A Primer in Monetizing Your Creative Passion | Learn with Patreon | Christine Donaldson | Skillshare

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A Primer in Monetizing Your Creative Passion | Learn with Patreon

teacher avatar Christine Donaldson, Marketing Specialist, Patreon

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Am I Ready to Monetize?


    • 3.

      Tools to Earn Money


    • 4.

      More Advanced Tools


    • 5.

      Success Stories


    • 6.

      Budgeting Tips


    • 7.

      What's Next?


    • 8.

      Final Thoughts


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About This Class

Turn your creative passion into profit! Unlock your monetizing toolkit in this 25-minute class with Christine Donaldson of Patreon — a platform that empowers creators to make a living from their work through subscription payments from their fans.

Whether you’re just getting started, looking to grow, or ready to fully commit to your creative side hustle, this class is packed with tips and tactics for anyone looking to make steady money off their work.

Christine walks through:

  • Assessing whether or not you're ready to monetize
  • Tools and sites for making money (from basic to more advanced)
  • Budgeting tips for creators
  • Growing and engaging your fans over time

You’ll leave this class with specific examples of what works from successful creators who have turned their online followings into sustainable income.


Want to start earning a living from your creative passion? Become a Patreon Creator today!

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Christine Donaldson

Marketing Specialist, Patreon


When Christine Donaldson isn't making music, skiing, or blogging, she works in Marketing at Patreon -- a platform for creators to earn recurring income based on subscription payments from their fans.

To learn more and start turning your passion into profit, visit patreon.com

See full profile

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1. Introduction: Hi everyone, my name is Christine Donaldson. I'm a musician, songwriter and content creator, and I'm also the launch marketing specialist at Patreon. In this class, we're going to cover the tools and tactics to help you make money through your creative work, and turn your side hustle into your revenue stream. The main takeaway here is that your passion can become a viable source of income if you know the right tools and you take it seriously. We're going to cover three main questions. One, how do I know I'm ready to monetize my work? Two, what are the specific channels tools and websites for earning money? Three, how do I manage my new creative income and continue to grow? Throughout this class, I'll be covering samples through my own creative work as well as examples from creators in the Petreon community. We'll also cover a lot more about PGM, a place where creators can connect with their top fans and earn a sustainable living doing what they love. While we're talking a lot about PGM, I'll also be discussing a lot of other foundational topics that even uses class as an ongoing resource while you grow your career. I've attached a worksheet so that you can work on A, deciding where you are in the process right now, and B, what your next steps are in growing your career. This class is really a community, so I invite you to share your creative work, ask questions and comment in the discussion section so you can help each other grow. Let's get started. 2. Am I Ready to Monetize?: Chances are if you're in this class, you're already creating great work. Now we're going to cover how to legitimize that work and build a community around it. This will prep you for our next video in how to turn your passion into a revenue stream. First, let's take a look at what you already have, your creative projects. You want to make sure that you're considering a few important things before you start monetizing your work. The first of these is creating shareable digital content, no matter what your medium is. Here are some of my tips for sharing your work. Post regularly and consistently. It doesn't have to be every day but just make sure that you're not falling off the radar. Also, you can figure out when your fans are most engaged. Is it in the evenings, the weekends, during their lunch break? Consider showing process shots too. Not all of the work that you share has to be a finished product. For illustrators this could be a sketch. For video creators this can be a behind the scenes shot. For me sometimes it's sharing a video of an unfinished song when I'm in the studio. You can also remember that you don't need to be on all of the social networks. It's important to share what you're doing but finding that work that works best for you. For musicians this could be SoundCloud, for illustrator's it can be DeviantArt, choose the one that makes you most excited to share your work with your fans. A great example of this is, Amanda Palmer. She's a musician and a writer, but she shows her creative work in the form of videos, blog posts, MP3s, and also posts on social media. Create a system that works for you so that you're excited to keep sharing. Before you monetize your work, you also want to define your personal brand. Assess yourself as a creator. What are you making? Who is it for? Why are you making it? Some important things to consider here are how you can stay recognized across all of your social media platforms, and also how you can distinguish yourself from other creators to stay memorable. This should be expressed at every touch point between you and your followers. Whether it's your social media posts, your bio's, the look and feel of your different social platforms. Here are two examples of strong personal brands from creators in the Patreon community. The first example of these is Bite Size Vegan. The consistency across her social media and the photos she shows of herself help you recognize her across platforms. You can also tell right off the bat what the topic of her videos are from looking at her social media. The second example is, Shayla Maddox, she's a painter and that's instantly demonstrated when you visit her social media. Right away you can sense the mood and style of her paintings, and she also includes a photo so that you can recognize her across social media networks. She also is very reflective in all of her style of writing so you get a sense of what her personality is like. If this topic really excites you and you want to learn more, I've attached a few other Skillshare classes that you can dive deeper into how to build your personal brand. Now that you're sharing your content and you've defined your personal brand, you'll want to start growing your fan base. This is incredibly important because your fans will play such an important role in how you earn a living as a creator. I know it's easier said than done, but you don't need a million followers, you just need fans who are engaged and who care deeply about your work. Think about how you can engage your fans on social media. Peter Hollens is a great example of this. He replies to almost every comment that his fans leave so that his followers feel that he truly cares about their support. Don't be afraid to unveil your personality to your fans. It strengthens the connection between you and your following and it makes them feel like they know you better. When you're communicating with your fans, you can also use a call to action. This enlists your following to help you share your work across their networks. Networking is also a great way to grow your audience. Whether it's reaching out to artists who inspire you or saying thank you to the people who appreciate your work. Here are three signs that you are ready to monetize your work. You're distributing your work on a regular basis, you've developed a strong personal brand that distinguishes you from other creators, and you've grown a fan base that engages with you on social media and shares your work. If this feels a little out of reach still I'd recommend taking the next few months to really refine your personal brand around his core places. But if you are knocking it out on these three things, let's jump into the next video about how to build a revenue stream around your work. 3. Tools to Earn Money: Now let's talk about how to turn your creative passion into profit. You've got your community built up, your brand is consistent across channels, and your fans are engaged. Now, how do you actually make money from your work? Here are a few methods that I've found effective from my own personal experience, and some examples from other creators in the patron community. I'm going to break this down into parts, one for beginner tools when you're just starting out, and one with more advanced tools. The most obvious start is selling your work, selling your creative projects is the most natural way to make income for most artists. A few effective platforms for selling your work is Bandcamp for musicians, at sea or big cartel for visual artists, and video-on-demand for video creators. If you're having trouble finding a marketplace to sell your work you can take the next step and incorporate an online store into your website with services like Shopify or Squarespace. Here's an example of Jacob Collier's online music store. You can see a list of all the different places you can purchase his music. Here's an example of my Bandcamp store, this is where my fans can go and purchase individual songs. Merchandise is another great revenue stream. Sometimes your art can become your merch and other times you can sell merch that's an extension of your brand and just a fun way to build awareness for your craft. This is important for your loyal fans who want to show their support for your community. It also advertises your work while earning you revenue at the same time. Common merch items include t-shirts, posters, mugs, hats, prints of your art work, or physical copies of your work too. Websites that help you make this merch are DFTBA, AKT, Teespring, Spread shirt, Zazzle, Merchify and there are plenty more. If you're not quite ready to sell your merch online you can start off by selling it to friends, family, or followers who come to your live events. Here's an example of illustrator Chris Ryniak's merch store where he sells his artwork in the form of stickers, and here's the Ginger runners merch store where he sells a wide variety of merch items including gear for his personal brand as well as audio tracks. Think about what works best for you as an artist and what your fans would be most excited to buy. Live events are another great way to make money from your creative work. They help creators gain exposure, connect to their community, and earn money off of ticket sales. You might think that this only pertains to musicians hosting concerts or artists hosting a gallery exhibit, but live events can pertain to any artists, filmmakers can host screenings, authors can have a book launch, designers can host a talk, and basically any creator can speak on a panel at a convention. Here are some of my tips for events, when you're booking a show or an appearance make sure you send a very concise email that lists what you do and what you can offer for the event, then link it to your best example of your work. Make sure that you also have a clear understanding of your compensation or ticket revenue split. Also make sure that you have a signed contract to refer back to. Of course these are only a few strategies and there are so many more, but now let's dive into a few more advanced tools for earning funding for your creative work. 4. More Advanced Tools: Let's talk about ad revenue. Once you've built up your following online as we touched on earlier, you can start to earn our revenue based off of your followings reach. The most common ways to earn ad revenue are on YouTube. YouTube ways do this by showing ads before their videos. Creators can also earn ad revenue by showing banner ads or advertisements on their websites. Anyone can monetize their videos on YouTube. All you have to do is click the Enable button under the Monetization section of your YouTube channel. The biggest challenge with YouTube ad revenue is that it's based on views and therefore extremely variable. So, this option is not the most dependable source of income for most creators, unless you're getting extremely high views in your YouTube channel or your website, in which case it might bring in a pretty penny. Here's an example of my video on YouTube, Sail Away. It has a high view number for me, it's over 20,000 views, but it's only brought in a few dollars over the years. Another creator I know who's released a video that has a million views has only made around $500, so it's not extremely dependable. Another way to monetize your social following as a creator is to incorporate brand deals into your revenue model. This is a great way to earn a large one-time payment in return for incorporating a brand into your work. This could mean holding your product in an Instagram photo or letting a brand sponsor your video and tagging their logo on the end. So, you might be wondering how does this process even work. Normally, once you've established yourself as a creator with a large following, brands or agencies will reach out to you about brand deals. But you can also sign up for platforms that help connect you with brands for opportunities. Personally, I've had great success with platforms like Izea, Collectively, and Fohr Card who take your information and put it in a database for brands to browse through. They've provided me with great opportunities to earn money by incorporating brand campaigns into my social media posts. Some of the best tips I can offer for brand deals are to always negotiate your compensation. If you present your rate first, aim high and then fearlessly go into a round of negotiation. The brand expects it. If the brand presents your rate first, negotiate even more. Here's an example of an Instagram post I did with Plenti Yogurt. No matter what brand deal I choose to accept, I make sure that it's the right fit for me, that it fits my personal brand, and that it's the type of content that my audience wants to see. You should make sure that you do the same. 5. Success Stories: What I have found to work really well for lots of creators and for myself are platforms like Patreon, which is an alternative revenue stream for creators. It can work at any phase of your career and it's super easy to set up. Patreon is a place where creators can connect with their top fans and earn reliable, sustainable income doing what they love. Fans can pledge $1 or more per month or per project at their favorite creator releases and as a result, creators can give back awesome perks to their fans. Think back to the old school Medici era when a patreon would pay for a piece of work from one of their favorite artists. It's just like that, except a modern version. This provides a really different experience in other revenue streams like ad revenue or brand deals because it's recurring predictable income. It's basically like receiving a paycheck in the mail every month. Patreon helps creators achieve a community with their top fans and build in extra revenue on top of their normal business. Here's some examples of creators who are super successful on Patreon. Kinda Funny is a gaming podcast and they're earning over $29,000 per month. As you can see, they have great personal branding on their page, a video that describes why they're on Patreon and an awesome detailed description. One of the best things about their page is that they have really exciting rewards for the Patreons to choose from. Another example is Patreon page for Crash Course. They're creating educational videos and they're also making over $29,000 per month. As you can see on their page, they have an informational video about why they're on Patreon and a description as well. They also have really exciting reward options for all of their Patreons to choose from, going all the way from $1 up to $1,000 per month. Now let's explore what specifically should be on your Patreon page. Let's start with the description. It should explain a little bit about how Patreon works and why you are on it. It's important that your audience can read how this will move you forward in your career as a creator. A video is also a really important thing to consider. It's not necessary but it's a great way to announce your page to your fans right when you release it. For those fans who don't want to read your description, sometimes watching a video explains how Patreon works better. The reward tiers might possibly be the most important part of your page. It's where you can list the perks that you will give back to patreons based on how much they subscribe. We see that creators at four to six reward tiers are in the most funding. It's also really important to think hard about what you offer as rewards. We recommend that rewards are digital and scalable so that you're not spending too much time at the post office sending physical items out. Some exciting examples of rewards you could offer are a monthly newsletter, access to exclusive behind the scenes footage on your Patreon page, a monthly Google Hangout with your fans or for higher paying Patreons, you could even offer a personal phone call or personal video message to thank them. On my personal Patreon page, I offer behind the scenes footage, free downloads of my demos as I release them, as well as a monthly Google Hangout. Fran Meneses has one of my favorite Patreon pages. The moment you look at it, you get a really good feel for her style of work. She has a really fun video about why she's on Patreon and how it works. In everything she writes on her page, you really get a good sense of her personality which is exciting for her fans or anyone who wants to build a closer relationship with her. You can also read a really detailed description about her career and how Patreon is helping her. All of her reward options are very well thought out with really exciting perks for all of her fans. You can see that they range from $1 all the way up to $50 per month. You might be wondering, how do I incentivize my fans to pay me? The incentive for your fans to fund you is all about the message you send when you share your Patreon page and announce it in the future. Your enthusiasm will be reflected by your following. A lot of creators have that initial concern that they're begging their fans for money when, in fact, they're offering a really special opportunity for their top fans to build an even more direct relationship with them. It's a way for creators to give back and build a community in a special Patreon only place. It also works to create a little sense of urgency. Take, for example, this campaign from Natalie Dan where she shared her Patreon page with a countdown for her fans to get their name on her next album. This sense of urgency caused a huge spike in her patreonage and as a result, she got a lot more funding. One more thing to consider is how much money you should seek from your Patreon page. This depends on the size of your following, the type of content you're creating and the effort you put into your Patreon campaign. There's no formula but no matter what, the money that you earn from your Patreon will go into your pocket and into your creator business. As you grow your Patreon page over time, you can switch up the rewards to make them more exciting or even add higher reward tiers for higher paying Patreon. This will cause your creative passion to become a bigger portion of your overall income. 6. Budgeting Tips: Budgeting is a key component to your creative monetization and sustainability. It plays a really supportive role in improving the quality of your content over time. If you're making your creative passion your business, you should be as attentive to your creative budget as a business owner. There's also no wrong or right way to budget, it's completely different for every creator. But the most important thing is to not be intimidated by it, and to make sure that you tackle it sooner rather than later. It's also really important to share your future goals and aspirations with your fans. This way, they're really excited to follow along and compelled to contribute to your journey. Your fans can be an important source of your income, and this way, they feel like they know what's ahead of you in your career as a creator. Some creators use Patreon as a place to be super candid about their goals and what it will actually require to get there. Take for example an up and coming video editor. They might need a more expensive program on their computer to edit better quality videos, and if their fans contribute on Patreon, they can contribute to their favorite creator's success. With effective budgeting practices, you can learn which of the monetization methods work best for your creative business. Then you can choose to optimize and spend most of your time devoting your time to that method. For example, if your Patreon page is your largest source of income, make sure that you continue to apply the most amount of time to your community on Patreon. Then choose the next most effective forms of monetization and apply your energy and budget on growing those. When considering your creator budget here's some simple rules of them. Always calculate your after-tax income and constantly update as your creator income changes over time. Limit your needs or essential living expenses to 50 percent of your income. You should also limit your wants or the money you put back into creative projects to 30 percent of your income. Another rule of thumb is that 20 percent of your after-tax income should be put towards savings or debt repayments. Remember that minimum payments for your credit cards, car loans or mortgage payments should be part of your needs or essential expense section. This is all based on Elizabeth Warren's 50-30-20 rule of thumb. Of course, these guidelines aren't set in stone, and budgeting is different for every creator. But the most important takeaway is that, as you decide to monetize your creative passion, you start to budget sooner rather than later. 7. What's Next?: Once you've got all your decks in a row and you're an established creator, a lot of your work will be spent on maintaining your audience and keeping them excited about your work. Here the top five things I recommend for maintaining and managing your audience and beyond that, growing your revenue over time. First, rise above negativity. The more your audience grows, the more negative comments you'll start to see on your media. This is a common challenge for content creators and the best thing you can do is ignore and rise above the negative comments. Every now and then, you might find it necessary to let someone know that you've received their critical feedback. But, generally, the most productive thing you can do is send your energy back to the fans who give you encouragement. You should also continue to ask for feedback from your fans. You can post a question, or a poll on social media, or you can create a private feedback community, like a Patreon page or a closed Facebook group for your top fans. You'll also want to remember to give back to your fans. You can do this in the form of live events or contests on social media where your fans can win something. You can also provide tutorials, classes, and other educational content for your fans who are also creators. Here's an example of a tutorial by Sakimichan, who's an illustrator. A lot of her fans are also illustrators and they're very curious about how she draws hair. Here, Sakimichan lays out step-by-step some of her process. You can also continue to grow your creator income over time by leveraging your Patreon community and promoting your page everywhere that you can. You can place a link to your Patreon page in all of the most discoverable places. You can incorporate away to mention your Patreon page on a continuing basis or thank your patrons regularly. You can also give progress updates on your goals or share what cool rewards you're sharing with your patrons on Patreon. Lastly, checking with your goals every month and assess your monetary progress. Remember to invest your energy into the revenue streams that work best for you and call upon your audience when you have something exciting to offer them. 8. Final Thoughts: All right, that's it. I hope you had fun watching and learned a lot about monetizing your creative passion. I really hope that you can take your career to the next level using my tips on: one, assessing if your creative passion is ready to turn into a business; two, the different methods for monetization; and three, managing a creative budget. Remember that there are effective ways to grow your community over time and engage them. I look forward to seeing your creator launch plan in the project gallery. The most important thing I'd like you to take away from this class is that you can make money from your creative passion. If you use the right tools and you commit to the long-term, your hobby can become your income. Thanks so much for watching.