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What is Patreon and Why Should You Care?

Illustrative editorial of Patreon website homepage

You’ve probably heard Patreon mentioned on your favorite podcast or YouTube channel. And at one point, you’ve probably also wondered what exactly it is, how it works, and why your favorite content creators are always buzzing about it. We dug into every little corner of Patreon to figure all of this out so you can be in the know.

What is Patreon?

Patreon is a platform that helps over 200,000 creative professionals earn or supplement their income directly from their most dedicated subscribers for the art they create. Many creators on the site reciprocate by offering patrons exclusive Patreon-only perks—like early access to content, shout-outs, live chats or hangouts, and other things—that only those who have donated can access and enjoy.

In fact, the word Patreon comes from the word “patronage,” which is defined as “support, encouragement, privilege, or financial aid that an organization or individual bestows to another.” Back in the day, patrons were the main reason that many creatives types such as writers, composers, painters, or sculptors were able to stay afloat and have enough money to pursue their craft.

Patreon is the modern-day equivalent. It might be the sole source of income for some creators, while others may simply use it in tandem with sponsorships, ad reads, merch, tours, and other income-generating options. It’s a way for creators to collect a little extra income that they can put toward future projects that you and other fans can enjoy. It’s similar to crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter, but with a focus on continual support for one creator rather than 60-day funding for a product.

Donating to a creator’s Patreon is an easy way to show them how much their efforts mean to you. It shows them that you like what they do so much that you’re willing to shell out some of your own hard-earned money to them so that they can keep doing what they do, and it ensures that you’ll have more amazing content from them to enjoy in the future. It’s a wonderful concept, actually.

Who Are the Most Popular Patreon Creators?

The service is popular among all types of creators and influencers, but podcasters and YouTubers are by far the most successful users on the platform. Podcasts like True Crime Obsessed and Chapo Trap House have over 35,000 supporters each (the latter of which earns over $164,000 per month, according to Graphtreon).

Other popular Patreon creators include big stars like YouTuber Philip DeFranco, musician Talib Kweli, and animated educational YouTube channel Kurzgesagt, as well as smaller creators such as online entertainers Kinda Funny and inclusive online book group Noname Book Club.

How Does Patreon Work?

Ten dollar bill being put into an envelope

Simply put, creators can set up a page for recurring donations and offer perks in return, and backers can pledge money to their favorite creators each month and enjoy the perks afforded them. Every creator’s profile, reward tiers, and perks differ, of course, but that’s all part of the fun. You can access Patreon from the web or on its iOS or Android apps.

For Patrons

If your favorite creator has a Patreon, they most likely have it linked somewhere that’s easy for you to access. Otherwise, you can easily search for a Patreon to support on the site. Once you find one that you like, it’s easy to view all available pledge tiers (along with the rewards for each) and make a decision.

Make sure you double-check which billing type a creator uses before signing up—monthly or per-creation. This way you can get an idea of how often you’ll be charged and budget accordingly. Monthly means that you’ll be charged a flat amount (and receive the accompanying perks) each month like clockwork. Per-creation means that you’ll be charged whenever the creator releases a new creation. Payment is not set up to pull on a regular basis.

Patreon membership tiers example

You’ll be able to view the selected tier description, applicable sales tax, and subscription renewal date before completing your payment. Patreon gives you the option to cancel or change your membership tier whenever you want.

For Creators

No matter whether you create podcasts, comic books, music, illustrations, or anything else, Patreon makes it easy to connect with your fans and earn enough money to keep doin’ what you’re doin’. The site is also bot-, ad-, and troll-free, so you can focus on your fans without worrying about fake profiles causing you grief.

You have two billing options to choose from while setting up your page: charging your patrons monthly or per individual creation. Monthly is the most common option selected, as it provides a steady flow of cash for you and provides benefits your patrons can enjoy on a regular basis. It’s the best choice for most creators, especially those who release new content daily or weekly.

In contrast, the per-creation option means you’ll charge your backers every time you release something new. So, for example, backers at the $2-tier level will pay that each time you put out a new video, so if three videos are released in a month, they’ll pay $6 total. It’s a better choice for those who only release things once every quarter or so.

You’ll also be able to set up multiple donation tiers for your patrons to choose from. These can range from budget-friendly $1 or $5 tiers up to $1,000+ tiers for high rollers depending on what you feel comfortable with and what your goals are. Having a large range of tiers makes it easy for backers to choose an amount they feel comfortable with. Plus, with rewards offered at each tier, it might entice your patrons to pay a little more just to get a cool perk.

It’s completely free to get started on Patreon as a creator. You won’t be charged until you start earning on the site. You can then enroll in one of the platform’s three pricing plans: Lite, Pro, and Premium. Each charges you a different percentage amount (along with the industry standard rate for payment processing) but offers you a variety of tools and options in return.

Quote from a Patreon creator

The Lite plan takes 5 percent of your monthly Patreon income and gives you a hosted creator page, patron communication tools, and Patreon workshops. It’s the most lightweight plan, with “simple tools to set up recurring support from your fans,” and is ideal for smaller creators and beginners.

The Pro plan takes 8 percent of your monthly Patreon income, gives you everything from the Lite plan, and offers you “everything you need to build a thriving membership business that provides meaningful income for you and a rewarding experience for your biggest fans.” This plan includes the membership tiers, analytics and insights, special offers promo tools, creator-led workshops, unlimited app integrations, and priority customer support.

Lastly, the Premium plan takes 12 percent, gives you everything in the Pro plan, and offers “dedicated coaching and support for established creators and creative businesses, plus premium features that save time and reward your patrons.” At this level, you’ll get a dedicated partner manager, merch for membership, and team accounts.

Each plan includes business tools, flexible payouts, creator-first education, and built-in patron support. It also includes the ability to connect directly with your patrons and a convenient mobile app for iOS and Android (so that you can manage your account even when you’re away from your computer). It boasts custom RSS feed support and Discord integration as well.

Patreon supports recurring billing, recovers failed payments, offers fraud protection, and handles patron questions. It offers flexible processing fees, too. The standard rate is 2.9 percent + $0.30 per successful payment over $3, and the micropayment rate (for successful payment of $3 or less) is 5 percent + $0.10. However, payments from patrons outside the United States using PayPal will incur an additional 1 percent surcharge.

A Final Thought

online donate key on computer keyboard

For patrons, Patreon is clear-cut: Support your favorite creators and help fund their future projects that you and other fans can enjoy. You can rest easy knowing that your favorite artists can live comfortably and have the means to keep producing the stuff you like.

For creators, Patreon gives you a unique way to connect with your most dedicated fans as well as another income stream to help you keep the lights on and continue making your wonderful art. It also means that you won’t have to rely as heavily on other marketing ventures, like merch and YouTube ads.

It’s clear that everyone benefits from Patreon. It’s a great way to keep the arts alive, and even to help foster a community around the best creatives.

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Suzanne Humphries Suzanne Humphries
Suzanne Humphries was a Commerce Editor for Review Geek. She has over seven years of experience across multiple publications researching and testing products, as well as writing and editing news, reviews, and how-to articles covering software, hardware, entertainment, networking, electronics, gaming, apps, security, finance, and small business. Read Full Bio »