Kickstarter thoughts 2: An Introvert’s Guide to Kickstarter
I’ve been thinking about the introvert’s guide to Kickstarter for a while now. At first, I joked that it would consist of two words, “Just don’t.” But that’s not true or fair. My campaign did actually fund, so it would be disingenuous to say that, and even beyond the funding, I am thankful that I did the Kickstarter. It was hard for this introvert, though, so I thought I’d share some coping strategies.
Before jumping in, I’m aware that there’s probably been way too much made of the differences between introverts and extroverts, with articles like “83 surprising signs that your introverted cat is actually extroverted” (my cat really is introverted, or at least very scared of loud people, but I digress). Like many personality traits, I expect it’s more of a scale rather than a strict dichotomy, and different people mean very different things with the label introvert. Whatever. I identify as an introvert, and have a lot of the traits that are associated with introverts: I have trouble initiating conversations, especially if it’s to talk about myself. I don’t enjoy being the center of attention, and generally don’t try to call attention to what I’m doing. I don’t mind talking in front of groups, as long as I was invited ahead of time with enough lead time that I can plan out what I’m going to say. If you wait for me to just jump in to a conversation to tell you about my project – even if there was a perfect opening – you’ll be waiting for a very, very long time. In short, if you look at Kickstarter’s own guide to promoting your campaign, everything in that list makes me queasy and anxious. So that’s where I’m coming from
And a couple of quick caveats: I offer these thoughts because parts of the Kickstarter campaign was so hard for me, and I wanted to share things that made it better. And maybe this will be helpful to extroverts, too, who knows? My campaign was not a runaway success, but it was successful. And anyway, this isn’t a guide to being successful (there are plenty of good guides to successful campaigns – here’s a couple more), it’s a guide to coping with the terrifying promoting-your-project parts . Also, I am not Internet famous, my thoughts are probably unnecessary if you have a very large and devoted following online, no matter how introverted you are.
Why Kickstarter is awesome for introverts
In many ways, Kickstarter is the perfect vehicle for an introvert to fund a project. You just write up your project, put it out there, post about it on the social media platform(s) of your choice and yay! People fund it. And you never even had to talk to anyone in person or on the phone. At least that’s the theory. Obviously, there’s more to it than that (that’s why this guide was written), but let me be clear: there is no way I would have gotten funding for my book if I had needed to acquire it by more traditional means like actually talking up the project to people in person.
Kickstarter also forced me to go outside my comfort zone and learn to talk about what I was doing, and figure out how to ask for help. There’s a lot to be said for doing things that push you in to new situations and challenge you. And boy did it challenge me. Now, I’m not going to quit being a librarian and become a sales person because of this campaign, but it was valuable for me to see that I can approach people and talk to them about my projects. Turns out people don’t automatically turn off or yell at you when you ask for things.
And that leads me to my third reason that Kickstarter was awesome. Since I had to put myself out there and had to ask for help, I got the benefit of seeing that I do have an awesome support system and lots of people who believe in what I’m doing and were willing to not just be a backer, but to go above and beyond and really help me with the campaign. And these weren’t only people with kids in glasses or some other personal stake, but friends and family and friends of friends who just think it’s a good idea that they want to see happen. It’s easy for me to keep to myself about these things that I’m passionate about. But when I do that, I don’t get the chance to find out what others think about it. It was wonderful to learn that other people thought my book was a good idea.
Why Kickstarter made me want to curl up in the fetal position under my bed
So it’s all well and good that Kickstarter exists and that it pushed me to put myself out there, but the campaign was hard and draining and filled me with all sorts of awful self-doubts. It’s easy to look back from the perspective of being funded and say it was worth it, but the difficulties and fears and doubts were very real.
Here’s some of the things that had me at least metaphorically cowering under my bed (I never actually crawled under my bed, it’s dusty under there, and my figurative bed is easier to fit under):
- I had to make a video. If I were a wizard at video-producing, I probably could have had a video with someone else doing a voice-over and no images of me at all. But I’m not, so not only did I do a video, but it was just me talking about my project (with Zoe as my much-needed crutch).
- I had to post links to that video to all my social networking sites.
- I had to post that link again.
- I had to ask people give me money.
- I sent unsolicited emails to strangers asking them to give me money.
- Did I mention posting that link to facebook again and again?
- I contacted local tv and radio news stations about my campaign. None of it led to anything, but if it had, I would have had to actually be on the news about this.
- I posted to facebook again. Also to Twitter and Google Plus.
The low point was in the middle of the campaign, when the pledges had dwindled to a very slow drip. I figured that I’d hit the limits of my friends and acquaintances’ network. But there were all these wonderful friends who had stepped up to help and I didn’t want to let them down, but I just didn’t know what else to do. I sat in front of the computer for hours those nights, staring at the screen hoping that my stares would somehow bring in more pledges. Then I’d refresh the Kickstarter page and see that nothing had come in. I knew I needed to act to bring in more pledges, but I was completely tapped out. It’s pretty well established that many Kickstarter campaigns have a very slow part in the middle weeks, so I’m guessing I’m not the only one who felt lost in that awful middle section.
Obviously I made it through, largely thanks to many wonderful friends (who show up quite a bit in my list below). Here’s my list of strategies that helped me survive all the promoting and being all outgoing and social parts of the Kickstarter:
- Find a trusted extrovert. You’re going to feel like you’re posting or emailing or talking too much about your project. Find someone who is much more outgoing than you who can tell you if your update is lame or if you’ve inundated your social media feed too much with your posts (chances are it isn’t and you haven’t, but you’re going to want someone else to tell you that). On the really bad days, you can even ask them to draft a post or update for you. That leads to my next strategy…
- Ask for help. You can’t do this alone. If you’re like me, you’d rather just do this on your own, but it’s called crowdfunding for a reason. This is the time to get over yourself and ask friends for help. You probably haven’t asked them for help much before and it’s entirely possible that they’ll want to help you. Think about what would be helpful: getting the word out, a pledge, a blog post, creating visuals, etc. And then ask if they’d be willing to do that. It will be out of your comfort zone, but this is one of those things where it’s good to push yourself and do it. One of the biggest things for me was to get notes of introduction. I have a really hard time contacting people if I have no connection with them. Having a mutual friend introduce me made talking with them a lot easier.
- Identify people who are excited about your project. This goes along with the point above. If you’re having trouble asking for help, think about who has been excited about your project. You may be surprised by who that is. If you’re like me and haven’t talked about your project much, then you probably don’t have any way of knowing who is interested. Now that you’ve put your project out there, you’re more likely to hear from people who are excited about it. Those are the people who not only want you to succeed, they’re also likely to be happy to help you.
- Come up with a plan of one thing you can do each day. It helped me a lot to have a list of different things I could do: contact someone personally via email, contact a local newspaper, write a facebook post, write a Kickstarter update, etc. Then I would make sure I had done at least one of those things each day. I’m not organized enough to have a schedule of these things, but I did keep a mental list. Some days, I felt up to doing more, so I did more, but having that list helped a lot on those days that I felt completely lost.
- Give yourself a day off, and make sure you do something entirely different. You’re going to need to recharge. If you decide to take a day off (which I recommend), make sure you do something that’s away from your computer and your phone (if you’re getting phone notifications). Constantly refreshing Kickstarter to see if there’s a new pledge will not help you recharge. Find a great book, go for a long walk, go out with a friend (but don’t talk about the campaign). Just let your mind focus on something else for a bit.
- Give yourself a safe space and boundaries. I decided that church was going to be my safe space. At church, I was just going to be Ann, and I wasn’t going to talk about the Kickstarter at all. I know a lot of people will say that you need to work every single network that you have, but for me, it was extremely helpful to know there was a community where I didn’t have to be “on” about the campaign. I also tried to keep strong boundaries at work. I let my boss know that I was running the campaign, but otherwise, didn’t talk about it unless someone asked me (I’m friends on facebook with a lot of my work colleagues, so it did come up occasionally).
- Find a balance. A lot of guides talk about how you need to spend all your time and energy promoting your campaign. You will have to push yourself in order to be successful, but you can burn yourself out really, really quickly. Hiding under your bed will do nothing to advance your campaign. If people are telling you to do something that just does not feel like you, give it a try once, but if it really feels wrong, step back and do something else. Being genuine counts for a lot in these things, but that requires you to actually be genuine. Don’t post things that someone else writes for you – yes, above I said you could use your trusted extrovert to draft an update or post for you, but the key word is draft. Make sure that what you do and what you post still feels like you.