What is Patreon?

Everything worth knowing about the service that funds creative projects.

You’ve probably heard of Kickstarter, the website that lets people launch their own business ideas through crowdfunding (i.e. donations from the public in return for early access). Well Patreon is a similar idea, but at the same time, quite different.

Here we’ll explain everything you need to know about it.

[Read more: 12 highs and lows of Kickstarter]

What is Patreon?

It’s a service that helps those working in the creative fields get paid. While the internet has made creative material – like songs, films, e-books and animation – much easier to access, it often fails to pay those making it. Patreon works like a patronage system – if you like what a musician, artist or writer does, you can contribute either a one-off or regular payment to help fund their creative endeavours. Think of it like a crowdfunded bursary.

How is it different from Kickstarter?

With Kickstarter, donors contribute to fund a product or service, and often receive perks like early access or a discounted price. But there are no such rewards with Patreon. Instead, you give purely to help make the creator’s creative endeavour come to life.

Who uses Patreon?

All sorts of people, from artists and musicians to bloggers and podcasters. The highest-earning Patreon user is the US podcast Chapo Trap House which earns almost $100,000 a month from 22,040 patrons.

How does Patreon work?

Through micro donations. As the name suggests, these are small transactions of just a few pounds or even pence. It might not sound much, but if you can convince a few hundred or thousand people to donate regularly, there’s a pretty good living to be made.

How did Patreon start?

It was founded in 2013 by a musician called Jack Conte and his former roommate Sam Yam. Conte was a successful musician, but despite more than 150,000 subscribers to his YouTube channel, was struggling to make a living. So he created Patreon as an attempt to convince his biggest fans to regularly donate a small amount to help sustain him. The idea took off, and Conte hung up his guitar in order to run it full-time.

How big is Patreon?

Pretty big. Its San Francisco office employs 140 people, hosting 100,000 creators who are supported by millions of patrons. Since it was founded, it’s paid out over $350 million (£260 million) in donations.

What influence has it had?

Again, pretty big. There are numerous imitators around (like Drip, which was recently bought by Kickstarter), and other sites have adopted a similar model – the Guardian newspaper, for example, and videogame streaming service Twitch, to name just two.

If you have a creative project on the go, give it a whirl. You never know how much you might earn...

[Read more: 7 of the weirdest crowdfunding campaigns]

More from BT