Qn: Can you give us an introduction on what you do, and how Patreon helps you?
I've drawn the webcomic Grrl Power for about 5 years, and have been steadily building an audience. About a year ago I lost my job, and my first thought was "I wonder if I could do my comic as my job" so I set up a Patreon campaign, and my readers quickly stepped up. The benefit to them of course, was they were now getting updates twice as often since I didn't have to spend 50 hours of my week paying the bills anymore.
Qn: You've slightly over 600 patrons currently. That's impressive. How did you manage to reach that number, or get people to support you?
I have a modest number of readers compared to some webcomics, but there's a high engagement. I have an extremely active comment section below each comic. Despite the infamy of internet comments in general, the ones on my site are remarkably civil and on topic or at least nerdy and tangential. It lets people comment on each page and interact with myself and other readers. That engagement helps translate into support because people have more time and interest invested in the comic.
Qn: Do you know your Patreon supporters or where they come from? Are they your regular readers or did they discover you through Patreon?
I don't have specific analytics, so I assume the bulk of my support comes straight from my readers. I expect that will always be the case. Discovery can take place through Patreon, but someone usually has to be a real fan before they'll support it directly. Like I said above, the engagement is the important part.
Qn: Do you give extra or special incentives to your Patreon supporters?
I do, but it can be tricky. I spend nearly all my time creating the comic itself, and that leaves little time for extracurriculars, even if they're supplemental to the comic. I put up previews of pages to come, but again it can be tricky because I don't want to spoil anything. The primary benefit supporters get is extra comics which moves the story and characters along faster. I plan on updating my rewards in the near future though, the trick is coming up with stuff that doesn't suck my time away from working on the comic which is always the priority. In an ideal world, I'd prefer not to gate any content away from people whether they're supporters or not, but of course in the real world, some of the most successful Patreon campaigns I've seen, do exactly that. It makes sense since it incentives the support. Currently my highest tier of support allows people to have a cameo of themselves or a character in the comic, but that of course is something that everyone gets to see. If I ever find the time to work on some tangential projects like tutorials or whatnot, I may introduce some gated content, but for now that's not the case.
Qn: What do you like or dislike about Patreon?
I like Patreon a lot. Of course I'm biased as they help me pay my bills. :) Well, they simplify the process through which my fans can support me. There are always things they can do to improve here and there like more comprehensive search options for better discovery of artists, but overall it's been a solid experience.
Qn: What tips do you have for those looking to use Patreon?
Mostly that you bring your audience with you. I've seen a few campaigns asking for support in order to start working on something or resume some project that's fallen into hiatus, but those generally don't get too far. Put your best stuff out there and update when you say you will so people know you're worth supporting.
Qn: Do you think Patreon is or can be a viable source of income for artists, as compared to other forms of revenue sources?
I think Patreon is hugely viable, to the point that I'm really surprised there aren't a half dozen competitive services out there trying to build their own user base in these early days. For (nearly) every youtube channel out there creating original content, every webcomic, every blog, etc, there's someone who wants to be doing that full time instead of their regular 8-5. With a modest audience, ad revenue might be able to pay for your hosting, but you need millions before it will pay your mortgage. Crowdfunding services like Patreon allow more passions projects to be viable sources of income.