How to “Kickstart” Your Creative Project

This is a guest post by Mary DeRosa Hughes

“How are we ever going to get this thing made?”

That was the question that my partner Curt and I had asked ourselves, oh, about a zillion times over the past few years in regards to our short film “Anniversary.” We had tried to pool together money from our own pockets, but that resulted in just enough to feed the crew Top Ramen for the duration of the shoot.

We didn’t know any film geek millionaires who wanted to throw money at us, and our project was simply too small to approach a studio or other production entity.

So, what to do?

Thankfully, our answer came through a good friend of ours, who had just received funding for his short film via a site called Kickstarter. We had never heard of it (and were promptly asked if we had been living in a cave when we revealed this tidbit), so we immediately investigated.

What we discovered is that this incredible platform isn’t just for films. It’s for anyone who has a creative dream – designing a video game, recording an album, opening a restaurant – that needs just one missing ingredient: CASH.

How it Works

Kickstarter operates on the principle of “all-or-nothing funding.” Simply put, you have a window of between 1 and 60 days to meet or exceed your funding goal.  (Thirty days is the standard time frame, and statistically the most successful.)

We were fortunate enough to hit our target within the first five days of posting our project, and went on to become 150% funded. The flip side of this is that if you are even one penny short…no dice. You don’t receive anything and the funds are never collected from those who pledged their support (“Backers” in Kickstarter-speak).

Getting Started

First off, you will submit your project for approval via a simple online application (they aren’t judging your idea, just making sure it fits within their project guidelines). After they determine you aren’t trying to solicit funds to pay off your bloated MasterCard or take a Tahitian vacation (“Fund My Life” projects, as they’re known), you’ll receive the green light to post your project description, along with perhaps the most critical component of your endeavor: the pitch video.

Making the Pitch

This is your chance to introduce yourself to the Kickstarter community and tell them about your amazing project and why you want to see it come to fruition through their generous contributions. Depending upon your personality, filming the pitch can either be one of the most fun, exhilarating creative romps you’ll ever have…or an experience akin to facing a firing squad (that would be me).

But even if you’re camera-phobic, there are still many ways to create a compelling video that will convey the creativity of your project and the passion behind it.

How Much Do I Ask For?

The easy answer to this is, “As much as you need!” And that makes perfect sense if you are fairly certain that your goal amount is achievable (remember, this is “all or nothing”).

However, if there’s any doubt that you can collect the full amount of funds you need in order to complete your project, then consider aiming a bit lower. I know, I know… the concept of ”aim lower” is like nails on a chalkboard to me, too. But the reason for this suggestion is that you can always exceed the goal once you meet it. But if you never even hit it to begin with…game over.

So, once you’ve set your sights on a number you feel you can achieve, it’s time to think about connecting with the people who can make it happen for you: the all-important backers.

Reaching Out

Asking for money from people that you know can be awkward. But getting the word out about your project is absolutely crucial. So any angst over being “too forward” has to be unceremoniously squelched for the duration of your project campaign.

At least this is what I told myself repeatedly as I fended off an anxiety attack each time I sent out a group email or posted to Facebook about our funding efforts.

But the fact that we were overfunded was due to one thing:  the overwhelming generosity of friends, family and colleagues who believed in us.

Yes, we did have some people who just found us through searching the Kickstarter site (many people continually seek and back multiple projects as a hobby). But had we not reached out to those closest to us, our film would not be in post production right now, close to completion.

What’s In It for Them?

Aside from your undying gratitude, what else will those gracious enough to back your project receive?  Kickstarter rewards, of course!

The way it works is simple. You set different tiers of pledges – anything from $1.00 on up – and assign various incentives to each.

For example, if you were creating an album, you might offer pledges of $10.00 or more a digital download of the first single. For pledges $15 or more, a promotional pin or sticker with the CD cover art on it, plus the digital download. For pledges $25 or more…you get the idea.

The trick is to offer something enticing without breaking the bank when it comes to producing and distributing the rewards. For our short film, we opted for things that were either free to distribute (digital download of the completed film) or relatively inexpensive to manufacture and ship (DVD, signed copy of the shooting script).

So, if you are putting out something like a 500 page hardback book, you’d probably only want to offer a signed copy to those that contribute at a higher level so you don’t end up shipping loads of them.

Is There a Catch?

Kickstarter is a business like anyone else, and they do not provide their platform for free.  In conjunction with Amazon Payments (which is what backers use to send their pledges), they take a maximum of 10% off the top of whatever you collect.

The pledged funds are held by Amazon Payments until your project window has closed, and the backer accounts are charged only if you meet your goal. Kickstarter does not receive their percentage if you fall short of your goal, and either way they claim no rights to your project whatsoever.

I personally feel that their business model is very sound and ethical, and we had no problems at all with receiving our funds or having any of our backers mischarged.

What Are You Waiting For?

If you’re a creative with a dream, you owe it to yourself to check out what the Kickstarter platform has to offer. Browse other projects in your genre…see what people are offering as rewards, what their pitch videos look like and what their funding goals are.

Then start brainstorming your own ideas as to how you can present your passion project to the world. No one else has the uniquely inspired gift that you have to offer.

So, go on, already. Get kickstarted!

Share With Us

Have you ever tried to get funded through Kickstarter? What was your experience like?

About the Author: Mary DeRosa Hughes is a freelance writer based in Scottsdale, Arizona. She has been writing professionally for over 15 years, with experience ranging from corporate video scripts and motion picture screenplays to marketing copy and website content. She is Vice President of Writing and Creative at Small Pond Films.

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