As a filmmaker and photographer – I explore the world by hunting castles. Its a fun little passion and my motto is “I travel the world so you don’t have to”. One of my freelance clients once asked me – “Jared, who pays for all these trips?” My reply: “You do!” The truth is for years these trips were front ended – I pay for all of the expenses out of pocket and then recoup costs with sales of photographs, DVDs, and advertising revenue. Then last year someone turned me on to Kickstarter. Kickstarter is a website that offers creative projects the opportunity to raise funds using a technique called ‘crowd funding’. Instead of fronting the project myself – I seek backers – and instead of one big backer I use my social network to get lots of little backers. This article is a first hand look at how the process works for my book and film project entitled: The Magic of Istanbul.
The first time you sign up for Kickstarter they want a full explanation of what you are trying to raise funds for and how you will entice people to donate money – using a system of pledge incentives. The idea is that for a certain amounts of money that someone pledges you will agree to give them something upon completion of the project. This only happens if the project gets funded – but more on that in a moment. The idea is that each pledge has a value to the person who is backing your project. For many projects on Kickstarter this is simply a way of selling the product being developed ahead of time. If you can get 1,000 people to commit to purchasing the product then you are guaranteed enough money to be able run the production at a reasonable cost. For my project I am giving away photographs, books, DVDs, and even production credits.
The first step is that you have to determine how much money are you trying to raise. But you have to be careful – Kickstarter has very specific rules – the first of which is: if you don’t hit raise target amount then no money changes hands – nobody gets charged and you don’t get any money. So make sure it is a reasonable amount. That being said – you need to make sure you pad this amount because everyone gets a cut. Kickstarter takes 5% (for being such a cool company) Amazon takes 3-5% (because they are the clearinghouse for the money) and then you need to factor in how much the pledge incentives are going to cost (for my own project about 20% of the value of each pledge is given back in product).
Second you need to describe the project. This is done with a nice webpage where you can include images and text but the big seller is your video clip where you pitch your project to your audience. They say the video is the most important part and that you should be as personal and professional as possible.
Lastly, you set your deadline and promote! Once started you can’t change the target amount or the target deadline – so be prepared to work your networks. Also if your project fails to get funded not only do you not get the money but the project stays on the website and people can see it failed – that’s right – you can’t delete it – ever. Personally I am fine with this – I had a failed Kickstarter last year and I don’t regret it – I asked for too much money, the pledge incentives weren’t very good, and I didn’t work my networks enough.
That’s the real art – you have to work your networks. You aren’t just asking your friends for money (I mean you could do that without Kickstarter) – what you are asking is for them to spread the word FOR you. You don’t want their money as much as you want their friends money. Remember you are offering quality incentives so you are just letting people in on a great project. If you feel like you are begging – you aren’t getting it. So Facebook, Tweet, Blog, Email – reach out to all of your networks and ask them to do the same. I also created a Facebook event for my project so that people can discuss it and invite their friends to it.
Take a look at my last Kickstarter project The Magic of Istanbul: Book & Film Project it’s over now (and I didn’t hit my funding goal) but it gives you the idea.
Whether you are a creative person looking to raise funds or just want to shop around for some amazing projects – be sure to check out Kickstarter – it’s awesome.