This summer something clicked in my brain. I realized I wasn’t doing nearly as much for my business as I wanted and needed to. I could say I had a business all day long, but that didn’t mean I was flourishing or even trying my best. When I first quit my day job I said I was going to write a book, and I wrote short paragraphs in Microsoft Word and saved them to my laptop for two years, but there was no real progress. Then one day something shifted and I knew I just had to do it. I’m in my Saturn Return, let’s blame it on that.
So I knew I wanted to publish my first book, but once I started looking into how much things cost I realized there was no way I could afford to do it on my own! I decided to look into crowdfunding projects and decided on Kickstarter. I had no idea what I was doing, and that’s the case for most people who do their first Kickstarter Campaign. I want to peel the curtain back a bit and share what I learned about running a campaign with you in case you ever decide you need to do one.
And stay tuned till the end for a free checklist for launching your first Kickstarter Campaign!
How To Run A Kickstarter Campaign
You have to provide proof of identity and a connection to your bank account that gets approved before your campaign goes live. You need to provide descriptions of your rewards and decide if you’ll ship these rewards internationally and if so how much shipping you’ll charge in addition to the reward amount. You need to upload a video and your story.
You should list a breakdown (as thorough as you can get) of how the money you raise will be used. You should answer any questions anyone might have about your project on the page before they have a chance to ask you about it. You should add additional questions to an FAQ section as you learn more about what people want to know.
Don’t do anything post haste
As I mentioned, my shift was instant and I’m an impatient person. I decided on Kickstarter quickly and immediately went into the process of creating my campaign. It took me a few days to do it, but that wasn’t quick enough for me. In hindsight, I wish I would have been more patient, slowed down, and really calculated every single aspect of the campaign before I hit publish.
Calculate how much money you truly need to earn
I was terrified I wouldn’t make my goal and I drastically undershot what I wanted to raise because if you don’t meet your fundraising goal, you don’t get any of your money. Don’t ask for way more than you need, don’t be greedy, but if you definitely need $X to do your dream project, don’t be afraid to ask for that. Yes, having half that money is better than no money at all, but asking for less is a bad idea because of two reasons: 1) You’re manifesting the idea that you won’t truly achieve your goal and 2) Once you reach your goal and Kickstarter lists you as being “100%” funded, people are much less likely to donate.
I am very lucky that I was overfunded because I needed way more than I asked for. Don’t do what I did, though. Believe in yourself and trust that if you need that much money people will pull through. People are way more likely to make donations when you still need $X so you can truly reach your goal instead of just throwing money into an already full pot.
Be creative with your rewards and calculate their costs
The whole shtick with Kickstarter is the backers get rewards in exchange for their donation to your project. It’s a gesture that makes them way more likely to back your dream because they feel as though they’re getting something return, even if it’s not immediate. Rewards are crucial to your Kickstarter’s success.
Provide many options of lots of different ranges in price. The first few items you offer don’t need to be something tangible, let alone expensive. Someone who is only donating $5 or less doesn’t necessarily need a reward. You can list that reward as “A thank you e-mail” or “Good vibes and great thanks!”. The medium tier of rewards you offer should be very inexpensive for you to produce. Maybe it’s a digital product or blog advertising you can offer that doesn’t have any overhead costs, or maybe it’s a physical item you already own and don’t have to go out and purchase.
A big part of the Kickstarter experience is being able to “pre-order” the physical product your project is producing. In my case, I was publishing a book so if people are backing the product they obviously are interested in me and/or my book. You definitely want to offer your product as a reward package, but make sure that you’re charging enough for that reward tier so you’re not just breaking even or actually losing money. Keep in mind that people who are backing your project truly are donating and this reward they’re getting is an extra bonus on top of their philanthropy. Don’t feel bad about charging more than your product will eventually cost for that reward tier because your goal is to raise money.
Spend time on your video
A big part of Kickstarter culture is the video that goes at the top of your page. You want to spend time on the video you make and appeal to people’s emotions. If you have a personal story, don’t be afraid to share it. People respond to that! Talk about your dream and why you want to achieve it. Talk about your struggles and share how you would feel if this came to fruition. Explain how you’re going to use the money you raise and show sneak peaks into your brand and project.
Be prepared to make your Kickstarter your full-time job
You can choose to have your Kickstarter up for longer than thirty days, but it isn’t advised. Thirty days is the perfect amount of time for you to raise awareness and money without it seeming like the deadline is too far away that the backers could “put it off for later”. The month your Kickstarter is live, you need to make time for it. Don’t ever launch a campaign with plans to go on vacation or so much going on in your life that you can’t dedicate many hours each day to it. It’s a huge commitment.
Have a decent and strong group of people you can pitch to
If I had launched my Kickstarter three years ago, I wouldn’t have made my goal, let alone be overfunded. After all was said and done, I took a look at my list of 174 backers and figured out where they were from. An extremely small percent were from random strangers on the internet that found me through Kickstarter or though a third party. If you’re banking on Kickstarter being your promoter, don’t. You need to appeal to people you know already.
That said, the people you “know already” can be from any walk of life. The people who backed my campaign were a mix of close friends I hang out with every week to people I met at conferences two years ago to people who follow my blog and I’ve never met in person.
Promote your butt off
Social media is your friend. People might get annoyed with the frequency of your posts, and if they do (or even unfriend you) that’s okay. Remember it’s just a month and the timeline is finite. You have to make every day count during your campaign and that might mean being a little aggressive and overwhelming.
Share where you’re at, be transparent, post pictures of you being excited. Express your gratitude for your progress constantly. Talk to people about your Kickstarter and project in real life, but ultimately this is an online-based resource, and it’s easiest to reach out to people on the internet for your results.
Reach out to people personally
Yes, making general statuses on Facebook announcing your campaign and it’s progress and filling your Buffer account to the brim with tweet links to your campaign page are important, but they aren’t the most successful. The highest conversion rate I experienced was through messaging people directly on Facebook.
I literally went through my entire friends list and messaged about 80% of them individually. You can create a copy and paste script that has your information about what your project is and how to find the link, etc. but make everything personable and add extra stuff to the message besides that copy and paste script. Address them with their name, not just “Hey!” and throw in something specific to them. It can be a memory you had, or expressing thanks for something else, or saying how good it was to see them last time. (It doesn’t hurt to “like” their current profile picture, either.)
About 70% of the people who actually backed my project were people I personally messaged on Facebook. This is why campaigning is a full-time job. I spent hours writing and sending messages to people and following up with their questions and conversations. It took a lot of time, but it was worth every minute.
Also, don’t be afraid to remind people. At least ten people responded to my first message and said “Oh my gosh this is awesome, yes I will definitely donate!” or “Yes of course, but not till I get paid on Friday” and then they didn’t donate. I would nudge them and say “Hey! I really appreciated you responding to my message and being so enthusiastic about my project. Just wanted to remind you there’s X days to donate and claim your rewards!” And about 70% of those people responded and said “Oh my gosh, I totally forgot thank you for the reminder” and then donated.
These don’t need to be public at all, in fact they shouldn’t be. Before you hit publish, mark out how much you’d need to make every week to reach your goal in a month. Update your goals as the money comes in, be flexible . If you don’t make your first week’s goal you know to up your marketing game, and if you go above your goal in the first week you can re-evaluate how much you want to try to make each week and begin thinking about what will happen if you meet your goal before the month is up.
Be prepared for “Stretch Goals”
It would be ideal for you to reach your goal before the month is up, right? Duh. But what’s the incentive for people to donate or share your link once you’ve reached your goal? The answer is Stretch Goals. Stretch (or Reach) Goals are basically unofficial rewards that you offer your backers if you reach “X milestone”.
With Stretch Goals, you need to consider what you’re offering and who you will offer them to. This is all up to you. I said, “I reached my goal but we still have three weeks to go! If I reach $X before the 30 days are up, everyone will get a pinback button in addition to the rewards they’ve already selected”. That’s all fine and good, but here’s what I didn’t consider: A good number of people selected digital rewards that did not require shipping (read: extra money), so now I need to buy envelopes and pay for postage to send these people these pins. I’m not just throwing a small pin into an envelope with their book and forgetting about it, I’ve created a whole extra process for myself that’s taking money away from my project. If I could go back and only offer the Stretch Goals to people with non-digital rewards, I would.
You absolutely don’t need to offer Stretch Goals, it’s totally your call. It’s just a good way to keep the momentum going after you reach your goal so you can raise extra money.
There’s a section on your Kickstarter for you to post updates to your backers as well as the general public who haven’t backed your fundraiser yet. Use this! Post photos, your general excitement, and progress on your project. People love that personal touch, and it will help for you to share that part with your campaign.
Once your campaign ends (successfully), you’ll have the opportunity to send out a survey to each of the tiers of your backers (read: your backers are organized by what reward they selected) to ask them any questions that are pertinent to their rewards. This includes their snail mail and e-mail addresses, things like T-shirt size, preferences, etc. If you need information for your Stretch Goals, make sure to include that, too.
Once you send the survey that’s it. You can’t edit it or make another one for that tier. Be careful and think about what you need to ask before you do it!
Getting your money
Kickstarter takes almost three weeks to actually put your money in your bank account and not only do they keep 5% for themselves, but for every single backer you have to pay between 3 and 5% per donation depending on how much their donation was. That means on my page it says I raised $4,615 and in my bank account I actually got $4,134. That’s a chunk of change. Be prepared for that!
In addition to finishing your project you promised your backers and yourself, you also need to send out the rewards people selected. Budget time for that as well as money for things like shipping supplies (labels, toner, mailers, envelopes, bubble wrap, postage). Things add up.
Okay! This is a lot of information to take in, so if you have any questions feel free to ask in the comments or via e-mail.
And as a bonus I’ve made a printable checklist for you to launch your Kickstarter Campaign!