5 Steps to Book Your Own Freight for Your Board Game Kickstarter

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Much like how Expedia didn’t eliminate travel agents from the job market, freight marketplaces won’t eliminate freight brokers from the job market either. Freight marketplaces are merely an attractive alternative to hiring a broker.

If you want somebody to take care of freight entirely on your behalf, then it still makes sense to hire a freight broker. They have hard-won know-how that’s irreplaceable.But if you want to save a bit of cash or exercise a wider control over your business operations, then freight marketplaces are the way to go. One that I’ve used and that I personally like is Freightos.

That is a quote pulled from an article I wrote for the Stonemaier Games blog on behalf of my client Fulfillrite.

Suffice it to say, these days, you don’t have to use a freight broker if you don’t want to. You can book your own freight, and I’ve even done so with Tasty Humans to good effect. It’s not right for everyone, but it sure is nice to have the option!

Below is some text I stripped from the Stonemaier Games post for word count purposes. The following will give you a brief walkthrough of what it’s like to book your own freight.

If you want to learn more about the general concept of freight marketplaces, check out my post on Jamey Stegmaier’s blog.

If you want a really gritty, detailed guide on booking your own freight, check out this other post on the Fulfillrite blog.

5 Steps to Book Your Own Freight for Your Board Game Kickstarter

At this point, I think “show” beats “tell.” If you’re curious as to how freight marketplaces actually work, then you’re in luck. I’m going to walk through the process of setting up freight with my preferred freight marketplace, Freightos.

An aside: I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that there are other freight marketplaces out there. Freightos is merely the big name in the industry, and the only marketplace that I have personally used and can vouch for as a result.

Once you first create an account and log in, this is what your screen will look like and it takes just five steps to book freight. I’ll demonstrate this now.

1. Enter information about your board games.

Freight shipping prices are typically based on the weight and physical dimensions of the items to be shipped. In this case, you won’t be thinking about the size of an individual board game, but rather the size of the boxes they are shipped in, or the pallets/containers.

In this example, I’m assuming we have 3 pallets, stacked 5 feet high and that weigh 800 pounds each. (You can use metric as well, should you happen to live in a place that uses easily divisible units of measure.)

If you don’t know this information off hand, you’ll need to ask your manufacturer for it.

2. Enter pickup and delivery information. 

After you’ve entered in the approximate size and weight of your items to be shipped, you need to enter the pickup and delivery locations. These don’t have to be super precise – even a ZIP code is enough to secure a quote.

In this case, we’ll assume that items are coming from a factory or warehouse in the Guangdong Province of China. We’ll also assume, for the sake of cheeky self-promotion, that the goods will be delivered to Fulfillrite’s warehouse in New Jersey.

This example is a good one if you’re ordering goods under Ex Works (EXW) terms. That is to say, it’s a fitting example if your manufacturer holds onto your games in their warehouse until you pick them up.

Also common is shipping on Free On Board (FOB) terms. Under FOB terms, the manufacturer will drop off your goods at an airport or seaport, where you will coordinate the rest of the freight shipping. This is a bit cheaper, and in Freightos, you would do this by selecting an Origin Location Type of “Port/Airport (FOB)” instead of “Factory/Warehouse.” Simple enough!

3. Enter customs and additional services information.

Nobody involved in a Kickstarter campaign likes customs, but you have to take care of it! If you use a freight marketplace, you can handle the business-facing customs charges with relative ease.

In the above example, I assume that we’ll need customs clearance for just one type of commodity: board games. I’ve also opted to purchase a customs bond for USA imports for the value of the shipment, which in this case, I’m assuming is $15,000.

Thankfully, this isn’t a hazardous shipment nor is it a personal shipment. I’ve chosen to add insurance for the entire value of the shipment, which is again $15,000.

Freightos goes out of their way to clarify that customs duties and taxes are not included in the quote. They are instead charged to your credit card when they are incurred. Make sure to price that into the total cost!

Also worth noting is that if you house all your items in a US warehouse and ship to international backers from there, they might incur customs charges for their individually packed rewards. You can read more about how to handle that here, but for the purposes of this guide on booking freight, I’ll move on.

4. Select a freight quote.

At this point, you’ll be given a lot of freight shipping options, with the ability to provide a variety of filters. Of particular interest are the modes listed on the left side, which include “Ocean LCL”, “express”, and “air.”

Ocean shipping is going to be cheaper, and is usually just fine for crowdfunding campaigns. Air shipping might be a good option if you’re trying to get your games shipped quickly.

For the purposes of this guide, I’m going to choose the top result. Seabay appears to have a good rating from almost one thousand companies. The price is low and the transit time is average (that is, good enough for cheap shipping).

Keep in mind that you have a lot of different options here. If you want quick shipping or eco-friendly shipping, Freightos, and other freight marketplaces, can accommodate your desires.

5. Enter other information.

Once you select a quote, Freightos will ask for a little more information. That includes basic information such as your company name and contact information, as well as information about the commodities you’re shipping. You will then also be prompted to enter a valid credit card. Your card is then charged and your shipping is booked.

That’s all there is to it!

As I mentioned earlier, booking freight is a lot easier than it used to be. Freight brokers are still a great option if you want to have someone take care of the process for you. If you’re on a budget or want a little more control, though, freight marketplaces are here to make your life easier!

What To Do Immediately After Your Kickstarter Launches – A Checklist

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In the aviation business, pilots go through a series of tasks at the beginning of every flight. It’s called the preflight checklist and it all happens before the plane ever leaves the tarmac. The idea is to ensure safety and make sure that nothing is accidentally left undone. Other industries could definitely benefit from the checklist mentality, and I consider crowdfunded board games to be among them.

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For my own use, I’ve created something that I call the launch sequence. The launch sequence is a list of things that have to happen in order immediately after the Kickstarter campaign launches. I came up with this idea during the Highways & Byways Kickstarter campaign, and while the campaign itself didn’t work out, I still consider following a launch sequence to be best practice.

For your use today, I’m going to share a generic launch sequence checklist that you can use so you know what to do in the hours immediately after your Kickstarter launches.

First 10 minutes:

  • Hit the launch button.
  • Copy the URL.
  • Set up a redirect link on your website to always go to either a landing page or the campaign.
  • Tweet the campaign link with a call to action.
  • Pin the campaign tweet.
  • Make a Facebook post with the campaign link with a call to action. (Bonus points if you use your personal page as well).
  • Pin the campaign post.
  • Post on any other social networks you use.
  • Ask a few friends to retweet/share your social media posts. This increases visibility quickly, which can help you break through social media noise.
  • Update your social media bio links.

Next 20 minutes:

  • Send an email to your mailing list with the campaign link and a clear call to action.
  • Update the home page of your website with the campaign link and a clear call to action.
  • Text your family.
  • Text your friends.
  • Post the FAQ – which you have hopefully pre-written.

Next 30 minutes:

  • Send any last-minute press releases.
  • Monitor and respond to comments and questions.
  • Update any old Kickstarter campaigns.

Hours after launch:

  • Post to relevant Facebook groups.
  • Post to relevant parts of Board Game Geek.
  • Post to relevant subreddits on Reddit.

This is a generic launch sequence. When you create your own, you’ll invariably add items to this. You might even take some away. For example, my own launch sequence involves immediately posting the Kickstarter campaign link on my Discord server to over 2,000 other game developers. In the past, I’ve also used other large social media accounts and even text message alerts to spread the word. So don’t be afraid to get creative!

Lastly, while this checklist will be wonderful on launch day, if you have time before launching, check out this page to learn more about what goes into launching a game. It’s kind of a lot!

8 Reasons You Shouldn’t Make Board Games Alone

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Originally written in 2018, revised in 2021.

Welcome to the inaugural post of Behind the Scenes: Lessons from a Kickstarter Board Game Publisher! In this series, I’ll be talking about aspects of board game publishing you don’t normally think about. Why board game publishing companies do things that seem weird from the outside? What can we learn from board games that are already published? What can we learn from gamers’ conversations online? I’ll be taking on all these questions and more week by week, just like I did with Start to Finish: Publish and Sell Your First Board Game.

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Let’s kick this series off in style! For my first act, I’d like to reexamine an old article I published a year ago called How to Work Alone in the Board Game Industry. It’s an article about exactly what it sounds like. I still stand by most of what I’ve said in this article, but there is just one teensy-tiny problem with it.

I don’t think you should work alone. Simple as that.

The board game industry has changed an enormous amount in the last few years. We’re seeing more million dollar Kickstarter campaigns. We’re seeing “good ideas” go to Kickstarter and struggle to fund, if they fund at all. More and more, game developers are starting to co-publish, working in larger teams and getting more than one brand name on a box. What’s all that about and what does this have to do with working alone versus working in a team?

Trust me when I say that all these questions are related. Below, I have six reasons not to work alone. Each point builds on the last.

1. The board game industry is maturing and gamers expect more.

This is the mother of all reasons not to work alone in the board game industry anymore. As of the end of October, there are roughly 600 funded board game Kickstarters from this year. That means there are probably around 1,200 Kickstarter projects in the board game niche. Now how many more board games never showed up on Kickstarter? There could be 5,000 or 10,000 or 20,000 board games coming out in a year depending on how you count it.

We’re in a Renaissance and we’ve got selling tools available to us that would make Don Draper green with envy. The barriers to entry are really low and just about every game developer with an idea has tried to make a buck, it seems. Yet money is finite, patience is finite, desire is finite…

Gamers won’t just buy anything you make. That was never true in the first place and it’s especially untrue in a world in which we have a massive and openly accessible market (Kickstarter). Gamers are expecting more gameplay, more components, and better art in every box. And frankly, they should expect more. Gamers are consumers and consumers shouldn’t buy stuff they don’t want.

But for you, the creator, that means you need to follow market trends to meet existing gamer desires. You need to make better art. Your game needs to play beautifully. All of this takes more time, more money, and more know-how. It’s getting exceptionally difficult to make a Kickstarter-ready game alone.

2. Switching responsibilities is exhausting.

Let’s say you want to go it alone anyway. Let’s say you’re independently wealthy and that you’re a go-getter who is willing to work sixty-hour weeks because you really love games. In this scenario, it’s easier to crank out Kickstarter-ready games every few months than it is for most of my readers (who often have jobs, families, and other commitments).

Should you?

From a psychological perspective, switching tasks is complicated. You lose a little time as your mind adjusts to your new challenges. Of course, variety is good for you and it keeps life spicy, but like actual spices, too much is really difficult to deal with. Do you really want to switch from design to play-testing to art direction to branding to promotion to account to taxes to legal responsibilities?

3. Your ability to master the aspects of running a business is finite.

I did everything myself for a couple of years. While it gave me a great sense of how board game development works as a holistic process, there were a lot of things I missed. When I started working with Sean Fallon, Tyson Mertlich, Ryan Langewisch, and many of my other frequent collaborators, it was a weight off my shoulders. I put in the same amount of work, but focused on fewer things. It was a weight off my shoulders. I slept better, ate better, exercised better, was a better boyfriend, and a better employee at my work.

Time is precious. It’ll slip right through your fingers if you’re not paying attention. Tick. Tock. Don’t waste your time doing stuff that other people can do better. Learn enough to understand the work that needs to be done then find someone who’s good at the work and likes the work. Then pay them – either straight up in cash or in royalties or profit shares.

4. Occasional failure is inevitable and you need to be able to rebound.

Even if you delegate perfectly, sometimes you’ll come up with an idea – alone or in a group – that is not right for the market. I did it with Highways & Byways. I’ve seen some of my friends and even major publishers do it, too. They’ll either fail to fund entirely or raise far less money than they were hoping for.

Look, sometimes you’re going to screw up. That’s alright. You’re human. The waves will still crash upon the shorelines, birds will still sing, and the Earth will continue to orbit around the Sun. You can’t see the future, and if you can, I hope you see yourself giving me a call to ask if you can be my business partner.

When you work alone, you could lose several months or even years on a single bad project. If you work with others, especially on different teams, you can have multiple irons in the fire. If one game fails, that’s okay, you’ve got another coming. In other words, you fail fast.

5. You need to build a brand.

Since board games are coming out faster and faster, the window in which individual games stay “relevant” is, on average, becoming shorter. Individual game names don’t have the staying power they once did. Consider this…

These are board games that raised over a million bucks on Kickstarter in the last four months at the time this article was written in 2018. How many would you remember unprompted? Be honest.

Forget individual products for a second. You want to create brand that has staying power. I can’t tell you what Z-Man last published, but I know who Z-Man is. Same for Cool Mini Or Not.

Building a brand is not a one-person job. Effective brands require the input of a lot of people. You can take the lead, as I do with the branding of Pangea Games, but you shouldn’t just make a brand that’s a stand-in for you. It needs to be bigger than you.

6. Your time is limited.

I can’t stress this enough. Everybody in the world has the same amount of hours in a day. How many can you really work before you burn out? Twelve? Fourteen? Sixteen?

Don’t waste your time on inefficient ways of doing things. Work smart before you work hard. Delegate, get others’ input, and quit for the day when you’re in tired mode. Board game development, for a publisher, is a long process that takes years of work to succeed. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and you do yourself no good if you work yourself to exhaustion.

7. Your money is limited.

I’ve written about how you might need to bankroll your board game development. The lesson is truer today than when I originally wrote that post. Truth is, games are only getting more expensive to produce.

There are a lot of reasons for this too. Gamers are expecting nicer products, sure, and that doesn’t help. But there have been lots of material shortages and freight disruptions that have jacked up the price of board game raw materials too.

Bringing in some partners could serious ease the financial burden of creating a board game. At the same time, being able to work in a team can also help you create a better game that’s more likely to succeed in the marketplace in the long run.

8. You don’t, and can’t, know everything.

I know that this sounds superficially a lot like “your ability to master the aspects of running a business is finite.” That point is more about the fact that you cannot do everything at once and you cannot spend time learning everything you need to know.

When I say you don’t, and can’t know everything, I mean there are limits to how far your talents can take you. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t pursue your passion in a thoughtful, deliberate way. Rather, people have certain levels of natural talent in specific skillsets, and if you work as a team, everyone can play to their natural strengths.

I spent seven hours yesterday assembling a flat-pack desk because I don’t have a naturally high level of mechanical skill. And despite knowing about art history, composition, and color theory, if I tried to make board game art myself, it’d be like assembling a desk all over again.

By working with a team, everyone can play to their strengths. If you work alone, you’ll spend a lot of time compensating for your weaknesses and have a tough time mustering up the energy to play to your strengths.

It is extremely difficult to build a viable business by working alone. You need to collaborate with others to create board games that satisfy current market demands.

Do you have any experiences working alone or in a team? Share them below, I’d love to hear them 🙂