Five things you can sell on Patreon
Alright. You have an audience. You have strong free content, and you regularly publish so people know what to expect from you and when to expect it. (This is part two of a three part article, by the way. If you haven’t made it this far yet, maybe check out this article first!)
You need income and your fans need a way to give you money. It’s about time to start a Patreon.
The next big question, then is:
“What should I sell?”
In my last article, I mentioned the following options:
- Teaching Material
- Exclusive Content
- Exclusive Merchandise
- Access to the Artist
One thing I touched on briefly is not having a bonus offering and using your Patreon strictly as a means to allow your audience to give you money in exchange for the excellent content that you’re already giving away for free. This is a special case that you can only really use if your work is just that good and people are just that interested in your content. It’s up to you if you just want to go the donation route, but at least for my own purposes I believe it’s better to offer something in exchange for people’s money.
Before we talk about reward categories, we have to think about a critical category division that these rewards fit into. You have to think about scalability. Basically, scalability is basically the ability take a single product or service and expand it to be able to serve a very large volume of customers.
Scaling things to be larger depends on the cost of the product. Cost, as related to scalability, is thought of in terms of time costs and money costs. There are more granular factors associated with scalability, but these are going to be your two major concerns when designing your Patreon rewards.
Non-scalable rewards are basically hard-locked to your ability to spend your own time and energy on something. Offering any rewards at all takes up some amount of time and energy, but non-scalable rewards place a greater demand than scalable rewards.
Remember that it’s okay to do things that are not scalable. It continues to establish a human connection with your patrons that makes them less likely to give up on you because of a feeling of distance.
This is a neat one. Everybody knows what a commission is. It’s bespoke work for a client that most often serves a personal desire rather than a professional need.
This one is something you must be careful with. You can only offer a product that gives you an appropriate return for your time without insulting whatever amount of money you’ve asked for a commission.
This is a tricky one because, at the end of the day, while you may determine the price, the person who gives you money is the one who determines the value.
Value is determined by the client, full stop.
As such, a low price tag on your work brings you many customers but messes with your schedule, where a high price tag affords you more money per piece of work you commit to, but less customers. This rule applies whether you are doing patreon work or just plain commission work, and you just have to be really thoughtful about your business model when thinking about whether you want to sell high to a few people, or sell low to a lot of people..
My personal suggestion is to price this option higher and limit the slots available for this product. Find a price that only lets in the kind of customer you want to work for, and only allow as many commissions as are healthy for your lifestyle. This should go without saying, but it’s also critical to have a strong system for accepting and working on commissions already in place.
Access to the Artist
The first thing you have to deal with here is the question of whether this access you are granting in exchange for money is something that is specifically intended to improve your patrons in some way, or if it’s just because you want a paywall around your discord chatroom that’s full of nothing but memes anyway.
If the merit of getting access to you is just a higher priority for the patron in the email inbox, or a premium discord chat with no real purpose, I’m not sure that I would advise you to go this route. You’re basically telling people to pay to be friends with you at this rate, and you really can’t perpetuate that.
Access to the artist ideally should be a form of paid consultation. This option offers the best return for you and your patron when they are able to come to you and learn from your craft and ask questions that you can give specific tailored answers to from your expertise.
Because a patron is asking for your time and you are giving them tailored answers to their unique questions, this option should be a bit higher-priced. At the same time, ensure that your buyer can have confidence that they are receiving an appropriate return for the money they are spending on you.
Scalable rewards are really cool because you can find a way to offer one valuable thing to many people. It’s kind of like how if you write one book, you can print that book 100 times and sell those 100 books for 25 a piece, thereby making sales of 2500.
This is, effectively, product sales. Now all you have to do is figure out what product is suitable for you to produce, and what people are actually going to buy.
There may still be hard costs associated with the offering of scalable rewards, but rather than giving up your time, you’re most likely giving up a fraction of your sales to be able to support the hosting or production of your particular product. Still, if your pricing and sales are dialed in to sustainable numbers, then you stand to make more money at scale by offering to a lot of people, and to be able to do so at a far smaller time cost to you.
This is an extremely popular option, and very effective for highly skilled artists in just about any discipline.
People are always asking in some form or another if you will teach them art. This is how you can say yes to them even if you are unable to teach them directly.
You can record the process of creating work that you are already doing, or you can produce tutorials on topics or tasks that you have a lot of skill and experience in.
You can even teach people things about the business of art apart from the craft of art. If there’s something that you know how to do that other people don’t, that knowledge is marketable.
Document, host, and distribute via sales through Patreon.
This is a good one for people who produce animations or comics or games. People will pay to be first in line for or have exclusive access to really cool things that they care about.
If you’re making a game, this can mean access to early versions of the game.
If you’re making a comic, this can mean access to patron-only pages, or early access to pages, or both!
If you’re an animator, this can mean early access to your animations, or a small presence in those animations.
These aren’t the only options, but they more or less form the foundation that just about any artist can invent or build upon for their own purposes.
Now, this one is really cool but also a little more tricky because you have to actually produce merchandise somehow.
Still, people love the idea of possessing something that other people don’t. Something that there is only a few of on the earth, and nobody else can lay claim to.
This can be shirts, toys, accessories, honestly whatever you feel is possible to offer at the price point you are asking on your patreon. The sky is the limit insofar as you can choose to offer pretty much whatever, you just have to be mindful fo the fact that someone else has to pay for what you are offering. Be realistic about what people are actually buying from you, and at what prices. (And please, please, please don’t sell ridiculous things like your dog’s toenail clippings.)
Bonus Reward: Premium Community
This is because you’ve been such a good sport and read all the way here.
Premium community is a little different from what I was talking about in Access to the Artist where you’re basically asking people to pay money to be friends. Premium community has a goal in mind for that community, and the paywall serves as a filter to keep the quality of conversation high within that community.
Exceptions exist and that’s why you have moderators, but you can use this as a means of helping people make good quality connections around an important thing, like art.
Say for example, that you build a premium chat strictly for artists, where you are present, as well as any of your paying members.
People who are there and invested by way of their money are more inclined to be invested by way of their time and wisdom. The higher quality community means people will be more likely to help each other out, and the people will grow and develop as a result. And you can grant this community access to you with higher scalability than personal one-on-one time.
(A near-perfect example exists on seanwes.com where a business professional community exists and thrives, enabling a lot of good professional growth.)
It’s a lot to chew on for sure, but maybe this will help you get your gears turning on just what you can sell as a Patreon creator. It’s also not an exhaustive list, but if you can think of a kind of reward you’d like to talk about, feel free to contact me from the front page!
I also know we didn’t really talk very deeply about price. We’ll chat about that one in the near future in another article. There’s a lot to consider when it comes to how much money you should ask people to give you.
If you’re ready to talk about price, you can read part three here. If you’d like to be the first to read more articles about the business, craft, and philosophy of art, consider subscribing to the newsletter!