This is Part Two of a series of posts on setting up, running and concluding a crowdfunding campaign. My intention is to add something new to what is a widely blogged about subject, as someone who has read said blogs and, upon application, discovered what helped, what hindered and what is simply not covered, or at least no where I was looking. If you haven’t yet, please read Part One: The Preliminaries.
My campaign to raise the funds to cover the costs of editing, publication and marketing of my first fiction book finished on May 31st. It was successfully funded and also a great relief to finally be able to get on with the actual work of editing and publishing the book. This is what’s been occupying so much of my time and why I’ve not written any new blogs for a bit. I’m finally doing that whole ‘being a writer’ thing and, well, writing.
But I did say I’d do three parts on what I learned about crowdfunding and could use a break from the book, so here are Things You Should Know For The Duration of Your Campaign.
1. There’s a reason why it’s hard.
If you’re thinking of doing a crowdfunding campaign and you mention it to anyone the first thing you’ll probably get told is that it’s hard work. One of the things I learned doing this campaign is how unhelpful that statement is. Not because it’s not hard work, but because it’s not a clear statement of what makes it hard.
A crowdfunding campaign is hard work because it’s inconsistent. I like to have a schedule. Structure to my day helps me accomplish things - but maintaining a schedule during the month of my campaign was nearly impossible. Because you are relying on the crowd, you need to be there to interact, to make it personal, and the crowd will be made up of people in different time zones.
When people chose to back was unpredictable. I might get three backers within a few hours of each other on a Thursday evening and then nothing all weekend. I had to regularly schedule posts to social media, to follow up on interactions and send out timely thank you emails. I was monitoring my social media channels at all hours of the day, when usually I just go on whenever I feel like it - which more often than not is never.
Plus, it’s really emotionally charged. Remember, I’d been planning this since November the previous year and properly doing prep work for it throughout all of March and April. I’d invested a lot of time and energy and even though I knew it wasn’t a for sure thing, and that I shouldn’t have high expectations, I’m human. It’s hard to watch the numbers jump and then flatline, to hit one target in a few hours and take two weeks to reach the next one, to question whether you’ll make your goal at all.
Thanks to Tylea of Thundress, I also knew enough to appoint ‘self-care’ managers. I chose a few select people I knew I could trust myself to listen to if they saw me pushing too hard, not taking breaks or agonising over how ‘successful’ the campaign was appearing to be. I told them straight up that I would need their help to ensure I was getting the self-care I needed and it paid off. My self-care managers offered regular gentle reminders for me to take breaks. My stress levels still got pretty high, but I didn’t burn out before the end, so I see that as a win.
2. Have stuff to keep the momentum up.
This may sound contradictory to the first tip, but you will get bored.
You will grow annoyed with your own constant promotion, or you should if you’re doing it right. You will also find that asking for help is tiring, really tiring. You will feel fatigued and run-down and totally drained and possibly even fed up. You might think what you’ve raised is ‘good enough’ and wonder if there’s a way to cut the campaign short.
This is totally normal, and not at all contradictory to the first tip because you will also be bored of the inconsistency and unpredictability of it.
Another nod to Tylea, who prepared me for this as well. She suggested I come up with something mid-campaign that I could promote along-side the campaign itself - a bonus of some description. I chose to go with a ‘meet the author’ hangout on YouTube. It seemed a clever solution because it’s technology I’ve used before, it required minimal organisation, and I didn’t need to rely on anyone else to pull it off.
So on the 15th of May I held my hang out, where I shared readings from my grade two journals and answered questions about ‘Friends We Haven’t Met’.
Lessons learned on this, though:
2 hours is WAY too long.
Don’t trust the stats telling you how many viewers you have (the counter mostly said 1 or 0 when in fact at least twenty people tuned in, as many people told me they did afterwards.)
Recruit a few of your bigger supporters to definitely tune in and give them staged questions to ask, in case your audience is shy.
3. Ask again.
On day one I did a big old launch. There were emails, a tweet every five minutes (seriously, I scheduled a tweet to go out every five minutes all day long on the 1st of May from when it started in Sydney, Australia, until it reached Vancouver, BC in Canada) and multiple Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Tumblr posts.
But that was just the first day in a month-long campaign. I couldn’t just sit back, twiddling my thumbs and wait for backers to find it, simply because I’d been pretty noisy on day one. The Internet is full of noise, so I had to be pretty loud, and even with all that noise most of my backers were people in my immediate social network.
Why? Well, because I asked people, directly and individually. I took time to tweet directly to specific people, to send Facebook messages to friends, to write individual emails. And I didn’t just do it once. I had to do some gentle nagging, some regular reminders. I had many people who said they’d back it when I released the first chapter, long before the campaign started, and each of them needed to be followed-up on right down to the wire. I was sending follow-up messages to people right up until the last two hours of the campaign - and in those two hours I got six backers.
Spreadsheets are your friend. Make spreadsheets of all the contacts you can think of and include their email, if you have them on Facebook and what their Twitter handle might be. Then organise the spreadsheets according to likelihood of support.
Also, ‘Not Another Mail Merge’ on gmail is a lifesaver. You can create personalised emails but send them in bulk, which is handy when you have fifty or more people to email in a short period of time.
4. Any one might be a backer.
I learned something really valuable halfway through my campaign, when I attended a business networking event. I went to support someone else, thinking such an event wouldn’t be relevant to me whilst I was crowdfunding. I kind of got it into my head that crowdfunding mostly happens online, especially since mine was for a book so it wasn’t like I had a prototype to ‘pitch’.
I was totally wrong. I ended up handing out my card to several people during the month of May - people I had never met before - and I got three backers that way! It really made me wonder how many more I might have had if I’d realised earlier in the month, or if it had occurred to me pre-campaign and I’d put in solid effort to attend multiple events.
Having a pitch is great. Thanks to doing videos for the campaign I already had a pretty good rehearsal, plus I’m pretty gregarious and vain.
If you’re not a natural socialite I recommend practicing your pitch on a few friends. Just a quick blurb of what your crowdfunding project is, why you’re doing it, and then how people can support it. And of course, this is when having business cards, or getting business cards, is key. Don’t be afraid to ask for cards and as soon as you can afterwards, email your new contacts. Acknowledge where you met and how, mention something you talked about that you enjoyed or appreciated, and include the link to your campaign.
5. Share your gratitude, often and loudly.
Like I said earlier, crowdfunding relies on the crowd. No one is obligated to support your project or idea, so when they do, it’s important to thank them, and not to wait until after the campaign is done. Once someone has backed you it means they have buy-in, which means they are part of the network to get the campaign in front of a larger audience. By thanking them, genuinely, you’re giving them instant pay-off. Sure, they know they’ll get your product eventually, but anyone who has ever backed a crowdfunding campaign knows that can be months away.
It’s really nice to be thanked, to be acknowledged for your contribution and the difference it’s making. I know I always appreciate it, which was why I made a point of thanking every single backer with a personal email, within 24 hours of them backing the campaign. If they had a Twitter account I thanked them there too. I posted regular Facebook status updates, tagging any friends who had backed. I was, and still am, vocal about my gratitude.
I prioritised thanking people long before the campaign began, so I made sure it was going to be part of where my energy was focused. I basically knew my system would involve responding to people as soon as they backed the campaign. I never forgot to do it and certainly never made the excuse that I didn’t have time.
Because I’d taken the time to acknowledge them personally, there was a stronger connection. Because of that connection, they were happy to share the link with their social network.
This is just my take on important things to know when running a crowdfunding campaign, and things I didn’t really come across or which weren’t as clear in my own research. I’d love for anyone else who’s run a campaign to share tips or advice that they either picked up or wished they had known for the time they were actually running their campaign.
When not writing, making art or recording podcasts,
Kaitlyn can be found in trees, listening to Dharma talks on her iPod, Boon.
Thusly named because
Brian Froud = Awesome.