The Role of Patrons in the Creator Economy

By MBO Partners | May 12, 2023

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Key Points

Content creators monetize their knowledge and skills by creating and publishing online digital content.

Patronage offers monetization opportunities to creators for whom traditional avenues don’t work.

As a creator, whether you keep creating content as a part-time endeavor and end up taking it full-time, your patrons will be a large part of your business.

Content creators, one of the fastest-growing independent work segments in the US, monetize their knowledge and skills by creating and publishing online digital content. They are writers, artists, entertainers, videographers, social media influencers, educators, pundits, and thought leaders who publish across a range of online channels.

Because digital content creation tools and distribution platforms are inexpensive and easy to use, content creation is an accessible side gig or part-time work option (64% of creators are part-time). Content creation is a way to pursue a passion part-time with a focus on building a lucrative full-time business.

Income sources for creators started out in traditional ways. Social media influencers, for example, endorse products through reviews and demonstrations. Podcasters break for advertising during their shows. YouTubers allow ads in front of their videos. Some creators, though, don’t create content that fits well in those income models. They needed a new income source, and the internet delivered. Enter—or more accurately, re-enter—the patron.

Like patrons of public broadcasting, a theater, or a museum, digital content patrons have an interest in the output of the creator. Patronage offers monetization opportunities to creators for whom traditional avenues don’t work. It also adds a potential revenue stream for creators already making money traditionally.

Creator Patrons Versus Creator Fans

High follower numbers are a key goal for social media marketers, including content creators. Not all followers are fans—fans generally are interactive, posting comments and clicking likes and shares on the content they like. Not all fans, though, are patrons.

Patrons differ from fans in that they will pay for deeper access to the creator’s work than content made available for free, usually through a monthly or annual subscription. They want to engage with the creator beyond social media posts, participating in chat communities and responding to creator output.

A creator who wants to gain traction earning revenue should concentrate on patrons. Find fans who want more, offer exciting content to them behind a reasonable paywall, then focus marketing on enrolling more fans to become patrons. Even at low subscription rates, a creator who can attract and retain patrons can generate high revenues.

Patronage Platforms for Content Creators

Patronage platforms make it easy for content creators to share content and obtain subscriptions. Sites like Patreon, Podia, and Sellfy appeal to many types of content creators and offer a variety of ways to engage fans and patrons. Other platforms generally to specific content, like Substack and Medium for writers. Some have more tools than others for marketing and monetization.

It’s important to match content and subscription goals to the right platform. If you want to gain patrons for your creations, research options to find the platform that will let you present content as you want, offer one or more subscription tiers, and support two-way interaction.

Patrons Like Niche Content

A patron is attracted to a creator for specific reasons. Perhaps it’s a watercolor artist who shares their work on their platform and offers direct interaction opportunities and special opportunities to paid subscribers. It could be an animal rescuer who shares news of their efforts with more detail about their work and the animals to patrons. Or it could be a respected thought leader in a particular part of work, life, or society that a patron wants to get more of. In all cases, the creators are engaging patrons in a niche—not just the form of the content but the subject matter as well.

As a creator, whether you keep creating content as a part-time endeavor and end up taking it full-time, your patrons will be a large part of your business. The shortest distance to patrons is to focus content on a specific area of your larger passion and people want more and more of. Pull back the curtain to show your process or the parts that will become the whole. Have conversations with subscribers, hold “ask me anything” sessions, whatever will deepen your relationship and mutual enjoyment.

 

 

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