Kickstarter is a crowdfunding platform which some pin designers (and lots of other creators) use to generate funds for new projects. It can be a great way to launch a whole pin collection, or just a single design, without the artist having to splurge on upfront manufacturing fees (it also helps gauge whether a pin is worth making at all, as if it’s not popular on Kickstarter it’s unlikely to sell well).
A lot of folks have been trying out Kickstarter recently to get new pins in production, and some of them have approached me for advice over the last couple of years on planning and running a Kickstarter. I've been super fortunate to get a few projects funded (I’ve raised over £80,000 in funds thanks to over 2,750 backers across 8 projects) and while part of that is luck, a lot of it is in the Creator's control - which is good news for you!
In my experience running Kickstarters, there are a bunch of things you can do to make your project more likely to succeed. These aren't guarantees - I've seen projects with really strong designs that seem to have done everything right which still struggle to hit their funding goal - but these tips might help on your next Kickstarter project.
Market your project for as long as possible pre-launch.
For Fantastic Places Part 1, I was advertising for literally 3 months before launch. I popped an A6 flyer into every order I packed for my store, it was on my flyers at local comic-cons, it was on my social media every week, I joined every pin FB group I could find to advertise there (didn't bother with paid ads - they're a con in my opinion!), I had a KS promotional link (with the designs hidden, for added ✨mystery✨) almost the whole time so folks could scan the QR code on the flyer or follow my 'link in bio' to the project page. That enabled them to 'follow' the project, which means they'd be notified by email on launch. Information about the launch was also on my Etsy announcement and my shop homepage.
All this is intended to ensure that you have a group of people who know about your project and want to pledge for it before you've even launched. That email list alone is SO important; being able to let 10, or 25, or 50 people know your project is live is critical in ensuring you’re funded quickly (more on funding goals later). If you have a newsletter mailing list set up already for your shop, then even better - let them know, too!
I can't stress enough how important it is to market your project BEFORE launch. Any marketing you do after the first 48 hours of your project isn't going to help as much as pre-launch marketing. It'll certainly get a few folks onboard, but for reasons I'll explain later, you ideally need to be 100% funded in the first day. This can only be achieved with regular advertising directly to your potential backers (that's where the flyers and emails come in).
I know we all try to offer Kickstarter rewards cheaper than the retail price as a way to encourage backers, but there really is nothing better than a freebie. Whether it be a free something with every pledge, or a free X if you pledge at X tier, and so on. Folks love freebies. I've found the formula that works for my projects is a free extra pin if you pledge for 3 or 4 of 5 (depending on production costs and whether offering a freebie is actually feasible). The trick is to give potential backers a reason to (1) pledge at all and/or (2) pledge for a higher tier than they would've if you didn't have freebies. Be sure to account for the production of any freebies in your funding calculations. I find stickers the cheapest, but you should try and offer a freebie which your specific backers would like: offer pin collectors a free pin, offer tarot card fans free card sleeves, or a washi tape project could offer stickers or a tape dispenser/holder. If I were backing a pin Kickstarter, a free tote or a free baseball cap isn’t something which would sway me to pledging more unless you’ve got an extremely strong, consistent design across all products. A good example being this project by Layla Ashtar, where their art style lends itself really well to non-pin products which would compliment the pin collection: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/layla-ashtar/rose-the-green-witch-enamel-pins-and-goodies-collection.
Plan your funding goals in a way that funds your project ASAP.
If I want to make 15 pins, there's no way I'm putting the cost of producing all 15 as my funding goal. Why? Many backers won't pledge for a project which isn't already funded. Weird, right? The point of the platform is to back underfunded projects, so in theory a project at 60% would attract more backers than one at 160%. But folks like certainty, and they like to know whatever they're pledging for will actually get made and delivered (even though they won’t be charged if the project doesn’t meet its funding goal). It must be some kind of psychology thing, but if your funding goal is in fact the cost to produce one pin, you may then get more backers who will then unlock the rest of your designs as 'stretch goals'. On that 15 pin example, I’d have the first design as my funding goal (at around £300) rather than all 15 as my funding goal (which may cost £6,000).
This can sometimes backfire though; if you've got folks pledging for 7 pins thinking the project is fully funded, when in fact only 5 pins are funded (but their pledge will be charged because you've reached that lower goal), that backer will either need to receive duplicates or you'll need to refund the difference; neither is any fun for either of you. You should therefore communicate clearly which items are unlocked at the different funding levels, and post clear updates as early as possible if it looks like you won't get everything funded to give folks a chance to adjust their pledges if need be.
Think about how to organise your stretch goals.
On every project there may be designs which aren't as strong as others, and you can usually gauge that with engagement on reveal posts on social media. For example my USS Enterprise pin reveal got 348 likes, whereas my Johto pin got 92. Guess which one I sell more of in my shop?
There are three ways to order your stretch goals:
- put the strongest ones last to be funded so that people are motivated to pledge in order to fund them;
- put the strongest designs first so that they're funded quickly, thereby hitting targets (and the project funding goal) faster; or
- randomly mix your stretch goals.
There's no right answer to this: I've had success and failure with all of these, but I do find the third works out better. The popularity of stronger designs will often fund the less popular designs, which means it’s often better to mix them up. That said, it’s totally valid to prioritise funding more popular designs first and leading with those.
Here are 8 bonus top tips from me to round off this blog post:
- Create a compelling campaign: a successful pin Kickstarter campaign requires not just great pin designs, but a clear tier structure and high-quality visuals. Make sure to showcase your pins in the best possible light, and clearly communicate their features. Try to use as true-to-life mockups as you can for two reasons: they'll more closely match the end result and it'll be easier for backers to visualise your design on their pin board.
- Communicate clearly: if your campaign page is full of typos or is only a paragraph long, it may not clearly explain your project or give the best impression to would-be backers. Is your Project Page easy to read and understand? If there are very very long walls of text, are you able to shorten them to make them easier to digest? For backers whose first language is not English, are there enough visual cues to help convey your goals?
- Set realistic funding goals: Your funding goal should be based on a thorough understanding of the costs associated with developing and delivering your pins. Make sure to factor in all expenses, including manufacturing, shipping, and marketing.
- Back some Kickstarter projects: I would 100% encourage you to support other Kickstarters before you launch your own to get really familiar with the platform and the fulfilment process. Additionally, Kickstarter's roots are based in community spirit, and creators supporting creators is an important aspect of it.
- Offer great rewards: To incentivise backers to support your campaign, offer a range of attractive rewards, such as early bird prices, exclusive freebies, or discounted bundles. The more compelling your rewards, the more likely backers are to support your campaign.
- Build a strong community: Relying solely on Kickstarter to reach your audience is not enough. While a lot of my backers initially found me through Kickstarter, in later projects my backers came from my social media and email list. Use your existing network; newsletters and social media are your best friends to get the word out about your campaign.
- Engage with your backers: Maintaining open communication with your backers is key to building trust and ensuring a successful campaign, especially if your project isn't going to plan! Respond promptly to questions and comments, provide regular updates on the status of your project, and listen to feedback to improve your campaign.
- Prepare for success: Once your campaign is funded, be prepared to fulfill your rewards, manage your backers' expectations, and navigate any unexpected challenges that may arise. Plan ahead and have a solid plan in place to ensure a smooth and successful project delivery. Have you factored in shipping materials or backing cards in your postage costs? Are your postage costs correct? On one project I lost over £850 to postage costs because I mis-calculated them.
And that's it! I hope this (very long) blog post helps you on your Kickstarter journey. Be sure to ask any questions in the comments as I'd be glad to answer!