Here Come the Crowdfunding Consultants

One sure sign of crowdfunding’s growth: The emergence of self-styled experts who, for a piece of the action, say they’ll shape a successful campaign.

Lucas McNelly, a 34-year-old part-time filmmaker from Waldoboro, Maine, is part of a band of crowdfunding consultants. He handles about 10 campaigns at once—double his business a year ago—and provides services ranging from advice on advertising to running a campaign’s day-to-day operations. He gets a 5% to 13% cut from projects that meet their goals, taking home between $20,000 and $30,000 a year.

Campaigners rely on creating buzz through their social networks. Mr. McNelly has gotten kicked off Twitter at least once while promoting a client’s campaign. After he sent more than 100 tweets in an hour during a final push for a client and the site stopped him from sending more for a while. (Twitter temporarily prohibits users from sending any more tweets after they hit a rate limit.)

To avoid irritating friends, Mr. McNelly tells them to unfollow him before a campaign’s final push. “I just say, ‘Look, it’s going to get bad.’ ”

The campaigns are getting glossier. Milana Rabkin, a digital-media agent at United Talent Agency, has helped young filmmakers and writers hone their Kickstarter pitches. She has introduced some of her clients to the site’s executives and was involved in the high-profile “Veronica Mars” movie project. (Of the more than 100,000 projects launched on Kickstarter since 2009, only a fraction have been produced with professional help, according to a site spokesman.)

Campaigners promote themselves on sites like Facebook, FB -1.68% Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr, but those with little social-media presence can try to buy buzz from a number of new services. One of them, CrowdFund Promotion, offers customers access to 21 Twitter accounts with 90,000 followers. For $74, customers are also promised at least 1,500 retweets. Campaigners stay mum about employing such services so their traffic doesn’t look phony. “They don’t want to admit they used us,” says company founder and CEO Matt Morris. (Mr. Morris says the company complies with Twitter’s requirement to label all sponsored tweets.)

BackerKit, a software tool released this year, helps campaigners send out rewards on schedule and maintain relationships with contributors. The idea: Backers are ripe to become long-term fans and customers since they’ve already spent money on the concept. “Money can’t buy that kind of loyalty,” says Maxwell Salzberg, a co-founder of the startup.

Los Angeles filmmaker Richard Parks says he gets a few calls a month from people asking him to make their videos—one such Kickstarter video cost more than $10,000 to make, he says. Some campaigners ask Mr. Parks to appear in their pitches, too. With his scruffy mustache and plaid shirts, the 31-year-old filmmaker has made a few Kickstarter videos for himself and others, so he believes he knows how to hit the right note. “It’s like asking for something in a not-annoying or entitled way,” he says.

Source: Wall Street Journal — Ellen Gamerman

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