Hi! You’re here because you want to start a Kickstarter project as an artist. That’s awesome and I totally encourage you to do it. It’s an awesome experience to see people you don’t know find your work and be excited to support your creativity.
You should read my tips because I’ve successfully done four Kickstarter art projects. I admit that I am not an artist who has done a million dollar project, but I have found success with getting my projects promoted by Kickstarter and have exceeded my own personal goals with three of my fourprojects.
Not every tip here will apply to you, and if I’m honest I’ve been pretty lucky with my projects, but I hope some of these tips can help bring some of the luck/hard-earned success you deserve.
Planning and executing your set up for day one is really important. That doesn’t mean you need a month to plan it all out however. I’ve launched a few of my projects over a lunch break, but I’ve also given a lot of thought about what I would do before actually creating the project on Kickstarter.
First things first, if you‘ve never backed a project on Kickstarter you should stop reading this and go do that immediately. Kickstarter is a unique platform and its really good to do your research before getting into it. If you’ve never backed a project you’re not going to understand what creators do or don’t do well. Its also great research to understand the mindset of a backer.
Here’s how I think about my project and how I’m going to talk about it on Kickstarter:
What’s Your Story?
If you take nothing else from this, this is the big one: your Kickstarter project must have a story behind it that hooks people. A lot of people contact me and ask for feedback on their project and this is usually my first response. Tell backers who you are, what makes you special, and why this project is important to you. Far too often I see people talk about the technical side of their project—they focus on the how and not enough on the why.
For my Valentine’s Day project, my pitch was essentially this: “Everyone wants to feel special, and I want to make something special just for you! I’ll make you something special through my skills as an artist who uses code to quickly customize imagery using computer algorithms.”
The dry, boring version of this would be me explaining what a pen plotter is, how Processing works, and talking about the algorithm process. Don’t do that. Especially for art Kickstarters leaving a little magic in the process is important.
Rewards are an important part of Kickstarter. They help guide people to the dollar levels you hope people will support you at. But that doesn’t mean you should set up just one level for the way you produce your work. If you’re a painter, try to find creative rewards that don’t just require someone to buy one of your paintings. Maybe you can offer prints, or an opportunity to visit your studio. Many people want to support artists but don’t have the budget to buy art every time. Just setting up a $1 reward and sending people a personal thank you email can make backers feel like they are contributing to your work.
I usually set up one digital reward for a very low price ($3–5). This can be a collection of digital images I’ve previously made, or a digital only work.
Kickstarter recommends you create a reward in the $25 range, the most popular reward level they see on the platform. This could be a print or a small drawing.
Depending on the goal of the project, I have a reward that is making the thing I really want to make. This can be $50, it can be $100, $500, whatever. But acknowledge in the project this is your real goal.
Lastly, I recommend experimenting with a big reward. Maybe you want to do something crazy and dream-fulfilling. Try it! You never know if some patron will come along and say yes.
Rewards require the same storytelling that your project does. Make each one feel special to the backer.
Do I Need a Video?
Everyone asks me if they need a video.
I’ve never done one. If I was going to try to fund a company and make $1 million on Kickstarter I would definitely make a video. For artists I would say its up to you. If you do multimedia work than a video may be really important. I personally think a strong story in text and great visuals make up for the lack of a video on my projects.
What Should My Goal Be?
I think the biggest fear that keeps people from making a Kickstarter project is the fear of not meeting your goal and feeling rejected. I totally get that. But whats great is that artists don’t necessarily need to set a huge goal.
So how do you go about setting our goal? I have two trains of thought here.
First, you could try setting a very low goal your first time. Tech products on Kickstarter set goals of $250k because they literally can’t make the project without that. If you’re a artist that can make a painting for $50, there’s nothing wrong with setting that as your goal. I think of it like this: even if I only ever got one backer on a project, that’s one backer that wants to support my practice. Why would I not be grateful for them and make it happen?!
The contradicting thought is one of backer dynamics. A lot of other Kickstarter creators have described this better than I ever will, but here’s the short of it: Kickstarter backers come in many flavors. Some want to be the initial backer no matter what. Others want to be the ones that help push you over the edge. And still others only want to back a project once its been successfully funded.
Backer dynamics would then dictate you should set a lofty goal, but not too lofty. Honestly trying to figure out what that is for art just makes my head spin. I personally set up a goal that is a little more than just one backer but not so high as to think I might need to beg friends to back me as a last ditch effort.
- Fill out all of the Kickstarter project form, even the optional stuff. If you know anything about SEO, you know why this is important.
- Don’t choose too fancy or weird of a project name. If you do, add additional words to your title so it pops up in search/is easy to understand what you’re making.
- Run your project by friends you trust. If they think its bland they will tell you or help you find the gem in it.
- Don’t start or end on a weekend. I rarely get backers on the weekends to be honest.
Here’s where the fun/stress can really set in. There will be days where you get no backers and you will freak out. Then there will be hours where your phone blows up and you want to cry tears of joy.
Here’s a couple things I have learned.
Don’t Pay for Promotion
Just don’t. It’s not worth it. If it seems like its too good to be true, it probably is. Again, unless you’re trying to get $250k and you plan on living off the money for a year the return on promotions isn’t going to match what you put into it.
The same goes for scams. If someone says they will back your project if you back theirs...that’s probably a scam. Only back projects if you like them, and assume others will do the same for you.
You Are Your Best Promoter
Use your email lists and social media to promote your projects. If you’re using email, don’t spam people (maybe once at the beginning and once near the end is appropriate).
For social media here’s the thing: you can almost never most too much. I would think it was spamming people when I posted once a day about my project. Later I would mention it to friends and they would reply “Oh I didn’t know you were running a Kickstarter!” Seriously. You will think you are over-promoting yourself, but you aren’t. Most people will barely see your promotion, and a little reminding never hurts.
It’s important to change up your approach on social media however. Don’t blast the same image over and over. Maybe show sketches or works in progress. Show people you are already putting in the work to make your project a success. Post video from your studio space. I do all of this on social media and as updates on the project.
Your First Backer, Your Last Backer
Lots of people recommend having friends and family plan out their backing times. Have friends back your project immediately so it looks popular (There’s a whole theory about how Kickstarter’s recommendation algorithm works and how to game it). Keep some people from backing until the very end in case you need someone to push you over the edge.
There are lots of tips here. Personally its too much for me and I try not to overthink it. I’ll try to have a friend back my project so it doesn’t look dead, but beyond that I’m just trying to make art, not change the world with my new invention.
Getting Kickstarter to Promote You
The number one thing I’ve found to make my project a huge success is to have Kickstarter promote you. Hands down there is nothing better than Kickstarter promoting your project to their audience.
How do you get that to happen? I have no idea.
Well, I have some ideas. They’re all written here. Tell a great story, make interesting rewards, and above all else have an awesome thing you’re making.
- Weekends suck. People are out having fun and aren’t hanging out on Kickstarter. Don’t be frightened by lack of backing over the weekends.
- The best promotion you can get from kickstarter is their emails (or at least, this is the best promotion I’ve ever gotten from them!) Social media shout outs are great, but in my experience they don’t bring in a lot of backers. Email does.
Congratulations! You survived making a Kickstarter project. Take a day off and breathe a sigh of relief. Then get ready for the next phase of effort!
Don’t Use Kickstarter’s Reward Survey
My least favorite part of the Kickstarter platform is their survey system. I think its in part why there are 3rd party products that only handle rewards (Backerkit, etc.) Their survey is very limited in what you can do. For example, I have done portraits where people upload a photo and then I draw it in code. Kickstarter has no way to upload imagery in their native survey however.
Simple options include making a Google Survey or using SurveyMonkey. I personally use JotForm. If you have a project that requires a lot of info you should look into your options sooner rather than later.
Your Bank Account Needs 14 Days
You just completed your project, lets check your bank account! Oh...
Kickstarter takes 14 days to process transactions. If you have a very limited time to deliver rewards (:cough: every project I do! :cough:) make sure you understand the money won’t show up immediately. If you‘re cash-strapped and need the money to buy materials this can be annoying, so be prepared ahead of time.
Customer Service 101
I have found 95% of Kickstarter backers to be incredibly caring, supportive, and understanding. Kickstarter is an awesome community and I’ve talked to so many lovely backers on the platform.
There are the other 5%, however.
It can be one of the more annoying parts of a project, but sometimes mistakes happen or people misunderstood what you were doing/what they were getting. I try to approach every mean email or message with empathy. What if this happened to me? Its not easy and as artists we aren’t always in the mood to deal with jerks, but I believe in karma and hopefully treating other nicer than they treat me pays off in the end. Be nice, but don’t take any abuse. Many times people email me very angry about something but if I responded with care and understanding they are immediately nice in return.
The Post Office Sucks
I assume this one is self-explanatory.
- Be nice to your backers. Be firm if you think they are being rude or asking for too much, but always be nice to your backers.
- Be nice to your backers.
- Be nice to your backers.
- At the end of your project, tell people where to find you on the internet! Ask them to sign up for your email list (Do NOT auto-sign them up for it)! Don’t be a jerk and constantly bug them about your new project, but if its something related they might like I might make an exception every now and then
If there’s anything I didn’t cover here, please email me! I can’t respond to every email, but I will try to include answers in updates to this page later one.