5 reasons you’re not ready to crowdfund.

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Etta DevineCrowdfunding is an amazing resource for people who want to make cool stuff but it is not free money. I’ve had two successful campaigns on Kickstarter (Adventures of Huckleberry Finn {Robotic Edition} and Help “The Selling” get a Theatrical Release) and it is a lot of hard work. A LOT of hard work. No, seriously. It’s a full time job.

I’ve informally advised or otherwise been involved with many other campaigns and there are mistakes I see people making again and again and it hurts! I want you to succeed! So before I write a post about best practices I’m going to take a step back and address some of the things people do that sabotage their effort before they even start.

1. You didn’t do your research.  

There are tons of resources out there about how to do it right.

Filmcourage

Jon Reiss

The Film Collaborative Crowdfunding Resource Place

The Kickstarter Blog

The Quora Kickstarter Topic

The indiegogo blog

The Quora Indiegogo Topic

Turnstyle New’s The Crowd Crowd

Kicktraq

Also Google

Anyone trying to raise more than a couple thousand dollars should read through ALL of this. Anyone trying to raise more than a couple thousand dollars should have done so much research that nothing I say will be surprising at all. Do. Your. Research.

 

2. You don’t have a social media footprint.

I know Facebook and Twitter and Tumblr,  and websites etc. are a lot of work.  But how do you expect anyone to know about your crowdfunding campaign if you have nobody to tell. There is a distinct inverted bell curve of pledging to a crowdfunding campaign. There is a burst at the beginning and another at the end. That burst at the beginning is your friends and family and your own personal network. That personal network that you have cultivated and nurtured on social media. There is a clear correlation between your social media footprint and your chances of success. If you don’t even have a social media footprint how could you possibly raise your goal? Start building your network now if you haven’t already.

 

3. You’re just an artist.  

If the words “but I’m just an artist, I don’t know how to…” have crossed your lips in the last six months you are not ready to crowdfund. Asking for money from the world to make your project come true requires that you be more than just an artist. You have to produce your campaign just like you’d produce a film. There is pre production, marketing, press, outreach, follow through, spreadsheets and tears. Just being an artist would be great. Actually getting to build a career without having to rely on social media and cultivating your own audience is an old paradigm.  But it is not realistic in today’s creative environment and when you say things like “I’m just an artist” everyone who already knows it’s not realistic will think you’re an idiot.

 

4. You’re shy

I’m shy too. There is nothing I hate more than constantly having to yell, “Look at my thing!” because we all know that “Look at my thing!” means “Look at me!” and only big dumb jerks who nobody is already looking at need to do that. Stop. You have to be the one yelling, “look at my thing” because nobody else is going to do it. You have to get comfortable with self-promotion. Don’t be annoying. But you have to learn to put your project out in the world or your crowdfunding campaign will fail. It’s probably the hardest part.

 

5. You aren’t engaged in the community.

There really is a crowdfunding community. You need to be a part of it through pledging to other people’s campaigns before you crowdfund yourself for two main reasons. The first reason is so you can see from the inside how people run their campaigns. Do you like the way they communicated with you as a backer? Did they do something stupid that you will now never do? You don’t have to spend a ton of money on this. It is perfectly acceptable to back projects at $1. When you get those $1 pledges yourself you’ll be thrilled. The second main reason you should join the community by backing other projects is so you don’t look like a stupid selfish jerk. When I see that a project creator has NEVER backed another project it kind of pisses me off. Why should anyone support you when you’ve never supported anyone else?

If all of this seems totally reasonable to you then you might be ready to pull that trigger and design your campaign. Good luck! I’m cheering for you! And if you’re making a movie or a web series feel free to cast me.

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Etta Devine

About Etta Devine

Etta Devine is an actor and content creator. Along with her partner, Gabriel Diani, she is responsible for "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn {Robotic Edition}" the web series "Mary Olson" (1.3 million hits on YouTube), and the comedy team Diani & Devine. Their feature film "The Selling" is currently out on DVD and they are hoping to shoot their second feature this year. Want to invest?

  • Hal

    Great article. I’ve done the $1 donation for the exact reason you mentioned in the article but felt so Machiavellian about it. It’s nice to know that I’m not the only one who thinks that way. XD

  • It’s sometimes nice to feel a little Machiavellian.

  • I really love this. I’ve been thinking about crowdfunding for a while now, but I know that there are a couple of things I need to work on before I even think about it, and your post helped clarify those for me. Thank you!

  • Krishna Devine

    This is a great list and all so true. I “crowdfunded” for a film in 2005, PRE-Kickstarter, Indiegogo, etc. We made all the money we needed for the film and the success of the crowdfunding was from having a great network, engaging the community, doing the research and working full time to bring in the funds. We drove people (traffic) to the film’s website and had a donate button. While Indiegogo and Kickstarter are great tools, they aren’t magical solutions. I’m sure many creative go-getters will benefit from your 5 tips/reminders.

  • 2005! Wow. That’s pretty amazing.

  • Sallyanne

    Excellent advice! I’ve given money to a number of campaigns that haven’t been immediate friends due to social media and I’ve never had a project there myself. I’m just up for helping others where I can, but if ever I do! Thanks Etta

  • Great article Etta!! Loved it! Also excited to read all those links you posted for #1!

    • Thanks! It’s a lot of material but you’ll be super informed afterwards. It’s also possible that research is one of my favorite forms of procrastination…

  • Amber Plaster

    I don’t mean to be negative, but I hate crowdfunding films. I really do.

    Every other day I’m asked to donate to someone’s webseries/film/documentary. And often times, it’s their first project, which means you have no idea if it will be a quality project. It’s exhausting, and guess what? Actors are broke too, and trying to fund their *own* projects, by getting a third job.

    I see the benefits of getting money from your friends and network by asking for it (ewwww), but it also *seems* like everyone is doing it now. And it irritates me.

    I think this is a really good article, but if I were to crowdfund a film, it would be a last resort, and it would be my BABY. The project I’ve been DYING to do for years, because I only want to ask my friends and family (and network) for money and a huge favor – ONCE.

    Sorry for the rant. I just really hate crowdfunding films.

    • That’s fine, nobody is requiring you to give but there are a couple things to consider.

      1. A lot of the people doing it ARE broke actors who are using crowdfunding as a way to give themselves and people they know (possibly you) work.

      2. You and I are a part of a community that is doing this a lot. We see these all the time. That isn’t true for the vast majority of the world. Tons of people have never heard of crowdfunding and aren’t sick of it like you.

      3. Why are you assuming that anyone who goes through all the trouble of crowdfunding a film isn’t doing it for their “baby” that they haven’t been able to fund any other way. It’s hard. If people could do something else they would have.

      4. You should be able to tell the likely quality of the project by the quality of the campaign. If it doesn’t look good then you don’t have to have anything to do with it.

      5. Maybe crowdfunding isn’t for you.

      6. If you give me $100,000 for the low budget feature I’m currently working on I promise I won’t crowdfund for it. You could even be in it.

      • Hey Etta. I apologize if I hurt your feelings. I didn’t mean to come off as “bitchy”. I know that crowdfunding isn’t for me, it doesn’t feel right, and I’m just not that into it. I still think this is a very informative post for people who have decided to crowdfund anyway. I was commenting that I was jaded on kickstarter requests because they happen to me almost daily. Perhaps that’s what has me so turned off.

        1. A lot of the people doing it ARE broke actors who are using crowdfunding as a way to give themselves and people they know (possibly you) work.

        I understand that, however, asking other broke actors for money isn’t the most promising business venture. I suppose actors have tons of free time, so they could *promote* funding the campaign via social media, cost free.

        2. You and I are a part of a community that is doing this a lot. We see these all the time. That isn’t true for the vast majority of the world. Tons of people have never heard of crowdfunding and aren’t sick of it like you.

        Very, very true. I hadn’t really thought of that. I think that’s what has me so jaded.

        3. Why are you assuming that anyone who goes through all the trouble of crowdfunding a film isn’t doing it for their “baby” that they haven’t been able to fund any other way. It’s hard. If people could do something else they would have.

        Because I’ve seen it. People try to kickstart their “first pancake” all the time.
        Like here: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-tweeter-rater-a-documentary
        and here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1463594288/the-leaderboard-webs-first-competitive-reality-web
        and here:http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/please-help-support-warlock-s-magic-tv-show-first-live-anime-to-go-worldwide

        And I’m not saying these projects are bad. Just that it’s not backed by people who know what they’re doing – yet.

        And before 2007, people found other ways to fund a film or project. So I respectfully disagree. They absolutely *can* do something else, it will just take a LOT longer.

        4. You should be able to tell the likely quality of the project by the quality of the campaign. If it doesn’t look good then you don’t have to have anything to do with it.

        True.

        5. Maybe crowdfunding isn’t for you.

        Also true. But again my point is, maybe it’s not the fix-all for actors trying to self-produce. Maybe… Maybe you’re not ready to crowdfund yet… (see what I did there)?

        6. If you give me $100,000 for the low budget feature I’m currently working on I promise I won’t crowdfund for it. You could even be in it.

        Why thank you. I’ll keep that in mind 😉

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  • BTW to all those who are sick of everyone having a crowdfunding campaign I was just in Ohio for a showing of my film The Selling and I talked to a bunch of people. None of them had ever even heard of Kickstarter or Indigogo. These were people who would be both creators and backers. So it’s really not as ubiquitous as it seems from our personal networks.

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