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I've done everything from sending fish into space to herding guinea pigs in Peru. Now I'm the Dean at

How to succeed at crowdfunding: Stretch Goals

You can always raise more money than your target. Set your public crowdfunding $ goal as low as reasonably possible to increase your chances of success, but aim high behind the scenes. It’s a good idea to have some preplanned ideas to keep up the momentum if/when your campaign surpasses the 100% mark.

But first, a note on why we generally recommend our clients start with a conservative $ goal. When we do the network analysis, the likely fundraising range is wide. Let’s say it comes out at $5,000-$20,000. We set the initial public target at the low end – in this case, $5,000. This is for a few important reasons:

  1. On Kickstarter, you can always raise more money than your target, but you can’t raise less. If you fail to hit your target (and you CANNOT change the target after the campaign is launched), your backers’ credit cards don’t get charged, you don’t get any money, and no-one gets any rewards. Game over.
  2. The same does not apply to Indiegogo (which has an option called “flexible funding” for campaigns that fail to hit their targets), but it might as well. Let’s say you need at least $5,000 to produce your project, but you don’t raise that much. Now you’ve committed to sending your backers copies of your book or album, but you don’t have sufficient funds to actually create it. This is not a quandary you want to find yourself in post-campaign.
  3. There’s a psychological positive to the %-funded bar (which is prominently displayed at the top of every campaign) sprinting rather than moseying towards 100%. The lower the $ target, the faster you approach 100%. Speed excites people.
  4. There are more joiners than pioneers in the world. In other words, the more success your campaign is perceived as having, the more positively it will be received, and the more likely people – especially prior strangers to you – will be willing to put their credit card information on the internet for you. Success breeds success. Campaign momentum is typically boosted, not halted, by surpassing the 100% funded mark.

So, we’re aiming to have your campaign surpass 100% funded as quickly as possible. Sometimes this happens in the first week – or even on the first day. We also want to keep up the momentum post-100% and keep aiming for the high end of the range. Enter: Stretch Goals!

Sample Project: Princesses Only Wear Putta Puttas

Princesses Only Wear Putta Puttas is a children’s picture book by Charlottesville chef and author Priya Mahadevan. We ran her campaign in May of 2015 to fund the professional production of her book. Priya wanted to raise $12,500 to cover the costs of publishing ebook, paperback, and hard cover versions of her manuscript, and cover book promotion. When we did her network analysis, $8,500 came in at the low end, so that is where the public target was set.

This $8,500 goal was surpassed in only two days of campaign launch! So, we updated her campaign with the following image. An additional $2,000 would cover doing a full color hard cover print run of the book. As an added incentive to keep up the momentum, we promised those who pledged early to the campaign the opportunity to upgrade to the hardback if the target were passed.

ks image - stretch goal 1

In fact, the first stretch goal was reached! So we updated the campaign again. This time, another additional $2,000 would be used to promote the book in Priya’s home country, India. Again, we created an additional incentive: ALL backers would receive the ebook version in addition to the other rewards.

ks image - stretch goal 2

This second Stretch Goal was also surpassed before the end of the campaign!

There are a few important lessons here, in addition to the central message that Stretch Goals work.

  1. Add Stretch Goals in bite-size chunks. A realistic objective is more exciting and enticing than an implausible one.
  2. Thank your early backers. It’s important to recognize those people who helped you in the beginning, before you met your original target. They were the believers before others jumped on the bandwagon.
  3. But make your thank-you’s doable. In this sample project, we already knew how many people had pledged to the paperback version of the book, so we were not opening a black hole of expensive hard covers to deliver at the end of the campaign by allowing this limited number of people the option of an upgrade. And, once the ebook version of the book is created, it’s easy to email or Dropbox to backers. Creating a whole new perk – say, a t-shirt customized in each backer’s size – is not efficient; in a worst-case scenario, a poorly thought-out thank-you could even bankrupt your campaign.
  4. Let people know what the additional money is for. Transparency is key to trust. Trust is key to getting people to enter their credit card information onto the internet for you. Being clear about why you are raising the additional money, and what it will go towards, is essential.

For a free crowdfunding analysis of your project, please fill out our Artist Questionnaire. We typically respond within two weeks. We look forward to hearing about your project!


How to succeed at crowdfunding: Communication During Your Campaign

Regular communication with your prospective backers is the difference between success and failure for your crowdfunding campaign. Follow up on your pre-launch communiques with a fun, consistent communication program during your campaign to maximize your chances of success.

Many of our clients find it hard to share their message more than once – or even just once. But it’s important to stick to the discipline. It’s based on one of the central tenets of marketing: effective frequency, or “the rule of seven.” Most people need to hear a message 7 times to act on it.

blog images- effective frequency

The typical communication program during a client’s crowdfunding campaign looks like this:

  1. 6 Weeks of Monday Drafts. Starting the Monday before launch, and continuing each Monday through the week after the campaign closes, we craft the draft communiques for the week. These include:
  2. 6 Weeks of Tuesday Social Media Posts. People respond to images – and especially faces. We usually do a combination of the key campaign image, and photos of the artist at work and on location. We consider milestones (e.g., “Already half funded!”) and relevant events. All posts contain a caption of 100 words or less (tweetable, with room for the retweeter to add comments), and ALWAYS contain the link to the crowdfunding campaign. We aim for at least one and up to three posts per week. The best times to post are Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, at breakfast, lunch, and bedtime. Here’s an example from a children’s book campaign by Marc Boston:
  3. 6 Weeks of Wednesday Email Newsletters. It’s easy to write a long email, and hard to write a short one. But we try to keep emails short enough that they can be read without scrolling. These are often expanded versions of the Social Media Posts, complete with images, event invitations, and fun milestones. We include the campaign link at least three times: at the top, in the middle, and at the close. The newsletters also contain two additional pieces of information:
    1. How else to help the campaign. We invite readers to share the link on social media, forward the email to friends, and send us good luck wishes.
    2. What crowdfunding is, and how it works. Lots of people know what Kickstarter and Indiegogo are – but lots don’t. We provide a short sentence of background (these platforms have been around for years and have raised over a billion dollars), and then step-by-step instructions on how to pledge, complete with images.
  4. 6 Weeks of Thursday Campaign Updates and Social Media Posts. Both Indiegogo and Kickstarter have a blog function, where you can periodically post new information and other fun tidbits for your backers and visitors to your campaign. This is usually a remixed version of the Wednesday email. Updates get their own unique web address, so we usually post the update to social media as well.
  5. 6 Weeks of Friday Phone Calls. Each week we identify a key group of people to contact. These can be your Day 1 Backers, Influencers, and Benefactors; but we also reach out to the less tech-savvy people in your network to see if they need help navigating the pledging process, and we try to get in at least one phone call to everyone in your network.

Every campaign is different, but there is a fairly reliable pattern to what we are communicating by week.

  1. Week 1: Countdown, LIVE!, and 24-Hour Thank Yous! Launch Day is the most important day of the campaign. We remind your Day 1 Backers and Benefactors that they are invited to the exclusive VIP Soft Launch the day before the official launch, we do a public social media countdown for launch day, and after the first 0fficial 24 hours, we do a big Thank You message (which doubles as a nudge to anyone who planned to pledge on launch day, but didn’t get around to it). We craft a special series of images to use on social media, in emails, and in the campaign update. blog images - launch countdown
  2. Week 2: Event Invitation. We shouldn’t just say the same thing over and over, so this is a great time to focus on a mid-campaign event in the real world (dedicated post coming soon).
  3. Week 3: Event Recap. And, one of the great things about an event is that it gives all kinds of great new photos and video to share.
  4. Week 4: Milestones, Previews, and Stretch Goals. This can be an ideal time to share progress, and preview what’s coming next. Often, this is a good time to share a sneak preview of another chapter, a new song, a film scene, or anything else that makes it feel like this campaign is propelling your project to success. If the campaign is fortunate enough to have surpassed its initial target, this is also a perfect opportunity to show off stretch goals (dedicated post coming soon).
  5. Week 5: LAST CHANCE! We mirror the Week 1 countdown to launch with a countdown to the deadline. Campaign funding tends to be U-shaped, with most pledges coming in on the first day and the last day (deadlines motivate people!). This is another opportunity for serial social media posts that remind prospective backers of the approaching last chance to participate.  blog images - deadline countdown
  6. Week 6: Thank You! and What’s Next? Finally, we follow up after the campaign is closed to thank backers profusely, let people who didn’t get on board in time know what they can still do to get involved, and let everyone know what to expect next from the project – further steps until completion, when to expect the finished product, and when their perks will be delivered.

It bears repeating: our clients find this hard. The key to making it work is picking a discipline, and sticking with it. You know your prospective backers need to hear your message 7 times to act on it. Use all the tools at your disposal and when the going gets tough – and it almost certainly will – dig deep, hang in there, and keep up the good work. Your campaign depends on it.

For a free crowdfunding analysis of your project, please fill out our Artist Questionnaire. We typically respond within two weeks. We look forward to hearing about your project!

How to succeed at crowdfunding: Launch Day

You want to make a big splash on your crowdfunding campaign’s Launch Day – it’s the biggest day for pledges. Here is some data from Kickstarter, showing the typical U-shaped pledge pattern for a campaign:

pledge pattern graph
Pledge pattern data from

Backers do pledge throughout, but most activity happens right at the beginning and the very end. Early birds and procrastinators!

Because success breeds success, we recommend our clients take every measure to maximize Day 1 of their campaign. In fact, we have an entire post dedicated to one group of your campaign VIPs, Day 1 Backers. These are approximately a dozen people you’ve been having one-on-one communication with in the months leading up to Launch Day, so they are primed to jump right in as soon as your campaign goes live.

However, we want to encourage people beyond this privileged dozen to take the plunge on Launch Day. Here is how we do it:

  1. Dedicated Launch Day email*. We craft a short email with an irresistible subject line that communicates one topic: an invitation to visit Kickstarter (or Indiegogo) and pre-order a copy of [project] today! While pre-launch communication has focused on VIPs for months, this email goes to everyone on the project’s mailing list. We typically include at least three links to the campaign sprinkled throughout the email, the key project image, and suggestions on how else to help (forward the email, share the campaign on social media, and wish us luck). In the post-script, we include detailed instructions on what crowdfunding is and how to do it – not everyone is familiar with Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Yet.
  2. Launch Day phone campaign. Plain and simple, people respond to individual attention. Follow up on the email with as many phone calls as you can muster on Launch Day.
  3. Influencer synchronization. Your Influencers are people with an audience and a mechanism to communicate – we have an entire post dedicated to them. Ideally, your conversations with them over the months leading up to Launch Day mean their article, podcast, radio interview, or other press hits near the beginning of your campaign. (But not before – potential backers give up easily if they try to find your campaign and can’t because it is not yet public. They won’t come back.)
  4. Limited edition Early Bird rewards. Anything that creates urgency and prevents a potential backer from putting off pledging is a plus. Having a great deal on special rewards for a limited number of backers can prompt visitors to your campaign to pledge on Day 1.
  5. Social media blasts. Normally more than 2 or 3 social media posts a week is overkill – but not today! Have great images ready to roll for breakfast, lunch, and bedtime posts. Give updates like “wow! already 10% funded!” throughout the day. Ask people to like, comment, and share. And always, always, always, include the link to your campaign – and check to make sure it’s working.
  6. Launch Day event. It’s a lot of extra work, but several of our clients have had success planning a party on launch day. It could be cocktails, a concert, a picnic, an art opening, a murder mystery dinner, a house party, or any other kind of soiree – what matters most is that you have the chance to announce several times at the event that this is the launch party for the crowdfunding campaign, hand out postcards with enticements and instructions on how to pledge, and celebrate passing funding milestones. Bringing the campaign from the intangible world of the internet to the real world can be very effective in boosting participation.
  7. First 24 hours Thank Yous. Once the first official 24 hours are up, it’s a great time to post a “Thank You” campaign update and share it on social media, contact your early backers individually with a thank you, and spread thank yous around on social media. Not only is this good manners, it’s a good way to encourage backers to continue supporting you, and in the case of email and social media, a gentle way to remind people who have yet to back to come on and join in!

*Many of our clients start under the misconception that social media and email are interchangeable. This is not the case. Exact numbers vary, but you can safely assume that, if you have a mailing list of people who want to be on it, a double-digit percentage of them will read the email, and a significant number of those will click through to your campaign. Only a single-digit percentage will see a Facebook post, and only a small number of those will click through. You may get 25 pledges from an email to 100 people, but only 1 pledge from 100 Facebook followers. This is why email comes first.

For a free crowdfunding analysis of your project, please fill out our Artist Questionnaire. We typically respond within two weeks. We look forward to hearing about your project!

How to succeed at crowdfunding: VIP Soft Launch

It’s polite – and it’s good business – to invite your VIPs to your crowdfunding campaign prior to the official launch. Restaurants call it a soft opening, filmmakers call it a test screening, publishers call it an ARC. We call the exclusive sneak peek of your campaign your “VIP Soft Launch.” If your plan is to run your campaign during the month of May, launch it quietly on April 30. Don’t tell anyone – except your Day 1 Backers and Benefactors. Invite them individually and personally. It’s that simple.

The sobering truth of the matter is that an almost unbelievable one in eight crowdfunding campaigns – over 27,000 projects – close never raising dollar one. You don’t want the public to see the number zero headlining your campaign. “$0 raised / 0% towards goal” gives your campaign a negative tone from the start, and for you, the artist, it looks downright depressing. This is the way that every campaign begins, of course, but you want to eliminate that negative billboard as quickly as possible.

blog images - zero zero

This private launch gives the people most supportive of and excited about your project the chance to order exclusive rewards first. But it is also good business. The public never need be stared down by those discouraging zeroes.

For a free crowdfunding analysis of your project, please fill out our Artist Questionnaire. We typically respond within two weeks. We look forward to hearing about your project!

How to succeed at crowdfunding: Perks & Rewards

Successful campaigns have great stuff for backers to buy. Kickstarter calls them “rewards“, Indiegogo calls them “perks“. Whatever you call them, do this: offer stuff that people want, at a price they’re willing to pay. Crowdfunding is not money-for-nothing, it’s money-for-something, and you’ll want to offer a variety of somethings that people find valuable at four key price points.

blog images - reward categories

<$20 Rewards

Campaigns that don’t have an enticing reward under $20 fail 72% of the time. Your book or album, or tickets to your film or show, are the perfect perk at this price. Some people are willing to pay above market value to help you out – but many are not. You’ll want to make the basic, no-frills version of your project available at market price.

$20-$100 Rewards

Approximately three quarters of the people who back your campaign are likely to back at $100 or below. All kinds of things can fall into this category! Here are a few typical rewards our clients have offered:

  1. Autographed version of the project. If the book goes for $15, the signed copy goes for $25.
  2. Give one, get one. One for you, one for a friend! If the signed copy goes for $25, two go for $40.
  3. Artist catalog. Signed copies of not just the new book or album, but the prior two, too.
  4. Swag. Put your album cover or show poster on a t-shirt, tote, or mug. (Read on below for what not to do.)
  5. Something commemorative. A signed, limited edition art print of the book cover, show poster, or illustration makes a nice option at the higher end. Plus a signed copy of your book, album, or playbill!
  6. Earmarked funds. Some people want to support you financially but don’t want anything physical in return. So, $25 for a costume hat, $50 for a set piece, or $75 for an illustration can help give your backers direct influence on the success of your project. Offer to give these backers credit on your webpage or in the liner notes.

pledge breakdown by backer count

$100-$500 Rewards

Approximately 20% of the people who back your campaign are likely to back at the $100-$500 level – but this is also likely to be about a third of your funds raised. It’s important to start being thoughtful at this level about who, specifically, is likely to pledge – and what they will want. These are almost always limited-edition items (more on this below) that you’ll be looking to sell out. Some typical rewards at this level include:

  1. VIP Events. Host a brunch, dinner or cocktail party. VIP tickets to the premiere. A private concert or screening. A lecture and reading at a related organization.
  2. One-on-one consulting. A voice lesson, a manuscript review, photography clinic, or other consultation in your area of expertise that can be delivered in-person or via Skype.
  3. One-of-a-kind items. The original art from your book or album cover. A signed version of the script. A key set piece from the production.

$500+ Rewards

Only about 5% of your backers will go the extra mile and pledge $500+ (we call them Benefactors). But this handful of VIPs will likely account for 40% of your funds raised, so their rewards require special, individualized attention. Some examples of good rewards at this level include:

  1. Producer credit. Backers at this level should receive thanks on the title page, liner notes, or playbill. Offer them space to commemorate a person or organization, promote their own project, or say a few other words.
  2. VIP treatment. Automatic red carpet entrance to premieres, parties, and events. Backstage passes and set visits. Signed copies of your project. Thanks on your webpage.
  3. Personalized rewards. A special, one-of-a-kind recording or video, or limited edition of your book.
  4. Project participation. Invite them on set or onstage. Offer a background part. Name a character after them. Get creative incorporating them into your work!

pledge breakdown by money raised

Featured Rewards

Most campaigns have 10-20 reward options. For some people, that’s just too much to read. There are a couple ways to help your campaign visitors pick a reward:

  1. On Indiegogo, you can select a “Featured Perk“. Typically, the perks go in numerical order by price. But you can pick any reward to be highlighted at the top! It’s usually a good idea to pick one over $20 and below $100 – perhaps the autographed version of your project.
  2. On both Indiegogo and Kickstarter, you should pick 1-3 rewards at varying price points that you highlight in the body of the campaign with pictures and descriptions. Check out RED’s Custom Jewelry for a great example of this.

Early Bird Rewards

Anything that can help drive early momentum in your campaign is a big plus. Consider offering a limited number of “final drafts” of your project at an attractive price as an Early Bird reward. Rough cuts, test screenings, ARCs, and dress rehearsals make great rewards for Early Birds. Since the goal here is early momentum, not necessarily profit, these Early Birds should also get the finished version of your project as well.

This is a great reward to feature early in your campaign – and also to feature as Sold Out when they’re gone! This helps to create the urgency for potential backers to “act now”, not put off pledging until the last day of the campaign.

sold out reward

Limited Edition Rewards

At the basic, no-frills level, you’ll probably not want to set a limit on the number of backers. But, it always looks great for a few rewards to sell out over the course of the campaign. Early Bird rewards (above) are a good example of this. Larger ticket items should almost always be limited edition, as that gives them the air of exclusivity. On both Kickstarter and Indiegogo, you can set quantity limits on any of your perks or rewards.

You may also want to consider limiting the number of autographed versions of your project – how many of your books do you actually want to sit down and sign? If you are offering swag, what quantities are reasonable to manufacture and ship? Anything that will be a pain to fulfill in large quantities should have a cap.

Multiple Rewards

Neither Kickstarter nor Indiegogo offer a “shopping cart” for backers to easily purchase multiple items. It is set up for backers to pick just one. However, there are a few ways around this to make it possible for your backers to buy as much as they want.

  1. Bundled rewards. Offering a book at $15 and a t-shirt at $35? Make a book + t-shirt reward priced at $45 or $50.
  2. Show them how to do the math and message you. Both Kickstarter and Indiegogo allow a backer to pledge any amount and then pick the reward they want. So, give instructions on your campaign along the lines of: “Want both the $15 book and the $35 t-shirt? Just pledge $50 and shoot me a message letting me know – I’ll be happy to send you both!”

Stretch Goal Bonus Rewards & Fulfillment Treats

It’s always a good idea to have a little something up your sleeve to over-deliver to your backers. If you surpass your original target and start reaching for stretch goals (a link on this subject to come) consider offering an easy-to-produce-and-ship bonus to the people who helped get you there, such as:

  1. A bonus track for the album
  2. A well-formatted short story
  3. Digital photo gallery or video
  4. Digital version of the project that may be emailed or Dropboxed easily

It’s also a good idea to have a little treat to include when you fulfill the rewards. Printer services can easily make up a magnet, pen, or stickers with your project images. For rewards you are fulfilling digitally, a set of computer wallpapers, photo gallery, or a little video or audio link can make a nice surprise thank-you. It’s always best to give your backers positive surprises along the way when you can!

Fulfillment Costs

You can’t add in fulfillment costs after the fact, and you can’t change anything – price, description, delivery date – about perks or rewards after someone has pledged towards it. So it’s very important to make sure your price points cover manufacture, packaging, and shipping. Crowdfunding campaigns have gone broke because of poor planning in this regard.

This probably goes without saying, but you need to know your per-unit cost on your book, album, show seat, or good. If you are offering swag, you need to know your bulk costs and per-unit costs on those as well. While swag is fun, we generally dissuade our clients from overdoing it, as you typically need to order in bulk and will need high turnover to cover your costs.

  • Kickstarter offers the option to add shipping costs by country. If you are shipping anything larger than a letter, it’s a good idea to take samples to the post office and get firm figures on shipping costs to countries where your backers are likely to reside.
  • Indiegogo does NOT offer the option for customized shipping costs. You’ll still want to visit the post office, but then you’ll need to back those costs into the price of the perk.

Fulfillment Dates

Kickstarter and Indiegogo ask you to input your estimated delivery date. We usually advise our clients to give themselves an extra month or two. There are often delays in production. And fulfillment itself can take longer than expected – you’ll have to collect all your backers’ shipping information – so it’s better to under-promise and over-deliver.

What’s Not Allowed

  • Kickstarter has the strictest rules. Investments, charities, contests, coupons, raffles, lotteries, alcohol, and other prohibited items may not be offered as rewards.
  • Indiegogo has laxer rules (please see our post on Kickstarter vs. Indiegogo for more). In particular, in contrast to Kickstarter, charities and non-profits are welcome. However, investments, contests, raffles, lotteries, alcohol, and other items are prohibited.

What Not To Do

Because you are committed to deliver exactly what you offered, at the price you offered it, and on the timeline you advertised, it’s very important to think your rewards and perks all the way through to fulfillment well before you launch. Once someone has pledged towards a perk, you can’t change anything about it – the price, description, or estimated delivery date. So writing up your rewards is not a last-minute activity. Do not:

  • Offer rewards for less than the cost of manufacture, packaging, and shipping (in particular, beware of swag).
  • Offer unlimited quantities of rewards for which realistically there is only a limited number you can fulfill.
  • Back yourself into a corner on your timeline for delivery.
  • Leave out key price points. Have something great at <$20, $20-$100, $100-$500, and $500+.
  • Assume everyone will be willing to pay over market value to support your project.
  • Assume no one will be willing to pay over market value to support your project.
  • Offer rewards that distract from your campaign.
  • Violate Kickstarter or Indiegogo policies on what can be offered.

If you would like a free crowdfunding analysis of your project, please fill out our Artist Questionnaire. We typically respond within two weeks. We look forward to hearing from you!

How to succeed at crowdfunding: Pitch Video

The first thing that people see when they visit your crowdfunding campaign is your pitch video. It’s important to make a good first impression!

Both Kickstarter and Indiegogo have helpful pages on how to a create a video, so no need to duplicate the wheel here. We highly recommend checking out what they have to say. In summary, they recommend that crowdfunders make a 1-2 minute video that:

  1. Introduces the artist
  2. Introduces the project
  3. Explains what the money will go toward
  4. Shows off a few perks
  5. Spells out the deadline (create urgency to back now!)
  6. Thanks the audience for watching

Clients of The Artist’s Partner have taken these suggestions and gone about creating their pitch videos in different ways.

1. Smartphone video

For many of our clients, it’s cost effective and pretty easy to shoot the pitch video with a smart phone and edit it with the free software that came with their computer or laptop (something like iMovie). This is an example of a video made in just that way, for a successful audiobook campaign from October 2014.

A simple tripod with a smartphone holder, and a small microphone that plugs into the phone’s earphones outlet were used to stabilize the shots and improve the sound quality. This video has a DIY feel, but it is easy to see and hear what is going on. The book takes place on horseback in the mountains of Virginia, so it was shot with a horse in the beautiful Blue Ridge. For less than $100, this video helped propel the campaign to success! This video followed the recommended components (1-6 above) to a T.

2. Lyric music video

For one of our musician clients, a great way to promote the album many months before their Kickstarter campaign even launched was to create a lyric music video. Slides were created on Powerpoint and edited in iMovie to sync the words with the images.

Since this was using software already owned, the cost of producing this effective promotional video was free! This video showcased the music and functioned as a preview months before the campaign. You may see the final pitch video, which more closely followed components 1-6 above, here.

3. Professional pitch video

Many of our clients enjoy having a professional video. This is a bigger commitment, taking several rounds to develop a script, choose a location, hire a crew, and do post-production. However, the results can be amazing, like this video for a children’s picture book.

This video took a month of planning. This included working out the concept, writing the script, securing a location, selecting props, planning wardrobe, and picking music. Additionally, we needed a director, two crew members for the shoot, two cameras, microphone, lights, a rig for the moving shots, an animator, and an editor. To make a roughly 2-minute video, we needed 6 hours to shoot. With some creativity, we were able to make this video for $500. This means spending money before it was made on the video, but for this client, it was worth the expense to really make the campaign pop. This video focused on the product – the book – and incorporated the other components into the text of the campaign, which may be viewed here.

Your campaign pitch is limited only by your imagination (and your budget, and video best practices!). Within these constraints, be sure to put your best foot forward with your crowdfunding pitch video.

For a free crowdfunding analysis of your project, please fill out our Artist Questionnaire. We typically respond within two weeks. We look forward to hearing about your project!

How to succeed at crowdfunding: Creating a Team

You’ll want to line up the following 8 people on your crowdfunding team to propel your campaign to success. One of the reasons clients of The Artist’s Partner succeed 97% of the time – compared to the industry average of 38% – is that they don’t do it alone.

blog images - team

  1. Videographer. Your 1-2 minute pitch video is your first impression – so make a good one! The video is so important, it has its own post (link to follow!).
  2. Photographer. You’ll need great pictures of your smiling face while you’re in action, doing what you do. This is particularly important for social media, and campaign updates. Selfies work, but not exclusively.
  3. Designer. Your campaign is going to need a balance of text and images – and it all needs to work together to create a cohesive brand. Colors, font, illustrations, pictures, and video all need to look like they belong together and communicate a cohesive message.
  4. Writer. Brevity is the soul of success – and it’s hard to write well and informatively without boring people. Your video script, project title, short blurb, reward descriptions, and “story” – the meat of your campaign – need to pop, entice people, and call them to action.
  5. Event host. Successful campaigns extend out of the ephemeral realm of the internet into the real world. You’re going to be way too busy to plan a concert or book reading – so an event host is essential.
  6. Rewards brainstormer. Beyond the $10-$20 copy of your book or album, or ticket to your show or film, what unique items can you offer at higher price points to entice your backers? The benefit of a group brainstorm session will lead to better answers to this important question.
  7. IT. Even though Kickstarter and Indiegogo have raised over $2Bn for creative projects, a LOT of people don’t know what they are or how to use them. It’s a good idea to have a techie person lined up to help walk your less tech-savvy backers through how to pledge.
  8. Cheerleader. The month of the campaign feels looooong. For many, it’s exhausting. Who’s going to provide unconditional moral support to you when the going gets tough?

Most of our clients can fill one or two of these roles themselves, and have skilled friends, family, and partners who can fill a few more. The videographer is the most frequent paid position, with a professional 1-2 minute video costing $200-$500.

If you would like a free analysis of your crowdfunding plans, please fill out our Artist Questionnaire. We typically respond within two weeks. We look forward to hearing about your project!

How to succeed at crowdfunding: Pre-launch Communication

If you wait until launch day to start telling people about your crowdfunding campaign, it’s too late. On average, a person needs to hear a message 7 times to act on it (what’s known in marketing as “effective frequency” or “the rule of 7”). That’s why advance communication makes or breaks a campaign – there’s not enough time to get your message in 7 times once it’s launched.

blog images- effective frequency

We typically work with our artists for a minimum of three months prior to campaign launch on their communication strategy, which contains the following elements:

  1. Key project visual. Your album or book cover, play or film poster, or another key image coupled with your campaign dates and Kickstarter or Indiegogo logo is something you will use time and again. A picture truly is worth a thousand words. If there is one area that I encourage my clients to spend money prior to their campaign, it’s on a designer. A small amount spent on a professional draft is an investment that pays off. (More on this on our post on Campaign Design.)
  2. Elevator pitch. You only have 135 characters – about a dozen words – to hook someone’s attention. You will use this pitch again and again – including as the headline of your crowdfunding campaign – so this is a bedrock of your project’s success. Writing a blurb is hard. Get help. Brainstorm. Write. Rewrite. Distill your project down to its irresistible essence.
  3. Day 1 Backers. We craft a 1-2-3 script for your Day 1 Backers: 1. Inform. 2. Engage. 3. Ask. Your Day 1 Backers are VIPs. They don’t get a mass email that starts “Dear Friend…”. They get invited to coffee, a Skype, or a phone call. In the first meeting, you share your key project visual and your elevator pitch. This is a good practice audience because they are already cheerleaders of you and your work. The next meeting, you request their feedback, advice, ideas, and input, and you consider it seriously. The third meeting, you ask them to be a Day 1 Backer. With an exchange of texts, messages, and emails in between, you’ve racked up your “7,” so your D1B’s are ready to roll come launch day.
  4. Influencers. We craft a 1-2-3 script for your Influencers, as well. Just like your D1B’s, these are VIPs who require individual communication. These folks have a large platform for communication – and almost certainly a schedule. You’ll want plenty of time to get them images, interviews, samples, descriptions, and whatever else they will need to support your project launch.
  5. Benefactors. And, we craft a 1-2-3 script for your Benefactors. These are the quintessential VIPs. They’re helping produce your project at the $500+ level, so they, too, will require individual attention.
  6. Email list. People open almost 100% of their emails. Facebook and Twitter may be sexier, and they’re helpful for awareness, but social media generally does not prompt action. People only see approximately 5% of what is in their feed – and they are typically just scrolling through, commenting, and “liking.” Email prompts action. Most of our clients start out with their email address book scattered across multiple accounts, written on scraps of paper, in a stack of business cards stuffed in a desk drawer. For fast, effective group communication, this needs to be organized. It can take a while. Getting all email addresses correct, correctly labeled, and all in one account – or on a service like Mail Chimp – is a big undertaking. Start early.
  7. Social media. This comes into play closer to launch. Social media is blurb and image driven – and it’s called Facebook for a reason. People respond to faces! So in the months leading up to your campaign, get plenty of pictures of your smiling face doing your project, and craft catchy captions. T/W/Th before breakfast/during lunch/before bed are peak times. It’s easy to burn out your audience on social media, so plan out 2-3 posts per week. We’ll be doing a separate post dedicated to social media.

Realistically, how much time does this take? If you have twelve weeks between now and launch, you have 30 VIPs, and they each get three hours of your time, one for each 1-2-3 meeting, that’s 30 x 3 / 12= 7.5 hours per week. Add to that, time to work with your designer, time to work on your elevator pitch, and time to draft mass email and social media materials, and you’re realistically looking at a 10-hour per week commitment for the three months leading up to your campaign. Sound like a part-time job? It is! That’s how you make money.

A note on how effective communication feels while it is happening: Most of our clients feel message fatigue several times leading up to, and during, their campaigns. Many of them express that this is the hardest part of the crowdfunding process. They feel self-conscious promoting their own work. They feel like they’re shouting into the wind, saying the same thing over and over again, and meanwhile, nothing is happening. It is very hard to trust the cumulative effect of sharing your message 7 times. It is very hard not to take it personally when it feels like no one is listening. It is very easy to give up. When our clients are burnt out, we encourage them to take a day off, go do something fun, and forget about their project for a day or a week–to regain the perspective that life is, of course, about far more than a crowdfunding campaign. The artist can then come back to their tasks with renewed energy,  with more focused attention to the process and not the outcome, and the ability to keep up the good work.

For a free crowdfunding analysis of your project, please fill out our Artist Questionnaire. We typically respond within two weeks. We look forward to hearing about your project!

How to succeed at crowdfunding: Campaign Design

Your crowdfunding campaign is a great way to kick off your project’s “brand.” One of the reasons our clients’ campaigns succeed 97% of the time, compared to the industry average of 38%, is that they have a cohesive look that can be sustained throughout the life of their creative work.

1. Iconic image. Your project will need one key image that sums it up. Sometimes our clients hope to wait until after their campaign is finished to have the funds to pay a designer, but it is difficult for a project to be memorable without a representative image. Many of our clients know some basic image software – or someone who does. A good first draft by a talented friend is infinitely better than no image at all. The example below is the “before” and “after” covers from the illustrated novel GroomsDay by Jenny Edmondson.

Sometimes, the iconic image for the project goes through multiple iterations. All three of the versions below were used at some point before, during, or after the campaign for Sonya Heller’s Americana album 17 West. We discussed the elements of the album cover at length, months ahead of the campaign launch, and then, using free photo editing software, we came up with a draft. When the campaign successfully funded, Sonya paid a professional designer to create an eye-catching album cover.

icon before after 17 west

2. Color palette. This is closely related to your iconic image – once you have one, coordinate your campaign visuals with it. This is a great example of a featured reward for eco-thriller Kingsley, using the vibrant color scheme from the book cover.

color palette kingsley

3. Profile picture. You don’t necessarily need professional head shots. You do need at least one great photo of yourself that fits your project. People respond to faces. Below is an excellent example of Shaun Farris from RED’s Custom Jewelry. This is a candid photo taken while Shaun was doing what he does – make jewelry.

custom thumbnail indiegogo

4. Short blurb. You’ve got 135 characters to describe your project. An elevator pitch is something you’ll need time and again, long after your crowdfunding campaign is over. This is an invaluable opportunity to get your message down – and practice repeating it – months before your project launches. A good example is Camila’s Lemonade Stand:

A picture book about entrepreneurship, tailored to Pre-K imaginations!

5. Project description. In theory, you can make your description of your project as long as you like. In reality, people will stop reading after a short paragraph. As with the short blurb, this is wonderful marketing training. The following is a tantalizing example from mafia sports memoir Bowling For The Mob:

Bowling For The Mob is the story of Bob “Perry” Purzycki, a skinny, scrappy Polish kid who at 12 was said to have the potential to become the greatest bowler who ever lived. But in 1970’s Paterson, New Jersey, everybody knew somebody ‘connected’. Training for championships? Fuhgeddabout it. Bob was up to his neck in wiseguys: driving for Uncle Raymond, doing jobs for Bobby Cabert with Nicky The Plumber, and hustling hundreds of g’s in after-hours action bowling for the last Don, John Gotti.

6. Layout. It’s so easy for a campaign to look boring or messy. The best way to explain an enticing layout is to have a look at one. Take a look at the great campaign for the children’s picture book Princesses Only Wear Putta Puttas by Priya Mahadevan. The sections are clear, the colors complement one another, the headers pop – and Priya immediately begins with her wonderful message.

For a free analysis of your crowdfunding project, please fill out our Artist Questionnaire. We typically respond within two weeks. We look forward to hearing about your project!


How to succeed at crowdfunding: Picking Dates

One of the reasons our clients succeed 97% of the time – compared to the 38% industry average – is that we’re strategic about campaign dates. Timing is everything!

So, why not just hit “launch” as soon as the campaign is built, and then run it as long as possible? There are so many reasons.

  1. Lead time for VIP buy-in. We pick a launch date at least three months away so there is time to get your Day 1 Backers, Influencers, and Benefactors (follow the links for more about these VIPs) on board. Most people need to hear something 7 times to remember and understand it, so we need time to get your VIPs ready and excited for launch.
  2. Avoiding holidays. Summer, Christmas, Passover, New Year’s, and Easter are terrible times to try to hold the average person’s attention. Don’t fight it. As a general rule, May and October are the best months to run a campaign because they aren’t interrupted by major holidays.
  3. Optimum length. Kickstarter ran the numbers, and 30 days is just about right. Many people think a longer campaign will be more successful, but it won’t be. It will run out of steam. Click the image below for the full data rundown. duration_success_rate_full
  4. The magic of T/W/Th. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday are the days of the week that are easiest to get and hold someone’s attention. We often launch on a Tuesday and close on a Thursday to maximize the momentum on the all important first and last days.
  5. Month-end urgency. The calendar doesn’t always cooperate, but when possible, we like to contain campaigns within a calendar month. This avoids backer procrastination, putting off the task of participating until “next month.”
  6. Project launch date. A crowdfunding campaign is excellent marketing for the eventual launch of your project. The nature of the perfect timing varies, but we like to time the campaign so it’s also setting up the marketing momentum for your project.
  7. Key date tie-in. Doing an environmental-themed project? Run the campaign in April to hit Earth Day. Or is your project about Halloween? Run it in October. Anytime we can catch an awareness tailwind, it helps the campaign.

For a free analysis of your crowdfunding plans, please fill out our Artist Questionnaire. We typically respond within 2 weeks. We look forward to hearing about your project!