At Crusade for Art, we are focused on educating photographers about best practices and sharing practical information to help move careers forward and connect audiences to photography. It is often helpful to hear from photographers who are right in the thick of things, and so we bring you the first installment of a new series called Developing.
Rachel Minn Lee is a photographer in Singapore who reached out to Crusade for Art just as she was launching her first crowdfunding project (she did not contact us for consulting or advice, all of the activity she writes about has been done without input or mentoring from Crusade for Art). Below you will find her essay about the ups and downs and hopes after her first week in. For our advice on how to successfully launch and fund a Kickstarter campaign, read this post. There is also a large crowdfunding section in our book, Crusade For Your Art, which discusses several different platforms and ways to run a successful campaign on each.
If like me, you are wondering whether you should have a plan before you start your first crowdfunding effort for your creative project, and if, like me, you are really hesitant to believe anything/everything you read on The Internet from people who aim to ‘overfund’ their projects and make the rest of us look like sorry sad creatures for just aiming to hit the target (because the amount is really what we need, it is not a game; it is the right amount that helps us accomplish our dream) well, you came to the right spot.
This is not a well-meaning advice type of article from a kindly being who has taken the path less traveled and on hindsight, shares her profound thoughts on the topic.
I am right at the start of crowdfunding a creative project, and I am nervously sharing my observations about what I did — during the first week, and before the launch of the 50 day effort.
This is just the real-life effort of a solo crowdfunding project creator.
Will the project make it in the end? I really don’t know!
Launched on a FRIDAY.
I already knew that this would not be THE optimal day to launch a crowdfunding effort. However, I was working during office hours and I felt that it would only be right to talk about it during after-work hours.
Choosing the crowdfunding platform was easy. I had first heard of crowdfunding two years ago, and also knew people in my building who were building such a platform. When I knew about the Singapore launch of an Australian-based platform that was famous for a strong track record of raising funds for creative projects, I was in!
My initial feeling was that it would be a pretty tough first effort, if I was not already known as a photographer/author. I knew it would be so much easier if I had already exhibited or made headlines, then launched a crowdfunding effort, based on the amount of support that already existed from advocates and people who love my work.
There’s just something about photography that makes people stop, and look, and think … and remember and love the photo. Doesn’t it seem that way? Everyone I know has their favorite photographer and favorite type of photography — be it the macro view of insects, live concert performances, night lights, portraits. (Selfies! I am sure there will soon be a book on this type of photography too!)
I know few who photograph exclusively in film, or if there is any market for a film photography book focused on a small part of a European country. (Looking on the bright side, I am sure such a book does not exist.) Still, ever since I found my digital book designer in the serendipitous way (a cool guy at a hostel I was in!) and when he showed me a sample, I knew right away that this was the answer to my naive childhood dreams of seeing a project of mine published. It was a feeling similar to when you, the photographer know that the shot would be just perfect immediately after the shutter fires, and you are surrounded by some small fireworks in your synapses, producing an indulgent beam across your facial features for a minute in the infinity of the horizon, that fist-pumping feeling… …
I also knew that I would like to get published this year, because I would like to spend the next year making a collection of stories around the same topic, in line with my inclination to capture the fragile, everyday moments in life — and again, take film photographs, but my focus this time round would be on taking photographs of the people in these stories, the people who write about their everyday lives.
The real statistics
Diligently, I kept track of the % of the amount pledged , versus the funding target, throughout the week.
Fri — Mon: 10% (Yay!!! Synapses firing!)
Tues: 16% (a 6% increase)
Wed: 19% (a 3 % increase)
Thu: 21% (a 3% increase)
Fri: 23% (a 2% increase)
23% funded from the first 7 days out of a 50 day campaign on pozible.com
All the pledges received to date, were from organic growth: from the people whom I had personally contacted and sent a handwritten message about the project. Some whom I barely knew; they were business contacts whom I have not met yet but kept in touch because we were in the same industry sector(technology/online startups). Some were film photography enthusiasts.
By the end of my first week in this crowdfunding effort, I sent about:
250 personal LinkedIn messages — contacts stemmed from mobile games/IT &T/media, and startups. As I have about 4K contacts, my aim would be to reach at least 800 of them, meaning 20% of the people I am in contact with, the aim to reach this number by the end of the second week.
I engaged friends on facebook message, to help me spread the word to their friends.
Currently, it has been shared:
32 times on Facebook
35 times on Twitter
19 times on LinkedIn
4 times on Google+
I felt strongly that crowdfunding could prove to be a validation of the idea, and gaining support not just from my personal organic reach would be interesting.
How do I reach the film photography enthusiasts outside of my (and my contacts’) network?
Who are the people who enjoy fine art photography collections and would like to know about my publication?
I decided to take a small first step and (asked nicely for help to) launch my very first Adwords campaign.
I started an online campaign of Adwords, and ran it from Day 5 to Day 7, to see if there could be interesting results. I made a budget of $10/day and here are the results so far.
3rd Day of Campaign: Spent $33.13 in total
First 3 days of adwords campaign for ‘My Everyday Marseille’ crowdfunding launch
Results: 18 clicks / 3479 impressions / 0.52% CTR, $1.84 CPC
This was my very first online campaign and I had no idea how good or bad the results were. I still have no idea, really.
What I did 2 weeks before
Started being more active on Twitter. I had mostly used Twitter for work purposes and only tweeted about industry news in: #bigdata #analytics #programmatic #online #mobile #singapore #startup #jobs #IT. Most of my followers were in this space, of course.
I needed to reach the people who were interested and active, in: #travel #photography #Marseille #crowdfunding. I started to follow users who were active on these topics. Mostly travel bloggers. I found it a little strange that every single one of them asked me to like their facebook page (and a few promised to like mine back.)
I don’t have a facebook page.
I made some viral-looking pics for tweeting. No one shared them. =(
(They had cute animals and thick, white type words. Perhaps I did not have any supporters born in the 90s.) =(
Created a video. Created a youtube channel for that video.
Launched a website. My main goal was to make sure it was completed before the launch AND translated well on a mobile device.(Most people here in Singapore and across Asia access the web through their mobile devices.)
I wanted a minimalist, clean site with full focus on the content, my stories and my photos. I created the website entirely on my own using the template designs. I think this is called bootstrapping. I still cannot really believe I made this, I really made this website!!! On my own! =)
Unexpected things that made me super happy
An active twitter user who operates a photography enthusiast site in France volunteered to translate my PR Letter from English to French!
He did it instantly and I sent this letter to many French media outlets. I was really touched by this gesture from one photo enthusiast to another. I never expected someone to do something like this for me, much less a complete stranger.
On the very first minutes of my launch, a technology startup founder I had recently added on my business LinkedIn profile asked me, ‘What was new with me?’ Now, I add many potential partners and relevant contacts on this business profile, and did not expect to share about the launch. But I was so excited after clicking ‘launch’ that I just told him excitedly about it! To my utter amazement he said he would forgo a Friday beer for me and pledged on my project! Instantly!
People like these make crowdfunding efforts worthwhile.
Now for the second week! =)
The writer is a native of Singapore who loves the savage beauty of mountains and seas. A film photography enthusiast, she aims to capture known and unknown places, arousing a sense of nostalgia for the fragile moments of everyday life. This is just her second year of travel film photography.
In 2013, she has been to Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Sri Lanka, Spain, The Netherlands and the South of France. In 2014, she has visited Rome & Cinque Terre in Italy, and her next trips took her back to Phnom Penh, Cambodia; and Bali, Indonesia, on her first humanitarian efforts. Visiting the orphanages, poor villages, the homeless and the slums, she thought she could do a little more for the little Khmer kids and pledges 10% of the profits of every book purchased to NGO efforts’ there.(Read more here!)
To back her crowdfunding effort for her debut photo book launch ‘My Everyday Marseille’, go here.