Crowd Funding For Film (12 Key Steps)
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Crowd Funding, 'Must Do'
Crowd Funding Essentials for Film Projects!
(*** I'm coming back after having this article up for 2 months. I get some good feedback from people who've read it, but I also know many visitors don't make it to the end. Its long, like 6 pages of solid text. I was thinking maybe I could edit it down or something.... Here's the reality of the situation in 2 points.1) If you're thinking of a 30 day crowd funding campaign & you can't make it through 6 pages of good tips, you may as well pack it up & go home now. Really. You'll fail.2) Its like a car, you basically need all the parts to work, you cant really pick & choose what you want to do & forget the rest. You could have the nicest, newest automobile with all the extras. If its got a clogged fuel line, a broken radiator & a flat tire, its not going anywhere. You need all the parts to work, not just the 1/2 that you like. I actually don't care too much if you make it to the end, it doesn't affect me greatly. Maybe, maybe I could have shaved 6 pages down to 5 or 4 without 'Glossing over' important things or leaving stuff out. There's 12 major points & I go into a bit of detail on each. My major concern, to the 1 in a hundred.... The guy or girl out there that's serious about a Campaign & making a Film... The one that's 'In it to win it'. Yea, 6 pages is a lot & maybe you don't have time now. You might have to book mark it for later, but FYI, 'ALL OF THIS... The ugly truth, you'll need all these parts.)
This subject is difficult to handle in a short article. I'm going to try to be brief with my points. I'll say at the start, this is mostly targeted towards Filmmakers financing indie projects, but the main points should be pertinent to most business campaigns & 'products' too. I'm not talking about getting 2-5G$ from your family, friends & 'real' community to help save your cat or dog with medical bills, or to help your sister with a class trip to Europe. That's a different type of 'Personal Campaign' that deals with the compassion of people you probably know in real life. Its smaller $, in a smaller community, & people who donate do it for personal reasons.
This article is more about marketing to the world & trying to raise 10-100G$ from complete strangers.
I've been directly involved in 4 crowd funding campaigns in the past few years, & privy to the inner workings of quite a few more. Among all of those, the successes have all shared similar qualities & tactics, the failures have all lacked those exact same things. These traits are not only consistent in the Crowd Funding campaigns I've worked directly with, they are consistent across about 95% of all other campaigns. Sure, there is the occasional, magic & rare campaign that gets 10x its original goal, seemingly by miraculous accident, but I'm talking about the reality of slogging it out with hard work & trying to hedge your bets on a smart move. (& usually, that magic rare 10x campaign, did in fact utilize all these same tactics)
The 'Hidden Tactics' of Crowd Funding Strategy that professional advisers insist upon, & charge to tell you about. I'll get right to them. I'm not stretching this out like a sales pitch to 'buy my workshop'. Its coming up soon.
A COMMON MISCONCEPTION: Crowd funding will be 'easier' than approaching individual investors. Its fun & cool & people really want to send you money online because life is just like that.Sorry,....NO! In the best case scenario, if you are already all squared away, its going to take you at least 60 days of really hard work. 30 prep & 30 campaigning .That's if you already have a really large Social Network following AND about 3-5G$ to place Ads & Press/Blog Stories immediately. (-So you need to have those Ad & Press materials, & a Video generated immediately) It's much more likely to take you at least 90-120 days starting from 'Scratch' to do it well... Consider, most 'Lazy' unprepared people, who avoid all these steps, spend 45-60 days working really hard, for a complete failure. My friends,... THIS COULD DEFINITELY BE YOU!!! All in all, approaching 5-10 individual investors would probably be a lot easier... No, really. Researching, vetting, contacting & schmoozing 5-10 new investors, in the next 60 days, with a complete pitch, presentation & business plan, would probably be less work & effort, than coordinating & executing a successful Crowd Funding campaign.
For this reason, I suggest you do both, at, or around, the same time. If you're going through all the work of making everything presentable & impressive, you may as well take advantage of the buzz & excitement. Do a little bit of extra research, & reach out to some actual investment candidates in your area. Even if they say no to financing you at 20G$, they might at least kick in 100-1000$ to your Crowd Fund, if its running at the same time.
So, now lets get back into the Crowd Funding specifics. HERE IT IS!!
ABSOLUTE NECESSITIES!! There is no 'Order of importance' to these next steps... They are ALL critical to success...in short, do not neglect or dismiss any of these points.
#1 **Make 'Friends' now & have 20 'good ones' I said there was no 'order' to these steps, but this is one that you can prep for early & it's very important. It's kind of a 'rigged game', & you are the guy or girl that wants to rig it. You need a large Social Media following & that following has got to be of decent quality, not the type you buy for 20$ from a service. You want people who have a genuine interest in your topic, you want people who will actually share your content, & among all of those, weather its friends, family or even some people you hire, you want, in fact you will NEED about 20 close supporters who will plan & coordinate efforts with you through some of your prep & all of your campaign. I'll get into more detail in the following steps, but you want a strong, relevant following, & you need a 'core group' that you can really count on.
Its never too early to begin this step, & you can do it today. Get onto one or all of your social networks & start adding people. Try to post cool stuff & amass an interested base of fans and supporters. You may want to create an 'extra' profile page or online presence for this, that isn't so personal to you. However you decide to do it, across multiple platforms, you will need your message & campaign to have reach & spread quickly. You should do this months in advance, or possibly for years if you know you have projects on the far horizon. You should also be 'regular' about friending / adding & engaging with these people & don't quit after a month. Continuously grow & increase your social network with people & subject matter that's relevant to your topic & interest, Film making. As you do this, help boost other campaigns along the way with shares & interest, or donations. Those people will remember you & help you out in return.
#2 **It ain't easy! The general advice is always the same, on every Platform & in every article, "Have good rewards..... Do weekly campaign updates.... Engage your audience". Yea sure. Of course, I agree, do all that. I don't need to write what you're going to read ten more times about Crowd Funding, but I will take a moment to warn you, they make it sound too easy. Weather its the actual Platform trying to rope you into doing a campaign, or a Blog article telling you how easy & fun it is, "even a knuckle head like you can have a great time raking in big bucks on the Internet to live your dream". Whatever their motivation is, they want more users, they want more readers, they want more likes & shares, they don't want to discourage or scare you away. They want to pump you up, to make you feel empowered & lucky. Whatever their fun, "hop in", short term sales pitch is, you've got to consider its at least a 30 day campaign, & at least, absolute bare minimum, a 1 week prep. Sure, you can 'Sign Up Today' but it takes about 5 business days for your accounts to verify & connect, & for everything to get approved. My point with all this is, even for a simple campaign that's poorly planned or executed, the first week alone, the minimum prep, is a hassle. It's a lot of emails & bank numbers & filling out boxes & forms & links. Simple stuff, but it takes a few hours a day. You definitely don't want to do this stuff 'for fun' because it is, in fact, a hassle & a chore. Add another 30 days of campaigning to that & your down 5 weeks of your life. If you don't 'win' & make your money, its basically a waste of your time. If you do it poorly & only make less than a grand, by the end you'll realize recycling cans might have actually paid more. If you run a poor, mismanaged campaign once, you definitely won't ever want to be unprepared for another one. Its really not worth the wasted time & effort. One thing both successful & unsuccessful campaigners have in common at the end is this. They are always glad its over. Win or lose, either way they are drained & exhausted & always seem to need a week of rest & recovery. Even the folks that make a lot of money, by the end, they just want to run away and hide or hibernate. Having been involved in some failures & successes myself, one thing I can tell you for sure is, I don't want to have anything to do with a poorly prepped, mismanaged, unprepared Crowd Fund campaign. It is a miserable waste of time & you'll never want to do it twice. Don't be fooled by the 'Its easy' sales pitch, & don't feel like you're prepping too much. If you're going to spend the time doing this, you may as well commit, prepare & do it right. Do not expect it to be easy or fun, look at it as hard work with a lot of elements that need dedicated attention & coordination. Its a lot like going into Film Production in that sense. If the timing isn't right or you're not ready, push it a week or a month later, until you can get everything in order. Make sure you are mentally prepared for the 'whole ordeal' & block a couple months for the final prep & the actual campaign.
#3 **Know your social networking platforms! There's quite a bit to this, a few 'Rules' to know & a few good techniques. First lets talk about what kind of Social Networking Platforms exist. There's a huge selection & I'm sure you know about a lot of them. Along with Facebook, there are some other really good ones, & a few 'less good' ones that actually still have a lot of reach. There are also Ello, Tumbler, MySpace, Minds (worth checking out), MeWe, Twitter, Reddit & a bunch of others. What these have in common is that they are all accessible & usable by computer. If you look into Smart Phone & Pad platforms you'll find Twitter (it works w/ computer), Snapchat, Instagram, Eyem & more. A key point to realize about 'Mobil platforms' is they don't get nearly as much traffic, shares or conversions (customers) as computer platforms. Sure, some of them like Instagram & Twitter are huge, but the fact is people don't click links from those platforms nearly as much as on computers, & people don't shop as often from Mobil platforms. In fact, its about 9 times less. The reason is that Mobil Apps are physically smaller displays that lack multiple windows & are much slower to load. Frankly, customers & backers generally don't come directly from Mobil Apps. They are also a bit harder to post onto, as you need to go through a phone or pad (or post to Mobil through 'Developer Tools'/ select Mobil, in your browser. Google it.) So, yes, you can get some traction from Instagram & Twitter post or ads, & yes, both of these Apps are viewable on a regular computer, but in the end the customer views & actual conversion rates will probably be very small in comparison to Computer Platforms. This is a very important point to be aware of. People that actually, eventually back you, will probably be doing it from a computer. They are probably people that use computers at work, or for a significant part of their day. In conclusion, don't put all your eggs in a Mobil basket, they don't pay well. Now, to maximize your reach on Social Network Platforms, here's the most critical tip. Post to GROUPS & COMMUNITIES to get a much greater reach. Film making groups, VFX, 3D modeling, Photography (portraits of actors), YouTube video groups, Writing groups, Acting groups, Film Groups. Hit them all each week with variations of your story. Obviously you'll need to figure out content ahead of time. You want content that changes & evolves with your campaign. Its a 'Marketing Campaign' & you need to have 4 weeks of prepped material ready to go. Multi Faceted materials that appeal to various interest. Pictures, articles, blogs, videos, music, art & your direct campaign post.
Moderators get sick of blatant Spam, but if you are creative with the wording & subject matter of how you post, & limit it to once, maybe twice a week, you should find that they wont remove or ban your post. Most likely, the large majority of your views, conversions & shares will all come from posting in Groups & Communities. In fact Facebook & Google+ have groups that can get you possibly 10's of thousands of views per day. Google+ has communities with as many as 3-4 million members. Its important to be familiar with these groups & communities, their rules, members & how they work, long before you are launching & sharing your campaign. So remember that 'Core Group of 20 inside supporters' I keep on mentioning. They have to be 'on the bandwagon' with all this... they are the people who will 'tag team' with you & post to the same groups on alternate days. They are the people that will Like & Share your post on their own, & make comments or ask intriguing questions on your subject matter. Those 20 people should have strong followings & active social personalities on their own. They should also have, or get on multiple Social Networks so they can spread the word far & wide. One thing to remember about all this is, "its not a sprint, its a marathon". Don't spend all your content, energy & network in the first week. Yea, you want a strong opening, but you also want a decent pace to your entire campaign. Don't over saturate your network, people or groups with too much repetitive spam. Try to have a strong opening, an interesting & valid campaign, & then a strong finish. You'll need the most help at the very beginning & then about 5 days from the end to wrap it all up & close. The mid point is really about keeping momentum & interest, & extending your reach to new viewers. In your last week you have to reconnect with your entire audience & get any stragglers who were interested but didn't pledge yet. Hopefully at this point you have gotten at least 60% funded, & if so, you have a strong chance to close the final gap. Obviously 70-80% is much better at the start of your final week.
#4 **Know your Crowd Fund platform & what payment types they ask for. Apparently Indiegogo dropped PayPal. Now backers have to register their direct credit information into the site. Years ago Kickstarter only accepted 'Amazon Pay', so if you were going to back a Kickstarter you were diverted to an 'Amazon Pay' sign up sheet. These things are often a 'turn off' to potential backers, or at the very least make the process less convenient to new backers. You don't really have much control over the Crowd Funding services policy, but you definitely need to know what they are ahead of time. These days most people are already registered with 'Amazon Pay' and its not such a hurdle.
#5 **Your conversion rate (for ads & articles) will probably be something like 1 in 5-10,000. That's the rate of views on your campaign that turn into actual backers. If you're exceedingly lucky and successful at targeting a receptive audience, you might get it to be 1 in 1,000, but that's pretty doubtful. When you place an Ad or run an article and you count 50,000 views earned, that's probably going to translate to about 5 backers. Maybe 50 backers if you have an outstanding campaign that hits a nerve with the general populace. The point being , conversion rates are small. If you were selling the same product for a company all year long, you could invest in marketing analysis to research why, & make various improvements to shrink the gap, but during a Crowd Fund you really wont have the time. Whats important to understand about this, is estimating how many people you need to expose to your campaign. You may think 100,000 people is a lot, but converting 1 in 10,000 means that's only 10 backers. At 10-20$ per backer, you got 100 -200$ total. Thats really not much. If your end goal is 10G$, or 20, maybe 50G$ you can see you are going to have to reach millions, maybe many millions of people. This information is critical when you are considering Ad buys & media placement. As you can see, you are going to need a lot of circulation nationally & internationally to reach millions of potential investors. Many first time Crowd funders think they are going to have much larger percentage of return. They think "1/2 of my friends are really into film, & 1/2 of them will back me. Thats a 25% return on my views". Some consider 10%, 5% or 2% as more realistic. I'm telling you now, thats way too optimistic. You've got to bump that decimal point over, 1 or 2 places. Outside of your good, real life friends & family, you wont be near 1%. You'll be at a 10th to a 100th%. Your conversion rate on Advertisement, public Post & Blog Articles will probably be about 1 in 10,000. You need to consider this while driving your campaign & placing media.
#6 **ADVERTISE, ADVERTISE, ADVERTISE!! You need to set this up weeks to months ahead of time. "Its all rigged man... The whoooollee system!!".... Yes it is, absolutely!! . Nothing is accidental & miracles rarely happen. When you see those articles & blog post about a cool new film project in your Facebook feed, they are very rarely written out of the goodness of the authors heart. In fact, most Bloggers charge 2-400$ for them. When you start your campaign, you'll be approached by a few in the first week, offering exactly this same deal. You need to prearrange Media & Press circulation. Weather its a 'Press Release' for your local newspapers, pre recording for Radio ads & Pod cast (check the Ad deals on Fiver), & written project summaries for Bloggers who cover Film news, all of this needs to be meticulously prepared & prearranged ahead of time. During the campaign is too late. You'll miss any valid timing if you wait to do it. You want all this stuff to roll out in the first few days of your campaign & then you're going to diligently repost it for a month. Another important 'angle' to consider is this. Your project might be more than 'Film news'. Maybe the subject matter includes a social issue, human interest, environmentalism, or possibly a well known historical event. Whatever the 'angle' is, thats the basis for an article that circulates out of the regular 'movie news' niche, so you write & place that article towards that audience, tying in the fact that you're making a Film and having a Crowd Fund, as part of that story. Your related articles may be about the work of the Director, The process of the VFX, the career, popularity or opportunity for an Actor involved. Maybe its something about the Locations being used. Whatever the story happens to be, whatever your 'angle' is, you need to figure it out far in advance of your actual campaign & you need to have it written & placed / published / aired within the first week of your campaign. These things are not accidents or coincidence. Premeditate & arrange them accordingly. Most likely it will cost you some money & you want to place these things in the distribution venues you prefer, weeks, sometimes months in advance. In fact, this whole 'marketing' scenario is one of the most demanding & difficult aspects of the entire campaign. Sure, you might pick up some unexpected Press or help during the campaign, but you want it all laid out & prepped ahead of time, so you can simply turn the material over to whoever is interested in it. By the time the campaign starts, you'll want to focus on updates & sharing, not trying to figure out how to advertise then. Really, most of the hard work should be done in prep, so the campaign time line can be run on 'Auto Pilot' & you are just dropping news & info that you already have available. Believe me, this is the best way.
#7 **Have a top notch Video & links to good work. Especially for a film project! Still concept drawings, & you as a 'talking head' sitting in a Directors chair, is not enough. Have a decent Teaser Trailer that conveys the look & feel of your actual film. 30 to 60 seconds is enough, & it doesn't have to be the 'real Film', but you better have some 'flash' to show that you can shoot & cut an interesting sequence. If you are planning VFX in your project, you better have 2 or 3 segments in your teaser. (They also grab attention & look good when advertising your campaign). Links to a good looking Reel from your Director, Producer, DoP, & VFX artist will go a long way to help prove you are competent filmmakers. If you don't have any, or the ones that you do have aren't very good, you better fix that situation ASAP. Someone on the brink of sending you 10-20$ might pull out if your Campaign Video &/or associated links to Reels are crap. Don't give them any excuse to doubt your competence or ability. Years ago I worked in Production & Post Production for some Major Brands. People like Nike & Gatorade, who were producing global Advertisement campaigns at the best facilities in L.A.. These Editing facilities had a team of top notch staff, cutting 30 to 60 second Ad's for about 18 -24 days. Day 4 to day 24 was all revisions dictated by about 6 different people. They'd spend 12 hours a day, 6 days a week, polishing the same spot, arranging everything down to the most perfect placement in the frame, & timing a sequence to a small fraction of a second. In the end, They want a 'perfect' sequence without any mistakes or blemishes. Absolutely no excuses for the audience to doubt, question or reject the brand in any way. Sometimes 'Less is More' was a philosophy that was favored, & leaving the audience 'Wanting for More' was fine. Its better to shave a little questionable performance off, or cut around an awkward 'match', than to reveal a flaw & let your audience doubt or reject your message or intended impression. 30 seconds of 'Wow!' is better than 60 seconds of 'ehh..' Make sure your Videos, associated Reels & Press material is impressive & lacking any mistakes or questionable content. Let your backers know & believe you will make an outstanding film.
#8 **Make sure your links play!! There was a time, not too long ago, that Vimeo didn't stream well. Avid Vimeo users hate this 'accusation', but I'm telling you it's a plain fact. I've been on Vimeo since it first went up, & had the best hopes for the platform since it started. For years, I'd click on a link, or try to stream directly and the video would stutter & buffer for a long time. Not a little bit, a complete shutdown for 3-7 minutes. Sometimes it would happen 2 or 3 times. I'd try it on different computers & different Internet connections all over Southern California. 95% of the time, it couldn't stream a video all the way through. Eventually I started asking around on social media, & even conducted some polls in film groups. The Vimeo customer base were always quick to blame the issues on me, or my computer & Internet connection. I knew this was not true as all the other streamers I used played fine, all the time. I started a few polls in international film groups to ask what other user experiences were. Over a year long period, 3 separate polls & a cumulative 500+ comment responses, I had an answer. Vimeo was absolutely unwatchable in about 40% of the places it streamed. It simply wouldn't play. To be fair, Vimeos streamer was upgraded a little over a year ago & it's much better these days. It still buffers for me occasionally, but its not nearly as bad as it was. I actually stopped clicking on Vimeo links for about 2 years because they were so bad. I'm back to watching it, & I put videos up on it too, but for anything I'm going to embed on a website or share on social media, I go with YouTube. You can go into the advanced video settings on YouTube & block Ads from appearing on the video's you stream. Your links wont have any interruptions. Of course, there are plenty of other streaming services you can choose to link or embed, & you can host videos directly from your Crowd Fund page, but whatever you choose, make sure your video plays properly. I've seen quite a few campaigns die because their main video would not play. Weather it's your actual campaign, web site, related articles or social post, make sure your videos play & your links work correctly.
#9 **You will have haters & trolls. Weather it's actual bonafide trolls who live under Internet bridges & want payment for passage, disgruntled teenagers who are angry about life, or jealous Filmmakers who see your project as competition, inevitably there will be people posting comments about why they shouldn't back you. Sometimes its general stupidity limited to 1 or 2 comments, sometimes it can turn into a long thread where they engage other commenters & really try to turn their dissent into a valid discussion. I've actually even seen followers Copy, Paste & Repost campaigns (not share directly), & go on to try and discredit the project or creators within their own discussions, acting as if they are righteously defending a group, the Filmmaking industry, or the entire Internet at large. Instead of speculation about reasons & cause I'll just say, yea, some people are mental. Don't be discouraged about this, & don't get baited into online exchanges with people who will delight in messing with you to ruin your day. Simply block them & do it as soon as you are clear they only want to Troll you. You are busy enough & don't need the extra drama or negativity.
#10 **Have immediate doners lined up! Remember your 'Core Group' of 20 &/or some family members? Well, they are going to be important in a few ways. First I've got to say this, don't 'assume' that your good Facebook friend, or real life friend, or aunt or cousin are going to hop on board when you launch. You might be disappointed to find out they they are not. Maybe they are not interested, maybe they are shy, or hate sales & marketing. Maybe they are big procrastinators. Whatever the reason, don't 'assume' you'll have their committed support.
You are going to have to find & coordinate a 'Core Group' pretty far in advance. Probably about a month or more in advance. This is going to have to be some people who can commit to helping you with specific aspects of the campaign, for its entire run. They are going to need a general plan & overview of whats happening. They are going to need to know what you expect of them, & they are going to have to realize that this stuff will take a few hours or more per week, a few days in that week. All of that is really quite a bit to ask of someone, which is exactly why you need to 'ASK' them, well in advance. Make sure they understand what they are getting into & make sure they want to do it. Honestly, you might find that seeking a simple share for your campaign on a friends network, can be like pulling teeth. Some people really are not into it & they only want to post Cats &/or Politics. I don't understand it, but its definitely true. Find your 'Core Group' & keep them informed & ahead of the curve.
OK, so lets say you've got them. a 'Core Group' that you are going to count on, & they are all 'on board' for the duration. Great. Hopefully they are effective social networkers, & you've given them the 'Plan' for whats happening in the next month, & how/where you'll need their help. That's the ideal situation you want to be in. These people don't need to be your real life friends, they can be online friends & contacts on the other side of America, or somewhere in Europe or elsewhere. In fact, in some cases, for further reach, that's probably better. As long as you can communicate with them & count on them for a bit of support. They're gonna post & share your stuff repeatedly, 'Like' some of your post & basically do some PR for you. That's primarily their whole job, extending your reach. Hopefully they will keep up with it for about a month, & help you close hard at the end. Now, the beginning is important too. In fact, its really important. Its better to have a strong start with a lot of interest & many visitors & backers. This helps you rank higher on Kickstarter or Indiegogo's search & their featured content. Ideally, for many reasons, across all your social networks, you want a strong start. On day 3, you want 20 or more backers, not 2. Actually, you want as many people as possible ON THE FIRST DAY. When people go check out your campaign the first time, they want to look at a popular project thats winning, not something that only has a few supporters & a low view count. That is exactly why you need 'immediate doners' & the 'Core Group'. Realistically it might be pertinent to get your 'Immediate doners' to invest on the first day, & not even share or advertise the campaign until the second or third day. Even if they only donate 1$ (which doesn't get charged till the end of the campaign) That shows up on the campaign. Supporters can 'Like' , 'Share their support' & comment on the actual Kickstarter or Indiegogo page. These things really help boost your starting position & improve the look & feel of your entire campaign. You have to explain this to your 'Core Group' & real life friends or family. Specifically & directly ask them to donate on the first day, to 'Like & Share' from the Crowd Funding Site, & to comment on that site, so it looks popular and interesting to the following visitors. These are all things that need to happen to have a strong opening. Because it needs to happen right away, you need to personally discuss these points with your people, about a week in advance. Give them a warning & a countdown to your actual launch date, with reminders. I can't really stress this point enough, I've seen people with a decent prep & plan, 'assume' support, & 'assume' an interested inner following would take initiative, then they have a weak start & their campaign never recovers. You have to arrange it all ahead of time & make it happen up front. You have to 'Front Load' a strong opening. It takes real coordination & effort. Do not neglect this point.
#11 **20% DOWN... Whatever your final goal is, I think you should have 10-20% of that up front, to invest in preparation & marketing. A bank will tell you, you need to have 20% of a mortgage up front. If you want to make 10 G$ Crowd Funding, you should expect to spend 1-2000$ on the campaign. (If you want to walk away with 10G$ in profit, shoot for 12, & spend 'approximately' that 2G$ / 20% on the campaign.) IMPORTANT: If you factor in the cost of your rewards and shipping, that could easily go up to 30-40%, or more, plus the Crowd Funding Site takes 4-8% too. You've got to be really attentive & diligent in figuring out the business & cost of your rewards & shipping. Some people figure this out way too late & it really bites them in the end. Another consideration is, it counts as taxable income. In most cases you have to pay taxes on a Crowd Fund. You can Google the complexities of what is & isn't taxable in a Crowd Fund Campaign, & a lot of it varies by what State you are in, or what type of Product/Reward you offer, & even what type of donation you get, but the short answer is, Yes, its basically taxable income. I don't know what your tax rate is, but lets assume its anywhere from 15 to 30%. That's a hefty chunk of your collection. Now lets discuss a hypothetical reward. A Tee-shirt. These could cost 3-13$ to print, & then you have to ship them. On average, you can actually get a decent shirt bought & printed for about 6-7$. With shipping, lets say that lands at 10$ total cost. I want to finance a Film Business, not a tee-shirt company, & I'm not counting my time, labor & expenses of the actual campaign. In the end, I just want to make 10-100G$ to finance my Film project. OK, so how much do I 'charge' for the tee-shirt reward? Well, basically, 20$ probably isn't enough. That might be enough in the wholesale tee-shirt business, but remember that's not the business we are trying to be in. For a 'reward' like that, I'd say 25$ to maybe 35/40$ is more appropriate. Your backers will understand that you are trying to raise funds, not sell merchandise. If you are in a 'Product oriented' business campaign, offering your companies actual gadgets or products, you might have to consider these figures a little more carefully, but if you are specifically raising funding for a Film, you have to have a high enough profit margin to attain your overall goal & not sink into the cost of all of these expenses. So, that being said, you need to figure out your financial situation. There's obviously a lot to consider. You've got to be mindful of it all & list your expected cost & expenses for the total estimate, up front, long before you finalize the amount of your 'goal' Now that we've done all that math, I'll get back to my original point. You should have 10-20% of your total goal, to pay for direct campaign expenses, out of pocket. You should have this 20% up front, before, not after. I don't know what your project budget is, what your rewards are, what your tax rate is. I don't care, I'm not talking about any of that. Those numbers will equate with your goal as you see fit. The point I'm trying to make is this. 10% of your 'Total Goal' could very easily go towards direct marketing cost. The 'Paid Advertisement Budget'. Cheap Ad spots on 'Fiver', some paid for Blog post, maybe some type of Radio or hard Print advertising. There's even the possibility that you may opt for an actual fund raising event in your specific location. A dinner venue or something social like that. There's actually a lot of affordable & effective advertisement options available, & I suggest you research & look into them thoroughly, but the point remains. Expect to spend about 10% of your goal on these advertisements. It could be 5 or 15, try to stretch it out. You're social networking & extended following will probably make up the majority of your leads, but consider spending as much as 10% for that extra reach. Budget it in from the beginning & try not to spend it if you can, but commit to spending a bit of it, to get your strong opening. OK, so I said "20% down", & I'm only talking about 10% so far. Here's the thing, I'd absolutely hate to miss an 'All or Nothing' goal by 10%. After a long prep & a really hard 30+ day campaign, it would completely break me to miss my goal in the very last hour, by 10%. I'd much rather take the hit to my overall profit margin & end up with 90% of my goal, even if I had to come up with 10% out of pocket. Don't do that until the very last hour. There are many campaigns that make their last 25%, sometimes even a full 1/3rd, in the last 5 days. Sometimes they close that final gap 2 days from the end, & then they get another 2-5G$ in stretch goals, because all the stragglers are finally coming in, & other supporters are increasing their pledge amounts. Push as hard as you can for a strong finish. I think you need to be at least in the upper 50 to 60% at the start of that last week, & that's a pretty scary gap depending on what your total should be, but if you make it that far you still have a shot. From there, closing all the way up to 100% could still happen. As a piece of mind, or a little bit of advantage, having that final 10% in reserve could be the difference between "All or Nothing". Don't try to beg or borrow it from someone else in the final hours. 'Someone else' might not have it for you. You could really be totally tapped & scratched out with a 5% or 10 % gap on that last day. If you have real dollars, that you can put on a real card, 1 or 2 hour's from close, you could save your entire campaign & not have wasted 2 months of your life. Budget 20% of your total goal as 'campaign expenses'. 10% to advertise, 10% as a final safety buffer. Have this 20% a week before you launch. Place your first Ads when you receive your approval & set your start date. Keep 10% for the last day.
#12 **Shipping Sucks & its Expensive!!! A lot of successful crowd funders get killed on the shipping. Did you figure out the budget right & have a successful campaign? Yes... Great!! Did you plan really well for shipping, far in advance? No.......... OHHH NOOOOOOOO!!!!!Congratulations on your 500 backers. The shipping on those 500 rewards will be 3-17$ per package. Lets average that to 10$. Congratulations, you owe UPS, Fed Ex or the USPS about 5,000$. Oh, the boxes are .50c, Thats another 250$. Oh the shipping labels, those are .25c so there's another 125$. Bubble wrap or puffy balls? Uggg!! You're also going to have to spend 3 days (or probably 3 weeks) packing boxes with reward # 1,5 & 3.... or was that 1, 7 & 3?. It's a real mess. It's a long process of sorting, organizing, labeling, & packaging. It requires a considerable space. All your backers are waiting for their rewards. It's a stressful hassle for every successful crowd funder & you've got to be ready to do it. It's really expensive. You definitely need to take great care when planning your 'Total Goal', vs 'Product' & 'Campaign' cost. 'Shipping' will absolutely be a big part of the total. Most successful crowd funders, people who are really good at it & have run multiple campaigns, know for an absolute fact, 30-60% of the 'total' is going to expenses & hard cost. (plus the $ is taxable) So, if you need 20G for your film, your total goal could easily be 40G+ for your campaign. When you're working all this out, don't forget about Shipping. Shipping itself, Is usually 10-15% of the 'Total Goal' if you handle all your other math correctly. Shipping is a sizable expense, & it's a big hassle too.
An Example **Finally, a case study of 2 recent campaigns. I followed & donated to each of them. Both were fairly well prepped. They each wanted about 20G$. Both were 'All or Nothing' on Kickstarter, for two films of the same genera. One of them, 'the First' made it (plus some stretch goals) & one of them, 'the Second' didn't. Whats really peculiar about this is, the second project, the one that didn't get financed, actually has a more experienced Director & Production team attached. They've done successful shorts & an internationally distributed Feature Film. The one that did get funding, has a seemingly less experienced Director, who also seems to lack equipment and much of a crew.
There's a lot of similarities here & a few differences. I'll start by saying both Directors are competent filmmakers who put together quality work for their Trailers. I went back to see the successful campaigns earlier Films. Some of his work was a little rough, but over all it was good & entertaining. The second campaign that failed had a much more polished history. I was already familiar with this Directors work & I'm a fan. I think he's very talented & delivers really high production value on a small budget. His VFX are genius & he does them himself. These days most Indie filmmakers do their own VFX & of course, so did the other guy, but his weren't quite as tight or polished. Side by side, from a business investment point of view, you might expect that these results would be reversed. It would seem that the more polished product & work history, coupled with the previous work & success of the more experienced Director, would result in his campaigns success.
This is where their tactics & campaigns differed greatly. The first guy had a strong opening with sponsored post and activity in film groups. He had a great start & kept on going. I shared his campaign immediately & kept on pushing it till the end. The second guy seemed to fizzle out quickly. I shared his stuff too, but only in the first week. I didn't see any other activity about the project anywhere & it didn't gather much traction. He wasn't even pushing it himself. I think I only saw the project posted about 3 times in total, & there wasn't much engagement or feedback with the creator. Now the first guy, he was everywhere & he was engaged. He was commenting back with new followers, he was sharing new post & materials. If there was a new 'angle' he could put on the story & project, & a new or related group he could get it into, by God, it was there, & a few days later it would be there again with another update. His project grew & evolved steadily. He kept it interesting & pertinent to each specific group he posted into. I 'Liked' his post & followed along. So did a lot of others, with questions & comments. Eventually I got around to a weekly sweep of all my Social Networks with his project. Between maybe 5 Networks & a bunch of Tags & Community & Group post, I'm sure I got thousands, maybe tens of thousands of views on his project, & this is a guy I didn't even know. It looked good & I wasn't afraid to share or support it. I was confident I was betting on a winner, & the Director was turning out to be a good guy. A class act that was working his ass off for a good cause. He was gracious & engaging with his followers, sharing advice & answering their questions. By the second & third week, I got to see that other Friends & Film group members were also keeping up & they started sharing his post as well. With all our consistent 'Likes' & comments & visits to his page, he had a genuine presence & momentum. The project was making daily appearances & it never seemed spamy or unwelcome. New comments or answers sent an old post back up into the mix, & new post with fresh videos or follow up stories kept everything relevant & progressive. It was an actual online event with a shared vision & hope.
That being said, it wasn't easy. He needed about 400$ a day for about 45 days to make his goal. This wasn't one of those run away trains that makes 100% in a week & keeps on climbing. It wasn't a gadget that everybody needs, It's a short niche film that won't go anywhere but online. It will never be in theaters or on a cable station. Its strictly an Internet freebie for people who like that kind of stuff. Half way through week 4 it started to lag a little bit. He may have maxed out his audiences reach, or their credit limit. We all wondered which. Pulling into the last week he still had 30% to close. He kept at it, refusing to fail or tire. At 6 days out he still had 3G$ to go. About 20% left. This was no joke, it was time to double up on the final push. Two laps around all my social Networks with special visits back into all the groups & communities. I couldn't miss any of them. 3 days out, & he made it. 100% financed & the project was officially a go. What a relief for a lot of hard work & focused attention. Over the final three days he got about 4-5G$ for a few levels of stretch goals. I'm pretty sure it was every caveat he asked for. Finally, 25G$ total. 5 days earlier there was no guarantee it would close. Yea, it was likely. I was as sure as I could be that it was going to happen, but it hadn't happened yet, & the wheels had definitely slowed the week before. Long story short, he had a really good, well organized campaign that grew & evolved. He worked really hard & was able to gather and focus a fan base that ponied up at the end & delivered. His progressive diligence got him his support & his goal, I think some luck & excitement got him the rest. So, what about the other guys? No engagement, no momentum, no updates or activity, & finally no money. The campaign page, the Trailer & previous work looked good, but there was no one slogging it out & pushing it. After the first week it basically died on the vine. There were no repeat post, no updates, no interactions & no story. It became forgettable & then everyone just forgot.
Sometimes people see a project that looks cool & they want to back it, or wish they could if they had another 5$, but at that particular moment they don't. They might be at work or at school or looking at a smart phone on the bus. They aren't in a position to type a credit card number into their device, & life moves on. It might happen again 2-4 days later, but they're still not in a convenient spot, or they have to pay rent, or whatever. These people need a 3rd reminder. They don't need or want spam, but if they like your project, or if they actually 'Like' your project, they start to get updates & they follow along. Sooner or later they are going to be in a convenient position, they are going to be at the right spot. If they see a post that says 'Last week to support', & they've wanted to do it for 2 weeks, they'll make the time. The trick is that in the interim, you need to keep them interested & engaged. You need to share the story about how the both of you are hoping they will be able to support you, & how great it will be when that happens. If you believe in your project & they believe in your project, its not an empty sales pitch. It's simply the truth & you don't need to be afraid to share that story. Many of these people will become your long term fans, supporters & friends, & with every new project you launch, they will be there to help you. So, in closing, these points I've made aren't really meant to be 'helpful tips'. I honestly believe they are all 'necessary steps' that you must do, to have a successful campaign. Each one of these points is important & if you are lacking any of them, or most of them, you are not really prepared to launch. In the long run, it's much better to take the time to fully prepare yourself & your project, than to launch a lazy campaign that's only going to drain you and your team.
Best of luck! Hope to see you & your project on the interwebs soon!
**** HOT TIP / NEW TACTIC**** This is an update to the article I just learned about through a marketing lecture: An effective new tactic some crowd funders are using is "Multiple 'reward' bonus", meaning.... If your supporter buys the tee shirt its 25$, but if your supporter buys 5 tee shirts they are only 20$. Obviously 1 supporter doesn't need 5 of the same tee shirts, so in the reward categories you make a separate listing for the '5 item reward' & encourage sharing with friends. Yes, you will drop profit margin among those 5 supporters but the benefit is you get a campaign shared at least 4 more times & each of those parties may share your campaign again or opt for a separate reward themselves. The key with this tactic is offering about 5 spots for the extra savings, not the 2 that you commonly see. Many supporters will opt for '2 discounted rewards' without a share, because they can use 2 products themselves or give 1 as a gift (so yes, a 2 item reward is still a good tactic itself, & can be included for say $22.50) however, offering a discount for 5 items encourages more shares of the campaign & can result in many more 'eyes on'. In many cases your supporter might not get the 5 required for the bulk deal, but will alert or attract 2 more supporters to your campaign while trying. See how that works??
Crowd Funding, 'Must Do'
Crowd Funding Essentials for Film Projects!
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