How free memberships can help grow your community

  • Updated

The option for members to join for free is replacing the followers feature. Fans who were previously following your page will become Free members. In your Relationship manager, these free members will appear without their email address.

Patreon is now a space for you to connect directly with your full community, whether they pay or not. Welcoming fans for free fosters organic community growth, gives guaranteed reach to more of your fans, and helps you retain members who stay connected as free members rather than canceling.

Fans can seamlessly join for free without needing to create or remember yet another password, receive posts you publish for everyone, and can easily upgrade to paid options at any time. You’ll see free members’ information in Relationship manager and Insights, so you can track your community growth and conversion, and can message these members outside of Patreon.

You can determine how prominently this option is shown on your page and how much access free members get to your community with comment controls.

Keep reading to learn everything you need to know.

How does free work?

Your most engaged fans get to be a part of your community, even if they aren’t ready to commit to a paid membership. Fans will see the option to Join for free when they visit your Patreon. If fans don’t have an account, they only need to enter their name and email address to sign up, and existing users will be prompted to sign in. And that’s it — they’re in; there’s no need to create or remember another password!

To engage with free members, create posts for ‘everyone’ or make a selection of previously locked posts publicly available. Creators have shared everything from monthly newsletters to episode transcripts, livestreams, and freebies. You’ll see free members’ details in your Relationship manager and get a view of your overall community growth in Insights.

What do members get when they join for free?

  • Access to posts made for ‘everyone’ delivered to their email inboxes and the Patreon desktop and mobile web app, so they can stay updated on your work
  • Notifications via email, desktop, and the mobile app when new posts they have access to are published
  • Members can easily upgrade to a paid membership whenever they view your Patreon and posts
  • Comment access to posts any posts they have access to (if enabled in your settings)

Benefits of welcoming fans for free

Community growth

More engaged fans connecting on Patreon means you can more easily convert them to paying members over time. Early access creators have seen a nearly 3x increase in the growth of their communities without a decrease in earnings.

Guaranteed reach to more of your fans

When you share something on Patreon, you know members will see it in their inboxes, the app, and on the web. Your work isn’t blocked or buried by an algorithm.

Better member retention

Paid members who cancel will see the option to stay connected as free members, so you can maintain these relationships. 80% of paid members who cancel opt to stay connected as free members, making it easy to win them back in the future.

Seamless sign-up for fans

If fans aren’t already logged in, they’ll be prompted to log in or sign up. Fans who don’t have an account yet can create an account with passwordless sign-up by simply entering their name and email address. Whenever they log in, we’ll send them an email with a code to access their account.

Learn more about passwordless login.

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You can decide how your free option appears to visitors to your Patreon

Free and paid offerings displayed

Creators whose Patreon is for all audiences will have free and paid options shown to fans by default. When free and paid options are enabled, people will see the button to Join for free directly under your header, with your paid options listed below. We’ll continue experimenting with the layout and copy of the join button to see how we can improve overall membership growth.

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You can decide whether you’d like your free option prominently placed on your Patreon or subtly placed in the menu” from your Page settings.

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Only paid options displayed

The following creators will have only their paid options prominently displayed on their Patreon by default:

  • Creators who haven’t set up paid membership tiers, but are earning through custom payments: people who visit your Patreon will see the button to Become a member, and will be directed to the checkout page
  • Creators whose Patreon is categorized as 18+: people will see the Become a member button prominently placed on your Patreon, with your paid offerings listed below

If your Patreon is suitable for all audiences, you can change your Page settings to show paid options only.

When only paid options are prominently placed on your Patreon, fans can still join for free if they click the more actions “…” menu.

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Comment settings

You can control which members get comment access and control the degree of comment filtering applied to comments added by free members (if enabled).

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Comment access

You can adjust comment access for your posts from your Page settings to one of the following:

  • All members can comment: both free and paid members can engage in the comments of posts they have access to (posts published for everyone)
  • Only paid members can comment: free members will be able to read your post comments, but won’t be able to leave comments. Free members will see a message to upgrade to join the conversation
  • Don’t allow comments: Hides the comment section for all of your existing and new posts. Both free and paid members will see a message letting them know that comments have been disabled

Default comment access settings:

  • If you published your Patreon before October 4, 2023, comment access for your posts will default to Only paid members. This means that free members can see comments on posts available to them; however, only paid members will be able to leave comments.
  • If you published your Patreon after October 4, 2023, comment access for your posts will default to All members, meaning that both free and paid members will be able to read and leave comments on posts they can access.

If you enable comments for members, you can choose to disable comments on a post-by-post basis from the post editor.

Learn more about comment access.

Comment filtering

You can automatically hide comments made by free members that don’t meet our Community Guidelines or are potentially harmful to your community.

Comment filtering is enabled by default for creators who have comment access enabled for All members, and you can adjust the level of filtering you’d like for your post comments from your Page settings to one of the following:

  • Off: All comments made by members will be shown
  • Low: We will filter out harmful and spammy comments for you, but you may still see some on your posts
  • Default: We will filter out harmful and spammy comments for you, and there is a chance that some comments are mistakenly hidden or left up

Hidden comments are visible to the commenter and can be accessed by the creator; however, other members will not see the comment.

Learn more about comment filtering.

Powerful insights to power your growth

Free members are included in your Insights dashboards. You can filter by free and paid members for detailed information about your member growth over the past 30 days, past 6 months, past year, and all time. You can analyze all active free members, new free members, and recently canceled members who had joined for free.

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  • Timeline graph: Review active, new, and canceled free members over the past 30 days, the past year, and all-time
  • Tier changes: Analyze which paid tiers members are upgrading to and which paid tiers members are leaving
    • Members who stay connected as free members instead of canceling will appear as “downgrades” in the tier change numbers
  • Membership summary: this summary includes your total members count, including free and paid members
  • Members by charge frequency: this count is specific to paid members

Followers are migrated to free members

Your existing followers will become free members and be included in your free member count. If you had a large follower count, you might see a one-time spike in free members when you gained access to the feature (for many, October 2023).

Since followers weren’t asked to share their email addresses when they first followed you, their email addresses will not be available in the Relationship manager when we convert them to free members.

FAQ

  • We believe creators deserve full ownership of the relationships they’ve built with their fans. This means being able to directly and reliably reach the people you want to share your work with, at all times–which just isn’t possible on ad-supported platforms. Creators could previously only do that on Patreon with paying fans, but now they’re able to connect with any fan.

  • We tested this feature extensively during the early access period to ensure that it would only add to your business. On average, creators saw a nearly 3x increase in the growth of their communities, without a decrease in new paid member growth. So the data indicates that your new free members are almost all people who otherwise would have left your page without joining a paid tier. Now you have the opportunity to stay connected with them, and perhaps upsell them to paid over time.

    • Community growth: More engaged fans connecting on Patreon means you can more easily convert them to paying members. Early access creators have seen a nearly 3x increase in the growth of their communities, without a decrease in earnings
    • Guaranteed reach to more of your fans: When you share something on Patreon, you know members will see it in their inboxes, the app, and on the web
    • Better member retention: Paid members who cancel will see the option to stay connected as free members, so you can maintain these relationships. 80% of paid members who cancel opt to stay connected as free members
    • Build your mailing list: When fans join for free, they share their email address with you so you will always own that relationship, even outside of Patreon
  • We’re constantly exploring ways to help creators grow their communities, with many tests and growth features. So far we’ve seen the free option give creators access to a larger engaged audience that they can turn into paying members over time. Early access creators have seen a nearly 3x increase in the growth of their communities, without a decrease in earnings. And 80% of paid members who cancel choose to stay connected for free. We want all creators to benefit from this growth and improved retention, and we’ll be continuing to test and improve how new visitors navigate and join creators’ communities.

    However, we know not every creator is the same. If you don’t want to feature the free option on your page, we’ve given creators control over that visibility in page settings.

  • Unlike with followers, you see your free members’ details in your relationship manager. You get powerful insights into your free member growth in your insights dashboard. Nothing is changing for followers who become free members — Free members get email updates straight to their inbox, so they can stay up-to-date with your announcements and content.

  • To get a list of your current Free members, click on Audience from the left navigation. If you’re not seeing the Audience link, you can click on your profile image in the bottom left corner and select your creator profile. You’ll land on your Relationship manager, where you can click on the Free member quick filter to get a list of current free members.

  • You can enable Show paid options only, which will de-emphasize the Join for free button from your Patreon. Fans will instead see a button to Become a member, which will lead to your paid options.

    Fans can still access the option to join for free from the more options “…” button on your Patreon. Paid members will also see the option to become a free member if they go through the cancellation flow.

  • In the first half of this year, we’re excited to expand the opportunities with Free Memberships. Over the next few months, we plan to roll out frequently requested features that allow you to engage with your free member community. This includes:

    • Targeting posts exclusively to free members
    • Allowing your free members to access chats
    • Direct messaging your free members
    • Sending upsell emails to convert free members to paid

    We’ll keep you updated when we have confirmed dates and - as always - ensure you have ample notice leading up to launch.

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