Grow your membership base by inviting fans to join for free
If you already offer paid membership on Patreon, find out how inviting fans to join for free can help you expand your community and grow your creative business.
If you’ve ever compared the number of paid members you have on Patreon with the total number of followers you have across all your channels, you’ve probably wondered: How do I close that pesky gap?
For Nico Edward of BTS reaction channel WhatchaGot2Say, one of the answers is inviting fans to join membership for free. It’s simple: Nico and his team show fans what they have to offer (live streams, member chats, polls, and other ways to participate in their community), without asking them to commit to paying for membership. As Nico puts it: “It’s like going on a date, without having to have a full-on marriage with us.”
If you’re interested in learning more about the ins and outs of inviting your fans to join Patreon for free — and how this approach can actually help build your audience, fan relationships, and creative business over time — keep reading for insights and advice.
Invite your fans to join your Patreon for free
To get started, invite your fans to join for free and share select public posts and experiences with them on Patreon. From there, your fans might consider upgrading to paid membership or becoming a customer in your Patreon shop. Even if they don’t, you’ll still be creating a much-needed sweet spot: a way to allow fans to more deeply connect with you without them having to shell out extra cash — and without the hurdles associated with social media.
When you invite your fans, let them know everything that they can get when they join for free: They’ll stay in the loop and receive all the news, updates, posts, and other free content you share directly to their inboxes and their Patreon feed, without interference from ads or algorithms.
You can also introduce joining for free as an accessible, low-pressure way to see what your community is like and to gain access to select content and community experiences that your paid members enjoy.
Don’t shy away from using your unique voice in these communications, either. Check out these examples from creators who nailed announcements inviting their fans to join for free:
- Here’s how WhatchaGot2Say promotes their exclusive monthly reaction videos: “Guess what FAM? We now have a free sign-up option here on Patreon for anyone who would like to follow us but aren't able to sign up for a full membership at this time.” They then list out what free members get, including monthly free “Featured Reactions” and regular updates. And they entice fans further with a reminder: “You have a chance to watch some of the exclusive content that we have here on Patreon.”
- The podcasters behind Worlds Beyond Number invite fans to join them on their journey in a way that resonates with their fans’ sense of humor: “There’s some new stuff coming down the old Patreon Pipe, and here I am, on bended knee, to tell you about them. Hark! Anon! Attend, even! …Now, people can join our Patreon for free and get all our public updates in their Patreon feed, or wherever they like to get updates.”
- To illustrate the value of their new free option, onepagerules, creators of 3D print files for miniatures and tabletop games, posted a similarly upbeat announcement detailing what fans can look forward to by joining for free: “Now everyone can enjoy some amazing minis and stay connected with all things onepagerules. You'll be one of the first to know about exciting updates, new releases, and other fascinating developments with our gaming universe.” Like Worlds Beyond Number, they also underscore that paying members still enjoy exclusive benefits, and list specific examples, like access to their rulebooks, exclusive missions, paid-members-only areas of their Discord server, and special discounts.
“It’s like going on a date, without having to have a full-on marriage with us.”
Create for your community, not the algorithm
Gathering your community on Patreon means you have a direct line to your fans. “Rather than sharing a post and reaching a fraction of my audience, I can talk directly to them through Patreon, even if they aren't paid members,” says Illustrator Erika Wiseman of erikathegoober. “Social media platforms make it increasingly hard to reach your community, so centralized spaces on the internet, free from the constraints of algorithms, are becoming more and more important.”
This direct access to your Patreon members can also open creative possibilities. Just ask Alan Seawright, filmmaker and co-creator of the video series Cinema Therapy. In an episode of Backstage with Patreon, Alan says, “On YouTube, you have to play to the algorithm because if you release videos that don't perform very well, it actually brings all the views down on your entire channel, which is extremely frustrating. But that's the world we live in.” To navigate around this, the Cinema Therapy team found more freedom fostering their community on Patreon. “We're able to connect with our audience on a deeper level, and we get to make more cool stuff for them,” Alan says.
Showcase what you’re already doing
Sharing content with fans who join for free doesn’t need to lengthen your to-do list or create more work. Instead, think of this as an opportunity to showcase all the cool stuff you’re already doing. Consider sharing repurposed or repackaged content (like a Throwback Thursday post), trailers, excerpts, polls, fun behind-the-scenes posts, a peek at your upcoming content schedule, or a recap of what you’ve published in the past month. For example, Nico and the rest of the rest of the WhatchaGot2Say team share one reaction video that’s typically only available to their paying members with everyone on their Patreon for a limited time.
Keep members connected
A member might need to cancel their paid membership for financial reasons, time constraints, or just to take a break. The good news: When you have an option for them to join for free, they can downgrade their membership instead of canceling, and remain part of your community on Patreon, instead of vanishing into the universe. That means you’ll have a better chance of getting engaged fans to return to a paying membership. In the meantime, they can still stay connected and enjoy what you share with free members.
Start sharing with your members
Ready to expand your Patreon community? Read our guide on how to map out an effective strategy for your free posts and build a promotion plan. These guides will help you generate buzz and foster some friendly FOMO (a.k.a. fear of missing out) to entice more fans to join you on Patreon. Once they’ve entered your world, you can learn how to inspire free members to buy from your shop or upgrade for more exclusive content and community.
For early access to connect with fans outside of paid membership, join the waitlist.