ARLS Kickstarter Debrief: Trials and Triumphs and Takeaways
I finally added them all up. As of September 2014, I’ve been involved in 8 Kickstarter campaigns as a key contributor. 5 of which have been tremendously successful, and 3 that were total flops. The campaign nearest to my heart is Atomic Robo Last Stop. I’m incredibly proud of the work our team brought to bare. Of course, like every artist I can only see the flaws, but even I can’t deny there is some really great animation at its core. Robo was an amazing experience but also a slog. For artists dipping their toes into crowd funding for the first time, I offer some advice that I’ve picked up along the way. Much of this stuff is common sense, but hopefully helpful none-the-less.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in the excitement of a successful, momentum gaining campaign. With Robo, we got carried away with stretch goals and rewards. Plan Stretch goals before you launch with a level head. Even if you don’t announce them right away, pre-planning allows you to crunch the numbers so you can be sure to not overreach.
The Internet Abhors a Vacuum
Share what’s going on. There were large stretches of time between updates for ARLS. Mostly because progress was so slow. To me, posting the same thing over and over got tedious. Most backers took the silence in stride, trusting that things would work out and offering huge support every time we made an announcement. Some were more demanding and didn’t really understand the process and got understandably upset. Being more frequent with updates would have helped smooth things over.
Date at your own Risk
This one is especially true for the indie outfits creating complex mutli-person efforts. Do not announce dates. Ever. If you think you’ll be done by a certain time, you’re wrong. It doesn’t matter the task, Murphy’s Law will show up to the party to mix things up. Announcing loose goals is fine, but we got burned a couple of times on ARLS for announcing too soon. Internal and external pressure led to premature announcements that left us with egg on our face and frustrated backers. Things would have been totally different if this was a full-time and not free-time effort. Because of the nature of our schedules the company line should have been — “Ready when it’s done”
I went through 3 different people before finding the person right for the reward delivery. My advice, find this person first. Don’t trust that things will “work out” when you get to the reward fulfillment stage. This is one of the most important people on your team, regardless of their direct contribution the actual project itself.
The good ol’ US of A is amazing. And as cumbersome as our Postal Service can be, it’s pretty dang amazing when you think of what the system accomplishes in a day. Unfortunately it’s also incredibly slow and expensive in ways you can’t understand until you start shipping. Now that we’re in the middle of shipping the remainder of our rewards we have a much better idea of the stumbling blocks, and how to avoid them.
Ask For a Little Too Much
This one is pretty obvious but needs to be mentioned. Ask for more than the reward is worth, that way the work the people are paying for is what get the the most attention. Don’t burn your budget fulfilling rewards when the project itself was the draw in the first place. It’s easy to become a victim of your own success if you over promise. This happens way too often on Kickstarter.
Pay it Forward
Do a great job. Make a great product, and show people that their trust in you is well placed. People want to back a winner, not feel silly and taken advantage of. Even if that means paying out of pocket. ARLS ended up costing much more to produce than we raised from the campaign, but sometimes that’s just how these things go. The only alternative is quitting. And let’s be honest, if you’ve gotten far enough into a project to launch a Kickstarter campaign, quitting was never really an option.
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