The Poor Person’s Guide to Helping Creators Make Money (without spending any of your own money)

I’m a writer and have a mini-but-growing stationery business. I also work in marketing. Thus, most of my day and quite a bit of my evenings are spent trying to get consumers (you) to buy into brands (my batshit stories and smartarse pencils, or my clients’ very sensible businesses). There are a billion ways to entice people to part with their cash, and there are a billion resources that will teach you the ins and outs of those ways. Something I’m more interested in is how people with no money can help small businesses and creators grow.

This is partly because I don’t have much disposable income to spend on indie creators or new businesses, and partly because most of my friends don’t, either. I feel like we’re still consumers, though – we’re just consuming with our eyeballs instead of with money. (Although as anyone who’s seen me at a merch stand at a show can attest, when I spend my money on a creator, I spend… all of it.)

Here are several ways you can help boost your favourite creator’s reputation and bring them more income without actually parting with your own money. For ease of writing I’m going to call your favourite creator Jiminy Snicket, because I think we’ve all met a Jiminy Snicket. Jiminy probably draws slightly off the wall comics, straightens their hair à la 2007 and lives with their mam in the Midlands.

Share and reblog social media posts (don’t just click like)

…unless the channel’s entire currency is in likes (hi, Instagram). This is the single best thing you can do to support Jiminy Snicket – in some ways it’s better than spending money on their comic or joining their Patreon. Sharing posts to your feed and followers puts Jiminy’s work in front of a new audience. Let’s face it: if you aren’t coughing up your cash for them, you can at least put their stuff in front of people who might.

Send work to friends who aren’t on the same channel as the creator

I have accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter (two, actually), Tumblr, LinkedIn, Patreon… Jiminy Snicket is probably also on Discord, Twitch, Snap, Ko-fi and other ridiculously-named channels, because they’re really keen. Most people are regular users of three of those channels, tops. If you’ve seen something cool on Instagram that your friend might like and your friend isn’t on Instagram, email it to them. Text them. Carrier pigeon. Maybe your friend uses Twitter? Jiminy uses Twitter! Your friend can find them on there if she likes their stuff.

Comment on posts

Social media channels (and social media marketers) love talking about engagement. ARE YOU ENGAGING ENOUGH, shouts every marketing website in the universe. NO, YOU ARE NOT, GIVE US YOUR MONEY AND WE’LL TEACH YOU OUR SECRETTTSSSSSS….

All that shit means is, is Jiminy Snicket commenting on other people’s posts? Are they hanging out in their chosen online cesspit community? Spoiler alert: Jiminy does little else. They’re following hashtags and leaving comments and ENGAGING DAMNIT, INSTAGRAM, SHOW JIMINY’S PHOTO TO THEIR FOLLOWERS. Engage right back at Jiminy by commenting on their posts, tagging friends who might like to see their content, doing those shares. Then Instagram or Facebook or wherever will show you Jiminy’s posts more often, and show Jiminy’s posts to other Instagram or Facebook users more often. Those other users might have money to spend on a comic artist from the Midlands!

Click on their website

Most websites cost money to make. Trust me, it’s part of my day job to build and maintain them. They don’t just magically appear on the top of Google either; that takes a mixture of organic searching, clicks from other websites and clicks from things like social media and newsletters. So if Jiminy shares a fancy new website on their Twitter page, click on it! Then go to Google and search things like ‘Jiminy Snicket portfolio site’ or ‘indie alternative comic book artist in the midlands’.

It takes a bit of time, but JiminySnicket.com will start to make its money back and show up for ‘indie alternative comic book artist in the midlands’ or even more vague searches like ‘comic artist in the midlands’. (This also relies a little on Jiminy having a properly optimised website… give me a call, Jiminy, I can help with that.)

RSVP to events even if you’re not going

Looking at you, Facebook Events! When you click ‘interested’ on a Facebook event, it’ll show up in friends’ feeds and sometimes their notifications, therefore telling them that your mate Jiminy Snicket has got a new experimental art show at the local comic store.

Covert ops support

There are ways of boosting Jiminy’s ~general standing in the universe~ without telling lots of people (or Jiminy) about it. Are there competitions or awards you think Jiminy could win? Nominate them. Have a friend who might like their stuff? Pass on their business card (while we’re at it, tell Jiminy to invest in business cards. They’re invaluable).

owl hopping
from Giphy

There are some content-specific things you can do, too. Supporting a writer? Request their books are added to your local library (authors get paid when library books are taken out). Add or review a book on GoodReads (The Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes is on GoodReads and it’s not even out yet – you can add it to your to-read shelf in about three seconds and help drum up some noise about it, for example).

Something else I think can work – or is quite fun, at least – is hiding Jiminy’s work in real life places. I gave a handful of Princess and the Dragon samplers to friends who popped them into the bookshelves of coffee shops. Or if they haven’t, they’ve kept schtum about it. The odds of people picking up the samplers and then pledging to my Patreon? Slim; has not happened yet. The sense of smugness when I’ve looked at bookshelves were I personally have left samplers and the sampler is no longer there? Immense, although there’s always the chance that it got chucked away or used as a napkin. It’s a gamble, but so is life.

Not so covert ops support

If you’re both on a site like Wattpad, Archive of Our Own or DeviantART, go on a liking or commenting/reviewing spree on Jiminy’s pages to boost their stats – and their confidence. Are loads of people going to see your heart emoji on a DeviantART post or your rambling review on AO3? No, but you’re doing your bit to make some noise and you’ll give Jiminy the warm fuzzies. While we’re at it, follow Jiminy on every channel you’re both on. Sign up to their newsletter. You don’t have to read and respond to everything, but a boost in numbers will remind Jiminy that there are people out there who are paying attention. Jiminy’s an artist, so will appreciate the stoking of their ego/increase in follow numbers.

Jerry and a Canary from Tom & Jerry GIF
from Twitter

Appoint yourself brand ambassador

You know, like Instagrammers do with those diet tea products. Except Jiminy’s not going to pay you for this. Do you have a moderate following on Twitter? Have you got tonnes of Facebook friends? Consider writing a recommendation post and linking back to Jiminy’s web page and their online handle. Something as simple as ‘My friend @JiminyS has a new comic out and it’s brilliant! You can find it on Patreon at patreon.com/jiminysnicket and see previews on their Facebook page: facebook.com/JiminyS.’

Have you joined Jiminy’s Patreon? Nope. Have you even read the comic? Probably not, because you aren’t the sort to request to read for free something Jiminy is trying to make money from via Patreon. But you’re adding to the noise around Jiminy’s Patreon page, you’re informing the world that Jiminy means business and is in business. Worst case scenario: no one clicks on Jiminy’s stuff but Jiminy gets the warm fuzzies. Best case: people click both links, they like the Facebook page, they become a patron. Jiminy gets both the warm fuzzies and some cash.

This works especially well if Jiminy’s doing something niche and you’re a member of a community (online or offline) that fits the niche. Has Jiminy done a new comic for Pride week? Did it make your howl your eyes out and consider joining a local activism group? There are hundreds of LGBT groups, online and in real life spaces in your town. They’re not all serious and activism-y, some are just places for hanging out. Share the comic to those spaces and Jiminy will notice a lot more engagement. Or maybe they won’t – maybe you printed the comic out and pinned it up in your local friendly queer-run coffee shop. Maybe in six months’ time, a customer sees the comic, howls their eyes out, whips out their phone and types in the Patreon link that Jiminy cleverly included on the comic. This person is in a higher socio-economic bracket than you or me and immediately pledges to Jiminy’s highest Patreon tier. Jiminy thinks it was down to the gods. It wasn’t. It was down to you.

Tom and Jerry gif
from Twitter

Ask after them

I nearly didn’t include this, since it’s not all that practical. Texting Jiminy occasionally and asking about how the new comic’s coming along, or if the Patreon page is growing at the desired rate, or if they want to meet one Saturday to complain about social media algorithms, won’t bring them income. It might do the opposite if you meet for overpriced coffee in an overpriced chain store.

But I’ve been thinking a lot about what genuinely helps creators day-to-day. All these suggestions help more than you’d think, by confirming to Jiminy that they aren’t shouting into the void, that the hours they’ve put into social media schedules and web pages aren’t wasted. The thing about making things for other people to consume is that the process is twofold. First you have to get people to take what you make seriously. Then you have to make them want to pay for it. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been asked for free work, or told I don’t have a real job, or had family members glaze over when they ask how work’s going and instead of telling them about marketing work or a retail job, I talk about how my book is going. Books cost £1.99 on Amazon, so there’s no way I’m justified in asking people to pay more than that on a regular basis just to get the thing onto Amazon!

Creating ~stuff~ is the best fun. Jiminy will make their peace with realistically never owning property and being the cousin/friend/child who can’t afford to join in with events that cost more than £30. But they’ll get lonely sometimes, when they’re the only person in the room without a salaried job or meetings with mortgage brokers or the money to spend on a night out. So, if you know a Jiminy, drop in and ask how things are going. A message from a friend about a specific bit of a project or asking whether they finally worked out that issue with that file reminds Jiminy that they have a life and people outside the all-consuming mindset of making stuff. If you’re of the creative mindset too, Jiminy will appreciate hearing from someone else who’s in the When Will You Get a Real Job trenches.

Rachel and Phoebe from Friends hugginh
from Giphy

This post has been my favourite for a while. I think I quite like Jiminy. Thank you to Tatchiana for the suggestions, let me know in the comments if I’ve missed any useful tips and, in the spirit of what the post is about, here’s my Patreon and my quite expensive portfolio site.

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