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Backer Advice: How To Do Kickstarter (And Crowdfunding) Smart

Backer Advice: How To Do Kickstarter (And Crowdfunding) Smart

Crowdfunding project is a risk; one that many individuals are willing to take in the interest of supporting independent artists, game designers, and other start-ups. Some people back projects to get exclusive items they can only get through being a backer, or just to know they were a part of getting something made. However, backers need to remember that it is ultimately a speculative venture that comes with risk.

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So how can you make sure you’re backing legitimate projects, and that your hard-earned money will go toward real projects that you’ll actually be able to hold in your hands? Well, there is no complete guarantee, but there are steps you can take to maximize your chances. We are listing several of them here with a focus on Kickstarter, the largest of the crowd-funding pages.

LOOK AT THEIR HISTORY

By clicking on the name of the individual or company, you can see what funding projects they’ve listed before.  You can look at what projects they’ve put up, whether they’ve been successful, what people have said about them, and most importantly, whether or not they’ve followed through on their promises.

But what about those first-timers; people who have great, innovative ideas, but don’t have a history yet? Do we give up on them? Of course not. But when someone has never done a Kickstarter before and they’re trying to raise money for a huge project, consider whether or not they are biting off more than they can chew. A lot of people who have done well on Kickstarter began with a smaller project so they could build their credibility, gain experience, and develop a following over time.

You can also Google them and see if they’ve got some legitimacy in the industry.  We all leave digital footprints, especially people who are raising money. Look them up to see what sort of other projects they’ve done, and if any of them seem to be shady. Trust your gut, and if it says pass, don’t hesitate. If they’re really good, they’ll likely have another project or you’ll see their product in a local store.

CONSIDER THE (POTENTIALLY HIDDEN AND UNFORSEEN) COSTS

Some people will offer the world for pennies. If it seems too good to be true, it likely is. And sometimes this isn’t done on purpose. Because anyone can run a Kickstarter campaign, some people who do it have more ambition than know-how, and their optimism gets them into trouble.

KS1If it seems like they’re promising way more than can be delivered for the price they’re charging, first take a look to see if there’s an explanation. Perhaps they own a warehouse full of materials they need to get rid of so they’re putting them into a game they’ve invented. If there’s no explanation, see if there’s somewhere online that gives approximate costs of a few of the materials to see if they at least got it into the ballpark.  You can also write to the person running the campaign and ask how these things are going to be possible.

The biggest pitfall for crowd-funders is shipping (which is hard to estimate). Some are realistic about delivery costs and include an adequate amount; but some don’t, either because they want their product to look cheaper and therefore more attractive, or because they’re too optimistic on the costs of shipping. Many have had to eat the costs of shipping themselves, which has led to delays, or even cancellation of the projects.

Additionally, any add-ons you’ll want to pick up that may also have been unlocked over the campaign. They may end up eating into your hobby budget more than you initially thought when you first backed.

CONSIDER ASKING YOUR LOCAL GAME STORE TO BACK IT

Want that game, but you don’t want to take the risk yourself? You can always ask your local game store to pledge at the retailer level, and you can order it through them. A lot of reputable publishers on Kickstarter work with distributors and have this level, which is a good sign. This works on many levels as it lets you support the store, it makes more orders for the publisher, and you don’t have to risk losing your money. You won’t get the bonus reward for being a backer, and you’re counting on the game store following through, but this is an avenue to consider without taking personal risk.

BE FLEXIBLE WITH RELEASE DATES, BUT NOT TOO FLEXIBLE

KS3If you do follow through with ordering something yourself, you will have to understand that delays do happen, and are sometimes inevitable. But you don’t want the producers to walk all over you. You invested in their product and they said they could deliver, so you have every right to ask questions.

But also understand that politeness gets you further than anger. Many delays are out of the hands of the publisher, so they might be doing everything right but having problems along the way. It’s best to allow the publisher to pull everything together, and it’s perfectly normal to speak with them during the process regarding any concerns you might have. Such feedback, if given constructively, can actually help the publisher in the long-run.

And if, ultimately, you don’t feel they can accomplish their goal, or are unwilling to, it is not out of the question to request a refund. It’s best to approach the publisher about this first, as they might be able to work out issues without a dispute. But if worse comes to worst, Kickstarter does have alternatives if you make a reasonable request.

What are some of the best things you’ve gotten from Kickstarter?  Tell us in the comments below.

Image Credits: Teri Litorco (Photographs of Kickstarter)

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