Thursday, 22 September 2016

If you're crowd funding your project chances are you need to make every penny count. So, before you consider buying an expensive book I thought I'd support you for free...

I love the whole concept of being able to make a film and complete it even when all you have is an idea, a script and creatives attached to your project. Before crowd funding was a thing, if you didn't have substantial amounts of money then you had no chance at all of ever seeing your film outside of your own imagination. Crowd funding has effectively opened the field to anyone with an idea that is good enough to attract people to get behind it. There have truly been some amazing films and theatrical productions that wouldn't have had a hope before crowd funding and that has got to be a good thing. Equally it has never been easier for film and theatre fans to get up close and personal with their passion and see behind the wizards curtain. As an investor in many projects myself I feel a close affinity with those I have backed and delight in seeing them come to fruition. In fact crowd funding has become so popular amongst creatives that it has been the subject of more than a handful of 'how to' books and the sheer volume of online seminars claiming to offer a surefire way to crowd funding success is bemusing. A word of caution though as I believe with a calm and focused attitude towards the preparation and execution of a crowd funding campaign it is possible to achieve success without spending a small fortune. Here are my 5 top tips on crowd funding that will help you on the road to success and funding.

1. If You Fail To Plan, You Plan To Fail

Cliched as this old chestnut is I cannot think of a more important tip. In my experience, most failed crowd funders can be attributed to poor or non existent planning. You need to strategise your crowd funder like a military operation and to all intents and purposes it is a business AND a charity with all of the pitfalls and traps. If you do not orchestrate your crowd funder, allow for days without investment and have new material, trailers and interviews ready to release when you need them, you will not reach funding. Allow at least double the length of time for planning when compared to the actual duration of the crowd funder. So, if it runs for 4 weeks you need to be planning for 8! Mentally preparing yourself is also imperative as the cost of hours sat at your computer can be soul destroying especially during a lull in the campaign. Part of your planning needs to be focused on getting to know the format of your crowd funding page and how to use it as your shop window. It is not going to be effective just simply to throw your visionary idea up online with a video pleading for funding. You have to seduce investors into looking further and the perks must be correctly on display. A well written and well priced perks list will make a massive difference. You may like to believe that investors will happily shell out £60 for a piece of merchandise but I can tell you that most wont. Potential investors will lose interest quickly if your perks list are not varied across price ranges and if it looks like you are being too greedy than forget it!

2. You Cannot Do This Alone

Running a crowd funding campaign is hard work. It involves constant effort, endless hours on social media and an desire to see your project funded at a cost of sleep, sanity... in fact put your life on hold because when you are running this campaign you won't have one. I know a few film makers who have run crowdfunders on their own and they have all said the same thing at the end "never again". If you are going to stand a chance of getting to the funding level you need you cannot do this alone. You must enlist a team of friends or family who can support you and actually deliver the much needed practical support. Once the excitement of launch day has died down and you have hit the lull of a second week you will need someone to take over. There is nothing more likely to put people off investing than a tetchy and short tempered crowd funder. Work in shifts so that you can plan for people to take a turn manning the social media barricades as they will need to offer this around their own work or life schedules. By practically drawing up a schedule you are less likely to find friends drop out as they are on holiday or otherwise unavailable. Their support will be your lifeline and you will need it! There is a vibrant online community and you can easily find individuals who have crowd funded before you, don't be afraid to ask their advice. By avoiding some of the mistakes that others have made and adopting proven routes to funding that do work you can lift your crowd funder without expending any money.

3. It's Crowd Funding Not Crowd Interesting

You will probably find it relatively easy to get people to notice you, especially if you have started to build your social media following prior to the crowd funding campaign starting. But getting interest to transform into investment is a whole different matter. The British reserve and character of not wanting to offend or bluntly ask for money is definitely your enemy in this instance. But ask you must because you will never hit your target just by interesting people in your project. I know successful film makers who have asked for contributions in such a varied and instant manner that people have invested and then promptly unfollowed. Whilst there is a balance to be found between passionately entreating and straight off begging you cannot afford to be shy because there will be plenty of other crowdfunders who are not suffering with the same issue. You will lose potential investment because you have not asked for it and this often makes the difference between success and failure. Do not be afraid of asking people who have invested once to invest again either, especially effective if your crowd funding strategy runs over more than one month or is planned in stages. But the bottom line is that your project will not see the light of day simply because you have generated a lot of interest.

4. Interaction Is Essential

It is said that manners cost nothing and for you they can make the difference between someone walking away and investing. You have to invest time in your project and this will mean hours spent chatting away about your vision and project at all hours of the day and night. With the invention of smart phone technology you can be undertaking late night or early morning Twitter conversations with potential investors from your bed. There really has to be no moment where you are too tired to engage or interact with your audience and,with the rest of the world awake at different times, you cannot afford to limit this to just your normal day. Successful crowdfunders all share one thing in common and that is refusal to sleep until they have hit their daily totals. Conveying this to your listening audience doesn't hurt either and you will find provocation to invest a rewarding tact to take if used sensitively. There is nothing more irritating than being drawn to a project and discovering that their timeline or post feed is spam message after spam message with the same wording, cut and pasted over and over again. Be original, be personal but above all be yourself. When someone invests you must publicly thank them as soon as possible because this will draw other interested parties to your campaign but it is also polite. It may also be one of the easiest perks to deliver and it is expected that you hold true to your promises.

5. The Work Doesn't Stop When You Are Funded

I see so many crowd funding feeds going dormant once the campaign is over. Months go by and there is no sign of life. What have they done with the money they were given? Have I been conned? If you don't tell your investors what you are doing how are they going to know? Once you have received the money you need then you have a duty to deliver your film. Regular updates on progress and the occasional behind the scenes video will ensure that your investors remain onside and passionately engaged. You owe it to them as, without them, you would not be birthing your vision and you must never forget it!

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