I shared what I learned before starting my IndieGoGo campaign to fund development on Snaplive, my FOSS CMS project. Originally I wrote that my idea was to update that article to share what I picked up along the way, but I’m starting to think I’ll need a whole separate one if I really want to share that, as there are 1,000 things that I know now that I didn’t know when I started (despite reading countless articles and a short ebook)…
Actually, the campaign is not really going horribly—we’ve reached 20% of the goal, and there are more than 30 days to go, but I was really amazed as how hard it is to crowdfund your project, and how different it is in reality, compared to what you know (or think you know).
Programming the app was easier than crowdfuding
I’m not a marketing guy. I like design and read a lot of articles, but I’m definitely more knowledgeable on the developing side.
Although I’m getting a little help right now, I’ve been going solo developing Snaplive for about 7 months. That means that I’ve been programming the prototype, doing screencasts and videos, designing the UX, etc.—all by myself.
And, that was a lot of fun! Also, it felt relatively easy, too. That’s because I feel comfortable of course developing, but also doing screencasts. Crowdfunding takes a whole lot more if you’re not a professional.
Why is crowdfunding hard? Of course, I don’t know 100% right now, since I still have a month to go, but I think I can share a few ideas…
Reasons why crowdfunding is hard
People don’t know what crowdfunding is
This sounds like a joke, but it actually isn’t. Right after I lunched my campaign (and yes, you’re supposed to do that beforehand, but I really hadn’t planned a campaign this early) I started reaching out to people, to let them know that I had it going on. I emailed friends and family, a few clients, and subscribers to Snaplive’s mailing list.
Well, I was amazed at how many people just had no idea what I was talking about: most people older than 40 that I talked to had never heard about crowdfunding, and 2 even asked me if it was legal.
Obviously, in retrospect you really need a week or so (no exception) to contact everybody and not only let them know about the campaign, but also explain what crowdfunding is and how it works.
Asking for money is hard
As a web consultant, I’m constantly sending invoices and calling people that don’t want to pay or are months overdue (this is Italy, it kind of works like this ;-)), but I’m really not used to “asking” for money. It’s not quite like when you’re little and you have an allowance or ask for a 50,000 liras for a concert, but it feels (to me) a lot different and worse than billing a client for a job.
Of course, you have perks and are giving rewards, but people are contributing money that most of the times (in my case at least) would not have gone to funding software. In any case, I still feel like you’re asking for money in a different way than you’re used to, and that makes it hard to me.
Marketing is hard
Obviously, if you’re a marketer (like my wife who’s helping me out luckily) it’s normal business, but marketing is really hard. Reaching out to people—specially when you ask for money, creating interest without getting spammy and alienating people, is not easy.
When doing a campaign you need a video pitch, newsletter, and just a lot of things, and you could hire a professional, but that would obviously raise your budget even more.
I believe it would be easier if it was something everybody could relate to, like let’s say the wonderfully marketed Kite mosquito patch (you see..? I’m linking it to it right now), but software is different. People don’t really know how a web application works or is done—some think the computer does it all, and explaining why it’s cool, important and expensive and why you need their support is not an easy task, and that adds to the difficulty.
People don’t really care
Most people budget, and pay a lot of attention to where their money goes. When you spend money on something is because it’s something you really need, or something you really want.
With crowdfuding, it’s neither. Of course, you might have 100,000 reasons to support a project, but most of the times you weren’t thinking about putting $5 or whatever on a piece of software.
What this means, is that you have to convince people that they care about your project and supporting it, and need to convince people to put money into it. Needless to say, this is not easy at all, specially if your project is relatively new (like Snaplive)
Despite the heading, I don’t have a conclusion: Snaplive has more than 30 days still left to go. I’m learning a lot along the way, and I’m sure by the end of the campaign I’ll have learned even more. So far it’s been challenging, but also fun because you still learn new things.
Do you have feedback on the campaign? Take a look, would love to hear what everyone thinks and get some pointers!