How To Price Yourself As A Freelancer

Pricing Your Services: Newbie To Basics

How to price yourself as a freelancer. An issue many beginning freelancers and entrepreneurs deal with. In this article I will help you with a basic approach. We establish the minimum wage you need to cover life’s necessities and add a couple of key insights. The goal is to provide you with a clear method of you to calculate your freelancer prices starting from your personal and professional expenses. Once you’ve set your minimum income goals, you can build different pricing structures on top. Like higher rates for rush jobs, discounts for projects spanning several months,…

Calculating Your Rate

We begin by setting a baseline. A total of all your personal and professional expenses. Also known as your break-even point. Break Even is when Money in = Money Out.

Grab an Excel or Numbers sheet and note down all your expenses on a monthly or yearly basis. What’s your rent? How much do you pay for software and webhosting? It will take a while and you will probably forget a few things – no biggie. You can come back to it and improve it over time.


Let’s build an example. Jimmy is a beginning freelancer. He lives in the big city where he rents an apartment for 500 a month. Utilities are 50 a month. Jimmy has kept track of his monthly trivia expenses like going out for dinners, drinks, groceries etc. On average he spends 400 a month in trivia expenses.
His living costs are thus 940 a month.

Professionally Jimmy uses a laptop he bought for 2000 that he plans on using for at least 2 years. Coming down to 2000 divided by 24 months = 83,33. His software costs 100 a month. His profession related insurances are 50.
His professional expenses are 233,33 a month.

Jimmy’s monthly grand total is 1.173,33 a month.


Unless you’ve studied some kind of accountancy you notice we’ve skipped a step in calculating the grand total.
Jimmy still owes taxes on his personal income!

Let’s assume Jimmy is a European citizen and pays 50% in personal income tax. Meaning that the state takes half of Jimmy’s profits. Which means that we have to double his living costs if we want to be able to cover them.

940 x 2 + 233,33 = 2.113,33.

What does this mean? Well, Jimmy will have to make 2113,33 euros to cover his basic expenses like a laptop, software, rent, food, drinks and dinners. If Jimmy is able to work 4 weeks a month, 5 days a week, 8 hours a day, he will establish a price of 13,2 an hour.

From Living To A Real Wage

The basic necessity is covered. If Jimmy can work every single workday of the year. Each for a full 8 hours, he will cover his basic expenses. Neat, right? Na-uh! How will Jimmy save up money? How will he retire? Buy new equipment? What if he falls ill? Spends a month in the hospital? Wants to take a vacation?

As a freelancer you rarely enjoy the perks that employees do. Perks like paid vacation, an extra month’s wage at the end of the year, an expense account, travel reimbursement, pension saving,… and so on. Our current budget leaves no room for Jimmy to save up money, buy luxuries like expensive gifts for his loved ones or travel!

Adding these expenses is a tad more variable than the previous calculation. How much money a person wants to save or have to spend on extras is a personal matter but it can be calculated never the less.

Recalculating Your Freelance Price

Earlier we established Jimmy’s personal expenses to be 940 a month which we doubled to account for the 50% taxes he has to pay. Let’s add some:

  • Savings, 200 a month
  • Extra cash for fun, 100 a month
  • An extra month’s pay just like employees get, so we’ll multiply by 13 instead of 12 later on.
  • A month’s extra income as buffer, in case Jimmy falls ill or finds himself without a job for a while.

Totalling his personal expenses to 940+300 = 1.240 a month. Professional is still at 233,33 a month. Totalling to 2.713,33 a month. But this doesn’t yet account for the 2 extra months of income Jimmy wants to add to cover any uncertainties like falling ill or being unemployed for a while. Freelancers rarely enjoy unemployment benefits! So instead of multiplying our monthly cost by 12, we multiply by 14 and then divide it by 12.

2713,33 x 14 = 37.986,62 a year
/12 = 3.165,55 a month

If Jimmy wants to not only cover his basic living costs but also save up some money for a pension or a rainy day like unexpected unemployment or hospitalisation, he will have to make at least 3165,55 a month. A whopping 1052,22 a month more than previously thought! That is a 33% increase if he wants to enjoy similar benefits to a regular employee.

If we do 3165,55 a month / 4 weeks / 5 workdays / 8 hours a day = 19,78 an hour.

This is of course an oversimplified example. Each case if different. Try to decide for yourself what you want like to do. Do you want to acquire a new camera? Is your software not hundreds but thousands a month? And so on,…

Real Freelancing Prices

It is good to know that in the real world freelancers earn a lot more than 19,78 an hour. An intermediate web developer easily earns over 75 an hour. The biggest reason: a freelancer rarely has 100% occupancy. It is a rough life that brings a lot of uncertainty with it. Periods of no work do happen. It is best to combat this by raising your price in order to cushion the blow. Another big reason is market demand. Western web developers are just really sought after. Programmers in Silicon Valley easily earn over a 100.000 USD a year. Almost triple our example! But their rent and other living expenses are also ridiculously high compared to the rest of the world.

Note: Research your country’s taxes. How much do you pay in income taxes? How much is VAT? Which business expenses can you write off? Are there any benefits? Like electric vehicles being a 120% write-off, actually MAKING you money! It gets fun once you realise you can write your date-dinners and flowers for the significant other off as a business expense. Which means the VAT regular citizens pay gets reimbursed AND you can pay with pre-tax cash, halving an already 21% discounted cost. Meaning you only pay 40% of what regular, non-freelancing people pay!


Though an easy exercise, it is a valuable one down the line that you can go back to every so often. Once you have a clearer view of how much your competition makes, how many days a year you actually work for clients and how your costs and investments pan out,… You will have a good grasp on how much you need to make in order to fulfil all your needs and wants.

Now you have finished this article, it’s time to…

Breaking Elvis’ One And Only Rule

When Elvis met Jerry Weintraub for the first time, his words were “It’s a honor, sir. I appreciate it. There is only one thing I ask when we’re on the road: Please make sure, when I perform, that every seat is filled. And please make sure my fans are in the front rows, not the big shots.”

Jerry Weintraub, 26 at the time was at the start of a life-long career in Entertainment. He didn’t know it then but he went on to produce movies such as The karate kid, Ocean’s Eleven and Twelve, represent talents such as Brad Pitt, Frank Sinatra and many more.

The year is 1965, Jerry was about to organise his first tour. He had no clue what he was doing. He just got the job from Elvis’s manager ‘The General’ – after a year long pursuit of persistent daily phone calls, heckling The General and a stressful one week fundraiser in order to deliver Elvis’s manager the 1 million dollars cash he asked for in return for Jerry’s privilege to take the artist on tour. (8,2 million USD in 2019 when adjusted for inflation)

Along the tour, Jerry booked a Fourth of July show at the Convention Center in Miami Beach, it had ten thousand seats.

Two weeks before the performance was due, Jerry called ahead and asked how the ticket sales were doing. “Great! We’re sold out.” said the manager of the venue. Demand was so high, that they decide to do a matinee on the same day.

The day before the concert, Jerry lands and heads straight towards the Convention Center to scout the venue out. There he finds the person he’d been talking to on the phone. He finds him holding about five thousand unsold matinee tickets in his hand, the matinee was only sold for half. Jerry was furious and instantly thought back to what Elvis told him first time they met. “I just don’t want to sing to any empty seats.” Distressed, Jerry walks out to the beach, passing a county jail. He sits down and starts to think of what the consequences will be like. This is the first show Jerry has put together for Elvis and the Colonel and Jerry could not fulfil Elvis’ only wish. He for sure was going to get chewed out by both, fearing Elvis’ reaction most. When he goes back to the center for rehearsals, he confesses his problem to the Colonel.

” It seems I was misled before I booked the matinee and now I’m stuck with five thousand unsold seats.”

-“Well, son, as far as I can tell, we don’t have a problem. You have a problem.”

” Yeah, well, what should I do?”

-“I’ll tell you what you should do, you should fix your problem.”

The night before the concert Jerry could barely sleep, he had nightmares and was stressed out. He woke up early and went back to the arena. As he stood in the aisles he noticed something, the seats had bolts that secured each of them to the floor. So they could be removed or replaced if they had to.

“How long would it take to unscrew five thousand seats, how many men would it take?”

Jerry walks towards the jailhouse, asks to speak with the sheriff and gave that man a handful of cash.

“What can I do for you?” the sheriff asked.

-“I want five thousand seats out of the convention center, hide them for a few hours, then, before the nighttime show, put them right back in. Can you help me,”

A few hours later the sheriff showed up with dozens of prisoners who unscrewed and carried away the seats, which they piled in the parking lot and covered up. When the matinee show was done, they took the seats back into the stadium and bolted them back down.

After the evening show, Elvis said to Jerry “You know, Jerry, it’s amazing. The crowd was good in the afternoon, but it’s always so much better at night.”

Elvis never noticed the first show had only half the audience.

We are concerned about the wrong kind of privacy

Yes, exposing all our information without permission is bad. But blocking all superficial cookies and trackers, because you encountered adverts for a BBQ moments after googling for a new one – while our personal information (address, name, family, date of birth, passwords, emails,…) keeps getting requested and subsequently leaked every other minute, is an overcorrection. Can’t we protect our personal information without giving up the hyper customization the internet offers?

Let me admit that, like everyone else, I block all unnecessary cookies and permissions on all apps and websites. I have fallen down the rabbit hole of privacy, I’m only a couple of steps away from accessing the internet only through a virtual machine on a server in Iceland that I access only via a VPN and a Tor browser, running exclusively on a USB stick with Tails OS. (Iceland has great privacy protection laws).
But, I’m just weird like that.

I want to protect my identity and personal information. But I have no issue with receiving specific ads that cater to my weird quirks or latest google searches. As an entrepreneur, my online business heavily relies on the effectiveness of well targeted ads. The alternative (now our reality), is going back to a world of broad one-for-all type advertising. Car, beer and dating commercials galore!

Let’s be real

We can stop cookies and tracking all we want, but we will never be able to stop advertising. Unless people start actually paying for things online. So why not make it at least a little customized to our needs?

Although the aggregate of all our internet usage might be able to paint an accurate picture of the kind of person we are and in which part of the world we live, it doesn’t even come close to the actual real personal information that is out there.

Sim cards track our movements constantly, regardless of airplane mode and even with the phone turned off. Which has been used against several fugitives and the people present at the USA Capitol riots. ALL WiFi networks are listed on google-maps-esque sites with a scary exactness of the position of the router. When you create a WiFi hotspot on your phone, it automatically logs the location and can be found on those maps. Check this video that tells you why Snowden doesn’t use WiFi.

Governments like the EU force companies (banks, telecom providers,…) to ask for accurate personal details from their customers (Know Your Customer – KYC). But, those companies are not required to keep their security up to a high standard. Currently my personal information (name, address, phone number, email, date of birth, passwords…) has leaked several times from hacks to various platforms! Exposing me to possible hacks of my own email accounts, social media, payment providers, banks, SIM swapping, identity theft, fraud, blackmail,…

We are concerned about the wrong things

We are so afraid of being followed by ads. But we forget to protect our personal data that can actually be used against us. With your personal details, a hacker can call up your phone company, pretend to be you, bypass some security questions like
“What’s your date of birth? Where were you born? What are the last 4 digits of your bank account or credit card?…”

Having won over the customer service rep, the hacker can then ask for a replacement SIM card of your phone number, called SIM swapping. It allows another person to get access to your text messages, voicemail and phone calls without you knowing it. They use this to bypass security on other platforms. Like, when you login to Amazon or Facebook and the site texts you a code to your phone that you have to fill in on the website.

To make it even simpler for hackers, most people don’t change their passwords and/or login information. Using the same password for all social media accounts, email, banks,… Once one website is hacked, that information is available online for a few bucks. Someone with bad intentions can easily turn your entire life upside down.

As an individual you can protect yourself by getting a passwords manager and adopting a unique, random password for every account you create. You can step it up with randomized email accounts provided by sites like AnonAddy. You can start using pseudonyms instead of using your real name. But all this is like wearing inflatable armbands while in the middle of a storm in the middle of the pacific ocean, it will just make you stand out to the sharks.

Data collection can be our friend

Have you visited Facebook lately? Noticed how it is not as cool as it was before? Besides a change in culture, after all, it’s been over a decade; my hypothesis is that we’ve grown accustomed to algorithm picked media feeds, specifically catered to our interests (Youtube, Instagram, Pinterest,… all show you media from profiles you probably have never heard of). Facebook, can’t really do this. Since it is tied to your friend list, the quality of your feed is dependent on the quality of the posts of your friends.

I’ve realized this while using Pinterest. At first I followed people I knew and I saw a feed of things they pinned. But later on, Pinterest switched to showing me things picked by the algorithm, specifically fit to my tastes. At first I was confused, why am I not seeing my friends anymore? I followed cool people that had great taste! But after a few weeks/months, I grew accustomed to scrolling the front page, filled by the algorithm.

I was horrified when I accidentally landed on the friends feed page again. There was so little I found interesting! As if all of a sudden I realized my friends had awful taste! But in fact, I just grew accustomed to a product with higher potency.


Remember the world before the internet? Ever seen a billboard outside or a TV commercial lately? A random product shoved in your face that you have absolutely no desire for. Yea, that’s what we’re going to turn the internet into again. Instead of having advertisements shown, catering to whatever niche cat grooming ritual you have, Richard. We’re going to show everyone car, beer and dating adverts again. Regardless of whether or not you’re a drunken road hazard that has been unhappily married since high school, Richard! Actually, that might be amazing audience targeting.

Unless we find a way to protect people’s identities AND collect data about their interests, we will destroy one of the greatest economical superpowers for small businesses, start-ups, entrepreneurs, freelancers and influences we have yet seen.


All this, in the name of being spooked by an ad for a recent google search.

The wrong thing scares us. Ideally, we’d completely remove personal information from the internet and adopt a pseudonym standard where everyone’s name is in the same vein as “GeneralButtWipe68”. And allow tracking of internet usage in exchange for a more catered experience.

Institutions like banking or telecom that needs to actually know who you are in order to counteract money laundering, terrorism,… will have to be regulated and audited on their digital security. Even fined when breaches occur.

When Facebook leaked 350+ million users’ data, they didn’t give two shits. They didn’t even notify the affected individuals, let alone warn their entire platform of the breach. Users just had to be lucky to read it in the newspapers and figure it out for themselves if their data was part of the breach or not.

We shouldn’t be afraid of ads. We should be afraid of having to share our personal details with every site, service or product we encounter, without that information being supremely secured.

Working with Raf Simons. How I got to work with one of the world’s biggest fashion designers.

In the last few weeks of 2020 the people behind Raf Simons approached me. If you don’t know Raf, he has worked with Prada, Calvin Klein and Dior. He can count Rihanna, Kanye, Asap Rocky, Drake, Maisie Williams, the XX (to name a few) as his fans. I helped Raf Simons and his team build a B2C Shopify webshop 4 weeks before the deadline of December 15th 2020. Raf Simons’ shop sold out in 3 days.


How did the biggest fashion designer and his team pick me to build the latest prominent part of their business? First of all, before we go further, its luck. Luck, luck, luck. But underneath all that good fortune, are a handful of smart moves and heaps of hard work spread over the past couple of years.

My luck started 10 years ago. When I was 20, I made and sold t-shirts under my own little label called ‘DAWN clothing’. I was young, in need of a creative outlet and some money. Thus, inspired by streetwear brands like Stussy, The Hundreds, Rebel8 and many more – I started my own label.


This is when I first came into contact with B2C (business to consumer) and discovered everything I had to learn. From figuring out how to track stock, VAT, payment solutions, tax-reporting, refunds, webshop platforms and so much more. It’s also the period when I first learned about Shopify, the platform Raf Simons’ team picked for their webshop.

So at 20, I gained some initial experience selling B2C and worked with Shopify. As I grew as an entrepreneur my preference changed. I soon left the t-shirt project behind in order to pursue a career in street-art. Quickly after my switch I picked up some big projects and got the opportunity to work with some mayor brands in the following years. Among others, I worked with Bacardi, Red Bull, Nike and Bombay Sapphire. The experiences taught me how brands want to position themselves. What their wants/needs are and what they absolutely want to avoid. You can say I got some corporate education there.

In between all that, I worked as a teacher in an evening school. I gave an 9 week course on 3D studio Max. Although by now this is 9 years ago, the experience was pleasant and lucrative enough for me to reconsider teaching when the 2020 lockdowns hit.

2020 Lockdowns

March 2020, I saw all my pending projects collapse, almost overnight. With no clear trajectory of how I would generate an income, the idea of switching to teaching popped up. I knew that an effect of the 2008 crisis was that many people went back to some kind of education to increase their chances on a changed job-market. I figured, this time around the same might happen, increasing demand for teachers. So with my previous experience teaching in my back pocket, I looked for new openings. I emailed, they invited me and hired me for a position to teach After Effects (a video editing package).

While I was there, I proposed the idea of starting a Shopify course. Dedicated to teaching people how to quickly set up a new webshop for their business. By now I been running a new Shopify web-store selling stencil caps to graffiti artists. ( They liked it and listed the course on their website, alongside my profile as a Shopify expert.

Getting the job

Fast forward from March 2020 to November 2020 – I get an email from a prominent fashion label looking for a Shopify expert. They found my details on the website of the evening school I teach at and ask if I can come by their office to talk about potentially helping them set up a Shopify store. A store already existed but was taken offline after a short period that had some issues.

I went to the interview. I got to talk about everything I had done so far. Running a miniature t-shirt label online, working with big brands as an artist, selling my own invention via a B2C Shopify store and an international B2B network,… They loved it and let me know the next day they wanted to work with me.

What followed were 4 really interesting weeks of working closely with the team surrounding Raf Simons. On 1 or 2 occasions even working with Raf himself.

Sold out in 3 days

Not only did I build their webshop inside Shopify. I also trained their team in how to understand and work with the platform, the payment gateways, customer care solutions, fraud analysis and so on. After careful consideration , we launched the shop with 50 unique items and 3 hand signed books on December 15th 2020. The shop sold all its stock in 3 days. Nobody, not even the CEO or Raf expected the tremendous success.

So what does my history have to do with me working for Raf Simons? Everything and nothing. This project was a lucky one-email-overnight-success a decade in the making.

Now I ask you, what are you working on today that might pay off 10 years from now?

– Matthew Dawn

Keep an anti-collection to improve your creative thinking.

Crappy design national geographic plastic waste environment global warming

For a while now I have been keeping an anti-collection. A Pinterest board filled with works in which I spotted glaring faults. A collection of images that because of their mistakes, inspire me. It’s time every creative starts doing this.

Do the opposite

I get it, looking up to your favourite artists/creators/artworks/products … is easy and something we all love. They are so good they just DEMAND your attention and affection. But I’m writing to make you consider also doing the opposite. Because rarely do you ever learn from great things.

What happens when you take something broken or bad and fix it? Take all of the mistakes out of it… it becomes good. But where do you find those mistakes in the first place? You’ll definitely make a few blunders of your own but unless you plan on making each and every single mistake yourself – which might take a long time – you’ll have to look outside.

Learn from mistakes other people have made. It’s free, both from embarrassment and financially. Here’s how:


It all began when I started prepping for my kickstarter campaign and had to settle on a style for the campaign video. The idea of quality being mostly defined the lack of mistakes, faults or short comings had been permeating in my thoughts for a while. With this mindset I began doing my homework, analysing other kickstarter campaigns, checking all their video’s and keeping notes specifically on what I disliked about it.

That list ranged from bad accents to slow cuts to over- or under-lit scenes. I wrote down anything that made me click away or say no to the product or project. With this list and ONLY these negative remarks to avoid did I embark on creating my own kickstarter video.

Viral It Goes

To say it was a success would be an understatement. I initially uploaded it to facebook. Normally my video’s would get about 200 views even though my page had about 900 likes at the time. So I put 20€ ad budget behind it so it was able to reach my entire audience and perhaps some more. The video eventually reached over 500.000 views in a four day span with several other facebook pages downloading and re-uploading it, cutting me out of the loop. Where the video got another estimated 100.000 to 150.000 views, it was hard to keep track of which pages got a hold of it and ran with it.
Later, I uploaded the same video to Youtube as a backup for future reference. It gathered another 1.2 million views over 2 years, resulting in plenty of sales for my project.

Quality is the lack of mistakes

This is a technique I fall back to not only when I’m preparing a project but also in the creative process itself. Every time I’m creating something I pass a point where I’ve built my foundation and transition into a phase of working out all the kinks, cleaning up the mess I made. It’s the 20% of the work that drives the 80% of the result. It is what takes it from okay to good and eventually to great.

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed it, please leave a comment down below.


Graffiti street art antwerpen antwerp realism realistische muurschildering mural matthew dawn

A mural painted for the city of Antwerp, during an event called Tizarte. With the hombres from Treepack as caretakers of the project.

Personally one of my favourite murals. I LOVE how the flesh tones in the two most left figures have turned out. I re-iterated those tones over and over again, focussing on making smooth transitions which is not easy when working with fast drying acrylic based wall-paint. Especially in the summer.

Graffiti street art antwerpen antwerp realism realistische muurschildering mural matthew dawn

Location on Google Maps


Matthew Dawn Mural Street Art Blind Lisboa Lisbon Loures Arte Publica Graffiti

The paper crown series

started shortly after the release of the first TINYPINK, in a period where I felt my ego inflate and was witnessing the effects of it on my inner thoughts and feelings. Since then the project evolved from a singular statement to a deeper self-exploration. I find it difficult to write about what these pieces mean to me because on one hand I’m not yet good at gallery-speak and I also don’t want to spoil the works for the audience. Whenever I ask someone what they think of my work before they’ve heard my concept behind it, they always come up with different explanations that I never thought about! It would be unfair of me to spoil those revelations or cancel them out with my own “true” statements because they are not the only explanation for the piece.

But just as in music, I believe the audience can make a choice and perhaps after having made their own motivations for a piece they can still learn the creator’s reasoning behind it and appreciate both.

The whole series is extremely self-centered. Not on me as an artist but on the human experience as an individual. First born out of the competitive spirit to be better than others, to be successful, to ride it out ’till the bitter end,… a large number of side-effects arise. Because of a singular focus on the individual’s finish line, we lose sight of what’s beside us. That’s why the background is this piece is a bland, monotone grey. Or why the first piece features the word BLIND vaguely incorporated in the background. Our loved ones, friends, family, nature, even our own well-being fall to the wayside in a relentless striving for a better individual, whether that be financial, skill-wise or other.

I had thoughts of suicide when I was a heavily bullied teenager, even contemplating suicide is something no living being should ever experience. I grew out of it as an adult and overcame it, mainly because I had a loving family surrounding me. The suicides of Chester Bennington and Anthony Bourdain brought those memories into a new perspective. Both successful, rich and highly regarded in their respective fields. Both reached goals I aspire to. Yet they did what they did and it makes me wonder what will be waiting for me when I myself reach those goals. It’s not just because of these single instances, many people followed a similar path.

Even in this miniature rise in my short career I notice signs many notable musicians, actors and artists talk about. Starting out, my biggest goal was to survive for which I needed money. Now, just purely getting money is no longer a motivator. I do high-paying jobs begrudgingly without any real reason. I find a lot of joy and love in the jobs that lose me money. When I got into contact with some of my idols for the first time I was awestruck, now I see them as peers, normal people trying their very best. Fans went from great flattery to people who without knowing you put you on a pedestal while you’re own self-image is anything but great. But I still want to chase the money and I love being recognised for my work. I’m still very competitive when it comes to making pieces, having love for all artist old and new but I want to out-perform them all up on the walls,… These habits don’t fit a mature well-developed person but I don’t want to shake them off just yet.

It’s a struggle to grow out of this modus operandi that I’ve become accustomed to and that struggle is what this series signifies for me, wanting to let go of old ideals, trying to broaden our worldview but not immediately being able to.

How I built a successful kickstarter campaign.

In this blog post I show you how I built a successful kickstarter campaign. It will contain personal anecdotes (in red), graphs, insights and tactics used. If you enjoyed it, please leave a comment or feel free to email me. Enjoy!

“Holy shit dude, check this I’m already at 20K views! When I left home it was barely 10K which is crazy by itself!” I scream like a little girl and raise both arms excitingly in the air as I demand the attention of a friend sitting next to me. The views I’m talking about are those on a video in which I present a passion project of mine. The video was uploaded only a few hours before, I have put €20 behind it to make sure I reach all 910 people that have liked my facebook page in the past and a few of their friends if I’m lucky. 

The project mentioned is the TINYPINK stencil cap, an attachment that fits onto an aerosol can and allows the user to spray really thin lines, the target audience are spray paint artists like myself. The idea for having an attachment that produces really thin lines exists already for a number of years within that community but a good execution is lacking. With my interest in product design, a college degree in 3D-design and a notion of 3D-printing technology I took the original idea and improved on it. In this post I will lay out all the steps that I took in preparation of and during the Kickstarter for this project. (This does not include RnD, the viral video can be found HERE).

Tinypink stencil cap graffiti aerosol street art spraypaint how I built a successful kickstarter campaign
3D-printed prototype

Building the campaign

Building a Kickstarter campaign isn’t that hard (you can find mine here), you fill out a few forms, add some rewards and write detailed copy that explains your product and add some quality pictures that help in clarifying details. I go for a straight forward, no-BS approach and keep the rewards simple, 2 small goals of €5 and €10 for casual supporters, several goals varying only in the number of products people want to pre-order and 2 additional rewards for those who want more (one was a limited art print, the other one a mural).

Doing a standard Kickstarter video, featuring the creators talking about the conceptualisation and execution of the idea with a mellow indie-rock song playing in the background, feels wrong for some reason so I decide to do some research. I look at roughly 10 campaign video’s in order to learn what makes some campaigns extremely successful and others DOA (dead on arrival).

This is a very crucial step, which I never saw advised in any articles I had read so far. I partly credit the (still ongoing) success of the video to this small step. 

I go through the video’s and take note of all the things that irritate me. Not the things I like but the things that make me cringe, very important difference! My general mindset at this point is that quality consists not of the things you do well but the things you don’t screw up. I take inspiration from one specific campaign, the Tidashi titanium mini knife.

In their campaign video they showcase the creator going through the process of making the product from start to finish, a mellow guitar soundtrack plays in the background, you can hear all the grinding and machines working but a voice-over explaining what is going on, is absent. Instead they use subtitles to showcase the product’s properties. It is a revelation to see that a voice-over is not necessary for a clear video, in this case it makes it better! I am insecure about my english pronunciation (it’s my second language) and seeing someone pull it off without talking is a relief and confirmation that I can do it too. That is the point at which I compile a list of all the product’s USPs and how I want to frame them. Later on, I go out and shoot the footage. I record a voice-over with my iPhone just to make sure it’s no good.

I upload the video with a small promotional budget (€20) behind it, I anticipate to get roughly 4-5K views since most un-promoted video’s of mine get 1K views. After this, there isn’t much of a plan besides putting up some images of the product with additional info, some promotional budget behind it and the hope of getting some press coverage out of the handful of magazines and blogs that I have contacted. (In the end none of them wrote anything about the project.)

What do you do, when shit hits the fan?

It is two days later and the initial video has reached over 300K views, I receive an email from one of my favourite artists, showing their interest in my product. My facebook inbox is already RIP. This thing has become viral and I stand in front of a crucial decision, launch now or wait until the announced date. There is already a Thunderclap campaign running with a handful of influential people on it, set to go off on the planned launch date. I remind myself that I started out doing this just for me, that I have nothing to lose and just want to see how far I can take this (I also consulted with a business savy friend who I asked whether or not I should launch the campaign right now, whose only reply was “Now.”). I launch the campaign and message everyone back and tell them where to get it. The next few days I spend emailing and messaging all kinds of people, trying to get them to support the campaign.

Funny side note: most people assume that whoever they talk to online, speaks their language as well, I know a bit of Dutch, French, English and German but the video got at least 200K of its views in Mexico causing my inbox to be flooded with Spanish messages written in a slang google translate couldn’t handle. 

Eyeball retention with 100% at the start, 17.8% stayed untill the credits (and website links) appeared, 3.09% finished the entire video and had thus seen the url to the website.
Eyeball retention with 100% at the start, 17.8% stayed until the fade to black, 3.09% stayed for the credits which was when the website’s url was being shown for the first time.

Average amount of 70 views for the past 2 weeks. With underneath: organic/payed traffic and sound on/sound off numbers.
Average amount of 70 views for the past 2 weeks. With underneath: organic/payed traffic and sound on/sound off numbers. I didn’t screenshot the graphs as it was going on, facebook only shows the past 2 weeks so that data is forever lost.

I learn that after the 1 minute mark, already 66% of the audience has stopped watching and only 23% made the effort to click on the video to turn the audio on (which is disabled at first). With this info, not doing a voice over turns out to be a great decision! It also tells me that putting the url at the end of the video is a bad idea since only 3% reaches it, for the next couple of video’s I put all the information at the beginning.

The kickstarter itself

I need a total of 12K in order to start production and am willing to put in 4K of my own money. Some people might ask for 8K in their campaign and keep their 4K aside. I think it’s a better idea to ask for 12K on the campaign and put in 4K myself (through my parents’ credit card, you can’t support your own campaign with your own credit card) with the risk of losing between 5-10% of that amount in fees to payment processors and Kickstarter. The idea is that it will help me get over that important hump of 50% quicker and boost confidence in the project.

kickstarter funding progress tinypink stencil cap graffiti street art aerosol campaign how I built a successful kickstarter campaign
Notice the jump on the fourth day, that’s the 4K in put in myself.

The attempt at boosting confidence works, for the 2 following days backing increases slightly. After this, it is a dreadful long road of continually trying to get some attention back towards the campaign. My main tool of attack is facebook, specifically facebook sponsored posts. Here is a list of all sponsored posts I placed during the campaign.

Total of 11 posts worth €609,13. Notice the posts on 20-4 and 16-5.
Total of 11 posts worth €609,13. Notice the posts on 20-4 and 16-5.

The very first post on the bottom of the list is the first mention I made of the existence of the project, notice the low engagement. 20-4 is the day the video went viral (which in total, received 4,4K likes, 615 reactions and 4,5K shares), I decided to keep on boosting it up to almost €200 but even with such a big budget behind it (for a bootstrapped project), you can see that it only makes up a fraction of the total amount of impressions (the dark orange part of the bar being the views received by sponsoring).

I continue with image posts but notice they are not engaging enough. I post 2 more video’s demonstrating the cap’s capabilities since the first video only showed it for a few seconds. The video’s are posted on 3-5 and 13-5 and are time-lapses of me re-creating iconic artworks on a A4 paper with nothing but spray cans and my cap. They don’t have a big impact when I post them but perform extremely well when shared by pages with a large audience. Since they don’t perform well on my own page, I stop paying for them, ending at about €5 each. Links: Mona Lisa and Van Gogh

The original video teaches me that a majority of my audience comes from South America, specifically Mexico. Not only the stats but also the comments and my messages are filled with Spanish people sharing their opinion. Which might be caused by an influential artist/friend of mine, who has a big audience throughout Southern America, shared my project on facebook. His name is Bue The Warrior, 21K likes on FB.

On 16-5 I post a re-edited version of the original viral video twice, each time with different targeting. One for the European and North American market, the other one for all the Spanish speaking countries, they seem to get an equal amount of views, 512,6K and 409,5K respectively but if you calculate views per Euro spent, the EU/USA gets 5,126 views per Euro and the Spanish one 8,19 per Euro. Which in the next two days brings the campaign from a 3 day stagnant plateau at 86% to 92% and 95% another two days later.

On 20-5 youtuber SIVE uploads a review of my product (I had sent him a prototype 2 weeks prior), which is extremely positive despite my fear of him tearing the idea to bits and pieces. His video reaches 5K views in a day or two and helps me push the campaign over the finish line in just the last few hours.

Other publicity includes one interview done with, a closely watched street-art news website. Which is triggered when the artist MyDogSighs posts my project on his facebook, grabbing the attention of an editor at the aforementioned website. Up until the interview, I’m unaware that this artist has posted anything about my project. The interview has no noticeable effect on the campaign but it does seem to give me credibility, people who at the beginning disregarded the project are now coming back around to congratulate me on how wonderful it is.

After the successful end of the campaign I set up a shopify webshop in order to provide other payment options for the people who didn’t have access to a credit card. At this moment the shop has generated another 2.5K in revenue without any advertising, purely driven by the initial video that is also uploaded on youtube where it now has gathered 70K+ views without ever being posted or shared anywhere, I just put it there as a backup but apparently it took off by itself.

Addendum: The youtube video mentioned above has as of Jan 2020 reached 1.2M views.


“Listen, we need to talk. Promise me you won’t get mad…”
I close my eyes and let my head hang. I knew this was coming. I just didn’t expect the guillotine to fall as quickly as it did.

So recently my life changed. For better or worse, I have to deal with it.
I don’t hate change. Change is good. It brings new things. It’s just that I don’t like saying goodbye to something good.

Does anyone?

Maybe the worst part is not knowing when you will feel this good again. I think life moves in these A and B cycles, good times and bad times. Cliché, I know. But it seems to fit. It is what my short adult life has taught me so far.
At certain periods in my life, I feel like I belong. This is the right place and the right time for me to be here. Like my last years in high school, my college education, my first girlfriend, becoming a freelancer,… All periods of my life upon which I look back with joy and happiness. But also a tad of sadness. For I know that I can’t go back and relive those periods again.
I can look at pictures, diaries or something to bring back the memories but it’s not the same thing.

It never is.

On the other side of the spectrum there are the B-cycles. The aftermath of whatever event caused the previous A-round to go bust. I’m picking up the pieces and figuring out where I have to go from here. It feels like cleaning up my personal space. I like it. It helps when I feel depressed or unmotivated. It’s something I got from Jason Mraz. He left me the notion that your living area reflects the way you think. If your thoughts are all over the place, your space will be cluttered and vice versa. I like to believe that cleaning up helps me clear my head.
This B round, is the part that predominantly sucks. Or used to. I have seen and done some amazing things so far and have been through less pleasant experiences as well. Each time I got found a way in or out.
Whenever I was up, I eventually went down and later on, back up again. Considering this to be a fact of life, the B rounds go from a depressing period to a time of self-reflection, contemplation and chill’laxed waiting.

Like a Rocky movie, you prepare for the next A round that’s coming along.