Crowdfunding hacks: seven tips for your design project

Published:  February 5, 2016
Tara Watson

Successfully funding any project can prove to be a difficult bridge to cross, and an increasingly popular way to kickstart your design concept is to find backers through crowdfunding – which is proving to be one of the most successful emerging ventures in both establishing interest for your design and finding your target audience.

While the notion of crowdfunding is nothing new – with design communities having long worked at shared raising of funds – with the increase of platforms solely created for crowdfunding, it is now more advanced and accessible then ever.

Freelance illustrator Amy Blue started an Illustrated Enamel Pins crowdfunding campaign on Australian platform Pozible, to raise funds to design, produce and sell handmade enamel pins of quirky popular culture characters. With an aim to bring $2000, she ended up making over her target, raising $3400.

“It all began with a university assessment for our Data Visualisation class. We had to pick a subject and create an infographic and I chose Bill Murray. I created a portrait diagram of 30 of his roles in film. It was from this work I choose to take the portrait of him as Steve Zissou from Life Aquatic and turn it into a Hard Enamel pin. From there, I have now created 15 different designs, with the intention to continue,” Blue told desktop.

Illustrated Enamel Pins by Amy Blue

Illustrated Enamel Pins by Amy Blue

We chatted with Blue and co-founder and director of Pozible Rick Chen about the top tips to successfully crowdfund your next design project.

1. Preparation is key

To have the best response, it’s important to be prepared. Before even thinking about putting up a crowdfunding concept online, a campaign needs to be developed. Crowdfunding isn’t a shortcut, and the design idea or concept needs to be fully realised and the vision needs to be clear and viewable.

“The preparation began when the project did. I thought it was really important to have an end product to show, so people could gauge what the item would look like,” said Blue.

“Understandably this won’t work with all projects but if you’re creating something and can give people a defined example of what they are buying, this will work to your advantage. It was also important to have a story of the project ready and lots of visuals to explain what you are intending to do. I’ve seen so many projects that are so word-heavy with no pictures. I think these days people need more visuals and less text.”

Making dynamic video clips can connect with your audience and give visitors a better idea of your project – seeing the product in action.

2. Build a network of supporters before you begin

Before launching a crowdfunding campaign, it’s important to first drum up interest in the project. Reaching out and networking can be a vital step in developing a relationship with potential fundees.

“Collect a mailing list of potential supporters,” said Chen. “Try to get a group of potential supporters ready for the launch of your campaign, this will give the project a good momentum and help increase the conversion rate.”

Blue also says that she found with her Pozible project initial networking is integral to the process. ”Working as a freelance illustrator, I had worked on a few projects with numerous companies and used these contacts to help me market my pins,” said Blue.

Illustrated Enamel Pins by Amy Blue

Illustrated Enamel Pins by Amy Blue

3. Choose the right platform

For those intending to find funding for a design project, the choice of crowdfunding platform should reflect both the project and the audience. Platforms choices are endless but often specialise in a certain field, popular platforms include Kickstarter, Pozible, GoFundMe, Patreon, Recurrency or DIY; but the wrong platform will mean it won’t reach the people most likely to back the project.

“Crowd funding sites like Pozible and Kickstarter are set up visually, which gives designers a huge advantage. Being able to showcase your product and know how to make it look good is so important,” said Blue.

4. Find your niche

When it comes to crowdfunding, the more defined and specified a project is will lend itself to a more specific demographic. Identifying the niche group that will be interested in your project is vital to its success, along with learning the best ways to market from the specified field.

“I found I had to be creative with the way I presented my project and who I presented it to. I finally understand how important it is to know your target market and why I was struggling when I wasn’t being specific enough,” said Blue.

“I also utilised social networks such as Instagram, trying to find accounts dedicated to lovers of enamel pins. Finding accounts to post on your Pozible campaign on your behalf is a great way to get your product an international following and increase both traffic and pledges.”

5. Reach out to companies for exposure

Along with having a community to tap into, attempting to get attention and exposure from influential people or publishers can be a game-changer in increasing the number of page visitor; translating to backers.

“The amount of traffic you gain from this type of exposure is important because I’ve found that the more views and pledges you get, the more likely you’ll be featured on Pozible’s front page. This made all the difference to ensuring I reached well above my target,” said Blue.

“I contacted the companies with audiences that I thought would like my project. I was lucky enough to have done some work with Frankie magazine and they responded to my request and posted my campaign on their blog and Facebook. Within 12 hours of this post I had reached my $2000 target.”

Illustrated Enamel Pins by Amy Blue

Illustrated Enamel Pins by Amy Blue

6. Get social on social media 

Social media is a must for promoting your project and the wider the reach the better. But remember to customize your promotion to suit the platform and match your marketing strategy early on to where your potential supporters are most likely to be found.

“Get social media ready. Have a social media strategy before launching your project. Know how, when and who to push out your project to are the critical steps to recruit supporters,” said Chen

But it is important to choose the right social media platform for your project. ”Instagram was my jam because it’s such a visual platform. I made sure to find accounts that relate to my product and then asked them to re-post. Lots of them re-post for free. It’s only when they have a really big following that there is a fee but as long as you do your research and find your audience, it’s well worth it,” said Blue.

7. Offer exciting rewards

One of the most personal features of crowdfunding is the ability to offer rewards to your backers. Supporters are giving you money with the expectation of getting something big or small in return- but get creative and make it relevant. As a way to communicate and connect with your backers, adapt your reward system to the project.

“Be creative with your rewards. Offer things and/or experiences people can’t buy. Be creative, be quirky, get people to talk about your rewards is a great way to help with spreading the word,” said Chen.

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