In 2014, I funded the launch of my magazine, Knit Wit, via Kickstarter (it actually went almost $10k over my goal). I’m happy to share with you a few ideas and revelations I have had about how to do it—and successfully.
There are plenty of ways to fund a project or business, right? You can dig into your wallet or credit rating, look for an investor (or several), build the business slowly and organically over time, or you can, like I did, turn to crowdfunding. I happen to like the last two ways best, especially if your product, service or whathaveyou doesn’t require a ton of up-front capital in its essence (like a startup, restaurant, real estate, etc.). Both strategies allow for the market to immediately prop up and drive your success. Plus, you won’t be beholden to anyone (which rules!).
But, what can be stressful about turning to the masses is that your 1.0, your Beta, needs to be pretty spotless. You need to be ready for Prime Time at 8 in the morning. You have, in the eternal words of Eminem, one shot (one opportunity). A lot of Kickstarting a project successfully relies on your ability to leverage your network—and believe me, these people don’t want to hear from you twice. Make sure this is The One and then hustle to make it happen. Below are some of the ways I made sure my project was successfully Kickstarted. There are a number of different crowdsourcing options out there. I chose Kickstarter because its a household name, which means I could safely assume everyone I know (and everyone they know) already understands what it is. Also: I’m just really into how high stakes it is. But that’s a personality thing.
1. Start early.
I started Kickstarting Knit Wit a year before the campaign launched. Not literally, but going out and finding our audience on social was crucial. I invited followers behind the scenes and created excitement around the magazine well before I had even figured out how much money we would need. I started our social accounts October 2013, our campaign ended September 2014, and when we finally did hit “go” on our campaign, our early adopters were already waiting for us. (And excited to spread the word, as well.)
2. Broadcast your process.
If you’re doing high quality work and it’s gaining momentum, people will want to be a part of that. Talented people start appearing, looking to join in. Friends make crazy-helpful introductions. For example, a friend knew two people who work at Kickstarter and got me in touch. They answered lots of my questions and gave some valuable advice (see #3, below). Plus, when we finally launched, they were well aware of our campaign, saw it doing well, and ended up featuring it on the site.
3. Do exhaustive comps… And then take it a step further.
Make sure you really understand what has worked well for similar projects—and then figure out how you can improve. Originally, we weren’t going to do a video. Cherry Bombe didn’t do one and besides, I figured, aren’t Kickstarter videos pretty boring and not super shareable anyway? Our friendly Kickstarter contacts had some convincing stats about videos and funded projects, and urged me to do whatever I could to give my project the best chance of success (remember: one opportunity, right?). I ended up pushing our launch date and putting together a video that felt more true to the projects, like an advertising spot (with heavy influence from late ‘90s Nickelodeon, doi).
4. Check out Kickstarter’s resources.
Kickstarter’s Handbook is extremely helpful and is a great primer to figuring out how the whole thing works. It even tells you some successful strategies to try. And those two helpful Kickstarter employees I spoke to? Little known fact, but every section has a “community manager” and they are available to answer your questions. No insider friend-intro actually needed.
5. Really know your money.
This is the most important one. Making sure that you’ll have enough money to fund your project and fulfill your supporter gifts is one thing (don’t forget shipping!). But if you really, truly only want to do this once, you’ve also got to figure out how much you’ll need to sustain your project moving forward. If you’re having trouble crunching the numbers, I deeply recommended finding a friend, colleague, advisor, someone to help you sort it out. (But remember, don’t ask for too much! People can be turned off by if they perceive the amount as extravagant.)
6. Leverage your network.
If you followed my advice in #1, by the time you launch your campaign, you’ll already have a devoted pack of followers ready to campion you. That’s a great first step. Next is your personal contacts. Divide them into groups (the smaller the subset, the more you’ll keep their attention) and make your pitch via email. Here’s the golden rule of leveraging your personal network: Don’t ask for their money. Not only does it make everybody feel weird, but it’s not what you want. What you want is for them to help you find and broaden your audience, so ask your friends, family and colleagues to share your project on their social accounts (or via email or via carrier pigeon, whatever). It’s free for them, they’ll be happy to do it (see #2) and it won’t be weird. Don’t be weird.
7. Get great press.
To reach lots of people really quickly, you’ll need some targeted and strong press. Make a list of every site that’s relevant to your project and find out if you share any mutual friends with editors, writers, etc. You probably do. Don’t include those people in the mega-ask above. Instead, see if they’re comfortable with an introduction and make sure you thank your friend with a free whatever-your-making later (cost depending, of course).
8. Don’t forget where you came from.
Once your project is funded, you’ll be overflowing with gratitude and warm-fuzzies. Don’t lose that feeling. Completed Kickstarter campaign pages have been recently redesigned to look like blogs because your supporters want—they deserve—some special treatment. Write them updates on your project, exclusive behind the scenes, even some discounts. Your supporters are your people—they turned out when you needed them and they helped you get your project (remember, The One) off the ground.
All images from Knit Wit issue 3, available this month.