My name is Haruhi and I’m a leading consultant for creatives on Patre- ah, no, I’m just kidding you. It’s in the title but I feel like the very first thing I need to establish is that I’m not a zealous Patreon user. I have an account, but only really to fund other creators when I can afford to. What that means is that the knowledge I’m going to share is coming from a front facing perspective, not the nitty-gritty ‘bar charts and tables’ you’d get from breaking down the numbers behind the scenes. Acknowledge the limitations that entails, but also remember that everything I highlight could therefore be spotted by your target audience as well.
1 – Is what you’re doing essential to anyone?
Going straight for the gut punch. It’s an important question to start asking yourself though. Frankly what defines ‘essential’ is dependent on the needs of the market audience available. If it were so easy to list off what they want, so that you could match and compare, I would be selling my knowledge to the nearest business leader or doing it myself. However what you can do is open yourself up to a bit of healthy introspection, which will require a sizable amount of honesty over your current mindset. Think about how many people come to you for the certain type of content you produce and why.
Is your personality inseparable from the work you produce, or could anyone’s name have been slapped on it?
Are the topics you write about something everyone does, or is it rare, maybe even first of its kind?
Does your work have a limit (i.e will it run out of steam), or can you constantly find new ways to evolve and adapt it without sacrificing the original intent?
I’d love to say something like “listicles get boring while you’ll always have new series to review” but that’s not entirely true. In fact some of the most successful anime youtubers such as MistyChronexia and BestAnimeTops have built massive audiences off the back of lists, while more typical review and analysis approaches waver in much smaller numbers.
As I previously stated, there’s not generally a rule about what will and won’t work, but it takes only a cursory glance at other creators to see a common trend. So how about we do a case study?
Anime Feminist: 215 patrons / $758 per month
AniFem works because it fills a gap in the market for content explicitly made for and directed by Feminist anime fans. There was no years of building a community for AniFem; as soon as the site went up, users flocked to support them. Anime fans have been gasping for an inclusive feminist space, making AniFem’s presence essential to anyone feeling isolated by the lack of LGBTQ+ perspectives in the anime scene. The fact that their supporter base has stuck around shows that they are no gimmick.
Sakugabooru & Sakuga Blog: 158 patrons / $939 per month
Sakuga is a concept that many people have a subconscious understanding of, yet fewer still have set out to both appreciate and celebrate. Sakuga blog works because learning how the anime we enjoy so much are brought to life is a selling point that connects with both fans and critics alike. Sakuga blog offers a step up from the fanmode gushing of “omg it’s so cool” while avoiding the database style listing of “X did this, Y did that”, carefully balancing accessibility with explanatory depth. Nobody is doing it better than them, which is why they are essential.
TheCanipaEffect: 69 patrons / $369 per month
Canipa is one of the few people brave enough to spotlight individual studio’s and creatives in order to cast a light on their accomplishments. Rather than falling into the same trap the aforementioned Wikipedia-types do, Canipa combines visual presentation and narrative commentary to weave a story from scrapped together details on the anime industry. For those wanting to avoid written articles, or simply have a penchant for video format content, Canipa is essentially singular.
The core similarity, which I’ve tried drumming in repeatedly, is that through various circumstances they’ve made themselves essential, building audiences that treat them as such.
Yes, anyone could talk about anime through a feminist lens, but would they attract the same loyal viewership without AniFem’s commitment to diversifying both the content and voices they host? Without AniFem’s transparency and constant user feedback?
Yes, anyone could write about Sakuga, but would they really attract viewers without the same level of research and openness? Without awareness to the dangers of publishing inaccuracies?
Yes, anyone could make industry spotlights, but would they have the same appeal without Canipa’s approach to editing? Without his dedication and respect for the artistry?
It was easy for me to come up with reasons for these creator’s successes, because that is what they inspire and how they present themselves. It you are essential to your audience, then they will be able to tell you why they follow you with just as much ease. If they (or you) cannot come up with a single reason why someone should check out your content over someone else’s, then finding success will be much harder. Not impossible by any stretch, but being interchangeable doesn’t work in your favour when asking for people to give you money.
It’s important not to try and mold yourself into whatever niche people crave, but learning how to become a necessity will likely require you to step out of the comfort zone. Bring in an aspirational flair to your work. Make it funny enough to keep people coming back. Don’t be afraid of getting fixated on a single interest- sometimes a representative is exactly what people are looking for. Experiment.
Again, I can’t tell you how to be essential, but hopefully I’ve given you enough to think about.
2 – Is your content regular?
This might surprise people, but you don’t have to post everyday to be regular. Regularity is defined more by consistency than frequency. In fact TheCanipaEffect, who I mentioned in the last section, typically only posts once a fortnight. Some popular writers such as Frog-Kun, SubtleDoctor and Formeinfullbloom fit a similar bill. The path to success is more about posting right when people expect it, rather than hitting the extremes of “I will bury you under all these posts” and “I am the master of Intonjutsu techniques”.
Regularity requires balance. The benefit of being a creator is that, more often than not, you set your own limits. Don’t let your work suffer for the sake of meeting arbitrary deadlines. Avoid agonizing over publicizing your work if you can’t think of an excuse that you’d be happy accepting off someone else. Try not to confuse self-care with procrastination. If timekeeping is a serious issue for you, explore ways to manage it, whether that be planners or effort/reward systems.
I say all this because Patreon requires regularity. So much so that the payment model is based around subscribing long-term rather than one time contributions. Since it can be set up as per creation or per week/month, there is no one-size fits all, but as a general rule if you’re not making something at least once a month, you might as well have vanished. Social media can help update your followers on progressions, but they still expect to see the result of your blood, sweat and tears. As long as you make the flexible ranges of your production cycle clear, then people will have no quarrel committing their wallets to the cause.
3 – Do you market yourself enough?
Yes, I am an enlightened Patreon expert. Bow before my infinite knowledge. Is what I have authority to say because I’ve seen way too many of you not putting yourselves out there. Advertise like a desperate Tinder user. Hang up glowing neon signs pointing to your Patreon page. Tell your grandparents and their friends. ‘Whatever works’ is your new mantra.
Yes, there is such a thing as being obnoxious, however it will take a lot before you ever get to that point. People can’t complain you post too much if they are auto-piloting their way past your fantastic page in the first place. At least that is the mentality you need to have. If you don’t have confidence that the only reason people aren’t flocking to support you is because they haven’t yet seen your stuff, then do you even have the confidence to be running a Patreon?
Okay, so that’s not exactly equivalent, but when your content isn’t being marketed enough it’s because you are getting in the way of it. Break the shackles, let the world know that you exist. A desire to share something you create is born from pride, so take stock in that understanding. The shame of not doing enough is stronger than the embarrassment of saying “Hello, World!”
The worst reason people can state for not donating to your Patreon is because they forgot it exists. That isn’t their fault if you didn’t take care to remind them. At the end of your write up, on the side of your website, in your twitter bio or at the end of a video. Give it visibility. Do your best.
4 – Do you engage with your target audience?
This is an oft overlooked point that creators miss out on.
You have followers because your work is good. They may even support you with money for it. They will almost certainly have been sharing your stuff on their social media accounts. So why aren’t you engaging with them? Communities are built. It can happen very quickly or over many years, however they never happen by chance. There is always someone there putting in the hours, building a platform or encouraging people to join. You need to be that person.
People are much more willing to part with their money if it’s for someone they trust. There is no better way to earn their trust than to get talking to them. Let them get to know you, whether it’s just the ‘work you’ or the ‘full you’, and make a genuine effort to understand them as well. It will help them to make a decision if they know the person they’re going to be giving money to.
There is of course the fair warning about forming attachments. While I can’t be the one to decide if it’s okay for you to be friends with a supporter, as a matter of best interest you shouldn’t be having relationships founded on monetary transactions. I’m not trying to imply anything risque by that, only that some people might come to the conclusion that they can “buy” your time and attention, which should not be happening. Do yourself a favour by following the work life =/= personal life rule.
With proper boundaries this process can be quite healthy for you, as it prevents you attracting unwanted supporters (think: nazi’s) who might mistakenly believe you endorse or are otherwise complicit in their activities. Granted, you can’t police who sees your content, however undesirables are less likely to be part of your community if they know you don’t support them.
You can also use the engagement to gather feedback on what projects to work on, improvements to make or ways you can give back to the community you now have. Knowing that you value their input and proactively demonstrating your commitment to accommodating fans will keep people invested far longer than Patreon’s who don’t follow suit.
5 – Do you network?
This is slightly similar to the marketing point, however it functions on a different dynamic. In this arena it’s not ‘creator/consumer’ but ‘creative/creative’. Networking requires you to mingle with your inspired equals, who may or may not trump you in audience size, viewership and engagement.
Fear not! Because that’s entirely the point. Networking is all about seeking out people who work in the same field and figuring out how you can support each other- and maybe even become friends. Warning: I don’t want you to adopt the idea of being a manipulator. Networking, at least in the anisphere, shouldn’t really be about setting a target then playing up common interests in order to get on their good side. There are more than enough people out there at all levels of interaction for you to able to find someone genuinely like minded.
Once you do find these people, don’t be afraid to ask for things. Saying “Hey, can you read my post and maybe share it on Twitter if you like it?” shouldn’t be an inappropriate thing to ask, providing it’s not all that you do. After all, these folks are best equipped to understanding your position; as creators themselves they likely had someone promoting their work when they were on the up and up.
Finding the intersection between the communities you’ve both raised can be a fantastic opportunity to grow them even further. It’s often a symbiotic relationship that can expand into other opportunities down the road. Podcasts, collaborative works and resource sharing have all stemmed from two or more people networking together. That. Is. Worth. It.
If I’ve not yet convinced you to try out some degree of networking then maybe this will persuade you:
You can vent to them about that one asshole that keeps commenting on your stuff.
6 – Are you committed?
Not a trick question…but are you? Really? How long have you been at this? How long do you want to be doing it? Have you made long-term considerations? How much does creating matter to you? How much are you willing to sacrifice for it? What if it doesn’t work out?
These might seem like stress-inducing questions, and in a lot of ways that’s precisely what they are. That’s not my modus operandi though. It’s simply far too important to neglect the consideration of commitment before starting a Patreon. You might not be considering it as a full time job, in fact you probably already have something supplementing an income, however you will be taking payments for your work. That’a big deal.
I can only speak for myself, but I need to be able to respect myself if I’m going to take money off someone. If I’m not committed to the task at hand then I just can’t respect myself if I start using it as a way to ask for money. They are paying for a service which I am not fully prepared to provide. This is especially true if I disappear for months at a time. Yes, they won’t get charged for unproduced work, but what was the point in setting a Patreon up without commitment in the first place? That’s the bottom line.
Like most things in life, to be successful you need to make sacrifices. These can be little things like changing your sleep pattern, or much more intrusive things, such as giving up a job you’ve held for a long time. Regardless of what your current circumstances are, it is worth taking a long look at what you need to do in order to get to where you want to be. Once you have a mental pathway figured out, throw in some hypothetical obstacles for good measure. If you have reservations then now would be the best time to identify – and if possible – resolve them as well.
You don’t have to a backup plan for “What happens to my blog when alien Cthulhu sharks rise up from Jupiter to attack Earth?” but it would be wise for “If this doesn’t work out will I end up homeless?” or “Can this hinder my future employability?”. Like I said, not everyone is looking to commit that far for Patreon, and you definitely don’t need it to be your job, just be sure you know what you are getting into beforehand.
7 – Do you have a Patreon account?
Seriously. You should get on that. You won’t be making those sweet, sweet cash earnings without an account to direct people to. This is actually an obstacle for some people. They do everything in their power to prepare themselves for a transition to Patreon, yet fall at the hurdle of making the account. Don’t give in to fear of failure or the trap of over preparing. No matter how much effort you put into getting ready, Patreon is ultimately still quite unpredictable. Don’t worry about trying to finely tune the experience like you would a radio. Truthfully you will likely have to make some changes and that’s okay, but with the right mentality you can continue to grow.
One small step for you, one giant leap for weebkind. Maybe your wallet too.
That’s about all I wanted to cover with this post. Perhaps you found something useful hidden in the dribble I just unleashed upon the world. If so, you’re welcome. If you want to offer me a % of your Patreon earnings I wouldn’t mind that either. Just sayin’. You know. Would help me out…
Thanks for reading!