What does it take to launch a Kickstarter campaign?

Behind the scenes of Hashtags Unplugged

I’m only covering the journey to launch in this post, running a campaign is a whole other story I haven’t lived yet.

So what does it take?

First off, tons and tons of planning. You may not realize it until you’re in the act of preparing for a campaign but the list is pretty hefty though I’m only covering the big dogs. I’d say you need at least 2 months or more to prepare depending on what your project is. And that may still be pushing it. For a product it’s probably much more but I can only speak from the perspective of an art exhibition.

1. The Video

I put this first simply because it was the first thing to stress me out and it’s highly, highly recommended to have one. There’s a stat out there that says you’re 40% more likely to get funded even though there are other stats that say most people don’t watch the full video. Weird right? Anyway. Here’s what I did. Asked any of my friends with that skill set for help but eventually resorted to emailing a small studio which led me to an awesome freelancer that so graciously helped me out. I got lucky and I was ecstatic. Since I couldn’t pay upfront, I offered a percentage of the profits but they just loved the idea so it wasn’t an issue. You’ve got to get creative when you haven’t even raised funds yet. I wrote a script, they edited, I booked a nice space on breather, rented some audio equipment, they shot and directed me and 2 weeks later, I had a video. Under 2 mins and simple enough to get my point across. Just a note on that, under 2 mins is said to be just right, seeing as how most people have a short attention span these days, so keep that in mind. I’ve definitely seen longer videos for overly successful campaigns so I would bend the rules if it makes sense.

2. The Rewards

This is where Kickstarter thrives. People give you money and you give them something in return. First off, don’t forget to work this into your budget! The idea is you raise money not only to cover your project but the rewards as well so your pocket wont take a big hit. Get creative here but keep it relevant and cool to your project. At first I thought ‘oh duh, t-shirts and totes’ but then I realized the most exciting thing about my project were going to be the art pieces so I started thinking about how I could give them a some sort of memorabilia. Also, t-shirts and totes are great and all but they’re the most obvious and sometimes boring choices. Once you’ve decided on your rewards, work on getting preview images like a picture of the t-shirt or postcard to add to the story section. A pledge level guide is very helpful in visualizing the rewards if applicable.

3. The Goal

How much do you really have to raise? Time to pull out those spreadsheets and get down to the details of your budget. What are all the pieces you need to make this project happen, don’t forget the small amounts too like renting materials for example or paying an onsite crew. Now once you’ve calculated that amount, add on another 8% for Kickstarter fees and another 5% as a buffer. And remember, don’t be greedy.

4. The Story

This is the second most important part of your Kickstarter page, after the video. You need to tell the story of your project. From details about who you or your company is, what you’re trying to do and why. It should bleed passion and energy, contain the facts and not be too long. Remember people have to actually read it so once you’ve got the story done. Read it over again and cut out another 20%. Learn how to write shorter statements and bring your point across quicker. I’m bad a copy so I begged for help. I hope it turns out well.

5. Outreach and Press

Here is where I somewhat dropped the ball and had to push the launch of my campaign. Once you push that button, everyone needs to know about it. But, they wont, if you don’t tell them. You need to tell everybody and you need to get everybody to tell everybody else. How do you do that? Well, here are a few things I’m currently in the process of doing.

  • I created a Thunderclap page which was recommended to me by a friend. It’s almost like running a mini-campaign except instead of collecting money you get your friends to schedule a preset message on launch day. This is good if you don’t have a big network so you can access the sum of your friends.
  • I plan on emailing at least 50 blogs, with the hopes that I can at least secure 3 by launch day. I’ve seen the success of getting featured on a blog but the hard part is getting them to cover you.
  • I’m going to try a lot of other small things like finding forums or people that may care about the subject matter and also having a site up to direct people to collect emails.

Being more active on social media to grow your audience is also a big one but that takes time. I’m still brainstorming some more creative ways to get it out there and somehow get a list of people to email for launch. If you have any suggestions, shoot them my way!

6. The Duration

From what I’ve read, 30 days is the sweet spot. Less than that, you better be really confident, more than that and you could lose momentum. So I’m going for 30. I’ll keep you posted on whether or not this affects anything.

7. The Research

This ties all of the above all together. I wouldn’t know much of this if I didn’t research the hell out of it. I looked at all types of successful projects. This research phase is key and will happen from the moment you decide to run a campaign till possibly the last few days of it. You want to take in as many projects as you can, read their stories, check out their rewards, were they funded, why or why not, did you like their video, how did they present it, and so on. You want to find the ones you can get inspired from for your own campaign. You also want to read as many tips, guides, podcasts, blogs and even Kickstarter’s own blog and creator videos to really start to work the noggin. They all pretty much say the same thing but I always come away with something new here and there.

And that’s it! Well at least the most important ones in my opinion.

These were the areas I spent a lot of time focusing on and planning for. I think I’m in a pretty good place with all except #5 so I’ve been dedicating these 2 weeks before launch to getting press and my project out there.

Hope this helps anyone who’s thinking about running a campaign. It’s all about planning and being prepared. Don’t leave anything to chance. Good luck!

Coming up: Getting press coverage for launch day. It’s not easy when you have no direct connections to journalists.

Till next time,
Kim Goulbourne

Kim is a chronic creator, designer and coder. Maker at @bybourn and creator behind foundermantras.com , sendthanks.to and hshtags.com.