Humans are always striving to become better at time management, that's why there are countless books, planners, schedules, video tutorials, and tech gadgets to help with it. Why? Because, humans, as a rule, are terrible at both managing and valuing their time. We consistently underestimate how long it takes to do something, and undervalue how much our time is worth. An inability to manage time properly is the Achilles' Heel for launching a successful crowdfunding campaign.
So, let’s look at how each of these aspects of time management can affect your campaign, and what you can do to address them.
Though we always hear about the crowdfunding projects that simply fail to deliver, we don’t see headlines talking about projects that ship late. That doesn’t mean they are any less disappointing to backers. A study by a University of Pennsylvania professor measured 25% of all Kickstarter campaigns ship late! In a world where we get bent out of shape if our Amazon order arrives after 5 PM, shipping a product weeks or months late can doom you. Many things can contribute to a slipping deadline.
The biggest is the realities of manufacturing nowadays. Your project is most likely small potatoes for a manufacturer. You may get lucky and have the opportunity to work with a local manufacturer, but many campaigns work with overseas plants to save on costs (especially if your project only requires a small run of products). You are in many cases completely at their mercy. They may give you a date, and then a client with much deeper pockets than you can cut ahead of your project, making your street date slip indefinitely.
Add on top of that customs, receiving, shipping and everything else that comes with fulfillment, and it's clear the list of bottlenecks and wrenches that can get thrown into your plan is quite long. But let’s say you’ve done your research and you have a reasonable timeline nailed down. Good work!
Right away, add 15% to your shipping timeline.
It is always (always!) better to under promise, and over deliver. It should go without saying that a product with a conservative production timeline delivered early is vastly superior to a product delivered a day later than promised. Crowdfunding backers have grown accustomed to some degree of waiting for their rewards, so setting that expectation up front for a slightly longer production timeline is key. At worst, you deliver “on time” in the backer’s minds. At best? They get an early surprise.
So Long 9 to 5? Not likely.
Unless you are a professional entrepreneur, you’ve been juggling your project with the demands of a "day job" for some time. Similarly, you probably aren’t going to be giving up the daily grind once your idea is funded. But once you are funded, your idea is real, and it is going to take resources to see it to completion. The biggest of which is time.
In Kickstarter’s own guide to creating your own project timeline and budget, they specifically say to “Account for everything.” But though they list the usual suspects—packaging, postage, value-added tax for EU backers, shipping costs—they neglect to mention how much time you’ll need to devote to this. More importantly, they don’t suggest you factor your time into your budget.
What is your time worth? It’s a tough question, but you can do some back-of-the-napkin math to get the answer. Let’s say, worst case scenario, you had to take a week off of work to visit the production plant because of some snafu. Figure out how much you would give up in salary if you weren’t able to take PTO. If you make $50,000 a year, that’s about $2,000 that is unaccounted for in your campaign budget.
Be realistic, though. You aren’t looking to completely supplant your salary. Come up with a number of hours a week you’re willing and able to devote to your project from funded to fulfillment, multiply it by your expected timeline. You shouldn’t bake this entire sum into your campaign goal, but certainly realize that your budget is more than the hard costs that come with manufacturing, packaging and shipping. Give yourself a little runway to devote your full effort into your project, especially if hiccups arise.
Time is one of the most difficult factors to account for in any business, but giving it some real thought, and being able to place a value on it can make it feel more tangible than it otherwise would, giving you the power to use it to your advantage.