This is the first in a series of four articles on crowdfunding for creatives. Stay tuned to Zerply for more tips on how to get your project off the ground.

Ah, the infamous side project. You’ve been talking about with your colleagues and friends for months now. It’s an idea that you can’t quite get out of your head and you’re wondering if it’s even worth investing the time and energy to get out into the world. We may be biased, but we think the answer is obviously and emphatically “YES”!

The biggest hurdle is oftentimes financial, so that’s where creative crowdfunding comes into play. The beauty of it is that you can finally see all those after-work hours of toiling away finally pay off. Crowdfunding allows you to create without being beholden to a larger studio or financier. Admittedly, it’s not the easiest process to navigate and there is no guarantee of success. But the reward is that this is your project, your way.

Here are some tips to help you along the way.

PHASE 1 – RESEARCH!

Pick the right platform

There are plenty of crowdfunding sites out there, but as an artist your best choices are either Kickstarter or Indiegogo. There are others, but in terms of strong communities (aka wide exposure) and under-the-hood tools, stick to one of these two. Keep in mind that Kickstarter has an “all or nothing” rule which means you don’t get any money if you don’t reach 100% of your funding goal. Conversely, Indiegogo allows you to keep the money you raise, regardless of whether you hit your goal as long as you give them up to 9% of the total. Choose wisely…

Understand your audience

Chances are that if you’re in the process of creating your dream project – whether it be a comic, short film, art book, etc. – you are probably tapped into the creative sphere in which you work. As an artist, that’s generally the best way to know what’s popular and what will get the most visibility. Trust us, no one wants to see another YA novel about a vampire/werewolf/angsty teenager love triangle.

Make a marketing plan

Check for similar successful campaigns and see what they did that worked. Figure out how often you want to reach out to your supporters and how you want to contact them so that you are getting the most bang for your buck. For instance, if your project is a modern day reimagining of Sherlock Holmes, and you know that there’s a huge Sherlock fanbase on Tumblr, tap into it. Maybe create a page for your project so that that community of fans can push your project for you with less effort on your part. Use the momentum!

WIIFM or “What’s in it for me?”

Sure, your goal is to raise money to create your project. But put yourself in your supporters’ shoes for a moment. They are shelling out their hard earned cash on an what is ostensibly a pet project. In an ideal world, a “trust me, it will be awesome when it’s done” would be enough, but the harsh reality of it is that no one will give you money without something in return. Your goal is to entice the potential supporter with rewards.

Here’s the key – keep it simple.

There are three things you should keep in mind here. Firstly, your campaign will have reward tiers where you will specify what your supporters receive in exchange for their contribution. Keep this equation in mind – for x dollars, you get y rewards. Don’t overcomplicate your reward structure with verbose descriptions. It will scare people off.

Secondly, realize that though people might be excited about your project, that financial threshold to become a backer has to be reasonable. Don’t expect a ton of contributors if they have to pay $100 for the smallest incentive. And please get out of here if you think $15 for a bookmark is reasonable.

Lastly, budget your rewards. Again, put yourself in their shoes and think about what you would want for your contribution. Special prints, custom artwork, access to a production blog, printed copies of your comic book – whatever you plan on producing has a production cost associated with that will eat into the total amount your campaign earns. You should have a general idea of how much it will cost to create the rewards for your backers before you offer it up. Super important – don’t forget to factor in shipping costs!

NEXT ARTICLE: Almost there…stay on target! What to do prior to launching your crowdfunding campaign.