What is choice paralysis?
First, rather than just tell you right away, let me actually show
you what choice paralysis looks like on a Patreon account. My good
friend DB Fassbinder
(link is to his Patreon) has offered to show what his tiers used to
look like before we discussed trying to improve his results.
This is what I found upon visiting his page:
Yikes! That is a lot of choices!
Choice Paralysis is a rather simple, and very much proven, concept. If you offer a
customer too many choices, they will simply not make a choice at all!
And major companies are well aware of this, with one
particular shampoo company famously boosting sales of their shampoos by eliminating
nearly half of the varieties they offered!
Yeah, that’s right. They actually eliminated their product variety,
getting rid of their worst selling scents, dropping it from something like 25 options
to 15 options, and their sales actually increased by reducing choice!
And that’s exactly how it will work on your Patreon too.
So, how many tiers do you currently have?
If your answer is ‘more than 5,’ then you’ve got a problem
right there. You need to clean up your tiers and offer no more than 4 options,
maybe 5 options at most (but that’s a really big maybe).
I actually only have 4 options on my Pen-Name Patreon account, the one I created as an experiment to see if I could make a significant income within a year, only to reach $1,610 in six months of creating it.
Yeah, that's very real and it took six months to achieve. I spent absolutely no money to get this second Patreon account to this point, with the only 'cost' being my time and effort to write, and I did it simply by following the principles I laid out in How to Make Money Writing on Patreon, as well as following the principles here.
Because these principles regarding 'how to set up your Patreon Tiers for success' are the vital key that I think a lot of writers and other Content Creators are missing.
And the only reason why I have 5 options on the Patreon I use for my real
name (Kurtis Eckstein, aka AuthorKurt) is because I'm less concerned about earning an income from
Patreon, and more concerned about publishing books with my real name (hence, I ended up with two different $5 tiers in order to meet the needs of my readers who wanted a very specific perk). However, when it
comes to tiers, I can confidently say that having 4 options is better than 5 options.
Now, let's get into the specifics.
Need to trim back? Start with the $1 tier.
If you need to trim back so that you only have 4 tiers, then start by eliminating your $1 tier, if you have it, in favor of a $2 tier.
Because those who will support you at the $1 tier will
almost always be willing to support you at the $2 tier.
I actually did a poll for my patrons when I first eliminated the $1 tier on my main Patreon account
(the one that uses my real name, where I don’t focus as much on Patreon itself, and instead focus more on
published books), and almost no one said they would leave if I eliminated the $1
tier they were in.
In fact, here are the results of those two polls (and yes, this sample
size was plenty large enough to be statistically significant).
In total, for all those who initially joined the $1 tier, a
whopping 84% would have joined if the tier was $2 (meaning, instead of 100
people joining for $1, you would have approximately 84 people joining for $2, earning you $168
instead of $100).
That’s a big difference on its own, but even a bigger
difference if you add another zero to those numbers ($1,680 vs $1,000). And while you might be
thinking you’ll never have 1,000 patrons (hey, it's okay to dream big), the main point here
is that you’re causing more harm than good by having a $1 tier, since it causes
choice paralysis by adding one extra tier to choose from, in addition to it hurting your bottom line.
Now, assuming you’ve eliminated your $1 tier, let’s move on to
the big ones.
Do you have a $20 tier, $25 tier, $50 tier, or even a $100
Are there any patrons in those tiers?
Probably not, and you should just get rid of them. Sure, the
dream of eventually having someone in that tier is very nice to hold on to,
and maybe it could happen, but you’re much better off trying to get more readers in
the $5 and $10 tiers, rather than getting one (very rare) big supporter.
So seriously, just get rid of those big tiers.
Do you have 4 Tiers now?
Okay, now hopefully you’ve made the important step of
reducing 'choice paralysis' by getting rid of a bunch of your tiers.
You should have no more than 4 options at this point.
Hopefully, you have something very similar to a $2 tier, a $3
tier, a $5 tier, and a $10 tier. That’s only 4 options right there,
and you might find even better success by eliminating either the $2 or
$3 tier so that you only have three options (for example, $2, $5, $10).
On my first Patreon for my real name (Kurtis Eckstein, aka AuthorKurt), I have a $2, $5, $10, and $20 tier, with audiobook codes being the perk for the highest $20 tier.
In the rare event that you
do end up having a fifth tier,
then it should only be if you have a really amazing perk that people
want (like that audiobook code thing being offered at a $15 or $20
tier, something that should also have a limited number of spots available, so you ensure you don't run out of codes).
However, if you're going to have a $20 tier, then you might as well just get rid of either the $2 or $3 tier, if you have both.
And sorry, but if the only perk you're offering to validate the existence of an expensive tier is something like signed copies, their name in your book, copy of physical books (which they could just buy cheaper themselves), or something like naming a character after the person, then you'll likely end up with no one in that tier, and it'll just cause more choice paralysis by having options that virtually no one wants.
So otherwise, if it's not something like audiobook codes, then try to stick to three or four tiers.
this is not really a 'suggestion' so much as a requirement. If you have
too many tiers, you will cause some level of choice paralysis, and will
likely get less people signing up. If you continue to have five or more tiers, you can expect to have less people joining than you would have otherwise.)
Ready for the next step?
It’s also a big one.
If you're trying to Make Money Writing on Patreon, then you are probably an expert at writing paragraphs...
want to know where you absolutely should not have paragraphs?
In your tier descriptions.
You want your readers to land on your Patreon page and be
able to make a quick choice on which tier is right for them, so if you have a
wall of text, then you are significantly hindering their decision-making
Thankfully, there is an easy solution for this.
And no more than 3 bullet points. Maybe 4 points total. Why?
Again, let me just show you why, using my good friend DB Fassbinder as the example.
While it might seem like a similar amount of text, a very quick glance and you realize that he is giving the potential supporter the most vital information right away: Read 1-2 chapters ahead.
The bullet points actually make this information more digestible.
However, it's important to note that similar to choice paralysis, you defeat the purpose of bullet points if you
have too many, because the point (no pun intended) is to get the point across
Essentially, you cause information overload with too many points.
And if you have five or more points (jeez, that’s a lot of points),
then you start turning it into too large of a list to grasp quickly, easily, and efficiently.
Honestly, what I would recommend doing is only having one single bullet
point at the top of each description telling people exactly how many advanced chapters they are going to get
by joining that tier (or whatever the biggest perk is if you create different content).
Always put the biggest perk first, and the least important perk last.
Yes, this really matters.
It's a night and day difference, because everything else is non-substantial by comparison.
And definitely don't have something like 'Everything in the previous tier,' because that actually requires more work for them to go back and read what the previous tier had. Again, such a phrase hinders the readers decision-making process, making it more likely they won't bother signing up.
Or you could do something like this:
You just made it super easy for them to make a decision.
And then, if you absolutely must elaborate on the details of
your tiers, do it after you’ve given them the most vital information of all, which is the
very thing that will tell them what tier they want to be in – the number of advanced
chapters they get.
Now we’re in business.
There's just one last thing to consider.
Results and Incentives
Let's say you've done all this, you now only have 4 tiers and you've made the descriptions bullet points with the most important perk at the top. Let's say you've also followed the tips in Making Money Writing on Patreon and you have on-going mysteries in your story, you use cliff-hangers, and you've hopefully started valuing your writing by not offering all advanced chapters at the lowest tier.
Now let's say you even have quite a few patrons, and yet still aren't seeing success.
What might the problem be?
The biggest issue I've seen is writers actually do have supporters, but the ratio of 'income to supporters' is much less than what I've shown here.
I've seen ratios like $3 average per person, which would be only $750 for 250 patrons, instead of $1,610.
Alternatively, the average for my Pen-Name Patreon is about $6.45 per patron, and that is where the difference lies. Even the ratio for my normal Patreon account is over $5 per patron, and that is because I give people the most incentive to join my $5 tier on that account (which is why the average is above $5, since I give very little incentive to join the lowest tier).
And having 200 patrons could mean $600, or it could mean nearly $1,300 depending on how you have your tiers set up.
And if your average is truly under $4 or $5, then the issue isn't your supporters. The issue lies with the tiers themselves, and the fact that you are giving your supporters either too much incentive to pick a lower tier, not enough incentive to pick a higher tier, or both.
So if you do have a decent amount of supporters, but feel like you are no where near this level of success, then consider the incentives you are giving them. Usually, the issue is that you're offering the one perk they care most about (Advanced Chapters) only in the lowest tier, with there being no 'chapter stacking' like I've mentioned previously.
So, tidy up your Tiers, get rid of the really big ones, aim to only have four at most, turn the descriptions
into bullet points, and assuming you already have decent exposure, then your new
patrons should start trickling in at a much faster rate than before.
Because you’ve eliminated choice paralysis, you’ve eliminated
information overload, and you’ve made it super quick and easy for them to
figure out which tier they want to be in and sign up.
Just don't forget that the number one reason why people will sign up is for those 'advanced chapters.' And don't forget that you need to give those patrons incentive to join the higher tiers. If you have a lot of patrons, but still aren't making very much, then you need to revisit your tier perks and figure out why no one is joining the higher $5 and $10 tiers.
Also, if you want to look at the 'big picture' for how this should all work, then I highly encourage you to read: The Formula to Make Money Writing on Patreon.
Do all that, and the impact it'll have will feel like magic.
But it's not magic, and this method can work for you too.