Before I launched Knocked Up Abroad Again’s Kickstarter campaign, I conducted research on crowdfunding secrets, strategies, tools, and resources for about three months. For one month, I built the virtual rewards, drafted blogs, and did preliminary outreach to bloggers and supporters who had a similar audience with Knocked Up Abroad. However, as with anything, experiencing it for yourself is the most valuable teacher of all. No blog, podcast, or webinar (and I listened to countless) could have fully prepared me for what I experienced.
The difficulty with crowdfunding is that you take your precious project that you have been devoting thousands of hours, blood, sweat, and tears and you place it all into the hands of your friends, family members, and strangers on the Internet. You hope that you have created a project they want to support and that they understand that by supporting your project, they are supporting you as a person and friend. However, most people are not familiar with Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, Publishizer, and other crowdfunding websites.
I can’t do the research for you—you are going to have to do that on your own (start here)—but I can offer some secrets that may shed some light on the process of crowdfunding.
If you think that you can put your project up on a crowdfunding site and watch the money roll in, you’re sadly mistaken. There are thousands of projects and new ones arriving every day. You are competing with really cool gadgets and backpacks that can basically make you dinner while you’re out camping. In order to stand out, you need to be prepared.
Secret #1: Do your research
There are so many resources available for crowdfunders—blogs, webinars, podcasts, crowdfunding consulting companies, social media assistants, crowdfunding clubs, press release writers, and emailing services who have created an industry to support creators in crowdfunding. Do your research and take ownership of the marketing of your project.
Secret #2: You need to hustle
Tap into your creativity because you are going to need to find backers for your project in the most unlikely locations. If 100 people see your project, one person may be inclined to back it. One. One! That means you need to get the word out as far and as wide as possible during the duration of your campaign. Time is of the essence and you cannot afford to lose any time during your campaign.
Secret #3: Find a few champions
It doesn’t matter if it is a friend, family member, or a stranger (hire someone!) but you need other people to share your project on their Facebook pages and social media throughout the duration of your campaign. And they need to do it in creative ways—not just, “Back this project” a million times. Assemble a team of champions who can get the word out to your intended audience and ask them to share relevant blog posts that contain your project’s link, press releases, and anytime your project is in the news.
Secret #4: You’re going to be an emotional wreck
Kickstarter recommends all campaigns are 30 days or less because fundraising is exhausting. Throughout a regular day during my campaign, I felt the following emotions in rapid succession on loop: utter despair, elation, dejection, happiness, hunger, jitteriness, desperation, and full confidence. Crowdfunding in an all-or-nothing scenario is one of the most stressful things I have ever done. My body hit a wall and I immediately fell sick as soon as we reached 100%.
Secret #5: Don’t take it personally
There will be people who you knew you could count on to support you during your campaign. You emailed and chatted and they said they were so excited for you. They couldn’t wait to support you. And then…nothing. Radio silence. And then, there will be other friends and family members with whom you haven’t heard from in years, people you would never expect to pledge who will back you in a huge way. Don’t take it personally. It is so easy to focus on the people who didn’t support you when you needed (and daringly asked) but instead, try to focus on those who did support you.
Secret #6: During your campaign, your main focus is fundraising
Don’t plan on doing any other work during your all-or-nothing crowdfunding campaign. Your main focus is on the fundraising. I’ve seen other creators (the ones with projects that are 4000% funded) mention that they have three full-time employees working 18-hour days. I’ve read about other projects that insist that all creators should hire virtual assistants. I ended up doing okay solo but I worked all day every day of the campaign and had a team of 25 contributors who were also writing, Tweeting, sharing, and blogging. The amount of success you have will be reflective of the amount of effort you have logged in every day.
Secret #7: The “dead zone” is a real place and it’s scary
Again, unless you’re one of those instant successes, your crowdfunding campaign will have a U-shaped to it. The valley is often called, “the dead zone” and it is a very real and scary place. I was fortunate enough not to have any days with 0 backers, but I did slip down to 1-2 backers during that valley of death. Here’s a great article on what to do when you’re freaking out in the stalled-out zone.
Secret #8: Maintain perspective
At one point, I had to ask myself, “What’s the worst case scenario? I fail? Okay…I’ve failed before and survived.” Failing at crowdfunding will not be the end of the world. It’ll suck, yes, absolutely, but you will learn from your experience and can regroup. There are tons of stories of how creators have bounced back from a failed or canceled campaign. Don’t despair completely, it’ll be okay.
In short, we sold 300+ copies of Knocked Up Abroad Again during the campaign, which is as many books of Knocked Up Abroad that I sold during the first quarter of 2016. Essentially, the Kickstarter compressed three months of marketing into four weeks. Yikes.
Knocked Up Abroad Again’s campaign was full of so many things I wish I had done, and things I wish I hadn’t done. I am still analyzing the data, trying to understand what worked and what didn’t, and identifying ways for improvement. Like childbirth, I’m happy it’s over but I am so in love with the end result. Christine Gilbert’s advice was to apply crowdfunding strategies to every big launch you’ll ever do in the future with time-limited creative incentives for early backers.
Since we have been successful using Kickstarter, everyone wants to know how we did it. In short, we created interesting content that people wanted to share on Facebook. I’ll create another article that lists all of the blogs and articles that resulted from the Kickstarter campaign.
I also recorded a quick audio file to expand on our experience.