Create. Don’t create FOR Patreon, create because you love to create and already do create. Understand that the Patreon model for most people involves a small build-up over time. If you don’t already have an established audience, starting up a Patreon campaign will not suddenly give you one, let alone one that is willing to pay money for your work.
Make sure that when your campaign goes “live” you already have some patrons. Think of it as a tip jar. Think of the person outside the grocery store playing guitar. Notice that there’s always money in the guitar case already. Even if the person just set up for the day. It is there so others see that it’s not just “ok” to give money, but that they aren’t alone in doing so.
This lesson applies to crowdfunding. There’s nothing like seeing someone with zero funding to make a person wonder if they should be funding them. The timid supporter has to see that there’s already support out there, that other people think it’s a worthwhile investment.
Look at Kickstarters. Look how much of the funding for a successful KS triggers at the last stretch. It’s not because the word has finally gotten out that the KS exists, it’s because people feel more confident putting their money in something that looks like a sure thing. An empty tip jar is the opposite of a sure thing. A tip jar that’s been empty for a few weeks? It might be enough to turn away even the slightly less timid supporter.
So consider getting some self-funding in there. Get some friends to support you, even at the lowest possible level. Hell, offer to pay them back in beer equal to their investment in you. Just get the tip jar started so the public sees that you get tips.
Make your creations visible to the public. There’s nothing like going to a Patreon page and seeing nothing but “Patron Only” posts. You need to make enough public posts that someone looking at your page will get examples of what your end product is. You make it look like a private club and if you don’t have a ton of funding already, you make it look like a private club that no one seems to want to get into.
Also, consider making your goals personal. My initial goals were to improve my work (purchasing third-party art for my adventures, buying better work supplies) – things that would immediately improve the experience for the patron. But my bigger goals were personal. If I get X funding, I can buy booze! If I get Y funding, I can pay my rent! I originally put that in there as a joke… mostly.
The rent goal was inspired by James Raggi who publishes Lamentations of the Flame Princess (an awesome RPG). He did something similar for his stretch goals for his most recent Indiegogo campaign – every time we reached a stretch goal the backers got to vote on what it would entail and one of the options was that he’d pay his rent (to his wife) early. It got overwhelmingly voted in.
Not all your patrons want stuff for themselves, some are backing you because they want to give you money. Showing them how that money will change things for you gives them more impetus to fund you.