The Dark Side of Kickstarter.
Just my 2c for aspiring Kickstarter users to be kind to yourselves...
I've run 16 campaigns, 5 of those were successful relaunches and the other 5 first-time successes. Together from 2015 to 2017 I think, they netted around 20k. 10k a year is what I live on. I did it for many years on benefits when in between jobs, and my previous job as a forklift and delivery driver would demand 14 hours a day of my time six days a week, sometimes seven. After refusing to drive an unsafe vehicle I turned to Kickstarter to try my hand at seeing if I could find support for the artwork I had been playing around with.
None of my KS were major projects but they did irrevocably change my life - but the thing I want to discuss here is the incredible psychological stress that running a Kickstarter can put on you. Firstly you have a very steep learning curve to using this program. My first KS funded at 5k, but because I hadn't costed correctly and put in add-ons at a later stage - to fulfill rewards I had to pay out 5.8k so I actually lost money I really couldn't afford to. The delight of the rise in funding, drop in funding, vocal and incoming support and overall sucess of the campaign was an intense rollercoaster of doubt, fear, worry, frustartion, surprise, and more than anything it was very hard to go through.
But I was inspired seeing how quickly that much money could be raised and the kind words from those who pledged their support (and many who still do) and kept trying. I still am. But I have been living a tightrope life the last two years as KS (and the change I make from my online store) are my sole source of income so the pressure to fund can be quite immense and keeps me having to keep running KS's every few months to stay afloat and to keep being able to design digital RPG tools/resources. The amount of work/material/designs required to put together the art, marketing, info, page, header, graphics, etc is considerable. When I quit my job I decided not to go on benefits which Australia offers and to try and become independant. I have largely, done that, but not to a point where I cannot take more than a very short rest and get back into it. Albeit I am very passionate about what I do and have a lot of ideas that I am still bringing to the fore, so it is much less like work than work used to be - though I still put in up to 18 hours a day until my hands simply cannot do anymore.
The darkside of KS, and I have discussed this with others, not only relying on my own experience, is the way it can really smash you and bring you to very dark places, even suicidal thoughts. When you pour your heart and time into something and put it in front of others - it often gets dissected, sometimes viciously - it can be very hard to take, and not all KS's fund, that is a fact - but the experience of running one has far-reaching mental and physical side-effects that you should anticipate being a part of the hellish rollercoaster that is a failed kickstarter. I have seen my share of KS creators simply trying to share their concept and being deluged by an onslaught of criticsm, hatred, nit-picking, disparaging remarks and also a rise in people freaking out that they cannot run a Kickstarter without knowing an A-Z of things. I have even heard of sucidal attempts from the impact of those kinds of campaigns: and I have to say, as someone that runs one every few months the pressure is immense. Customer service, on the fly modifications, the realization that you could have done something different, or a dozen things different, the slump where weeks go by with nothing, the slew of backers that pull out after the fact leaving you short with hundreds of backers expecting rewards, or simply dealing with hundreds of people is exceptionally hard.
The 2 weeks that KS gives for KS backers to get their funds, is a godsend, but it is not nearly enough recovery time to sort your head, feelings, direction, out: success or failure both have intense pressure, one to keep Everyone happy and the other that you were simply not good enough, that your work or idea was not good enough, and that more than anything else can be very crushing. So, keep this in mind when you decide to launch, use, or support a Kickstarter. We are all humans - and if you haven't run one, please understand it is an exceptional amount of work especially on your own. We are all humans with feelings and the throwaway comments on so many KS campaigns are being directed at real human beings like you. And if you're new to it - expect all of these feelings and more, especially if you fail - but even more so if you succeed as that is when the pressure really dials up. And be kind to yourself. Take time out regularly from the campaign to breathe deeply, focus on something else and try not to watch it like a hawk or take it too seriously - you'll fuck yourself up by experiencing the minute-by-minute rises and falls that are not good for the heart, soul or mind. And be kind to yourself - KS is not a guarantee, be prepared that you might fail - too many go in with false or exxaggerated hopes - its an industry now, used rather differently than perhaps first imagined.
You can still make money, if the market votes on your product- but if you don't have to exist on it like I do - be KIND to yourself and wary going in that KS does have a darkside, just as any gamble does. KS addiction is also a factor to consider - I don't think I am addicted, but the thrill of funding is definitely unsurpassed. And there might come a sense that you can keep doing that - making a loss even more painful. As for the backers, since you pretty much place a bet on an outcome, it is just like gambling, and supporters/backers can also go through some very dark places thinking they are being ripped off, ignored, deliberately misled or short-changed, which also has negative psychological impact. In that regard I would re-iterate what many have said on the matter and that is that KS is Not a shop, though Some few large companies use it as one - it is mostly made up of people with a dream. (and some very few deliberate or opportunistic scammers) and most of us are trying to achieve something on a scale we've never tried before because that is how you get those products - it's as much a learning curve navigating that huge step forward as it is learning to use Kickstarter in the first place.
So maybe - just maybe - everyone can just take a little step back and not get emotionally wrecked on either side on the back of this beast. Kickstarter is more than just a slot machine website that coughs up things when you put in coins - its a life-changer, it offers the little guy that has nothing and wouldn't ordinarily be able to get into the sewn-tight shut industries and processes, a way in with something that is often a little different and sometimes very cool. I just want it to stay cool, to be a fun rollercoaster more than a depression machine, and everyone plays a part in doing that.
Maybe I didn't communicate all this very well, but that's all I want to say.