I just wait a bit
b) Hi-def images are nice, but frankly, regular definition images are just fine. Unless you have a patron who’s planning on printing them out as prints and framing them (which they should be paying a lot more for), this won’t entice me to jump up a tier. This may be an option you want to reserve for your highest tier, if you’d like to allow them to print out your artwork.
SOLUTION: There are so many possibilities for interesting rewards, so be creative! Wallpapers, art diary, blog, vlog, how-to videos, critiques, time lapse videos, discount coupons (but this one won’t entice someone to pay for a tier, unless it’s a big discount like 20% off. Use it only as a padding, not as an enticement.
Patreon-only sketches, sketches from when you were a kid, sketch requests, tool reviews, art tips, art business tips, sketchbook tour videos, studio tour videos, ACEOs, postcards, mini-prints, mini-sketches, mailed original sketches (only for higher tiers & I’d suggest limiting the number of these!), original paintings (for the highest tier, after a certain number of months as a patron), the “story” about the piece to accompany each piece as you release it, etc.
The list is endless.
9) MAKING EVERYTHING PUBLIC
I’ve actually seen several artists do this and I wanted to cry because their art and content is SO GOOD, but they’re literally giving EVERYTHING away for free!
SOLUTION: I’m not sure if this has happened with the artists’ accounts on purpose or because they’re unfamiliar with the Patreon tools, but be sure to regularly check all of your settings on each post to be sure you’re not accidentally making everything public!
A Couple of Extras
10) INTRO VIDEO
Patreon is right – an intro video helps. I’m 100% more likely to subscribe to your Patreon if you have a video. Why? It appears more professional and like the artist is invested in their account, which means I’ll be getting more interesting goodies. In the videos, I like seeing a little snippet or two of the artist and then lots of samples of their artwork – but keep it short!
11) FREQUENCY OF POSTS
As a patron, I expect to have content on a regular basis; what constitutes ‘a regular basis’ depends on the tier I’m subscribed to.
– If I’m subscribed to the lowest tier ($4 or under), I expect to get something once or twice a month.
– If I’m subscribed to a $5-10 tier, I’d expected to see something at least 2-3 times a month (1 high value item like a video or blog post and a few lower value items like process photos, etc.).
– If I’m subscribed to anything $15 or up, I’d expect to see something weekly OR have access to a lot of already created content, plus new content 2-3 times a month (either of those options is fine), as well as something like a monthly wallpaper release.
If I could name one thing that, from a potential patron’s perspective, seems to be holding back a LOT of Patreon accounts, it would be fear.
It’s clear on a lot of accounts that the artist fears the time investment of the account, which is understandable. The best way to combat that is to first decide if you really want to do it; don’t have one foot in the boat and one foot on the dock, or you won’t see much reward. Second, be creative in coming up with ways to make content out of stuff you’d be doing anyway and remember that yeah, patrons really do want to see the stuff that you think is uninteresting.
I hope that was helpful!