crowdfunding

How long should my Kickstarter campaign last? by Simeon Smith

This morning I got sucked into a Twitter thread that I should have ignored, around the question of how long a crowd-funding campaign should last. I love Twitter, but for complicated questions like this, it sucks because people often give an answer, but don't say why or give any evidence. 

Capture.JPG

The person starting the thread was attempting to avoid the mid-campaign slump simply by... having a shorter campaign! A perhaps simple idea to a problem few have been able to solve. 

You see, regardless of how much funding a campaign receives, it almost inevitably will get most of it's funding in the first couple of days (people backing the campaign as soon as they see it), and then another huge surge at the end (people who are undecided about the campaign and back it out of urgency). Now this blog post isn't about the psychology of urgency in sales, or managing campaigns, but I simply wanted to provide some questions people should consider when deciding how long their campaign should be. 

Hopefully if you can answer these few questions, you'll have some good insight into how long a particular campaign should run for. 

- What does the data say? Most platforms will have an FAQ where this is answered, giving you the best time/profit ratio and it varies slightly from one platform to another. The general consensus seems to be that it's around a month. More important though is the day you want it to start and end; different social media platforms will have different days that have better engagement or more traffic than others, make sure that your campaign doesn't end on a Saturday night if no one is going to be around to impulse-back your project. 

- What's wrong with a mid-campaign slump? Apart from delaying the project an extra couple of weeks, most of the down-sides to having your backer numbers stall for a couple of weeks can be managed. Campaign Fatigue? Low morale? Public perception? All these things can be managed. Sorry to say that if you haven't raised the bulk of your cash in 48hrs, chances are you've already failed, so the biggest fear of the first-time crowd-funder can be that their campaign will fail in the first couple of days and they'll be left looking at a failing campaign for a month. Sure this sucks, but only really for their ego. There's a lot of things you can do to avoid your campaign failing (most outside the remit of this article) but the length of your campaign will rarely be a deciding factor, so take the emotional hit on the mid campaign slump, and tell your ego to suck it up. 

- Who is your target audience? If you expect most of your backers to be people already on a mailing list or following you on social media, then running a shorter campaign might make sense. If you're hoping to gather a larger audience, getting picked up by relevant blogs and news sites will be one of the biggest contributing factors that will widen your backer pool. The thing with these sites is that they take a while to pick stories up, so a week-long campaign will probably have ended by the time they pick it up.

- How many backers do you want or need? Campaigns with cheap rewards and hundreds of backers are "impulse buys" for most people. "Oh look, Joe Blogs is releasing an album, and I can get a digital copy for 8 quid" In this situation the few backers you may or may not pick up during the mid-campaign slump aren't going to make or break the campaign. However, if you're hoping to find a dozen people that will back a limited edition product for a couple of hundred quid each, the psychology of the purchase changes. Trying to find fewer backers doesn't necessarily mean a shorter campaign. 

- Why do you want a shorter campaign? You can probably already tell if your reason is a bit shitty, but here are some good reasons: Completing a project in a manageable timescale due to other commitments. Creating a splash because you're looking to promote your product, not necessarily fund it. Using a perceived lack of time as differentiation for the campaign. 

Simeon's book Every Shot Matters was fully funded in just 4hrs. The first run of his synth module, The Jackalope, sold out in 90 minutes.

Subscribe to my blog!

* indicates required

3 things nobody told me about Kickstarter.  by Simeon Smith

I’ve already written a post about how to run a successful crowdfunding campaign, and it was easy to stay positive about Kickstarter, their training videos, and their process. Crowdfunding sites WANT you to succeed because they take a cut of your profits. The more you earn, the more they earn. 

 

There are a few things, however, that they’ve yet to work out. They’re not going to tell you all the negatives of there service, so here, let me.

climb.jpg

 

There’s lots of information out there about survivor bias, people borrowing money to access a half-funded crowdfunder, the amount of work these things take, and the massive ball-ache that fulfilment can be, so here are 3 things I didn’t know about before starting my campaign. 

  1. SPAM. Never before have I received as much spam as I did on my Kickstarter page. I’ve had a good following on Soundcloud for years, and am used to getting “targeted” spam advertising social media pay-for-listens. Since my Sample Packs got a lot of press, I’ve also had a lot of time wasters, asking me to work for free or pay to play gigs. but NONE of that prepared me for the sheer volume of spam I received via Kickstarter. “Hi! We’re an innovative marketing company offering…” five or six times a day. The problem being that these appear alongside genuine questions from users, and it’s a pain separating them out. “As the global leader in crowdfunding marketing we can help you reach your goal…” I did. In 4 hours. But thanks. Now go away. 
  2. CANCELLED ORDERS. Those annoying marketeers from point 1? Yeah, they’re a sneaky bunch. A few of them backed my project to try to get my attention, knowing full well that if they cancel the payment, Kickstarter has no way of claiming the cash from them. I ran my campaign on a tight budget and having orders cancelled changed my budget, as well as being really annoying. 
  3. TWO WEEKS. Kickstarter take two weeks to take the money from backers and send it through. As someone who was ready to go as soon as the countdown hit zero this was an agonising two weeks of everything being on hold for no other reason than Kickstarter still apparently living in the 20th century where transferring money takes time. Crowdfunding sites, if you’re reading this, it’s not okay. 

Subscribe to my blog!

* indicates required

How I raised four times the amount I was hoping to on my first kickstarter by Simeon Smith

Last week my first crowdfunding campaign finished. I raised over four times the amount I was hoping to. I’m not telling you this because I want to brag, after all it’s the people that backed my campaign that deserve the credit. I’m telling you this because I want to tell you how I did it.

Chances are if you’re reading this, you’ve probably been at the receiving end of my month-long campaign to get people ordering my book, but if I somehow missed you, I crowdfunded the production of my first photography book called Every Shot Matters: A Minimalist Film Photographer’s Scrapbook. It’s full colour and over 180 pages, so was pretty pricey to produce, hence the crowdfunder.

I must admit, I was pretty apprehensive about spending a month basically asking people for money. 

I’m British, and asking for cash isn’t something that comes naturally to us. Besides, I’ve seen a lot of people get burnt by the whole crowdfunding thing, either not meeting their target, or barely meeting their target and then struggling to deliver a large project for a tiny return on investment. So I read. And read. And read.

The great thing about Kickstarter, Indiegogo, et al. is that they really want people to succeed in their campaigns, because, well, the more money you make from your campaign, the more money they make from you. These companies put a lot of effort into material on how to run a successful crowdfunder, so much effort that there’s a hell of a lot of blog posts, videos, tutorials and podcasts out there about running these campaigns. It can be really overwhelming.

I read all the blog posts and tutorials, watched all the videos and listened to all the podcasts out there, because that’s the kind of sad, obsessive I am. But in an effort to save you from doing the same here are my top 6 things you need to get right for your first crowdfunding campaign.

  1. Be Passionate - Nobody knows your story better than you do. Get in front of the camera and tell it. A video for a crowdfunder doesn’t need to be elaborate, doesn’t need to be professional (unless you’re raising money for a film!), but it does need to be YOU. Over half the people that backed my crowdfunder were my family and friends, they care about my passion and my story more than they care about a book of photos I’ve taken. They wanted a copy of my book, but most of all they wanted to see me succeed. Turn the camera on yourself and talk about your project with passion and a smile on your face.
  2. Be Honest - I see so many crowdfunding campaigns that just appear a bit dishonest. We’ve all seen campaigns with a target of £20,000 that leave you thinking, “Yeah, they could do that for half the amount”. My target amount was literally the cost of getting 10 copies of the book printed and sent out. I also provided a breakdown of my costs, and a info on what I’d do with any profits. Keep your target low and honest.
  3. Be Prepared - There’s two sides to this, firstly put in all the work you can BEFORE the campaign. For me that meant that all the writing, all the photos, all the formatting and all the editing was done before launching my campaign. It was a lot of work, but I’d never expect someone else to invest money into a project I couldn’t be bothered to invest my time into. You might have a great idea, but develop it properly before trying to sell it to me. The second part of this is that if you have done all you can before the campaign starts, you’ll have something to show for it. In my video I had an actual test-print of the book. People could see the quality, the size and the design before choosing to back the project or not, and a lot of people said how impressed they were by the test print. Prepare as much of your project as you can pre-launch, and show off your work.
  4. Be Proactive - You’re putting out a video asking people to get their card out of their wallet and give you money. If you can do that, you can write a press release asking professionals to give you space in their publications, on their blogs, and on their podcasts. Every interest-group has a tonne of blogs that just post reviews of gear they’ve gotten for free and rehash press releases. Without social media posts from brands like Lomography and Analog Cafe, I wouldn’t have made it as far as I did. Find people with a bigger reach than you have, and get them on board!
  5. Be Persistent - I launched my campaign and was 100% funded within 4 hours. So I kept on promoting the campaign. Two days later the first stretch goal, 200%, was met. So I kept on promoting the campaign. Lomography picked up my story and promoted it further. So I kept on promoting the campaign. The day before the campaign ended I was just blown away by all the support I’d had. And you know what I did. I kept on promoting the campaign.
  6. Be Open to Failure -  I feel like I should by telling you about survivor bias. I’m writing this on the back of a successful campaign, but there are plenty of other people who have done all the right things, but had campaigns that failed. Maybe timing was wrong, maybe they just had bad luck. Very few will want to tell you about their failure, and they might not know what went wrong. There’s a big buzz in the business world at the moment about “Failing Forward”, using unsuccessful projects to learn and to gain resilience. The best way to fail forward is to plan to fail. What are you going to do if no one backs your crowdfunder? Chances are you’ll be able to progress your project a different way, but if you’ve already planned what that looks like, it’s easy as switching from plan A to plan B and reflecting on what went wrong. If you fail without a plan the emotional toll is a lot higher. And don’t just plan to fail; plan to succeed. Plan to blow your target clean out of the water. When the rewards from your campaign have all be sent out there’s still work to do, and you might as well plan that work now. On the back of my successful crowdfunder I’ll be appearing in two magazines, have an exhibition at a gallery that got in touch with me, and have a book launch at a venue that contacted me to set it up. The future is amazing - plan for it.

201114 by Simeon Smith

Last night I went out, had some curry, won a pub quiz, went home and watched a video of that Jack Conte guy of off the YouTubes talking about art, and promoting his Patreon project at an XOXO conference. He used some dirty words like “Content Creator” (I’m not content creator, I’m a free man!) and monetisation (which he obviously spelt wrong, being of the American persuasion), but he’s a generally inspiring guy to listen to so I then spent the next hour and a half (in the early hours of the morning) fantasising about starting my own Patreon page, and it being successful.

I signed up, and filled in the very specific boxes. I watched the “How to make your page successful” videos. I carefully picked and edited a photo of my actual real face (rarely seen in conjunction with my art) because that is What Works. I wrote a little bio that was neither overly chatty nor overly formal and didn’t make me sound like a douche. I set myself some “Funding Goals” and dreamt up some “Fan Rewards”. I mean there’s a lot to like about Patreon, and none of my concerns over disingenuous Kickstarter campaigns really apply to it. But then I had A REALISATION.

Jack’s little inspirational talk thingy at XOXO stated that not making money from music is fine, if you only want to do it once. But to continue spending time and effort on music, you will eventually need money. So far, so good, and the money I spend making music is currently coming from same pot I feed my kids and pay the mortgage from, so yeah, that’s kind of a problem I need to address.

The talk also contained the formula “f(music)=money”. He said that in the past “YouTube(music)=money” and that now, for him at least,  “Patreon(music)=money”. But I think this is that this is kinda flawed in the whole “correlation does not imply causation” way. Jack’s little formula could contain many successful music service and seem to be true (BBC(music)=money). But… what’s the common ground here? Where does the money actually come from? 

Audience. 

And I should say that Jack also touches on this, but at that time my sleep-deprived brain was full of the fluffy dreams of Patreon-fuelled world domination.

This week I casually went to a lunch event with a Billionaire. His advice? If you ain’t got a customer, you ain’t got a business. For artists I suppose this equates to: if you ain’t got an audience, don’t print the t-shirts.

So let’s say I go on the Twitter and promote my brand spanking new Patreon page to my totally whopping and amazing 285 followers. To my 90 SoundCloud followers. To my 316 Facebook friends. To my 93 Instagram followers. To my bros on the Monome forums. To my actual friends when I meet up for beers or coffees (Okay, I only put coffees because I don’t want to sound like an alcoholic. It’s usually beers). And, you know, I might get some retweets and friendly little reposts on the tinterwebs, but…. do any of these people value my music enough to give me a couple of dollars, the equivalent of buying me a coffee (beer), every time I release a track? Do people engage with my art enough to care? Is my music marketable? Is it good enough? Are these questions I really want the answers to?

I know there’s one way to find out.

www.awonderfulkindofimpossible.co.uk

Subscribe to my blog!

* indicates required