Startup and SMB consultant with an emphasis on business dev, technical project consultation (ecommerce, web, mobile, SEO, UI/UX, application marketing etc) as well as business plan writing and fundraising. I've managed 150+ web and mobile projects and created dozens of business plans/pitch decks
From my experience, crowdfunding is hardly/if-ever effective as an actual fundraising tool for the vast majority of entrepreneurs (particularly if there are actual goods being manufactured and delivered.) But what it can be used for effectively is a tool to gauge and show interest in your business product/service. So if you can get people to participate at a certain level you can take those "pre-sales" to your potential investors and show some level of possible market validation or interest. so I'd leverage crowdfunding more for that "community interest" piece, rather than actual funds being raised.
Why does this have to be an OR situation? If you have a need for better tools to be more confident in your delivery of services then making that a priority is always encouraged. However, there is no point in having a tool if you dont have a job to use it on and start earning back your investment. Unless you are talking about the choice between investing money in tools or investing money in marketing, I dont know why these two things would be exclusive. That line of thinking aside, and in a more general sense, a bit of this will depend on the type of freelancing you are doing and whether a certain level of tool quality is required to even attempt the job/tasks in question. All things being equal though, I think you start with priming up some customer sales to validate you can get business coming in (almost always harder than anticipated in service based companies) and then making new investments into tools from there. You may also discover there are higher priority tools or investments you need to be made based on what your first clients tell you.
Our firm has dealt with this exact issue building out applications for multiple startups/new ventures that have scaled to hundreds of restaurants (including a great company called TableSavvy). There are a few ways you can achieve this without requiring integration into the POS system. it starts first with identifying what platform/back-end system your app is built on (perhaps something custom or something open source like Magento.) Then you have to look at the payment processor you are utilizing and the current method the restaurants are using to apply discounts/codes. It also depends if the restaurants are booking these customers ahead of time or if they are coming in and redeeming real-time/at any time. Based on my experience you have to limit the amount of time any business manager at the establishment needs to put into the effort in order to keep adoption rates high, but there are some tools you can use to reduce their time to a minimal amount. Happy to connect and hear more about your specific needs and craft a process flow/technical recommendation to fulfill it.
Sometimes these things happen; but before weeding people out I would first make sure there isn't another reason people are dropping off a the point of close (maybe the product onboarding or configuration process is complicated.) have you reached out to these folks and asked them to give you some feedback into the process as to why they dropped off at that point. these may very well not be qualified leads for your product but just tossing them aside could mean you miss out on a tremendous learning opportunity and get critical insight into your product. Do all of these leads you're closing have the same source/come from the same place? Happy to connect and help map out a battleplan.
also check on websites such as Crunchbase and Angel.co. But I agree with others posting that working in Silicon Valley is definitely not necessary and in fact you should optimize your search for working at a startup based on cost of living and competitiveness in the job market. Check out networking sites like "Built In" and others to see what local networking events are going on and go and meeting folks looking for technology talent to join their team.
One additional comment: for your website make sure and install a roadblock/pop-up to encourage folks to give you their email address when they first visit the website. Other optimization strategies for your website really depend on what type of site you have (ecommerce, general marketing etc.) For example, if ecommerce use tools to get people to give you their email address on the product details pages (i.e. a favorite or share via email to a friend option) since most ecommerce sites see over 40% of their traffic sources and come in on their product pages. For general marketing sites you can consider things like using email sign-up as a roadblock for downloading some sort of white paper etc.
One other comment I'd add to the other two posts (which are spot on) is make sure the terms of the equity are clearly understood. Consider both the type you're getting relative to the rest of the cap table (typically it's going to be standard founders/non-protected junk equity) and of course the valuation of the company as a whole. Unlike capital investors there won't be much you can really argue from a valuation standpoint but knowing what (and importantly how) they define as the companies total value will help you understand where your money will be going next and how likely they are to succeed at progressing (30% of 0 is still 0 after all.)
To answer your question directly, the best way to figure our the optimal revenue model is by doing exactly what you're doing right now: evaluate the trends, challenges in the market and calculate how much it costs to build your user base relative to the revenue (potential) they bring in. Commonly if your CAC is out of alignment people start by focusing on the tactics through which they acquire (which to be fair is only natural.) I though like to start on the custom side and work my way backwards. Are you targeting the "right" customers relative to your opportunity in the market. Start by focusing on this question first and making sure you're targeting the right market for your app/service. Next, I would see if you can fractionalize that market further down into a more specific/narrow subset of potential customers. This should allow you to maximize what you are producing in terms of revenue potential and also cut down on the acquisition costs side since you can focus your nozzle more directly towards the target. The bottom line is dont overlook an opportunity to make sure your target market is clearly defined and confirmed/validated. And dont be afraid to question potential false-positives (i.e. just because someone will buy your service doesn't make them necessarily the ideal customer.) try to create multiple layers and variables of filtering that help you make sure you've got the right group of people in your sights.
It also depends also if you're talking about hiring a full-time/in-house person versus contracting someone or a firm. If the latter then here is a post that may add some additional insights into things people typically overlook when hiring a dev/team: https://www.farshore.com/blog/5-things-that-companies-forget-when-hiring-a-development-firm/
For my money, nothing beats good content marketing. it drives your SEO (if optimized and framed correctly), establishes your level of expertise and gives your site visitors many layers with which to interact with as well as helps ultimately with conversion (abandonment follow-ups, drip campaigns etc.) ultimately your conversion is only as good as your traffic is qualified, so content marketing helps on both sides of the funnel in terms of getting more/better leads and converting those leads once they hit your pages.