If you’ve been here before, you know I recently began a crowdfunding campaign.
(“If you’ve been here before,” is actually very, very relevant, because needing a large social circle beforehand is one of the things that many supporters of crowdfunding don’t tell you.)
But, I’ll get to that later.
I spent some time preparing. I did some research. I launched. Almost immediately, that hope that I had, even though it wasn’t high to begin with, became really hard to hold on to. Crowdfunding can be a great thing, but taking advantage of this potentially exciting system is an idea that a whole lot of other people have. Here are some things I’m learning that I hope will help you figure things out before you jump in:
- Friends and Family: You reach out to your closest first and ask them to get the word out. That’s sure to make at least a small wave, right? Well…not always. No matter how much your friends and family love you, really contributing to your campaign takes time and effort, and let’s face it, most of us are only going to do the bare minimum, if anything at all. It’s hard not to feel hurt by this, but it’s important not to get upset or judge them when they show little interest and don’t contribute. Money and time are important, and you know this. That is, after all, why you started the campaign in the first place.
- Spend Money to Make Money: I kind of knew this going in. What I didn’t expect, was the slew of advertisers that would promise me more views on my Kickstarter by tweeting and submitting to social media. When you’re first starting out, those things seem exciting. Then, you realize that those hundreds of thousands of followers to whom they are tweeting are not actually interested parties; they’re other people doing the exact same thing you are. Whoops. So, you may get some extra views, but don’t hold your breath waiting for funding, because they’re in the same boat as you; they need money, too. What’s worse is that some of these PR packages that promise even more come at high costs. “Starting at only $99!” First of all, that’s a lot to someone who basically lives paycheck to paycheck. Second, it’s important to pay attention to that word “starting.” You get the bare minimum, which is sometimes basically nothing, just a “consultation.” If you want the full package, you could find yourself facing hundreds of additional dollars. Unless you’re a startup that has a nice chunk of money set aside for PR, getting the word out beyond your tiny universe is going to be tough. Also watch out for those that claim they’ll reach out to thousands of Facebook groups. A lot of Facebook groups don’t even allow marketing on their pages, and I probably don’t need to tell you about how many articles there are on Facebook ads being CPC scams. My ultimate point is this: if you’re just a wee little person, with a wee little project like me that needs a pretty big chunk of money, the costs of crowdfunding may just be a little too expensive.
- Time is Money: I knew I would have to spend some time every day working on getting my project out there. What I didn’t realize was that because of the aforementioned things, if I really wanted to get out there, it was going to take much more time than I have. I have a full-time job and freelance work, in addition to a life with a significant other and projects I pursue out of passion. The novel I’m trying to fund is one of them, but I can’t sacrifice everything to have a shot (in hell, as it may turn out) of funding. You see, even if you pay for more tweets, or for a press release and some PR, for someone with a tiny-to-non-existant budget and social circle, that isn’t really enough (again, for the reasons I mentioned earlier). If you can’t afford a lot of outreach, you’ll have to do it yourself, and true outreach takes a lot of time. And, chances are, small passion projects with no budget won’t be featured in online magazines and popular YouTube channels, no matter how many people you pester. There are simply too many of us out there.
- It’s a Technological Entrepreneur’s World: Crowdfunding has helped many different kinds of people. But, for the most part, entrepreneurs with interesting new gadgets and apps are what backers want. We’ve seen films get funded, but most of them were by, or affiliated with known filmmakers in circles big enough to get the word out. Currently published authors have a decent shot, too. But for most of the other 90-something percent of us out there, we’re just not what they’re looking for. Like it or not, people want to back the next big, money making gadget. Our first novels, research, ill family members, sick pets, or mortgages don’t have the allure of being part of a future big business with big payouts.
Don’t misunderstand me; I’m not bitter and anti-crowdfunding. I’m going to see my campaign through, but through a more realistic lens. If it fails, will I try again? I honestly have no idea. I don’t see myself having the money and time to afford it in the near future.
It’s just that there is a lot of “advice for a successful crowdfunding campaign” out there, and a few “things to remember before beginning.” But, there isn’t much out there to tell you that it’s not for everyone, and even though certain crowdfunding websites boast millions of dollars in successful campaigns, it’s actually a pretty small percentage of campaigns that get fully funded. So, this is for the people like me, who have great ideas, projects, or personal needs, but who may not otherwise be warned about just how difficult a successful crowdfunding campaign really is.