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Guest Blog: Using Patreon to Boost Income for Freelance Artists

Hello fellow creators! I’m Slynyrd, a pixel artist, and game designer. For nearly 3 years I’ve been sharing my unique brand of pixel art on social media and gradually building an audience. Over the years I’ve received countless compliments, inquiries into how I make my art, and even confessions from people who downloaded my work off the web. Through this outpouring of appreciation, it became obvious my art has real tangible value. So I asked myself, should I continue giving it all away for free? The answer is no, and you shouldn’t either.

The ability to get paid is the ultimate motivational force and will bring out your best work.

Of course, you must expose your work to as many eyeballs as possible in order to build an audience, but without implementing any means to get paid for online content you devalue your work and the work of all online creators. Thankfully, platforms like Patreon make it possible to earn money directly from your fans.
I launched a Patreon site a few months ago to provide a platform for more ambitious pixel art projects and help fund development of my game Thyrian Defenders. In addition to making a few dollars I’ve discovered priceless gains from the experience, and I’d like to share what I’ve learned. First, to give you better context let me explain my core content and how I’m using the service.

Regardless of the return, simply asking for money is a huge step towards success, and makes a powerful statement about the value of online art.

I love to tell stories with my pixel art and explore a multitude of ideas. Therefore, I decided to focus on weekly illustration series that connect in theme, aesthetics, and narrative. To round out my weekly regime I also post finely produced time-lapse videos of my art process on Youtube. For payment, I’ve chosen a per month subscription system with three reward tier options. Roughly half of the content remains exclusive, while half gets shared with the public a week after it’s already been served to my patrons. After three months of churning out this robust content regime, I have some encouraging takeaways to share.

Money – The ability to get paid is the ultimate motivational force and will bring out your best work. I’m barely making as much money as my childhood allowance at the moment, but the potential to bring in a new patron at any moment is incredibly exciting. A single patron means so much more than any amount of followers. The appreciation even a small contribution symbolizes sends me over the moon!

Accountability – Once you have patrons playtime is over. These are paying customers and you are responsible to provide what you promise. Nothing like a little pressure to keep you motivated.

Structure – The golden rule to find success with any kind of online content is consistency. If you plan on attracting any patrons and growing an audience you need to keep a regular schedule. I carefully designed my content schedule from the outset and the structure keeps me productive. If anything, I’m a bit overworked, but the constant sharing makes me happy. I would recommend starting light, then work in more content as you get comfortable with the workload. It’s also good to save some ideas for patrons to help you work towards. Don’t forget to allow a day off here and there!

Community – Fully integrated social features allow you to bring your patrons together and form close relationships with them. Essentially you’re making a tribe centered around your art. How cool is that?

Love what you do and never take your talents for granted.

The Work – Love what you do and never take your talents for granted. Lack of patronage can be discouraging, but you must maintain full-hearted pursuit of your goals. While I still have few patrons, I’ve already amassed a huge collection of rich art, increasing the value of patronage every week. Furthermore, I take full advantage of the works I make public by sharing them across social media and growing my audience. Better still, I upload them to Redbubble and make sales!

Growth – Since I started my content cycle, exposure is at an all-time high and my audience grows every day. Best of all, I’m doing it with personal projects I want to make. So long as you release a consistent flow of content to the public and make noise on social media you should benefit from steady growth. Not only will your audience grow, so will you. Looking back at my first posts from a few months ago I can see I’ve already improved my skills. Level up!

 
Overall it’s been a positive experience and I encourage all artists in a similar situation try Patreon or any service that allows you to get paid for online content without intrusive ads or trashy clickbait. I understand the necessity of exposure but don’t just put all your hard work out there without at least asking for a contribution. Regardless of the return, simply asking for money is a huge step towards success, and makes a powerful statement about the value of online art. Whereas not asking jeopardizes the livelihood of artists by reinforcing the idea that everything on the web is free. I know it’s scary, but don’t be afraid to ask.

Check out Slynyrd’s Redbubble shop and discover his many pixelated worlds.

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Slynyrd

Pixel artist and game designer.

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