Building an audience and Crowdfunding

The other day I heard a creator ask if crowdfunding was a good way to develop your project. I’ve been avoiding talking about Kickstarter or Patreon, mostly because I don’t have any experience with the platforms. I’m not expert, and part of me didn’t get it. Don’t the rewards seem frivolous? Is it worth the work it demands? I don’t think it’s a good idea for everyone. Crowdfunding is a great way to gain support from your audience with zero dilution, while also marketing your creative product. What I think needs to be clarified is that it is not a guaranteed solution. It is not easier or better than traditional investment and funding opportunities. Crowdfunding is business through and through.

The misconception around crowdfunding is that if you have something worthy of funding it will get funded. If the project doesn’t get funded it is likely because it was launched too early. Crowdfunding works is when you already have an audience who wants what you make. If you’ve put in the time to build trust with that audience they will be happy to fund, to pay and to participate in what you’re making. While it might seem like it’s about the rewards or the incentives, it’s really about trust.  When a person gives money towards your project they trust you to make it. Trust is built by contributing consistently. Creating something surprisingly special for a specific group of people, over and over again.

I think a lot of creators believe crowdfunding will support them through the creation of their art. We struggle with the fact that with no money, progress on our ideas is slow. Sadly this is just a struggle of making things. When you begin there is no one waiting for what you’ve made. We want the funding to come first, we’ll show up once someone pays us. That’s something different, that’s a job. To create new things we have to show up first. Once we can prove that we’re consistent will it be easier to make a living?

I think for many people the idea about the funding actually gets in the way of actually starting. By starting without resources you learn to be resourceful. In business there’s a term Bootstrapping, it means a business that is started without outside investment. Most businesses are bootstrapped, and most shows are developed by creators putting in their own money or resources. The work you put in at the beginning is your investment. When you don’t have capital but you have an idea and a skill, start with those.

I think crowdfunding is a fantastic opportunity. It gives people access to capital outside the mainstream. Creators get investment without dilution, meaning their vision stays untainted. Crowdfunding has been really important for people who are underserved by media. This is actually part of how it works well. When you have something special for a specific group of people who want it, there shouldn’t be a problem getting that funding. The first step isn’t about building the campaign, it’s about making something for the community you want to connect with.

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