Backing Projects on Kickstarter Confidently: How it Works

Kickstarter progress bar for the article, backing Kickstarter projects worry-free.

Surging in popularity over the last few years, Kickstarter is a reward-based crowdfunding platform well-loved amongst creators and consumers. Creators love the platform for a variety of reasons, including the opportunity to “kickstart” a project they may not otherwise have the chance to. Consumers like the platform because they get to see a project from start to finish, and even be active contributors to the development process.

The fact that Kickstarter draws on such strong communal aspects means that it sees some of the world’s most inventive, creative products, created across genres. But that doesn’t mean that projects on the platform come with a risk-free stamp. Not to mention, the technicalities.

If you’re looking to help fund a project on Kickstarter, here’s everything you need to know, about the platform, its technicalities, and how to be an informed backer.

What is a Kickstarter Project?

Reward-based crowdfunding? Let me simplify that.

Kickstarter is essentially a pitching or pre-order platform, where creators and innovators can pitch their ideas or products to consumers, through means of a campaign. Typically, campaigns consist of a pitch of the idea, various reward tiers (products and bundles you can pre-order), and a funding goal.

How the beginning of a campaign page looks on the Kickstarter platform. Pictured: SingaHeroes campaign by The Fandom Menace with Crimson Star Comics.
How the beginning of a campaign page looks on the Kickstarter platform. Pictured: SingaHeroes campaign by The Fandom Menace with Crimson Star Comics.

The campaign is then used by creators to inform potential backers (buyers/investors) about new innovations, to entice them into pledging money to the campaign. This allows backers to pre-order products through various reward tiers, so that the creators of the campaign can reach their funding goal.

Creators who use Kickstarter do so for a variety of reasons. Oftentimes, it is to fund their projects, because they may not have enough capital to produce their product. Creators may also use Kickstarter because they do not want to over-produce a product to avoid incurring losses due to poor market reception.

Some examples of campaigns categories that are available on Kickstarter are: Board Games, Comics, Tech, Lifestyle Products, and sometimes even the opening of various types of retail platforms.

What’s In It for Me, a Backer?

The advantages of being a backer are also numerous. You’re usually entitled to prices that are cheaper than retail, and you’ll probably get the product earlier than when it hits the shelves.

You might also be able to snag Kickstarter-exclusive items that will not be available outside of the Kickstarter campaign, and sometimes some free add-ons cause you’re pledging for a certain reward tier.

When and How am I charged?

Only once a Kickstarter ends, and IF it reaches its funding goal. The card attached to your Kickstarter account will automatically be charged for the amount (as stated in the reward tier) you pledged to the campaign.

If your card gets declined, you have exactly 7 days from when the project ends to fix the issue… or your pledge will be dropped from the campaign.

If the campaign fails, no deductions will take place. This means to say that there is no upfront payment involved, and that you will only be charged for the product that you pre-orderd if the project is successful, and has hit its funding goal.

Am I Guaranteed to Receive the Product Once It’s Funded?

Much like anything else that has to do with pre-ordering, nothing’s a guarantee. Don’t be surprised if you come across creators who might underestimate the amount required to actually develop and produce their product. Worse still, some campaigns are might just entirely be scams.

Kickstarter itself is just a service platform and cannot enforce a refund. And so, this can end with backers spending the money they’ve pledged, and then having nothing to show for it. More often than not, Kickstarter picks up on projects that are scams and suspends them, preventing any deductions from occurring.

The SKARP Laser Razor is an example of a project that got suspended on Kickstarter due to the lack of an actual prototype, despite preaching groundbreaking technology. Ambitious?
The SKARP Laser Razor is an example of a project that got suspended on Kickstarter due to the lack of an actual prototype, despite preaching groundbreaking technology. Ambitious?

Although these situations are an infrequent occurrence, they do still happen, and it’s always best to do some research before backing any product on Kickstarter.

So, how to tell if a Kickstarter is Trustworthy?

Like with any other e-purchase platform you may not always get exactly what you paid for, although chances are minimal. Be one of Kickstarters many savvy backers, and you’ll be sure to get your hands on some stunning products without getting duped. Here are some indicators that could help you identify if a campaign is trustworthy.

Always Google the Creators

A quick search will give you more information on the creators, and their level of presence. Not to mention, if campaign creators are collaborating with very successful mega-companies like Bicycle, Hasbro or Steve Jackson Games then they’re probably very trustworthy campaigns.

Look at the Creator’s past products

Whether their products have been on Kickstarter before or not, always do some research to see if they already have existing products in the market. You can also check if they have had previous successfully funded campaigns, and if the products for those campaigns have already been delivered.

Study the Campaign Page

A campaign page is a creator’s pitch, and depending on how detailed or informative their campaign page looks, you can instinctively identify how reliable the campaign is going to be.

The campaign page of SingaHeroes, a superhero comic anthology by The Fandom Menace and CS Comics, comes complete with names of stories and creators. This enforces a sense of accountability and knowing exactly who's behind the project.
The campaign page of SingaHeroes, a superhero comic anthology by The Fandom Menace and CS Comics, comes complete with names of stories and creators. This enforces a sense of accountability and knowing exactly who’s behind the project.

A good campaign page details all of the products being offered, starting with pictures or prototypes to show how far development has gone. The process that the creator will take once the campaign succeeds should also be highlighted, and give you a sense of confidence in the creator’s manufacturing knowledge.

Check the Comments and Updates section

Kickstarter has a massive user base of over 16 million people who have contributed to projects on the platform. Many are seasoned backers who are able to discern the legitimacy of campaigns with hounds’ noses.

Typically, if backers smell something off about the campaign, the first place they will habitually head to is the comments section to warn others about backing the product. The comments section is also where creators directly interact with, and answer the questions of backers. That should also give you a sense of how accountable the creator is.

For instance, the comments section of the Endogenesis campaign by Hyperlixir is flooded with over 1,000 comments. You can use these to assess how accountable and genuine a creator is on Kickstarter. Comments are also an indicator of how aware a creator is of consumers’ needs.

Constant updates also show that creators care about the backers and want to inform them of any progress that is being made, assuring backers that the creator isn’t just going to take their money and make a run for it.

An update on the SingaHeroes campaign page by The Fandom Menace and CS Comics.

If you’re keen on backing a campaign that doesn’t fulfill any of the aforementioned criteria, you can still go ahead by all means. Just don’t be too surprised if you have to forego the money you spent on your pledge.

The COVER-19 of a SingaHeroes

When Will I Receive the Product?

Since most campaigns on Kickstarter are usually independent projects, most of them do not have the dedicated resources to produce products instantly, and products can take longer to develop than predicted.

So, always expect delays for any Kickstarter product. In my experience, a good estimate is six months from the initially estimated arrival time, although occasionally it does arrive on time.

Fair warning, though. There are occasions where a Kickstarter product could be delayed for years, or as discussed earlier, does not arrive at all.

What are Reach Goals?

Reach goals are one of the many benefits of backing a Kickstarter project. Usually, it indicates that a milestone funding amount has been reached, above the funding goal that creators set. Once a campaign has reached a funding amount that unlocks a reach goal, some if not all of backers will have an extra freebie added to their pledge depending on the reward tier that they’ve chosen. Backers may also be given access to optional add-ons that can be added to their pledge for reduced prices.

Reach goals are commonly seen in Board Game campaigns, which usually throw in more miniatures or component upgrades every time a reach goal is achieved. With Tech and Lifestyle campaigns, reach goals may offer product accessories, and Comic Book campaigns may feature extra cover designs designed by celebrity artists or famous art studios.

The Project got Funded, Now What?

The Project has been funded! Wooohooo! The real waiting game now begins.

Kickstarter Funded Logo

You’ve backed a product and helped bring a creator’s dreams to fruition. Hopefully, you’ve unlocked some reach goals, and now you can wait for your credit card to be charged once the campaign ends. Check back on the campaign for manufacturing updates, feedback from early recipients, and hang in tight till your product reaches you!

However, if the campaign does not successfully reach its funding goal, your card will not be charged and you essentially save whatever amount you were about to spend. You can also hope for a relaunch of the campaign somewhere in the near future, so you’ll have another chance to get your hands on the product again!

Do I Have to Pay for Shipping?

Shipping for Kickstarter campaigns could be free, reasonable, expensive, or completely unavailable to you. Similar to other products that you buy off the internet, shipping varies based on the size of the product, and your location.

Shipping rates on the SingaHeroes campaign by The Fandom Menace and CS Comics. Rates vary based on countries that can be chosen on the dropdown list.

For example, if you’re looking to back a table on Kickstarter that is produced in the US and you live somewhere in Asia, prepare to fork up some serious dough for an item as bulky as that. On the contrary, if you were to back a digital comic or game, you’re probably not going to have to pay anything for shipping cause… well, it’s not physical.

But in the event that you do back a campaign that requires you to pay shipping, you’ll probably face one of two scenarios:

  1. Shipping costs may be added to your pledge amount automatically, which usually means that the campaign creator has already determined the shipping cost for their product and can inform you of the costs immediately.
  2. Or, you’ll only be charged for shipping once the campaign is over and has been successfully funded. This is usually facilitated through the use of third-party crowdfunding pledge managers like CrowdOx or Backerkit. Pledge managers are responsible for making contact with you and informing you of how much you owe for shipping and collection. This scenario usually occurs when a Creator is unable to determine the weight or size of the product until the campaign ends, due to the add-ons and reach goals increasing the weight of products.

If you encounter the second scenario, always read through the campaign for the estimated cost to ship the product to you, to gauge how much the product is going to actually cost. Even then, the price is subject to change. Check this image out for an example.

Estimated shipping costs on the campaign page of ANKH: The Lost Gods, a board game by Singapore-based company CMON.
Estimated shipping costs on the campaign page of ANKH: The Lost Gods, a board game by Singapore-based company CMON.

How Can I Inquire More About the Product?

If you are unsure about certain aspects of the product, and the FAQ section is of no help to you, you could try commenting on the campaign page to get the creator to respond to your question. Future readers browsing the comments section may also benefit from your initiative.

Another option would be to contact the Creator directly through a personal message on the Kickstarter platform.

If I missed out on a Kickstarter, Can I Find the Product in Retail?

Depending on the campaign, the product may be available to purchase in retail, or it may have an exclusive limited production run only for Kickstarter backers.

Resident Evil 3: The Board Game coming to Kickstarter
Jill Valentine in the Resident Evil 3 board game is a Kickstarter exclusive character, available to backers through a reach goal. This means that the product will never again be produced outside of the Kickstarter, and that you’ll only be able to purchase it from resellers.

The product may also appear in retail looking slightly different from the Kickstarter version. The content included may be a little different, design elements may vary, and maybe some technical errors may have been fixed!

Depending on your luck, prices of products that hit retail shelves may increase or decrease since their Kickstarter campaign.

Have Fun Backing!

And with that, we’ve got your basic questions answered. If you’ve got any more, feel free to leave a comment or message me directly, and I’ll have you covered.

In the meantime, if any of the images from the SingaHeroes project in this article caught your eyes, be sure to check out our ongoing campaign on Kickstarter. If you like what you see, support us and more than 20 content creators in Singapore by pledging to our campaign.

You can also support two causes by pledging to our “COVER-19” tier, where all profits will be used to support Itsrainingraincoats, an organisation which helps migrant workers in Singapore.

Click here to check out our project page, and make this epic collaboration happen by backing us (campaign ends 28th May 2020)!

Author: Kyle Ong

If toys were only meant to be played with, Kyle would be the ultimate player. But instead of broken hearts and notches on his bedpost, Kyle’s conquests are only of the highest grade… in plastic. Be it transforming vehicles from an alien planet, or mystical warriors with alien powers, or super-powered alien fighters… okay, let’s just leave it as: Kyle likes alien stuff. And while he doesn’t consider himself a professional word maker, his active imagination and high levels of exposure to the television have instilled in him a love for world-building, which he now brings to the creative table.

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