Our month focusing on crowdfunding for filmmakers is in full swing, so now it’s time to talk about some common mistakes people make with crowdfunding campaigns.
Back in 2013 when I started getting to know the world of crowdfunding for independent film, I saw a lot of things that looked like best practice. But as I began to learn more, and as crowdfunding and social media began to evolve, I saw that these things were not only a misuse of energy, but could also be costing filmmakers opportunities to have people contributing to their crowdfunding campaigns.
The mistakes outlined below come from my observation and experience, as well as from assisting filmmakers with their crowdfunding campaigns. Avoid these mistakes at your peril!
Spamming people with your crowdfunding link: this is something I’ve talked about in previous posts, but it’s well worth repeating, and so I’ve been a bit cheeky and copied and pasted the next part. I think it’s the best analogy I can come up with for spamming everyone with the link to your campaign:
Imagine you’re sitting in a hotel room by yourself, and you hear a knock on the door. Upon answering it, someone is standing in front of you and says: “help make it happen for….” and then promptly leaves. As you close the door, you hear the same person knocking on every other motel room door and saying the same thing. This is what it’s like when you tweet everyone the link to your film or campaign individually. Not only is it time consuming, it means that your followers can see each tweet you send out with the link to every other follower! At best they will mute you from their timeline, at worst they will block you, so for the sake of sending out the same cut and paste tweet to each individual follower, you’ve lost people.What can amp the annoyance factor up even more is if you tweet your link randomly to someone you’re not even following! I have lost count the amount of times people who are not following Sprites on Twitter have tweeted a link at us (along with a bunch of other people they’re not following, in the hopes of a re-tweet).
Crowdfunding is very much like having a full-time job, so why would you work harder when you could work smarter? Another thing to avoid is tweeting the link to your campaign to celebrities. You think it’s an inspired idea, but imagine how many people have thought the same idea about their campaign and tweeted at the same celebrity? It’s the same as trying to get a well-known director to read your screenplay via Twitter. You are much better off (and will be more successful) focusing on a)your audience and network and b)providing interesting, engaging content that makes people want to contribute to your campaign.
Not being fully prepared for your campaign: I’ve covered the steps you should consider before undertaking a crowdfunding campaign recently, because there are so many factors you need to consider before starting a campaign. There’s a misconception that you can put up a pitch video, written info and perks information on your chosen crowdfunding platform and just leave it, and that somehow contributions will mysteriously grow without any input from the campaign owner and their team. If it were that easy, everyone would be doing it!
I say this to you from the bottom of my heart- don’t consider a crowdfunding campaign unless you’re fully prepared and armed with the knowledge you need. That preparation includes knowing the terms and conditions of your chosen platform, identifying your networks (statistically 90% of funding will come from people you know already), and understanding how things like platform fees and credit card fees will impact on the amount you receive.
Not taking responsibility for your campaign: a few years ago, I met a lovely man who was very polite, calling me “m’am” in correspondence. I said that Sprites could provide publicity outreach and additional social media marketing for his campaign, an agreement was made and once I had agreed to come on board….I never heard from him again, despite e-mailing repeatedly.
He had believed mistakenly that I was going to be responsible for the entire campaign, and that he didn’t have to do anything. The fact of the matter is that your campaign is your campaign. You may have additional team members to assist with various tasks during the campaign (like social media and publicity outreach), but if it’s your campaign and you’re requiring funds for your film then you need to take responsibility for overseeing it. Nobody knows your film and your goals more intimately and in-depth than you do. If you’re not keen to do the social media side of things (or don’t have a huge following), by all means have someone else doing it for you, but they need to know the complete ins and outs of your film and your objectives for the campaign.
Having too long a campaign: most crowdfunding platforms have a minimum amount of days a campaign must run, and there are some platforms where you can crowdfund for as long as you want. 30 days is a good minimum, 60 isn’t bad…but anything after that and people will tune out. A better option? If your crowdfunding campaign target is larger than $10,000 you might want to think about having multiple crowdfunding campaigns, but well spaced so as not to exhaust your networks and their ability to donate.
Feeling pressured to run a crowdfunding campaign: a friend or colleague has told you that they raised an easy $10K on Kickstarter for their project…but you’re not keen. Perhaps you don’t have time in your schedule that you could carve out to make a crowdfunding campaign a success, or perhaps it’s just not a route that you want to go down. That’s okay! For many independent films crowdfunding is just one piece of the financial pie, and not the be-all, end-all. There are grants, pitch competitions, private/angel investors and equity investment. You don’t have to settle on crowdfunding just because everyone else is doing it. It’s a great way to raise funds while growing your audience and awareness around your project, but if you’re uncomfortable doing it, don’t.
Most importantly- have fun! Crowdfunding shouldn’t be a chore. You can celebrate each milestone, enjoy connecting with your audience and get to know new audience members in the process. Happy crowdfunding!