Crowdfunding can take your big idea and turn it into a reality, but it can feel like a daunting task. In this 3-post series, we will discover tips and tricks to make it easier.
I am a scientist and an illustrator. And I published an art-meets-science book through a Kickstarter campaign to share my idea around. In this first post, you will get inspired to plan your product and discover the benefits of crowdfunding.
I will dive in on all the details on how to run a successful crowdfunding campaign in the second episode of the series. Finally, in the third post, I will give you a glimpse of other opportunities and resources to use instead of crowdfunding, specially tailored for scientists.
Ready? Set. Go!
Turn your big idea into reality
When I am at a pub with friends, it is surprising how many times I end up talking about the importance of an informed society and the role of science communication. My friends might have loved the anecdotes about scientists the first time, but are now bored with the conversation.
These are the subjects I care about. So much that I wanted to reach a broader, and not bored, audience. And I wanted to do it in a way that would represent me and who I am. But how?
And then, I found a way. I decided to crowdfund my idea, and I made an art-meets-science book titled Inking Science through a Kickstarter Campaign. The book collects illustrations and anecdotes of 31 scientists that have inspired me.
The Kickstarter was successfully funded, and today the book is sold in local bookstores in Seattle and internationally on Amazon. I am going to tell you my story, and a few tips and tricks to help you on your journey in crowdfunding so that you can “kickstart” your big idea and turn it into reality.
To write a good journalistic report, one must answer 5 questions: what, where, when, how and why something happened. So that’s what I will do. Today, I am starting with the what and the why, skipping all the stuff in between. Check out part 2 (soon out) to get the nitty-gritty of the where, when and how
The What: Find the topic for your project
If you are reading this blog post, you might already have your big project in mind. But some people, included me, have a very vague idea that they want to produce something. They want to share a very undefined feeling about their beliefs, but they do not know how and in what form.
For me, it was sharing my enthusiasm for science and the people behind it. All you need to start are vague ideas like this one. Dream big. Your big idea can be anything, as long as it motivates you and it energizes you. Find something that you want to talk about even when you are tired, that one topic for which you always want to engage in the discussion. That is your core “what”.
Find something that you want to talk about even when you are tired. Something that motivates you and energizes you. That is your core “what”.
But we are not done yet. This big idea could remain vague forever, and you might never act to graduate it from “pub chat” to real product. The next step in your “what” search is making your idea real. You have found what you want to talk about, now you need to find what you want to do.
Look at yourself and identify all the unique skills that you are great at and are happy to use. I love to draw. I could do that mindlessly for hours. It is my go-to activity when I need to re-charge and feel happier.
When I realized how much I loved drawing, my big idea transformed into illustrating a book about scientists. This was a very well defined object. Something concrete that I could visualize and look forward to. It paired my core “what”, my message about scientists and science communication, with my practical “what”, drawing.
3 reasons why you should choose crowdfunding
We all have fuzzy dreams of what it would be like if we wrote that book, made that painting, recorded that song. Translating them into reality is a different story. And it’s one of the three whys of doing a crowdfunding campaign.
From project to product
Crowdfunding your project will force you to make a practical actionable plan. When you plan a crowdfunding campaign, you have to turn your project into a product.
A project could potentially go on forever, while a product needs a release date. A project can be fuzzy, and you can keep refining it as you go, while a product has well-defined specifications. Finally, a project is mostly for yourself, while a product forces you to think of the ideal customer.
What matters the most about this project-to-product exercise is that you will have to sit down and start typing/sketching/practicing. This is the only way for a fuzzy dream to become tangible. In this stage, it is also important to be flexible. You might realize that your original idea was impractical, or will take too long to deliver. Take your time. Smooth the edges and produce something that you will be able to finish while still making you extremely proud.
The second reason to crowdfund your idea is accountability. I am one of those people that try to squeeze as many hobbies as possible in my free time, with the result of starting many projects that never see the finish line.
There are many ways to create accountability for yourself, like telling your friends what you want to achieve or promising your social media followers that you will be sharing the progress of a certain project. But your friends will still love you (I hope) if you don’t follow through, and your social media is mostly strangers whose opinion does not matter when you really feel too much tired to make any progress.
Crowdfunding, on the other end, will expose your product to an audience that is willing to pay for it. This is a great confidence boost and will make you more accountable to those people.
The good of failing
The fact that you already have an audience before actually investing too much money and time into the final product is the third reason why you should crowdfund your idea.
You are not one thing, and I bet that you are already fantasizing about more than one product that you could make. But not all of those will have an audience. Producing them before knowing if people would like them could cause you a financial and motivational hit.
Crowdfunding can help you figure out if these ideas will reach enough people. In the best-case scenario, your project is funded, giving you the financial support for the production of the product and a community of people cheering you on behind the scenes. In the worst-case scenario, you will know early in the process that it might be worthy to move on the next big idea, and as a bonus, you would still have created a smaller community of interested people, that will likely follow you on the next adventure.
Crowdfunding for scientists
There are bonuses to being a scientist and doing a crowdfunding campaign. We are trained to be good at time and project management.
The one thing that might hold you back is perfectionism. Refining an experiment to make sure to obtain the best possible result is one thing, but you should not apply the same rule to everything else. Especially if you want to turn your big dream and idea into a reality. When making a product, it is crucial to remember that finished is always better than perfect!
Now that you are inspired and don’t have anything to hold you back, listen to your guts and find your call. Don’t forget to check out part 2 to discover all the details on how to make an actionable plan for your crowdfunding campaign.
I want to thank my fellow scientist and illustrator Gaius Augustus for his help editing this blog post.