On Sabbatical – But Resources Are Available

Hello, crowdfunders! I am taking a sabbatical from crowdfunding consulting – because I have been offered the opportunity to develop and teach a full-year introduction to  entrepreneurship curriculum!*

This means that for the indefinite future, I am not accepting crowdfunding consulting proposals. HOWEVER, If you are working on a crowdfunding project and need help, you are welcome to sign up for our FREE course offered through Reedsy.com, or preorder Crowdfunding for Authors. In both cases the material is tailored to writers, but the core principles apply to any project. (We focused on writers because they have the most difficult time crowdfunding. If they can do it, you can!).

Good luck with your project – you can do it!


*PS – Since 2014 I have been teaching math, then physics, and most recently senior thesis at the Renaissance School, a college prep academy for high ability students in the arts, sciences, and humanities in Charlottesville, VA. I love this school, and am thrilled to have been invited to introduce this business course!

Troubleshooting Your Campaign: Your Audience Doesn’t Understand Crowdfunding

Some lucky artists have a tech-savvy audience. Others’ ask, “What’s a Kickstarter?”

If your audience wants to participate but needs a mini crowdfunding boot camp to do so, here are a few tips to make it as easy as possible.

  • Simplify the concept. Crowdfunding means a lot of things to you, but when you boil it down to what it means to your audience, it’s just one thing: the place to preorder your next book/album/film/gadget for one special month. Don’t confuse them with unnecessary details.
  • Simplify your perk menu. Make sure it is extremely obvious where a visitor clicks to buy your thing. Don’t get carried away with cutesy titles and inside joke descriptions, or with cluttered menus with too many perks.
  • Use tailored “secret” perks. On Indiegogo, you can create “secret” perks – the benefit of this is that is creates a dedicated URL for just one perk. You could create a “secret perk” that is just a clone of the perk to preorder your book/album/etc., and only send the confused that dedicated link. This will streamline the process from their end – less things to find, less things to click.
  • Figure out how to accept cash or checks. On Indiegogo, you can pledge anonymously on behalf of others to your own campaign, making it easy for you to deposit cash or checks from backers towards your campaign total. That way, the confused don’t need to bother with online shopping at all. On other platforms, you may need to get more creative with how to process non-electronic pledges.
  • Have tech support on call. This could be an intern, a cousin, or another kindly soul who is willing to help out on the phone or in person.

If you find a majority of your audience simply doesn’t shop online, that may be frustrating during the month your campaign – but it is very valuable intel come time for your project launch. How will you adjust your sales plan if online distribution is unlikely to be effective?

For a free analysis of your crowdfunding idea, please fill out our questionnaire. We send a personalized diagnostic of your idea’s strengths and weaknesses – a $125 value! – within 2 weeks.

Troubleshooting Your Campaign: Small Outreach

If you need 100 backers, you need an audience of 1,000. What if you don’t have that kind of outreach?

Adam's Creation, Michelangelo
Adam’s Creation, Michelangelo

When most of our clients crunch the numbers, they find their communication networks don’t match their needs (or wants). Since climbing stairs is easier than cliff, we recommend taking multiple small steps towards closing the gap.

  • Consider the pared-down version of your project that matches the audience you do have. It’s easier to build your network when you have more than just an idea. Start with a more modest project and use that to help attract your audience.
  • Make a 7-part plan to build your communication networks. Effective Frequency applies to building your network, too!
  • Work with an extroverted buddy. Enthusiasm can be contagious. Get some help from someone who actually enjoys marketing.
  • Brainstorm networks you can borrow. You always want to have a working list of Influencers – people already talking to your audience who can share your work with them. Build those relationships.
  • Construct tiers of Stretch Goals. Momentum builds on success. Figure out how to break your campaign down into small bites that you and crowd can tackle one at a time.

Remember, it’s not whether a restaurant is big or small that makes it feel lively – it’s how packed it is. Ultimately, you’ll want to right-size the launch of your campaign to fit the crowd you can draw, and expand from there.

If you would like a free  personalized diagnostic of your crowdfunding idea – a $125 value! – please fill out our Artist Questionnaire. We typically respond within two weeks.

Troubleshooting Your Campaign: Weak Video

Even if your project has nothing to do with moving pictures, you will still need a decent video that won’t actively scare prospective backers away. (If your project is a film or video game, you will need a professional level video.)


You don’t need to go overboard, and you don’t need to spend a lot of money. But with your video, craftsmanship counts as much as the concept. These are some common video problem areas, and some suggestions on how to turn a poor video into a functioning one.

  1. Too long. If your video is over 59 seconds, cut it.  Your video is, essentially, an ad. Long is bad. (Again, this does not apply to films or video games – full length feature trailers can be up to 3 minutes long. It may not apply to music albums, if your promo is a full-length music video.)
  2. Poor sound quality. It is much better to have a simple slideshow with a good quality musical soundtrack than poor quality sound of anything else. Even if you are just shooting your video on your phone, it is worth an under $100 investment in a microphone that can plug into your phone or laptop. (If your project is a film or album, you will need professional level sound recording and editing.)
  3. Endcards, credits, and cuts. We are trained to expect information at the beginning and the end of a trailer about a project, and we are accustomed to certain kinds of video cuts and transitions. The simple, free video software that came with your phone, laptop, or tablet should suffice to give your video that little bit of polish that helps to orient the viewer.
  4. Soundtrack. There is rights-free digital music available on the internet. Be very careful here: if you run afoul of copyright, your platform has the right to just delete your campaign. Use good judgement and pick some fitting tunes.

Pay attention to the details, and take the time to get them right. A good concept alone will not make your viewer feel comfortable pulling out their wallet for you. A minimum level of professionalism is required.

For a free analysis of your crowdfunding idea, please fill out our questionnaire. We send a personalized diagnostic of your idea’s strengths and weaknesses – a $125 value! – within 2 weeks.

Troubleshooting Your Campaign: Your Marketing Plan Turned Into Spam

Sometimes our clients’ marketing plans spiral into spam.


For some it’s enthusiasm; for others, it’s anxiety; sometimes, it’s the high from the instant feedback that’s available online. Whatever the reason for taking their feet off the brakes, the result is the same: their marketing plans turn into a big mess of spam. Needless to say, this is not effective marketing.

If you find yourself posting, tweeting, blogging, updating, and/or emailing more and faster and from the hip, while simultaneously the response – likes, comments, replies – is tanking, your campaign is spiraling into spam.


Force yourself to put a 24 hour moratorium on any form of electronic communication. If necessary, turn off all of your devices.

Take a deep breath. Look around at the beauty of the real world.

THEN go back and look at your marketing strategy. (As a reminder, Effective Frequency is the marketing golden rule that an audience needs to hear a message seven times to act on it.) Where did your marketing plan go off the rails?

  • Did you just have the idea “seven” but no real plan?
  • Did you have a rough outline, but incomplete content or dates?
  • Did you have a clear plan, but then emotions overruled it?

If you never really had a complete plan to begin with, make one now. A good seven-part marketing plan tells your key message in seven different ways, building momentum first towards campaign launch, and then towards its deadline (e,g., crowdfunding campaigns actually have two seven-part marketing plans back-to-back). It has not just words, but pictures (including faces), is brief, engaging, branded, and ideally, each piece stands alone but ties into a bigger arc. If that sounds like a lot, it is! Coming up with a good marketing strategy takes some time and work, but it’s necessary because this is the work that pays off with audience engagement.

If you had a good plan, but then strayed away from it, you’ll need to develop some self-awareness and discipline around the things that trigger you to derail. For some of our clients, this has meant no social media after midnight. For others, it means they need to bring in a second set of eyes – no posting without coach approval first. If this sounds easy, don’t be fooled: breaking bad habits and developing good ones is very hard.

For whatever reason, if you’ve accidentally started spamming your audience: stop. Take a step back. Regroup, plan, and get back on message. You can do it!

If you would like a free  personalized diagnostic of your crowdfunding idea – a $125 value! – please fill out our Artist Questionnaire. We typically respond within two weeks.

Troubleshooting Your Campaign: Orphan Perks

Sometimes campaigns offer a perk that nobody buys.

Even with advance planning, market research, and the best of intentions, it can still happen to you: you’ll offer a perk that sounded great on paper but that no one actually buys.

The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust's "Annie"
The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s “Annie”

Since the number zero is unwelcome anywhere on your campaign, it’s worth considering proactively addressing any “orphan” perks within the first few days of launch.

  1. Is the perk central to your project? If people are just not buying your project, you have some work to do. You may wish to make this your “featured perk” at the top of the menu (an option on Indiegogo), update your campaign “story” with some attractive images of the perk, declutter your perk menu, or otherwise make an important perk stand out.
  2. Doublecheck the pricing. Have you accidentally priced yourself out of the market? Or have you failed to describe an important element of the perk that justifies its price? Make sure your campaign visitors understand they value they will get for their money.
  3. Is the perk not central to your project? If not, you may wish to simply remove it to declutter your perk menu. From a crowd psychology point of view, it is much better to have a smaller, well-subscribed perk menu than a longer list with low participation.
  4. Especially for smaller-ticket items, is there anyone you can invite to specifically purchase the orphan perk? Sometimes people are afraid to be the first to do something, unless they are individually asked. If your perk menu is not long and you can’t find a good reason for no-one buying a particular perk, you may just need to give it nudge to get the ball rolling.
  5. For larger-ticket items, check with your Benefactors. If your Benefactors are committed to the project but haven’t shown up within the first few days of your campaign launch, it’s worthwhile having a polite, timely conversation with them.
  6. If you don’t have Benefactors lined up, you should take orphan big-ticket items down. They make you look delusional and may scare prospective backers away. As a reminder, it is extremely unlikely that strangers will emerge with $500+ pledges to your campaign. These “Benefactor” relationships are cultivated in the months leading up to launch. However, if a Benefactor does get on board during the month of your campaign, you can always add a perk for them, or they can simply make a financial contribution and you can work out the details with them privately, without wording it as a public perk.

You can’t control everything when it comes to crowdfunding – but you can control whether or not the number zero is making your campaign look like a loser. It is worthwhile being aggressive in the early days of your campaign to make sure any zeros are eliminated.

If you would like a free  personalized diagnostic of your crowdfunding idea – a $125 value! – please fill out our Artist Questionnaire. We typically respond within two weeks.

Troubleshooting Your Campaign: Talking About Money

Most of our clients say they hate “asking for money”.

It’s a common refrain from our clients: “I don’t like asking for money.” We remind them that crowdfunding for an artistic project or small business start-up is not “asking for money”. Crowdfunding is the mechanism for people to buy their book, film, album – their project. This reminder rarely gets them over the hump, because…

"Sales Reluctance" image from LinkedIn
“Sales Reluctance” image from LinkedIn

 What most of our clients actually hate is selling their project.

This is a fundamental problem. Crowdfunding is selling your project. It sets up the means for a transaction to take place: backers send you money, and in exchange, you send them what you’ve been working on. If you’re not comfortable with that – and in fact, most of our clients are not comfortable with it at all – some strategies are going to be required to get over that hump, or your campaign is unlikely to fund.

This requires identifying the source of your discomfort, and addressing it directly. Here are some common reasons our clients balk at sales, and the post-it note mantras that combat them:

  1. I will know which friends and family don’t support my project. The majority of people you invite to buy your project will decline. It’s not personal. You can choose whether to be insulted by the friends and family who don’t financially back your project, or let it go with grace. Post this on your bathroom mirror: I love my friends and family, and I love my project, and those are separate things.
  2. I am afraid that when I actually do market research, my work won’t measure up. To understand how to sell your work, you will need to know what is currently attracting your audience, and how. Comparison easily sows the seeds of discontent. Here it’s important to affirm your internal process: I am proud of doing my best work.
  3. I am discouraged by how low the market price for my genre of work is. We live in a mass-production world, which means the market price of a book, album, or DVD is low, and profit margins are slim. It may feel unfair, but pricing yourself out of the market is not going to help you generate sales. Remind yourself: I am pricing my work to sell it, but price and value are not the same.
  4. I am afraid to fail at crowdfunding because it is public. Crowdfunding ties directly into our number one fear: public speaking. We are terribly afraid of being judged and rejected, so we hide. It’s not possible to run a hidden crowdfunding campaign, though. The only real salve for the fear of external reaction is internal affirmation. Make a list of the things you do for yourself that make you your own best friend, and commit to doing at least three things on that list every day for the duration of your campaign. Tell the judge in your brain to take an extended vacation until after the campaign is over. 
  5. I am afraid of success and what it might do to my status quo. Most of us fear the unknown, and the truth is that running a crowdfunding campaign is likely to produce changes you can’t predict. The fear of success is often actually the fear of change and potential loss. Do you trust yourself to handle whatever comes up? Remind yourself of a time you are proud of yourself for how you handled unexpected changes. Come up with a codeword for that experience and post it where you’ll see it.
  6. This is the first time I am publicly identifying as an artist or entrepreneur. Many of our clients are afraid of being found out as a “fraud” or not being a “real artist” or a “real entrepreneur”. But you get to decide who you are and what you do, unless you choose to relinquish that power to other people. Take that power back. Fake it til you make it. Post it on your mirror. I am an artist. or I am an entrepreneur.
  7. I am afraid my work is not ready to go public and I am rushing to get it over with. Sometimes, we’re just afraid of the work it will take to get something ready. We’re tired and we want to move on. If you think your discomfort at sales may be because your work is simply not ready to sell, get a second opinion. Talk to someone with experience in your field who will be honest with you. If your work is not ready to go to market, embrace the joy that comes with the discipline of work well done. Don’t overdo it, just take the time to do it right.
  8. I am new to sales and it is hard to practice something new in the public eye. We are afraid to fail, especially when others might see us make mistakes. Unfortunately, sales is something that we can’t really practice in the privacy of our homes. You WILL make mistakes at sales that other people see. There’s no preparation that will prevent this. Embrace it now. I tell myself, if I just get one task out of three right, that would be enough to put me in the baseball Hall of Fame. Post it on your mirror. I’ll make mistakes most of the time, and that’s ok.
  9. I need immediate validation on message 1 to continue through messages 2-7 of an effective marketing plan. The hardest part about marketing is that it feels like shouting into the wind until it doesn’t. The marketing principle of Effective Frequency states that an audience must hear a message 7 times to act on it. By the time you’ve shared your message 2 or 3 times, you may start to feel like a bleating idiot. It is exhausting, and it is extremely tempting to give up. Here, you just have to trust the process. There is no short cut. I will make a 7-part communication plan, and stick to it, no matter what.
  10. I am not good at time management and fear deadlines. Time management is a skill that can be learned. If you don’t know where to start, a good place is: I will set my timer for 30 minutes each day to tell people about my crowdfunding campaign. You don’t need to commit to an outcome – commit to a process.
  11. I am just doing this crowdfunding campaign because I need the money. If you don’t actually want to sell your work – if you do not want your art to also be a business enterprise – you will not succeed at making money on it. There are other ways to make money. Crowdfunding is cost-effective marketing, not a paying job.
  12. I am doing crowdfunding to get rich. Less than 0.1% of crowdfunding campaigns raise millions – and those that do typically need millions to produce the project (e.g., a major film or game). If you want a chance to get rich quick, try a casino. Crowdfunding is hard work, and the payoff is the satisfaction of funding the production of the project.

This is only a limited list. If you find yourself struggling with sales, you will need to set aside a decent block of time in a safe space, take a deep breath, and do some hard internal work to find why, exactly, sales and marketing makes you uncomfortable. Then you will need to develop a message to yourself that you can post on your bathroom mirror and put in your wallet that gives you power over that fear or frustration.

Crowdfunding is hard. It is hard because the path to success is almost certainly paved with a lot of rejection, disappointment, and embarrassment. There is no path to success that will prevent these feelings. Develop a plan now, not to prevent these feelings, but to rebound from them.

If you would like a personalized analysis of your crowdfunding plan, please fill out our questionnaire. A detailed report – a $125 value! – will be delivered for free in two weeks.

Crowdfunding Consulting