15 Indispensable Tools for Every Kickstarter Creator and Entrepreneur

28 October 2014 | 25 Comments

Yesterday I spent 3 hours unintentionally ruining my master shipping spreadsheets for Tuscany and the Treasure Chest.

I was trying to combine orders of backers of both projects, but I kept making one mistake after another, then undoing those mistakes one by one until I didn’t know which numbers went in the correct column anymore. The data for 8,000 backers and pre-order customers was at stake, and I had just butchered it.

So I traveled back in time a few hours, and everything was fine.

At least, it felt like that. I subscribe to a service called Mozy that automatically backs up important files on my computer several times a day. I don’t use it often, but when I do, it’s worth way more than what I pay for it.

I realized that I needed to share Mozy with you, and once I had that idea in my head, I thought of a number of other web apps, programs, and tools that make my life as a Kickstarter creator significantly better. Here’s the list:

  1. Mozy (free for 2GB; $5.99/month for 50GB): Mozy creates an ongoing backup of selected file folders on your computer and lets you restore any number of them at any time on any computer. This is truly one of those things that you won’t fully appreciate until you need it, and if you don’t have it then, it’s too late. Some computers might already have this built into them, but I like that this is a service that’s not connected to my actual hard drive in any way–if someone broke into my house and stole my computer, I would still have access to all of my most important files online. Also, Mozy was a huge asset when I had a separate day job, as I could access files on my home computer through Mozy during the day.
  2. Box (free for 10GB; $9.99/month for 100GB): Some people prefer Dropbox, but I like Box. It’s a way to share big files online. I use it with freelancers, proofreaders, and translators, and I use it to host PnP files and other files to share with backers.
  3. Basecamp ($20/month): This was actually going to be a recommendation for the list app called Backpack, but it’s no longer available to new customers, unfortunately. However, Basecamp, a more robust version of Backpack that specializes in project management with multiple users, is great too. I use it to coordinate and communicate with the various freelancers with whom I work on each project. I find it particularly helpful when sending revisions to a freelancer, because when they send you the revised version, you have a handy checklist to look through instead of hunting through your inbox for the three different e-mails you sent them with notes and comments.
  4. Trello (free): Trello is the other list-making web app I use and love. For every project I run (or plan to run), I have a separate Trello page with different lists about ideas, Kickstarter stretch goals and rewards, components, art, etc. It’s really easy to enter ideas and move them around, and you can give specific collaborators access to specific Trello pages.
  5. Google Docs and Forms (free): My favorite uses of Google Docs are the spreadsheets. I use these so playtesters can share their thoughts with one another, so translators can see who is working on what, and to share information with other Kickstarter creators (like this spreadsheet for tabletop game creators to announce their anticipated launch and end dates to avoid conflicts). Google Forms is a huge asset as well–I use this for sending out polls and surveys, to collect replacement part requests, and as a basic contact form for ambassador signups or general communication. The key with any Google Docs is found in the Tools/Notifications folder. Set it to send you daily updates when any change is made–that way you never need to check the documents for updates, as you’ll be informed about those updates by e-mail on a daily basis.
  6. Mailchimp (free up to 2,000 subscribers; scaled monthly fee after that): I’ve used several e-newsletter services, and I think Mailchimp is the best. The interface is easy to use for non-techies like me, and it has a lot of customization options if you know how to code. I use Mailchimp to contact all backers (for address updates), specific subsets of backers or ambassadors when I have an update just for a specific group, and for our monthly e-newsletter, which is probably the best way I have for delivering a lot of information to everyone who is interested in it all at once. If you run a business, you should be collecting e-mail addresses from day one.
  7. Jing (free): Jing is a screencapture software that lets you snap quick and easy photos or videos of anything on your computer screen. If you’ve never used screencapture, you’re missing out–you don’t even realize the number of times you want to capture an image from your screen and share it within seconds with someone else (a freelancer, manufacturer, backer, etc). I like Jing because it’s not tied to a web browser–it’s software you’ll install on your computer, enabling you to take a screenshot of any program.
  8. Feedly and YouTube Subscribe (free): I read a lot of board game and Kickstarter blogs. This is important for entrepreneurs in any industry–you want to stay on top of all the latest news and innovations, and by subscribing to them, new content is collected in one place for your reading pleasure. I also subscribe to a lot of YouTube channels for the same reason–the content I’m interested in comes to me instead of requiring me to hunt down fresh content from my favorite reviewers and channels. If you subscribe to YouTube channels, I highly recommend putting this link in your web browser’s bookmark bar, as it will take you directly to all of the newest content you subscribe to with one click. I also now use YouTube to record and post short videos about my favorite game mechanisms, like this one about Terra Mystica.
  9. CapitalOne 360 Online (free): There are tons of banking solutions out there for sole proprietors. However, you absolutely need to separate your personal and business expenses–this will save you tons of time and money when you hand your finances over to an accountant for taxes. The reason I recommend CapitalOne 360 (previously ING) is that it offers a nice $50 signup bonus if you click on this referral link, there are no minimums you have to maintain, it’s fast and easy to transfer funds between other bank accounts, and you can separate the account into lots of little sub accounts if needed. Most of all, you get a nice interest rate on the checking account, which is very, very rare in online banking. If you raise a bunch of money through Kickstarter, that money might be sitting in your account for a while as you wait for invoices from the manufacturer and your shipping partners–don’t you want that money to be earning interest? You still need the cash to be fluid, so a checking account like this is perfect. The only downside is that it doesn’t allow for international wire transfers, which you might need if you’re working with foreign companies.
  10. Mention (free): You might already use Google Alerts to see when and where people are talking about your business and your products online. I found that over time, Google Alerts picked up way too many irrelevant mentions, to the point that I started ignoring all updates. So I switched to a service called Mention that specializes in those types of alerts. Almost every day it picks up a blog or a Twitter user who mentions Stonemaier Games without an @ label, and I can go join the conversation or thank them for mentioning our products. UPDATE: There’s also a similar tool called NinjaOutreach that’s more focused on finding influencers and doing outreach.
  11. Hootsuite (free): Speaking of mentions, I very recently started using Hootsuite. I have two Twitter handles (@jameystegmaier and @stonemaiergames). I use @jameystegmaier for everything (business and personal), but I realized that I was missing a lot of mentions of our games when people used the @stonemaiergames handle (which didn’t exist). So I created that handle to pick up those mentions, but I realized that it made replying to tweets on both accounts really hard because I kept having to sign in and out of the accounts. Hootsuite makes it so much easier, as it shows me a live feed of mentions from both accounts. It’s logged in to both accounts at all times, so I can easily respond using either of my accounts.
  12. Shoplocket (free to sign up plus 2.5% per transaction): I’ve been using ShopLocket for just over a year to collect pre-orders and orders through our website, and to date we’ve accepted 768 orders through the platform for a total of $41,167. I’m confident that number would be significantly lower if we were using the basic PayPal widget instead of the polished Shoplocket plugin. It’s so much easier to use than PayPal’s widgets too, as there’s so much more customization through Shoplocket (photos, shipping options, sales tax, etc), and you can change it with a few clicks on Shoplocket’s website instead of editing the code on PayPal and re-embedding it every time you have a small change. That said, Shoplocket uses PayPal as its payment processing system, which is great, because PayPal makes it really easy to send payments and refunds.
  13. WordPress (free or fees for self-hosting): If you write a blog (which I highly recommend on KS Lesson #52), it should be on WordPress. Simple as that. It’s so easy to use, the skins look better than any other blogging platform, and it takes less than a minute to set up. When you’re just getting started, use WordPress.com. When you’re ready to go big, expand to a self-hosted blog using the WordPress.org platform.
  14. Evernote (free): Have you ever read something interesting and insightful online, then months later you can’t remember where you read it? If the answer is yes, I recommend installing an Evernote extension on your web browser. With a single click, Evernote stores the text of any article or blog entry in its database for you to find later.
  15. Two monitors and a Blue microphone (around $200 total): I’ve only talked about software and apps so far, so I thought I’d end with two pieces of software that have made my Kickstarter life much better. Having two monitors on my computer instead of one…man. It’s amazing. I can have my e-mail open on one monitor (or InDesign) and Kickstarter (or Excel) open on the other. I’ve read that having two monitors increases your productivity by 150% because you’re not constantly minimizing and maximizing windows–often for simple actions like copying and pasting–and I can absolutely vouch for that. As for the Blue microphone, it’s just a really good microphone at a reasonable price. It’s great for Skype, Google Hangouts, podcasts, interviews, etc.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, and I’ve left of some apps and programs that I consider too “obvious” (like Excel and Facebook), but these are the heavy hitters that have a very positive impact on my Kickstarter and entrepreneurial career.

I’m curious if you’re a fan of any items on this list, if any are new to you that you want to try, or if I left off anything that you highly recommend. Thanks for your comments!

25 Comments on “15 Indispensable Tools for Every Kickstarter Creator and Entrepreneur

  1. Great list… some new ones in there too that I need to check out. Thanks. One I like to use for development “Todo” lists is Toodledo (http://toodledo.com/)… plans from FREE on up. There are also apps so you can use mobile when away from desktop. Thanks again!

  2. Thanks for this, Jamey!

    Mozy was something that I always needed but didn’t know existed (a free version of it, at least!). There’s also a referral link on their page you could post here for us folks, if you’d like to be a few GB richer! :)

    I’d also be interested to know how well any of the organizing/board/list solutions work with mobile (I know Dropbox and Evernote work and sync well).

    1. Corwin: Thanks! I tried to find my personal referral link, but they don’t make it very easy to find after you’re a member. :)

      I can’t respond much to mobile (I do everything at my computer), but other people might have some insights there.

  3. I was surprised you use Shoplocket instead of WooCommerce. Mention only allows for one keyword for free. I use 20 on Google Alerts. IFTTT and Bufferapp need a shoutout if you are mentioning Hootsuite. I love Feedly. Actually, using IFTTT and Feedly, I was notified on my phone about this post. :D

    1. It shouldn’t really come as a surprise–I’ve written about Shoplocket several times on the blog. :) I’ll check out WooCommerce, though! I’ve never heard of it. In the long run I need something that integrates with Amazon FBA, which currently I think only Shopify does.

      As for Google Alerts, here’s the thing: There’s just so much noise, especially when you have multiple alerts, that it ends up drowning out all of the sound you need to hear. So I limit Mention to “Stonemaier Games,” and I find that focus to be helpful. It might just be personal preference, of course.

      1. Part of your Google Alerts problem sounds like you aren’t using Google’s search shortcodes. For instance, I have a string that shows all listings under the keywords: “board game” -store -cafe. This is to avoid any news of board game stores/cafes opening.

        Also, I haven’t read ALL your blog posts. haha. Only the ones that specifically help improve the Badger. I am sure Woocommerce has a fulfillment extension. I only suggested it as an industry standard from my experience. Developers love that you can plug in almost anything you could ever want to customize. But that’s probably just a preference thing at the end of the day anyway.

  4. Hey Jamey,

    Thanks so much for this list! This kind of business tools post is definitely my kind of Jam :) Here are some things I’ve come across:

    Google Docs: I use this suite of services A LOT. I use it for duplication back up services, as well as sharing collaborative docs. Be careful with installing the Google Drive syncing app with it however. We had a situation where all of our work computers were synced and someone accidentally wiped all our company files because he was trying to clean up his computer.

    Reconstructing the data from backups was a complete mess. After that experience, I use google docs unsynced in a browser. No problems since.

    Automatic File Backups: Apple users should check out Time Machine back ups if they are not familiar with it. Its a built in feature of the OS and can backup files to a variety of different places at predetermined times. I use it to back up to several external hard drives at different times.

    Email List Manager: I am a big fan of Mailchimp. It is great for the size of company that many game studios will start out as.

    I would also suggest http://www.getresponse.com. they are 15$/month. The reason I went with them is they provide some better automation and trigger response on communication… and also include landing pages and surveys built in to the system. I was able to cobble together the same thing with Mailchimp, but there were a lot of API plugins and verification that needed to be done. Get response was the cheapest I could find that did everything I wanted.

    Aweber is another popular option, but proved to be to rich for my blood for what I wanted it for.

    Hope this helps :)

    1. Steve: Thanks for your comment. These are great insights. I haven’t heard of Get Response, but I like the look of their website. They’re most cost effective than Mailchimp at the 5,000-10,000 subscriber tier that I’m in (though it might be too late for me to switch). It’s a great recommendation for others, though!

      1. Hey Jamey :)

        Thats true for just feature to feature for mailchimp. When looking for sqeeze page creation, surveys, and some triggered automation features – other software is a lot more expensive. I leaned in that direction because the bundle was a lot better for me.

        Switching was also an easy thing with getresponse. You can just import your list. Other services like Aweber (not sure about mailchimp) make you re-verify with your list. It makes your list have to re-confirm that they want your stuff…. you end up loosing more than half your audience in the transfer. That was a huge turn off for me.

        I agree that mailchimp is a GREAT place to start. Definitely get it AS SOON as you set up your blog. You want to be able to grow your email list from the outset of your project :)

  5. Jamey, have you come across the Streak addon for gmail (streak.com)? I’ve been using it for all the CRM for my business but it has a lot of bells and whistles that are great for Kickstarter creators. In a nutshell, it allows you to categorize emails and senders into customizable tables. It also lets you schedule emails, snooze emails (send them out of your inbox until a specified date when it returns to the top of your inbox), get notified when someone is reading one of your tracked emails (useful for sending games to reviewers, for instance), create “boxes” that consolidate every communication you have had with people…. and I have just scratched the surface over the past few months. I’m putting together a blog that will apply it more fully to the unique needs of Kickstarter creators, but for now this comment will have to do. Thanks for this blog!

  6. Andy: Thanks for mentioning Streak! I haven’t heard of it, but it sounds pretty awesome. It’s something that I probably won’t use, as I use Outlook to receive and send gmail, but your comment will certainly benefit other creators out there. Thanks!

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