This article originally appeared on Seed&Spark.
No matter how the cookie crumbles, the start of your crowdfunding journey, and, by extension, your sustainable creative career, will always be your personal network. Best practices are not to entirely depend on your friends and family, especially not over and over again, but for your first campaign or two, it’s largely unavoidable. So what can you do if your starting “crowd” is broke?
It’s a common and valid question—the success of crowdfunding depends a lot on your outreach strategy, and if your community isn’t well off, trends younger or appeals to folks in freelance versus salaried professions, that can feel daunting. Having worked with hundreds of campaigns, we’ve got some advice on how to mitigate this, and still build the creative career you deserve.
The best indicator of your crowdfunding success is your email list. Learn how to build and organize your own email list from a previous post, and figure out how your crowdfunding goal might stack up to the size of said email list.
Remember the most important stat in crowdfunding: email converts 20-30% into crowdfunding contributions, whereas social media shares convert only 1%. So don’t look at your Facebook friends as your network, unless you’re planning to reach out to them one-by-one via Messenger.
It may be the case that your base email list doesn’t quite line up with your financial goals for the project, so you may need to do a bit more work ahead of the campaign building your audience outside of your personal network. You may need to push back your intended launch date to shore up support from other sources, but it’ll be worth it! And take the burden of funding your creative career off of a handful of friends and family members.
Join some online communities, go to networking events and screenings and conventions, shake some hands and kiss some babies. Get to know people, get their business cards, and add them to your list.
Become an expert
Thought leadership might be one strategy you use to expand your crowd ahead of asking them for money. How can you become an expert in the type of project you want to make, and share that expertise with the people who care about that subject? Start a blog, video series, podcast or a social media account dedicated to reporting on/curating content surrounding your topic. This should be lower-impact than the eventual project you’re making, and it works to establish your credibility with an audience you’ve determined will be your most likely community of people to care about the project you want to crowdfund for/the type of work you want to do in an ongoing manner.
For example, if you’re looking to make a horror project, start doing reviews of horror projects (mainstream and indie) in your niche. If your work will help advance the representation of a usually underrepresented group, start publicly advocating for that representation in other media, and pointing out the mainstream media’s lazy tropes and missteps.
Fundraise in stages
Everyone has to start somewhere, and sometimes that start can’t be a complete project. That’s totally fine and totally normal. Instead of hanging your success and career on raising your entire budget in one go, just raise for the first step in the process. Raise enough to get you through production, for instance, being transparent with your audience that this first campaign is all about filming the dang thing. Then, when that’s completed, come back for a second time to raise for post-production support.
You just need to get to the next step or stage—filmmaking (and storytelling) takes time, so don’t put pressure on yourself to do it all at once. Plus, on Seed&Spark, you can fundraise for the same project on your same page, which means you keep your followers and your URL and don’t have to start completely from scratch for your next campaign!
Fundraise for proof of concept first
If you’re looking to raise for a bigger, more ambitious project (a feature or something with substantial production requirements), it might make sense to start with something more manageable, for the purposes of proving yourself and your project for a bigger campaign in the future. Fund just the first scene or a sizzle reel of the most interesting/ambitious shots to be cut together with music.
Once you’ve proven you can do something cool with just a little bit of help, you’ll have content to share with your network and your audience to fundraise for something bigger each time. Remember, crowdfunding isn’t a stop-gap measure, it’s for your entire career, so your first campaign should be just that—your first.
*Featured Image: Photo / Vladislav Reshetnyak