How to PledgeMe.

$2 mil in 2 days

ParrotDog made history two weeks ago, as the quickest equity campaign in New Zealand to hit the $2 million mark.

How did they get there? It wasn’t luck. It was 5 years of growing their business and brand, five months spent creating their campaign, 5 weeks communicating it, and a clear vision of where they wanted to go (and what they needed to get there).

Here’s five things that we saw that they did really well, that could inspire some of you aspiring crowdfunders out there:

1) Have a plan

Co_PCClVMAE3xle.jpg-large

We talk about having a campaign plan, and even have a Google Doc that we share out, but the Parrot Dog crew went next level with their planning. They had a wall chart with daily tasks.

Matt Stevens was the mastermind behind their plan, which had a page for every day in the lead up. It included everything from when they needed to have their directors indemnity insurance in place through to when they’d post on social media (Mondays and Thursdays).

Everyone was part of delivering the plan, and everyone could see it as it took up a whole wall in their office.

Remember: it always takes longer than you think to pull together a visually pleasing business plan, and a kick ass pitch video.

 

2) Get in touch with your crowd

Screen Shot 2016-08-30 at 1.38.12 pm

You can’t raise your money, if your crowd doesn’t know what’s happening.

The ParrotDog crew created a newsletter in the lead up to their campaign, with their first major announcement being that they were crowdfunding. After that, they had specific key messages they wanted to talk about each week, from announcing what the funding was for to the location of their brewery through to a copy of their IM.

Here are the newsletters they posted out to the world

They talked to everyone from their suppliers to their mums, and started asking folk to sign up to their newsletter weeks in advance of their launch.

 

3) Be yourselves

This was a big one for the ParrotDog crew. They didn’t want to become flashy or corporate. They wanted to bring their own strengths, but not try to become something they weren’t. So, they refused to do a traditional press release to announce their campaign – they made a quirky video instead.

ParrotDog Beer. nice. | Press Conference from ParrotDog on Vimeo.

Everything they did was on brand, and really showcased who they are as people and as a company.

4) Have a clear goal

PD event 8

The ParrotDog crew were super clear on what they needed money to do – build a bigger brewery. With a brew bar included, it really inspired their fans (especially those based in Lyall Bay) to get in and support. Having a really tangible plan, and vision that your crowd can embrace (or drink) is a big part of having a successful campaign.

5) Meet people #IRL

PD event 11

We sort of pushed the Matts into this, hosting the ParrotDog crew in our space for a meet and greet with potential investors a few days before they launched. It was a great opportunity for their crowd not only to ask questions in a group setting, but meet each of the team and ask them questions individually as well. With just a few days notice, the ParrotDog crew had over 90 people attend either in person or online. Many of the people there that night were the first pledgers to get in to the campaign.

 


Well done again to the ParrotDog crew, for funding their vision and inspiring a new wave of Kiwi crowdfunders.

 

 

Confessions of a Crowdfunding Enthusiast

Our latest guest post comes from crowdfunding enthusiast, Adam Millen. Engineer by day, children’s author by night, he went from backing campaigns to running one of his own. He’s hooked and planning another campaign. You can find out more about it at jackfeelsbig.nz/sophie. He tweets about crowdfunding @crazyideasnz and blogs at crazyideas.nz.

What would you do if your friends and family offered you a couple thousand dollars? They say they want to support that thing that you’re really passionate about, and the money is for you to produce something cool to share. What would you do with it?

Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 4.37.11 PM

At the start of last year I had the idea of creating a book to teach kids the names for their feelings. And I crowdfunded it. I’ll tell that story, but first – why? Why do I care about crowdfunding ideas? Why should you care?

I care because I’m excited about the way that crowdfunding forms a bridge between people’s ideas and reality. A bridge for ideas that otherwise would never have come to be.

You should care because you could be one of those people! And it’s really rewarding to do! Both the creating and the backing.

So let me tell you my story. It actually starts even before I had the idea. I had backed crowdfunding campaigns and I already knew that I wanted to create something, but I didn’t know what.

Then, at the start of last year I stumbled across inspiration. I read an article laying out how important it is to teach young children to name their feelings and I saw a gap – it would be easier to teach these words if there were books with stories that specifically used these words. It seemed like something that I could put together. I couldn’t draw well enough for a kids book, and I don’t have the equipment for printing and binding. But I could find people to do those. I could use my engineering brain to analyse a complex concept and break it down to simpler parts. And I could come up with a suitable scenario to illustrate each feeling. I got pretty excited about this useful thing that I could create!

Coming back  to my first question – what would you create? Have you had ideas like this? Have you seen something missing from the world? Maybe you thought “someone should definitely make that”. Maybe you could be the one to do it!

I shut myself in my room over the Easter long weekend last year and wrote up a dozen stories and laid the groundwork for some more. I came up with a defined project. I would get illustrations done for 15 stories and publish them in three volumes.

Next I did some research on how much that would cost and got quotes from printers and illustrators.

If I set my crowdfunding goal at $20,000 that would mean I would need to pre-sell eight hundred copies of the book at $25 each. That balanced the fixed cost of fifteen stories worth of illustrations with the variable costs of printing, postage and crowdfunding fees.

I hadn’t done books before. I didn’t have an existing customer base or relevant community to go to. I had friends and family, but the $20,000 goal was not realistic. No worries. I just had to re-package.

I redefined and resized the project – to get illustrations done for just five stories, and with those in hand, publish “Volume 1”. For me, crowdfunding would be a stepping stone. Maybe the thing you’re passionate about is too big for a couple thousand dollars. Can you make part of it become a reality on this budget? It could be the first step to something awesome.

For my campaign, the main reward would be a copy of the book for pledging $25. For $5 and up, backers would be kept updated and would get to choose which five feelings went into the book. For $50 they would get a signed copy. There were options all the way up to a thousand dollars. The $25 reward point tends to be the most popular, but it’s important to cover the whole range to leave all of your crowd satisfied.

So what about your passion? If you packaged up a project with a budget of a couple thousand dollars, what would you share? Something tangible – like a print of a painting of yours? Or an experience like tickets to your big show? A virtual reward maybe – like an mp3 of your song? Public appreciation – like a place in the credits at the end of your documentary? Or involvement – like being part of the crew, getting inside access or VIP (Very Important Pledger!) treatment? If all else fails, how about some merchandise – like a tshirt with the name of the community group? There’s so many options if you think freely about it.

Ok. So I had my plan laid out. Next, I spent a weekend putting together a video. I had the technical know-how, and I had my idea pretty well condensed, both of which helped. My delivery wasn’t the greatest though, and it took hours of recording to get just a few minutes of not messing up my lines. And then a whole lot of editing!

If you’ve got an idea that you want to crowdfund, you’ll need to make a video. And you need to be in it. Why is this so important? People need to see your passion for this thing. If you don’t believe in it, why would anyone else? But I’m sure you can get excited about your big idea! You also need to keep it short and to the point, and it helps if your camera is stable and your shot is well lit.

The next thing I needed was a crowd. I made sure that I started talking to people even before I launched, trying to make sure I had a list of core backers that I could depend on to pledge immediately. My closest friends, immediate family and other friends who also happened to be in my target audience. When the campaign opened, it was people from this list that gave it a running start.

The sooner you start building you crowd, the better. Even before you have all the rest planned out, it helps if you make a habit of talking about what you’re passionate about. Post on social media, join relevant community groups. It all helps.

After that I reached out wider, direct messaging every single Facebook friend I had. The second push was enough that the first few days got me to about 30% of my goal. This is a typical start for a campaign that’s going to make it. It’s is a very exciting time. And then things leveled off. In general, a typical successful campaign will spend the next ten or twenty days steadily plodding toward the 60% mark. This part tested my perseverance. Someone who really liked the idea pledged $500! Then several days passed with nobody at all pledging. Then  I got an article on Stuff! But it didn’t bring in any new backers. There were definitely times when I wondered if I would even make it!

I made sure to send updates out during the campaign. I engaged with my backers and encouraged them to help spread the word. It was hard work keeping at it, even when the early optimism flagged.

Most campaigns that reach 60% by the 5-days-to-go milestone will get to the mark. As the countdown approaches, if you’ve got enough funding that it’s looking credible, the fence-sitters jump on board. The despair of the middle of the campaign is suddenly replaced with joy! All your hard work has paid off!

I reached my goal, and actually managed a little bit more. In the end about three-quarters of my backers were friends and family.

Even after the crowdfunding campaign was a success, I still had a lot of hard work to do! Producing and shipping a quality children’s book took plenty of time and effort. I spent most of my Easter long weekend this year personally delivering books to backers (a great experience in itself). Now I’m all done and I’m selling the book on my website. A book that might never have existed.

I’ve made my crazy idea a reality. How about yours? If you don’t have a project of your own, get on board with someone else’s. Help them make the video, share their page. Or back it!

Crowdfunding is going to be the bridge to reality for a whole stack of ideas that otherwise never would have gotten there. And that’s exciting.

 

Keep your eyes peeled for Adam’s upcoming campaign, Sophie Feels Big.

 

What the All Blacks can teach us all about culture

It’s no secret inside Team PledgeMe that for me, major sporting events (like World Cups and the Olympic Games) mean erratic sleeping patterns, constantly waking up flatmates by yelling at the TV, and even more time spent trawling Twitter. A few of us have been relegated to a #sportsball channel on Slack for intra-office communications on the subject matter.

The Rugby World Cup is over. This makes me sad. The main reason I feel this way is that the All Blacks, especially this team, have captivated me for a few years now.

The thing I find so fascinating is the culture they’ve created. It incubates success better than anything else I’ve seen in sport.

The All Blacks have been ranked #1 in World Rugby for more than a decade (less a few months by South Africa). That, in itself, is crazy. But had they fallen to their Trans Tasman rivals last weekend, it would have been slightly harder to call them the best team ever.

But the All Blacks prevailed. They are unequivocally the best team ever.

Theories about the success by this current batch of All Blacks, and the most recent head coaches Steve Hansen & Graham Henry, will undoubtedly be covered by academics in years to come.

How can a team remain this dominant for so long? How do they continue to innovate and remain ahead of their rivals?

Things weren’t always this great. There was a turning point after the 2003 World Cup when New Zealand lost in the semi-finals to Australia. Coaches Graham Henry, Steven Hansen, and Wayne Smith met with some of the senior players. The outcome of the conversation was for the All Blacks to move past their macho-culture towards a culture with humility and respect.

You can’t change your culture overnight. It takes time. I’m sure it wasn’t easy either. After 100 years of being rugby’s toughest team, the All Blacks coaching staff and leading players decided being feared wasn’t enough.

Their culture was holding them back and it needed an adjustment.

Culture

… dictates your pace of change

There’s the saying that “culture eats strategy for breakfast”. This means with the right culture a team — whether it’s the All Blacks or a startup — achieves more faster. Everyone is able to focus on their key areas improvement. This allows the team as a whole to continue to innovate. Culture keeps a team’s inertia up.

The All Blacks began changing their behaviour, particularly while on tour. I’m sure at first it required effort to manage. As cultural norms shifted, the All Blacks likely spent little time on this. They focused on rugby while many of their rivals were probably still spending time and energy on off-field issues.

… happens behind closed doors

The All Blacks culture is not what us “normal people” see from interviews and read in the media.

Picture this. The All Blacks had just won. They have a quick debrief in the changing rooms and the team gets ready to head for their hotel. Before leaving they turn do a final sweep of the locker room. They leave it the way they found it so nobody has to clean up after them.

… is the sum of the team

A favourite athlete of mine was recently questioned about a pretty impressive team effort he played a key role in. He responded by saying “it’s amazing what you can accomplish when you don’t care who gets the credit”.

Listening to Dan Carter’s interview after receiving Man of the Match, you notice he focuses on  achieving the goal of back-to-back World Champions as a team. None of it, not even the individual honour he’d just received, was about him. It was about the collective.

…dictates your long-term performance.

It’s impossible to say an organisation and team’s success is solely related to culture. Looking back now though, the All Blacks winning average went from 75% in 2004 to 86% by 2011 and again crept to over over 90% in the Steven Hansen era. It’s hard to deny the impact culture had in this progress.

Although it’s sad to see several legends leave this team, we’ve seen the All Blacks culture cut through the noise and focus on continual improvement.

That’s why they’re the best team ever.

How to PledgeMe.

What is this crowd you speak of?

While this modern life can occasionally feel a bit lonely, the reality is we all have a crowd. Like an enormous venn-diagram, we’re all connected to each other in some way: be it by blood, a common interest, a shared workspace or simply by walking down the same street at the same time.

Here at PledgeMe we don’t ever shut up about crowds. The crowd you need to tap into to get your project running, to reach your goal and bring life to a dream. For us it’s a word that starts to look funny when we read it because we use it so often, but it certainly doesn’t lose its meaning.

There’s a few different components making up your crowd. Let’s take a jam donut. Donuts are not only tasty and delicious, they work really well as a metaphor. Also it gave us an excuse to eat donuts for research purposes.

Mmmmmm donuts.

Donuts are delicious (and are a good metaphor for crowdfunding).

Imagine yourself as the jam. You’re right in the middle, with an idea. Jam on its own is ok, sure, but is made so much better with some support.

1. Cream: The bit immediately surrounding the jam (you). Making the donut that much more delicious, you can’t really have jam without cream to complement it.

These are the people you first mention the project to. The ones you run the idea past to gauge just how crazy it might be, test subjects you speak with before you’ve even filled out the pitch submission. They might be your friends, family, or respected people who terrify you but give you confidence to go through with it.

Your immediate crowd are critical: talk them through the whole process of submitting and publishing the project, and make sure they know when it goes live. They’ll have their trigger fingers ready to pledge immediately and give you momentum right at the start.

Writing a list of these people and contacting them directly is the best plan of attack (and as a bonus you can pat yourself on the back for being super organised). Maybe even get them together, give them donuts and have a pledging party.

2. Pastry: A donut wouldn’t be a donut without the sweet bready bit holding it all together. People come for the jam and cream, but don’t get very far without pastry.

This is where social media comes in. All your friends on Facebook, your followers on Twitter and Instagram: these people have at least some vague idea of who you are and what you’re about. They are by no means less important than your immediate crowd, they keep the ball rolling with pledges. When you’re making donuts, if you don’t get this bit right then it might all fall apart. The same goes for a crowdfunding campaign.

Oh gosh. Just let me eat it already.

As you can see, the simple jam and cream donut is much more powerful than we first thought.

3. Sugar: The literal sugar on top, pushing you over the edge with delight.

The magic of the internet is that messages can be shared super easily. These are the people you met once at a party, worked with briefly, or possibly don’t even know at all. But your immediate (cream) and secondary (pastry) people are friends with them, work with them, or buy coffee from them. When your project is shared on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram (or LinkedIn or Pinterest or Slack), these metaphorical sugar people see it. Their interest is piqued.

But how do you get them to pledge? By having a video (bonus points) and really great content. This is the crowd who might not know you, but help get your project over the line. Convince them to jump on board by being the most excellent you you can be. We know you are, and this part of your crowd have the potential to move through the layers and end up as part of your immediate crowd. Who knows, they may even be just the right person to make some extra magic happen.

Without one of the four components, a donut wouldn’t quite work, nor be quite so delicious. The greatest thing about a donut is eating it, and for the purposes of this metaphor, appreciating how your crowd comes together to make a successful whole.

 

FINALLY!

The perfect don… crowdfunding campaign. Mmmmmmm donuts.

How to PledgeMe.

How to make friends

AKA how to network and influence your crowd

I sometimes joke that my superpower is making friends. And, as much as I laugh it off as not actually being a superpower, it is one of most powerful skills I have.

Whenever I give talks I emphasise the importance of networking. One lecturer recently sent me feedback from her class on what resonated in my speech, and the response to my networking tips was amazing. So here they are to help your crowdfunding campaign, business development, or life in general.

How you view networking

A lot of people get a bit put off by the idea of “networking”. They see it as this slimy thing you have to do to progress your career or grow your business. The typical vision is of suits, canapés, and boring conversations. That’s not how it has to be at all! Networking is really just making friends.

Go out, meet people, have conversations, and if they’re boring back away! Each event you go to try to meet one new interesting person who you’d like to talk to again. Don’t feel the pressure to be liked by everyone or to like everyone. Every event is a possibility to meet cool, new folk that might be in your life for a few years (or just a few minutes). And possibly about eating as many canapés as possible.

An Artist's impression of Anna doin' her networking thang.

An Artist’s impression of Anna doin’ her networking thang.

How to connect

BE INTERESTED! Ask questions. Listen. Tell your own stories. Be your uniquely interesting and badass self. That means they’ll remember you (and you’ll remember them). File away one or two mental notes like what their daughter is studying or their tip on the best book they’ve read this year will endear you to them the next time you meet (which let’s face it you will because it’s New Zealand).

How you follow up

Tip: you don’t have to. Really. Your networking could just be that event. You could follow them on Twitter, or grab their card for future reference. But don’t feel the need to follow up if there’s no need (though if you say you will, you probably should).

You never know when remembering that  american tax specialist might come in handy in the future.Even if and all you only have a vague recollection of their name and where they work, Google will help you find them.

How to activate your network

So you’ve built your network, your crowd. Some of them are strong links (people you think are the bees knees and have coffees with on the regular) through to weak links (people you’ve met once at an event and haven’t seen them since).

When you want to activate the strong or weak links it is as easy as sending them a note. Make it brief. Offer them a hot or cold beverage, and ask to meet for a half hour to discuss one specific topic. If it’s their bread and butter, they may want to charge you for the meeting. But, if you make it interesting enough, quick enough, and offer them a coffee on you, they might just take up the meeting.

If someone helps you make sure you try and help them in the future.

Your crowd can literally carry you places.

Your crowd can literally carry you places.

To recap…

My top networking tips are

  • Treat people like people.
  • It’s amazing what you can do over a drink.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help, but be willing to return the favour.
  • If you’re asking for a lot of help, you should be willing to pay for it.
  • Don’t take it personally if people don’t respond, they’re probably busy.
  • Use Twitter to connect (how powerful those 140 characters are!)
  • Have fun! (seriously… if it’s not fun, why are you doing it?)

All the best with your foray into making friends and influencing people.

Postscript

Feedback that spurred this post:

The most frequent comments were around your discussions of networking and how you build and use your network: they loved your advice and had not realised before that simply showing genuine interest in other people and their stories, as well as just having a cup of coffee or a glass of wine with someone and chatting could become an important networking activity.
Related to the above, some of them really liked your explanation of getting to know your crowd and building on the relationships and expertise there

Your [Five] Ps were also very memorable and stood out for some of them; one person said the P that really hit home was ‘preparing’ a really good business plan and that she hadn’t realised how critical that was until now

All of the descriptors/adjectives used for you were very positive: cool, amazing, warm, fun-loving, very interesting, genuine, nice, enthusiastic, awesome

One person commented that your networking ideas were very helpful and it sounds like you enjoy a few wines : )

How to PledgeMe.

When will my rewards be sent out?

So you’ve just pledged on a campaign. Awesome. Now you’re itchy to get your mitts on the reward that was promised you. Woah, buddy! There are a few things you’ve got to take into account when you’re trying to figure out when you’re going to get your reward.

For pledgers

Have a looksie over on the right hand side of the campaign page. If there is still time running on the campaign you’re not going to be getting your reward until after that date. Because PledgeMe runs an ‘all or nothing’ model, the person you pledged to doesn’t get the money until after the campaign closes. It’d be hard for them to start sending stuff out when they a) don’t have the money yet and b) might not get the money at all.

Mmmmmm sweet release

The next factor to take into account is whether the campaign has set a timeline for rewards. Sometimes they will need a while to make their rewards, especially if they’ve put an emphasis on providing something unique or they were looking for the money to manufacture the product in the first place. It’s not uncommon for campaigners to say in the body of their pitch or in an update when they expect to send out rewards.

Ring ding dong ring a ding ding ding dong

Also, sometimes campaigns get super swamped with demand, like the Eat My Lunch crew who had over 2500 people pledge on their campaign! Super for them, but it does mean that sending rewards out to everyone is going to take time.

WOAH

So, if the campaign has finished and you’re wondering where your reward is you’ll need to get in touch with the campaign creator. They’re the ones who have promised you the reward. If you know the person then flick them an email or if they’ve got a Twitter or Facebook then give that a shot. If you’re having difficulty tracking them down, then get in touch with us.

In summary: be patient. The campaigner is probably celebrating their success or busy getting on with doing the thing it is they wanted your pledged to do! There haven’t been many, if any, cases of campaigners taking the cash and heading to Vegas, but there have been a few times where due to external factors they haven’t been able to provide them as fast as they thought they would. Best practice from their side is to keep you informed.

For campaigners

A couple of quick points to make sure you get your rewards out on time and keep your crowd happy.

  • When you’re planning your campaign remember to budget some time to send out rewards.
  • Mention your timeline for sending out rewards in your pitch. Especially if there is going to be a significant delay between the end of the campaign and delivery.
  • Use the update feature to keep your pledgers up-to-date with what is happening.
  • If you are having problems following through or you’ve had a setback, then let your pledgers know with an update. Keep them informed so they know when to expect their rewards or see if there is a way they can help
  • It’s really important you deliver on the rewards you promised or at least figure out some way to ensure your pledgers get value for their pledge.

In summary: It’s more than likely the people who pledged are your friends, family, workmates, or people just as passionate about your project as you are. So treat ‘em nice.

 

This is the first of an ongoing series of posts on How to PledgeMe. They’ll provide tips, hints, and tricks for campaigners, pledgers, prospective projects, and enthusiastic equity-sellers. Want a specific topic covered? Email Chief Media Wrangler Jackson and he’ll put it on the list.

 

How to PledgeMe.

Taking good pictures when you don’t know how to take good pictures

(And have a rubbish phone)

 

It really is hard to overstate how important imagery is when you’re running a PledgeMe campaign. Though there’s no rule as such, successful campaigns generally tend to come with a bunch of pretty, well-lit pictures, and the ones that don’t quite make it often lack a little in the looks department.

My official role at PledgeMe is Chief Design Awesomiser – whether I quite live up to that lofty title is for others to decide. But in my time behind a camera – video or otherwise – there are a number of techniques I’ve picked up that will improve any picture or video in ways far easier than they have any right to be.

Though I very much like the two cameras I have, neither is especially new, and I’m often looking to ways in which to improve the photos from them without spending any money.*

This edu-torial would be nothing without pictures themselves, so for this, I am going to (reluctantly) limit myself to my relatively awful cellphone camera (Motorola Moto G II), and not do any processing to the images that I can’t do in the phone itself.

Here are some tips.

An fairly well-lit, deliberately-composed tako. This is our humble goal.

An fairly well-lit, deliberately-composed tako taken on a rubbish phone camera. This is our humble goal.

1. Zoom with your feet.

If you’re in the habit of doing that little thing with your fingers where you push them apart on your screen like you’re trying to get a wrinkle out of it, please stop. Just move closer. If you can’t get any closer, try again, and ask yourself if you’re just really comfy and don’t want to leave your chair.

When you do that little pinchy thing, all you’re really doing is telling your camera to stretch the pixels, which isn’t generally a good idea. Move closer, and make every pixel count.

Left: Image taken by moving as close as possible. Right: Yucky digital zoom to get the same framing.

 

2. Take fewer, better pictures

This isn’t necessarily a rule I always follow myself, but I do try. Except in circumstances when a moment is fleeting, take your time to compose your shot; one pretty good photo is infinitely more useful than 20 kind-of-rubbish, blurry, poorly-lit ones.

A hurriedly taken photo that is wonky, poorly focused, and in which the camera is moving. All problems that can be solved in seconds.

A hurriedly taken photo that is wonky, poorly focused, and in which the camera is moving. All problems that can be solved in seconds.

Consider your photo’s content

Make sure everything you do want in your picture is actually in the picture, and anything you don’t necessarily want photographed, isn’t.

It sounds simple, is simple, and avoids situations where you realise that a picture you just shared with 700 Facebook friends actually contains a subtle reflection of your belly-button hair.

Tako is overwhelmed by her surroundings.

Tako is overwhelmed by her surroundings.

Consider your framing

A fairly good rule of thumb is to take shots at 90°. By this, I mean, get perpendicular to your subject, and try to keep some of the lines in your shot (walls, floors, horizons) at a multiple of 90°. Wes Anderson’s style is pretty much defined by this, and he’s done pretty well for himself.

This will generally make your shots feel more deliberate, and make people think you know more about what you’re doing than you do. It’ll also generally stop your shots implying that your subjects are giants or teeny-tiny if you keep the camera perpendicular to the floor, rather than gazing up into their nostrils.

3. Find better lighting

By this, I don’t mean spending any money on fancy lights – rather, there are multiple things you can do to make the lighting of your photos nicer – most of which should only cost you seconds of your life.

Find natural light

For this, you don’t even have to venture outdoors. Take whatever it is – person, animal, or object – and drag it near a window. Take a picture. Your picture is now 19 times better than it was when it was lit by a solitary fluorescent light in a small dirty bathroom. That’s just science. Turning off any artificial lights will remove that yellow sheen from your pictures.

In which the subject is poorly-lit, and the photographer is missing out on cuteness-potential.

In which the subject is poorly-lit, and the photographer is missing out on huge amounts of potential for cuteness.

Don’t take pictures at night (unless you really have to)

Some things only happen at night and there’s not a lot you can do about that. If you’re trying to get a shot of the milky way, your chances aren’t great during the daytime. If you’re trying to get a picture of the toaster-bike you’re really trying to sell as a cool neat invention that every New Zealander needs, wait until dawn, and take your picture then.

The Golden Hour

This is the term often used by photographers to describe that hour just before dusk (or after dawn if you happen to be out of bed) when photos automatically look really really sweet without any effort on your part. This doesn’t work if you take your pictures in the toilet, unless your toilet is in a wheat field, or next to a really choice stream.

Direct sunlight isn’t as great as it sounds

If you’re taking pictures outside in the middle of a sunny day, you might actually be better off being in the shade. It’s somewhat counterintuitive, but there is such a thing as too much light. The teeny-tiny sensor in your cellphone can’t cope with the huge amount of contrast that direct sunlight provides, and significant amounts of your image will end up being purely black or white. And on top of everything else, it makes people all squinty and sweaty-looking.

4. Turn off your flash

Better than that, remove the flash altogether from your phone. Pry it out, crush it under your heel, and recycle it responsibly†. According to statistics that I totally just made up but know to be true, no picture has ever been improved by a flash from a cellphone. The flash will not only refract offensively through every droplet of sweat on your subject’s upper lip, it’ll make everyone appear yellow and jaundiced, and probably unfortunate-looking enough that they won’t want you using the picture for anything anyway.

Even more offensively, using the flash to take pictures of food will in 100% of cases make the food look inedible and sickly. Wait for the sun to come up, and get near a window.

Tako is not seen in the most flattering light. Turn off your flash.

Tako is not seen in the most flattering light. Turn off your flash, egg.

5. Any picture is better than no picture

Sometimes, you’re going to be taking a picture of something that is far away, moving quickly, inside, at night time. In those case, feel free to absolutely ignore everything I’ve just said. You almost certainly won’t end up with a masterpiece, but you will end up with something – which is kind of nice.

*An Olympus E-PL3 (2011) and a Canon 60D (2010)

†Don’t actually do this please.

How to PledgeMe.

Four Steps for a Fab Team Photo

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People pledge to people. The best way to get your crowd invested in your project is to show them who’s behind it, and what better way to do that than a team photo-shoot? So, by studying the great work of our friends at Thankyou Payroll, we’ve come up with the four steps you need for a fab team photo.

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1. Collect your team

Your team might not initially be on board with becoming models. If you’re having trouble with a few camera-shy colleagues, remind them how it’ll help them connect with your crowd, and ask them what kind of shot they’d be comfortable with. If worst comes to worst, let them hold the dog.

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2. Choose your pose

A great photo is all about great composition. Find a stance that suits each team member, but remember that the photo’s all about cohesion – make sure you’re showing off how good you look as a team, not just as lovely individuals.

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3. Stay consistent

If you’re taking lots of different photos, it’s good to keep a consistent theme running through them, so people remember what you’re about. We love how Thankyou Payroll’s dog, Hale-Bopp, is present in all their photos (although to be clear, points of consistency are not limited to canine companions!)

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4. Have some fun!

At the end of the day, a team photo is all about expressing your team’s unique personality. Don’t be afraid to get weird or wacky with it – just show your crowd you who are. They’ll love you all the more for it, we promise!

And, as a bonus tip: If you don’t know what to do, ask your crowd! We loved seeing the crowdsourcing efforts of Thankyou Payroll this week:

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And, if you don’t know who Thankyou Payroll are – check them out asap here: https://thankyoupayroll.co.nz. They provide a free payroll service to charities and kiwi businesses (and they are awesome).

How to PledgeMe.

Top Ten Tools for Crowdfunding

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Connecting with your crowd can be tricky. Luckily, there are lots of great sites and apps that can help you at all stages of your campaign: creation, organisation, promotion and connection. Check out our top ten tools below, and see what they can do for you and your crowd.

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1. Google Docs

This extension of Google allows you to create documents online, and is a really good place to write your pitch – it’s free, easily accessible and simple to use. Plus, multiple people can edit a document simultaneously, which gives you an easy way of collaborating with other people in your team. It’s also sort of freaky.

2. Google Drive/Dropbox

It’s important for your team’s sake that you have a way to store the files you’re creating, so everyone can access them easily. Drive and Dropbox are both great tools for this – they let you and your chosen group upload or download files which you can access from anywhere, any time.

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3. Trello

When you’re organising a campaign, the sheer list of things you need to get done can be overwhelming. Trello helps you keep track of you and your team’s to-do list. You can upload and assign tasks, and keep an eye on how your different projects are progressing. We especially love the check list function, tick tick tick!

4. Google Calendar

You need to be able to visualise the timeline of your project, and ensure that everyone in your team is in the loop. Google Calendar syncs easily with Gmail, and lets you invite members of your team to specific events, as well as reminding you about upcoming appointments and deadlines.

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5. Social Media

In order to keep in touch with your crowd, you need to think about how you will use social media. By using sites like Twitter and Facebook you can give your followers updates on your campaign on their own turf, and they have the opportunity to connect with you too. Photo-sharing sites like Instagram are great for this too; they’re an easy way to check in with your crowd and remind them what you’re up to. But not in a spammy way, make sure to have conversations not just promotion fests.

6. Canva

Canva is a super-easy design tool that makes creating images simple, even for people who’ve never designed before. It has specific templates for different kinds of social media, making the process of creating and sharing images online straightforward and enjoyable. We even used it for the images in this blog (just to prove a point, we still love our designer Rory).

7. Squarespace

Having a website is a great way to inform people about your projects. Squarespace is a very easy-to-use website builder, with customisable content and a professional look.

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8. MailChimp

MailChimp is a great way to email your crowd en masse. They have beautiful newsletter templates, and make it really easy to design sign up forms. Plus, if you have fewer than 2,000 contacts your account is free!

9. Google Forms

Feedback from your crowd is always useful. Google Forms lets you build free surveys to send to your followers quickly, and turns their responses into a spreadsheet so you can analyse what they had to say.

10. Attending.io

This app helps you make event pages that look great, but that are simple and easy to create. Your followers can choose to RSVP with any of their social media accounts or email, which allows you more freedom in bringing different parts of your crowd together. Use this to create your launch party, or your celebration picnic when you meet your goal. Organise investor Meet and Greet’s, or tea parties. Go wild, with your crowd.

That’s our top 10 (or 13 if you count some of the cramming we did under Social Media), but we’d love to hear what you’re using at the moment. So comment below, and happy funding!

How to PledgeMe.

Don’t forget the crowd in crowdfunding

We keep on reading articles that don’t seem to get the importance of your crowd in crowdfunding – so we thought we’d give you the top 5 reasons we think your crowd is the most important part of your campaign. Maybe even more important than you….

1. Your first follower is what turns a lone nut into a leader

That first person that pledges might be your mother, but they’ll also be the person that everyone emulates. They’re the first person to show that they believed in you. We think Derek Siver’s put it best, when he said that the first follower is an underestimated form of leadership in itself.

2. They’ll give more than money

If your crowd believes in what you’re doing enough to pledge – they might have even more to give. They’ll give advice, share your project, maybe even help you out with the skills that they have, or provide you with rewards to offer with your campaign. Some people seem to think that this money isn’t as smart as traditional investors – we’d like to counter that and say it might not just be smarter and more diverse, but also immensley more practical.

3. They’ll ask the right questions

Some research has recently been completed in Germany to show that consumer investors ask good questions because they actually use your product. So while they might not all be financial experts, they’ll know if your product sounds like something they’d use. And some accountants might be in that mix asking questions about your financials as well. You never know who will come out of the woodwork in your crowd.

“As is true with markets, transparency produces fairness.” Michael Bloomberg wrote in his 1997 book “Bloomberg by Bloomberg.”

4. They’ll love you – and if you’re sticky enough – that’ll spread (not like an STD)

This is a chance for you to rally your crowd around you. It’s your chance for Great Uncle Jim, Aunty Margaret and your best friend from high school to all give you some help, and get something in return. It’s also the chance for your engaged customers who tell all their friends about what you make to get involved. They’ll be along for the ride, and maybe even bring some of their crowd along too. The social cohesion around crowdfunding is often under-estimated, but it’s the secret sauce that makes this different from pure financial plays or simply buying a CD.

5. They’ll keep you real

There’s nothing like your bestie or your mum to keep you real. They’ll push you to greater things, but also question your plans and expectations with real honesty. And that transparency and honesty will keep people engaged even when things aren’t going well. But what you need to remember is that communication is key – just keep people updated folks.

The importance of your crowd resonates across all types of crowdfunding. Without a crowd, you won’t get your funding. And that crowd always starts really close to home.