Have you ever thought of simply asking your biggest fans to help fund your website?
The concept of patronage goes back thousands of years, when the elites in a society would help support artists by paying for them to work. The creations would still belong to the artists, but the patrons believed enough in the value of the work to help fund it. As more and more small, niche bloggers and artists try to make a living through their work, the patronage model has made a comeback.
I recently tried out a patronage campaign and had pretty decent results, with about 30 of my fans signing up to contribute a total of $100 a month. While it might not sound like much, that is $100 a month I didn't have before, plus I also know who my biggest, raving fans are.
In addition to the money, I also use them to help proof and test out upcoming products that I can give them for free, as well as collect testimonials from them. All in all, it was a good experiment and one that I think would be even more successful if you have a more tightly knit community than I do.
There are two different approaches to a patronage campaign.
We went with a standard patronage campaign where we asked for money, but didn't offer anything in return besides what we are already doing. We do offer occasional discounts and sneak peaks of stuff we are working on to our supporters, but nothing is set in stone.
You can also do a blend of a patronage campaign and a membership site. Where the main ask is a standard patronage campaign, but if you donate a certain amount you get rewarded with more content, videos, downloadable books, or other bonuses that aren't accessible to other people.
Setting up a typical patronage campaign is easy, especially if you opt to use Patreon.com, as we did. Patreon handles all the sign up and money collection, and even lets you set specific rewards for the levels of membership. Between edits of our "ask" letter and the setup on Patreon, it took a few weeks from start to finish. You could also use E-junkie or PayPal, and manage the process yourself.