In May 2019, I started a Patreon account.
I had several goals in doing so:
- developing funding for blogging, training, and gear
- cultivating a smaller, more active community
- building in some accountability
While some people manage to fund their entire creative lives through Patreon support alone, I never had such ambitions.
But, I find immense value in participating in Patreon. Here are five of those unexpected benefits.
1. Weekly Updates
For one of my tiers I decided to do a weekly update. (Update number 35 went out for tier subscribers this week.) The update usually recounts what happened that week on the creative side, such as gameplay, game design, filming, learning, or research.
Doing this update shows both short-term and long-term growth. Too often creative work can feel slow, without much progress.
These updates show that even small changes, done weekly or even daily, add up quickly. In less than six months, I went from knowing nothing about game design to making my own crude games in different formats. I significantly deepened my knowledge of film production. I created 360-degree videos and ambisonic recordings. I even added cheesy gameplay videos to YouTube.
Seeing that progress, for me, has probably been the most encouraging benefit.
2. Tracking Logs
Coming cold to a weekly update post proved challenging in trying to remember what happened each day. I barely remember to eat breakfast or lunch most days, so you can image how some of these early weekly posts went. After several frustrating weeks, I started a daily log.
This log took a while to become habit, particularly through the summer. Some weeks I set up the log file and never updated it. Other weeks I updated the log file once or twice at the start or end of the week. By fall the habit did stick, and every day or so I record entries.
Entries include the basic activity and time spent on it. Last weekend, I coded a game for two hours, for example. Some entries include commentary or reflection. When I tried playing Anno 2070 for the first time, for another example, the game required numerous updates and learning curves. Those frustrations ended up in the log.
Like the weekly updates, the logs help with tracking progress in short and long-term ways. It helps determine the priorities for the weekly updates. And the reflections help frame the bigger discussions and themes within those updates.
3. Small Community
I must admit that I have not been the most active in recruiting people to participate in Patreon, but I do have a small, engaged community that I appreciate immensely.
This community regularly offers feedback and encouragement. While Patreon provides site tools for them to express their support, such as through comments or likes on posts, most of them use text messages or Twitter to do so. They have suggested game revisions, film production ideas, and production techniques. I can ask questions and clarifications in return.
That depth of engagement is priceless.
4. Identity and Purpose
Signing up for Patreon requires filling out a profile that clarifies who you are, what you are doing, why you are doing it, and, most importantly, what supporters will get out of it.
That kind of clarity can be difficult to achieve, but it does provide a place to start. My original profile stated that I was creating interactive documentaries, when I really ended up focusing more on game development. That gap suggests some revision possibilities for updating tiers and benefits.
What supporters get out of Patreon is the most important consideration in developing identity, purpose, and tiers. Who are you, and what are you giving back to your supporters? Another thing I need to work on when updating my profile.
5. Some Financial Support
The monthly support is quite modest but still much appreciated! While not unexpected, the amount does free up time for content development in that I need not spend time monetizing. It also keeps the blog ad-free.
Are you a Patreon creator? What are some benefits you have found from using the site? Please share in the comments below or on Twitter @documentarysite.