Crowdfunding Cosplay

Maya Dinerstein ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

Any cosplayer will tell you that it is one of the most expensive hobbies there is. Just going to any of the main conventions (New York Comic Con, SDCC or any of the Wizard World Cons) will set you back at least a hundred dollars, and that’s just getting in the doors. Any souvenirs, art or food you buy is extra. But there are those who spend money far before they even purchase their tickets and those are cosplayers.
A cosplayer is a person who dresses and poses like a character of their choice from any popular (or unpopular) source of media. Some will go so far as to act like these characters, though they often refer to themselves as impersonators, rather than cosplayers.
Cosplay doesn’t always have to be expensive. Throw on a ‘I <3 Toxic Waste’ shirt and some bunny slippers, and, poof, you’re Chris Knight from Real Genius.
chris knight.jpg
On the other hand, you could also spend hundreds to thousands of dollars and countless hours on your cosplay, like Rachael of Moonflower Cosplay, pictured here in her version of Sansa’s wedding dress. She estimates it cost over $500 for fabric and beads, and took her more than 400 hours of work including hand embroidery.
Obviously, not every cosplayer has the money to buy screen accurate articles of clothing or fabric, and so many turn to crowdfunding for help. Crowdfunding, in essence, is asking kind strangers on the internet to give you money to achieve a goal. Crowdfunding has been used for all sorts of things, like the Veronica Mars movie and the reboot of Reading Rainbow, to name a couple.
However, there are those cosplayers who don’t really approve of crowdfunding a costume.  “It’s a hobby, not a necessity.” says Rachael. “I get that cosplay is fun and cosplay and cons make you happy, but if you can’t afford to live your real life then maybe you need to cut back on your costumes… you have to pay your rent or buy food before you can do the fun stuff…” Rachael has attended close to twenty conventions and made more than fifty costumes, many requiring their own wigs and screen accurate pieces of clothing or handmade and patterned by herself. “I’ve lost a lot of respect for some of the people I’ve seen [crowdfund their cosplay] in the community. Yes, we do live in a free market society where people can do what they want with their money, so it’s up to the people donating if they want to pay for your costumes. But… [c]osplay is not a necessity.”
If you do choose to crowdfund your cosplay (or other pricey hobby), there are three main websites to choose from.
  • Kickstarter is by far the most well known, however it requires authorization from your bank, and if you fail to meet your goal, all the money returns to funders. It also takes 5% of what you make.
  • IndieGoGo’s fees are more complicated. You can stick to ‘fixed-funding’ which is the same as Kickstarter, though IndieGoGo takes 4%. With ‘flexible-funding’, if you don’t make your goal, they keep 9% of what was funded, but you still get the rest. Your goal must be over $500 to set up a campaign.
  • GoFundMe has no required goal amount, you can ask for $5 for a sandwich for lunch if you really want. GoFundMe doesn’t have you set a deadline like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo do (though this can be incentive to get people to contribute on those platforms), but does take 7.9% of what’s funded, plus 30 cents per transaction.
If you have a date you need funds by, and think you’ll probably reach your goal, IndieGoGo is well set up and takes the least of your funds (but you can still get some of the money either way). If your goal is less than $500 and/or you’re not in a rush to achieve it, GoFundMe is the only choice. All of the platforms give people running campaigns the option to offer rewards/perks/incentive for donations, and all are set up essentially the same way.

Crowdfund cosplay.jpg

So lets say you want to set up a crowdfund for a $500 cosplay. All three platforms give you the option to upload either a video or photo of the project. If you’ve got concept art of the outfit, you could use this as an image, or you could include it in a video of yourself. Show off other cosplays you’ve made so your audience can see you have the skill needed to complete the project. I’ve found videos to be more helpful because there’s more room to show rather than tell. Even then, it helps to write a script beforehand (unless you’re awesome at improv/ad-libbing) and then to use that script so people can read through what you want.
The best way to get donors is to be absolutely clear about exactly what you need, and why you need those items. Don’t say “$300 for supplies”, explain what supplies you need and how much they’ll cost. If you have a ‘due-date’ (like a con you plan to wear the cosplay to), explain that.
Donors really enjoy perks as well. For cosplay, you could offer professional prints of the cosplay once it’s finished, or art made from fabric remnants. Or, if you’re technologically inclined, offer livestreams of you while you work on the outfit.
Once you’ve got the campaign started, PROMOTE IT! Share it on Facebook, twitter, anywhere you’re connected via social media. Ask friends and family to share it. Update your funders and potential funders whenever you cross something off your to do list for the cosplay. Got enough funding to buy the patterns? Do it, and make an update with a picture of them.
Finally, if and when you are funded, be sure to thank your funders and anyone who shared about it. And maybe pitch in a couple bucks to the next person you see trying to make their own cosplay.
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  1. Rule one of cosplay: If you can’t afford it, don’t do it. Get a job. Nobody owes you fun times at con.

  2. Crowdfunding cosplay is a ridiculous notion. If you cannot afford your HOBBY, then maybe you should save up and do it when you CAN afford it. The excuse “I’m a poor college student” is ludicrous. Get a part-time job. A lot of us worked while we were in school. If you can’t do that, make something and sell it on Etsy. Sell something on ebay. We all have stuff we don’t need. Asking people for money is just cheapening the hobby. I agree with Rachael and several other veteran cosplayers.

  3. Asking your “fans” for donations because you’re too poor to keep up with your HOBBY isn’t exactly an ethical way to go. Many of us work hard and save our pennies for each and every costume and con. The elitist attitude some people have where asking for funds is just ridiculous. Either you can afford it or you can’t. Simple as that. You can’t ask people for money to play glorified dress-up. You lose respect that way. I agree wholeheartedly with Rachael and her attitude toward costuming. Plus, her costumes are amazing and she works hard to work on them and find the right pieces.

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