Sustained crowdfunding is starting to gain mainstream traction in creativity and business. It has to for survival. We’re facing unprecedented change in the way we live and work around the world, let alone Australia. Many creative artists, freelancers and business people will be asked to change how they distribute product, make a living and reach their audience as we manage coronavirus impacts.

Understandably, a lot of people are turning to crowdfunding to make ends meet. It can be an effective way to get project cash injections or a steady stream of income. But there is an art to it.

You cannot expect that the platforms you choose have a ready-made market of people willing to part with cash to experience your creativity. And you have to maintain momentum by giving.

Here are some crowdfunding tips I gleaned from the documentary Capital C and my own experience in working with crowdfunding platforms and as a person who crowdfunds creativity

It’s not about money, it’s about relationship

Capital C documentary film poster features a hipster looking man with a long beard holding a bottle in his hand with an open mouthed smile at the camera. The text on the poster reads 'a documentary about the crowd revolution: Capital C. Crowdfunding. Crowdsourcing. Bottle Koozies.

Poster from the crowdfunding documentary, Capital C

The first thing you often encounter with people when they are investigating crowdfunding is a cringe about how to ask for money. It’s understandable. A lot of creative practitioners, freelancers and people in general struggle with both self-promotion and asking for money.

The trick to feeling OK with crowdfunding is to see it as a relationship building exercise. When you crowdfund, you are working to create a relationship to invite others to help you to create your best work.

When someone crowdfunds you, they are saying that they believe in your best work. That the idea of you being able to create more work is something they want to be part of.

That means two things are essential to a positive crowdfunding experience:

1.      A track record or existing audience. That people know, understand and appreciate the work you have done in the past. You can’t really turn up out of nowhere without any credibility. People need to know you exist, what you make and want to support that

2.      A desire to be a part of the next creation.  There needs to be a pay off for the people for supporting you. That means answering the “what’s in it for me” is vital. Your supporters want to know they make your projects happen. 

Time is your best currency

If there is one thing coronavirus has brought with it in spades is time. We’re shut in, having projects cancelled, are unable to meet up with friends and generally feeling discombobulated. This is advantageous to your crowdfunding endeavours because you can create works that people want. It also means you can love them up and make them feel connected.

Treat the time you would normally have as working on your projects time. Yes, of course there will be a moment of grieving and stress. And yes, panic may also be a part of that. But it’s important to get clear on what you want to do quickly.

Write out a plan. Set the time aside. And treat crowdfunding like your job.

The velvet rope helps drive crowdfunding

To be honest, I don’t really like scarcity marketing as it stands with the whole “show up or miss out for the razzle dazzle.” It feels like a lot of pressure. And it makes a lot of less salesy people avoid the technique because it feels disingenuous.

Call it a psychological trick or a new label but creating a velvet rope experience is a far better idea.

In a velvet rope experience, it’s like lining up at your favourite club and getting the VIP lounge. It’s coming through the door and past the line like others aren’t permitted to do.

After seeing people fight it out over toilet paper and compete for basic groceries, I think we can all agree we don’t really need more “buy this in case you miss out” style encouragement.

We do however need to feel like we are part of a special experience tailored just for us.

Think about that when you plan your crowdfunding endeavours by:

·        Design rewards that give people special access to you, your creations and your creative process

·        Planning regular touch-base situations to delight people that they aren’t expecting

·        Have conversations with your supporters you wouldn’t have with other people

·        Invite them to participate in setting their next experience through polls, call outs and paying attention to the comments section

·        Build a feeder audience that is groomed to want more of what you have on offer- and deliver it

Remember this, the world is your crowd and you can bring the rare thing to life. You can enrich people at a time when they feel like hope is lost or things are well beyond their control. You can be the salve to their sadness.

And no matter what you provide, if you are truly giving, people will support it.

In the depression, World War 2 and other times of great struggle, people still engaged with creativity and the arts. It gave them a place to escape to and a reason to be hopeful. They also embraced new ideas and innovation.

As long as what you produce fills a need, solves a problem or makes someone feel good, there is appeal.

This is the dramatic shift we needed in creative consciousness away from “I want to be like you, so I will make you famous” to the days of “you make me feel better about the world, so I will follow your lead.”

That is truly liberating for creatives, freelancers and idea makers who genuinely believe what they create helps other people. 

Use social media wisely

Social media will exist and change – but what stays true to the conversation you are having to get the support. Choose the voice you want to have for your creative endeavours that matches with the kind of person you are.

Crowdfunding relies on social media to be successful. If you do not have a strong social media presence, to be honest, I doubt it will work for you (if you prove me wrong though, get in touch!)

Couple of crowdfunding tips with social media are:

·        Cultivate your audience early. Give generously and be available to your community. Build with their needs in mind. And keep giving

·        Forget the “get it everywhere to be a success” approach. Don’t rely on poaching members and attention via link drops. It cheapens what you do as opposed to strengthen it. Your potential audience has no connection to you. They won’t care without seeing your work in action or a personal referral of some description attached. They have to recognise you as part of their regular life to get curious  

·        Be positive. A friend of mine who worked for a major bank that gives out funding for community projects and grants said the first thing they do is separate all the people who are begging and sobbing from the pile. Then, they begin the review of what is left. Yes, we follow social justice causes that tug on the heart strings, but the same is not true of arts, freelance, business and general creativity. Your followers choose to support those projects because they want to be uplifted, inspired, educated and delighted. This is only going to get more important as time goes on

·        Don’t hit the blatant promotion button. Give to people. Give them content, a reason to tune in and make them feel like their generosity is rewarded. The more you give on social media, the more consistent (and the higher the amount) of support you will receive

Vulnerability matters

Now more than ever is the time to remove the gatekeepers and speak directly to your audience. You have to be authentic instead of polished. And you have to be prepared to fail because we’re in entirely new territory here. That applies to creativity, crowdfunding and coronavirus.

There is no space for perfection anymore. You don’t have to always be right. People will complain about stuff. They’ll accuse you of ripping them off. Being hated is fine as long as more people love you. Having a mixed online reputation is not a failure. People will be freaking out all over the shop and will likely have a dig and a bitch.

To be honest, I copped people being mean, snarky and making fun of me when I first launched the Freelance Jungle Patreon. They also heckled me when I did the coronavirus freelance support petition.

It hurt but I know in both circumstances, I had to try because I had no other alternative.

It’s taken me a while to get to this point of actually walking the talk consistently but:

Screw the haters. They don’t have your bills to pay or your problems. But also, don’t give them much attention either. Leave them to marinate in their own stink. You have better things to do.

Trust is a two-way currency. Your group will become invested if you trust them. That means not only taking them behind the scenes of creativity but also letting them know you are a human, too. When people love you, they’ve got your back. When they sense you doubt that love, they will doubt it too.

I’ve learned that the hardest ways because I am a private person who is introverted. At times, I have walled myself off and gated my feelings and creativity. I have listened to the people that have sought to critique and mock. Or I have not trusted intentions of people who have supported me.

Jinny, one of the admins for the Freelance Jungle, has taught me immeasurably about belief. She works tirelessly to help me with my project on an admin level and as a creative director. I have had to get out of my own way a lot by hearing her say “we choose to be here” and “let us make our own choices”.

You have to be patient and tell yourself that what you put down, people pick up. AND that they do so because it matters to them in ways you do not expect.

Yours is to give. Not anticipate how others will receive it.

Your style matters

You have to be able to answer the question- what do you mean to people?

You also need to decide what your tone is, what you give to people and what they should expect by choosing to follow you. You can be almost any persona in the world as long as it is realistic and something you can prolong.

Consistency matters as well. If you’ve ever had an inconsistent friend, you’ll realise how much of a pain it becomes to keep having to make sense of their moves and motivations all the time. People want routine, a set level of quality and an idea of what is going to happen next.

That has to be a part of the style of communication you employ. 

Oh, and expect people to grow up with you and also grow away. The interesting thing with that is they may get annoyed with you for not growing the way they expect. Or for you growing and them wanting you to stay the same. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t listen. But it also means they shouldn’t call the shots.

Not sure how to develop your style? Check out my blog on creating a DIY style guide and adapt it for your purposes.

The final crowdfunding tips your need:

·        By believing in someone, you can change their life. And by asking people to support you to create work, you are believing in them because you are ignoring the haze of cynicism and messaging that people suck

·        Create first, ask later. You need to have a tangible demonstration you can deliver and continue to do so by having products, ideas and evidence of creativity first. No one will pay you to become creative- you have to be it first! 

·        Snuggle up close to Amanda Palmer. Her TED Talk, website and book, Patreon and social media are a masterclass in getting people inspired to give

·        Watch the documentary Capital C. It was on Netflix in Australia, I do not know if it still is. But it’s worth tracking down if you can

·        Become a community manager. Don’t assume that giving personalities are all honey-dipped and sweetie pie. Some will have their own agenda or weirdness, too. Have boundaries, share stories and set the expectation for their behaviour early. And don’t be afraid to let go of people who exhaust your time and the community’s joy by trying to grab the mic

·        Be you. Create, play, share and understand that people will enjoy you and what you do in their own way. You do you, they should do them, but you should come around together to feel the love.

Want more creative inspiration or to see me work on my own Patreon? You can sign up to support the Freelance Jungle for as little as $2USD a month. You can also check out both my blogs on the Freelance Jungle and Unashamedly Creative for inspiration, advice and tips.

Stay tuned for more content on crowdfunding your creative journey!

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