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5 Tips for Crowdfunding an Art Project

Published Nov. 28th 2012

Crowdfunding on sites like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo has become a popular—and legitimate—way for artists to fund their projects.

These sites work by allowing an artist to share a project idea with a set financial goal in mind. If followers, friends, and strangers are impressed by the project, they can choose to support it by backing it for a certain level of funding, from $1 all the way up to tens of thousands of dollars.

If a project reaches it’s funding goal within the specified timeframe, then the money is taken from the backers and given to the artist, who is responsible for making the project happen and distributing the rewards.

Crowdfunding can be a great way for an artist to fund a unique project that he or she might not otherwise be in a position to create. But crowd-funding is a big undertaking, and before you begin you need to do some serious planning to ensure your project will be a success:

1. Choose the right project

Set yourself up for success by choosing the right project to appeal to your followers. You want a project that’s something out of the ordinary—perhaps a unique exhibition, or a one-off installation, or a short film project.

Try to keep the scope and budget of the project within the upper reaches of your limits. Don’t aim too high on your first attempt! You’re more likely to generate $500 of funding than $50,000, and you want to ensure you’re able to produce your project in a timely fashion and send off your rewards to backers in time.

2. Create awesome rewards

Rewards are an important part of the crowd-funding model, and it’s important that you create good ones. Crowdfunding works by enticing backers to choose a dollar amount based on specific “reward” levels. The more money they donate, the more awesome the reward. $5 rewards could be digital downloads, personalized postcards, while $1000 rewards might be a private party, getting to name a character in a book, or having your portrait drawn.

You want backers to feel as if they’re getting something unique, and something of value. Consider digital downloads and merchandise objects like t-shirts, mugs and skateboards, as well as more unique awards like tickets to an event, private screenings and parties, and the chance to appear in your artwork in some way.

3. Create a video

The projects that get funded successfully have a few things in common. . . of them is that they nearly always feature a video demonstrating the story behind the project; the creativity of the owners, and the cool rewards the backers will receive.

You don’t need to be a professional film maker, but you do need to produce a quality video that shows off your creativity. This is the perfect opportunity to collaborate with an up-and-coming film-maker—perhaps you could swap some of your artistic services in exchange for receiving a video.

4. Promote like crazy

With so many creatives trying to fund their projects through crowdfunding sites, it can be difficult to stand out from the crowd. This is where promoting comes in. It’s vital that you get the word out about your project to as many people as possible.

You can do this through your own network by talking about your project on your blog, website or other social media sites, and asking your fans and followers to spread the word. Make it easy for people to share by including Facebook, Twitter, and other sharing buttons.

You can also reach out to new networks through guest blogging, discussion forums, and emailing other website owners. Create business cards and postcards featuring a link and details about your project, and hand them out at local art events and networking groups.

You should always be contacting local media (newspapers, magazines and radio stations) and sending out press releases. Gaining media coverage can expose your project to a new crowd of backers.

5. Don’t get discouraged!

According to their stats page, Kickstarter has a 43.83% success rate. That means more than half of the projects uploaded on the site don’t get funded. If you work hard to create a great project, offer fantastic rewards, promote it actively and make a decent video, there’s no reason why you’re project won’t succeed, but if it doesn’t try not to let it get you down.

There may be plenty of reasons why you weren’t successful this time. . . it might be the wrong project for your audience, or you might have launched it at a time when no one has any spare money (for example, leading up to Christmas). It doesn’t mean that your work isn’t worth funding or that you won’t be successful next time.

Kickstarter and other crowdfunding sites can be a great way for an artist to get a project off the ground, but they definitely take a lot of work to pull off a successful campaign. Make sure to put the work in BEFORE you click “Go” and you’ll stand a much better chance of being successful.

Artists are often the first admit they are terrible with money. They talk about spending it as soon as it comes in, and scrimping at the end of the month for enough to pay their rent. "I'm hopeless with this money thing," they say, laughing off their financial hopelessness as they cram another handful of fast-food tomato sauce packets into their backpack.

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