I’ve spent enough time working in the financial industry to have picked up experience in how many successful investors work. I count numerous friends as brilliant traders, hedge fund traders and others who spend their day investing. With all the interest in new methods to create relationships between consumers of content and creators of content, I thought I’d give a go at maybe putting out some ideas i’ve picked up.
As Tomas mentioned in his blog post, ‘New funding models, Part V – Crowd funding, The Good, The Bad and The Awkward‘ he outlines the cons to each different approach. These range from no updates once the money has been given to poor communication of ideas and approaches.
I spent the later part of the ’90′s working in the DotCom boom. As stupid as that phase was for recklessness and get rich quick schemes, I was experiencing why most projects failed, and feel some of this experience could now help photographers looking at using the Internet as a new source of direct funding. These ideas are my ideas, my experiences working with some of the success stories of the DotCom period and some of the failures.
- 1: Planning is key
I cannot tell you how many silly ideas I get told about on a monthly basis from those wanting to make money using the Internet. They all suffer from one fatal flaw and that’s a complete lack of planning. If you are attempting at asking for financial support, you had better ensure your plan is water-tight. Sit down with a pen and pad and really work out your roadmap. Yes you are a creative person, you take amazing images and can tell stories but how well does your business plan stack up? Can you handle awkward questions from those you seek funds from? If not, or if you get defensive, you are doomed to fail.
Ask yourself one vital question – Why should anyone give me money? (ask your partner, a trusted friend. If you cannot convince them, your plan is flawed so start again)
- 2: Focus.
What exactly are you doing? Why should anyone invest in your plan? What makes you different to John who has a Canon 5d and is a part-time photographer? As we’ve seen with some recent crowd funding projects, they were not completely focused, leaving many wondering what they were investing in (trips to the Middle-East or retreats?).
Too often the plan looses focus.
- 3: Original ideas are always more refreshing.
If there is one thing the disaster in Haiti showed the world, it was that the public get bored of a subject quickly if everyone is doing it. Your idea should be original, no-one wants to invest in something that has already been seen before. See point 2 about focus!
- 4: Your investors are not stupid
They might not fully understand photojournalism or the struggles we go through to produce content, but writing them off as stupid and still seeking financial help is not the way to go. People ask questions, you respond in a suitable manner by sticking to your plan. For instance for an application to track parcels, use this. See number 1, this plan is the basis of your funding request.
- 5: People are scared to give money to people they don’t know.
Who are you to ask for money? Before you go public with your plea for help, it really does help to have an online presence. Updated websites, stories already produced, publications willing to put their trust into you.
- 6: Financial break-down
You will most likely be asking for a certain figure. It doesn’t help any investor if you just say “i’d like X amount please” without giving some idea as to what the amount covers. Is it just for you to produce the project? Does it take into account air fares or post production? Are investors looking at also funding your mortgage whilst you are away or do you require new equipment. Transparency, to a certain degree, is key.
- 7: Milestones.
Once the investor has agreed to fund your project, there needs to be milestones drawn up to so that they see when the results will come in. As Tomas pointed out, many failed to stick to this rule. What happens once you return? How long will the investor get access to the content before it goes public? will it go public?
I hope these seven points help those thinking about crowd funding. If there is one thing that is certain, it’s that we need to collectively think of a manner in which to keep photojournalism alive and sustainable for the future. If we, as photographers, just started thinking more about the business side of photography and not just the creation side, we might be in a better position than we are now.
I welcome your comments.