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How to Create a Timeline for Your Kickstarter Campaign

Every Kickstarter campaign requires its creator to estimate a timeline for the project. Why is it important for you to have a realistic timeline for your project?

  • It gives you a structure to work from.

  • Firm deadlines help ensure forward progress.

  • Backers may feel cheated if you don't deliver on time.

  • Sticking to a timeline and delivering as promised creates a track record of honesty that can help you with any future Kickstarter campaigns.

The process of determining when your finished product will be available is especially important if you're using Kickstarter to fund complete production of an item or project.

Ideally, your budget is in a spreadsheet format so you can easily add time estimates next to each item. When you have your budget ready, go through each individual item you've budgeted for and note the estimated number of days, weeks, or months it will take to complete that step. Also, make a note of whether you'll need any resource on a specific date or for a certain timeframe.

A project-management tool such as Microsoft Project might help if you have a fairly complex production process with multiple team members and dependencies for deliverables.

Here are some tips for estimating time and spotting date-dependent items for the different types of items you have in your spreadsheet:

  • Permits and licenses: Some permits and licenses are easier to obtain than others. Talk to the agency issuing the permit about how long processing of your application or request might take. Don't make an assumption or a guess, even if you think you're making a conservative one.

  • Equipment: If you're planning to rent equipment, make sure you can rent it for the timeframe in which you have specified. Find out how far in advance to reserve any items you need. Discuss the lender's policy on whether you can keep the equipment a few more days if needed.

    This is especially important if your production totally depends on having the equipment available. If you have to wait until another renter is done before you can borrow the equipment again, that turn-waiting has the potential to substantially delay your project.

  • Staff: If you need to coordinate the schedules of several other people, do your best to communicate when those people need to be available for your project and ask them to confirm that they'll be available when you need them.

    It's wise to talk with potential staff in advance of launching your project to understand what their schedules are and where delays might occur. That way, you can adjust the overall schedule ahead of time instead of midway through your project.

  • Production: If you're doing the production yourself, try to map out the specific steps in your process as clearly as possible and consider how much time each step takes as well as how much free time you can devote to the production if you're working around another schedule.

    If your Kickstarter campaign is in support of producing a physical item for mass distribution, be sure to include production quotes that cover a range of quantities.

    You may be hoping to produce only 100 copies of your comic book; however, if your campaign is very successful and you have 1,000 or 10,000 or more backers who want a copy of your book, you'll need to produce those just as quickly as you were planning to produce the original 100.

    When you get a production estimate for something like printing, make sure you get an idea of how long it would take to create more copies than you originally estimated of a product.

  • Working around a day job: It's important not to overpack this timeline, because you'll still need time to take care of everyday business and your day job.

When you're done creating a rough time estimate for each item in your project, you should create an estimated timeline for the project overall:

  1. Count up the total amount of time each part requires.

    You now have an estimation of the possible total number of days required to complete the elements requested in your Kickstarter campaign.

  2. Note which elements in your project have time constraints.

    Maybe some parts of the project are only available on certain days. This could be the case if you're working around a specific event, facility restrictions, personal commitments, and so on.

  3. Take out a calendar and mark your anticipated launch date of your campaign.

  4. Using the anticipated start date, move forward in time with all the days you've added up and take into account days that might be unavailable or dates you need to include in your project.

    For example, if you're making a film about an athlete competing in a sporting event and want to film him or her in competition, take into account that you'll have to film those days specifically; you can't film those scenes any sooner than the days on which they're happening.

    You also can't start editing or production until after you have that footage — so even if you've estimated 21 days for editing, those 21 days can't begin until after you've filmed the raw materials.

    The estimated delivery date calculated here is probably too optimistic, no matter what your project. Even so, don't worry — almost everyone underestimates how long it will take to get a project completed! Remember, once you input your delivery dates in your Kickstarter campaign, they cannot be changed.

    If you successfully fund your campaign and it becomes obvious you will not be able to meet your stated deadlines, you will need to communicate that to backers through updates as soon as possible.

  5. Take your estimated delivery date and push it out by at least two weeks.

    There's no harm in delivering a finished product early. However, your backers will become disillusioned if they continue to wait and wait and wait for the reward.

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