Want A Kickstarter Video? That’ll Cost Five Figures

Meet the consultants and advice-givers who are monetizing their contribution to crowdfunding culture. The Kickstarter kickstarters.

When Lucas McNelly first began raising money for his film projects on Kickstarter in June of 2010, the crowdfunding giant was barely a year old. "I had to spend a lot of time explaining to people what they hell we were doing," he said, "Literally, half your time was explaining what it is, how Amazon is involved, hammering home the 'all of nothing.'"

"That is less important now," he says, deadpan.

Now that Kickstarter funds more art than the NEA, it's a bit better known. In fact, Kickstarter (and lesser crowdfunders like IndieGoGo) have become the default funding mode for people who want to open restaurants, make video games, publish books, record albums and so much more. The platform is so ubiquitous it's now the subject of satiric pranks on its own website.

And it's spawned a whole new subeconomy — the professional Kickstarter(er)s, who get paid to manage campaigns and provide data to would-be entrepreneurs. So far, it's a small field but as crowdfunding grows — one estimate has Kickstarter raising over $120 million over the last year, with new multi-million dollar projects every month now, it seems — the people looking to raise money will increasingly need to bring polished, well-thought out projects to the marketplace.

The internet is teeming with blogs and web sites that dispense advice for free (and e-books have already been written) but McNelly is one person who charges for his goods. He's not alone, either. Victoria Wescott, a Canadian filmmaker, has also made a successful side hustle out of Kickstarter consulting, as has Los Angeles-based Josh Polon, who brags on his website that he has six campaigns for over $300,000 in the works this summer. (Thus far, Polon, who collaborates with a Duplass brother, has raised over $70,000 for his own film projects.)

And then there are the web video makers, who don't consult on Kickstarter per se, but who make professional videos for others' crowdfunding campaigns. Oakland-based Richard Parks co-founded a web video production company this past spring called Societeche. Also a filmmaker, he had successfully raised money for his documentary on Kickstarter, but wasn't expecting to make crowdfunding videos part of his business.

"No, we didn't think we'd be doing Kickstarter videos. We thought we were going to produce web commercials for companies that already existed, that were established," he said, "I think [we get Kickstarter queries] because we did a video that got some recognition in Silicon Valley, in the tech community." Thus far, he said, he's "been approached by a couple of dozen people, for wildly varying sums." One recent project, he noted, went into five figures.

This Kickstarter project did not meet its funding goal but still got Parks noticed around Silicon Valley, leading to other Kickstarter video projects.

Each consultant structures their services and fees differently. McNelly, who began charging to consult this past March, is particularly elaborate in his offerings. After a few successful campaigns on his own behalf, he said that he began writing blog posts about his insights into what works. And from there, "by default," he started taking on paying clients.

He offers three tiers of service. The least expensive is basic data: he has collected information on a number of crowdfunding efforts that could help inform one's choices on, say, how much to set as a target or what kind of perks to offer. This will cost you .75% of your goal.

Then there what McNelly calls "the setup" — helping figure out what the perks should be, how to shoot the all-important promotional video, etc. That is 5% of whatever gets raised.

And then there's the full-scale campaign management. "You can't just walk away and come back 30 days later," McNelly warns on his site, but for 13% of the total haul, he'll hold your hand.

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