Johanna Basford's sabbatical diary, week 10: Riding the Kickstarter rollercoaster

Johanna's just finished her first Kickstarter project. Did she successfully hit her target?

Johanna Basford is on a four-month sabbatical from paid work to concentrate on making herself a better artist, illustrator and all-round creative person.

Every week Johanna aims to publish a diary entry, which we'll be running on Digital Arts so you can follow the ups and downs – hopefully mainly ups – as she pushes her creativity and vision into new areas.

Week 9

No-one warned me of the emotional turmoil involved in launching a Kickstarter project.

It’s not all quirky videos, rewards and high fives. There is crippling fear, panic, self doubt, regret, hope, anxiety, joy, relief and pure delight – pretty much in that order.

As I mentioned in Week 8, putting my project live left me feeling very, very naked. I pretty much asked the world to judge me – cue crippling self-doubt.

The void between hitting the Launch button and receiving that first pledge was tortuous.

I quickly Googled ‘Kickstarter projects that received zero pledges’ rhen immediately regretted it. It’s like Googling your symptoms; never worth the anxiety.

Many page refreshes – and a spot of repetitive strain injury – later the reassurance that someone had faith in me was delivered. My eternal thanks go to Jo Hodge, fellow DJCAD textiles grad and my first ever Kickstarter backer – you saved me in my darkest moment!

A slow rise

As the days slipped past, the tally nibbled upward. I nudged and pushed, trying to balance the fine line between promotion and irritation. Then with a week to go, the rising total tapered off.  I was only half way there with slow days to go. My mum stopped mentioning it, a sure sign that she was worried I wouldn’t make it. I imagine her calculating what she needs to flog on eBay in order to save her firstborn from the inevitable.

I wanted to crawl under a large, green, K-shaped rock and hide. Perhaps I could just stop mentioning Wonderbeasts, somehow hide it in the Internet’s wilderness between Bebo and Napster – just gloss over the whole thing.

Thankfully, I got a grip. Being scared is no reason to give up – it’s why we should try harder. I rationalise that if something was easy, there’d be very little point in doing it – and everyone else would be doing it anyway.

A healthy dose of fear often inspires the best in me. I pushed the project hard and vowed not to go down without a fight – and, as if by magic, the pledges started to flutter in once again.

The £4k target was tantalizingly close. Life ground to a halt, replaced by a single obsessive need: to monitor pledges. The anticipation was agonizing as we slowly inched our way closer. Then suddenly – like a rollercoaster tipping over the summit – we smashed straight through the target and rocketed towards the £5k mark.

Turn and stretch

Before I could ask how this happened, stretch goals had to be scrambled. I wrote one that was plausible, one that was hopeful and one completely, overly ambitious and optimistic. I stared in complete disbelief as the tally continued to rise. People believed in the project.

I felt incredibly humbled.

On the final day, emotional exhaustion had set in. We were £1k from doubling the original goal.

The clock struck midnight and the pledge pot closed. By some bizarre twist of internet destiny, my little drawing project had amassed 152 co-creators and just over £8,000 in contributions. I was relieved that we’d made it; overjoyed that we’d smashed every single stretch goal; and incredibly thankful to each and every pledger who put their faith in me.


152 people have invested their hard earned cash into my next piece of work, so I’m going to make damn sure it’s the very best thing I’ve ever drawn.

Kickstarter, it’s been emotional.

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