5 steps to define your goals — and actually achieve them

By Elizabeth Kirkland

Photo by Jeremy Cohen, featuring Marcus Jade at work

To envision where to take your creative business next, follow these best practices for setting goals for growth, mapping an action plan, and keeping yourself accountable along the way.

If you consider yourself a creator, there’s probably one question that’s not far from your mind at any given moment: “What’s next for me?” And this one’s not far behind: “How do I make it happen?” Maybe you’ve got a solid social media following, and you’re considering launching membership to offer more value to your audience. Maybe you’ve been chugging along for a while now, and you’re feeling that itch to offer new benefits that your members have been asking for. Or maybe you’ve just been dreaming of living that sweet creator’s life.

No matter where you are in your creative entrepreneurship journey, these tools and tips will help you gauge where your business stands, craft goals that make sense for your situation, and keep yourself accountable along the way.

1. Get to know the membership funnel

But before we dive right into goal creation, let’s take a step back and get acquainted with the basics, starting with the membership funnel, a model that illustrates the process of how your fans become members. And it’s not just silly marketing jargon: According to Tom McNeill, senior partner manager at Patreon, understanding this concept can help you better grasp your audience’s journey and figure out where to focus your energy in the process.

The membership funnel includes four phases:

Phase #1: Awareness

This phase is where you promote your work as well as grow and engage your fan base, whether through in-person events or social media, for example. “Your fans are the people who are interested in consistently seeing and engaging with your content — these are the folks who opt into a newsletter or join your channel or buy tickets to your shows,” says Tom. This phase is at the top, the widest point of the funnel, because it represents your biggest audience.

Phase #2: Consideration

Now the funnel is starting to get a little narrower. This is the stage where you actively invite your fans to visit your Patreon and consider becoming a member. Some creators might bristle at the thought of promoting themselves in this way, but it doesn’t have to be weird. “Everybody thinks, ‘Oh, I don't wanna bother people too much,’” fashion illustrator and teacher Zoe Hong says. “If you are on TikTok and you've been scrolling for like half an hour do you even remember the first one you looked at? No, people forget constantly — and so it is okay to remind them.”

In lieu of repeatedly asking people to “Join my Patreon, join my Patreon,” Zoe suggests finding new, natural ways to weave it into the greater conversation, like creating posts teasing
Patreon-only content and sharing it on social media.

For more tips on promoting your creative work, read How to Turn Fans Into Members Through Authentic Marketing.

Phase #3: Conversion

Help visitors to your Patreon understand what your membership is about and the value they're going to get if they join. Once they grasp the benefits, such as access to exclusive content and community, they’ll have more of an incentive to become members.

Find out how to combine exclusive content and community to delight your fans to increase conversion.

Phase #4: Retention

Keep your members engaged so that they stick around, whether that’s through cultivating community, highlighting the value with your current offerings, or opening up a new membership tier to expand options based on fan requests. Many creators find that focusing on retention and interacting with fans can be an inspiring and energizing act all on its own.

Looking for ideas to boost member retention rates? Read 4 Strategies for Getting New Members to Stick Around.

2. Calculate your potential conversion rate and earnings

Here’s a fun fact: Creators can expect to convert anywhere between 0.5% and 2.5% of their fans into members, based on a data set of around 300,000 Patreon users. That means you’ll have to do a little bit of math to figure out a conversion range for your creative business.

To calculate your possible conversion percentage:

  1. Write down the number of fans on your biggest or most popular platform (such as Instagram, Twitter, or YouTube, to name a few).

  2. Multiply that number by 0.5% (or 0.005) to determine your 0.5% conversion rate, and multiply it by 2.5% (or 0.025) to establish your benchmark for your 2.5% conversion rate.

  3. Ta da! Now you have the range you can expect of how many fans might become members, once you roll out a marketing plan.

An example of how to calculate a conversion range

Let’s say you have 10,000 YouTube subscribers.

What is 0.5% conversion to members from 10,000 YouTube subscribers?
10,000 subscribers x 0.005 = 50 members

What is 2.5% conversion to members from 10,000 YouTube subscribers?
10,000 subscribers x 0.025 = 250 members

Now we know that you can expect to possibly convert between 50 to 250 fans into Patreon members.

An example of how to calculate a projected membership earnings

Next, you’ll want to know how much you might expect to earn through memberships. If you haven’t launched your Patreon yet, consider using $7 as a baseline — it’s an average standard pledge per member on Patreon. But if you’ve already got a Patreon and all of your benefits are $5 and under, then use that as your baseline. Similarly, if your first tier is $10 a month, you can use that as your marker.

Time to turn back to our example and do some more math:

  • If you convert 0.5% of your 10,000 subscribers into members, and you charge $7 a month per member, you could expect to earn $350 a month in membership pledges.

  • If you convert 2.5% of your 10,000 subscribers into members, and you charge $7 a month per member, you could expect to earn $1,750 a month in membership pledges.

All together, that means you could earn between $350 and $1,750 a month in membership pledges.

3. Establish your focus

Now that you’ve done some math and you know what your conversion range and projected earnings are, you can figure out what next steps to take based on the number of fans you have and your projected conversion rate:

  • Low number of fans, low conversion: Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been doing your thing for a while, consider this an opportunity to figure out how to grow your fan base while also taking stock of your current membership offerings and how you’re marketing them. (A quick note: If you find yourself in this scenario, pick one of the two strategies — either growing your fan base or revamping marketing and membership — to focus on first. More on this in the following sections below.)

  • Low number of fans, high conversion: Congrats — you’ve got yourself an engaged audience! Focus on growing your audience at the top of your membership funnel so that you can get more people to convert to membership.

  • High number of fans, low conversion: This might mean you’re not marketing your Patreon effectively, or you're not offering value to your fans that makes them want to join. By figuring out your possible conversion rate and measuring that against your current conversion, you can figure out what's working, what's not, and where to invest your energy to encourage more fans to become members.

  • High number of fans, high conversion: You’re in the sweet spot! You’ve got a big fan base, and they’re digging what you have to offer on Patreon. Pat yourself on the back and keep up the good work — you’re really making this membership thing work for you.

There are a number of different ways to act on this information, and it all depends on which of these scenarios best applies to your circumstances.

Make a plan to expand your fan base

Whether you’ve got a lower fan count than you’d like or simply want to reassess your method for attracting fans, pick one of these strategies to help you focus on growth:

  • Make time to engage. Cultivating quality connections is well worth it in the long run. Interact with your fans, answer their questions, and thank them in the comments. Also, be sure to tailor your content to each platform.

  • Share the love. Express gratitude to your members publicly on social media and in video credits, liner notes, or episodes. This can tactically spark FOMO, while highlighting that you and your fans are in this together.

  • Go beyond your network. Expand your reach on social media by tagging members and stories that are entertaining and engaging, and those posts will organically extend to your members’ feeds — and beyond.

  • Put your archives to good use. Introducing your work to audiences on different platforms can create a consistent cycle of engagement and traffic. In other words: You can use your older content to help bring new folks into the mix.

  • Join the conversation. Find the people who already care about what you care about. Then add to the conversation by filling in gaps and adding your unique point of view. This also helps you find collaborators while introducing you and your work to new audiences in an authentic way.

  • Do a digital assessment. A consistent digital ecosystem across all your platforms will validate your creative business and create a cohesive experience for your fans. Is it time to refresh your promo and videos?

Finetune your marketing strategy

If you’d like to revamp your marketing plan, you’ll want to focus on one of these strategies:

  • Follow the rule of seven. On average, people need to hear a message seven times before they'll take action. Share with your fans about your membership with a steady cadence across your different channels.

  • Tease your content off-platform. There are a few go-to ways to do this: Preview 10–20% of your Patreon member-only content; publish part one of a podcast, video, story, or other work on your free channels and offer part two on Patreon; offer an extended version of your content for Patreon members only; or promote new releases or events on each of your social media channels during a limited timeframe for a “surround sound” approach.

  • Turn on annual memberships. It's an easy way to reward loyal members and grow your membership with a custom discount and automatically retain members for the entire year.

  • Cultivate community. Make clearly defined rules and hire moderators who understand your content. Paying close attention to your community builds trust and loyalty, which translates into consistent growth.

  • Talk to your members. The best way to figure out why people are choosing to cancel their memberships? Ask them directly with an exit survey. Turn to fans for feedback with polls, surveys, or town halls to reimagine your membership together.

4. Turn your strategy into a SMART goal

Sometimes it can be hard to quantify ambitions and gauge whether you’re actually meeting your goals. Enter the SMART goal framework. “SMART” is an acronym that provides guidance for creating tangible, actionable goals that can help transform your dreams into reality:

  • Specific: What needs to be accomplished, and what steps need to be taken to achieve it?

  • Measurable: Quantity your goal so you know when you’ve reached the finish line.

  • Achievable: This is a reality check to ask yourself: Is your goal something you can reasonably accomplish? Choose a goal that’s doable, but not so easy that success is a foregone conclusion.

  • Relevant: Think about the big picture. Why are you setting this goal?

  • Time-bound: When will you start and finish this goal?

Here are a couple of examples of goals that leave something to be desired, followed by a version that’s been revamped using the SMART goal framework.

Example 1:

  • Non-SMART goal: Get more fans to sign up for membership.

  • SMART goal: Between March 1 and June 1, I will increase my fan base conversion rate from 0.7% to 1% by sharing 10% of my archived Patreon content on Instagram once a week for throwback Thursday.

Example 2:

  • Non-SMART goal: Create a new membership tier.

  • SMART goal: Between February 1 and April 1, I will create and launch a new membership tier that offers one custom ASMR video a month to each subscriber. I’ll use exit surveys, social comments, and poll results to gather fan feedback to inform the format, process, and price.

If you’re having trouble coming up with your own SMART goals, here’s a good sentence structure to start with: By [date], I will [goal] by [actions required to achieve the goal].

5. Keep yourself accountable

It’s easier to stick with and achieve goals when you have someone to share them with. So, don’t keep your bright ideas to yourself — identify an accountability buddy or join an A. Club. A. Clubs are small peer groups created and led by Patreon creators where you can connect, support each other, and grow together. “The ‘A’ stands for accountability, but it can also stand for ally, action, audacious, and amazing,” says Erin Owenby, community manager for Patreon. “A. Clubs are less of a space for promotion or education and teaching, and more of a space for collaboration, connection, and community.” You can join an existing A. Club, or if you can’t find one that resonates, take the leap and start your own.

This article is based on strategies discussed in Patreon’s live event “Envision Your Best Year Yet” held online on January 25, 2023. For bonus materials, review the presentation slides and watch the video replay.

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