Video Monetization

Is Patreon Worth It for Creators? The Pros and Cons of Crowdfunding Your Content

By Eden Metzler
10 Min Read
A creator is streaming online and. checks if Patreon is worth it.

Social media platforms suck at giving creators their fair share of revenue. 

(The YouTube Adpocalypse and TikTok’s ‘better-than-nothing’ approach to their Creator Fund have made that pretty clear.)

But, because these platforms are so useful for audience-building, creators have made peace with the fact that they need to find other ways to monetize their content in order to make a living.

Usually this means merch, brand deals, and affiliate links.

These different revenue streams are a great way to diversify your income as a creator, but they’re just as unreliable as platform payouts. 

And, if your goal is to turn your part-time passion into a full-time gig, an unpredictable income isn’t going to cut it. 

Which is where Patreon comes in.

But, between its perks and pitfalls… is the platform even worth it for creators?

Let’s find out.

Why Patreon Works: A Gateway to Financial & Creative Freedom

Patreon is a tool that’s most useful during that window of time when you’re making the leap from part-time to full-time creator. 

Because to make that jump comfortably, you need a reliable monthly income.

And, to set up a solid source of recurring revenue, you often need a couple of things: spare time, and resources. 

(Ironically, the things that part-time creators are usually short on).

Which is why Patreon can be a solid solution to start earning those predictable monthly payments, since it takes almost no time to set up your creator page, and the platform fees only kick in once you start making money.

And, Patreon is to creators what Kickstarter is to startups and small businesses: a widely known and trusted crowdfunding platform.

That familiarity can make it easier for you to get your audience to sign up, especially when it’s the first time you’re paywalling your content and your fans aren’t sure what to expect.

A Patreon page immediately helps to set their expectations from the beginning:

They’re there to offer support to their favorite creator, and to show appreciation for the content that made them fans in the first place.

This provides a lower pressure, algorithm-free environment where you can:

  • enjoy more creative freedom in your content.
  • test to see if you can successfully monetize your audience.
  • nurture your paid community.

But, most importantly, Patreon can give you the time and resources you need to plan your next steps as a full-time creator.

AKA: set up a more sustainable, profitable, and scalable source of monthly income.

Because the things that make Patreon worth it at one stage, are the same things that eventually hold back your growth and cause you to burn out at the next stage.

Let’s unpack that more…

The Shelf Life of Patreon: When ‘Pros’ Become ‘Cons’

For creator entrepreneurs who want to pursue their content full-time, the overarching goal is to build a sustainable source of income they can scale over time.

In other words, a business. 

So, while Patreon can be a useful tool for monetizing your content away from social media platforms, it has a limited shelf life as a source of revenue.

Because crowdfunding isn’t a business. It’s the Kickstarter that helps you build a business. 

In the long-term, many of the platform’s ‘pros’ that worked for you initially will become ‘cons’ that hold you back, cost you money, and burn you out.

A table with Patreon's characteristics and main pros & cons.

Let’s explore the impact of each of these…

The Crowd Who’s Funding You: How Patreon Can Limit Your Reach

A serious ‘pro-turned-con’ of the crowdfunding platform is who your Patreon page appeals to.

In any audience, there are those who show up for the creator, and those who show up for their content

A content-based business would provide enough value to appeal to both segments, allowing you to reach and convert a lot of people.

But Patreon’s features and donation-based model appeal mostly to that first segment: your fanbase who are there to support you regardless of the quality or quantity of the exclusive content that you put out. 

While that segment is the easiest to monetize, it also tends to be the smallest part of any creator’s following. 

That limitation might be why the average Patreon creator only earns between $315 and $1575 per month.

Because you might receive a lot of support from these fans initially, but the crowdfunding model has a ceiling for your growth.

Patreon itself has said that a creator can expect their followers to convert to their Patreon page at a rate between 0.15% and 0.75%.

That means if you have 50,000 followers, you can expect between 75 and 375 of them to sign up for a monthly subscription when you start promoting your page.

From there, reports show that only about 60% of those Patrons will still be there after 3 months.

So to grow your Patreon community, you need to grow your overall following at an impressive rate.

If you do manage to do that, you’ll then run into another big pro-turned-con: percentage-based pricing.

Percentage-Based Pricing: When Is Patreon No Longer Worth It?

Depending on whether your Patreon account is on the Pro or Premium plan, the platform takes either 8% or 12% of your monthly income generated through Patreon.

(Plus payment processing fees and the like).

A screenshot of Patreon's percentage based pricing.

And, if you plan to sell merch or digital products through your Patreon, they take another 5% off of those sales.

When you’re tight on resources and just getting started, a platform that only takes a percentage of what you earn has its perks. 

But as you start to earn more, this can quickly eat into the payouts that hit your bank account.

For example: If your Patreon is just getting started and you’re making $1,000 each month, an $80-$120 platform fee might be a good deal for the features you get in return.

But, if you reach a stage where your Patreon creator page is generating $5,000 each month and your fees jump to $400-$600, and you’re still receiving the exact same features as before… 

You’ll start to ask yourself: is Patreon worth it? 

And while we’re on the topic of Patreon’s no-frills features, let’s discuss how these can work against you as a full-time content creator.

One-Option-Fits-All: The Limits of an Unbranded Experience

One of Patreon’s biggest ‘pros’ for creators who are tight on time is how quickly you’re able to get set up on the platform.

Thanks to their one-design-fits-all approach, Patreon pages don’t offer any customization or branding options besides a profile picture and page banner.

As a creative person who could spend days and weeks just picking out a color palette…

Patreon’s plain and simple platform can save you a lot of time by removing the pressure to build something beautiful.

When you’re in the beginning stages of your monetization journey, and you’re appealing mostly to superfans who will support you regardless, design and branding aren’t going to be the things that make you more money.

But, when you’re trying to grow your exclusive community beyond that small circle of fans and reach other segments of your audience, a page that looks and feels exactly the same as every other Patreon creator is going to work against you.

Those other segments of your audience are looking for an immersive and premium experience that helps them to justify their monthly subscription.

After all, paywalled content is on the rise, along with audience expectations.

If your viewers have a lot of options to choose from when it comes to premium content, the experience you provide can be the thing that sets you apart from your competition, and keeps your paying members happy.

And, speaking of how important that experience is, let’s explore Patreon’s final ‘pro-turned-con’…

The Chronological Feed: A Design Choice That Leads Patreon Creators to Burnout

Think about how easy it is to find, access, and binge-watch any creator’s YouTube videos. 

You can click-through to their profile and explore organized playlists, or scan through a collection of their whole video library.

Monetization aside, the YouTube platform works for creators because it makes all of your content evergreen. 

Meaning that no matter how much time has passed since you hit ‘publish’, anyone can easily find, watch, and rewatch your YouTube videos.

Patreon, on the other hand, has the opposite effect on your content.

The platform only offers one layout for your Patreon page: a chronological feed that shows one post at a time.

That’s it. No libraries, or catalogs, or playlists.

So, thanks to that design choice, Patreon’s platform removes the evergreen nature of your videos and community posts. 

Your Patrons have to scroll down – one. post. at. a. time. – in order to access any of your older content.

Which is why it’s no surprise that, according to Patreon themselves, 80% of Patrons expect at least one new piece of content per week. 

This can make you feel a lot of pressure to constantly churn out new content to keep your Patrons happy.

Instead of freeing up time and mental space for you to embrace more creative freedom and plan out your next steps as a creator…

Patreon can actually create more pressure for you to work overtime to make up for the way their platform is set up.

And, this can lead directly to the burnout you might have been trying to avoid as a part-time creator.

In order to see success in the long-term, content creators need a business model that supports sustainable creation, while still providing recurring revenue.

Which brings us to the topic of memberships…

Memberships: When You’ve Outgrown Patreon

When you’ve outgrown the platform, you’ll have to find a Patreon alternative that still generates recurring revenue, but offers a lot more support for you, your business, and your community.

This is where the membership business model comes in.

It’s similar to the Patreon model, but with way fewer limitations.

A comparison between Patreon's crowdfunding business model vs. membership model in the long ter.

A membership platform allows you to host your own membership site and app, where you can sell exclusive access to your content, community and perks in exchange for a monthly membership fee.

Similar to a platform like Patreon, you can provide multiple membership tiers to provide different levels of access to your members-only offerings.

But, what’s better than Patreon is these platforms are built to help you run a sustainable business, so they provide you with everything you need to attract and retain new members.

Take Uscreen, for example. We have built-in marketing and community tools alongside a bunch of integrations that help you to run and grow your membership.

You’re able to fully brand and customize the look and feel of your membership, which gives your members a much more premium and immersive experience than on a platform like Patreon.

Here’s a look at how Uscreen customer, Means TV, has branded and customized their membership site:

A screenshot of Means TV.

And – surpriseyour membership site can have more than just one page. 

In fact, you can have as many pages as you’d like…

Including a dedicated and structured area for your membership community to interact. 

Patreon forces you to use an integration with a platform like Discord to host an organized space for your community thrive, but a good membership platform has everything you need to manage your community and content in one place.

And, you can upload and organize all of your content into an evergreen, easy-to-navigate catalog. 

Here’s a peak at how Naturally Sassy organizes their ballet workout content:

A screenshot of Naturally Sassy.

This increased access to your content makes members feel like they’re getting more value for their monthly subscription fee, and can help ease the pressure on you to create new content.

Instead of risking burnout, you can create content at a sustainable pace.

And, when you do need a break, your easy-to-access content library, community tools, and in-platform live streams help to keep your members engaged across different formats.

This allows you to hit ‘pause’ on your regular type of content, without the risk of upsetting or losing any members.

Ultimately, a membership business is a more sustainable and scalable way to monetize your video content as a full-time creator.  

Wrapping Up: Is Patreon Worth It?

Yes, and no.

In the short-term, as a part-time creator who’s short on time and resources: yes, Patreon is worth it. 

But, in the long-term, if you’re looking for the best way to make money as a creator…

Crowdfunding platforms like Patreon can hold back your growth, cost you money, and burn you out.

So once you reach the point where you’ve outgrown Patreon, you can embrace a membership platform designed to support a more sustainable and scalable business model. 

With a membership, you can extend your reach, customize and brand your own site and app, and provide a premium experience for members. 

Content organization and community features reduce the pressure to churn out new content, allowing you to create at a sustainable pace and take breaks when you need them. 

A membership model unlocks the gateway to financial and creative freedom for content creators seeking to thrive in their endeavors.