5 Lessons from a Prolific Kickstarter

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I’ve done a few Kickstarter projects in my day (okay, I’m on my 15th or 16th, depending on who’s counting). So far, they’ve all been successful, though the current one is making me good and nervous as it gets down to the wire. Note: The Kickstarter project has been fully funded. You can now order the book directly…. or back my newest project!

When I’m running a Kickstarter project, it’s pretty much all I can think about. Which means that I think about Kickstarter a lot. Here are a few lessons learned over the last few years of crowdfunding in this way.

1. The Love. Watching a steady stream of “You have a new backer” alert emails announcing that friends and strangers alike believe in you, want you to succeed, and want to be part of the thing you’re doing is pure magic. If you’ve ever needed a boost of confidence, a well-tuned crowdfunding project will do the trick. Tip: Enjoy! Say “thank you” a lot. And if there’s a chance to get to know your backers by involving them in the project or rewards, even best.

2. The Rollercoaster. The thing surprised me most about Kickstarter is how dang emotional it is to run a campaign. The above-mentioned endorphin highs are high… and then there are the days, hours, minutes that go by when nobody is backing your project. Projects usually start strong and finish strong, but there’s an infamous slump in the middle when they’re neither new nor about to expire. The self-doubt that results can be demotivating, but it’s important to leverage it into new ideas and energy or you’re toast—destined to be counted among the 60% of projects that don’t make your goal. Tip: Shorter projects are often better because they help maintain a sense of urgency and minimize the dreaded slump—Kickstarter recommends 30 days or less and I agree.

3. The Hustle. Running a Kickstarter is a sales job. Some folks find you organically, but you’re going to be out there every day of your campaign. There’s nothing like a campaign to help you get really comfortable really fast with fun stuff like promoting your work, repeating your asks on social media, and specifically asking people for help, heart-in-mouth. You’ll get turned down, you’ll get ignored, and you’ll also make awesome connections and build lasting relationships. There’s also the constant scheming to come up with a new ideas, new updates, new audiences, and new blog posts like this one. Tip: Give yourself plenty of time—a few hours a day if possible—to focus on the project. You might get lucky and win big, but it’s more likely that your luck will result directly from lots of hard work.

4. The Spreadsheets. Running a Kickstarter—and then coming out the other end of it solvent, on time, and without tearing out all your hair—is a logistical art form. The sooner and more thoroughly you plan, and the more diligent you are about maintaining your detailed spreadsheets, the better off you’ll be at all stages. You get to plan for cost overruns, fees, late deliveries from suppliers, shipping logistics, and—most terrifying of all—the runaway success. And then there’s the future—will you keep selling or doing your thing? There’s a spreadsheet (and a hustle) for that. Tip: If you have more than a few dozen things to ship, it’s worth it to use software like Stamps.com or Endicia—see if they have a free one month trial.

5. The Rising Tide. Here’s the thing—there isn’t really a ton of competition for backers between Kickstarter projects. The opposite’s true—people love to back a project and then discover new projects to support. This has been well-documented in response to some grumbling about millions-of-dollar Hollywood movies being crowdfunded alongside sub-$1,000 passion projects. Kickstarter dug into the analytics and found that these blockbusters bring in lots of new dollars to indie films too. Tip: Kick it forward. Letting your audience know about other rad Kickstarter (or other types of) projects helps everyone win, which is really the whole point.

Questions? Embellishments? Contradictions? The comments are yours.