If you follow any of my other social media outlets, you’ve seen me posting an awful lot about Patreon recently. I feel like there’s a lot of folks who don’t know what the platform is and even more artists/creatives that don’t know how to utilize it as part of their business model. So today, I’m going to dig a little deeper into WHAT Patreon is, why I use it, and how I use it in my art business.
What Patreon IS and is not
One of the most common misunderstandings I have to correct is what Patreon is not. With the dozens of crowd funding options out there, most folks I come across think that Patreon is another GoFundMe/IndieGoGo type of platform based on single donations. It is nothing like the rest of the crowdfunding sites that you are most likely familiar with. The best way I have found to describe Patreon, is that it is like a subscription service. It is a platform that allows a patron/fan/supporter to support an artist. Folks sign up to be patrons for a variety of reasons – they like what the artist is creating and want to support that dream, they like the available perks, the like the artist and the art but can’t afford a larger piece of art… etc. There are 2 different ways of support available for the artist to chose from – pay per creation or monthly fee. I personally use the monthly fee option. When my patrons sign up to support me, they are subscribing to the perks that I have available for them based on the various pledge levels. From exclusive content and behind the scenes videos to miniature sculptures and creative business consulting services, the perks get higher in value the larger the monthly contribution. As an artist, I much prefer this model and platform because it allows me to EARN my patrons support rather than feeling like I’m accepting a hand out in the form of a donation.
Why I use Patreon
My biggest why right now is the drive to get my handicap accessible studio built. Currently, my studio is in our basement. And while I am eternally grateful to have a space to create my sculptures it has proven over the last 2 years to not be the optimal space for me to create. The lack of sufficient climate control, ventilation, lighting, etc; makes being productive, efficient, and creative difficult.
One of the biggest things I’m looking forward to when I get my studio built, is having the ability to teach classes! I LOVE teaching my art class at the Travis Mills Foundation. i want to be able to offer that art as therapy class to my community. I want to create a gathering place for my community that brings people together. Not to mention being able to add this additional income producing activity will greatly increase my own independence.
My reasons for wanting…no…needing… my handicap accessible studio go much deeper than just a new art studio for me.
Below you’ll see a sample of rough plans for my studio. I look at these every day to remind me what I’m working so hard for.
Everything will be on wheels – from the shelves to the work stations. Unfortunately, the software I was using doesn’t have ceramic studio equipment, so tables are acting as placeholders for my slab roller, pugmill, and spray booth. There will be a small bathroom so I will have running water…a small gallery space…an office space away from the clay and the dust that likes to ruin technology…and the best part….CLIMATE CONTROL! Ya never realize or appreciate how important that is until your body can no longer regulate its temperature well enough on its own. I only have about a 10* window where I’m actually comfortable and feeling my best.
I have rough price estimates for all the supplies, material, and equipment…but I’ll get into that in future posts.
How to Use patreon
The biggest mistake I see young/new artists making is that they use the “throw spaghetti on the ceiling and see what sticks method” of trying to sell their art. While there is a LOT of trial and error while you are finding your niche, your ideal client, identifying a broad market, et al; an artist still needs to go about their business is a more linear way. When the throwing spaghetti method doesn’t work, I’ve seen many artists just stop trying. The same holds true for those trying to integrate Patreon into their business. One of the first things that should happen is that you need to articulate HOW you will use Patreon in your art business. For me, I use it as residual income, and a focus group. I run new ideas by my patrons in our private group, I ask for input and bring them into the artistic process to provide that experience for them, and I don’t rely on it to pay my bills. It is extra right now. Which is why when I first started my Patreon account, I used it almost like a savings account. I had no intention of trying to get my studio built any sooner than 2020 (my realistic goal). Well, now that I’m motivated to get it done sooner, I’m really working at building my following on Patreon. I’m using it to build a community of “raving fans” as my coach Lisa Robin Young would say.
The biggest piece of advice on best practices is to be REALISTIC. I have several sculptor colleagues who earn well over $1,000/month through their Patreon account. They have found their ICA (ideal client avatar) and are rocking it! That is something I aspire to absolutely, but I haven’t yet breached $100/mo. I think one of the things we as artists do is we set high expectations and then flounder or fold our hand when things don’t work like we want them to or as quickly as we’d like. Patience and perseverance are key when building your art business.
As with anything, Patreon has the potential to be a great tool for your art business. With a little bit of elbow grease and outside of the box thinking, it has the opportunity to serve you and your art career well. Check out the main Patreon page and just search different genres. People across the world are doing some pretty amazing things.
Shawna is a ceramic sculptor and mixed media artist who loves sharing her passion with others. She is a teaching artist and a strong advocate for the arts being accessible to all. To support her endeavors, consider subscribing to her members-only group! There are a variety of subscription levels starting at just $5/mo