10 Simple Skills to Build Today So You Can Be a Better Crowdfunder Tomorrow

8 August 2017

I was a little lucky in the various jobs I had before I built Stonemaier Games on the back of Kickstarter, as they each helped me practice being a crowdfunder before I actually was one:

  • I learned customer service by working as a waiter for two summers in college.
  • I learned project management at a medical book publishing company for a few years after college.
  • I learned fundraising and marketing while working at a campus facility.

Like Daniel-san in the Karate Kid, I was developing muscle memory for certain challenges that would arise during the Kickstarter process. So today I thought I would present a few easy ways to build the skills you’ll need as a crowdfunder. Keep in mind that this is different than researching or preparing for your specific project–this is all about skill-building.

  1. Start a fight with a stranger and lose. You can do this on social media or in person. The skills you’re learning are how to empathize with someone else’s point of view, how to turn a negative conversation into a positive one, and how to publicly change your mind. (credit to Tyler Durden)
  2. Spend a day saying no to everything without using the word “no”. The skill you’re learning is how to reject other peoples’ ideas and requests without making them feel rejected.
  3. Host a pot-luck dinner party where you select and pay for (but don’t make) most of the dishes. Your budget is $50. This builds two skills: project management and budgeting.
  4. Deliver bad news to someone. There are no perfect Kickstarter projects–at some point you’re going to have to deliver bad news to backers. There are effective and ineffective ways to do this, and you’ll quickly learn the difference if you try.
  5. Share something you made that you’re proud of and ask people to tell you what they don’t like about it. Look around your house or your computer–you’ll find something to share. The skill you’re learning by asking for negative feedback is to be able to receive that type of input and not get defensive.
  6. Write a post that summarizes the top 3 highlights of your life from last week in a way that is interesting to other people. The skill here is to learn to distill information into a story other people will want to read (i.e., a project update).
  7. Sell something you own. Pick something in your house and sell it on eBay, Craigslist, etc. The skills you’ll learn are how to ask for money for something and how to effectively pitch a product.
  8. Print a random e-mail you wrote 5 years ago and proofread it. Why not proofread something written by someone else? Because you need to learn how to catch your own mistakes, as they’re the easiest to overlook. When you’re done, print out a second copy and have someone else proofread it to see what you missed.
  9. Convince a stranger to tell you a secret. This is all about the skill of earning and repaying trust, which you’re going to need in spades if you’re to be successful on Kickstarter.
  10. Spend a day answering every question online about a product before anyone else. Don’t pick a product you make. For example, if you play board games, pick a game you know well, subscribe to that game on BoardGameGeek, and spend a day answering every question about that game. This is all about customer service–not just how to be fast, but also how to effectively answer questions from people with a wide range of social skills.

If you try any of these skill-building techniques, I’d love to hear your stories in the comments!

Update: Ed Baraf did an awesome video that goes over these ideas and adds to them. I’ll embed it below.

19 Comments on “10 Simple Skills to Build Today So You Can Be a Better Crowdfunder Tomorrow

  1. Great list Jamie. I particularly like number 10! I always want to comment a lot more on posts but never get round to doing it quick enough, by which point there are already 50 replies and I feel like there’s no point adding any more to them! 5 and 6 are also really good. Learning to take criticism is really difficult but oh so important, and trying to make mundane things interesting and useful to other people is definitely a difficult skill!

  2. Jamey,

    I’m always glad to see your posts as they solicit input, and it’s not regarded as a one-way transmission. I, myself, have a not-too-dissimilar background…

    Customer Service: Worked as a Waiter and Host at The Chart House in Philadelphia for six months…good times!
    Project Management: At the age of 17, I completely revamped a 20K+ file room at a title insurance company in about three weeks
    Fund Raising: For about 10 years, I went door-to-door for the March of Dimes 20 mi-Walk

    As to the particular items, you listed…

    1. Start a fight with a stranger and lose: I had gotten off on the wrong foot with someone over at BGG and during the course of the next series of posts, we ended the conversation in a fundamentally better way than when we had started it, simply because we were open to each other’s point of view…that’s not agreeing with one another, but having the cognizance of the other person’s view.

    2. Spend a day saying no to everything without using the word “no”: This is absolutely critical as a game designer, since few ideas will actually make it into the final design. However, you want t folks to have the ability and forum to voice their thoughts and ideas.

    3. Actually, every Game Night is this for me. One time, I prepared a wonderful array of fruit, assorted nuts, and great beverages, and just before people came over, I promptly passed out (chalked-up to dehydration) and spent five hours in the ER for monitoring. All worked out, as my daughter took on the role of hostess and everyone had a great time.

    4. Deliver bad news to someone: Our TAU CETI campaign had a few setbacks, and most notably, the damage to over 350 games heading to Europe a month and a half ago which hurt the company (not financially thanks to insurance) as we’ve had to convey this info to our Backers. Many have been great, but in a typical bell curve, you’re going to get your outliers.

    5. Share something you made that you’re proud of and ask people to tell you what they don’t like about it: Again, I reflect on my time as a developer and designer…sending our rules to the broad public is frightening…I believe that I’ve written in a clear and concise manner until…

    6. Write a post that summarizes the top 3 highlights of your life from last week in a way that is interesting to other people: This is an interesting one as I still do this in my civilian and military role, which we affectionately call a WAR (Weekly Activity Report) item.

    7. Sell something you own. Pick something in your house and sell it on eBay, Craigslist, etc.: Haven’t had any exposure doing this as most of my stuff goes to GoodWill

    8. Print a random e-mail you wrote 5 years ago and proofread it. Why not proofread something written by someone else?: Ask my daughter about when I try to proofread her stuff.

    9. Well said…nothing to add.

    10. Spend a day answering every question online about a product before anyone else: when I returned to this hobby many years ago, I was enamored (and I’m still enamored) by Arkham Horror and during the next six months to a year, I spent an inordinate amount of time on FFG’s site answering questions with such speed and accuracy that I garnered respect from long-time fans and fellow respondents (Tibs and Julia, whom you would know if you play AH). It gave me a better feel for the game, its rules, and moreover the community of players.

    Cheers,
    Joe

    1. Joe: This is amazing! It’s awesome that you have such a wide spectrum of experiences that check off all of these boxes. Do you think you’ll run a crowdfunding campaign in the future on your own, or do you prefer to work as a developer for other people?

  3. Jamey,

    When you near 50, you have a lot to look back on…fondly in most cases :)

    So, truth be told, I’ve run two successful KS projects in the past for a particularly niche market of Arkham Horror players…thematic card holders and gaming trays (you can see one of the projects here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1734621563/crafthulhu-card-holders-displays-and-component-tra-0?ref=nav_search) designed by me and a long-time friend from Philadelphia who’s an artist extraordinaire. He has worked on everything from science museums around the country, the Mount Vernon Restoration Project here in VA, and four Presidential Libraries. It was an exceptionally modest KS, but it did two things for me. First, it allowed me to have an internet presence and in the end we sold more than $25K worth of products worldwide over the next few years. Second, it made me appreciate all of the facets of actually running a business, from the administration, marketing, distribution, and fulfillment, etc. to customer service and support.

    For now, I love assisting other designers as a developer and play-tester and see their passion come to life. Admittedly, now having the ability to call myself a published game designer has its cache as well :)

    Cheers,
    Joe

  4. I continue to be enamored with the deeply value laden posts you put out Jamey. Being able to take in critical feedback and use it to improve user experience is so vital. Also, some of these like “9” and “10” I had never thought about. Time to go implement!

  5. Great list Jamey! #8 is one of my biggest mistakes as I consistently misspell. (just typing this I misspelled 12 words)

    I would add a #11 to your list as is goes with project & time management.

    11. Create a Project Outline to follow and a To Do list every day that helps drive your Project Outline. This is just a good life practice as well. Write down a goal and make sure you hold yourself accountable. If you fall short, understand what happened and make the necessary adjustments to ensure you are better positioned to hit it on your next attempt.

    Just my opinion!

    Thanks again Jamey, your posts have helped me greatly! Aug 22nd is my big Kickstart day. Wish me luck!

    -Joe Ryan

  6. Like most people, I don’t like to spend money I don’t have. So with computer games I tend to wait until something’s been out for ages and is cheap – Dark Souls was a lonely experience. This week I got to enjoy Agents of Mayhem the day it came out because a friend bought it for me as a present. It may not be the best game going, but I’m enjoying it that much more because it reminds me that someone cares.

    A few weeks ago I was teaching a Russian dominatrix how to fence. She’s great fun to be around and since I ruined my spine I can’t do any competition level fighting myself anymore, but I can still train a beginner. This week I saw some very excellent photos from her in action (as a duelist not the other thing), it made me smile to see that what I’d shown her got put to good use.

    It was my birthday last month, but I was at a roleplaying event where it was not my characters birthday. So nobody wished me happy birthday. I knew it would be that way so it didn’t bother me as much as it might have, but it still felt noticeable. So it was special when Sophie invited me to walk around the lake near her house and surprised me with a present. Especially as it’s a series that we can enjoy together so I can look forwards to lazy evenings shared with a person I very much like.

    Two third of those are present things, life isn’t always presents, that’s just a birthday proximity thing. The point of these highlights is more that it doesn’t matter if you’re poor or dejected or have a ruined spinal column – if you have good people around you everything will work out alright.

    “Write a post that summarizes the top 3 highlights of your life from last week in a way that is interesting to other people. The skill here is to learn to distill information into a story other people will want to read (i.e., a project update).”

    Any good? Too wordy? It’s hard to try to write about my life in a way that’s interesting to people who aren’t me.

      1. I didn’t know you were still reading my stuff. Thank you :)

        I’m not sure losing a fight will go so well, I definitely could stand to do better there.
        It’s a shame I didn’t come by this post just after it was posted, it’d have been interesting to see if I could inspire a bunch of readers to share their three interesting life stories and learn something about all of the peeps in this feed.

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