Keeping promises

But no matter how successful a project’s marketing, the real graft starts when all the backing is done. Delivering on promises and pledges can often throw up unexpected stumbling blocks, and being prepared for life after Kickstarter is just as important as preparation before. 

“When I launched I was very naïve. I thought I could produce the product in a couple of months, and it took more like half a year,” says Axel. However, he also managed to improve on his final product, having been approached by a German manufacturer that offered better components at the same price.  

David Murray admits he was somewhat overwhelmed by the response to his project: “We reached about 330% funding and I had to deal with about 700 backers, so some shipments got out late. That said, people are generally very understanding as long as you’re honest with them.”

Shipping costs

Under-estimating shipping costs seems to one of the most common mistakes on Kickstarter. “I didn’t quite take into account the added weight a tote bag would add to international shipments (I included a tote with most rewards, as they’re quite inexpensive and the perceived value of them is relatively high), so I ended up [spending] a good chunk on shipping that I hadn’t anticipated,” says David. Axel on the other hand under-estimated some tax payments, and also suggests financial planning is vital ahead of any campaign. 

So planning and execution factor in equal measures with passion and creativity. If you get the mix right, Kickstarter will reward you with a satisfying, inspiring and fun experience; and your social tribe will also thank you. 

Taking Ukiyo-e Heroes off the starting blocks

Donkey Kong and Infestation by Jed Henry

Illustrator Jed Henry’s interest in Kickstarter was pricked when a friend successfully raised $85,000 for a project, a success he was keen to emulate. So Jed set out to create the perfect Kickstarter project, specifically tailoring it to crowdfunding. His approach paid off: his Ukiyo-e Heroes project became one of the most successful art campaigns on Kickstarter, raising more than $313,000. The project combined Jed’s passion for Japanese woodblock printing and interest in the historical cultural movement of Ukiyo, with the modern obsession with video games, with Jed re-imagining his favourite game characters, including Donkey Kong and Super Mario, in the traditional style. 

This was “a calculated move”, explains Jed, as he could tap into an existing fan base of video game followers, which lent the project instant viral potential. 

He also played to the fact that what people online look for are authentic experiences: “People look to purchase objects online that have stories, so that when they display it in their home they can tell it to friends.”  So Jed teamed up with artist and woodblock printing master Dave Bull to produce the prints in traditional style, rather than digitally.

Another element of his success was generating buzz in advance, building up around 5,000 followers on Tumblr and 10,000 on Facebook. This ready-made tribe was key in boosting his campaign, he says, and following an initial burst of backers, the interest fuelled a steady burn of investment. 

Having now shipped the first prints to his backers, Jed hopes the campaign will help him continue supporting Dave Bull who trains apprentices in Japan in the dying art of woodblock printing. 

“Kickstarter is not a smash and grab,” adds Jed. “It’s for kickstarting a long-running thing, and I want my financial backers to know that they helped create something that’s going to last – our goal is to do this for a decade.”

Taking funding to the MAX

Matt Stevens offered his Max100 with or without a slipcase

Matt Stevens was inspired by the success of design books on Kickstarter (such as The Shape of Design by Frank Chimero), to launch his own. Max100 is a high-end art book of 100 personally designed illustrations of “the greatest sneaker of all time”, the AirMax1.

Matt spent a lot of time creating and building the project, while his Kickstarter research mainly consisted of looking at similar campaigns. “I thought about my audience a lot,” says Matt. 

He also spent a lot of time thinking of the range of rewards to offer, initially considering a broader range including T-shirts and custom illustrations, but eventually decided to focus on rewards pointing to the book itself. “A T-shirt would have been cool, but would have distracted from the book itself and have caused a big headache to track sizes and so on,” he explains. In the end he offered the book with or without a slipcase, a poster showing all 100 illustrations, an option for backers to get their name in the book and art prints ready to hang. 

In terms of marketing, Stevens set himself the goal of submitting his project to at least one site, blog or person a day. “This kept me active looking for outlets to push the project out there,” he explains. “The key is to get other people talking about your project, not for you to keep talking about it. The reason my project succeeded is that it found its way onto outlets where people interested in my project liked to visit.”

15 steps to Kickstarter success 

• Read the tips on the Kickstarter School advise pages, and pay attention to them

• Study other campaigns. Successful campaigns have similar tones and styles. Model yours after those

• Make sure you explore and research all your costs, especially of production and delivery

• Make your project clear and personal. People want to back you as well as the product you’re creating 

• You need to market your project before its launch, so it’s essential to getting a project funded quickly

• Be communicative. Use project updates regularly to keep people engaged

• Be honest and clear about why you need the money for funding and what it will be used for

• Don’t underestimate the shipping process; you need to research this. And account for international shipping

• Your rewards are your campaign. Make them interesting and offer them at a variety of price points 

• Talk to your backers, says Barry McWilliams. “Involve them. They will help you make your project better. Their enthusiasm will help you when you’re running on two hours of sleep trying to finish on schedule”

• When it comes to the video, simple and funny tends to work best. Show potential backers your passion, and also get to the point

• If you’re creating a product, you should have a prototype to show and have a manufacturer set up 

• Make sure you can offer everything at below retail price. People are taking a chance on you

• Have a set schedule for production. Kickstarter makes it easy to keep your backers and funding organised, but only you can keep your project on track

• Remember that Kickstarter and Amazon each take their cut and that shipping costs are non-trivial. Factor these into your budget