Crowdfunding is the money-raising wave of the future. When it works, in addition to providing a much-needed infusion of cash, it’s a great validation of all the passion and sweat you’ve poured into your vision. However, there are a thousand and one things that can go wrong between inspiration and the moment of fulfillment that can make you wish you never bothered to chase your dream.
It’s still totally worth it. But before we tell you why, we’re going to drag you through all of the things that will miff, puzzle, peeve and enrage you. Don’t say you weren’t warned!
1. Grandma doesn’t get it.
“… I’ve never done a kickstarter before. Do you get ‘inside access’ type things like with unbound?”
Here’s a fun test: try explaining to your parents, grandparents, or pretty much anyone who doesn’t regularly read Mashable or The Verge what crowdfunding is in less than fifteen minutes. It’s hard, because there are so many things that make it feel foreign to people who grew up in a different era. Get ready to field questions such as “Why are people paying money for something that doesn’t exist yet?” “Why are they taking a chance on strangers?” “If your project is so great, why can’t you just get money the old-fashioned way?” “Why don’t you go and get a real job?” (Okay, so that last one hits a little close to home.)
Once you “get it,” it seems obvious. Just know that not everyone is in the know yet – you hipster, you – and get ready to budget time for concept explanation accordingly.
2. Nobody told you your project video was grainy and weird until it was too late.
“Peter Molyneux’s kickstarter is not fairing well http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/22cans/project-godus … No surprise there, the video for it is utterly horrible.”
Not everyone with a genius idea is a gifted videographer, marketer, writer, or artist… and if you go ahead and try to do those things without help, it might just show. Some crowdfunding platforms use actual humans to vet projects, some use algorithms, and some don’t provide any oversight at all; but the reasons for approval or denial have little to do with quality. In some ways, this is a good thing: you don’t want the only people succeeding to be the ones who can pour tons of cash into project resources (as that would, you know, kind of defeat the whole point). But it’s also a bad thing in that people with really good ideas and skills not directly related to making things flashy and catchy can go unnoticed.
As a project owner, it pays to really put some thought and effort into how you build your project – and to get feedback early and often. You’d rehearse before your jazzhands recital wouldn’t you?
3. I don’t know how to get press exposure and I don’t know Ashton personally.
“It makes me sad when a game ramping up to be awesome on Kickstarter ends up with a lowish rating or lack of support on [BoardGameGeek].”
It’s not always easy for a good, solid project to get the attention it deserves, especially if it’s in a crowded category. The end result is that project owners often end up turning to creative, wacky, or unusual methods of promotion. Sometimes the results can be awesome (the Freakers video on Kickstarter’s Best of 2011 list is a good example). Other times, they can backfire horribly.
There’s no cut-and-dried way to go after the media – it can be a convoluted game that relies more on who you know than what you do. You can help the process along, though, by talking about, writing about, and sharing the stuff that excites you (and that relates, at least tangentially, to what you want to raise funds for). And DON’T forget to research the people who’ve covered projects LIKE yours.
4. I posted my project on Facebook but nobody gave.
Real-world example: Too many Tweets to count that say something to the effect of “I just funded a Kickstarter project!” or “Joe is a cool guy and he’s using Kickstarter!” — Everybody
Here’s what people are thinking when you send out vague messages like these. “Good for you! Who are you, again? There is literally no way that I can tell what you’re going on about from the nondescript equal-to-or-less-than 140 characters you’ve just dribbled into my feed. It gives me very little indication on why I should I spend money on this and not, say, a Netflix subscription so that I can catch up on episodes of Battlestar Galactica.” (Spin up the FTL drive!)
Most projects that succeed can be easily described in a few memorable words (see “iphone watch”, “banana piano”) Make sure your project is clear and that your backers can communicate it in a short, pithy description to make the re-sharing of your message more effective. Experiment with descriptions and get feedback!
5. Nobody likes to be badgered… even about your awesome project.
“Sums up my feelings on Kickstarter… please stop begging me for $, friends, I need that money to buy shoes…”
This was one of several great responses to a colorful article on Jezebel (nsfw language). It’s nice to realize your dreams. But it’s also nice to keep your friends. And not every friend is ready to contribute to your passion for collecting decade-old Twinkies. (Though some, of course, will be more than thrilled). Social networks are already prone to excessive over-sharing. Adding to the flood won’t make you popular, and it may not even get you funded.
Be selective and methodical. There are some great tools being developed to help with this issue. They’re based on the idea that you can find out early who really cares, and reach out in a smart, targeted, non-Spammy way.
And I should still do this… Why?
With all of the hard, bad stuff, is there really a reason to keep doing this? Abso-LUTE-ly. As we promised above, it’s a fundraising trend that’s here to stay for arts, entertainment, and even business. No middleman. Getting support from the people who love and want to buy your stuff? Yes please! According to a recent Salon article, “We, the people, decide whose movie or game or funky art installation gets the green light, and not some bean counter in Hollywood or New York, or government bureaucrat constrained by shifting political winds.”
So, now that you know the main reasons crowdfunding can be hard, and how to make it better, you really have no excuse. Get out there and give it a shot. What are you waiting for?
Have an idea and want help launching successfully?