Starting Your First Kickstarters

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A friend asked for some handy tips for their first starter. This has inspired me to share a few things that we at Tangent Artists have learned from our experience:

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If I could give you one tip, this would be it:

  • Keep in mind that your production cost (the amount you need to make a minimum order with the printer) and the “funded goal” are not the same thing. Digital products are the easiest to factor, in that they are almost pure profit; a $10 digital backer means you’re $10 closer to your fund goal and, after expenses (taxes, KS’s cut), have $9 towards the production cost. If you’re dealing with physical products, don’t forget that they give you a false “boost” towards your KS funded goal. For example, a $40 backer with a $15 product and a $15 S&H (don’t forgot to include shipping from the printer to you and back out to backer) means you’re $40 closer to the funded goal, but only $21 closer to your production goal. In this sense, it’s better to have two-hundred $5 digital backers than fifty $20 physical backers (although, reaching two-hundred people might be harder). I’ve read plenty of horror stories about people who reached $20,000 goal for a $20,000 printing cost, only to end up going several thousand dollars in the red; they reached 20k, but after S&H, KS’s cut, and taxes, it ends up costing 25K or more.

Other Tips:

  • You can build and share the KS page before you launch it. This lets you get feedback from peers, but also lets you start promoting it in advance. Sadly, you won’t have the final link itself until the launch date, so it’s good to have a private promo page (ex. your website or blog) that you can promote. This way, you can update push people to go to your promo page for both the “preview” link, and then change the link later to an active “KS” link after you launch.
  • KS must approve all pages before you can launch it.. Once you’ve had feedback and are happy with the page, submit it for approval. This can take a few days, so do it at least 7 days before you need it. Once approved, it will give you the option of waiting before you launch, so you can let it sit on it for a while.
  • Backers will shun KS accounts that have never backed KS projects before; they believe you have to give to the community before you can take. Go find a dozen projects you like and support them, even if it’s for a tiny amount. If you’re a company, have a company account and have all of the members back their personal KS through the company, and you’ll build it up faster.
  • Have one “manager” setting up the page, levels and handling the KS updates. You can’t just let it sit for 30 days alone.
  • People like graphics. Have a video. Make sure it has a GREAT opening slide- this the first thing they see when the load the page, and when you share it on social media. Make sure you’re updating your progress with visual aid trackers.
  • If the person managing the page is a different person than the person doing the graphics, prepare all of the graphics for all of the different levels ahead of time. It might seem strange, but we needed our “funded” and three of our “stretch goal” graphics on day two.
  • Set your initial goal as low as you can go afford (assuming it’s not putting you in the negative). People are more likely to back something that is funded than something that is not.
  • Always have a cheap ($1 – $5) level. Even if it has no tangible rewards (thanks, glory, good karma), it allows people to tag you and follow your updates easier, and lets family and friends who have no interest in the product show their support.
  • Have different levels, but don’t overdo it. 3-6 is fine. More than 10 is a mouthful, unless there’s a specific reason why. More levels is also tricky in case you need to send messages out- KS lets you message all backers, or all backers in a specific group (ex. group A); however, if you’re messaging groups A-C but not D, you have to send it to groups A, B, and C individually; thus, if you have 20 levels and you’re sending it to 19 of them, you might be copy-pasting the message 19 times.
  • Have a slightly higher level with recognition; sometimes people will pay $24-50 just to have recognition on the finished product.
  • Have at least one large shoot the moon level. Don’t expect it to be taken, but you never know.
  • KS has strict rules about selling in bulk to merchants; I’ve seen some projects do it, but I would research the rules carefully first to make sure you’re not violating anything.
  • If you’re dealing with a digital product, calculate the longest estimated amount of time you need to deliver it. Then put the delivery date as DOUBLE that date. If it’s a physical product, QUADRUPLE it. That may seem like a stretch, but those dates come on you fast.
  • With stretch goals, digital rewards are your friend! If going with physical products, don’t be afraid to add it as an optional thing they can BUY by pledging extra. Again, a lot of people go crazy adding free physical rewards, which raises their production cost and shrinks the profit.
  • If you are adding an optional stretch bonus product, this can be handled by having the backers over pay and then respond to the survey which add-on product they want. However, MAKE SURE the survey has the optional bubble, “we didn’t pledge anything else, no add-ons,”; alternatively, allow for write-ins. We learned that the hard way, and you can only send out one survey.
  • Limit it to 30 days; you don’t want it to linger.
  • This is a rough estimate, but about 75% of your backers will be pledge on days 1-10, and the last 2 days. In between, don’t be scared by the lull. Be sure to still send updates every few days, and keep promoting outside. If it’s a game, I recommend G+ (there’s LOTS of gamers on G+).
  • Plan a lot more stretch goals than you need. A LOT. The levels these are best planned around price breaks for the printer (ex. cheaper to print at 5k, 10k and 50k). If there are no price breaks, you can set at anything you like. If I could turn back time, I would have spaced them further apart. We had ours set at a fixed increment (about .5K or 1K apart). Although it doesn’t look as clean, I would have spaced it at rising increments. Maybe use the Fibonacci thing (.5k, 1k, 1.5k, 2.5k or 4K), so it’s less than double. The hard part is judging the right amount. Too far and you lose momentum, too small and you flood the backers with too many goals- if you’re forced to do more than you had planned for, you risk creating subpar stretch goals, or hastily adding new physical products that might cost more than you originally estimated.
  • If you have multiple projects in mind, and your KS is starting to go into stretch goals, resist the pressure to merge the two together. There’s no shame in doing a smaller KS first and doing a second one later. If you have a successful KS under your belt, they’re more likely to back you later. Better still, when you do a KS in the future, you have all of the backer info, so it’s easy to promote.

Here are some other tips passed on from Evil Hat’s Kickstarter Guru, Fred Hicks:

  • Launch it on a Mon. night / Tuesday morning. Most office workers do all of their web surfing on Tuesday morning (after they finished Mon’s work).
  • If you’re KSing a physical product, don’t plan to make money from the KS itself; instead, set the selling “price” of the basic ks level (for a backer buying one unit) to be 2x the cost of the unit (including other costs), and then order double the number of product from your printer. Thus, if your KS sells 500 units, you order and ship out 500 units to backers, and have 500 units sitting in your garage that are already paid for; anytime you sell one of those extra units, it’s 100% profit.

That’s all for now. Hope it helps!

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