Community: the new business model for indie hackers

Community: the new business model for indie hackers The new business model of [charging for paid communities](https://twitter.com/DCoolican/status/1222589196264566786) is sweeping through the world of indie hackers. ![DCoolican on Twitter: "2010: B

Community: the new business model for indie hackers

The new business model of charging for paid communities is sweeping through the world of indie hackers.

DCoolican on Twitter: "2010: Build an audience, monetize through ads. 2015: Build an audience, monetize through merch. 2020: Build an audience, monetize through community"

The golden age of paid communities

No, they aren't "new" in the sense that no one's ever built them before. Our very first founder interview featured Pieter Levels of Nomad List, a massively successful community for digital nomads. And our very own community manager Rosie Sherry scaled her own community to seven figures before we brought her on board.

But stories like Pieter's and Rosie's have always been rare and difficult to replicate. Hence Pieter's magnetism for mainstream press and Rosie's multiple appearances on Computer Weekly's long list for the most influential women in UK tech.

This is changing. Paid communities are becoming explosively popular, and an increasing number of indie hackers are growing them to profitability. The model simply "works" like never before. And it's ushering in a golden age for paid communities.

Ness Labs community

For all their differences, the three revenue-positive communities above have one thing in common: they're all just a few weeks to a few months old — as new to the scene as the pandemic.

One of the clearest signs of the momentum behind community products is the rise in new platforms to support them. In addition to some of the traditional players like Slack, reddit, Facebook Groups, and Discord, the last few years have brought a rise in community platforms that have all the bells and whistles needed to make a more "feature-complete" community product, like Mighty Networks, Circle, and MemberSpace.

And there are plenty more on the way:

So… what gives?

Passion and the Plague

Online communities have always been difficult to monetize because, more often than not, they target consumers, who are notoriously reluctant to spend money when they don't have to. Business customers, on the other hand, are much quicker to part with their cash as long as a good case can be made that a product will make them more money in the long run.

Enter the passion economy, which is now driving an increasing number of consumers to think (and spend) like businesses. Andreessen Horowitz partner Li Jin calls this the "enterprization of consumers."

Li Jin on Twitter: "New tools are emerging and focusing on consumers first. That's because consumers today aspire to become businesses tomorrow. I’ll dub this the "Enterprization of consumer."

She's talking here about all the site builders, marketplaces, and other consumer-focused platforms fueling the rise of e-commerce, no-code products, podcasting, paid newsletters, and more, by extending access to people who previously didn't have any options for expressing their creativity for a living.

The passion economy supports both sides of the paid community ecosystem: supply and demand. On the supply side, it empowers consumers to build their own online communities. And on the demand side, it emboldens many more potential members to see themselves as, in Li Jin's words, consumers today aspiring to become businesses tomorrow.

Now. Add to all of this the crushing effects of the coronavirus pandemic: the tens of millions of newly unemployed in the US alone; the hundreds of millions stuck at home due to lockdown. And suddenly you've got a lot more relationship-starved entrepreneurs to fill the membership ranks.

Behind the Scenes at Ness Labs

I caught up with Anne-Laure to gain some perspective on the strategies and numbers behind the burgeoning Ness Labs community.

Ness Labs revenue screenshot

First, the hard numbers. Here's what she told me about her revenue and membership:

Revenue is $9.6K since launch. Currently there are 300+ active members. I went from 0 to this in the past couple of months, and as you can see from the graphs it's pretty unpredictable on a day-to-day basis.

Anne-Laure quit her job at Google a few years ago to build a portfolio of products under the Ness Labs brand, like Teeny Breaks, a Chrome extension reminding people to take breaks at work, and Maker Mind, a weekly newsletter about mindful productivity.

So did she launch the paid community just for the hell of it? Or was she following a higher strategic vision?

The community is a cornerstone of my product strategy. I have always been more comfortable with audience-first products. The community is a way to learn from my audience, to receive feedback, and to co-create products that answer their needs. For example, I don't think my course announcement would have been so successful if I hadn't based the whole content on conversations I had with members of the community.

That last point about the co-creation of products? It might be the most potent insight of all, because it separates paid communities from every other product category seeing gains from the passion economy.

Communities don't just contribute to the co-creation of products by offering helpful discussion. The helpful discussion is itself a co-created product. After all, a paid community is, at least in part, a content product. But unlike a newsletter, or a blog, or a podcast, or a YouTube channel, community content is crowdsourced by the audience it serves, making it both uniquely scalable and, well, uniquely unique. (A community's culture, like a human fingerprint, is impossible to replicate. The moat is built-in.)

This is one of the central insights Courtland and I have leaned on to build and grow Indie Hackers as a team of — until recently — just two people. We've run every single product consideration through the following filter: "Can we crowdsource this through the community?" If the answer is no, we don't build it.

So in calling this a golden age of paid communities for indie hackers, I really mean to emphasize for indie hackers.

As if it to reinforce the idea, Anne-Laure sent me the following message as I was wrapping this story up:

Ness Labs revenue screenshot

You can discuss this news roundup with other indie hackers on the site.

Cheers,

—Channing (@channingallen)

Indie Hackers | Stripe | 510 Townsend St, San Francisco, California 94103 
You subscribed to the Indie Hackers Round Tables newsletter, which collects news and insights from other indie hackers. Click here to .

Older messages

Growth Bite: Get people talking about your product by adding easter eggs

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Most users need a very good reason to spread the word about your product, so give them one. Increase word-of-mouth growth by delighting users with unexpected easter eggs hidden within your product.

Today's Digest: Stand-up #37 - Did 40h of fasting and continued with RLL

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Your Indie Hackers community digest for June 3rd ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌

Top Milestones: First Paid Client

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Top milestones for the day from your fellow indie hackers. ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌

Growth Bite: Expand your reach by adding social share buttons

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

It's not enough for your content to be compelling — it needs to be crazy easy to share too. Add social share buttons so that people can spread the love with a click. Social share buttons lower the

Top Milestones: $40k ARR: Optimizations as a company of one

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Top milestones for the day from your fellow indie hackers. ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌

You Might Also Like

We’re LIVE [Find & Validate Your Ecomm Product Idea Challenge]

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Click here to access your link for Day 3 of the Challenge >> You're receiving this email because you signed up for the Find & Validate Your Ecomm Product Idea Challenge. Hi , We are LIVE

[LIVE IN 1 HOUR] Find & Validate Your Ecomm Product Idea Challenge: Day 3

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Access all your important info here 👉 You're receiving this email because you signed up for the Find & Validate Your Ecomm Product Idea Challenge. Hi , Day 3 of the Find & Validate Your

[LIVE IN 1 HOUR] Find & Validate Your Ecomm Product Idea Challenge: Day 3

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Access all your important info here 👉 You're receiving this email because you signed up for the Find & Validate Your Ecomm Product Idea Challenge. Hi , Day 3 of the Find & Validate Your

Apple's AI Challenger Sale

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Tomasz Tunguz Venture Capitalist If you were forwarded this newsletter, and you'd like to receive it in the future, subscribe here.​ ​Apple's AI Challenger Sale​ What stood out to me in

binge drinking

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Read time: 1 min, 9 sec I'd just spent the last 72 hours getting obliterated. It was an epic weekend binge drinking with friends. But now it was Sunday. And I was on a flight from SFO to JFK. The

How to Find a Unicorn

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

A tactical guide to sourcing legendary investments. ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏

A Phone Nose, Date Law, Job Falls 🐽

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

And the underpriced attention View this email in your browser Government Mandated Dating Get ready for some government-approved matchmaking magic! The Tokyo Metropolitan Government is diving into the

[CEI] Chrome Extension Ideas #145

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

ideas for HotStar, AI, Editors, and Phishing ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏ ͏

Yup, it's a gold mine

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Working on your business vs. in it ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌

🗞 What's New: Crafting an irresistible CTA

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Also: AI's impact on work! ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌