The first thing you need to ask yourself before you launch into this brave new world of crowdfunding is does your campaign have a decent chance of working. There are a series of questions you should ask yourself before committing to this herculean task, and I went through these steps myself in considering my campaign to print 1000 of my Oracle of Initiation decks at a more accessible price. Here are the main areas we all need to consider to see if this baby might fly:
Lets start with the down and dirty question of do you really have the time to do this? It can take months of preparation, an intensive series of pushes during the launch itself, and then depending on your offerings, a lot of post-campaign fulfillment issues. You will hear over, and over again that doing a campaign (well) can be a full-time job. So far I would agree with that, and add that it’s a full-time job during the crunch season.
You will also want to look at a calendar, and see the larger picture of where your campaign fits in. Is your offering something that would be great to sell during the winter holidays? How long are your production lead times for fulfillment of products? Can you do the campaign and still make a Christmas delivery? Are there some big conferences and or gatherings coming up in your field where your offering could do well? Is there a great tie-in for your idea, like Earth Day, a certain anniversary of an event, or a seasonal/cultural connection? Will you have time to do the actual run, and then all the post-production delivery of items? Are your kids out of school in the summer and take a lot of time so you would feel stretched in too many directions? Do you want to sail in the summer, and not be tied to social media with such a big commitment?
On a personal note, are there certain times of the year you are more outgoing and vibrant? I tend to become a hermit-dreamer in the winter, so expecting an enormous amount of outgoing energy from me in December and January is just not wise, or kind to my own rhythms. Doing this campaign in the spring is a good match for me, my energy is rising, and I can easily go for hikes in my canyon to balance out all the mental exertion. Think about what you really need to stay nourished and resilient to give this your all, taking all of this into account when scheduling your campaign. These considerations should also be on the table when you are deciding on how long to run the campaign. Mine will be 33 days, I feel I have about a month in me to really offer myself up, and then I need a break.
When considering doing my own launch, I looked at the flow of my life. I am self-employed and my schedule is pretty flexible with selling my art and decks, doing workshops, and offering Oracle readings and Spiritual Initiation Counseling, so I am able to commit a huge percentage of my time to this process. This is part of how these meaty blog posts on the evolution of the campaign are possible. And my career is on the edge of going to another level, I can feel it, and this campaign is part of that. Further on in the post I have done the numbers for my current online presences, and after the launch I will do a comparison to see how much a campaign can affect your career visibility.
In order to forge your own path, you need some magnetism. It take mojo to carry your own gifts confidently into the world. Combining the grace of the gods with your own natural talents, you may be able to make an unorthodox career path work. Crowdfunding is platform to help support these brave and crazily determined folks who keep plugging away, day after day at their own projects, pouring their hearts into their beloved offerings.
Both you, and your project need to be formed enough to draw other people in. You need to ask yourself realistically, is my idea coherent enough for other people to jump on board? There is something to that 10,000 hours of dedication to reach excellence in a given discipline. There is also organic, innate gifts, but to be able to really share something well, the adage goes you need to be able to teach it to someone else. Are you ready and able to teach your unique gift?
Some of the ways you can answer these questions positively is if other people are asking you for your creations. Do people actually want/need this? Do you have a fan base, devotees, a tribe of people who think your ideas rock, and they light up when talking to you about it (even online-one can tell a sparkly energetic exchange across the inter-web too).
Do you feel it inside yourself. Is there a genuine push, not an ego push, or an “I should” push because: put your story here: I am almost 30, I am single, my sister is more successful, I want my dad’s approval, I want a hotter car, I want to get laid, I need to pay off my school loans…NOT those, but an honest to god itch that says we need to get this party started with this vision? Is it easy for you to tell new people about it because you are so on fire you can’t keep it to yourself? Good signs. Now, that said, timing is an interesting creature, and I personally can feel things years before they are to manifest, but there is also a flow, a calling to projects when they are preparing to birth. You will need all of your instincts, mixed with the intoxicating endorphins and primal urges you can get to bring this baby forth, so make sure it is time, and you are ready to be a decent parent.
And are you going to have fun with it? Joy is one of the most magnetic energies we have, and it is completely enchanting to be around. We are talking about, true, grounded, organic passion for your project. We will all look different in our joy, but there is a right-ness to the projects that make the creators glow from a deep-inner satisfaction. I believe that is why many of the projects that get funded do work, because the folks are in alignment with themselves and their offerings, and the mysterious destiny of divine timing agreed. It may be a philanthropic endeavor, or a transformative art project, but somehow those people have tapped into their own magnetism, and they are ready to share it with the rest of us. This brings us to emotional preparedness.
You are also going to put yourself out there in ways you never imagined doing during this process, and it will take a fairly stable ego-self to carry this through. You may feel vulnerable, scared, insecure, and overwhelmed, as well as thrilled, humbled, inspired, delighted and blown away depending on the arc of your campaign. You will also be swimming in a larger communal pool of powerful cultural-myths about limitation and lack. Along with lots of wonderful support, you will get to weather your own, and other people’s judgements about giving and receiving, the value of yourself and your work, and ideas about success and how to live the life you really want.
See this inspiring video by crowdsourcing rock star and amazonian-punk leader Amanda Palmer explaining her intense journey through the labyrinth of other people’s projections. I cried watching this. Thanks sister for showing up and changing the world. Crowdsourcing is blowing through many of these old paradigms, and they are still all alive in each of us, so be ready to have an interesting emotional ride along with all the hard labor of getting this craft off the tarmac.
The third thing you need to look honestly at is your network. Some campaigns have succeeded through finding a way of tapping into tribes way beyond the original inner-circle of devotees, which is what we all want, and generally you need to have some level of established connections to your work to make a campaign happen at all. In one of a series of videos hosted by John T. Trigonis, writer of Crowdfunding for Filmmakers on Indiegogo, Adam Poswolsky discusses his successful strategies from his Quarter Life Breakthrough campaign. One of the things he suggested was reaching out to ‘ambassadors’ for your campaign. Ask at least fifty people to be the A-Team of outreach for the endeavor, posting it on their social networking sites during the run, telling their tribes about it, and even asking them to send it to some of their email lists if they were comfortable doing this. I LOVED this idea, and so when beginning to research my campaign’s viability, I went to analyze my own potential pool of lovely Oracle deck ambassadors.
There are about 300 of my Oracle decks out in the world right now, and it has a vibrant cult-following. Many well-respected leaders in my field have given it high praise, and the people who have found it, and resonate with it, tend to LOVE it. It is also an investment at its current Limited Edition print-on-demand price point of $155 for the big 4×6” cards and 400-page full-size book, so I am also assuming there is a larger market for the deck if I could get the price point lower.
Secondly, I went to my Oracle of Initiation Facebook page that I created five years ago, and did some analysis. I looked at my number of likes, 918, and then at the people who were really active over the last few months. In my Facebook analysis I literally wrote down in a notebook all of the people on the Oracle page, and then on my own personal page who regularly engage with my creative output. I also took into consideration the really dedicated promoters of the deck, the people who I knew had been sharing it widely over the last five years since I have made physical copies available.
I had also recently done a “pay it forward” offering on Facebook where in exchange for the potential of receiving two pieces of my art, one to keep and another to pass on to someone else, the participants would post on one of my Facebook pages what deeply inspires them. 35 people directly participated, and quite a few more commented on it, and liked it but did not offer an inspiration. I chose this idea because my Oracle deck is about finding your own rainbows in the dark, your unique brilliance hidden in your shadows, so I wanted to support other people’s visions of what lights them up. I took those 35+ folks into account for the campaign too because they were motivated enough to write, and then post a response to the contest, so I figured they had some attachment to my work.
When all of this data was gathered, I was pleasantly surprised at how many people were possible supporters of the campaign. I had about seventy people I felt would really pitch in at an impactful level of ambassadorship, and then a bunch of other people who I have genuinely connected with over time. This was the tipping point for my campaign, February 27, 2014, when I decided to throw my hat in the ring and try this crazy process. And an interesting thing happened the next day, a great passion and energy for crowdfunding’s potential flew into me like a wild stallion, and has not left me for almost two months. So there is a component of magic and inspiration to this crowdsourcing model too, welcome it.
Another piece that pushed me over the edge was the arrival on March 3rd of my friend Lisa de St. Croix’s wonderful Tarot de St. Croix deck from her Indiegogo campaign last fall. When I saw the quality of her deck, I wanted my Oracle to be printed in a similar format, and I was in. Lisa and I also had a great conversation that day about the nuts and bolts of her process, and that was another piece of the viability puzzle falling into place. Note: the next installment of this series of posts will be an interview with Lisa about the nuances of her own successful campaign last fall. She had some really magical strategies, and a wonderful attitude going into all of it.
After I decided to proceed with the campaign, I started directly reaching out to my inner-circle to see their responses to my enthusiasm. I called my dad, and eloquently explained to him my vision of crowdfunding, which he did know a little bit about, and why I felt my campaign was viable. (On a side note, I am surprised by how many people do not know what Crowdfunding is. I assume it is common societal knowledge at this point. But I am wrong. I have now become a Crowdfunding educator and ambassador, outlining the model to new folks on a regular basis). I explained to him the importance of an early influx of pledges for a campaign’s success, and directly asked him to be a strong early supporter on the first day. My father is also a professional artist, and he has always been very encouraging of my own artistic outpourings, so I called in his blessing for this really important step in getting my work out to a larger audience. He was so receptive to my passionate perspectives on the campaign that it gave me an important boost in confidence that I could reach out and easily make connection from a heartfelt, and authentic place.
Another vital place for honest self-analysis is what skill sets and resources you bring to the table, and what support you will need. There are many aspects to the crowdfunding process, and we are not all going to be good at everything.
There is the visionary aspects of crafting a compelling story to the technology of integrating online platforms and making appealing and accessible websites. You will need to regularly show up to different social media outlets, and have some level of writing skills to draft a coherent campaign.
Visual savvy is also really vital, and the ability to draw people in with powerful imagery is priceless. There is the emotional intelligence component of connecting with others in welcoming and authentic ways, and the necessity of having the stamina to keep up with all of this. There is a lot of strategic planning about the launch and flow of the campaign, including what to do during the lull times midway through.
You get to gather a committed team, and consider the planning and fulfilling of interesting and desirable perks. There are press releases to write, newsletters to create, and buzz to feed on your social media sites. You need a kick-ass video sincerely pitching your vision, and then the ability to fulfill all your orders after this smashing success. None of us will be able to do all of this, so this is where your team comes in. I have seen a couple of different statistics, but overall campaigns with more than one person carrying the load do exponentially better. 2 seems decent, but 3-4+ is a real sweet spot, if you can swing it. Collaboration is at the basis of crowdsourcing, so this is a great place to draw in your own crew of loyal co-creators for this project, and future creative endeavors as well.
I personally am not the technology goddess of the group. I get around computers and social media decently, but the deeper levels of website building, and structural internet integration is not my personal Super Power. Part of my overall plan for this campaign was to take my career to another level, and I needed some serious foundational weaving between all of my different online presences. My Oracle website did not have the look of where I am at now in my career, and I wanted to have a cohesive flow between my blog, websites, and other social media portals.
There was one person I knew I wanted to bring in to do all of this with, and we have a long history of working together as well as being friends. MK Barr and I started building my websites together about ten years ago, and she helped design the templates for my first, Limited Edition set of my Oracle cards. We also collaborated on her feature-length documentary film in 2011 about my metamorphosis in New Mexico called Painted in the Desert. What I learned working with her over time was that she is wicked smart, is a brilliant online strategist and visionary, and has a great eye. I would explain the feeling and style I wanted for my websites, and she would come up with wonderful options. She seems to know how to translate what I want, beautifully. She also is more savvy about some of the online stuff than I am, and has a lot more patience for it. She has been so helpful with supporting me when I get overwhelmed with all of the online marketing possibilities. I can do Facebook and my blog, but adding Twitter and gearing up to do newsletters has pushed my edges. I am working on it, but I will probably never be a major tweeter. I just can’t do all the online sites and still make my work and take good care of myself.
So luckily, MK was available, and over the last month we have moved mountains to have a new feel and look to all of my online presences, including the forthcoming umbrella Mellissae Lucia website. This structural piece is really import to have in place before you launch, because as new people learn about your unique magic, there needs to be attractive and well designed places for them to access your offerings.
My other sister in arms is Jabulile Dayton. She and I met through a mutual friend on Facebook many years ago, and have never actually met in person, but have a bond that is really powerful. She is one of my examples of the potential for a worldwide web of vibrant co-creators, where we can feel very connected to people, and collaborate with them without having to be in the same zip-code. She has a strong background in the Bay Area technology startup arena, and is a fierce visionary for transforming the world. She has been such a gift with her wise and honest feedback about my story, and calling me into my next level of sovereignty. She is also connecting me with some other powerful women in the startup world with great tech and marketing savvy. This is tribe building, and a sweet hello to my new sister Erika, and looking forward to connecting with Jen. We cannot do this without a strong web of dedicated people, and crowdsourcing is weaving the matrix of radical transformers.
I am really interested to see how this campaign changes my online stats with visits to my sites and blog. MK and I have been creating wonderful, and inviting new landing spots for people to find me, and I want to see statistically what happens to my numbers with outreach during a campaign. It will take me a little bit to connect with my gifted, and busy previous website designer John to see if we can get statistics on my older Oracle website since its inception. Learning about Google Analytics is another place I will need MK’s help, but we should be able to see how the numbers are for my Oracle site and the forthcoming Mellissae Lucia umbrella site from when the campaign begins May 20th.
This is my outreach breakdown as of 4-23-14:
12,160 hits over 5 years. 150 posts, 29 followers, and 238 comments.
752 friends on Mellissae Lucia (my pen name) This is where I am active daily. I actually know a lot of the folks on my list here.
3514 friends on Melissa Weiss Steele (legal name) I keep this because it has 3500 friends-a lot of them are artists and photographers, and I feel I could use this resource well at some point.
918 Likes on my Oracle of Initiation fan page. I believe these are authentic people, and I actually know a fair amount of them.
110 likes on my DreamTime PlayHaüs fan page (my new mystical hip hoppin’ series).
109 likes on the Painted in the Desert documentary film fan page .
1,089 views, 10 subscribers, 20 likes, 0 dislikes, 5 comments, 3 shares, 3 favorites.
Mellissae Lucia 52 followers.
DreamTime PlayHaüs 27 followers.
553 Gmail folks, but this needs to be cleaned out a bit. I do not feel good contacting people for the campaign I have not seen in many years.
681 Mac Contacts. I don’t usually use this, and obviously have not figured out how to synch everybody, so I will have to go check this out. This is all of the stuff that takes TIME. Major time.
Going Down the Rabbit Hole
This is a lot to think about, but you will be investing blood, sweat, tears and soul into a serious campaign, and a heart-to-heart talk with yourself about your level of preparedness just makes good sense. And with all of this said, you have to be a little crazy to do it, so if it comes dashing by with it’s tail held high, chase that wild hare, and let it lead you down the rabbit hole of crowdfunding joy. I’ll see you down there. It’s quite a party.
The Oracle of Initiation new Tarot-Sized edition at $44 Indiegogo Campaign is live now, 5-20-14 to 6-21-14. That’s an $11 saving off the price of the deck after the campaign!