Seeking Advice on Starting a Patreon by Kobi LaCroix

This is something I've been thinking about for a long time but have let sit because I've had little time and energy to figure out how to articulate all my questions and concerns. Basically, I don't want to set up anything unless I know that it'll be worth my while, that I can do it competently and responsibly, and that I'm doing it for the right reasons.

One reason I've hesitated to use Patreon is that I believe that one should only consider crowdfunding a project after they've exhausted every reasonable method of funding it out-of-pocket. Unfortunately, I have painfully limited out-of-pocket options. I've had no job since May of 2011, no job experience outside of food service, and no college degree; I can't see myself landing even temp work in my situation. I have other income sources, such as disability, commissions, t-shirts and other items on Redbubble, music on Bandcamp and the FuMP, and occasionally selling possessions that I no longer need. Aside from the first two, though, I only gain small and infrequent incomes from those sources.

Patreon seems like an attractive source of additional income, but I can think of a couple reasons that it might not work for me. My work doesn't have a very broad appeal, and I don't produce frequently and consistently enough.

Although I have produced works with more mainstream appeal, it's the weird multi/liquid/tf stuff that I've gained a reputation for. Granted, it does have an audience, and it has gotten me a few dozen loyal fans, but is it really enough? Some have said that I should build a sizable portfolio of mainstream art and built an audience around that before setting up on Patreon. As for the lack of production, I can pin it at least partly on my anxiety over my financial instability. Yes, I understand that I'd be more financially stable if I produced more frequently, thus reducing my anxiety, but my anxiety doesn't understand that, and one does not simply shut off anxiety by throwing logic at it.

My music probably has a wider appeal than my art, but I haven't released a new song in nearly four years. Most of my musical efforts have gone into playing keyboards for a local prog rock called band Gamma Repeater. I haven't done a very good job promoting the band, though, so I suspect that a fair percentage of my fans have assumed that I've simply given up on music. On top of that is the fact that due to lack of cross-promotion, there is almost no overlap between those who know me as an artist and those who know me as a musician, so most fans of my visual art have no idea that I ever did music in the first place. I do have fans from the FuMP and Dementia Radio, and other FuMP artists have gone out of their way to promote my work and help me financially (and for that I'm eternally grateful), but I haven't been active in that community for nearly three years, and I worry that they won't take me seriously if I start asking for funding for my music after doing nothing for so long.

These are problems that I can probably overcome, and I'm already making an effort to put out work more frequently. I just don't know if I should wait until I'm on better footing, or if my fears are completely unfounded.

Another fear I have is that even if I *am *good and produce good work regularly, simply having a Patreon campaign won't guarantee that anyone will back me. My fiancee, Threetails Threetails, has had abysmal luck with Patreon. Now, in my openly biased opinion, I think that her work is very high quality and deserves better support than it's getting. And it may simply be harder for authors to get backing than it is for artists or musicians, but the fact that it's gone so poorly for her makes me pessimistic about my own chances.

That being said, I also have reasons to be optimistic. Most of forms of crowdfunding creativity involve setting a definite time period for funding a specific project and only work if the artist already has a significantly large and loyal following. With Patreon, however, the funding is continuous. This means fewer worries about meeting deadlines and building an audience beforehand. One wouldn't necessarily have to wait until after they've built a huge following to set up a Patreon and have it pay off eventually. Of course, this is assuming that Patreon doesn't have minimum funding requirements or automatically shut down underperforming accounts after a certain amount of time.

As such, Patreon best suits ongoing projects that don't generate their own income, such as webcomics and podcasts. There are things I'd like to do for which no other form of funding exists. I've had a few comic ideas that I'd like to realize. I specifically have a story idea involving Kex and the House of Bliss that I think would be a fun read. I've got pieces of letter art here and there that I'd love to expand into full-fledged fonts, and I could also apply my letting skills to logos and posters. I have songs that I'd like to record but have had to put off due to equipment failures and difficulty finding recording space. I have many projects in mind that would likely take weeks or months of intense effort.

There are two ways to get paid on Patreon: One is to set up time-based payments, such as monthly, weekly, daily, etc. The other is to charge per work produced. Both of these models carry risk and potential for abuse. A time-based model wouldn't suit an artist who produces slowly and infrequently, whereas a product-based model wouldn't suit an artist who rapidly produces poor-quality work. The latter method sounds more suitable for the way I work, though it would require tighter rules for the quality and type of work I produce. The other upside of this method is that backers wouldn't have to pay a cent until I actually produced something, so they wouldn't have to fear that they've wasted their money on vaporware.

Another thing I have to consider is what kind of work I'll be doing. I don't feel comfortable simply asking people to give me money do to whatever the I want to, even though some artists do just that. I also expect that some of my friends, fans, and other potential backers wouldn't feel be comfortable with me doing that, either. Theoretically, I could ask for funds to pick my nose for twelve hours a day, but Patreon would probably frown upon that, and I probably wouldn't get any takers, anyway. I think I'll have a much better opportunity for success if I produce art around a clear and logical theme.

I'm in a fairly unusual situation in that I could potentially set this up for either art or music. Patreon has separate categories for art and music, so it seems that if I seek funding for both, I'll have to set up two separate campaigns. I don't know if I can do that or whether it would confuse too many potential backers. Overdiversifying could make me seem indecisive and unable to make a worthwhile commitment to any project.

The last concern I have is what to do if I'm lucky enough to actually start making serious money. I'm currently receiving Social Security Disability for Asperger's Syndrome, though possibly not for much longer, as they've recently required me to undergo a full medical reevaluation. I don't know how many other artists are in the same boat, but I would be grateful to hear from any of them about how it has affected or could possibly affect their benefits. Then, of course, there's the hornet's nest of tax issues that every freelance artist eventually has to deal with. So far I haven't made enough on commissions or other sales to warrant mention, but that day will come soon, and sweet jeebus will my anxiety flare up when that happens.

I'm sorry if this seems long-winded, but I just want to have all my bases covered. If anyone can think of something important that I've missed, I'd be glad to hear it.

Seeking Advice on Starting a Patreon

Kobi LaCroix

8 June 2015 at 19:02:43 MDT

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    Discount Threetail's experiences with patreon. Her following is too small to see any substantial success, regardless of the quality of her work.

    That's because ultimately crowdfunding successes are dependent on the audience. Make sure the audience knows about it (plug it everywhere, constantly), make it easy for them to contribute, and regularly give those who contribute a valuable reward. Reach new people as much as possible because your patrons will come and go, and the ones that go must be replaced.

    Your product is solid, whatever you make will probably be cool (judging from the work ive seen on the kobi____.com site and your weasyl account). The bit that makes your patreon sustainable is your marketing.

    Here's an experiment you can do right now:
    1. Make a one question survey. The question is "Would you subscribe to my patreon if I made one? yes/no." (I'd use Google drive and make a new "form" survey). Maybe another question asking for their email address and permission to email them if you make a patreon.
    2. Post the survey everywhere you have an online presence: here, FA, DA, kobi____.com, etc. Share it directly (email, IM) with anyone who has ever actually given you money for a product/service in the past.
    3. Plug the survey until you've got, I dunno, 50 responses (yes or no) at least (that would be 15% of your followers here on weasyl, but I'm sure your FA account, assuming you have one, has far more followers).
    4. The number of yes responses you get is probably pretty close to the reception you'll receive if you opened a patreon right now, though perhaps somewhat optimistic since many folks have bigger hearts than wallets.

    If the responses are overwhelmingly in the 'yes' camp, you're leaving money on the table. Open the patreon now, send an email to everyone who's email you captured in step #1 with the link. Ask your patrons what they expect in return. Pass GO and collect $200.

    If the number of yesses you get is underwhelming... work on your personal brand. Watch your popularity metrics (site visits, sales, downloads, followers, etc) and do what you can to grow them. If you see more folks expressing interest in your work, go ahead with the patreon and see what happens.