5 Things No One Tells You About Panhandling Online
Asking for money is never easy. Even if you're just sticking a gun in someone's face and outright demanding it, there's still the risk that things might go awry and you'll have to shoot someone, making your crime all the more frowned upon in this political climate. It becomes even more difficult when you're not using weapons. I would know, because asking for money is a thing I had to do recently. For what, you ask? Well, you can hear all about it on this episode of the Unpopular Opinion podcast ...
... where I'm joined by comic Jeff May and Cracked editor Alex Schmidt. Or you can just hold your damn horses and trust that I'll tell you right here in this column today. Here are a few things I learned asking the internet to give me money.
Decide How Much Confidence You Have In Yourself
One of the great things about the internet is that it's made asking people to support your dreams infinitely easier. In the olden days, if you wanted to convince the public that they should give you money in exchange for your talent, you had to literally sit somewhere in public and perform with a donation box in front of you like those people you still see on train platforms and whatnot. That's a lot of goddamn moving. Who has the time?
Luckily, internet magic has given the world a quick and easy way to replicate this process in front of more proverbial commuters than ever before. You just upload your work online, and then hit your local neighborhood crowdfunding site to solicit donations. Except the "local neighborhood" part was a joke. The truth is, there are just a handful of sites people actually use. They have some pretty important differences, and you can bet that once you let the world know you're using one, plenty of people will instinctively tell you all the reasons you should have used a different one.
Case in point, I opted to use Kickstarter. Almost immediately after launching the project, someone tweeted this at me:
No way! I didn't even think to research such things!
That's true. With Kickstarter, if you don't reach your stated goal, you get zero money. It's like appearing on Judge Judy, but being a young punk about it, so she gives all your appearance money to your shitty ex to cover legal fees and the $3,500 you borrowed and never paid back. Just like that, actually.
With sites like Indiegogo, if you shoot for $25,000 but only get $12,500, you at least get to keep what money you did make. That's cool, but they also have at least part of their homepage dedicated to convincing me Charlie Sheen should have his own line of condoms. Also, it's called confidence. Try it sometime.
However, that shouldn't be your only concern. If your project is something that absolutely can't happen if you don't get the exact amount of money you're requesting, Kickstarter is the move. If you ask for $50,000 and only get $10,000, the people who did donate are going to expect you to follow through on all your wild promises, whether you have the money for it or not.
I launched my Kickstarter to build a podcast studio.
Not that our current setup isn't great and spacious.
Why? Because we're going to start doing the podcast every day. The episode we do now will still be free, while for the rest, there will be small monthly subscription fee. To go with a service that lets you keep everything even if you don't make your goal doesn't make sense in that case. If I can't round up enough support to fund a studio, I probably don't have the audience necessary to support a subscription service. It makes for a good indicator of whether following through with the rest of the plan is even worthwhile.
Basically, Indiegogo (and similar sites) are a good way to find out how many people like you. Kickstarter is a good way to find out if people like you as much as you think they do. Each site has its benefits. Choose wisely!
Learn How To Write Good
The hitch and/or best thing about asking for money online is that you don't have to do it in a face-to-face way. That's great for someone like me, who doesn't like most faces or the things that come out of those faces. I'd much rather write down everything I have to say and let you read it. For a lot of people, I'm sure it's the exact opposite.
Whatever the case, it doesn't matter. If you're going to embark upon a crowdfunding campaign of any sort, be ready to do a lot of writing. For my Kickstarter, I wrote the approximate word count equivalent of a Cracked article (around 2,500 words) for the initial launch alone. That was less than a week ago, and I've added maybe another 1,000 words' worth of updates since then.
That's just for the text part of the presentation. If you're using crowdfunding to finance some big idea of yours, a video is all but mandatory. I suppose you can get away without one if you're just posting a plea for rent money on GoFundMe or some shit, but if you're trying to sell people on something, you need a video.
Like this one!
Have you ever written one of those? I had, to some extent, but they've always been "stand in front of a green screen and talk" kind of things. Nothing like what I had to do for this.
This isn't how panhandling is supposed to work, you know? It should just be you sitting on the ground with a coffee cup, but instead it's all this ... work. Gross! Fortunately, I'm comfortable writing long walls of text in the name of self-promotion, so it worked out. A lot of people aren't, and that probably explains why Googling something like "Kickstarter help" will bring you a litany of results from companies that will do all of the work for you. It's probably not cheap.
Even after I managed to get the video written, I still had to shoot it. Is that a thing you know how to do? I don't. Sure, I work for a company that makes videos, but the people who make those videos are generally too busy to put that work down and help with mine. So what do you do in that case? Simple!
Ask Your Friends To Help
Don't worry, I'm sure all your friends are way more talented than you. Than you realize! That should've said "more talented than you realize." Anyway, before you shell out the cash for a fancy PR firm to write and film a "viral" video on your behalf, ask around and see if you know anyone who can help for way cheaper.
Luckily, my pal Danger Van Gorder was fresh off of launching a successful Kickstarter campaign of his own. He shot his video, so I figured I'd see if he could help with mine. He could! He did! And so then we made this!
Do you have spare money laying around just taking up space? If so, go here and let me have some!
What about all those other people? Surely they're highly-paid, well-trained actors, yeah? Of course not. I'm not spending money on shit. They're all friends of mine (Brett Rader, Jeff May, Vanessa Gritton, and Raquelle Jason, if you're asking), and they're lucky they even got dinner out of me, especially after one of them insisted on ordering pizza with just artichokes and olives on it. I had half a mind to abandon this entire plan at that exact moment.
I'm glad I didn't, though, because after a few short days, we're already close to reaching our goal.
Or maybe we just met it ... because of you!
That was fast! How did we do it? That brings us to the next point! Keep reading!
Get Creative If You Have Nothing To Give Away
This part is essential, if for no other reason than to cleanse that sorry excuse for a conscience you've got rolling around in your head. I was lucky, in that I could give away a comedy album and have Randall design a few shirts. People seem to like that kind of thing, even if what's on the front of the shirt makes little to no sense at all.
Maybe you like that kind of thing?
Maybe you don't have a lot to give away. That's bullshit; yes you do. If people are giving you money, they either expect goods or they expect work. The aforementioned Danger Van Gorder promised people he'd thank them on video. I mean, I could embed it here, but understand that it's just 45 minutes of people getting progressively drunker and reading off a list of names. You wouldn't want to watch that shit, but if you donated money specifically to hear your name read, you totally would.
I found that so inspiring that I decided to throw a little personal touch into the rewards for my Kickstarter as well. With any donation over $10, in addition to all of the other fun things we're giving away, everyone gets a HANDWRITTEN thank you note.
Like this one!
Do they even teach kids how to write by hand in school anymore? I don't know if I even remember how to do it.
I'm not sure what I was thinking when it comes to those notes, by the way, because I'm on the hook for a whole damn lot of them already, and we're only four days in. People could really make life hell for me from a planning and repetitive stress injury standpoint if they wanted to. But you wouldn't dare! Speaking of which ...
Know What To Do If People Give You Extra Money
With any crowdfunding campaign, there's always the risk that people will give you way more money than you asked for. Seems like a great problem to have, and I suppose it is if you have a plan of some sort in place. By that, I mean make sure you know what you're going to do with that extra money. People are going to want to know.
We started out with a goal of $7,500. I wasn't sure how long it would take to reach that, but I didn't think it would be less than a week. Nevertheless, I did prepare for the possibility by throwing in a blurb about what we'd do if we got more money than we needed right in with the initial pitch. We're planning a tour for later in the year. Any extra money will help finance that, and anyone who donated to the Kickstarter gets free tickets to those shows.
I accept that not everyone has an impending comedy tour they can throw surplus money at, but you have to accept that this is no one's problem but your own if you're the one getting all that extra money. You're not going to send it back, you already sent people stuff for it, ideally. Organizing that would be a logistical nightmare, anyway.
You also don't want to have to come up with an answer for what you'll do with the excess on the fly. If the pressure gets to you and you say something stupid, everyone will just assume you're going to flee to the Cayman Islands with the money, abandoning any sense of responsibility to send them the quirky potato peeler you invented or whatever the hell.
No, that's an orange peeler, stupid!
Also, it should go without saying, but make sure you ask for enough money to begin with. If you do just barely hit your goal, you don't want it to be with the stark realization that you're going to lose money in the end because your math was shady.