How to Make Money with Patreon [2021]: The Side Hustle for Creatives

If you have a loyal group of followers, you might be able to turn your podcast, video series, or other creative projects into a fully grown business.
Last updated May 18, 2021 | By Lindsay Frankel | Edited By Becca Borawski Jenkins
How to Make Money with Patreon

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Have you ever wondered whether you could make a living off your art or music?

If you’re a content creator and people follow you for the videos, podcasts, art, or music you publish, they might also be willing to financially support your continued endeavors. This could enable you to make money online and get paid for your time outside of a full-time job.

Patreon is a crowdfunding platform that allows fans of content creators to demonstrate their support. Some Patreon creators have been successful enough to rake in $200,000 per year through the site.

But before you start seeing dollar signs, know that you’ll need to create content that draws a significant following of supporters to earn big with this business model. Here is how Patreon works and a few tips to help you get started making money through this popular platform.

In this Patreon review

What is Patreon?

Patreon is a membership platform that allows creative people to build a recurring income stream for their work. It’s used by artists, musicians, podcasters, YouTubers, bloggers, and all kinds of people looking to get financial support from their fan base. Creators can offer access to exclusive content — such as videos, articles, live streams, or podcasts — in exchange for a monthly membership fee. The platform also allows you to communicate with fans directly and provide insight into your vision.

Patreon, headquartered in San Francisco, was founded in 2013 when musician Jack Conte brought the idea to his college roommate, Sam Yam. Jack had been struggling to monetize his YouTube channel. Within six weeks, they launched a service that could help solve the financing problems that creatives often face. Now, more than 200,000 creators use the site to receive support from over 6 million patrons. $2 billion has been paid out to creators thus far.

How does Patreon work?

You’ll start by signing up for a Patreon account and setting up a creator page, where you can offer exclusive content to your members. Patreon offers starter kits to make the setup process easier. These are template pages designed to help you fill in the blanks and launch quickly.

During the setup process, you’ll tell Patreon what kind of content you create, choose your currency, and save a custom URL. Next, you’ll add your profile picture, cover image, links to your social media accounts, and even an intro video if you’d like to introduce yourself. If you have a pro account, you can set up tiers with different incentives that might appeal to your members.

It’s totally free to start using Patreon. The company makes money by taking a percentage of creators’ earnings plus a payment processing fee. That percentage depends on the subscription level you choose. Here is how the tiers and pricing work:

Plan Features Fee
Lite
  • Hosted creator page
  • Communication tools
  • Patreon workshops
5% plus processing
Pro
  • Everything in the Lite plan, plus:
  • Membership tiers
  • Analytics and insights
  • Special Offers promo tool
  • Creator-led workshops
  • Unlimited app integrations
  • Priority customer support
8% plus processing
Premium
  • Everything in the Pro plan, plus:
  • Dedicated partner manager
  • Merch for membership
  • Team accounts
12% plus processing

You can choose to offer membership plans to your patrons or request payment for each exclusive post you release. You’ll be able to offer your members perks like gated content, members-only livestreams, exclusive forums, integrated Discord live chat, exclusive newsletters, live-streamed workshops, discounts and merchandise, and more. There are publishing tools suited for every type of creator.

Who can make money with Patreon?

Content creators of all kinds can use Patreon to get support from fans, including:

  • Podcasters
  • Video creators
  • Musicians
  • Visual artists
  • Communities
  • Writers and journalists
  • Game creators
  • Nonprofits
  • Educators
  • Local businesses

Patreon publishes everything from political podcasts to adult games to musicians like Amanda Palmer. Caitlin Doughty is a mortician and YouTube personality who creates “death positive content,” and the True Crime Obsessed podcast has a whopping 44,740 patrons as of May 18, 2021. And then there are creators like The Normies, which offers a variety of content, from comedy sketches to video reviews.

To create an account, you’ll need to be at least 13 years old. To join a creator’s membership as a patron or provide membership as a creator, you’ll need to be at least 18 years old or have permission from a parent or guardian. There are no other requirements, but you will need a bank account to receive payments.

We asked Ben Taylor, successful Patreon creator and owner of Homeworkingclub.com, if there’s anything else you need to get started making money with Patreon. To be successful, Taylor notes that you need to have a following outside of Patreon. “My main tip would be to think of where you’re going to get your audience from — and you do NEED an existing audience. I already had 10,000 email subscribers, so finding my initial group of members was easy, but getting people to sign up to a Patreon group ‘cold’ would be much more difficult.”

How much can you earn with Patreon?

The amount you can earn with Patreon depends on how many dedicated followers you have before signing up because that will translate into the number of patrons you can potentially get on board with you. However, there are plenty of success stories. For example, according to the website Graphtreon, which tracks followings and earnings for every Patreon creator, The Tom Dillon Show earns just over $130,000 per month with Patreon.

Patreon estimates that about 15% of a creator’s following will click through to Patreon from their public content, whether it’s hosted on YouTube, a blog, or a social media page. About 1-5% of those that click through will then choose to become new patrons. Patreon suggests that if you offer membership tiers ranging from $2 to $100, then you’ll likely end up with an average monthly value of $7 per patron.

If you currently have an audience of 100,000 followers, here’s a breakdown of how much you could likely earn with Patreon:

  • 100,000 followers X 15% X 1%-5% X $7 = $1,050 - $5,250 per month

However, keep in mind that Patreon will take a percentage of your earnings depending on the service tier you choose. You’ll pay between 5% and 12% of your earnings to Patreon in addition to payment processing fees. For pledges of $3 or less, the payment processing fee is 5% plus 10 cents. For pledges over $3, the fee is 2.9% plus 30 cents.

For example, let’s say you earn that $5,250 illustrated above and are signed up for the Lite tier. That works out to 750 patrons each supporting you with $7 per month. To see how much actual monthly income that translates to, you’ll subtract the payment processing fee for each member and the 5% platform fee percentage that Patreon takes.

Your final earnings might look something like this:

$7 x 2.9% + $0.30 = $0.503 payment processing fee per patron

750 x $0.50 = $377.25 total payment processing fee

$5,250 x 5% = $262.50 platform fee

$5,250 - $377.25 - $262.50 = $4,610.25 monthly income

As a Patreon creator, you’ll have access to flexible payments, which means you can get paid whenever you want or get monthly auto payments. You’ll be able to accept funds via direct deposit, PayPal, or Payoneer.

Be aware that there’s also a payout fee every time you transfer money from your creator balance. Each time a U.S. creator requests a direct deposit, it’s a 25-cent charge. The charge for Payoneer is $1. If you use PayPal, you could pay up to $20.

There’s also a currency conversion fee of 2.5% if you have patrons paying in a currency other than your designated currency.

Maximizing your earnings with Patreon

  • Create a high-quality intro video. Use the video feature to introduce yourself, showcase the benefits you’ll provide to members, and communicate how financial support will help you create better content.
  • Promote your Patreon on social media. Your patrons will likely come from your social media following, so be sure to promote a link to your Patreon page on each social media account or at the end of your YouTube videos or podcasts.
  • Offer multiple benefit tiers. Providing multiple membership options may help persuade more people to support you. Be sure to price each option strategically so patrons see value in each option.
  • Choose great incentives. Offer exclusive access to content that will appeal to your following, and provide especially attractive benefits for members opting for a more expensive tier. Taylor noted that, of his patrons, “Everyone who’s signed up has opted for the more expensive one, which includes access to a private Slack group too.”
  • Send messages to your patrons. According to Patreon data, creators who send messages through Patreon are more likely to succeed at processing at least $100 in their first month on the platform.
  • Utilize Patreon resources. Patreon offers many free educational resources, including workshops, blog posts, and tutorials, to help creators become successful. For example, there are videos with tips from top creators, articles with guidance on how to convert more fans to patrons, and live workshops demoing how to use the platform.

FAQs about Patreon

Which is better: Kickstarter or Patreon?

Kickstarter is a great platform to use when you have an idea for a project or product that you need funding for and can provide discounts or early access in exchange. Patreon is best for when you’re already regularly creating content, and would like ongoing contributions from your audience in exchange for exclusive access. One is not better than the other. Just consider which platform will be more useful for you.

How much money do artists make on Patreon?

Your earning potential as an artist on Patreon depends largely on your current audience and how strategically you use the platform to connect with new patrons. Some artists earn a lot of money each month. For example, Studio TRIGGER is an animator and illustrator who earns nearly $6,000 per month on Patreon. And Bonny Snowdon, who offers colored pencil drawing tutorials, earns just over $18,000 per month. Most people won’t make that much money on Patreon. But if you’re already creating art, you’ve got nothing to lose by giving it a shot.

Is Patreon good for podcasters?

Yes, Patreon is popular with podcasters. You’ll get features like a private RSS feed and community messaging to help you connect with your members. Some podcasters have even raked in huge earnings on Patreon. For example, the Tiny Meat Gang comedy podcast earns more than $90,000 per month and tech podcast Trashfuture earns just over $25,000 per month.

Why do YouTubers use Patreon?

Often, the money brought in through advertisements on YouTube doesn’t reflect the popularity of a YouTuber and can be insufficient to cover their operating costs. That’s the exact issue Patreon co-founder Jack Conte ran into when posting his music videos on YouTube. With Patreon, video creators can offer gated content, exclusive live streams, and member-only merch. When you offer merch as a benefit for one of your tiers, Patreon will take care of the shipping for you. You can customize the merch you want to offer directly through Patreon. This feature is available only for Pro and Premium creators, however.


How to sign up for Patreon

  1. Visit www.patreon.com and click “Create on Patreon,” or explore the Starter Kits link to expedite the process.
  2. Create an account with Patreon, or sign up with Google or Facebook.
  3. Add a cover photo and profile picture, links to your social media accounts, etc.
  4. Create your tiers.
  5. Preview and launch your page.

You won’t need any information on hand other than your name, email, and password. However, you should have a high-quality profile picture and cover photo ready to upload. Eventually, you’ll need to supply your bank account, Paypal, or Payoneer account info as well.

Other side hustles to consider

If you’re researching how to make money and Patreon doesn’t seem like the best fit for you, don’t worry because you have plenty of other options. The best side hustles allow you to make your own schedule and work as often or as little as you want. If you’re a creative with a knack for entrepreneurship, there are side hustles that can help you get paid for doing what you already love to do.

For example, if you’d rather sell artwork or handmade items directly to customers, consider learning how to start an Etsy shop. Etsy is a global marketplace that allows artists and creators to sell their work to customers. Creators sell everything from knitted blankets to paintings to downloadable patterns to jewelry and woodworking and much more.

If you’re a writer with a following, consider learning how to start a blog and using affiliate links to earn extra cash. For example, if you have a fan base on Instagram because you share recipes with photos, you could start a blog that contains paid links to cookware and baking items. If you’re a fashion influencer, you can set up a blog with affiliate links so you’ll get paid every time someone purchases one of your outfits. Just make sure you have a unique idea and a way to bring an audience to your blog before you invest too much time.

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Author Details

Lindsay Frankel Lindsay Frankel is a Denver-based freelance writer who specializes in credit cards, travel, budgeting/saving, and shopping. She has been featured in several finance publications, including LendingTree. When she's not writing, you can find her enjoying the great outdoors, playing music, or cuddling with her rescue pup.