Every week I spend a little bit of time looking at my business and working to define my goals. I feel like it’s important to continually pay attention to what I’m doing, and notice when something is or isn’t working for me. My primary goal as an illustrator is to become fully self-sufficient, which means that I’m bringing in enough illustration work each month (or selling merchandise featuring my artwork) that I can cover my costs and earn a living wage. This has been a terribly difficult thing for me to achieve so far, and I am constantly looking for new ways to branch out and turn my time into money.
A new website came to my attention a few weeks back, and I’ve been working on a way to bring it into my business plan. It’s called Patreon.com, and was created by Pomplamoose’s Jack Conte. Patreon is a crowdfunding site, but it differs from other sites like Kickstarter and IndieGogo in one very important way: Creators are rewarded each time they release new content for their sponsors. It was designed primarily with bloggers and vloggers in mind – knowing there’s a bit of money waiting for them at the end of their next update can be a great motivator to post it!
It functions similarly to the pledge drives my daughter does at school several times a year. Sponsors pledge a creator on Patreon, based on what that creator says they’ll be making on a regular basis. Say, a sponsor could pledge to pay me one dollar every time I complete a large illustration. I know when I sit down to each illustration how much I can earn by completing it, which gives me an incentive to keep going, and no money changes hands until a new work is completed, which protects the sponsors from paying for something they never get (a not-uncommon risk with sites like Kickstarter). Sponsors can cancel their pledge at any time, or raise or lower their pledge amount to get the extra perks that come from higher pledges. Sponsors can also set a monthly cap to keep from having to pay too much money out each month (if a creator suddenly increases their output dramatically, for example).
The problem I’ve had with wrapping my head around Patreon is simply that, while I love the idea of letting folks offer me a buck or two each time I complete something, I want to continue to work in a lot of different styles, on many different projects. I wouldn’t want to ask people to pay a buck per drawing, and have them expect that everything I do is going to be as huge and intricate as the Halloween pieces I did last month, when it’s just as likely that my next work will be a cartoony 8-page minicomic or a piece of fan-art. I had considered doing a weekly sponsorship, where I would promise to make several different pieces each week, and hope that the quality and time investment would average out over time. But then I contacted the folks at Patreon and got the answer I was hoping for – Creators aren’t limited to only running one Patreon project at a time!
What this means is, I can create separate projects – minicomics, badge sets, postcards, standalone pieces, projects based on theme or subject, technique, etc – and let people pick and choose which ones to pledge for. When I finish a new minicomic, that pledge gets triggered. When I finish a badge set, or a more involved large illustration for a specific series I’m working on, those pledges get triggered independently. My imagination’s gone a bit crazy thinking about all of the different combinations of things I can do with this, and the kinds of things I can offer as sponsor-rewards and perks. I’ve even considered getting back into some form of serialized work, either a webcomic or prose novel. There’s one project in particular I want to get started on as a Patreon project, and I’ll be putting some work into that once I finish my next large illustration, so keep your eyes peeled! And go get registered on Patreon!