A Kickstarter’s Guide to Kickstarter: Introduction

We often hear stories of someone posting a creative project online. Then hundreds or thousands of people come rushing to them and it takes off. It seems so simple. Come up with a brilliant idea and the Internet will take over to make our dreams come true.

Somewhere deep down inside we know there is more to it than that. There must be some explanation as to why their idea took off. We’re just not sure what it is. We launch our own project, hoping the masses will show up, but they never do. We are left feeling disappointed and full of doubt. Why not me? Was my idea not good enough?

The truth is that there is a lot of work that goes into a project before it will take off. Simply posting an idea online is rarely enough to get meaningful traction. That’s the lesson I learned, the hard way.

In the fall of 2010 I posted my first Kickstarter project. It was for a documentary film that I wanted to make with a friend of mine. After our project got approved we naively rushed through setting up the project page and launched it. Confident in the fact that we had the best looking video on the site with a meaningful topic, we sat back and waited.

After a month we had only raised 10% of our goal. Slightly disheartened and running out of time, we rolled up our sleeves and began contacting everyone we knew. In three weeks we were able to raise an additional $5000. However, there was only one week to go, and we had over 50% of our funding goal left.

Faced with the reality that our project probably would not make it, I started to question myself and my idea. Then something amazing happened. Realizing the deadline was fast approaching, my friends started posting it, writing emails and sharing it with their friends. In the last six days we raised $9000 and got the project successfully funded!

If this sounds like another example of a viral Internet phenomena, I assure it’s not. My project never got picked up by any major media or high profile blogs. In fact, the ONLY reason that my campaign succeeded is because I have amazing friends and family who rallied to support me. Even with all their support, we limped to the finish line. I feel pretty lucky that we made it at all. But I’m ok with being lucky.

In the months after the Kickstarter campaign ended, I was able to reflect on my campaign. I thought about everything I could have done differently that could have made it even better. I started to looked at what other people did to fund their projects. I began to realize that it was not my idea that had been the problem, but my approach. I had made a lot of assumptions about how the idea would be spread and how Kickstarter worked. From those insights this guide was born.

In the world of Kickstarter there is a lot that happens behind the scenes to make a project successful. Just because an idea is great or worth doing doesn’t mean it’s going to get funded. Rather than trying to guess at what those factors are, this manifesto will look at what it takes to make a project successful.

In case you don’t have time to read this in entirety, this is what it says in a nutshell:

Great Kickstarter projects are successful because they connect and resonate with a specific audience. They use compelling storytelling combined with interesting or wacky ideas to attract backers. They are authentic while effectively communicating goals, passion, credibility and purpose. The more time spent thinking about these elements before the project is launched the easier the campaign becomes.

If you want to do a Kickstarter project because you think the Internet will find and love your project, stop right now. The Internet does not care about you. However, if you can reach out to the right people, in the right way, before time runs out, you just might get lucky.

How to Use This Guide

Read it, study it, memorize it and then IGNORE IT.

This e-book is a not a step by step manual on how to get your project funded. I don’t think there is any formula that can guarantee success. Instead, it is a collection of thoughts and ideas to help you create the best Kickstarter campaign possible. If the ideas in this book don’t fit your project or don’t resonate with you, then try something else.

At the end, of the day remember one thing: There is no map.

Who am I?

I’m an average person who started a project and was fortunate enough to reach my goal. I have a blog but it’s small. I don’t have a popular podcast or web show. My project never got promoted by TechCrunch or any major blogs. I’m not a world famous product designer making cool iPod watches.

I have used Kickstarter to launch two successful but very different projects. I will be referring to both throughout this book. The first one ran in the fall of 2010 and was called Identifying Nelson/Buscando a Roberto. The purpose of the campaign was to help raise some money so my co-producer and I could start working on a documentary film. The second project related to this book and was called A Kickstarter’s Guide to Kickstarter. That campaign took place during August of 2011, and was to help get the this e-book graphically designed and distributed.

A Kickstart’s Guide to Kickstarter TOC:

pssst…you can read all of this offline by downloading the e-book.

  • A Kickstarter’s Guide to Kickstarter: Introduction
  • How Kickstarter “Kickstartered” it’s own website
  • Introduction
    A Kickstarter’s Guide to Kickstarter: Introduction
    How Kickstarter “Kickstartered” it’s own website
    Understanding Kickstarter
    The Basics of Kickstarter
    Kickstarter is an updated version of the Parton Model
    Kickstarter is like girl scout cookies…without the calories!
    Make sure your project has an ending
    Some additional benefits to running a Kickstarter project
    Perry Chan’s Six Principles on why Kickstarter projects are successful
    Yancey’s thoughts on getting funded
    Brainstorming Your Project
    What is this damn thing about?
    Simplify your project for success
    Is your project a Purple Cow?
    Making Lemonade And Telling A Good Story
    Reward The Patrons
    Naming Your Kickstarter Project
    Doing Your Homework
    Before you launch, do your homework
    No one cares about you
    Some People Care About You
    Who is Your Audience?
    Where is Your Audience?
    Resonating With Your Audience
    Crossing Chasms
    What Will it Cost?
    Understanding Profit Margin and Costs
    Setting Your Goals
    Make or Break Decisions
    Running the Numbers
    Focus on what you need
    Reasonable funding goals
    Why be Reasonable?
    How long your campaign runs depends on one thing, momentum
    30 days or less
    Managing Deadlines
    Going for the BIG bucks
    The Allure of a Large Backer
    Pricing theory, thoughts about pricing your Kickstarter rewards
    The Paradox of Choice
    Crafting Your Pitch
    Creating a compelling pitch for your Kickstarter project
    Four questions people want answered when visiting your Kickstarter page.
    Show some credibility to get more backers
    Clarity is your friend
    How to ask for Support
    Kickstarter is a video-driven site
    Examples of great pitch videos
    Launching Your Project
    Launching your project
    How to track the progress of your Kickstarter campaign
    The 30% Kickstarter project “Tipping Point”
    How to engage an audience with a Kickstarter project: Idea & Story

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    Separated from my family during El Salvador's civil war, by death and adoption, I was reunited with them at the age of 16. I do entrepreneurial art projects that are meaningful, relevant, and push me creatively.

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