So, you’re thinking about crowdfunding an artistic project – that’s awesome! As a freelancer and independent artist myself, I really understand why guaranteeing pre-sales of your work and testing the audience interest in your project might be a super appealing idea for you.
In conversations with other artists and freelance creatives I have come to realise there is a real skills and knowledge gap around how to best promote creative work and how socials (including crowdfunding) can help you achieve your financial and artistic goals.
With my unique expertise as a university-level educator on social media communication, an experienced business and technology journalist and creative worker, I want to share some wisdom around strategic planning that can set you up for your best chance of success. This article is to help you navigate your journey and get yourself in the best possible position without spending money you don’t have on expensive advice or professional managers.
Things you need to know before you begin:
What is your goal? I don’t mean your financial goal; I mean your ideal professional outcome from this project.
Do you want to pay for a print run?
Produce an independent film?
Attract a mainstream publisher for to your book project?
Create and sell a specific product?
Raise money to record an album?
Syndicate your artwork?
Launch a small business?
To raise your profile and gain “fans”?
It is vastly important that you know upfront what you want to achieve as your end-goal because this will influence every other choice you make along the way.
Make sure you have done your math.
According to advisory firm experts, more than 63% of all crowdfunding campaigns fail and only 12% achieve more than $10k. The most common pitfall for smaller players in the crowdfunding game is underestimating costs or setting unrealistic goals. If you promise a certain “reward”, you need to make sure the production and delivery of that reward is fully priced into the campaign target. That said, if you really only need $2k to realise your vision, don’t set your goal as $5k – that’s just setting you up for failure. It’s important to have done your research and fully costed out all your obvious and hidden costs BEFORE YOU LAUNCH.
Some costs you might not have considered:
- Postage/international postage
- Packaging for your items
- Payment processing fees
- Paying yourself an hourly wage particularly for administrative time!
Choose the right platform for your specific project.
There are actually a lot of ways people use crowdfunding to raise money for their projects. Some people and companies are raising cash to get their hardware business off the ground, for example. That’s probably not what you’re doing and so you want to avoid those kinds of specialist crowdfunding platform. One good starting point is to think: if you have heard of the platform, that’s a good indication that other people like you know about it. For creative projects, I would recommend KickStarter, Indiegogo or Pozible. You technically can run multiple campaigns on different sites at the same time, however this can really hurt your campaign. By spreading investment over several sites, you risk not meeting one or more targets and at the same time you’re diluting the excitement that comes from crowdfunding a project that is a runaway success. Concentrating your investors on the one target helps show the true size of the investment to your audience.
Set yourself up for success with the right launch content.
VIDEO. This might be a natural part of your project anyway or it might seem way off the wall but video attracts more eyeballs on social media and particularly on crowdfunding sites. Make one really nice video explaining your project, showcasing previous work, and/or highlighting samples of this planned work.
Make sure you have really good photos or digital files to give your audience a good sense of who you are and what your work will be like. If you’re offering prints or enamel pins or keychains or mugs or t-shirts as a reward, have well-photographed samples to promote.
Make sure you have a functional website to point to, even if this is just a nice “About” page and a link back to your campaign. This helps people see you as legit. If you’re a website novice, that is totally fine. I personally run a WordPress (which, honestly, is not hard) but if that is daunting, I recommend looking at Wix. Whatever you do, invest in a custom domain relevant to your project.
You MUST actively market your campaign.
You’ll get some traction from the crowdfunding site but you need to be your own best advocate. Your project should have its own social media accounts with branding consistent across all platforms and the crowd campaign. I cannot emphasize this enough: you do NOT need to be on every platform out there. In fact, I highly recommend picking just one or two socials and designing a strong campaign strategy that you can easily stick to, tailored specifically to that platform and the audience it attracts.
Here is my quick and dirty guide to choosing your best platforms:
Facebook. I actually always recommend making a Facebook page. It’s a good “foundational” social media platform that accommodates basically any and all types of social content you might want to make and share. You can usually link your Facebook to your other socials so that they automatically share to both that platform and Facebook. Facebook posts can be longer than any other post in terms of written length. You can also leverage Facebook advertising for relatively little capital outlay to promote your KickStarter (or other) crowdfunding campaign (I will discuss that in more detail in a later paragraph).
Twitter is an appropriate choice for journalists, writers, anything political in nature, anything with a bit of a snarky attitude, anything with a lot of industry “news” around it. Use Twitter to show how connected to current events you are by re-tweeting thought leaders and sharing contemporary news articles on the subject matter. Post throughout the day, whenever you see something relevant but only post relevant comments. Post at least once a day. Use a maximum 4-5 relevant hashtags.
Instagram is an artist favourite, for obvious reasons. Use Instagram to showcase your own work, share work-in-progress, any shows you go to, pictures that show your daily life and aesthetic interests. Instagram is generally positive, upbeat, inspirational. If you’re making physical rewards for your project I highly recommend taking nice photos of those “works in progress” or a short video of “unboxing my enamel pins from the manufacturer”. Things that get your supporters excited about the progress you are making. Post once or twice a day, max. Leave a paragraph break then use as many hashtags as you like, I often use up to 20. Experiment with different but related hashtags – overusing the same ones again and again often “tires out” the algorithm and gets you fewer views.
TikTok is an obvious thumbs up for video makers but can also be good for painters, crafters and makers of all time. Consider making short, time-lapse or sped up videos of you producing your work set to music that reflects your personal “vibe”. Experiment with your hashtags. You can also post the same video multiple times on TikTok without looking ridiculous because of the way content is sorted and displayed so try changing your hashtags and posting two days in a row at roughly the same time – you can get a good idea for what tags are going to work for your specific audience this way. TikTok has the smartest algorithm of any social media out there so it will find your people for you if you give it the right tag information.
YouTube is great for anyone with a very video-heavy project or who is producing a product that benefits from a lot of “demonstrations”. Additionally, YouTube is a great fit for anyone trying to position themself as a “thought leader”. I personally feel that the YouTube/Twitter combo is the ideal thought-leader tag team. Consider creating a channel where you do well-produced but simple piece-to-camera style videos, which you can share across your Facebook and Twitter and also reinforce by sharing relevant other content to show how “switched on” you are in that given area.
You need to have your socials up and running before your campaign starts. The campaign will promote your social channels and your social channels will promote your campaign. I would recommend a minimum three-week lead time prior to your campaign launch so you can start following relevant people, sharing content and building your own audience whilst also teasing the launch of your campaign.
Also, make sure you have signed up for “professional” accounts on all your socials. This is free but it gives you access to engagement data on all your posts. You can see what content was most popular or unpopular and try to figure out why: was it the time of day that you posted? A particular hashtag or hashtag combo? Have you tried including a “trending” hashtag?
Social media ads
I recommend building into your budget at least $250-$400 for Facebook ads. You want to target the campaign as specifically as you can to maximize the effectiveness of your ads. You also want to include the KickStarter/Indiegogo/Pozible logo in the corner of all your ads and promotional materials (links to brand assets included here).
It takes some initial planning but I recommend creating a content calendar for the duration of your campaign. It will start three weeks before you launch your crowdfund and carry through to the end of the campaign period. This can be done as a tab on a Google calendar or an iCal – whatever calendar you’re using already – or it can be scheduled through a (free!) content scheduling app like Later. You can plan out a kind of arc in your marketing campaign and even program it to automatically post for you so you don’t forget. Do it once, review your post engagement at least once a week (ideally daily or every second day) to make sure your current post schedule is working for you and people are interacting with your posts.
One more thing to consider: When to work…and on what?
Are you going to complete the work BEFORE your campaign is launched or is this a campaign to test the viability of your idea? I personally recommend avoiding over-investing your time into a project that might not succeed. Concentrate on stunning launch videos and campaign materials that give the best impression of what it is you can and will achieve. This said, it is important that you make a reasonable estimate of the time it will take you to then produce the promised work. That should be budgeted into you goal amount. Once your target is reached, the project needs to be treated like your absolute favourite paying client. That is now an invested relationship with potentially thousands of fans. Letting them down would be a huge blow to your public profile as an artist and needs to be avoided at all costs.
But Rachael…I need help!
I have begun offering a service to independent artists to work up one-off strategic plans for specific campaigns and/or to better manage their social media engagement in general. I have limited capacity, but you’re interested in this service, please contact me to discuss your project and needs.
BEST OF LUCK ON YOUR CROWDFUNDING JOURNEY!!