How to design a free content strategy (2024)

On Patreon, you get to be in charge of your community's experience — not the algorithm. You can offer anything you'd like and be your full, authentic self. It's your place to invite your audience to go deeper into your creative world, to explore it with you and build community with each other.

From this space of connection, you can also grow a thriving business. With your fans gathered together, you've got an opportunity to inspire them to upgrade for more and get an even richer experience. "Treat Patreon as its own social media," says Mia Kay, who designs 3D miniatures for tabletop games for M3DM, "and then try and get those free members to paid."

So, how do you figure out what content to share with your full Patreon community — and if you offer a paid membership (or are thinking about it), what to reserve for your paid members? We've got you! Developing a plan that keeps your workload manageable is not as hard as it might sound. Here are a few strategies to maximize your efforts and deepen your relationships with fans, both on and off of Patreon.

Take the pressure out of posting

The pressures of social media might make you feel like you have to make every post a polished work of art. And the algorithms might make you feel tied to rigid formats and schedules. But it doesn't have to be that way.

Given the nature of social media platforms, your posts will not reach all your fans. The good news? Patreon operates outside of social media's limiting algorithms and ads, so you can trust that everything you post on your creator page will show up in your members' feeds and inboxes. That means you can repost your social media content to Patreon (or vice versa) without worrying about repeating yourself. Plus, you'll ensure your content gets seen by all your fans and stays consistent across platforms.

"I have a number of people who’ve joined me purely to see the behind-the-scenes experiments I do with my art form, which is an incredibly rewarding feedback loop for me."

Think of your Patreon as a place where you can feel free to try new things, make beautiful messes, and express your whole self. It's yours to create and cultivate — so customize it to reflect who you are and share more of your creative process. You can also share in-progress updates, madcap experiments, and random thoughts with your fans.

"I have a number of people who've joined me purely to see the behind-the-scenes experiments I do with my art form, which is an incredibly rewarding feedback loop for me," says Hanna Hastings, the stained glass artist behind Sand and Fireworks. Posts like these feel special and compelling to people who love what you do and create even more reasons for your wider audience to join your Patreon.

For early access to connect with fans outside of paid membership, join the waitlist.

Determine what to share with everyone versus paid members only

If you currently have (or are thinking of adding) paid membership, how do you know what you should share with all your fans and what to share only with paid members? Here are some ideas.

What to share with everyone

Fans who join your community for free will get notified about every public post you share via email and see it in their feed on Patreon. More "general interest" content — like your upcoming schedule, month-in-reviews, updates, announcements, polls, trailers, and preview videos — works well for this category. Think of these posts as an introduction to your creative universe and your entire Patreon experience. For Gayle Warfield, an illustrator with a tech background and founder of the enamel pin club TealTeacup, free content is a way for fans to "get a taste of what I do." She adds, "As a UX/UI designer, I love releasing barriers. And free membership is like an invisible purchase." (Because, of course, joining for free costs fans nothing.)

In short: Public posts give you a way to share what you do and win hearts — and potentially, new paying members.

When designing your free content approach, draw on what you do best (in other words: your creative superpowers) to capture your fans' attention, and content formats you find most enjoyable to create, whether written posts, videos, audio, visual, or otherwise.

To keep fans inspired and informed with free posts, consider these formats and content types:

  • Ongoing updates

    • News, updates, and announcements from your creative world
    • Ongoing newsletters
    • Roundup-style posts
    • Your upcoming schedule of content, live streams, or other happenings
    • Concert, performance, and other live event announcements
    • Trailers, clips, and teasers of recent content you shared with paid members (with info on how to upgrade for the full piece)
    • Previews of upcoming merch (with first access to buy for paid members)
    • Updates on works-in-progress, like how Gayle shared the refreshed design for one of her enamel pins
    • Highlights and recaps that look back on what you shared over the past week, month, or quarter, like how artist Loish shared an update titled "What I've been up to here on Patreon" with imagery and blurbs highlighting all her recent projects and community discussions.
  • Exclusive free content

    • Occasional full pieces of paid content, like monthly or bi-monthly long-form video and audio posts, to give free members a taste of what awaits if they upgrade
    • Longer excerpts of paid-member content, and more substantial previews, trailers, and clips that give them a good feel for what the the full piece is like
    • An extended or ad-free episode to take free members deeper into your creative work without interruptions
    • Behind-the-scenes peeks into your process, workspace, or notable moments
    • A special invitation to live streams and ask-me-anything (AMA) threads
    • Early access to free content or fan-exclusive information (like tour dates and pre-sales
    • Freebies that double as a sample of your more in-depth paid content, such as handy templates or wallpaper designs to use as phone backgrounds, like how Science Mom shared a set of learning materials — including worksheets, coloring pages, activities, templates, and drawing lessons — that accompanied her live, members-only, animal-themed summer camp for kids
  • Consolidated, repackaged, and companion content

    • Content that complements work you already share on other platforms, like images, supporting links, and notes referenced in a podcast episode, for example
    • Stills or short-form video clips
    • Commentary on your creative process for a specific piece of work
    • Content fans would otherwise have to chase down on separate platforms, now in one easy-to-access place (hint: your Patreon), like video-game documentarian Danny O’Dwyer’s monthly “Patron show,” where he compiles all of Noclip's upcoming projects
    • Audio and video versions of a podcast episode, along with show notes, a transcript, and related links and images
  • Feedback and participation

    • Give fans the option to share feedback via polls, such as voting on what types of merch you should offer or which topics or designs you should tackle next. For example, illustrator Gaby Niko polled her Patreon community about which art print she should make for the month.
    • When you incorporate fan input, follow up and let them know! For example, the creators behind the World Beyond Number podcast responded to fan feedback in a post and shared why they found it valuable. "Many (MANY) of you have asked that we make a Patreon post announcing every new public episode on the main public feed," they wrote. "Starting now, we will! This helps us keep everything in WBN in one place (here) AND it lets us do cool stuff, like publish public episode transcripts with better formatting than our previous transcript distribution system allowed."

In public posts, you can also give fans a glimpse into what you do and seamlessly spotlight the benefits of paying for membership. For event announcements, for example, you can highlight how fans at certain membership levels can get early access to tickets. Or when posting about a partnership, you might say, "Thank you to my [insert names of your paid tiers] members for making this collaboration with [insert name of collaborator] possible! For free members, here's a preview clip. To see the full video, you can upgrade your membership and be part of the next collab."

What to share with paying members

When your fans become paying members, they gain access to exclusive benefits at their chosen membership level. For paying members, you might offer bonus and ad-free content, early-access content, archived content, and physical goods (like merch). What you offer paying members might also take the form of community benefits , like access to an online community space (such as Discord, Slack, or otherwise) or special recognition (like spotlighting members in your content and posts). You might also grant deeper access to your creator world with behind-the-scenes looks into your creative process, personalized updates, exclusive polls, first dibs on ticket sales, and special voting opportunities.

Essentially, unlike people who simply browse your Patreon or fans who join for free, paying members get what they pay for: entry into your exclusive world with the insider content and benefits you offer at a given tier.

Bring it all together to build an engaged member community

There's no one-size-fits-all formula for creating an effective content strategy. But one thing's for sure: Focusing on making regular public posts that are valuable to both free and paying members can really pay off. Why? Because people who love your work come to Patreon for a deeper experience than they would get elsewhere. So, posting more in-depth and elevated free content for your community means more engaged free members — which leads to more paying members. And more paying members means a sustainable income stream to fuel your creative independence and the work your fans love.

For early access to connect with fans outside of paid membership, join the waitlist.

Learn how to combine exclusive content and community to delight your fans to make your paid membership levels even more enticing.

How to design a free content strategy (2024)
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