Some general things to be aware of before backing a crowdfunding campaign:
- If you’re backing it before it gets fully funded: It may not end up getting funded.
- You’re not ordering a product; instead, you’re helping to provide funding for production of the product. There is no guarantee that the product will end up being produced, nor that you’ll receive the product.
- If it does get funded and produced, it will most likely take much longer to produce than the creators predict that it will. A huge number of things can go wrong during development of a product, and even when the creators include some padding in their time estimates, they rarely include enough padding to account for everything that goes wrong. So as a backer, don’t count on the product showing up on the expected delivery date. It may end up being a year or two late. Sometimes even longer. (I think the longest overdue I’ve seen was three years.)
- The creators most likely won’t provide frequent-enough updates. They’ll get busy, or sick, or worried about how things are going, or stressed about the negative feedback they’re getting, and they’ll go quiet for too long at a time. That can be really frustrating for backers, but I feel like it’s a little less frustrating if you know that it’s something that happens a lot.
- Not many crowdfunding campaigns are scams. There are presumably a few that are, but I’ve backed 150+ campaigns and I don’t think I’ve ever backed one that turned out to be a scam. (Well, okay, Kickstarter canceled two of them before the funding campaigns completed, due to questions about what the creators were up to. But even those may well have been legitimate disagreements rather than scams.) But it’s quite common for backers to start calling a campaign a scam when there are delays and/or when the developers go quiet for an extended period.
- It is entirely possible that the backers won’t be the first people to receive the product. Sometimes a creator manages to make a deal with a major store to carry the product, and the large-scale production for the store ends up going faster than the small-scale production of the original crowdfunding campaign. Sometimes an electronic version of a game will appear online before the physical version reaches backers. If your main goal in backing a campaign is to get the product before any non-backers do, then it might be best not to back the campaign; things fairly often end up not working that way, and you may well end up upset and disappointed.
- It’s entirely possible that some things about the design of the product will change over the course of creating it. Often, for example, the prototype that the creators start out with turns out to have design flaws, or to not be as sturdy as they had thought, or to not be as easy to mass-produce as they had hoped. In such situations, the creators will need to make choices about how to proceed, and you may end up not liking what they decide.
So, in summary: if what you want is the traditional purchasing process—where you see a completed product, you examine it, you decide to buy it, you provide money, and you shortly thereafter receive the product—then backing a crowdfunding project may not be right for you.
But if you’re okay with some uncertainty around things like how long it’ll take to receive the product and some details of what it’ll end up looking and working like, then crowdfunding can be interesting and satisfying, and can provide a certain sense of ownership/participation in the creation of a product.