Delivering a Kickstarter on time
This week I had the pleasure of telling my backers they would be receiving their Kickstarter pledges on time, and some of them would be receiving their items early.
For many people this came as a huge surprise as it has become common place for projects to deliver late, so today I’d like to share some tips to help you better predict your delivery date.
The start point
If you are planning to run a crowdfunding campaign then you should be calculating your delivery date about 3 months before the project launches. For me, this was February 2021 (11 months ago) and since then we’ve continued to be pressured by the pandemic, entered a global shipping crisis, had power shortages across China, and my factory even got hit by a Typhoon – It wasn’t without challenges.
At this point you need to assess all the different factors involved:
- The current state of the game
- The number of non-standard components
- Stretch goals
Let’s take a look at each of these points.
The current state of the game
Personally, I won’t launch a Kickstarter until the game design and rulebook are finished. Crowdfunding a non-finished design introduces too many unknowns as you can never know how much work is left in refining mechanisms.
Alongside this, I prefer to wait until all artwork and graphic design is complete, but it is possible to launch with a few bits outstanding. You will have already worked with your illustrators on artwork, and you’ll know how good they are at keeping to timelines. Take their estimates and add any extra days you think are needed based on their previous results.
If you can’t get the artwork and graphic design complete prior to launching, I would suggest adding a minimum of 35% more time than the illustrator has estimated to your timeline.
The number of non-standard components
One of the biggest things that can delay a Kickstarter is unexpected issues found with non-standard components. By this I mean your manufacturer will be very familiar with printing cards, punchboards, and making boxes, but any non-paper items can cause risk.
Perhaps a miniature has a detail that messes with the moulds, or a wooden meeple is breaking too easily. The more unusual and complex the component, the more likely it is to add delays to the timeline and this needs to be considered.
I will try and start sampling any non-standard components and have them signed off and ready to go before launching a Kickstarter and recommend you ask your factory to do this if possible. However, I understand for first time creators this can be expensive and isn’t always an option.
If you can’t get samples made by the factory before the Kickstarter, then make sure your manufacturer has the files and can check them for potential issues. Take their estimated time, add 3 weeks for shipping samples to you, and add at least 25% (ideally 50%) more time for going back and forth. The more complex the item, the more time you should add.
As an example, the silkscreen printing on The Isle of Cats meeples may seem simple, but there were a lot of technical difficulties that took 4-months to perfect and 7 rounds of samples! We had estimated only 4 weeks, luckily, I had started this 3 months before launching my Kickstarter and not afterwards.
If you plan to include stretch goals with your campaign, make sure everything is planned out in advance. Another big cause of delays is creators adding new components they hadn’t planned for during the campaign.
Any addition adds time, whether it’s updating quotes, new artwork, editing, adjusting rules, or something else, always have this planned out in advance and follow the advice in the above 2 points.
Manufacturers can’t just start tomorrow, I always start booking in production as soon as possible.
3-months prior to my Kickstarter I will tell my factory the date I intend to start printing (normally 1 month after the Kickstarter ends) and allow them to pencil it in.
Should I launch my Kickstarter and have it fail, I can still give them enough notice to give the slot to someone else.
Make sure you give yourself enough time to have all the files ready for print by the date you tell them and do not miss this date. If you’ve never been through this process before, add 4 weeks to the amount of time you think it will take you to be safe.
With your manufacturing start date booked in, ask your manufacturer for a timeline. Request they include time in the timeline for sending samples and signing off each step. Then add 1 month to the time they say to you. Normally their timelines will be pretty accurate but the 1 month gives you extra time to resolve any unexpected issues.
Keep in mind, this manufacturing timeline is in addition to any sampling timeline needed for non-standard components as mentioned above.
Over the past 2 years logistics has changed a great deal, while in the past it was easy to find a container, get on a boat and ship your games to your warehouse, now there are a lot of unknown delays.
I currently inform my logistics partner of the planned shipment 4 weeks prior to the ready date (manufacturing completing). I plan for it to take 4 weeks to find a boat from the ready date and then 8-12 weeks to for the shipment to get to my European warehouse.
Shipments to the US are typically 4 weeks faster, and Australian shipments faster still, so I plan around the EU date.
While 2 years ago I would plan 10 weeks for logistics, I’m currently working to 16 weeks and finding it’s much more accurate with the current shipping climate.
Just like booking in a manufacturing slot, you need to book in your fulfillment as early as possible and then keep your partners updated. I recommend reading the frequent communication section of my fulfillment article.
Most fulfillment centres will tell you it will take 1 – 3 weeks to ship out your orders, depending on the complexity and volume. However, it’s important to keep in mind they won’t start the day the shipments arrive.
Include 2 weeks of additional time for them to receive your shipment, check it, count the stock, and get everything planned. There will also then be at least 1 week of loose ends (shipping errors) to resolve after fulfillment completes.
I’ll typically allow 6 weeks for fulfillment from the shipment arriving.
The final plan
For The Isle of Cats, I had already completed all artwork and sampling of non-standard components by the time the Kickstarter finished. I had also already booked in my manufacturing and fulfillment slots with all of my partners.
I worked on a basis of 3 months for manufacturing, 4 months for logistics, and 1.5 months for fulfillment, with a start date the month after my Kickstarter completed.
The Kickstarter funded in June, so my estimated fulfillment was 9 months later in mid-March.
While planning your own delivery date, don’t be surprised if it is around 12 months after the Kickstarter finishes, especially if this is your first project or you have non-standard components to sample. It’s better to add in contingency for each step and deliver slightly early/on time, than to hit an unexpected problem and deliver late.
It’s very easy to put a timeline together, add a bit of contingency, and hope for the best but the results come from putting in effort.
At every step it is up to you to keep things moving, here are a few examples:
- Whenever samples get sent to me from the factory, I schedule myself in to be free for the delivery date. This means I can check everything over and give feedback to the factory within 24 hours. If you just wait for it to arrive and try and find some time, you will cause delays.
- I notify all my partners frequently. I book in manufacturing and fulfillment months in advance and keep them updated. If something slips I let them know straight away so we can adapt the plan. Delays come from surprising people, telling your manufacturer you want to start tomorrow, or your fulfillment partner that the games just entered the country without warning will cause delays.
- Scope creep is a killer. Your project just funded and that’s fantastic news, perhaps you made more money than you expected, and you want to make this the best game possible. I understand the feeling but remember, delivering what you promised on time will encourage people to come back for future projects. Your backers are already happy with this project (that’s why they backed you!) so don’t risk delays with last minute additions.
Good luck with fulfilling on time and I’d love to know if you have any more bonus tips!
Frank West is a gamer and designer based in Bristol, UK. He published his first board game, The City of Kings, in 2018 and now works on other games and organising events in the local area. His goal? To design and publish games focusing on immersive themes, fun mechanics and beautiful components. If you have any questions or would just like a chat, feel free to get in touch at any time!