Kickstarter Lesson #2: Back Other Projects

6 January 2013 | 18 Comments

In the first Kickstarter lesson I wrote about, I discussed something that’s important to do well before your Kickstarter project is ready: submit a very rough version of your project page to Kickstarter for approval. Today I want to mention something else that I recommend doing several months before you launch your project:

Back other Kickstarter projects.

There are several reasons for doing this. The first is psychological. I’ve seen an incredible number of Kickstarter projects for which the project creator hasn’t backed any other projects. Perhaps this isn’t completely fair to the creator, but I get a slightly self-centered impression of the project creator when I see that. Kickstarter isn’t a charity, but I’m simply more drawn to project creators who are givers before they become takers/creators.

That’s just my philosophy–let me know in the comments if that’s something you notice when you back a project. Also, something to keep in mind is that some project creators (especially if they collaborate with others) may use separate accounts for creating and backing projects. Thus I try to keep an open mind and only use this information as a tipping point in my decision to back a project, not as a key factor to consider.

Regardless of whether or not you share that philosophy, there is another reason you should back projects before you launch your own, even if it’s just a $1 pledge here and there: You can learn so much about running an effective campaign by subscribing to a project’s updates. The only way to do that is to pledge to a project, but a few dollars isn’t going to break the bank.

I’ll get into project updates in a future post, but they are really important, and the best way to learn how to effectively use them is by subscribing to the project updates of other projects. You’ll see what’s helpful and motivating, and you’ll also see what’s annoying. Simply by reading these updates, you’ll become a better updater yourself.

So if you’ve never backed a project on Kickstarter, hop over to the site and give $1 pledges (or more) to a few projects that are in the same category as the one you hope to run. You’ll learn a ton by standing on the shoulders of giants.

Up Next: Kickstarter Lesson #3: Art and Design

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18 Comments on “Kickstarter Lesson #2: Back Other Projects

  1. I’ll be honest: I didn’t start paying attention to what projects were backed by creators until I read this post. We’re talking way back when…

    Since then, I have, in fact, seen more than one successful campaigns with creators that have backed 0 projects. I’ll admit sometimes that makes me move uncomfortably in my seat.

    But as soon as I acknowledge that feeling – I make an effort to quickly toss it out the window.

    I never want to be jealous of another creator’s success. There’s enough to go around.
    So what if they haven’t backed any project? Who am I to judge? I don’t know their financial situation. Maybe they are practicing frugality, maybe they switched accounts recently, who knows?
    And even if they didn’t back any project out of sheer laziness, I wouldn’t want to be the guy who looks at some else succeeding and ask “do they deserve it?”.

    The answer should always be “yes”. Everyone deserves to succeed. As long as they didn’t steal from or hurt anyone, and as long as they are creating value – they deserve success just like I do. Just like we all do.

    That is a kind of mindset that I’m trying (hard) to cultivate. It takes a lot of practice, discipline, and self-awareness but I believe that in the end it’s a better mindset to have when asking people to support your creation.

    Having said that, I do believe there is immense value in backing other projects. I see it as an admittance into a special community and a way to support your fellow creators. We all could use a little push and giving does feel great!

    Plus, you get all the perks of being able to watch the campaigns closely and learn from them.

  2. Thanks for this post and providing such a rich forum for discussion of board games and kickstarter projects. I’m drawn to the ethics of backing other projects. I think you are spot on that backing other projects is a great way to learn and build your own crowd. I don’t think I’ve ever given whether a creator has backed anything much consideration. I ran a semi charity crowdfund for a friend who had his business wiped out by a flash flood. Very few people had the ability to collect on what we had to offer in terms of rewards (adventure tourism packages in an inaccessible, exotic place), which I found as a major impediment. I’d love to hear more about why you come away with a self-centered vibe from creators who haven’t backed other projects. How much influence do you not having backed other projects has on a project? Maybe I’m just looking at the platform too transactionally. Thanks again for all of your posts.

    1. Sigma: These days, Kickstarter makes it harder to see how many projects a creator has backed–it used to be right at the top of the project page. Now you have to click through to their profile. As a result, I rarely use this information as a backer anymore. However, I still think it is the #1 way to research Kickstarter to improve your potential as a creator.

  3. The link to “Kickstarter Stats 101: Does Backing Other Projects Matter?” is broken.

    That aside, from a personal standpoint I never even checked if a project creator was a backer or not, I tended to just be focused on the product. However I completely understand why people might feel differently.

  4. Interesting point Jamey. As a creator, feeling “obliged” to back other projects just to increase the likelihood of mine being successful feels like an unnatural calling. My perspective was that the project needs to have 100% of its value per se and not the process it encompasses nor the backing record of its creator. As i read your post, i am thinking that actually 5$ for a learning process is a win-win. As for those who naturally want to become givers before becoming takers, this might be a trap. I have backed projects for which the creator had such a good record but they were awful on campaign and post-campaign management. All this said, i don’t walk away from an interesting project for which the creator has no backing record, but if he does, i do feel some warm inside ;)

  5. Thanks Jamey,
    IMO the backed projects of other creators are some kind of validation of the creator (especially first time creator)! I would say it’s like a certificate, which creator achieves finishing some courses. I don’t mean his game have to be very good after all, but at least you know he gained some knowledge and the risk is smaller.

    Second thought: if the creator is backing other projects, you will see the creator as a board game fan. Straight away I would think that his product is born of his interests and hobby! It’s almost obvious the game have to be good.

  6. It is something I certainly notice when looking at a new project. I don’t always let it stop me from backing if I know for certain that I want to back them, but it can certainly keep me from backing a project I am unsure about. I like to think that a creator who has backed some projects has felt some of the pain backers encounter when projects are delayed or things go wrong, and that will help them to respond appropriately to help us manage our fears and concerns.

    1. Well said. I agree that it serves more as a tipping point than a key factor in my decision to back a project. And there’s definitely a level of trust there too that they know what it feels like to be a part of a Kickstarter project.

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