How to turn free members into paid members

Connecting with members who join for free shows promising results, and now you have more ways to reach them directly.

With fans joining for free, creators have found a new way to grow their community, reach their biggest fans, and deepen connections with the people who matter most. We’ve seen this translate into meaningful impact for creators’ businesses with 13% of free members upgrading to paid since we first rolled out the feature.

Creators have multiple ways to post for their free members. They can post exclusively to free members to share recaps, longer previews of paid posts, or upsell messaging that add unique value and encourage free members to upgrade to paid memberships. Or creators can post to "all members" to reach both their free and paid members with the same work.

Free members are happy with their experience and highly likely to become paid members in the future

We surveyed members who joined for free to better understand their expectations and experiences when it comes to joining a creator's community. Here’s what we learned:

Free members want to get to know you. In fact, 78% of them said they decided to join so they could bookmark a creator, stay up to date, and explore everything they have to offer.

  • What does this mean for you? Fans who join your community for free are looking to create a deeper connection with you and potentially become paid members in the future. Nico Edward of WhatchaGot2Say invites fans to join for free so they can tease upcoming releases. They show fans what they have to offer (livestreams, chats, etc.) without asking them to commit to a monthly payment.

Free members look forward to light updates. Over 70% of them said they only expect new work once a month or less. They mostly come here to keep up with everything you have going on in a space that isn’t overly crowded with recommendations or ads. These members also said they don’t expect access to paid exclusives.

  • What does this mean for you? You don’t have to create a whole new content strategy for free members. Find simple ways to stay connected to this community like Brian David Gilbert does. He shares a monthly progress report covering everything from recent collabs to preview clips of upcoming videos.

They are likely to become paid members. Over half (52%) of current free members shared that they are likely to upgrade in the future. They’re joining for free to get a feel for what you do on Patreon before committing.

  • What does this mean for you? Members who join for free don’t currently contribute to your monthly earnings, but keep up those relationships because they have a high potential to convert in the future. Paid members who cancel their memberships also stay on as free members, allowing you to win them back down the line.

52% of current free members shared that they are likely to upgrade in the future.

Letting fans join for free helps grow your community without impacting your earnings

At every step in the product development process, our team gathers data so we can make decisions that are in the best interests of creators. Ultimately, we want to make sure this is working well for creators. We looked at the numbers to see how free members impact a creator’s business both at the aggregate level for all creators and at an individual creator level.

Our analysis has not shown any negative impact on a creator’s earnings. Here is what we saw:

  • Fans who visit a creator’s page are signing up for paid membership at the same rate as before October 2023 (when fans first started joining for free). We have not seen any decline in the rate of new paid member signups.

  • Not only are your paid members remaining steady, we're seeing a greater increase in free signups. Now, for every paid member you used to get, two new fans are also joining for free. Plus, keep in mind that half of those who join for free are open to upgrading to paid memberships later.

Our data shows this free option is working well for creators, but we know each creator is unique and this may not fit your specific business. That’s why we’ve given creators the ability to control where this button sits on their page. See how to adjust that here.

Now, for every paid member you used to get, two new fans are also joining for free.

Creators are finding success with free members and soon you’ll have more ways to connect with them.

Consider your free community as an opportunity to reach 100% of your fans. Unlike other platforms where your message reaches a small portion of your audience, Patreon allows you to reach your entire community, free and paid.

What’s coming over the next few months:

You've shared great feedback on what would make joining for free better. Here are some of the things we're working on:

  • Free members in chats: Create new chats for free members or add them to existing chats with paid members. We’ve started testing this with a select group of creators.

  • Direct messaging your free members: Currently, you can only direct message paid members. Soon, you’ll be able to talk to free members through direct messaging. And rest assured, we’ll give you the controls to manage your experience so your inbox isn’t overflowing.

Patreon is committed to helping creators build their communities, deepen relationships with their fans, and grow their creative businesses. We’re excited to see how this option will help creators continue to do just that.

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