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Passion Economy: You Only Need 1,000 True Fans to Succeed

In the year 2008, Kevin Kelly proposed a revolutionizing idea that raised a few eyebrows: a creator doesn’t need a million supporters to achieve success.

Kelly, now the editor of WIRED Magazine, says people who make a living off their creations only need a modest following—and that’s just around 1,000 true fans.

Wait, what? You only need 1,000 fans?

He wrote in his essay: “To be a successful creator you don’t need millions. You don’t need millions of dollars or millions of customers, millions of clients or millions of fans. To make a living as a craftsperson, photographer, musician, designer, author, animator, app maker, entrepreneur, or inventor you need only thousands of true fans.”

Who’s a true fan?

A true fan is a fan who will buy anything a creator will produce. A true fan is a diehard fan.

Let’s look at a budding singer as an example. Their diehard fans will shell out however much they can just to buy the singer’s album and merch. Their diehard fans are willing to take a long drive just to see their idol sing.

Such a ~true~ fan!

Now, if that singer has 1,000 fans, and can profit an average of $100 per fan each year, he will be earning a six-digit figure—and we’d stay that’s more than enough to make a living.

Is the true fan model obsolete?

Of course, we have to take into account that Kelly’s idea was born in 2008, at a time when the internet was not yet at its peak and social media had yet to amass a widespread audience. It then begs the question: is Kelly’s model applicable in the current digital landscape, or has it become obsolete?

Looking at the trends, the answer is a resounding “yes.” The true fan model posited by Kelly is still very much alive and applicable.

Great news, guys: true fans are still providing!

On Patreon—now regarded as the biggest platform for the passion economy—the average initial pledge by supporters has grown by 22 percent over the past two years, according to Li Jin, founder of Atelier Ventures, an early-stage firm investing in the passion economy. Meanwhile, on the online course platform Podia, the number of creators earning more than $1,000 a month is growing by 20 percent monthly.

Li Jin also backs the idea of 1,000 true fans—and she takes it even further. Li believes a creator can make a living and a fortune by having just 100 loyal true fans.  

YOU ONLY NEED 100 FANS??? Mind. Blown.

But how could that be possible?

Li says a creator can segmentize their audiences, and offer products and content at varying prices. 

Simply put: if a small number of true fans are willing to pay more, a general audience can pay less. 

True fan-creator connection

Again, true fans are loyal to the creator; they are directly connected to the creator, as they are significantly impacted by their work.

True fans are not just buyers—they are the creator’s most effective marketing strategy, the key to attracting more subscribers over time. These fans are the creator’s number one endorser.

This is what having true fans looks like. Guaranteed.

So how can a creator acquire and keep such super fans? We’ll let you know in our next post.


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