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Kickstarting Down Under

28/08/2013

Around midday yesterday the news hit the headlines: Kickstarter was going to allow Kiwis and Aussies to create projects. This is something of a coup as, currently, project creation is limited to the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. It seems odd that we would get the honour of joining the Kickstarter club before countries like France or Germany, but then we are both english speaking countries (well, were pretty sure Aussies speak english) and they might be waiting for a way to translate the site before expanding into Europe.

Anyway, this is great news for creative types Down Under. We now get a chance to strut our stuff on the international stage and compete for that sweet, sweet crowd funding money. Not that we couldn’t before, of course, but sites like PledgeMe and Indiegogo haven’t grabbed the zeitgeist and run with it the way Kickstarter has. Kickstarter has basically become the Xerox of crowd funding.

Before you head over to Kickstarter and start putting your project together (which you can’t anyway as we won’t likely get access till next week at the earliest) there are a few things you need to consider. Some of it is common knowledge, but some of it is more specific to running a Kickstarter from Down Under…

1. Plan, plan, and plan some more
As with any business venture, you need to know exactly what you’re getting yourself in for. How much money will each part of your project need? How long will it take to complete? If you have stretch goals, how will they affect your budget and time frames? What if something goes wrong, do you have a backup plan?

If you’ve considered these questions already, don’t worry. This is the easy part, the part every person or company putting up a project should consider. There have been a number of projects in the past that were unable to meet advertised deadlines simply because they were too successful. They went from awesome idea to economic Icarus, all because they over promised and under delivered.

2. Talk, but not too much
Communicating with your backers is key to a successful Kickstarter – both with updates and by responding to comments from backers. Be careful that you’re not talking too much, however. It’s one thing to jump on a few times and day and answer questions, it’s entirely another to spend all day responding to comments one at a time. Answer multiple questions in one go, and make sure you update your FAQ with the most pertinent.

As for updates, that not as easy to generalise. Some projects provide daily updates, some only update as they meet funding and stretch goals, or reach a certain number of backers. It might take a few days, but you should be able to work out a good rhythm. You could also use your updates to answer questions from your backers. That also makes it particularly easy to find your answers in the future.

The one thing to remember is that every update should contain something important or of interest to the backers. They’ll be getting an email each time you update, so make sure there’s something for them to read. Updates don’t have to just be text, however. Some projects send out audio-visual updates, showing off prototypes, product samples, or the finished product in action. Take a look at similar projects and see how they’ve handled these.

3. Break up text with images
Let’s be honest, arriving at a webpage that is simply a wall of text broken up into paragraphs* is likely to turn most people away pretty quickly. Avoid this by breaking up your text with images. Turn headings into decorative banners, include photos and drawings where appropriate, maybe embed a video or two. You want to break your page up into a series of easily digestible chunks that even the most casual reader can easily skim through.

Don’t worry, you don’t need to be an accomplished graphical designer to make a project page look good. Spreadsheet programs can make simple tables, and there is a plethora of free image editing software available. As long as the images are clear, you’re on the right track.

* Yes, I am aware of the irony of this being a wall of text post, but them I’m not asking for your money.

4. Not all currency is created equal
One thing I’ve noticed during my time using Kickstarter is that one currency is preferred above all others – the US dollar. Unfortunately, this puts our projects at something of a disadvantage as we’ll be using either Aussie or Kiwi dollars. On top of this will be the cost of overseas shipping. There are already cost issues with American projects shipping to Canada, so you can imagine how things will be when we start offing things.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to make your project more appealing to the international market. The main thing is putting together a currency conversion chart listing pledge pricing in 3-4 different currencies. I would suggest using your project’s native currency, the US dollar, the UK pound, and the euro. That covers a large segment of the world, and is easy enough to add to down the track. If you do this, remember to include the date on which you performed the calculations. That way, if there’s a sudden change you’ve got yourself covered.

International shipping is also going to be a big pain point for backers. The tyranny of distance means shipping to international backers could become prohibitively expensive (for larger or heavier items) rather quickly. It isn’t always economically feasible to absorb these costs yourself, so it might be worth looking at partnering with an international distributor who could receive a bulk shipment, then split it up into individual rewards and ship it out from their end. This would allow you to offer a lower shipping charge.

5. Name your pledge levels
This is more of a pet peeve of mine. If your project is going to offer multiple reward levels, make sure you give each level a unique name. This will make it easier to reference a particular level in the future, and backers will also be able to mention their pledge level when talking to their friends, helping personalise the experience.

6.Head back to school
Once you’ve for the basics sorted, spend some time at Kickstarter School. It covers just about everything you need to know to make a successful project. As an added bonus, there are two in-person Kickstarter School events taking place this weekend in Australia. No mention yet if we’ll get something similar her in NZ, sadly. Details for the events are available at http://www.kickstarter.com/australia

And that’s it. Six things to consider before dipping your toe in the wonderful world of crowd funding. Now it’s time for me to get back to putting the finishing touches on my idea for a My Little Pony vs GI Joe MMO/CCG hybrid game. If I do it right, this one could hit a million dollars within days!

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