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Lost in the Crowd: Surviving Kickstarter's Emotional Rollercoaster

02/27/2015 03:27 pm ET | Updated Apr 29, 2015
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Crowdfunding is everywhere. Movie stars and directors are doing it for their films. Tech wizards are using it to introduce new inventions. Even a portable cooler brought in more than $13 million in 30 days. In the past few months, I've contributed to campaigns for a chocolate-infused peanut butter, a photographer's journey to Antarctica and a graffiti bridge in Pensacola, Florida.

Supporting a crowdfunding campaign is easy, and fun. Running one? Well, that's a different story.

I'm halfway into my first Kickstarter campaign for my latest book, and it's kind of kicking my ass, but in that worthwhile, good-for-you-in-the-long-run, Mr. Miyagi-to-the-Karate Kid kind of way. I know many people who've run Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns, and before I launched mine, I read a lot of articles and blogs with tips on how to be a successful crowdfunder.

All of them talked about the unexpected time commitment once they launched, and the logistical needs associated with preparing, promoting and updating their campaigns. Aside from Amanda Palmer, the crowdfunding queen and first musician to raise more than a million dollars on Kickstarter, few of them spoke of the emotional impact or life lessons learned along the way. And, I can assure you, there are many.

If you're thinking about launching a crowdfunding campaign, if you're willing to experience a whole new level of vulnerability, and if you're prepared to give it your time and energy, I recommend you do it. You'll learn a lot more about yourself than you'd expect, and, if you're open to it, there's a good chance you'll walk away a stronger, wiser and more resilient human being.

The logistical components of being a successful crowdfunder are well-documented. Here are a few tips to help with the emotional ones. 

Ask Without Expectation
In her TED talk, The Art of Asking, Ms. Palmer put it best when she said, "You can't ask authentically and gracefully without truly being able to accept 'No' for an answer. Because if you're not truly willing to accept 'No' for an answer, you're not really asking, you're demanding -- you're begging."

Asking for support is no easy task, and it's made all the harder when we're too attached to the outcome of our ask. When we ask without expectation -- in all areas of life, crowdfunding and beyond -- we give people the freedom to answer, yes or no, without pressure or demand.

You'll invest a lot of emotional energy into your campaign, and it will be difficult to remove expectation from the equation. That's where good friends come in handy. Run your communications by people you trust to be honest with you. Does your email seem demanding? Does your Facebook timeline post feel like begging? Test them on people before sending them out, until your energy, and your asks, feel more authentic. 

Prepare for Ebbs and Flows
Though a card game featuring exploding kittens just raised nearly $9 million in its thirty-day run, the multi-million dollar crowdfunding success is the exception, not the rule. Don't expect people to be pledging to yours around the clock. Like life, your campaign will likely have its highs and lows. Prepare for both. Breathe through both.

I've spent more time than I'd like to admit these past two weeks with my Kickstarter page up, waiting, hoping for a new pledge to come in. It's like a drug, each new backer a jolt of adrenaline. But your campaign will probably be 30 days or more. That's 720 hours, minimum -- a long time to be tripping. Take care of yourself while it's going on. Eat well, meditate, take walks, dance your ass off, do whatever it is you do to stay grounded.

Let yourself be excited and passionate, of course, but remain centered within it all. That grounded energy will come through in the way you manage the campaign, in the tone of your promotion and updates, and, ultimately, how you handle yourself when it's over. You want your committed and prospective supporters to feel your confidence, not your angst.

Don't Take It Personally
Whatever your campaign is about, it's undoubtedly very personal to you. What you've created likely represents a deep passion, and you'll want to share it with as many people as possible. If people don't respond the way you had hoped, it's hard not to take it personally. In the same way each new pledge feels like validation, each hour that passes without a pledge can feel like rejection. This is all ego talking, in both directions. It's not real.

Consider the times you've chosen to support some things in your life, but not others. We're likely to support what speaks to our hearts, if we're in a place to do so. You can't expect everyone to be as excited about your passions as you are, even close friends and family, and that's okay.

Like with dating and job interviews and so many areas of life, we can't always be the thing someone else is looking for. That's more a reflection of them, of what they need; it's not a rejection of you. Have faith that your campaign, if you give it your all, will ignite the right hearts.

Trust in the Outcome
I still have two weeks left in my Kickstarter campaign, and while I'm extremely optimistic about reaching the goal, not yet knowing the final outcome has had me wavering some between confidence and insecurity. Overall though, I trust in the process, and in the outcome.

When we approach our goals with determination and commitment, and when we do everything we feel we can do to make them happen, we have no choice but to trust in the outcome of things. More important than the success or failure of your campaign is the quality of effort you put forth and the wisdom you take with you moving forward.

Give your campaign everything you've got. Stay as passionate and committed as you can, run your campaign as smartly and strategically as you are able, and then allow it to become whatever it becomes. Whatever that is -- massively funded, dramatically unfunded or anything in between --will be the right thing for you, the perfect next step for your journey, and just the teacher you needed, if you're willing to see it that way.

So get out there, launch your crowdfunding campaign and give heart to your passion. It won't just teach you how to be a better business person, but a better person in general. And that alone makes the adventure worth it. 

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