If you’re anything like me, you’re probably stressing out because you know your precious creative projects need funding to evolve.
Unfortunately, we should be worried. Creative content and their producers are being undervalued more than ever as the Internet has ushered in a new mindset of consuming free content. But don’t let that scare you too much because just as the Internet has decimated some business models, it has also opened opportunities for growth through crowdfunding platforms like GoFundMe, IndieGoGo, Kickstarter, and Patreon.
The concept of digital micro-funding platforms is relatively new so please read on if you are interested in starting a crowdfunding campaign! I recently launched a crowdfunding project for The Musical Meldoyians on Patreon and realized that I’ve launched and managed other crowdfunding campaigns in the past. I will not get into the specifics of how these crowd-funding platforms differ. Instead, I will share some universal strategies that I’ve learned in managing both successful and unsuccessful crowdfunding campaigns. Read on for 9 essential strategies before you start your campaign.
1. Go Forth With Passion
Cheesy, perhaps, but definitely important. A strong connection to your work and an emotional investment in the success of your work will always be apparent. Disinterest and passivity will get you nowhere.
When you meet someone who is completely invested and passionate about what they do, you can feel it. Their energy is infectious. You want to be this person to effectively communicate your message and grow your crowdfunding campaign
So before you read on, ask yourself this: Am I passionate, right now, about my project? If your answer is no, then find another list on the Internet. If you’re not passionate about your project then why should anyone else be?
Recent polls show that people don’t fund things they’re lukewarm about. Duh.
2. Take Your Time
It’s easy to get caught up in the idea of how awesome your project might be without actually having anything developed or made. Some of my projects have failed because thinking about funding and structure distracted me from making work. Make sure that before you start your crowdfunding campaign you are dedicating some time everyday to making something, anything, for your project. Consistency will get you farther in the long run. Let us not forget the Tale of the Tortoise and the Hare.
It’s a big commitment to manage a crowdfunding campaign, which is why I recommend that creators take the time to fully develop their concept and back it up with content. Make stuff first, then try to make money.
3. Stay Grounded
You don’t grow a tree overnight. Same goes for crowd-funding. If you have the expectation to launch your campaign, sit back, and watch the money roll in, then prepare for utter disappointment.
Be realistic, don’t be Anne Hathaway. You’re going to have to nurture your campaign with fresh content, constant positivity, and a calm demeanor because chances are you’re going to hit some roadblocks.
Before you start a campaign, get into the habit of taking care of your mental health everyday. I recommend meditating for at least 10 minutes a day. UCLA provides great archive of free guided meditations. Meditation has helped me stay grounded and manage my stress. Self-awareness is a virtue especially when asking for money for your projects. You’ll be adding a lot more stress to your life when you add crowdfunding into the mix. Meditation helps. Trust me on this one.
4. Visualize your Goals
Once you have taken time to develop your project sans funding, you will have a better understanding of your goals and the steps to get there. Crowdfunding platforms have many ways for you to visualize goals, for example Patreon has ‘milestone goals’. Visualizing your goals with a vision board can help create the framework for you to attain them.
I experienced the benefits of this technique about two years ago when I made a simple digital vision board of short-term goals for the Musical Melodyians transmedia project.
5. Do (a Little Bit of) Math
I’m no mathematician, but I am capable of simple algebra.
Before launching a crowdfunding campaign, make sure to calculate how much funding you’ll need for a specific project. For example, I recently needed to calculate how much money I needed to produce my 12″ x 12″ prints of my Animal Brain prints. My calculations went something like this:
• It costs $5 / print and I need to print 100 prints. $5/print x 100 prints = $500
In the process of figuring out the numbers, it is also important to make a distinction between what you want and what you need. Always strive for the latter. What can you do without? What are ways you can stretch your funding dollars? What are realistic financial goals to set?
Ultimately, I realized that I didn’t need 100 prints, 32 would be fine so that I could have doubles of each of the 16 Animal Brain illustration. This ended up only costing me $160 rather than the $500. $340 difference, not bad.
Work on the numbers now so that when you launch your campaign, you won’t be overwhelmed when the money starts rolling in from the skies.
Whichever crowdfunding platform you end up choosing for your campaign, remember this: the success of Patreon, Kickstarter, Indiegogo, GoFundMe depends on your success. These platforms want to support you to fund your projects because, obviously, they take a small cut.
This is why there is a lot of documentation in the form of infographics, videos, and articles (like this one) about crowdfunding best practices.
Here’s a nice little list of each crowdfunding platform’s best practices:
Lists within lists, so meta.
7. Stockpile your Work
I went to the Festival of Books recently at USC and met artist, Jason Brubaker, who raised the funds on Kickstarter to print his graphic novel ReMIND: Volume 1 and ReMIND: Volume 2. I picked up his newest book, Unnatural Talent: Creating, Printing, and Selling Your Comic in the Digital Age.
In one of his chapters, Brubaker writes a simple but important tip: create a surplus of your work so that you don’t have to worry about making ‘fresh’ content. People will be more inclined to support your Patreon or Kickstarter or Indiegogo when they see that you are consistently publishing new work regardless if you are making videos, writing or illustrating.
So get started now! Start putting some work together. (I worked on the Musical Melodyian graphic novel for three years before I decided to start publishing pages on the website a few months ago.)
8. Get Comfortable with Communication
Hey you! Yeah you! Put down your smartphones because yes, you will probably have to talk to people in real life to get real-life funding. Communication is key to any successful campaign and the more you go to conventions, meetups, and forums, the more practice you will have.
My first comic convention was BentCon, where I was a panelist. Only about 10 people showed up and I’m pretty sure 90% of them were either friends or family of the panelists. Whatever. It was a great convention. Moreover, it was excellent practice to speak intelligently about my work and creative process.
If you are not already comfortable with your pitch, practice until you are. If you haven’t even made one, do it! If you’re shy about talking to people, then get over it. No one has time for a sulky, shy wallflower — especially on the Internet.
9. Reach out to Old Contacts
Great! So you are going to conventions and meetups! Make sure to exchange information and touch base with the people who you spent some time talking with. Make sure to followup every now and again so that they remember you.
People don’t like to get requests for money from strangers, so don’t be a stranger! Before you launch your crowdfunding campaign, make sure to reconnect with old contacts with a phone call, text or email. Give them a little update about your projects and check in. People appreciate that.
You never know who will be your next fund-er so reconnect and say hi!
Stay weird friends and happy funding!