Blog / 2020 / How to Start a Patreon for Your Art

December 14, 2020

You like the idea of having some money coming in for your art and the concept of ongoing microdonations seems like a good fit for your audience. This is how to start a Patreon (or other automated tip jar):

  1. Accept that it’s not going to be huge success overnight.
  2. Like most things in art and in life, Patreon is a long slog, so it’s best to enjoy the journey! Good news: growing your audience slowly allows you to learn about the platform and adjust the way you use it to best suit both you and your audience.

  3. Understand that Patreon isn’t passive income.
  4. When an art lover attaches money to their feelings for your art, they will automatically take up space in your brain. I’m not saying that having patrons will change the way you work or that you’ll find yourself selling out in some way. It’s more that, because there’s money in it for you, Patreon will become something you think about, so the monthly income you receive won’t come without work.

  5. Look at other artists’ Patreon pages.
  6. You’ll obviously be tailoring your Patreon to fit your particular kind of self-expression as well as your audience, but you can still learn plenty from other artists. I recommend signing up to give money to creatives you admire for at least a few months, because the more you understand the audience side of the platform, the better Patreon creative you will be.

  7. Pre-launch the page to your inner circle.
  8. Reach out personally to individuals you know you can count on. I’m talking best friends and family. You want their feedback so your page will be at its best when you do a wider release, but you also want their pledges so that your page looks loved.

    Yes, this means that you should ask your loved ones directly if they will pledge money. And yes, it’s scary. You’re opening yourself up to rejection and you might offend someone. In the end though, all feedback—even the negative stuff—is useful. If a loved one won’t give $1 to your Patreon after you ask them personally, make an effort to learn why.

  9. Have something tangible to give every month.
  10. When I launched, I was sending an original drawing to all my $3 patrons as a welcome gift. They even got to tell me what animal to draw! This was not sustainable, obviously, but just the fact that I was offering a gift made asking people to support my art a whole lot easier. These days, my gifts have changed, but they still help me promote my Patreon page unapologetically, because I can be completely confident that I’m providing something of value.

    You can offer original art like I do, or you can focus on special edition stickers or prints. You might even offer services or a virtual studio visit. Maybe people get to watch a livestream of you painting or they get access to high res digital images of your art that they can use as their desktop image.

  11. Get good at explaining what Patreon is.
  12. A lot of people still don’t know that ongoing microdonations have become a vital part of the art economy. Many understand Kickstarter and other sites that allow them to pledge a bit of money to support a specific project, but the automatic monthly tip jar concept is newer.

    Find lots of different ways to talk about Patreon, because you never know what’s going to connect with a particular person. I’ve done things like this video explaining how artists have always needed community support, this post juxtaposing paywalls with donation doors, and this cross-promotion event. An explainer video that literally walks people through your Patreon page is an excellent idea.

cheetah painting process

This cheetah painting is an example of the sort of work I make for my Patreon supporters when they give me $50 a month for six months. The patron chooses the animal and I make the piece on unstretched canvas, which they can later frame like a drawing on heavy paper.

This sort of work costs a lot more than $300 if you commission me outside of Patreon, but, as I explain on this special deals page, when people support me on a monthly basis, they aren’t just giving me money.

For more advice on how to make money from your art, check out this extensive post. You can also hire me to get more personalized advice!

cheetah mom and kittens painting by Jersey artist Gwenn Seemel
Gwenn Seemel
Three Cheetahs
acrylic on unmounted canvas
10 x 10 inches

If you like this cheetah mom and babies artwork, there are prints and pretty things with this image in my Redbubble shop.

Maybe this post made you think of something you want to share with me? Or perhaps you have a question about my art? I’d love to hear from you!


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