I bootstrapped a cohort-based writing course to 1,400 members in 6 months (while working full-time). AMA!

What's up IH community - I'm Dickie Bush, Founder of Ship 30 for 30, a cohort-based course to learn the fundamentals of writing online by writing and publishing every day for 30 days.

I had the idea in late 2020 and have spent the first six months of 2021 iterating and scaling it (while working a full-time job).

There have been 5 Ship 30 cohorts in 2021:

• January: 171 members
• February: 208 members
• March/April: 276 members
• May/June: 376 members
• Cohort starting June 21st: 476 members.

Would love to answer any questions you have on:

• Audience building
• Community building
• Generating demand
• Time management of your side hustle
• Pricing, structuring, managing your course
• Writing as a way to validate and iterate your course

You can find me on Twitter @dickiebush

  1. 2

    Hi @dickiebush I've been hearing a lot of good things about Ship 30 for 30 - congrats.

    1. 3

      Thank you my friend!

  2. 2

    How do you do your course promotion and what sort of conversion rates do you see?

    1. 2

      A combination of the following:

      1. Twitter threads pointing out the problem (and positioning Ship 30 as the solution)
      2. Free 10-day email course on our landing page breaking down some of the basic principles of writing online
      3. Referral program for every member who wants to share with their audience what they're doing and encourage others to do it with them
      1. 1

        Can you tell us more about the Referral program? How does it look?

  3. 2

    If you were to start building an audience today where would you start?

    1. 3

      I would start on Twitter 100%.

      I recommend listening to this episode of the Indie Hackers podcast with Arvid Kahl

    2. 2

      His ship30for30 is all about leveraging twitter and he's started a lot of people from scratch there.

  4. 2

    Hey Dickie, thanks for the AMA, big fan of your Twitter threads.
    What were your strategies to get your first 100 subscribers on Twitter?
    And if you were starting now again your Substack newsletter from scratch (assuming you didn’t have yet your Twitter audience), what would you do and in which platforms would you focus more time on?


    1. 3

      Hey Miguel!

      Great questions.

      My first 100 followers on Twitter: curating and summarizing podcast episodes that I was already listened to. This led to a few retweets and since I did a good job distilling the takeaways, people decided to follow.

      Re: Substack, I wouldn't change anything. My Substack is actually more a of a hobby than anything that drives the needle. It's just a forcing function for me to think about what I am learning / reading about and sharing it with others.

  5. 2


    A year, daily posts. No traction.

    This person is well regarded in the #livelit scene. They win moths and grandslams.

    I come across examples like this. Where the effort and the talent is there or close to there. But no distribution.

    General thoughts?

    (@storyluck on all social media)

  6. 1

    Very cool, I would love to invite you to my podcast on course creators if you are interested. We have about 300 listeners!

  7. 1

    Love your landing page too! How did you go about building it ?

    1. 1

      Hey there!

      I started on Carrd, then moved to Webflow just because we are adding in a blog and more content.

  8. 1

    This is so cool!

    How do you find managing people in cohorts vs letting people start whenever they want?

    Is there a big benefit, takes more time/less time?

    1. 1

      We tried a bit of asynchronous / streaming enrollment, but the real power is having a community of others at the same steps of the journey as you (everyone being on Day 10, for example)

  9. 1

    I've been following on twitter for a while - you're smashing it. How do you manage your time and not burn out?

    1. 1

      Ha - if anyone has good advice for this, I would love it!

      I do a lot of my writing on the weekend. I have been fortunate to be a 25-year-old without anything to do on the weekend for the last year.

      But I really enjoy writing, sharing ideas, connecting with others, teaching, and all of that is just added bonus to my full-time job which I love as well.

  10. 1

    Thanks for doing this, Dickie!

    Can you share a few practical tips on how to build a community?

    I started growing a small community on Discord around my web scraping tool, but I find it hard to come up with ideas and recurring themes that would foster engagement.
    I should note that I'm not spamming the channel with sales pitches and such. I'm more interested in sharing ideas, projects, helping each other, etc.

    1. 3

      The best communities have some kind of shared struggle or objective.

      There needs to be a reason for them to lean on one another (which is the best part of Ship 30)

  11. 1

    Hey Dickie,

    Enjoyed the March cohort myself. You are doing an amazing job. Congrats on such growth.
    Two questions:

    1. The number one reason it went so well? The human desire to write and express themselves or something else?
    2. What is your churn rate and how you approach it?
    3. When you get to 1000 participants in a cohort will you change anything from a community management perspective?

    P.S. By the way didn't know you had/have full-time job doing it. Impressive!

    1. 1


      1. I think it's the shared struggle of doing some challenging (but very doable) with a bunch of other like-minded people.

      2. Churn is interesting for us, we don't really think about it. We have a Member Ship follow-up community for our Alumni, and about 40% of Ship 30 members sign up for the yearly Member Ship after their cohort.

      3. I do not think much will change when we hit 1000 other than hiring more community management help.

  12. 1

    Hi Dickie, Thank you for AMA.

    This might be a naive question but I think it is more important when someone is starting to build a brand as a writer.

    How did you find your niche?

    1. 2

      You don't find your niche: you create it.

      Your niche, by definition, is something 100% unique.

      And the only way to do that is to create it based on all of your unique interests and experience.

      My biggest advice on this: recognize it's an iterative process. And you can accelerate it by putting out more content, listening to the market, and continuing to do more of what's working.

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