📻 — Building a Paid Community Business for Less Than $1K per Year?

This is your Community, Daily.

Hiya folks!

Today’s issue is an overview (and excavation of my personal notes) of an hour-long, all-star panel discussion that happened yesterday, hosted by the folks over at Makerpad.

They’ve done a deep-dive on how to build and operate a low-cost paid community and membership business for less than $1,000 a year.

Naturally, I had to learn more! The following are my personal notes.


The panelists were as follows:

These folks are directly partnered with Makerpad on the deep-dive, which you can find here and walks the reader through these steps:

  1. Setting up Super with Notion

  2. Integrating Circle with Super and Notion

  3. Integrating MemberSpace for Paid Communities

  4. Selling Digital Product via Gumroad

How does this work out to less than $1,000 per year to build and manage? Well, here's the math:

  • Option 1: Using Notion, Memberspace, Circle, and Super will cost $0 for 7 days. Then it's $864 per year (+4% of transactions) or $72 per mo.

  • Option 2: Use Gumroad, Circle, and Super will cost $0 for $14 days. Then it's $636 per year + (3.5% & $0.30) of transactions or $53 per mo.

So, that's how that math works.

A handsome group:

A Few Key Highlights:

  1. A common theme was the focus on building a product (and company) that first solved their own needs. They were “Customer Zero” for all intents and purposes.

  2. Customer-centricity is paramount; every feature must impact the user.

  3. Public roadmaps can be useful but need to be well-managed to not create false expectations and unwarranted customer confusion. Andrew, of Circle, has a public roadmap while Ward, of Super, doesn’t. Gumroad recently shared one as well.

🛑 — Begs the question for each community (and business) builder: Should you have a public roadmap? I’d love to know your thoughts!

Philip, of Gumroad, had a few choice words on building community first, product second:

Building an audience is hard, but, it’s clearly the right way to do things. You have to figure out a way to get in-front of people and they have to know that they are going to get a positive return on investment.

Philip Kiely

Ward had a different perspective, saying that he “still doesn’t pay attention to social media” — his team’s route was focusing on a “technology insight” and being part of existing communities. “Renting an audience” was an interesting way to talk about it but the strategy and tactic remains true: Join existing communities where your customers are and provide a ton of value.

There were a ton of topics that they covered in the hour including offline to online strategies, building “calm” communities, and a healthy discussion on simple vs complex tooling.

I was able to get a question in near the end:

What are a few things that you wish you had done earlier in your project / company’s formation? What mistakes can early-community builders avoid?

Here are their replies:

  • James: We’re just touching on the community part right now. We may not need to focus on community too early. Hard to say on my end. Also using Circle, 30 members or so.

  • Ward: We’re using Circle too and one thing is not having most folks join at the start, test-drive and adjust expectations until you open the floodgates. Get people in having real discussions so you can know what spaces aren’t working well, what content is landing or not.

  • Philip: We just hired a Head of Community and we’re spending more time in supporting our community at-large. We started on Indie Hackers with a new Gumroad Group recently as well.

As we closed the conversation down, Tom asked: What’s up for you next?

  • Andrew: We have a lot of folks who want live video inside Circle. Timeline is something that a lot of folks also want as well in Q4. And we have an iOS beta that is out for testing. Android testing and 4 new roles!

  • Philip: We’re focusing on affiliate improvements, recurring subscription management, and making sure more folks can make more money with Gumroad.

  • Ward: Integration with Notion is a big update that’s coming as well as improvements to our speed and infrastructure and making Memberspace better for more use-cases in our community.

  • James: Making notion a perfect tool for publishing. improving site generation, custom favicons, privacy features, and strategies to kick-start a growing movement towards “Notion-as-a-website” type of opportunities.

Final question: What’s missing from the #nocode space?

  • Andrew: A system to make sure that all my #nocode systems are working. An alert or notification system.

  • James: The more integrations, the less focus on design. We need more design-centric tools. Don’t forget to put an emphasis on style and brand!

Whew! That’s it.

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Special thanks to the dozen or so folks who are helping me test-drive the newsletter this week and give me feedback! Special thanks to Dale, Anna, and a handful of others who signed-up the other day!