With platforms like YouTube or ArtStation so widely available, creating and uploading online content has never been easier for artists, musicians, and writers. But what are you receiving for the hours of hard work you devote to your creations?

By building a patron-supported website, you can do more than just share your art with your followers. Publishing your content to an exclusive website will help you position yourself as a leader in your creative field — and you’ll get paid while you do it. 

Learn how you can leverage WordPress and Paid Memberships Pro to create your very own patron-supported membership site and turn your creative passion into a sustainable career. 

Short on time? Jump ahead to find out: 

Banner for Why Creators Should Launch a Patron-Supported Membership Site on WordPress

Do I really need to build my own website?

The short answer to this question: Yes. Now, for the long answer.

You’re ready to take your creative pastime to the next level and begin offering fans exclusive content. With so many existing platforms available, why bother taking the time to create your own? For small-business owners and creators alike, relying on a third-party website such as Patreon or Kickstarter introduces some serious concerns to your operating model. 

If the website you decide to use is running ads of their own, they’re effectively making money off of your work. You’re also limited in terms of your ability to brand yourself without creative restrictions, as many of these sites also have rules when it comes to the type and volume of content you can share.

When you create your own personal site, you can ensure that you have a permanent place to archive all of your hard work — and no one else can make money from your content just for hosting it.

Once you set up your website on WordPress, you’re well on your way to turning your hobby into a bonafide side hustle. Through PMPro’s Add On extensions, you can start to explore new features and functionalities to drive support on your membership site.

How to Charge for Commissions 

While not every fan may pay to receive exclusive content, having a website gives you a personal hub for every follower to view your work and interact with you. A membership site structure allows you to offer something more to supporters, whether you have a single payment tier or multiple tiers that include additional features and gifts based on contribution.

For those who are interested in commissioning custom artwork or donating to your cause, you’ll need to consider how you can attach a monetary value to your work. Some considerations to help guide this decision include: 

  • What does it cost you (in effort or materials) to do what you do?
  • How much money do you need from month-to-month for overhead costs like hosting your website?
  • What would it take you to turn your part-time passion into a full-time career? 

Using this framework, you’ll be able to create a standardized payment model to charge for your work. The exact combination of Add Ons you use to manage these transactions will be unique to the content you create and how you plan on delivering it to your users. 

If you’re delivering physical copies of commissions, you’ll need a way to record shipping addresses as well as the names of customers on your checkout page. To ensure that you never miss out on potential sales, you’ll want to look into the Add PayPal Express to Checkout Add On to offer PayPal in addition to your primary gateway’s credit card option.

For premium content that’s downloadable, check out PMPro’s Download Monitor Integration to restrict download access to members only or use our built-in methods for file protection.

Offering a variety of payment and delivery options will allow you to capture the most sales possible from members around the world. Ultimately, with your own patron-supported membership site you can control every aspect of the experience.

How to Generate Additional Support

Another way to generate user-funded support outside of commissions is to set a public goal or run a fundraising campaign. 

With the Goals Progress Bar Add On you can display a customized progress bar anywhere on your site, including on a post, widget, or on the footer of your page. For general donations, keeping track of your users’ names and addresses can also be a great way to send gifts to thank them for their support.

Your goal should be to achieve a specific effort, whether that is raising a certain amount of money per every piece you release, or if you need some extra assistance purchasing new materials. Supporters will be excited to see how their contribution has directly advanced your creative efforts. And, if you want to allow donations that aren’t associated with your goals bar, check out the Donations Add On to accept one-off payments from your members.

If you’re accepting gifts, another important consideration for your membership site is whether you’ll give supporters the ability to set a custom amount. You may also want to offer additional offerings at the checkout page to give users more choice when ordering premium content or giving a donation.

Generating a mixture of revenue through commissioned work as well as user donations will be essential to turning your artistic passion into a profitable membership website.

Maintaining Patrons and Growing Your Following

Once you’ve gotten your membership site off the ground and have a sustainable payment model in place, there’s little else you need to do other than keeping up with the content you’ve been creating all along. 

If you’re interested in staying in touch with followers or providing regular updates on your work, you may want to choose to use an email marketing integration. This can help you build relationships with your supporters and foster greater connections that can lead to more sales opportunities. You can also use our bbPress Integration or BuddyPress Integration to create a members-only forum, giving users a place to interact with you and other followers. 

While your content will do the heavy lifting, using a combination of Add Ons to build up community engagement can help you to generate a higher lifetime value among your supporters. All of this will lead to more sales, helping you keep doing what you love to do: creating. 

What fees do I need to consider?

One common misperception is that creating your own patron-supported membership site will inevitably cost more than a third-party service like Patreon.

When you make the decision to move to your own site, you’re able to eliminate all platform fees on new subscriptions, other than the set transaction fees of your chosen payment gateway. Third-party fees can quickly add up for active users, as these providers typically charge an additional percentage on top of a base-level transaction charge. By creating your own membership site, you’re able to avoid these entirely and only pay for hosting and gateway transaction fees.

In addition to the cost savings, you’ll have the value of knowing you’ll forever have access to your website and a permanent archive of your work. It’s hard to put a price on having full control of branding as well as being able to personally host your community of supporters. 

Getting Started with PMPro

The benefits of creating your own patron-supported membership website are clear: full control of your branding, less fees, and more opportunities to connect with your users. 

Paid Memberships Pro offers the most complete WordPress membership plugin available to businesses and creators that need an easy way to restrict content and manage subscriptions. Once you’ve created your website, there’s no limit to your creativity and the combination of add-on services you can deploy to deliver the best experience possible to your supporters.

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