I’m Still Standing – My Chaotic First Week on Kickstarter…

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As I close in my first week of my very first crowdfunding/Kickstarter campaign, for “The Confessions of a Witch Bitch”, a web series about witches, bitches, bullies and office politics (Oh my!),  I can reflect a little bit. This has single handedly been the most exciting and exhausting week of my life and I’ve shot two movies.

It all started Monday when the emails went out. At first, it was crickets, not one single pledge and I started to get nervous. Doubts began to invade my mind as I found myself asking “Really, no one is going to pledge? People seemed so supportive. Maybe they don’t really like the idea. Maybe they really don’t like me. Time to start reaching out to journalists a little sooner than I thought.” All kinds of doubts were racing through my head and within 45 minutes, I made a choice to release it. Those who get it, will get it. Those who donate will donate and if I don’t get a single donation, I will move on to plan 2. Then Plan 3. Then Plan 4. Then Plan 5. And exhaust every avenue until my 35 day run was over.

Then it happened, I got an alert that I had my very first backer. Then I got another alert, then another. Soon they started rolling in. We were on a roll! I had a goal I needed to reach by Day 1 and it looked like it was going to happen.

Then at 1:58 p.m., something strange happened. I was logged out of my Facebook account and my password could not get me back in. I tried to reset it, but whoever logged me out was already working on that themselves and Facebook did not allow me to. My stomach sunk. Outside of email, my main Facebook page was my driving force behind the campaign. Why, out of all of the days, was this happening now? Other strange things happened that day too, my boyfriend discovered his car had been tampered with in a very dangerous way and I could not get the website up that I wanted to use for my close friends. I then had to go and help fix something at my job and I was on vacation. I mistakenly thought I had beaten Murphy’s law because I meticulously planned and was prepared.

Thankfully, I was able to log back into my Facebook account for long enough to drive my donations up to about $1,600 – not bad for a first day, first timer. It was in the can…or so we thought. I didn’t know how I was able to get back into Facebook, so when I logged out to go to my private page, I had forgotten that I no longer knew my password. Once I logged out, I could not log back in. After I harassed a Facebook ads representative, he directed me to a page on Facebook that provided instructions for hacked accounts. I followed them and lo and behold, I was able to change my password! However, the catch was I had to wait 24 hours before I could access my account again. WHAT?!!!! I freaked out! That was an entire day I would not be able to promote my campaign on my main page. I felt weak inside. All of this hard work, all of this effort sank because of some low life asshole.

After I wallowed in self-pity for a little while, I reminded myself of what other successful entrepreneurs go through all of the time. This was nothing but a setback. So I asked my sister, mother and boyfriend to promote for me on that day while I worked the rest of my emails and ran ads.

It helped, but didn’t have the same impact as it did coming from my page. I took the hit. So, I then sent out my second tier of emails. And that within itself was chaos. An email message I cancelled, went out anyway and some people ended up receiving duplicate messages from me. I was horrified! This was the worst time to be thought of a spammer and I definitely don’t like spam. I quickly sent out an apology email and encouraged those who wished not receive emails from me to unsubscribe.

I was actually reluctant about sending those second set of emails out, because the majority of my contacts came from my Facebook friend’s list. Most people on Facebook want to keep things on Facebook, myself included. However, there was no way I could send each of my Facebook friends a message and Facebook not put up a red flag on me for sending out too many of them.  So I decided to do email.

The results were mixed. Some people were offended that I contacted them outside of Facebook, some were offended that I contacted them at all while others were very happy I reached out and they pledged.

One thing I learned about Kickstarter, that other veteran Kickstarters warned me about was, you really get to see, transparently, who supports you. Some people who I did not think cared, pledged generously. Many people promised to pledge in the next few weeks, which was very encouraging. Others who I thought were on board, didn’t as much as share or respond. I even received an email from a woman wanting to be cast in the show. I’ve never heard of her or from her and by my records, she hadn’t pledged or shared anything. She just wanted me to cast her. Yet others who did not have the funds, made up in other ways by becoming my cheerleaders and working hard to help get the word out. I was deeply humbled by this and thankful.

I had one woman decline to pledge because I use the term “Bitch” in my title. That was hard to hear, mainly because she did not have the context nor did she inquire. And I was reminded that I currently live in the South and the edgy material that I do is too much for many people to handle. Another friend indirectly encouraged me to change the title so I would not offend anyone and get more pledges. I refused to do that. What is the point of doing the show if I can’t tell the story the way I want to tell it? And judging by the 40+ pledges I’ve received, the media interviews and the countless other promises, everyone does not feel that way.

I had a long conversation with a very loyal, old friend last night and I explained to him all that I was experiencing during this campaign. He very bluntly said, “Dee, I’ve always loved your work. If you weren’t talented, I would tell you to go back into tv, but you are talented and you work hard. 100 people go for what you are going for and 99 of them give up when it gets tough. You’ve got to be that 1 motherfucker who stays in the game. Because if you get out just because it is tough and just because some feeble minds are trying to stop you, then you are not that 1 motherfucker and I can’t ride with you anymore.” His wording was colorful, but I got the message.

That same message was echoed over and over again by my family, my boyfriend and other friends – Stay in the game. And I have. I have about a month left in the campaign and I don’t know what’s going to happen. I do have a plan for if I succeed and I have for if I don’t, try again.

And truthfully, I hate asking people for money. This was the single most difficult thing for me to do, at times, I felt like I was begging and my ego was spiraling out of control. I’ve always been incredibly independent, so having to depend on not just one person, but a whole lot of people to make something happen was tough. Then I thought about it, no one is truly independent, even billionaires. They depend on the sale of their products in order to live. If the masses decided they no longer wanted what they were offering, those Billionaires would be deep up shit’s creek. So after I changed my perspective, it made a little bit easier to ask. One thing is for sure, Kickstarter gives you a swift, hard kick out of your comfort zone.

This has been a major learning experience, one I would gladly share with anyone. If you want to crowdfund here are a few tips I can offer:

1. Start early! Give yourself about 3-6 months of prep time if this is your very first campaign.

2. Go for the bare minimum amount you need to get your project going. My goal is to raise the barebone amount to produce the entire show, however, if we don’t hit goal, we will reboot to raise enough to shoot the first 2 to 3 episodes.

3. Build up your following – I already had a following from “Tricks.” but it was not broad enough, so I started working on that more. I just wish I had more time to really work that part.

4. Ask for help! I’ve been pulling 18 hours days on this campaign and I have some help. Next time, I will consider hiring a full time social media manager to free up my time to work other parts of the campaign.

5. Your friends and family will be your first cheerleaders, but don’t solely depend on them – Usually, 20 – 30% of your goal will come from them. And they will be your first cheerleaders and your most passionate supporters. You’ve also got to be ready to get people on the phone and start reaching out to blogs and the media too.

6. Have your media list already ready to go – This is the one thing I really did right. I prepared my media list 6 months ago and kept up with the journalist I plan to reach out to.

7. Don’t take anything personal. This was probably the hardest lesson for me but the most valuable. Everybody is not going to be interested in what you do. Most people are trying to navigate their own lives, so asking them for money in an already tight economy may be too much now. And some people will pledge towards the end, when they see time is running out. Whether they do or don’t, it’s not about you.

8. You will always get more “No’s” than “Yes’s”. – That is a fact. So prepare for that and go forth. Most successful people have failed many more times than they have succeeded.

9. Have some gratitude – The people who pledge are giving a portion of their hard earned money away because they believe in you and/or your dream.  Don’t take that lightly.  If if they only give $1.00, it’s $1.00 more than what you had.

10.  Be that One Motherfucker! – Stay Persistent!  Stay the course!  Be that one motherfucker (as my friend said) who does not quit.  Even when it looks bleak.  Try different ways of doing things.  And be patient, give it time to catch on.  You’ll intuitively know when something is working  and when it is not.

That’s about it. I will be keeping you guys updated on my Kickstarter journey. If you would like to make a donation, you can do so at: http://bit.ly/thewitchb.

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