Patreon Stars Making a Great Living Doing What They Love. They say there’s nothing new under the sun, and Patreon is one place proving them right.
Once upon a time, artists made a living from donations by wealthy patrons. These sponsors would pay them a salary just to make art. Famous names including Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo were able to produce their masterpieces through support from wealthy donors.
Fast-forward about half a millennium and you can find a new take on the same concept, combined with modern crowdfunding. Through Patreon.com, founded in 2013, artists can get support not just from a single wealthy patron, but from the aggregate payments of a host of supporters each donating a few dollars each month.
How It Works
If you’re not already familiar with Patreon, here are the basics:
- A creative person posts a profile, where they explain what kind of project they wish to produce.
- As part of that profile, they create “Patron Levels” offering special rewards to those who support their work.
- Typically, higher levels of support come with greater rewards.
- The creative person produces their work on a promised schedule, supported by their patrons.
- Support is either paid on a monthly basis or once per unit of work (such as once per book, per video, per painting, or per song).
- Although patron levels are usually only $1 to $10, a few hundred or thousand patrons can provide a creative person with a very good living
Here are several examples of people making real money doing what they love most, using this new-but-not-really-new method.
7 People Making a Great Living on Patreon
1. Ben Hed
Ben Hed draws the hilarious and poignant Pixie and Brutus comic, distributed via Instagram. The main, free, public feed has more than 2 million followers and gets routinely shared across Twitter, Facebook, and Imgur. Hed went on Patreon to monetize that loyal fan base, with impressive results.
- Exclusive Content: For his Patreon patrons, Ben simply produces more of the same. Each month, he posts four Patreon-exclusive comics, which he’s ramped up from one as his monthly income increased.
- Number of Patrons (as of March 2020): 14,712
- Patron Levels: Pet Foolery has a single Patron level of $1 per month
- Annual Patreon Income: Around $170,000
2. Oliver Babish
Oliver Babish’s cooking video channel on YouTube has more than 6 million subscribers — enough to generate substantial advertising revenue on its own. His Patreon project isn’t nearly as robust but seems to target the diehard fans from among his casual viewers.
- Exclusive Content: Babish offers a variety of options, including patron-only content, a live chat line, behind-the-scenes opportunities, and early access. He even offers a physical product: a branded garlic peeler.
- Number of Patrons (as of March 2020): 2,355
- Patron Levels: Babish’s patron levels range from $1 to $20 per month
- Annual Patreon Income: Babish does not publish his monthly earnings, and his patron levels make estimates difficult. Likely between $40,000 and $60,000.
3. Leo Moracchioli
Leo Moracchioli’s YouTube channel Frog Leap Studios produces heavy metal covers of popular songs by artists ranging from Adele to Billy Idol to that catchy song from Netflix’s “The Witcher.” It has nearly 4 million followers. Moracchioli’s Patreon account monetizes the most supportive fans, exploring a delivery method for music that bypasses record labels.
- Exclusive Content: Access to all back-catalog covers in Mp3 or Wav format, plus Skype Q&A sessions
- Number of Patrons (as of March 2020): 3,616
- Patron Levels: Moracchioli offers $1, $2, and $5 patron levels. Each level pays that amount per video, which he releases at a reliable rate of one per week.
- Annual Patreon Income: Approximately $240,000
4. Isaac Arthur
Isaac Arthur is a physics scholar and science fiction fan who applies both pieces of knowledge sets to highly specialized videos exploring what technology and science might do for humanity in the future. His loyal and vibrant Patreon following demonstrates that even highly niche content can generate a strong income if delivered regularly and with quality.
- Exclusive Content: Arthur keeps it simple by offering only early access to patrons.
- Number of Patrons (as of March 2020): 1,018
- Patron Levels: Arthur provides pay-what-you-want pricing, charged for each video, and releases one video per week.
- Annual Patreon Income: About $100,000
5. Hanna and Suruthi
If you’ve never heard of a “muderino,” you’ll likely be stunned at how many true crime podcasts there are and how fast the loyal fan base is growing. If you’re a fan, this entry will come as no surprise. The RedHanded podcast, hosted by Hanna and Suruthi, demonstrates the power of this demographic, delivering all the gory details of crimes both modern and historical.
- Exclusive Content: Early access, ad-free episodes, patron-only content, in-show thank yous, and behind-the-scenes reports
- Number of Patrons (as of March 2020): 3,158
- Patron Levels: RedHanded offers $2, $5, and $10 per month.
- Annual Patreon Income: More than $250,000
6. Sylvie von Douglas-Ittu
A European living in Thailand as a professional Muay Thai fighter, Sylvie von Douglas-Ittu wanted to document the history, techniques, and culture of this world-famous but misunderstood martial art. Her YouTube channel has only about 50,000 subscribers, but the accompanying Patreon project is performing very well.
- Exclusive Content: Access to the full library, an exclusive podcast, patron-only content, and fitness videos. High-end patrons get traditional sports-sponsorship roles.
- Number of Patrons (as of March 2020): 1,589 as of March 2020
- Patron Levels: Douglas offers options at $1, $5, $10, $15, $35, $90, and $250.
- Annual Patreon Income: Douglas does not publish her earnings. However, even if all of her patrons were at the minimum level, that $18,000 per year is equivalent to a middle-class lifestyle in most parts of Thailand.
7. Lisa Clough
Lisa Clough produces drawing and painting classes online, with 270,000 subscribers learning techniques from the YouTube channel. These are detailed lessons one could benefit from without becoming a patron on her Patreon account, but her patron-exclusive content is creatively compelling.
- Exclusive Content: Patrons get more detailed and specific materials to match with each video lesson, including reference photos, slowed-down versions of the lessons, and class group exercises each month.
- Number of Patrons (as of March 2020): 1,672
- Patron Levels: Clough offers monthly options at $1, $4 and $9.
- Annual Patreon Income: Just under $90,000
None of the above Patreon superstars developed their followings with an “If you build it, they will come” attitude. Instead, they produced impressive content coupled with an aggressive and smart publicity strategy, culminating in hordes of adoring fans.
This article isn’t a how-to become a Patreon Superstar because you find resources of that sort elsewhere in our blog. Instead, this is just to show you what “success” looks like under this model: people making six figures doing exactly what they love, and sharing it with other people who love it, too.