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Crowdfunding - say what???

Working on a successful Kickstarter campaign for Paa Joe & The Lion taught us a lot, so we thought we'd share some of it with anyone thinking of embarking on the journey. 


For the uninitiated, crowdfunding is used to get financial support for a project (a film, book, tech product, record etc). Essentially people pay upfront for a product before it is made, or a project before it has happened, and are given perks/rewards for taking the risk and getting involved.


It's a fantastic way for more unusual projects to be funded, taking away the risk for the artists involved and giving the customers access to a wide range of exciting creative and innovative work.


Ask the most important question...


Is crowdfunding right for me and my project? Using kickstarter, indiegogo or another crowdfunding site is pretty easy. It takes only minutes to set up a project and to begin your foray into the world of democratic funding. However, while it's easy to get going, it's not easy to succeed so before you embark on a campaign check that it is the right way to fund what you want to do. Is it a project which will gather a lot of press interest? Is it something people need and will be excited to get involved with? Do you have a lot of great fans and contacts who you know will come on board? Have you got a million other things to be doing right now too? Crowdfunding takes work, networks, time and energy. If you don't have those things, it may not be the right avenue for you.


Do your sums!


The first element of starting a campaign is deciding how just much you need to raise to complete your planned project. Work out exactly how much you need - don't forget to include all production costs involved with your perks/rewards for pledges - and be clear about it. If you have a carefully worked out budget you can figure out how much you need to raise and how feasible it is. You can also start to work out the structure of your pledges and how many people you will need to come on board.


Plan plan plan


... and plan some more. This may sound dull when you're itching to set up your project and tell the world about it, but planning a campaign is the only way to make a strong start and sustain that through to a successful finish. Crowdfunding takes meticulous planning because it usually takes place over a limited time period and you need to know who you will contact first, second, third and what you will do if it isn't going as planned. Which leads us to...


Do your research


Spend some time before you start checking out successful projects in a similar field to you on Kickstarter, or whichever platform you will be using. What do they have in common? What do you like about their project pages? What pricing structure have they used for their pledges? What is their video like? Keep notes from each one and soon you'll have some great ideas for your project. For example, have a look at Charlie Lyne's project Beyond Clueless.


It's also worth checking out some less successful projects too, to avoid making the same mistakes! 


Find your audience


This one sounds simple, but is something people often forget. Yes, you're interested in your project to crochet tiny mice pencil tops, but who else is? (Actually that sounds pretty cute... note to self!) Do you already have a customer/contact base who are interested in your work? Have you communicated with them recently? This could be Twitter followers, Facebook fans, blog readers, Instagram friends, a mailing list, a mum and baby group you go to... pretty much anything where people see you and your work. If you haven't communicated much with them lately... for example, perhaps you've only sent one message out on Facebook in the last 3 months, and that was a picture of a smiling turtle, or something else which is fun, but not exactly directly related to what you do. If you've not been communicating then maybe take a little bit of time to get yourself back into the swing of things, to communicate and to 'warm up' your contacts. You wouldn't walk up to an acquaintance you hadn't seen for a while and ask them for money before you said hello, right? Well this is the same principle.


*Note: if you don't have any customer/contact base then perhaps see point 1. If you're still keen to go ahead with crowdfunding then take longer and begin to build up some contacts over a few months before you begin.


Make a great video


Your video is very important. It's not the only thing that matters, but it will have a significant impact on the success of your campaign. It needs to be tailored to your audience, to be personal, to be succinct, emotive without being manipulative, to sell the benefits of getting involved, to avoid the 'sad charity appeal' pitfall and - very important - to be short! The best videos seem to use a mixture of the main person behind the project talking directly to the viewer through the camera, sharing their passion and enthusiasm, and then footage of the film, music, product alongside testimonials from other people involved in the project. This gives a rounded view of what you're working on, space for personal passion to come through and a clear idea of what the final project will deliver. 


Be very active and very nice


When we talked about planning we meant it. Plan to be very active. You need to be sharing updates on social media, sharing news about your project, saying thank you for every donation, keeping people posted on how far through you are, contacting potential funders, contacting press for any coverage you can get, giving your friends a nudge to help spread the word and more. It's a big ask and a big task to get lots of strangers to give you money for a project, so be aware of that before you start and make sure you have plenty of time to be active and be nice. Remember that all of the wonderful people who fund your project are taking a risk on you and giving you a thumbs up to make your film, record your music, design the world's best pen, or whatever else you have your heart set on doing. These are great people who are now part of your team, so be nice to them!

5 tips on what NOT to do when crowdfunding

  1. Don't beg - When you make your video don't ask for handouts and donations, you are offering something in return for pledges and you are offering people the chance to get involved with a fantastic project, always remember that!

  2. Don't over-reach - If you're asking for £75k to make a lo-fi film about carrots, chances are you might not be successful. Be aware of the limitations of your project and be realistic about how much money you need and can raise.

  3. Don't set it up and leave it - Once you launch it's all on you to drive people to your page and get that total going up!

  4. Don't contact the press with a 'crowdfunding story' - Journalists and bloggers are no longer interested in talking about crowdfunding for the sake of crowdfunding. They may however tell a story about a young mum in the Outer Hebrides who is using Indiegogo to fund the development of a new kind of teething toy. Find your unique angle and pitch that, not the campaign itself.

  5. Don't annoy people - You will have to repeat your message a lot to make sure it gets through. That can feel a bit like nagging, so find fun ways to share your campaign - send a silly picture, share your favourite song, offer a prize for everyone who retweets... do whatever you can to get your message out there without just repeating it verbatim.

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