August 4, 2014
Crowdfunding is a scary thing. You’re taking an idea that you have and asking your family, friends, and perfect strangers to give you money so that you can make it happen. Before launching a campaign, lots of thoughts run through your head. Why should people help you? Can you count on anyone to actually contribute? With more and more celebrities turning to crowdfunding sites, is there even any room for the little guys like us to find success? The answer is yes. You can do it because I did it, not once, but three times.
I’ve spent the better part of the last three years directing, editing, and yes, crowdfunding, my first feature film, Trichster, a documentary focused on seven people living with trichotillomania, a body-focused repetitive behavioral disorder that causes them to uncontrollably pull out their hair.
When I launched my first campaign, I thought I was asking for too much and that reaching my goal was a long shot. I lived in fear for 30 days straight! But I brought what I learned from my first Kickstarter campaign with me to my two Seed&Spark campaigns. Here are some key things that really made a difference in each of my campaigns:
You have an audience. Find it.
I didn’t realize it at first, but there are millions of people across the world who should care about my film. Up to 15 million people in the United States alone suffer from trichotillomania. I reached out to individual support groups and asked them to share our project with their members. I went to every therapist who listed that they treat trichotillomania and asked them to do the same. I posted in facebook groups and on support websites. I once read that for every 100 people that see your campaign, one will donate. Find the people who care about your film. Get your project out there and get eyes on it!
Reach out to your contacts. And make it personal.
By the time I launched my third campaign, I knew exactly what to do. I had different lists of contacts: past donors, friends who hadn’t yet donated, and a list of emails I had collected over years of shooting. I sent out 600 individual personalized emails to people asking them to share my link on their facebook page. I created a template with the basic information, but included a personalized message to each recipient. The more personalized the email, the more connected a person will feel to the film and want to contribute, whether by posting on social channels or financially. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found out friends of mine had run campaigns that I never even knew about. Had they sent me a direct message I would have donated. Personal messages are key.
Yes, you need to post to social media. But do it right!
When running my Kickstarter campaign my co-producer emailed me and told me to google our project link. To my surprise, people had been sharing the link all over the web, just not where we thought. While the link was getting shared on Facebook and Twitter, it was Tumblr where we found the most reblogs. I don’t use Tumblr, but I immediately took steps to learn how it worked and get on it. By the time our campaign was over, thousands of people had posted about it. What I had never thought of was targeting specific ages. Who uses Tumblr? A younger demographic. When does trichotillomania generally start? In young teenagers. Had I done my research, I would have known from the beginning that Tumblr would be a prime spot for us to post about our campaign. And along those lines:
Interact with your audience.
During my campaign, I sent out personalized thank you notes to every single person who contributed. I answered every email that filled my inbox. I posted pictures of our progress, wrote blogs on our website, and shared videos of myself and our producing team thanking everyone for their belief in us. Here’s a really embarrassing example of one of those videos.
Believe in yourself.
This is perhaps the single most important thing. I hate asking for money. The last thing I want to be is that annoying sales person that rings your doorbell right as you sit down for dinner. But you know what? That’s not who I am. I have a cause and a belief that what I am doing will help people. I want to talk about my film to as many people as I possibly can and I want everyone to be interested in it too. If I believe in myself and my project, then I shouldn't be afraid of asking others to believe in it too. If I approach asking for money in a sheepish way, I’ve just made the person I’m approaching think that I don’t believe in my project. And if I don’t believe, why should they?
Tell people why your film is important to you. Tell them your personal story. Make your investors care about you, and they will care about your film too. I’ve watched hundreds of crowdfunding pitch videos—the people who come off as insincere don’t do as well as those who are speaking from the heart. This project is your baby. Tell us why you love it.
Crowdfunding is a full time job. I probably spent an average of five hours a day writing thank yous, making personalized badges to post to our wall, and sharing images from our film. With enough research and dedication, I truly believe anyone can successfully crowdfund anything. If a man can raise over $50,000 to make potato salad, you can certainly raise $10,000 for that cat video you’ve been wanting to make. So go out there, be yourself, and crowdfund like a boss.
Learn more about Jillian's film, Trichster, at Trichster.com