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Five Tips for Artists Using Kickstarter
Beth Pohlman is an ACC jewelry artist who's in the midst of a kickstarter campaign to raise funds to create her work for our 2013 Baltimore show. We asked her to write about the experience so far, and she also offers a few tips for other artists considering doing a campaign.
Back in September, after weeks of low-level anxiety and constant email checking, I finally got my results from the American Craft Council jury: I got in! I'll be doing the Wholesale-Retail section at the ACC's Baltimore show in February, where I will introduce my granulated jewelry to the world! I jumped up and down. I sang a victory song. I called my husband and best friend. Then I realized, Holy cow, how am I ever going to pay for this?!
I sat down and did some math, figuring out how much material I would need to make enough work to really knock people’s socks off. Answer: at least $5000. That’s it, I thought. Time to try Kickstarter!
Kickstarter is a crowd-funding site for people who are doing creative projects. You put together a campaign, set donation levels and rewards, and send it out into the world. It's a pledge drive just for you. The idea had been buzzing around in my head for awhile and had been filed in the “maybe someday” part of my brain. After I did my math, “maybe someday” turned into “as soon as possible.” I worked hard, got everything together, launched my campaign, and so far I have been very successful.
Here are some things I’ve learned that might help if you are considering doing a Kickstarter campaign:
It takes a lot of work to get the campaign ready to launch. It took me a couple of weeks from the time that I decided to throw myself into this until I was ready to go. I had to decide on the pledge levels, design and make sample rewards for those levels, and photograph the jewelry on a model. I had to write and rewrite the story that people read and then film and edit a video. It can also takes days to verify your identity and get your account set up and synched with Amazon. If you have a deadline, make sure you give yourself enough time to get everything ready.
You have to make a video. Really. Kickstarter stresses over and over again the importance of making a video. Campaigns with videos are more likely to get funded (50 percent vs. 30 percent). My very simple video has already been viewed almost 2,000 times. You need to have a video to be selected by Kickstarter as a Staff Pick, which gives your campaign much more visibility. I am fortunate enough to be a Staff Pick and it has directly resulted in many donations I would probably not have otherwise received. Your video does not have to be long. Mine is not quite a minute and a half. It also does not have to be professional. I made mine with a tripod and a point-and-shoot camera that recorded video. I’m a little awkward and a little lame, but it gives people a chance to see me and learn a little bit about how I make the jewelry I care so much about and would like them to help me make.
Make sure you are actually making money. If the pledge amount only covers the making of the reward, you are not raising any money, only selling through another venue. Make sure that after fulfilling your rewards you will still have enough money to do whatever project you are raising money for. You also have to factor in the five percent that Kickstarter takes and the four to five percent that Amazon takes. Since I needed $5000, I should have set my goal for $5500 to guarantee I would have enough money once everyone takes their cut.
It takes time to get the money. You set the amount of time that your campaign will run. Once it is over, it takes two weeks to get your money. Since I decided to do a 30 day campaign, it will actually take two months from the day I started putting everything together to get my money. If you have a hard deadline, make sure you factor in the delay.
Work it baby, work it. You have to promote your campaign as much as you can, you can’t just let it sit there and expect magic to happen. I am in no way a Queen of Social Media, but my inexpert promotion through Facebook and Twitter have accounted for about half of my pledges. Tell all of those people who’ve ever expressed interest in your art about your campaign, and ask them to tell their friends. Maybe they’ll be your biggest cheerleader, maybe they’ll ignore the request, nothing is lost in the attempt. Let the local and national organizations who might be interested know about it - again, the worst thing that will happen is nothing, and you might get some good press out of it.
Kickstarter is the scariest and best thing I have done professionally in a long time. Self-promotion has always been hard for me, so putting myself out there in such a big way was nerve-wracking, but the payoff has been huge. I have gotten so much support from everyone from my closest friends to complete strangers around the world. I have introduced people who might never heard of my jewelry to my work and made connections I would have never expected, including an archeologist who specializes in granulated jewelry who was excited to find an artist working with the technique today.
After having spent so much time developing work that I am completely in love with, getting such a positive response to it has been exhilarating. Thanks to the financial and emotional support of my backers, I am looking forward to having an amazing ACC Baltimore show. See you there!
Beth Pohlman lives and works in ever interesting Baltimore, Maryland. She got her degree in metals and jewelry from Towson University and now works in the Jewelry Center at the Maryland Institute College of Art. She's now doing a stretch goal for her kickstarter campaign, and will be collecting donations through November 8th.
From the Studio features ACC artists discussing the business side of craft, life as a craft artist, the ins and outs of craft shows, and more. Read more posts in our From the Studio series.