Substack started as a publishing platform, not just a payment tool. In addition to paid subscriptions, we offer writers, podcasters, video makers, and creators the tools to carve out a direct line of communication with their biggest fans via email, without ads or algorithms getting in the way.
Our growing network also helps publishers spend less time on marketing and more time on writing and podcasting. More than 40% of free subscriptions and 20% of paid subscriptions now come from within the Substack network, by way of features like Recommendations, Notes, and guest and cross-posts.
If you’re thinking about bringing your paying subscribers over to Substack from Patreon, this guide will help. We’ll cover:
What is Substack?
What makes Substack different from Patreon?
How to make the switch
What is Substack?
A Substack combines podcasting and blogging with a newsletter, payment system, community tools, and customer support team—all integrated seamlessly with an easy-to-navigate interface. Substack’s simple system lets you publish to the web, email, our app, and even all major podcasting platforms with one click so you can find new readers while always directly reaching your existing audience.
It’s free to get started on Substack and bring over your members from Patreon.
You’ll never pay anything to publish free content on Substack. If you turn on paid subscriptions, Substack will keep a 10% cut of revenues for operating costs like development and customer support. If you decide to leave Substack, you’ll take your email list, payment information, and content with you.
Do your best work, all in one place
“I’m moving my beloved Patreon community over to Substack. It’s fair to say that Patreon was not the greatest platform in the world to manage, but it also felt like an outpost, whereas this place is the centre of my world. I want to draw all my work together here.” —Katherine May, over 10,000 subscribers
What makes Substack different from Patreon?
There are several key differences in the tools Substack offers in comparison to Patreon.
Free and paid subscriptions
Both your public readership and your paying members are in one place, so you won’t have to work to convert supporters from one platform to another. For each new post that you publish, you can choose whether to make it available to everyone or just to paying subscribers. Some writers even make all their content free but add paid subscriptions as a way for subscribers to show extra support. Learn more.
Host your community all in one place
Substack Chat and comments allow you to engage with your community in one place instead of jumping between Discord or Discourse and Patreon. Chat is a community space reimagined specifically for writers and creators—it’s like having your own private group chat where you make the rules. Writers set the topic and the tone for every discussion, and can turn the feature on or off at any time.
Marketing isn’t all on your shoulders
Substack’s most powerful feature is growth. Features such as Recommendations, guest and cross-posts, Notes, and more allow writers and creators on Substack spend less time on marketing and more time writing. Over 40% of all free subscriptions and 20% of paid subscriptions come from within the Substack network.
A network of readers
There are millions of readers with email addresses and credit card information already in the Substack system, making them three times as likely to pay for a subscription to your publication. That means you get readers and money for free just by publishing on Substack.
Four subscription tiers
On Patreon, you can have as many as 25 paid tiers. On Substack, we keep it simple for readers and offer four: free, monthly, annual, and founding members (which enables your most dedicated fans to pay anything above the annual price). Great writing is valuable. You don’t have to justify paid subscriptions with merch and perks that spread you thin, ultimately taking you away from the work people want you to do most. Learn more.
Writers own their payment information
On Substack, you always own your intellectual property, mailing list, and subscriber payments. That means that if you leave Substack and go somewhere else, you can migrate your paid subscriptions to another platform.
Customization where it counts
Substack helps anyone set up a website as the home for all your content with tools that allow you to match your brand and style to your writing. Learn more.
Great writing is valuable
“I found when I was using Patreon, I tried to pack so much into $5 a month that finally I was like, wait, that does not feel like a correct exchange. I find keeping my offering simple and consistent means if I do ever offer more (a bonus podcast a month, integrating threads), it feels like an extra, special thing and not an expectation. I think it can become overwhelming to give so many things instead of just streamlining what works.” —Marlee Grace, over 22,000 subscribers
How to make the switch
When you come to Substack, you can bring your subscriber audience with you. While you can’t bring your payment relationships with you, we’ve worked with dozens of Patreon creators to develop a strategy, making the switch as smooth as possible for you and your patrons.
Export your pledge data
Visit your Patreon Relationship Manager and download a CSV file of your pledge data. Learn more.
Create your publication
When setting up your Substack publication, you will be prompted to choose a publication name and URL and to write a one-line description. These elements are the first impression for prospective subscribers, and you can come back to refresh them at any time. Create your publication.
Import your list
As part of publication creation, you’ll have the option to import your email list. If you skip this step initially, you can import your list from your settings using the CSV file. Make sure this file contains only your active subscribers (i.e. remove any canceled or deleted subscribers). Substack will automatically import any email addresses in the file. Learn more.
Import your podcast
If you are bringing a Patreon podcast over to Substack, all you will need is a link to the RSS feed to import it to Substack. Unfortunately, you can’t bring regular text-based posts from Patreon to Substack. Learn more.
Set up paid subscriptions
From your Settings page, create a Stripe account. Stripe is Substack’s payment provider. Learn more.
Give everyone a one-month comped subscription on Substack
From your Dashboard, give a “complimentary subscription” to each of your patrons who you previously imported from Patreon. Set the comp period to 1 month. You can comp up to 1,000 subscribers at a time from the subscriber dashboard. Filter “Email is any of” and paste your email list into the Values box. Select “all” and “comp” from the three-dot menu. If you have more than 1,000 paying subscribers, contact support and we’ll help you out. Learn more.
When the comp expires, your subscribers will automatically be prompted to add their credit card information if they want to continue supporting you. A personal note from you can push them across the line and ensure that they become a paid subscriber on Substack. From your old Patreon account and new Substack publication, we recommend sending two or three reminders throughout the month. We suggest a schedule of 14 days, two days, and one day before the comp expires. You can use the Substack subscriber dashboard to send targeted emails to comped subscribers who have not yet paid for their subscription. Filter for “The subscription type is” “comp.” Learn more.
Build your publication. You can customize your website and update your welcome email and About page so it feels more like home.
Write an announcement post to your subscribers on Substack
Explain that you’re going to wind down your Patreon page. Here are a few great examples, plus tips on what to include:
Give them a specific date when you’ll switch.set a date, before their next billing cycle on Patreon, to send their last Patreon post and make the full switch to Substack.
We’ll start publishing on Substack on March 2 and, at the beginning of April, we will wind down our Patreon campaign and switch to a paid model on Substack. Keep reading.
Make it easy for subscribers. Whencomped paid subscribers, he reminded them that they’d just need to take a minute to put their credit card information into the Substack system to get paid content going forward.
All current Patrons have been given complimentary subscriptions for the first month. So you don’t need to do anything now, but once this month has run out, you’ll be asked to pay for the next month or year. I hope that what you’ll see in the month ahead will convince you to stay with us. Keep reading.
Explain the perks.explains what subscribers get on Substack and how they can show extra support as founding members.
I’m in love with Substack at the moment. It feels like a place where I can create a community that connects to other individuals and communities, big and small. So from now on, you’ll still get a free newsletter each week, and extra information about each new podcast episode, but in addition you’ll see posts about my book club and the hangouts I run with other writers and creators. There is also a special tier for people who want to offer extra support and work a little more closely with me, which includes two online retreats per year. Keep reading.
Share your vision. Whilehad everyone’s attention, she took the time to zoom out and share why Coffee + Crumbs made the switch and why it’s better for subscribers.
We want to invest more time and energy into our paid community through a platform the entire Coffee + Crumbs team can use and access easily. Keep reading.
Pause billing on your Patreon page before the comp expires
That way, you’ll still get your final monthly payout from your subscribers through Patreon, and then your next billing cycle will process through Substack. Pausing your page allows you to access any information from your Patreon that you may have forgotten to bring with you in the move. Update your About section, like Glenn Loury did, so that anyone who finds the page knows you’ve moved. Learn more.
Expert advice and inside tips from writers who’ve succeeded on Substack:
Marlee Grace made the switch from Patreon in 2021 and has grown their free list to 22,000 free subscribers plus over 700 paid subscribers.
Glenn Loury moved to Substack from Patreon in 2021, offering ease in podcasting and publishing writing to subscribers.
Grow: How Glenn Loury grew a community of 20% paying subscribers through consistency and a clear scope
If you want to set yourself on a path for Substack to become a significant part of your income, visit our guide to building a media business on Substack