Do you have a great idea for a creative project, but lack the funds to make it happen?
Whether you’re a programmer with a genius tech concept, or an artist looking to put your life’s work into print, Kickstarter could be the perfect fit for you. With Kickstarter, you can crowdsource funding from backers around the world, allowing you to achieve your dreams without generating all of the seed money yourself.
In this Kickstarter guide, I’ll discuss the common traits of successful campaigns, along with some common mistakes. By the time we’re through, you’ll know whether or not Kickstarter is the right option for you, and how to use the platform to develop your project. Let’s get started!
What Is Kickstarter and How Can It Help Me?
Kickstarter launched back in 2009, and since then they’ve helped creatives like you land nearly $2 billion in project funding. Kickstarter’s campaign model has two major benefits: it gives you a platform to share your idea with the world, and helps you secure the funding necessary to make it happen.
Just signing up for Kickstarter isn’t enough, though. You need to have a clear vision for developing a product or service that people truly want. That said, if you have the drive and the talent, Kickstarter can help with the rest.
A Brief History of Crowdfunding
Crowdfunding as a concept has its roots in such areas as book publishing and military campaigns. However, the term “crowdfunding” itself has only been around for a little over a decade. The two main types of crowdfunding are reward-based (like Kickstarter) and equity-based (where backers receive equity in the company).
The popularity of crowdfunding has risen exponentially in the last few years -- it’s actually surpassed the venture capital industry as the most popular type of startup funding. In 2010, the crowdfunding industry generated $89 million in project funding. Just five years later, that number grew to $34 billion.
With companies like Kickstarter at the forefront of the industry, this funding method will continue to grow at astronomical rates. By 2025, crowdfunding is expected to generate at least $1 trillion!
Kickstarter vs GoFundMe vs Indiegogo:
Which One is Best For My Project?
Kickstarter is one of many options for crowdfunding projects. The other major players in the industry are Indiegogo and GoFundMe, but there are several others out there if none of these seem to suit your needs.
Let’s break down some of the key characteristics of each platform to determine whether or not Kickstarter is indeed the right choice for your project.
- Kickstarter: Creative projects only, “all or nothing” funding, fees up to 10%
- GoFundMe: Best known for personal causes (medical bills, education funding, etc.), partial funding allowed, fees up to 8%
- Indiegogo: Projects vary (but are typically small in scale), partial funding allowed, fees up to 10%
Each of these services has its own set of limitations. For example, GoFundMe requires a Facebook account to leverage some of their advanced features, like their “verified campaign” qualification. On the other hand, Indiegogo’s rules and regulations are so lax that they’ve developed a reputation for hosting more scams than Kickstarter or GoFundMe.
All told, each of these services is tailored to serve a specific corner of the crowdfunding market. They’re all capable of helping you raise money for a creative project -- just make sure to pick the one that seems like the best fit!
1.) Once you’re ready to create a campaign, the first step is to choose a category and title for your project. Possible categories include art, food and technology. It’s crucial that you select the category that best describes your project in order to garner as much exposure as possible.
2.) Next, you’ll need to tell your story in an engaging text summary. This is your chance to tell prospective backers who you are, what you’re making, and how long you expect it to take. It’s important to show people that you’re passionate and serious about your project while being realistic about your expectations and goals.
3.) Creating your rewards is the next step, and it can be a tricky one. While reward guidelines vary considerably depending on the project, here are some general tips:
- Offer a wide variety of rewards: In order to appeal to as many backers as possible, encourage both small and large contributions. Create “participation-level” rewards that cost only a few dollars to attract folks who want to be involved without making a big commitment, but also offer a more expensive reward-level in case you catch the eye of someone with deep pockets. You never know who will want to back your project!
- Consider group rewards: While most Kickstarter contributors are individuals, offering a group reward option is a great way to appeal to the more social potential backers. Offer group experiences or discounts for backers who purchase multiple copies of the same reward item. Basically, be creative!
4.) At this point, it’s time to shoot your campaign video. One of the most common mistakes people make on Kickstarter is neglecting the importance of a great promotional video. If you post a low-quality video on your campaign page, people may think you’re not serious about the project. After all, if you can’t make a decent promotional video, why should anyone believe you’re going to create a project worth backing?
Make sure your video starts with a bang, because most people will only watch the first minute. Explain what your project is all about and why people should support it in a clear and concise manner.
Tips for Crowdfunding Success
In order to make the most of your Kickstarter project, you’ll need to be dedicated to its success. Here are a few pointers to help you along the way:
- Bring some of your own money to the table. This is essential for a couple of reasons:
- It shows prospective backers that you’re serious and dedicated. If you can’t be bothered to put up any of your own money for the project, why should anyone else?
- In any ambitious creative project, there’s bound to be unanticipated expenses, so make sure you have a cash cushion to fall back on. It’s never good to have to ask for additional funding from your existing backers.
- Build buzz before your launch, rather than the other way around. Start cultivating interest in your project months in advance. Your first day on Kickstarter is the most important because activity on the campaign page can make your project “trend” — which means a massive boost to its visibility.
- As the project’s creator, you need to be the face of your campaign. People will connect deeper and more easily with your project if they can tell you’re genuine and passionate.
- Make your backers feel like they’re helping launch something meaningful. People want to feel like they’re contributing to the greater development of the arts, rather than simply buying a CD or book.
- Price your rewards fairly. You can’t expect to succeed on Kickstarter if your rewards are too highly priced. For example, if you’re offering a CD, offer it for $20 or less — don’t price this reward at $50 and expect people to be excited about it.
- Consistently engage with your backers. Respond to their questions and comments, banter with them on social media, etc. This will help them foster a personal relationship with you and your project, which will in turn make them more likely to share the campaign with friends and family.
- Send email newsletters to keep your backers in the loop. People feel more involved when they get frequent updates. That said, be careful not to spam them with endless emails -- only send newsletters when you have legitimate progress to report.
Common Kickstarter Mistakes
Many projects simply fail to reach their goals. There are many different reasons why this happens, but here are some of the most common mistakes that lead to unsuccessful campaigns:
- Asking for too much money. Your goal needs to be realistic and achievable in order to succeed on this platform. Kickstarter frequently promotes projects that are runaway successes, and it’s easier to gain this promotion if you have a reasonable goal to surpass.
- Setting unrealistic deadlines. This applies to the timeline of the campaign itself, but also to everything it promises. If you claim you’ll be sending finished products to your backers in three months, you’d better be able to deliver on that promise.
- Offering more rewards than you can fulfill. Unless you’re prepared to send out hundreds of rewards if your campaign goes viral, it’s smart to set a limit on each item. Not only does this save you from some major logistical snags, it’s also a proven psychological sales method — offering a “limited-supply” item generates urgency for backers.
Launching a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign can seem overwhelming at first, but as long as you take the step-by-step approach, you’ll find that it’s actually quite manageable.
No matter what your project is or what your goals are, these guidelines can help ensure your Kickstarter campaign is a success. We wish you the best of luck!