In a giant avalanche of changing societal expectations, it’s suddenly become ok to ask strangers to pay for what you want to do with your life. I’ve never seen an avalanche in real life, but I imagine the train of thought to go something like this: “Oh look at that mountain, it’s so beautiful, ooh that bit of snow is moving, I’m glad I’m not near it, it’s actually moving quite fast, it’s a lot closer than I thought it was, I hope it doesn’t - AARRRRGGGGHHH.”
And so it has been with crowdfunding.
Crowdfunding, in some form, has been around for a few hundred years. It was a common way of financing books back in the early days of the printing press, it was how the Statue of Liberty got a pedestal, and it’s how many churches, parks, and theatres managed to have seats. But in the last few years, thanks to the internet, it’s just run wildly out of control.
There are dozens of crowdfunding sites out there now, there are hundreds of thousands of projects, and millions of pounds changing hands. And it should be a good thing. People who have great ideas can find the means to realise them. Unfortunately the market of strangers who want your money has become saturated as fuck, and it’s becoming more and more full of people using it for the wrong things.
So here’s a handy guide to how to benefit from crowdfunding without making anyone see red mist.
Don’t Use It As A Work Alternative
The money you raise should go to a specific creative endeavour. You need money to get your rad app online and advertised? Brilliant. You’ve invented a board game and you need production and distribution covered? Fund the fuck out of that. You want to pay your rent while so you can spend all your time writing a screenplay about the struggles of a white middle class twenty something with a lego fixation? Fuck off. Get a job and do it in your spare time, like everyone else. You want to move to a country where your talents will be better appreciated? NO. Save up your pennies till you have enough to move.
Don’t Have Shit Rewards
“Great appreciation” is not a reward. “Good karma” is not a reward, and neither is “the knowledge of having help someone out.” Those things are a given. Rewards should reflect what someone has given, they should be personal and unique, they should be something no one else will have. No one’s going to pledge £100 if the reward is a digital download of your EP. No one wants a personalised message from you in exchange for £50.
Know Your Platform
Have a look at what’s available before you sign up to a particular crowd-funding site. There’s Patreon for podcasts and other ongoing creative projects, which allows the people who really love what you do to support it, and means you can continue providing it to others for free. If you actually want to set up a business, there are sites like Crowdcube, which gets you investors rather than donors. There are options, is what I’m saying here. Do your research.
It’s Not The Only Way
People have been getting independent creative projects off the ground for years. They’ve applied for arts grants. They’ve sold advertising. They’ve gone after corporate sponsorship. They’ve taken out loans. (Reasonable ones, from genuine financial institutions, without crippling interest rates - please don’t go to a loan shark.) All those options are still available, and they’re worth looking into. Don’t make crowdfunding your default.
Don’t Be Zach Braff
Zach Braff, we’re looking at you.
Follow Janina on Twitter, @J9andIf