For creative students with great ideas, Kickstarter sure sounds like a dream come true: people on the site are actually willing to give you money to see your creative ideas come to fruition. We’d love to say that using Kickstarter is an instant formula for success, but the truth is that not every project on the site takes off, and to see your project do well, you’re going to have to put in a lot of thought and hard work. We’ve found 25 gems of advice for creative students eyeing Kickstarter, many of them from people who have had distinct success (or failure) on the site. Read on to learn about the best ways to do well and really see your project come to life.
Ask to have your project posted on your school’s page
On Kickstarter, there are pages where groups and schools can post projects from students and members, making them easy for students, alumni, and all those affiliated with the organization to find. You should absolutely take advantage of this great opportunity for promotion.
The Kickstarter blog recently featured a serial backer, Eliot Sykes, who regularly pledges just $1 to a different project. When asked, Sykes identified that enthusiasm is the most important factor that makes him back a project: “It is important the creator is passionate and working on a project that excites me.” Don’t be afraid to show your own excitement and passion for your project.
It’s incredibly important that you present your authentic self, not just in your video, but in all of your actions. David Lang, the owner of a floundered Kickstarter project, The Great Mate Journey, points out: “Every human being, whether they know it or not, has a built-in bulls–t detector and nobody is going to contribute to something that isn’t from the heart.”
Putting your project on Kickstarter is not for the faint of heart, and it’s especially not for the lazy. You will be hitting up practically everyone you know, and everyone they know. You’ll be writing personal emails, making phone calls, connecting with complete strangers. All of this is draining on not just your time, but your energy. Be prepared.
You’re using Kickstarter because you need money for your project, right? So of course, chances are you have little to nothing to devote to making a video. But we’re here to tell you that you’ve got to pull something together and make it awesome. Your video is what gives life to your project and convinces backers that your project is the one to put their money down on. Not only that, it’s the viral passport that will spread on social media, bringing backers to your Kickstarter page to give you money. Do not overlook this very important component.
While you’re making your awesome video, it’s easy to forget and leave out essential information. After all, you’re totally wrapped up in this project yourself, and you know everything about it. But your potential backers don’t, and this is your chance to lay down a great foundation. Remember to introduce yourself, tell your story, explain your project, and how you’ll be using funds from Kickstarter, as well as what your backers can expect to get out of the project. And perhaps most importantly, don’t forget your manners: say thank you!
Hardly anyone wants to back a project or person that just feels sorry for themselves. When making your video, be careful not to come off as a whiny college student asking for money. Show that you’re passionate about your project, and that you want to use Kickstarter money to launch your exciting dreams.
It’s a simple fact: viewers are going to decide to bail on your video within the first 20 to 30 seconds of viewing. So you’ve got a limited amount of time to make them decide that your video is worth watching, and your project worth backing. Jump right into it and grab your backers quickly.
Although many projects are attracted to Kickstarter because it’s a great way to fundraise, money is not actually the biggest strength that the site offers. Kickstarter shares a great opportunity for getting feedback on your project, as well as grow awareness of what you’re doing, while at the same time, hopefully, gaining interest and backers to make it all come together.
Often, backers will get excited about your project and want to support at the level they are comfortable with, no matter what you offer as a reward. Kickstarter success Amanda Palmer points out that so often, backers won’t even respond when Kickstarter asks for their T-shirt size, because they didn’t want the T-shirt, they just wanted to donate at that level that happened to come with the tee. Keep this in mind by being sure to build levels that can accommodate the budgets of a variety of backers.
Several permutations of different backing levels might make sense to you, but for people checking out your project it’s just exhausting. Keep things simple, and be careful not to go over five to seven different tiers, or risk losing interest of potential backers.
Although it seems like having your project available for funding for more time would lead to more money, the opposite is actually true. Kickstarter stats indicate that 90-day projects (the longest amount of time allowed) are 20% less successful than those with shorter funding periods. They’ve since lowered the maximum duration to 60 days, but there’s a great lesson here: the more time you have on your project, the longer backers can procrastinate. Keep things quick and simple, and your backers will be forced to make a decision then and there rather than flounder and forget.
Consider your costs when structuring rewards
One failed student project from SCAD learned this lesson the hard way: if it costs you virtually nothing to produce, give it away for very little. Most users are willing to donate between $1 and $5 to a project, and a great reward at that level is sure to win lots of backers who are happy to snatch it up. For this project, that meant sharing a .mov of their film online at the $5 level, instead of placing that reward higher than a copy of the DVD, which was $20 and cost more to produce.
Your backers are doing you a favor. Don’t punish them by making them pay $35 for an item you’re eventually going to sell for $30. Make your rewards better and cheaper than what is and will eventually be available to them.
Everyone who contributes to your project believes in you, and each one of them deserves a great reward. Even at $5 or $10, give something great, even if it doesn’t necessarily hold a lot of monetary value or cost to you. Send out access to a supplementary e-book, outtakes, or exclusive promotional photos from your project.
Sure, it sounds dorky, but your parents can really help you make a difference in your project. They’re probably your biggest cheerleaders, and they want to see you succeed. There’s also a great chance that they know a lot of friends, family, and coworkers that would be willing to back you and spread the word as well, so don’t be afraid to ask for their support.
At some point, your own social network is going to run out of steam, and let’s face it, as a student, chances are your friends and friends of friends don’t have a lot of cash to put up anyway. Get press coverage in your student newspaper, alumni newsletter, and local paper for a boost beyond the people you know.
As a student, you’re in a great position to get help from experts, and most likely can do it for free. Find out what your campus has to offer in terms of help with your project, from professors with great advice to alumni organizations with connections, and even mentorship programs that can connect you with the experts you need to help you do a great job.
It’s great to promise amazing rewards, but be careful to consider the time and financial commitment that you’ll need to actually fulfill them. Letters and emails don’t cost much, if anything, but they do take a lot of time, especially if you get more backers than you’d previously expected to get.
While we’re talking about fulfilling rewards, let’s remember that it does take time to do them. Plan ahead of time what your production schedule will be, and absolutely remember to add lots of padding so that you can under-promise and over-deliver.
Be realistic about the amount of money you actually need to complete your project. Backers are not idiots; they will be quick to point it out if it seems like you’re asking for an unnecessarily large amount of money for your project. Keep things reasonable, and you’ll be much more likely to reach your goal and successfully launch your project.
…But do ask for enough
Worse than asking too much is asking for too little. Without enough to push through and complete your project, you’ll be left without a way to fulfill the promises you’ve made to your backers.
Have a clear budget
The best way to find a happy place between too little and too much is to sit down and make a real, live budget for your project. Be realistic about expenses, and do the work to genuinely research what everything is going to cost you, plus padding just in case. Then share this budget with your backers; they’ll appreciate your attention to detail, and be more confident in your ability to see the project through.
A neglected Kickstarter page is one that will likely go unfunded. Be careful not to simply set up shop and walk away. Rather, you’ve got to stick around, posting updates, answering questions, and interacting with the people who have put their faith and money into your project. Your backers want to be a part of what you’re doing, and you’ve got to make an effort to let them do that.
When it’s all said and done, your Kickstarter backers are giving you money they will never see again. Sure, they get a reward, but Kickstarter is not an investment they’ll see a monetary return on. They’re essentially donating and sharing goodwill so that you can live your dream. That is certainly worth a big thank you, and not just a massive thank you to everyone involved. Take the time to point out your backers personally and let them know you appreciate their faith in your project.