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5 Critical Steps to Getting Your Creative Project Funded on Kickstarter

Note from Caleb: A trend we’ve been seeing lately is how bloggers have been using Kickstarter to fund major projects.

A couple months back we featured the story of how Kristin and Shannon used their blog to reach more than triple their fundraising goal on Kickstarter. Also, our good friend Adam Baker from Man vs. Debt is launching his own Kickstarter campaign soon for a documentary called ‘I’m Fine, Thanks’.

To go along with this rising trend we have a special post today for you from Brian Kwong. He is going to lay out some of the findings from research he has been doing for his very own project for helping other people successfully fund their Kickstarter campaigns.

Take it away Brian! 

It has been a heck of a year for Kickstarter in 2011, a crowd-funding platform based in the US, where creative projects are launched and funded by everyday folks like you and me.

Since the birth of Kickstarter in April 2009, they had reached 10,000 successfully funded projects in July 2011, helped projects raise more than $100 million dollars and had their one millionth backer in October 2011.

One Million Backers » The Kickstarter Blog — Kickstarter-2

These are some mind-blowing numbers in just two and half years, especially in a weak US economy.

So I thought, Kickstarter could be a real opportunity for me to raise funds and start a creative project that I am passionate about, no matter if it’s a non-fiction book or any other awesome project that I could dream up.

How Kickstarter Works

Kickstarter uses an “All or Nothing” model, meaning if you don’t get enough pledges by the time the deadline is reached for your project, the deal is void and no money changes hands.

This creates a bond between the project creator and backers because everybody wins if the project gets funded.

If the project is funded, Kickstarter gets 5%, Amazon (as the escrow service who hold the money until the project is complete) gets 3-5%, the project creator gets the rest of the funding for a project he/she loves and the backers get awesome rewards that they chose.

This creates an opportunity to build a thriving community by allowing the backers to be a part of something while reaching for the same goal with the project creator.

This all sounds gravy but this is when reality sinks in.

The success rate on Kickstarter has consistently hovered between 40-45%, which means out of every 100 project being launched, 55-60 of them will fail.

This led me to the creation of Kickstarter Rockstar and the goal is to find out…

What does it really take to be successful on Kickstarter?

I went out there and conducted interviews with some of the most successful Kickstarter project owners and asked them exactly how they did it, from start to finish.

So far, 6 interviews are completed. 3 out of the 6 projects are in the Top 20 Most Funded projects in their category, the All-Stars of Kickstarter:

  • The Versalette, by {r}evolution apparel, Kristin and Shannon, #1 most funded project in the Fashion Category, raised $64,246 (Note from Caleb: See our interview with Kristin and Shannon here.)
  • Becoming Visible, by Josh Lehrer, #3 most funded project in the Photography Category, raised $35,348
  • Home Bar Basics, by Dave Stolte, #13 most funded project in the Publishing, Non-Fiction Category, raised $16,934
  • Hello, Skater Girl, by Julian Bleecker, Photography, raised $13,923
  • The EscapeCapsule, by Josh and June, Design, Product Design, raised $54,943
  • 1000 Pugs, by Amanda, Photography, raised $14,701 as the writing of this post

Below are the five critical things that I found successful projects on Kickstarter have in common.

1.  An EPIC Project Idea

Epic doesn’t mean way over the top, although there are successful funded projects like setting a giant guitar on fire or turning a skate ramp into an instrument and so forth.

On Kickstarter, the sky is the limit.

But if you are interested in a project that has the potential to build a profitable and thriving audience like I do, here are some things that I found in common with successful projects.

  • Creative in their own way
  • May have never been done before
  • No satisfactory solution in the market, you are offering something that is unique and from a different value adding angle.

It all comes back to: What is your unique selling proposition?

If you haven’t read The Ultimate Guide to Finding Your Unique Selling Proposition by Corbett Barr, it is a must read. Especially the section titled “How to Find Your Unique Selling Proposition”.

Clear and Narrow Target Audience and Topic

All of the successful project owners I interviewed have a very clear target audience with a narrow topic.

  • The Versalette’s” target audience is females who like fashion and are highly conscious about sustainability.
  • The EscapeCapsule”, a waterproof iPhone 4 case, has a target of iPhone users who are into an adventurous lifestyle, especially outdoor activities like going to the beach.
  • 1000 Pugs” are die-hard pug dog lovers.

For your project to be funded, your target audience has to get behind the project, strike a chord with them and provide value for them.

Remember this is not a charity, backers are pledging and backing a project in exchange for something in value.

If you are offering a product or anything for sale, backers are essentially putting their trust in you and are pre-ordering your product before you put it together.

So an EPIC project idea that offers value to a particular group of audience, in a particular topic is the #1 critical thing successful projects have in common.

Without this, nothing else matters.  Period.

2.  A Story and a Message Bigger Than You

Once you got the project idea down, your story and message has to be bigger than you.

For example, “Becoming Visible” is about giving the fastest growing population of homeless transgender teens a voice in New York.

“The Versalette’s” story and message is about transforming and revolutionizing the fashion industry by creating a sustainable fashion line for women.

Hello, Skater Girl’s” message is about documenting women in a sport that is often overlooked but still carries the rebelliousness in a skater’s DNA.

The common thread in these examples is, they all have a story and message that their target audience view as something worth fighting for.

The project creator is also important. The story usually includes a short mention of how the project creator came up with the project idea and they act as a messenger who fulfills the message of the project in the world.

The more a project speaks to the audience, the more willing backers will participate and spread the word.

3.  Personal and Engaging Video

A video is a must on Kickstarter.

There are a million and one ways to communicate a story through videos and they don’t have to perfect, funny, or exciting. It just has to be “you”.

It could be you simply speaking in the camera, it could be voice over or it could be just moving text so your audiences’ voice acts as the narrator of the video.

Length of the Video

Out of the 6 interviews, the lengths of the videos were between 2 minutes and 8 seconds (The Versalette) to 5 minutes 46 seconds (Home Bar Basic).

Successful projects’ videos length on Kickstarter is about 2 minutes.  And people are most likely to bail after the first 20-30 seconds, so make sure you say what your project is and why someone should back your project within that time frame.

Personally after I click the play button, the first thing I do is to check how long the video is and the longer the video is, the less likely I will finish watching the video.

With all that said, “Home Bar Basic’s” video is 5 minutes and 45 seconds long and it is still in the Top 20 Most Funded projects in the publishing, non-fiction category.  So, there is always an exception.

Creating Your Video

The objective of the video is to clearly communicate your story, your message and what you are trying to accomplish with the project in an engaging and personal way in 2 – 4 minutes.

If that sounds like a tall order, just watch as many successful Kickstarter projects as you can, it happens all the time.  Remember to write down what you like about the videos and bookmark it.

When I asked Josh and June from the EscapeCapsule “What is it that you want to communicate through your video?”  They said one word, “FUN”.  You can see Fun completely shines through in their video.

Most videos have the following components (Not limited to and not necessary in this order):

  • Introduction
  • Problem
  • Vision of the project
  • Solution + Feature and Benefits
  • What you need the money for
  • Ask for support + Rewards

You don’t have to include everything above or in that order.  This can serve as just a basic guideline when you are creating your own video.

One thing I heard repeatedly from these successful project owners is, “The video took longer than we thought to make.”  “I thought we could get it down in a week but it took 3 months.”

So make sure you start creating your video as soon as you can.

Lastly, there is no such thing as a “right” way to create a perfect video.

Just share your story, message, and your project proudly and you will do fine.

4.  Sizable network

Kickstarter is a crowd funding platform.  Your project is funded by your family, friends, colleagues, and customers so the strength of your network plays a big part in any project.

If you have a decent network in terms of quantity and you have a great relationship with your network then it may be enough to carry you through to your funding goal.

If you are starting from scratch and can only start with friends and family, your success will most likely determine by how often you reach out to your target audience to share about your project once you finished telling all your friends.

The best way to demonstrate this is through some graphs and statistics.

In the lower right corner of every Kickstarter project video, you will see a shortened link.

Once you copy and paste that link in your browser, add a “+” at the end and hit enter.

The link will turn into a link and you can see all the statistics of the project, including the total amount of clicks (Traffic), the traffic source of the clicks, what countries they came from and how many social media conversations were generated.

Let’s compare the statistics of two projects, “1000 pugs” and “Hello, Skater Girl”, as they raised a similar amount of funds and they are in the same category of photography.

Kickstarter Project – “1000 pugs”

As of the writing of this post, “1000 pugs” still has 14 days to go, Amanda’s funding goal was $9,636, but she had raised $14,701.

How many days and how many clicks did it take?

It took Amanda 36 hours and 370 clicks to reach her funding goal of $9,636.

And a total of 12 days and 595 clicks to reach $14,701.

As you can see, Amanda stopped actively promoting her project once she reached her funding goal.

This result is created by a combination of a narrow niche of pug lovers who are strongly and emotionally attached to her project of shooting 1000 pugs in one year and the power of her network she built through being a professional pet photographer over the years.

Kickstarter Project – “Hello Skater Girl”

Julian’s photography book project raised $13,923.

How many days and how many clicks did it take?

Julian’s project was launched on Nov 2nd, 2011 and his project ended on Jan 1st, 2012.

That is a total of 58 days and it took less than 1500 clicks (This number includes the clicks after the funding period ended) to reach his funding goal.

Once Julian finished telling everybody in his network, he had to reach out to more people in order for him to meet his goal.

Let’s compare the statistics:

1000 pugs raised $14,701 in 12 days with 595 clicks.  Hello Skater Girl raised $13,923 in 58 days with less than 1500 clicks.

The truth is neither of the project owners knew what’s going to happen until they took action and launched their project. 

It is still possible to reach your funding goal without a big network like Julian, but a good sized audience and great quality of relationship with your network plays an important part of the success of your project.

5. Willingness to Put In the Work

“Dreams Don’t Work Unless You Do” – Unknown

As most “over-night” success stories there is usually a side of the story that is untold.

Every successful project owner that I spoke with busted their chops, no matter if they started building their network years ago before their project launched like Amanda from “1000 Pugs” or they worked furiously to get the word out after the project went live.

Dave from the “Home Bar Basic” failed to meet his goal the first time he launched his project.  He then took the lessons he learned and busted his butt the second time around and made it to the Top 20 most funded projects in his category.

Josh and June “Worked in shifts and didn’t really sleep for 30 days” when their project The EscapeCapsule was live because they were emailing and messaging every technology blog they could find.

Why are they so motivated?

I asked Josh and June how does it feel to be able to fund your project and have the opportunity to create something that you love and do it for a living?

Josh said “Although there is a ton of work, a steep learning curve but I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else in the world right now, no matter what happens to our company.”

Not everyone can say that about what they do for a living.

Each and every project has a unique inspirational story and they are willing to do whatever it takes to transform their idea into a reality.

Do you have a project idea that has been in the back burner for years and are you ready to do what it takes to turn your dream project into reality? Kickstarter might be the best place for you to turn.


What has your experience with Kickstarter been like? Let us know in the comments below if you have funded a project or launched one yourself.

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  • Gregory Ciotti

    Excellent post.

    You mentioned “rewards” for backers, is the reward the project’s completion or can the project creator set up rewards for, let’s say, the most generous backers via Kickstarter?

    • Brian Kwong

      Thanks Gregory, glad you liked the post =)

      Can you elaborate about what you mean by “the most generous backers?”

      The “rewards” are set by the project creator and its up to the project creator to come up with the pricing and what to offer.

      So when a potential backer come to your project, they watch the video and if they want to back the project, they will check out what rewards are available and they can choose whatever fit best for them.

      To allow anyone to participate, there is usually a range of lower pricing point to the highest pricing point, for example, from $10 to $1,000+ (again set by project creator).

      When the project is complete and successfully reach its funding goal, this is when the project owner deliver the “rewards”.

      So I guess whoever back the highest pricing point are the most generous backers =)

      Let me know if I answered your question, if not please ask away =)

      • Gregory Ciotti

        Ah, now that I’ve checked your page, I get the process better.

        You set a “Donate $____ or more to get ____” and include pre-set prizes.

        Thanks for the explanation, I was just a little confused with how rewards worked.

        • Brian Kwong

          Exactly, Gregory =)

          But one very important distinction though, you are not asking for a”Donation”.

          For example, if you choose one of my rewards, lets say, the Rockstar Access Pass, you are getting the behind the scenes of how 3 All-Stars (Top 20 most funded project owners) planned and executed their project in videos, plus step by step notes.

          You are essentially pre-ordering it because you want to support the project AND getting value from those videos, so it is an “exchange of goods”.

          Just want to make that clear =)

  • Adam R

    This is freaking fantastic! I’ve been a kickstarter member for a few months exploring the site and just watching other projects grow and build but was hesitant to its actual legitimacy at first. I always wondered how projects actually progressed along and this posts detail answers quite a bit of my questions. Guess it’s time for me to quit being a lurker on the site and start kick starting my own project!

    • Brian Kwong

      Yes Adam R! I always wondered how project progressed along too which is why I went to interview the most funded projects on Kickstarter and ask them how they did it =)

      Good for you! What category are you interested in? Would it be a non-fiction book or other categories?

      You got nothing to lose so go for it! =)

  • Megan

    I’ve got to say, I am disappointed by Kickstarter.

    Dozens of people I know have contacted them asking: “Please open your doors to folks from around the world. We want to create projects too!”

    The standard response is “Umm – actually, only US citizens get to have projects on Kickstarter. But you can give them money if you want.”

    Thanks Kickstarter. But no thanks.

    At the end of the day, my money goes to IndieGoGo ( – IndiGoGo is more open, allows for more business and cause-oriented projects, can give you you any money that is raised and thinks that people from all over the world can have ideas worth crowdfunding too!

    This isn’t to say that there aren’t awesome projects on Kickstarter – of course there are! But I’d rather show my support through a company that lets everyone in.

    • Brian Kwong

      I understand Megan, Kickstarter is not the only option out there. Indiegogo is a great option for people outside of the US who wants to start a project.

      I also seen people from the UK, Australia, Austria (where I am located) started projects on Kickstarter by partnering with people in the states too.

      As you said, about the projects on Kickstarter, I am sure Indiegogo has some awesome projects too but its very unlikely that one project will be on both platforms (not at the same time at least).

      In my view, supporting independent projects is what this is really about and I just want to point out that it is not the project owner’s fault about Kickstarter’s policy.

      But of course, we all have a choice where we want to put our money at the end of the day =)

      • Megan

        Of course, it isn’t the project author’s fault – we’re definitely in agreement about that! – and the more independent projects that get funded, the better all around.

        • Brian Kwong

          Totally Megan =)
          Where are you located? Is there a project that you want to launch yourself? =)

  • Witnessing Life

    Instead of Kickstarter I opted to go with IndieGoGo. Mainly because there are strict rules for Amazon that don’t work here in Cairo. My project is about the ignored voices Indigenous and ethnic minority voices of North Africa ( I have to say that it’s been a mystery in figuring out how to pull this campaign off. I don’t have a network and have tried marketing via Twitter and other social media sites. I also sent the project to a few acquaintances to ask them to help in the spreading the word. It’s been difficult to raise momentum. I recently tried promoting the project on and have reach out to a few organisations that might be interested in helping via their social media networks. With that said, I have to agree that having a strong network is key to driving a campaign like Kickstarter or any other crowdfunding project because your networks are the ones that will the right kind of buzz to ensure that more and more eyes get a glimpse of what you’re doing. This in the end will optimise your chances of reaching financial goals.

    • Brian Kwong

      Hi Kimbah,
      I totally understand, I started my project Kickstarter Rockstar without a network and a small email list too and my family and friends are not exactly my target audience who would back my project.

      As I said in the article, if you don’t have a big network,
      “Your success will most likely determine by how often you reach out to your target audience to share about your project once you finished telling all your friends.”

      Just like what I am doing it right now, I contacted Corbett and Caleb, founder and editor of ThinkTraffic and see if I can do a guest post to reach out to more people.

      So you gotta find influential people, who has the same target audience that you are trying to reach and offer something in value and see if they are willing to support your project.
      Here is an interview that I did with a photographer who raised $13,000+ on how he did it.

      I know you have a different audience, different project but the marketing strategy is the same no matter if it is indiegogo or kickstarter.

      You still got 30 days to go, lots of time, it is not over until it’s over so keep on moving buddy!

      • Witnessing Life

        This is a great interview you did! I like that you contacted a few people who have been successful. This is a great resource for others trying to learn and replicate. I have faith. 30 days is a long time. I used to live on the streets for seven years and now I travel as a multimedia journalist. The key is hard work and belief in your passion. I wish you the best of luck with your project.


        • Brian Kwong

          Hi Simba!

          I am glad that you found the interview and the project resourceful =)
          Wow, living on the streets for 7 yrs and now travel as a multimedia journalist? Thats hell of a story Simba! So you know what its like when you hit rock bottom and you just gotta keep climbing and climbing and climbing up =)
          And remember, with today’s technology of blogging, facebook, twitter, google+ the growth of a project is no longer a linear, straight line graph, you just never know when its going to tip over and go viral.
          All we can do is just keep up the hard work and belief in your passion, exactly as you said =)
          Thank you for sharing what you are up to and I wish you the best of luck with your project as well.


  • Devesh

    Amazing post, Brian. You did freaking awesome work, man.

    I hate to see that kickstarter doesn’t allow the folks outside the U.S to create the projects. I think the best way to create projects on kickstarter is by partnering with the people living in U.S.

    Thanks for sharing this ultimate guide, Brian. Just tweeted this post.


    • Brian Kwong

      Thanks Dev and glad that you find it awesome =)

      To be honest, I am US citizen living in Austria and it was a pain in the butt to fulfill all of Kickstarter’s requirements BUT remember, dont’ let the platform stop you!

      Most crowd sourcing platform are similar with only slight variations, you can use this guide with any crowd sourcing platforms.

      The question is how bad do you want it, if you want it bad enough there is always a way and you can make it happen =)

  • craig zarkos

    We funded a band epk through Kickstarter. It was a lot of work, but it is doable. I think everything in the article here is spot on. I also think,at least in our circles with music funding, that people are getting “Kickstartered out”. It really is a “campaign” to be successful with Kickstarter.

    • Brian Kwong

      Hi Craig!
      Yes, most people dont’ understand how much work it is because the misconception is, “Oh its easy, the internet and social media will take over, all I gotta do is throw it up on Kickstarter.” Unless a strong network is already establish or the project is really hot, that is usually not the case.
      Craig, may I ask, are you part of “The Lucky Lonely”? Or you worked with them to get the project funded?

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  • Anshul

    Great post Brian and a very innovative idea although honestly this is the first time I have heard of kickstarter. Sort of reminded me a little bit of Kabbage, another US based company helping boot strapping entrepreneurs raise funds for e-commerce related projects.

    • Brian Kwong

      Thank you Anshul, there are lots of great success stories on Kickstarter, which is why I launched my project to support, inspire and educate more people to be successful on this platform. I see this as the future to propel ordinary people to do extraordinary things for themselves, for our society and for the world =)

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  • Sheyi |

    One thing I guess I lackhere before I create my own crowd funding project is community. As I do not have any one yet to support it, I need to start building relationship now and make sure those that eventually comes to my project will help fund.


  • Peter de Vries

    Still a lot of kickstarter projects getting huge amount of backers behind them, like:

    Every day more and more people are getting connected to Kickstarter and start backing projects. The big movement has begun!

  • iDock Mobi

    Seem the greatest and toughest factor is having a nice network that is “willing” to support your dreams. I have a kickstarter and having a hard time with funding.

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