The best way to support creators you love is usually to buy their work - it's financial support and support for the idea that they can make a living from their art. But even when you don't have a cent to spare, there's a lot you can do to support your favourite artist's career.
Leave a Review
Anyone who listens to podcasts has heard a million versions of the "please leave us a rating and review in Apple Podcasts" request tucked into the closing credits. The thing is, it really does help — Apple's algorithms are mysterious, but it's pretty clear that, in terms of top-podcast lists and decisions for spotlights, the reviews and ratings count. They're also a sign to potential advertisers of devoted listenership, which can help your favourite podcast hosts make that paper.
Authors also stand to benefit from reader reviews. Amazon is the behemoth, and a book bubbling up in its recommendations can be a huge boon for an author. While the magic threshold at fifty reviews seems to be an urban legend, having more reviews does help a book get noticed by the algorithm gods.
Algorithms aside, reviews help other consumers make their decisions. Whether it's the App Store, Goodreads, Etsy, or anywhere else, taking a minute to share your love (with the maximum number of stars) can make a real difference.
Join the Mailing List
If you're already following an artist on social media, it may not occur to you to also sign up for their mailing list. But aside from ensuring you keep up with their news, and aside from the lovely ego boost you'll give them, doing so will help them make a case to future publishers, advertisers, or employers that they have a good platform of fans. (Also, give a follow or like on social media while you're at it.)
Talk Them Up
Speaking of social media, use whatever platform you have to share your love. Finish reading a book you love? Tweet about it! Catch your favourite comedian on a late night show? Share the video to Facebook! Make a recipe from your favourite cookbook? Instagram it — with the name of the book, and tag the author in. Word of mouth is powerful, both for drawing in new fans and, again, for convincing the powers that be to give favour (and work) to creators.
Make a Library Request
This is sort of books-centric, but can really work for any media that libraries carry: ask your library to stock the work of artists you love. Libraries buy the books they circulate, so this helps boost sales, and it makes the art you love available for new fans to discover.
Attend Their Events
Once you're on that mailing list, keep an eye on when your favourite author or performer is coming to town. Many book events and gallery shows are free, and plenty of comedians do free shows as well. Try to bring a friend who doesn't know their work. But even if you go alone, having a good audience — having an audience at all — is wonderful, and you can be a part of making that happen.
Making art — and trying to make a living from it — puts your ego on the line. You send your work out into the world and hope that someone finds it and connects with it. But telling an artist you love their work is about more than just praise (though there's nothing wrong with praise!). It's also encouragement for them to keep going. Whether it's through social media, email, or an old-fashioned letter in the mail, take a few minutes to tell an artist what their work means to you. The most generous letters don't ask for a response, they're just a gift to the creator who's given you so much through their work. I promise, it will mean a lot to them.
There are many kinds of creators and many ways to support them - please add anything missing from this list in the comments!