My First Kickstarter - Mistakes and Lessons Learned
Hello everyone! Bachoochi here.
Today I want to share with you my journey. This is a very honest blog about my first fundraiser using Kickstarter. If you don’t know what that is- I actually didn’t too until a month ago!
First time I came across the word “kickstarter” was from a pin designer on Instagram who was doing super cute pokemon pins. I wanted to buy one of her pins but then she tells me that it’s actually just on Kickstarter and not on her store yet. I was like— so I can’t get it? She was kind enough to explain to me that Kickstarter was like a fund raising platform where she presents her designs online in hopes of getting “pledges”. These pledges were basically donations from people who like her project and in return for their support they will get the pins she designed after the campaign ends.
For example a fan would pledge $15 for her project and she would send them a pin at the end of the campaign. Pledge something like $30 and you get a pin, stickers, prints and other freebies. It’s different from a store because she would only get the pins made if there are enough people interested in them that would fund the production of her designs. I finally understood the concept.
So I got really excited about the idea that wow people would “buy” in advance as support and I can use those donations to fund the production without having to invest in the cost. The great part about this is that, if not enough people are interested then you can lay the idea to sleep. But if you get a lot of support, you can turn your ideas into reality and you already know people are going to buy it. The rest of the stock you can just sell on your store afterwards.
Without much research I dove into the website. Not the best move. I immediately signed up for Kickstarter and read the guidelines mindlessly. The prerequisites were simply, a document that would prove your identity, a bank account, and credit card. I had those and my country was on the list that it supported so I signed up. It took a day to confirm my identity because they actually go through your credentials and even social security number.
The day that I waited for my identity authentication, I scribbled a little Ponyta on my ipad. It was cute but I wasn’t really thinking of turning it into a pin. I just wanted to draw something adorable for my baby nephew. He seemed to like colorful things with big eyes and I just started playing Pokemon Sword and Shield. He liked it so much that I grew attached to the design and decided that maybe using this as my first Kickstarter design was a good idea.
Before Ponyta, I had one pin design made already. The manufacturer was a random one I found in Alibaba. It was a Snow Bird with a red scarf. The design was simple and cute. I thought it would sell pretty easily. I was wrong though. As much as I was proud of my pins, no one seemed to want to buy it. I only got one order even after a month. So Kickstarter seemed like an even better idea at that point.
I finalized my design and set up my first kickstarter. Sent it for review just after an hour. I didn’t put too much information and the picture I used was the same one that I posted on instagram. IG pictures are square but the Kickstarter banner was elongated. So it ended up being a really close up photo of ponyta’s face instead of the whole design. I didn’t even bother changing it because it was cute enough for me. Lesson learned- I need my kickstarters to be more presentable.
Another thing that I misunderstood about Kickstarter was the tiers. I saw some projects where they “unlock” stuff after reaching a certain amount. For example a pin project with a goal of $200 would have several designs and the next design would get unlocked after $400 and so on. What I did instead was have 3 tiers. The first one was just a pledge for one pin. The next a pin and a sticker, and then a pin sticker and keychain. The pin was for people who pledge $10, the pin and sticker was $15, The pin sticker and keychain was $25. With this set up I managed to get a few backers but not a lot of people got the expensive tiers.
When I reached the goal of $200 I announced that I unlocked a fourth tier that now includes a shiny version of the acrylic keychain. I guess that’s not what people usually do and instead of getting more people interested some people actually backed out. I was pretty disappointed. I even went under the goal again.
For many days, I watched my campaign like a hawk only to be disappointed at how little action was going on. I was proud of my work but I guess my delivery wasn’t great. I even started to doubt my design. Maybe people didn’t like Ponyta with a smiling mouth. Took quite a toll on me as an artist. So I decided to distract myself from the campaign and started playing with the graphics. I ended up drawing a background for the ponyta with her little shiny companion. In the end, that’s how my back card was designed.I also thought of turning that into a print if only I reached $400. With three weeks left on my campaign I was painfully stuck at $356 for days.
Another thing I didn’t do quite right was that as soon as I reached the $200 goal, I immediately asked the manufacturer to make it. I used up my rent money hoping that I’d just make up for it later. I paid them and they gave me an artwork for the color schemes. The thing is, the manufacturers only have a limited amount of colors. Which means they couldn’t match my design 100%. They had to find the closest hues for the purples and blues. I also had to learn what Pantone colors were. The first draft they sent me looked awful. I wasn’t used to seeing the colors all dull. But they said that it was just because it was on the computer and the there was no “back light” so to say. But in real life it should be good. I was so unsure if I should still get them made. But I already paid so I just had to trust them. They promised to send me a sample prototype for my approval before they mass produce it.
The timeline so far was; February 20 I launched the campaign. February 26 I reached the $200 goal. March 2, I added the shiny ponyta acrylics. March 16 the prototype arrived. At this point my funding was still stuck at $365.
Now let’s talk a bit about costs. The first pins I got made was $165 for 50 pins. It was a simple round white bird with a red scarf. I thought pins were suppose to be simple. But apparently people go crazy detailed with their designs these days. Get your money’s worth! Make a fancy design! So then, I asked for a little discount since it was my second order. They gave me $5 off. The rest I couldn’t really negotiate too well since I was ordering only 50 pieces. The higher you go, the better the deal they can give you.
Luckily, I managed to find a cheaper producer. 50 pieces for $140 was the best deal I found. I haven’t received it yet so I can’t say too much about quality comparison yet.
So I had my pins going, have my backer cards, next thing I had to deal with were the extras in the tiers. I promised two acrylic keychains. One with the original purple color, and the other one with the shiny color. The stickers, I had long before the pin idea. I just drew a ponyta for a sticker months before. It was a great time to use them.
During this time I was living in the Philippines. The world was going crazy over the corona virus. I was waiting for my papers to move to Japan. One day I was at a mall and I saw an acrylic store. They mostly sold trophies and plaques. But then I saw that they have custom keychains! I decided to order 30 pieces and I got each piece for about $2.5. I think it’s a pretty good deal. After a week they were ready for pick up.
I excitedly made my way to the shop and as soon as they brought them out, my soul wanted to leap out of my body in excitement. Nothing beats seeing your work turned into merchandise. I was super excited at first until my friend took one out of the plastic and pointed out how crappy the quality was. My excitement disappeared almost immediately. It seriously looked like someone printed it from their old home printer. I can see the pixels and the rough lines where the printer was inconsistent. I tried to tell the man in charge that the quality was very poor. But they didn’t do refunds and they even said all their machines make it this way. No way man! I go to conventions in the Philippines all the time I know for a fact that acrylic keychains these days look clean and professional. Another thing that I hated about the keychain was that there was a white outline outside of the graphics. The plastic part was suppose to be clear damnit. I couldn’t get any compensation out of them and ended up with cheap looking keychains.
I was sad and disappointed that I had these to give out to my backers. For days I contemplated whether to do something about it and lose more money or just give them this shitty keychain. In the end my conscience won. Because if I was going to give people my work I want them to have the best version of it! So a few more days passed by and I found an acyrlic keychain manufacturer from China. It was way more pricey because of the shipping but they showed me samples of their work and it seemed like it was worth having the keychains remade even though it will cost me more.
They were kind enough to let me order a small amount. I promised to order more pins from them if my future campaigns do well. They were very accommodating and understanding. I will definitely use them again. They were awesome! I got the acrylics remade and by March 18 I had a beautiful perfect set of ponyta keychains that I am proud to send to my backers!
This is what the full set looks like for $30. I designed a new print 2 weeks before the end of the campaign. I went over goal so I wanted to give more free stuff to my backers. I'm so happy with all the merch.
So guys, I have to be honest. I thought my project was going to explode. I set my campaign for 45 days since I thought a lot of people will just keep pledging. I miscalculated. For one thing, I didn’t have anymore designs to unlock! After the people saw that ponyta was unlocked they just lost interest in my project. I should have made it only 10-15 days or something. It was enough to support one pin design. After the first week I already reached my goal and the rest of the days I just worried that people would back out since they’re waiting too long. I tried to update and keep them engaged by showing them updates on the production and the prototypes. This didn’t raise any interest. At this point both my backers and me just wanted to end the campaign, get the goods made, and for me to send them the pins. Nothing more to look forward to here.
I also shouldn’t have started the production before even receiving the funds. What if people back out or their cards get declined? But I was inexperienced. I only got the advice from a Kickstarter veteran only after I started the orders. And also, I set my rewards to have a quantity limit of 50. My friend advised that I set the quantity lower because the pins I will get will definitely have “seconds” or in other words, pins with slight defects and scratches. I should only give people the best grade A pins. She was right! When the pins arrived and I graded them almost 3/5 of the pins were slightly imperfect. Definitely not using the same manufacturer anymore.
Kickstarter also does not allow you to end the campaigns earlier. I thought one way to have it end early is to set the quantity of rewards to the number of pledges already taken. I wanted to end my campaign before April. But around March 25 I matched the pledges taken and tried to close my campaign but it didn't work. I had to wait until April 5 in the end.
April 5th finally came along. I did a fun count down on my instagram and watched it reach to zero. It was pretty cool. Right after it ended, I sent the surveys to the backers for their shipping details. I did notice that some credit cards were pending. Hopefully they'll figure that out in a week or two. I should also get the funds around that time and then I can ship all of these glorious babies.
I went through so many hurdles and I didn’t get the support I had initially hoped for. (Because it wasn't realistic haha) I guess I was dreaming too wildly and didn’t manage it that well. But I am grateful that my project was still a huge success. But either way next time I will do better. Both for my patrons and manufacturers. Also I didn’t really have a lot of audience. I was new at the pin game and people didn’t know me for Pokemon art. I had to pay for advertisements on social media. It was hard because I invested a good amount of money. I got plenty of likes, reached up to thousands, but only a hand full of people actually looked at my Kickstarter link. My experimental indiegogo campaign had 1,200 likes with 0 backers for a month. I had to close that one.
One thing I think I should do better is build up the hype so people will already be looking forward to my campaign before it even starts. I have to grow my audience and find people who like what I’m making. I’m doing that for my next Kickstarter which will focus on Granblue Fantasy pins. This time I have 12 designs which unlocks at $250 each, and I’m showing my designs through out March before the campaign begins in April. Wish me luck.
To those who are supporting my work I really want to Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I really enjoy making shiny cute things. I’m so glad that people enjoy them too. When I look at my finalized ponyta pins, the backer card, the acrylic keychains, I feel so happy. They are like my babies. I am so proud of them. I am so proud to be their mama.
Thank you also for reading this blog! I hope you learned some stuff from it as well.