What I learned from running a Kickstarter campaign

 
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Now that the initial launch of the Moments Journal is over, and all the pre-ordered copies are in the hands of people all over the world, it seems like a good time to reflect on the Kickstarter campaign, the experience of running it and the lessons I’ve learned.

It was totally new to me to launch a product through crowdfunding; in the past my handmade products have either been listed in my Etsy shop, or displayed at a craft fair, and I relied on attracting sales through that exposure. Kickstarter is an entirely different animal where to all intents and purposes you’re trying to attract investment in something that doesn’t exist yet.

In my case this wasn’t quite true - I’d done almost all of the design work for the Moments Journal beforehand, and ordered a sample copy for myself to check that everything was as I wanted it. This also meant that I had a prototype to use for photographs, and ultimately that as soon as the campaign finished and I received the money I was able to order the journals from the printer and get them out to backers within about six weeks.

From my own experience, and from reading about other crowdfunding campaigns, I know this often isn’t the case. Product development can continue for many months before the final items are ready for shipping, and in some cases this can cause problems as backers get tired of waiting for something they’ve been promised. Personally I felt much better about having the journal more or less ready to go before I even opened the Kickstarter campaign, and knowing that I wouldn’t have people waiting too long for something they’d paid for.

That’s the other major consideration with crowdfunding campaigns, particularly on Kickstarter - receiving the money from pre-orders is not a guarantee. You have to set a funding target, and if you don’t achieve it in pledges then all the money is refunded to backers and you don’t get anything. So setting this goal was quite a dilemma. I had done all the calculations about how much each journal would cost me to get produced, and how much I wanted to sell them for, plus adding a few extra rewards in return for additional investment, but finally deciding on my funding goal really came down to an emotional decision and pitching the number somewhere between hopefully easy and utterly terrifying.

In the end, no-one was more surprised and thrilled than me that the campaign was successful and enough people made pledges to not only meet, but actually exceed my funding goal.

It turned out to be one of the proudest and most exciting moments in my business so far, but it was also a lot of hard work and brought up a lot of fears. I would by no stretch of the imagination call myself a Kickstarter expert, but here are a few of the main lessons I learned from running my campaign.

 

 

Do the work to prepare your campaign page

You’re basically setting up your shop window here, so of course you need to make it as appealing as possible. Kickstarter has loads of guidance within its Help pages to give you tips and suggestions, but like anything else, you need to be as clear as you can about describing your product - in terms of ‘technical specifications’, how to use it, and how the idea developed. Using photos is highly encouraged, although computer-generated mock-ups are forbidden, as is including a video introducing and explaining your product.

I didn’t make a video in the end, it just felt like an extra complication and stress that I could do without, and would involve me learning to use more new software that I didn’t really want to take the time to do. I also took all my own photos for the campaign (hiring a photographer was definitely beyond my budget), but as I’m used to editing pictures for social media, and reasonably confident using Canva to create additional graphics, I was happy with what I was able to produce and that they represented both the Moments Journal, and me as the creator, well. I included a photo of myself as a way of introducing the real person behind the campaign which felt like enough to me and another way of avoiding making a video!

I spent quite a long time writing and editing the copy for my campaign, hoping to strike the right balance between clear and concise explanation, and personal background and creative interpretation, and I think I managed to get there. One of my top tips for text editing something like this is to get everything typed up, then print it out, cut up each paragraph and lay them out so you can physically move them around and get a feel for how things flow best. I find this much easier than cutting and pasting paragraphs on the computer!

Really work out your finances

A Kickstarter campaign is not the place to be plucking numbers out of thin air if you want to stand any chance of first reaching your funding target, and secondly making any profit.

You have to consider every single possible cost when calculating the selling price for your product, what different reward tiers you can offer and what ‘extras’ you can include, and what costs there might be afterwards too.

In my case, my main cost was the production of the journals and the cost of having them delivered to me from the printers. Then there were additional materials such as packaging boxes, branded business cards, stickers, and postcards, plus a consideration of my time spent on the project, and the expense of shipping the journals to backers once the campaign was over.

Kickstarter does allow you to add postage as an additional cost to backers - and this money also contributes to your overall funding total - but my word of warning would be to really check or calculate what this cost is going to be. I’ll be honest, I didn’t quite get this right in a couple of cases - the Moments Journal made for a fairly heavy parcel (just over 1kg) once boxed up and ready to go, and for international shipping particularly this meant a vast price hike, especially as I always send international orders with end to end tracking for extra security (experience of one package getting ‘lost’ for six weeks en route to the US has made me extra cautious about offering this, both to protect myself, but also offer customers reassurance).

There’s also the fact that Kickstarter deducts its own fees from your total raised for commission and payment processing, so you don’t end up receiving quite as much as you possibly hoped!

I have made a profit from my campaign, but perhaps not as big of one as I could have if I’d considered my costs a little more carefully or given myself more of a profit margin on the selling price. This is something I’m taking into account in how I sell the Moments Journal in future.

Keep talking about it!

There’s no two ways about this, you can’t just hit publish on your campaign and wait for a miracle, you really do have to tell people about it - as much as possible, and repeatedly!

Again, Kickstarter has its own guidance, and there’s a plethora of information online about how to run a marketing campaign, but it really just boils down to telling as many people as you can, on as many platforms as possible, in a variety of different ways, and as often as possible.

I did spend some time planning out how I would promote the campaign, and I’m not kidding when I say this was the part that really pushed me out of my comfort zone. Normally I can be quite reticent about appearing ‘pushy’, but I’m convinced that in the end it was definitely the right thing to do.

I promoted the Moments Journal through emails to my newsletter subscribers - including sending additional messages beyond my normal monthly mailing - using my Facebook business page and personal profile, shared in FB groups I’m a member of where community rules allowed, in Instagram posts and stories, and by directly emailing or sending messages to individuals who I hoped would get behind the campaign and share the details with their own audiences.

And I did all of these several times each, every week of the month-long campaign, sharing different elements of the story of the journal, what it looked like, how to use it, who it was for, and so on, to try to ensure that as many people got to know as much as possible about the journal - and of course, always including a link to the Kickstarter page!

This approach really paid off though - through the stats given on my Kickstarter project dashboard I could see where people were being directed from to find the campaign, and all of my platforms did equally well in terms of leads, as well as there being organic discovery through Kickstarter’s own search page.

I’m incredibly grateful that all of the people I contacted directly to ask for support were willing to share the campaign details with their own audiences, and I know this increased my exposure by thousands. And I’m not talking people who are big social media ‘influencers’, but people who I follow or who follow me that I felt would appreciate what I was creating and I had enough of a relationship with to be reasonably confident of their help.

I’m not going to lie - this marketing was probably the toughest part of the project for me. It took a lot of energy and commitment, and some strategic planning around other commitments. I can’t tell you how much of a relief it was when the campaign reached its target with a couple of days to spare, because I was actually working at my part time job on the final day so wouldn’t have been able to be online to do that last bit of frantic promotion!

You probably don’t need as big an audience as you think

This was a huge concern to me before launching the campaign. Knowing how rare it was for my marketing efforts (social media posts, email newsletters) to translate into sales, I was very worried that I didn’t have the size of audience that would convert into enough pledges to reach my funding target.

In the end, it took just 41 backers to pass my goal of raising £1250.

The majority of people pre-ordered a copy of the Moments Journal, but there were also groups who pledged for the additional rewards, and some who just made a financial contribution (of values from £5 and up) without a reward - except my undying gratitude of course.

I mentioned earlier that setting the funding target was a big dilemma, and I’d worked out all sorts of configurations for hitting it with different combinations of reward tiers, so although the rational part of me knew it was logically possible, the emotional part was still a bit nervous that it wouldn’t happen. So seeing the number go up each day as new pledges came in was incredibly exciting, and in the end finding that such a relatively small number of people could help me bring this dream to life was wonderful.

I’m sure there are all sorts of statistics out there about conversion rates, but I don’t mind sharing with you that my newsletter subscribers number fewer than 100, my Facebook posts get seen on average by about 50 people, and my Instagram following (at the time of the campaign) was around 1300 with average engagement (likes and comments) at between 5 - 10%. So the 41 backers was actually a pretty good conversion I think, even without accounting for the extra people who found out about the Moments Journal by it being shared by my supporters.

Yes of course there are people who launch products on Kickstarter with audiences of thousands, or even millions, and go on with smash their funding goals by thousands of percentage points, but there are equally as many of those people whose campaigns fail, and other people with very small followings who achieve crowdfunding success.

It was definitely a lesson for me about not obsessing over follower numbers and really appreciating the people in your community who are loyal and engaged.

 

 

So there you are - my top tips should you find yourself in the market for running a Kickstarter campaign.

Would I do it again?

Yes, probably, knowing what I do now about how much work is needed to build and promote one, and how carefully I need to consider the numbers!

I’m of course delighted that the campaign was a success and that the Moments Journal has been launched in to the world, and it excites me beyond measure to see posts and receive messages from people who are now using the journal and what they’re getting from it and learning about themselves.

I’m looking forward to continuing to build a community around the Moments Journal, with plans for other versions in the pipeline, as well as the original journal still available now, either by buying it directly from me, or ordering through the Blurb Bookstore. You can also check out my FREE 7 day email course which will guide you through identifying the Moments that Matter to You, which is a great starting point before using the journal. And keep an eye out for more content and offerings coming soon, I’ve got plenty of ideas!

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