What is Patreon Exactly? A Complete Breakdown For Beginners

David Utke •  Updated: December 19, 2023 •  Monetization

Patreon is a hosted membership platform that allows you to offer private, members-only content under a monthly or yearly subscription business model.

It was founded in 2013 to allow creators to monetize their work in a new way, be less reliant on ad revenue, and make offering a paid subscription easy. Previously, setting up a membership website was complicated from a technical standpoint.

When it was founded, people, or “patrons” as they were called, could “pledge” a certain amount to a creator on either a monthly basis or a performance basis (pay $5 every time your favorite YouTuber creates a new video, etc).

Since then, it’s evolved into an easy-to-use membership platform where you can create a Patreon page with various subscription tiers and different access levels to content.

How much does Patreon cost?

Patreon is free.

There are no costs to creating a Patreon page and offering private, members-only content. You don’t even need to provide content; you can simply create a Patreon page and allow people to donate money to support your work.

So what’s the catch?

The catch is that they take a percentage of your earnings (8% or 12%) plus a fee for payment processing, currency conversion, payout fees, and applicable taxes.

Patreon plans

patreon plans

Patreon currently has two plans, pro and premium.

The Pro Plan is the most popular and allows you to offer monthly or annual subscriptions, free trials, special offers, unique engagement tools like post comments, DMs and a chat function.

The Premium Plan offers everything the pro plan does, but now you get a dedicated partner manager and the ability to offer merchandise to your subscribers.

What is a dedicated Patreon partner manager?

Think of a partner manager as an account manager. Patreon employs partner managers who directly support creators by offering best practices tips, resources, and ongoing information.

They assist in onboarding creators and setting up a Patreon account properly, from creating a compelling offer to setting up and structuring tiers and developing an excellent profile aesthetic. Partner managers can help you with your content strategy, pricing options, and engagement tips to keep people subscribed to maximize your earnings.

Patreon provides support on both tiers, but having direct contact when a technical issue arises is helpful, as they are a bridge to the overall Patreon team.

Finally, partner managers keep creators informed and updated on new features (and how to leverage new features) and changes on the platform.

Sell merch

The more compelling reason to upgrade to the premium tier is the ability to offer customized merch to your audience as a reward. Many people need clarification and think you’re selling merchandise directly to your audience. 

No, Patreon merch is used to reward subscriber loyalty. 

You can add merchandise to specific tiers you offer. When your subscriber meets the minimum requirements (like remaining a subscriber for six months), they automatically get shipped the particular merchandise for that tier.

The best part is that you don’t have to worry about shipping, product storage or even customer support.

You simply customize an item, select a tier it’s available for and the promote that product to your community.

Benefits of Patreon Merch:

The negatives of Patreon Merch:

In short, once you have built up a sizeable income on Patreon, it is worth testing out a premium plan for 6 months to a year to see if the combination of a Patreon partner manger and merchandise result in you making more money.

The metric I would pay attention to is your overall churn rate. Meaning, are people sticking around longer, thus resulting in you making more money. If you run the numbers and find out you’re not making more money then you can downgrade your Patreon account.

Discord access and Patreon

I want to touch on offering Discord access on Patreon. Discord allows you to create your own Discord server (like a forum with chat rooms) that you can offer as a tier benefit. Discord servers can be public or private; if you’re offering it as a benefit, you should make a private Discord server.

Next, your subscribers will need their own Discord accounts to join your Discord server. Then, when someone subscribes to your Patreon, you can automatically offer them “Discord server access” to enter your private server.

What most creators do is that they interact with their Patron audience through their Discord as it’s a way to offer access to you directly. Ideally, your Discord community should grow as your Patreon grows and become more fun and dynamic.

What happens when they stop subscribing on Patreon?

Discord has their own Patron bot that helps you manage your paying subscribers and their rolls and access:

Members who are no longer paying will have their access to your designated Patreon member channels removed by the Patreon Discord bot. They will be free to access your public channels.

Patreon Support

When someone unsubscribes they are automatically removed from your member channel on your Discord server at the end of their membership.

Private videos on Patreon

Finally, Patreon does now allow you to upload private video directly to your Patreon page. You can now offer video content not found anywhere else and organize everything as a collection.

In addition to that, you can also host a private livestream for your Patreon subscribers. Previously, you had to pay for Vemeo or posted unlisted YouTube videos. Now that you can upload video content directly, I do think this makes Patreon worth the transaction fee.

What is Patreon? Complete breakdown conclusion

I hope you now understand what Patreon is and why creators use Patreon. It’s a hosted solution that takes away all the technical details of offering compelling, private content.

From private video content, Discord access to being able to offer merch at tiers. Patreon is a good choice if you’re looking to add in subscription revenue for your online business.

David Utke

David Utke is a professional blogger, YouTuber and a highly rated user experience consultant. He and his team create helpful tutorials, software reviews, videos and more based on real-world experience. Join over 30,000 monthly readers and 27k+ YouTube subscribers!

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