How do you approach your annual or recurring projects?
I may be unique, but I view projects that do annual campaigns for the same project as poorly run businesses. I might cut you some slack if you do a second, but I won't support a third. I view Kickstarter as the place for raising the seed money you need to start something new.My view on this is probably tainted by the fact that I run a monthly science fiction magazine and podcast that I have been trying to turn into a full-time career. Feast or famine fundraising just doesn't make sense to me (nor does the stress of an annual campaign). I think it is more important to build stability and with recurring projects, the natural way to do that is with subscriptions or recurring pledges. I save Kickstarter for new initiatives. For example, last year, we launched a campaign to help us fund the addition of Chinese translations to each issue. If that campaign failed, the project, not the magazine, would have been a bust. In the campaign, I promised not to return to Kickstarter to fund year two. That gives me one year to secure the recurring funds through expanding my business in a traditional way.I love Kickstarter, but it's not always the best tool for the job. I think something like Patreon is better suited to funding the second, third, etc. year of a project. You can leverage each audience to promote or support the other and switch the Kickstarter campaigns to moving you forward rather than sustaining what you have. I think those types of KS projects are more exciting to your community.
If you are printing artwork, do you send it directly to your backers from a third party?
It ultimately boils down to the conditions of your campaign, and the rewards that you are offering. A few points to consider:1. How many kinds of prints are you offering?2. Are your prints your main reward, or are you also offering other items?3. What's the lowest amount of backers that you anticipate having for this campaign to be successful? For example, if you run a $2,000 campaign, do you anticipate having 200 $10 backers that you need to send prints?4. Where is your product being manufactured?Some manufacturers can ship product directly, while others require that you come up with a shipping solution. It's quite normal for larger campaigns to make use of a fulfillment partner to ship out rewards, but many campaigns of all sizes opt to ship their packages themselves through the USPS.As a practice, it is also a good idea to consider assembling an entire reward package before sending it out for fulfillment. Some campaigns offering mixed reward items choose to fulfill part of an order at a time, rather than all at once. (printed pictures through one provider, t-shirts and mugs through another). This can increase complexity for keeping track of which backers have received everything, and which backers still need to be fulfilled.Full disclosure - this commentator works at BackerKit, a post-campaign platform for project creators.
What makes a great Kickstarter reward? And what's a terrible idea for one?
As someone who both makes their own kickstarters, and consults for clients, stress-free high impact prizes are where it's at! Here's the process i usually use with the folks that I work with:To start, consider yourself as the project creator, and think about your budget, time, and energy. Remind yourself that you'll be feeling stressed out and neurotic during the project, and exhausted once it's over. Great prizes for YOU are: Already in existence or $0 to create Requires no shipping (can be emailed, hosted digitally, or are experience-based) Exist towards the ratio of one thing serving many backers rather than needing a 1:1 thing per backer (ie, a party that all backers at that level can attend or a video that can be emailed to the group rather than a tote that needs to be sent to each backer) Now (still thinking about yourself) think a little more strategically. Planning for the kickstarter is great, but playing the long game and planning for whatever work you're making three years from now is even better. Great prizes for YOU are: Prizes that further your brand or product Prizes that creatively fuel the work or process itself by giving feedback or interacting creatively Prizes that (if you're making a purchase like tote bags or products) will have a demand past the life of the kickstarter and can be sold at events, on etsy, on your website, etc, allowing for continued income Prizes that allow for a cultivation and development of your donors and supporters I would say that this last one is KEY! Kickstarter is a great way to connect with folks who are truly interested in your work, and a prize that furthers that relationship (say, inviting a backer to a showing/open rehearsal, or giving them special access) go above and beyond the simple delivery of a prize. Getting face-time with your backers is great, as is facilitating a relationship where there's actual dialogue and exchange rather than just the handing over of a prize. This facilitates relationships that may outlast the life of your kickstarter!So, after you've thought about all of that, clear your mind, and try to get as far out of your own head as possible. Before you even think about the prizes your backers might love, you need to articulate who those magical future backers might be. Are they friends and family? People within your community? Or are you trying to attract people from outside your community? Are there any specific groups you're targeting? Backers who don't know you might not be into personal access or feel-good rewards, just like your mom might not really want the glitch watch you're creating, but would love to get to come to that backers-only dinner party you'll be throwing. Keep in mind who your rewards are courting. So - after that's established, think about what might be most exciting to your backers. My general guidelines are: It's great to have at least one thing that's physical and one thing that's not. Some folks love tote bags, some folks really hate clutter. Make sure you have a range of options that play to people across the spectrum. Access to the thing itself is always key. If it's something like a performance where you can't directly give access to the thing itself, think about other ways to give access, ie: open rehearsals, preview performances, etc. Exclusivity is always exciting. Is kickstarter the ONLY way for them to get this thing? Or is it signed/personalized? Is it available months or years of when it will be available through retail? The best prizes are things that someone would really want to buy anyway, at a price point for less than they'd buy it retail. These prizes feel like a steal, and will generate the most buzz and excitement. Ideally, this would also be your $25-35 reward, the average donation point. Then, it's great to have a prize that's all those things (awesome, exclusive, still a steal) but undeniably better at the backer tier right above it. The short of it is this: You want prizes that encourage your backers to back one level higher (or hell, three) than they anticipated they would when coming to your project and watching your video. For the backer-centric part of the brainstorming, if can be helpful to pull in some friends for outside opinions. Make sure you ask a range of different people both inside and outside your community, different ages, different income brackets, etc. and make it clear that you want honest feedback rather than just encouragement. Think as practically as possible (ie: "Would YOU buy THIS THING for THIS AMOUNT" rather than "Do you think this thing is cool?") It always great to ask open-ended questions here as well (ie, "if you could create any reward for yourself having to do with this project, what would it be?")The name of the game (in my mind) is to kill as many birds with as few stones as possible. Of course, this isn't always possible, and sometimes it's definitely better to sacrifice something that benefits your process to wow backers with a really great reward. That being said, thinking creatively to create rewards that benefit all involved can create a more dynamic set of offerings, and one that will hopefully benefit you long after your project closes!Hope that's helpful!
Sarah A.O. Rosner
Stretch goals: when are they a good idea, and when should they be introduced?
For my last short, we had no concept of launching stretch goals, but we funded on day four and had to put our brains together to come up with ideas!I think stretch goals are a great idea, but I've seen some people succumb to the pitfalls of getting too excited about their success and then over promising on their stretch goals by promising things that amp their costs up more than they anticipated. (hard cover books vs soft cover, for example)I think stretch goals, like any other rewards, deserve very specific consideration in terms of what is being offered, what they'll cost, and the logistics of delivering on those promises.In terms of when to announce them, I feel like they tend of best serve their purpose when you're close to your goal. You can come off as overly confident by launching with stretch goals built into your campaign, but if you're hitting 80% of your goal and still have a lot of time left, launching stretch goals could be a great way to motivate your community to get you over the finish line and beyond.
What is the best way to get backers from Instagram?
Late to the party, but these tips still stand:Make sure there is a link to your project page in your bio, and that you point people toward it. It seems straightforward, but you'd be surprised how many people forget to do this! Every time you point folks somewhere else, you point them away from an opportunity to back your project. While you *can* drop a link into the copy for your post, few people are going to copy-paste that somewhere — just put it into your bio, and let people know you've got the a "link in bio." :) You can also try some promotional/engagement activities to make sure people actually know you're running a campaign. Try sharing some behind-the-scenes sneak peeks, announcing new reward tiers, or letting people in on the cool things that are happening as your campaign runs. There's a lot of noise on social — bring people into the fold in genuinely interesting ways to set yourself apart. Interaction can really help, too — for instance, if you're doing something like having backers vote on a design/style choice or what add-ons you'll create, let folks on Insta know, and send them to your project page where they can weigh in (if they back!).And, of course, don't spam your followers. Stay interesting so they stay interested!
What are some strategies for finding an audience for your project?
That's just about the most essential question there is, and I suspect there is not just one answer to it. I'll suggest one. Offer a sample. Costco offered you a bite. id Software let you play a few levels of Doom. Stephen King personally read you a few chapters. Maybe find a way to give people a taste of what they'll get if they decide to go all in for your project.
What is the best advice you have for finding and working with a manufacturer?
I work with Scott at Dragon Innovation. First, I wanted to say thank you for starting this discussion and including us in it! I wanted to share some other free resources we provide that augment the video you shared. Design For Manufacturing video course. Over 12 hours of lectures to help you understand the basics of manufacturing and where to apply manufacturing thinking in your design process. Our blog has consistently relevant info about navigating from prototype to production (with a focus on hardware). A few recent posts in particular talk about what kind of relationship you want with your factory and what to expect in a RFQ process. The Dragon Standard BOM. We built a free Google Sheets Add-on to help hardware teams have a well structured Bill Of Materials that will make communicating with manufacturing partners easier. I hope these help!
How can a first-time creator find collaborators to help with a project?
I think during the development and research portion of putting your project together it is a great time to look for projects, creators, backers, etc. which might have something in common or might have interest in your project. I have found the kickstarter community to be very helpful, for example sharing my project with a few key individuals who I feel could help my campaign has paid off for me several times. Others were helpful in critiquing yet not as helpful in promotion and development. Usually you'll understand just how helpful people might be in your initial contact with them.There are a plethora of places you might need collaboration with your project, design, manufacturing, advertising, promotion, etc. I think campus would be a great place for anyone to start. I would not hesitate to throw out a very precise inquiry on the type of collaboration you are looking for. I think you will be amazed at how awesome this kickstarter community is. Good luck and keep the creative juices flowin'
Less is more or more is more rewards levels?
Personally I find less is more. Initially a lot of people who backed my Kickstarters were confused by Kickstarter as a concept in the first place let alone reward levels. Make it simple, keep peoples focus and if you reach your goal then that's the time to start adding wizards, shooting stars and whistle blowing bells.