Why you should wait a month before starting your crowdfunding campaign
So you think you want to crowdfund? You’ve got a great idea for a product, movie or company, and you want the internet to give you money to make it happen.
You’ve probably heard the stories of the Kickstarter campaign that raised $13.28 million of its $50,000 goal, or the Indiegogo campaign that raised $12.48 million of its $70,000 goal. You’re next, right? Well, maybe.
Let’s take a look at some reasons why you should hold off for just a little bit longer before you hit that post button.
Should you even be crowdfunding?
Seriously, think about this for a second, because this was a mistake that I made at least twice. Start by asking yourself why you need the money. Is it an amount that you can’t possibly come up with on your own, or is it something you could probably save up in a few months if you got a part-time job?
If so, you might want to consider doing that for now, and save the real campaign for when you need a lot more (possibly for a completely different venture). Think long-term.
In my experience, it’s really easy to tick people off when you start asking for money, particularly if you don’t really have the track record to show that you’ve earned it. So try thinking about it like that. Instead of ‘how much do I want’, or ’how much do I need’, try asking: how much have I earned?
Your audience wants to see that you've put in the effort. It's their hard-earned money after all. If you’re a first-time filmmaker, and you’re asking for $25,000 to make your first short film, people might be understandably annoyed.
Make sure you’ve put the work in first, and make sure it shows in your campaign pitch. Have a track record (prototype, trailer, business plan, previous work, etc.)
You also need to ask yourself if your idea is even any good. Or to put it lightly, is your idea sellable? Because if not, crowdfunding is not for you. I learned that the hard way when I was trying to raise funds for a feature film about two guys stuck in a jail cell who have a conversation about life (that lasts two hours).
I assure you it’s much better than it sounds…but the problem is, you don’t know that. And so even if I’d written a masterpiece (which I hadn’t anyway), the core of the idea isn’t really enough to catch the attention of your average internet-goer. Good ideas are like pop songs, they have to be catchy and they have to get stuck in your head.
So take an extra month and think about whether you absolutely need to be crowdfunding right now. Is it impossible to proceed without a bit more to grease the gears? Are you already seasoned in your field and feel like you deserve seed money for your next project? Is it a fantastic, catchy idea that everyone instantly loves when they hear it? If so, read on.
Build your network/Plan your launch
After trying (and failing) four times with my own crowdfunding efforts, I’ve finally figured out one of the major reasons why my campaigns failed. I spent about 99% of my time working on the campaign, and only about 1% planning my launch.
Every campaign basically consisted of me nonchalantly sending a mass email to everyone I knew and then posting a Facebook status, hoping I would somehow go viral from there. A few donations would trickle in from close family members the first couple of days, and then after that, crickets…
And yet somehow, I imagined my campaign would go viral. And it can, it just takes a lot more work than you think. Assuming you’ve got an incredible idea that people will actually want to contribute to (see above), then you’re about halfway there. You’re just waiting to be discovered, right?
This is one of the big reasons why you should wait an extra month. You want to give yourself some time to actually start building a network before you've even launched. Way too many people (myself included) try to build that network while their campaign is already going on. That is a HUGE mistake.
If you're going to do Facebook ads, start early. Get people to like your page a month out, so that by the time you launch, they've already seen the name of your project a few times. You want to build that name recognition just like politicians do, and the best way to do that is to start early and plaster your project anywhere and everywhere that you can.
Start emailing old friends, colleagues, and family members. Ask them for their advice as you start your campaign (note: advice. Don't ask for money yet!). Then when you launch in a month, you'll have a precedent set. If you've already started the conversation with them, they'll be a lot more receptive later on.
You’re probably not going to go viral (so don’t bank on it)
The truth is, very few crowdfunding campaigns actually go viral. Even most of the successful ones only raise funds from people in the crowdfunder’s extended network. So again, build that network. And just in case things don’t work out, have a Plan B. What happens if you don’t reach your goal? Are you going to give up? Or are you going to find another way to get what you want?
Maybe you can find a way to work around the financial aspect. Meet people. If you’re trying to engineer a product, find an engineer who will help you for free (I promise they exist…particularly if your idea is good). Same goes for filmmaking, or just about anything else. Build a team. Money is just part of the battle, and you can get extremely far with very little these days. You might even surprise yourself.
So consider taking a month to just think about what you’re about to do. If you’re really serious about this, you’ll feel exactly the way you do now in a month, and you’ll probably be even better poised to tackle your campaign. If not, well then maybe you need to reassess some things, and possibly even go in a completely different direction. The point is, there’s no rush. So take your time, and make sure you’re ready.
To conclude, I just want to add that I’m not trying to discourage anyone from launching a campaign. Quite the opposite, I actually want to encourage anyone who’s reading this (even if you’re not planning to crowdfund) to try launching a campaign at some point. It’s a fantastic exercise, and even if you’re not successful, it can teach you a lot of extremely valuable skills, and can be a very fun and rewarding process.
My hope with this article is to help those that may be struggling to take actions to strengthen their own campaigns, and make sure that they’re putting out the best that they possibly can. Good luck and happy crowdfunding!