Funding a new freelance project can be as simple as connecting with the right audience through a crowdfunding platform. I watched as some friends of mine launched a new game on Kickstarter and generated more than $15,000 to make their dreams a profitable reality. Later, the founder confided in me that without that initial cash flow infusion, their game would have never gotten off the ground. Two years later, the game is still thriving. This raises an important question: Should you use a top crowdfunding platform to launch your next freelance project?
Crowdfunding Platforms: What They Are and How They Fit Into Freelance Lifestyles
Not every freelance project is completed for a paying client. As freelancers, we may spend some or all of our time developing and launching our own creative projects, products and services or community-focused art. Crowdfunding platforms are designed to help indys connect with financial supporters to help build products or projects before they’re even completed. Collecting donations on a crowdfunding platform from people who believe in your ideas can free up some time to work on non-client endeavors, and make it easier to invest in technology or other resources to help your project come to life.
As freelancers, getting involved in these passion projects can be rewarding — both professionally and personally. Of course, you can use this opportunity to showcase your skills, potentially attract new clients and fund new projects that may not happen otherwise. But, more importantly, spending your time on these non-client endeavors can help you flex your creative muscles and increase your overall fulfillment as an indy.
Understanding Different Platforms
The explosion of crowdfunding success resulted in the creation of various platforms. One of the better known platforms is Kickstarter, but there are other options ranging from monthly support for creative projects, to sites that specialize in helping non-profits launch their next campaigns. Here are a few of the biggest platforms that every freelancer should consider.
Kickstarter is one of the biggest players in the crowdfunding industry, and its name is synonymous with fundraising. The site is best used to fund finite works: A book, a film or a product that can be delivered in finished form to campaign supporters (backers). Backers are encouraged to contribute money at different levels through a series of promotions or incentives.
Perhaps the biggest potential downside of Kickstarter is that your project will only receive funding if it meets your full goal. For example, if you’re writing a book and want to raise $10,000, you’ll only receive the pledged funds if it meets or exceeds your goal. If you only raise $8,000 over an allotted period of time, your project won’t be funded. Need some inspiration to start your own project? Author and illustrator Jennifer Harrington used the platform to raise funds for an educational children’s book on rare Canada spirit bears.
So, when should you use Kickstarter?
- When your audience is large enough that you can confidently meet your project threshold.
- When the only way that you could move forward with a project is if you receive the full funding amount.
Indiegogo is a competitor of Kickstarter, and is popular with the creative community. Unlike Kickstarter, Indiegogo gives you whatever funds are raised for a project, even if you don’t meet your targeted goal. One author used the site to support her latest book. While she wanted to raise $7,000, she barely broke the halfway mark — but she was able to use the funds raised on the platform to get her project started. Looking for a major success story? Steve James’ Kartemquin Films raised more than $150,000 to create a documentary on film critic, Roger Ebert.
Consider Indiegogo when:
- You’re launching a specific project, but plan to move forward whether or not you reach your full fundraising goal.
- You’re targeting an audience that you know will support the project, but you’re unsure of whether or not you’ll reach your project goal.
Patreon introduced an entirely new model of crowdfunding to the market. The platform works especially well for creatives who want to solicit ongoing support for their work. If it takes you 12 months to write a novel, you might ask your audience to send a smaller amount of funding each month of the year rather than a single, large donation. Some artists use the platform to garner support for their work and release limited-edition illustrations or graphic design projects to their followers. Walk in the footsteps of Fran Meseses, an illustrator who used Patreon to go from unemployed to internet phenomenon.
Patreon is a great choice when:
- You need ongoing monthly support, rather than a one-time fee.
- You want to establish an open dialogue with your audience by releasing content tailored to your supporters.
- You need help to develop an ongoing project like a YouTube series, rather than a one-time project like a documentary or book.
Tips for a Successful Campaign
While the mechanics of establishing a fundraising campaign vary from platform to platform, leverage these best practices to reach your goal:
- Define your project in a few sentences, showcasing why your work is important, how it’s different from other pieces on the market and who makes up the target audience.
- Highlight yourself as an artist or creator. Explain your vision and why audiences should be excited to support your work.
- Be clear about your final deliverables and incentives to make large contributions. Consider the logistics: Digital rewards are far easier to deliver. Making, packaging and shipping contributor prizes may not be feasible for your enterprise just yet when you think about how much design, printing and postage will cost.
- Experiment using video — even if it’s just a simple video of you talking — to introduce yourself and help people get to know you and your work.
- Have a clear marketing plan in place.
- Develop a budget for your projects. Understand whether your platform of choice follows an “all or nothing” model, or will give you any funds raised. Learn what fees each platform requires and how that will impact your funding.
Using a top crowdfunding platform gives freelancers another avenue to potential income, and opens up financial possibilities for projects that aren’t directly funded by clients. Launching a crowdfunding campaign can help get your passion project underway today.