This is the fun part: building your page. It’s quite exciting, and I hope you have fun building your page. Like all other hobbies, if you want to make money from them you’ll have to roll up your sleeves and do some paperwork before sharing your page with the world.
- Fill out appropriate tax paperwork before receiving any kinds of funds. For individual US creators, this is a 1099 form, and Patreon will send you the appropriate tax forms during funtime tax time. You will be taxed on this miscellaneous income and should declare it when you file your taxes, especially if you expect to earn more than $600 in this fiscal year. Prepare a W-9 form if you are an individual using Patreon. You cannot collect your funds without filling out this form.
- Create a budget, which can include:
- Artwork Commissioning
- Social Media/Digital Advertising
- Printing and shipping costs for your rewards
- Patreon processing fees
- Determine how you would like Patreon to send you money, and see what fees work with you and your budget.
- Set up your Facebook page, twitter account, and any other social media you’d like to link to the page. This is important because potential patrons can find you with your linked social media accounts.
Do the “Per Project” Setup
Try not using the automatic recurring monthly pledges, though I know it’s tempting to have a recurring source of income. You will most likely have breaks between big projects, and unless you’re Stephen King and can get your weekly grocery list published then you can’t promise your Patrons consistent monthly updates.
I recommend this model because your early Patrons will trust that when they are paying they are receiving the project promised. And as writers, especially those of us who are short story writers or novelists, we may not have consistent content warranting a recurring, automatic pledge.
If you chose the “per project” setup be wary of the fact that you are in control of charging your Patrons. Be aware of Patreon’s charging cycle if you decide to charge more than once a month for your projects, and be transparent with your Patrons about how you are charging posts.
Determine Your Goals
Make a list of your monetary goals for your projects, which will be announced to potential Patrons as part of your campaign. Unless you have a lot of people already waiting to fling money at you, I recommend starting with small, easily obtainable goals. You should also prepare a budget for your campaign.
I’ll share my numbers with you. I earn about $50 a month, give or take Patreon’s fluctuating fee structure. What can $50 a month do for me?
- Cover a yearly subscription to Scribophile, the critiquing website I use to connect with other writers, including the Just-Us League.
- If I save $50/month at the end of the year I will have $600 before taxes, which is still enough to commission small pieces of artwork to use in promotions and campaign purposes.
- I put aside a little every month for upcoming costs I know will come with self-publishing, such as purchasing an ISBN number, converting your novel into the proper ebook format, etc.
Most people assume that Patreon pledges will create a salary, so to speak, and for some Creators it is exactly that. But creative projects don’t go viral overnight, and neither will your career.
Remember: Patreon is just one of multiple sources of income.
Patreon is the first of its kind, and other similar services such as Drip by Kickstarter are already in the works. As a writer, you should plan on multiple sources of income. Patreon is just one of many ways to make money from your writing.
Rewards and Donor Recognition
You know how, back in ye olden days, rich noblemen would pay painters to make giant oil painting selfies in exchange for patronizing their art? Yeah, it’s that same model for Patreon, but on a much smaller scale and maybe people you don’t know on the Internet.
I’ve found this to be the most difficult part of running a Patreon page. I’ve adjusted and tweaked my rewards several times to get it as simplified and as satisfying as possible. Constant adjustment (not MAJOR, mind you) helps me determine what Patrons want or are looking forward to.
Some things I’ve learned:
- Sometimes you don’t have to strain your brain thinking of rewards. If you already have a following your fans will tell you what they want.
- People like to be acknowledged and see their names on printed materials.
- People love to have their fanwork (of your work) acknowledged by the Creator. Sharing fanart, fan playlists, and cosplays is a great way to acknowledge Patrons and run contests.
- People like free goodies. If you include free copies of books be sure to keep on top of the administrative work behind that reward tier, and consider shipping costs in your Patreon budget. It can easily get out of hand.
Write a list of all the rewards you think your fans would like, and be willing to change based on their feedback. Give the reward tiers some fun names, add a picture or two, and write a short description of what that reward tiers entail.
Your User Info
Pages with a cover photo and a video tend to make the most money during their first campaign. Get your user info ready to go, and with your Patreon budget determine if you would like to pair up with an artist to create some snazzy, eye-catching cover art or if you would prefer to use a free service such as Pixabay for free images to use. (hint: I think it looks much cooler when you use commissioned art for your page!)
Once you have everything set up don’t push that “live” button just yet! There’s yet more work to come…
Some useful links:
Auditing this course is free. In this course Elaine Grogan Luttrull, CPA teaches you budgeting basics and how to build a record-keeping system using Excel (Google Sheets and Numbers for Mac can be used as well).
Other blog posts in this series: