Over the past year I've shipped around 17 projects, some big, some small. Most flopped and got no traction. A couple did well and ended up in a bunch of subscribers or new Twitter followers. None of them have brought in much revenue, but I've learned a lot about what doesn't work and what I need to do in future.
I truly believe success is a numbers game. The more you ship, the more likely you are to hit on something that works. And with each new product, you implement the learnings from previous failures, so your chance of success compounds.
Back in June I had the idea for a community of makers following the same process - launching small projects rapidly, learning, and iterating to success. Learning from previous experiences, where I'd built the whole product before announcing it, I did the opposite, and launched a landing page first.
It got good feedback from friends (this doesn't mean much though), but when I posted it on Twitter it started to get waiting list signups. Importantly, I had specified that it would be a paid community, so I had to assume that the people who were signing up were willing to pay!
This was a game-changer. Previously when I'd had email signups, there was never any mention of payment, so my motivation was always dampened by the fact that there was no plan for monetisation. Potential money on the table gave me so much more motivation.
I worked hard for a few weeks and launched the community a month later. People started paying! The first cohort was 35 people who paid $99 each for lifetime membership. This was the first real money I'd made as an indiehacker and it felt great.
Even better was that the community seemed to be working. People were super friendly, interacting, helping each other, and shipping products.
I focused on learning as much as I could from this first cohort. I also spoke to people who had just finished Write of Passage, and other community builders, to understand best practices.
As the months went by I found that, apart from a core group of about 10 active members, engagement dropped. This dented my confidence a little, and ultimately made me put off inviting the next cohort for far too long.
Eventually I decided to bite the bullet and just ship. After all, that is what the community is all about. Shipping imperfect products rapidly. I'd put in months of work improving the community platform, adding loads of small tools to help interpersonal connections, launch calendars, leaderboards, a library, tutorials. It wasn't perfect but it was good enough.
Last week I opened up for Cohort 2. I sent personal videos to chosen invitees (recorded on Loom, sent via Zapier to Mailerlite and then emailed out). I'd paid extra attention to the onboarding process as I know this sets the tone for the whole experience.
I had also doubled prices to $199 for lifetime membership.
Amazingly, the hard work seems to have paid off. Almost 50 people have joined Cohort 2 as paid members. Some were on discounts so the total revenue has been around $7,500. Together with July's revenue, I'm at $10,500.
So far feedback from the new cohort has been great, and I'm really excited about where this could go.