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Decide Whether Your Community is Free or Paid

Lesson 31 from: Build a Community & Grow Your Standout Business

Tara McMullin

Decide Whether Your Community is Free or Paid

Lesson 31 from: Build a Community & Grow Your Standout Business

Tara McMullin

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Lesson Info

31. Decide Whether Your Community is Free or Paid


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


Why the Market is Primed for Your Community


How Community Can Transform Your Business


Why This Isn’t About You


What Community Means for Your Business


Take Advantage of Network Effects with Mighty Networks Founder Gina Bianchini


Interview and Q&A with Gina Bianchini


Craft Your Community Vision


Lesson Info

Decide Whether Your Community is Free or Paid

Communities are incredibly valuable, we've talked about all the reasons why, right, like if I'm giving you access to 1,000 business owners who have been there, done that, and are still doing it every day, who figured stuff out, I wanna use other words, figured stuff out, that you need to figure out and you can just ask them directly and they love sharing it with you, that's super valuable. If you're a parent and you can't get your kid to nap and someone says hey, try this thing and your kid naps, you're like that is the most valuable thing in the whole wide world, and that is what makes them incredibly difficult to price, right? Because things that are super valuable tend to be super expensive, and communities tend to not be super expensive. For all the reasons we've talked about, it being difficult to know whether you belong, being difficult to get people to join, having less than a sense of urgency about them, and so communities, man, the pricing is tough, and I have tried everything...

and the only thing I can tell you is to experiment and to consider where your community fits in your business model. So everything we just talked about, whether it's your core offer, whether it's nurturing, whether it's a follow up offer, whether it's a supplemental offer, whether it's on the side, whether it's support for something else, that's gonna help you determine the price. It's also gonna help you determine whether it's free or it's paid. There are opportunities to make lots of money with the free community. Gina talked about some of them, and she has a lot more experience with that than I do, there are also lots of opportunities to make really good money with the paid community. There are lots of good opportunities to make good money with a low-cost community and a high-cost community. We're gonna as we move forward here, I'm gonna talk about how you can make more money regardless of whether your community is free or paid, whether it's low cost or high cost. And so that's where I really want you to hone in on this 'cause it's not about whether it's free or it's paid, it's not about the exact price point of it, it's about figuring out what works in terms of the rest of your business model and that is going to be a process of experimentation. You're gonna try some different things out, you're gonna see how different kinds of people react to the offer, what makes it easy to sell, what makes it easy to retain people with, what makes it easy to sell other things and move people along their journey. Alright, that really is the end of that lesson. (laughs) Questions about pricing your community? Yes. Okay, so I have two communities right now that are currently on Facebook, I've got my paid community, my Creative Sandbox community for women and I've got a community that I started for my book launch that's still there on Facebook for my book "The Creative Sandbox Way" that's really not, not a whole lot's happening there. And I'm trying to figure out what, I'd really like to get both of them off of Facebook, and I'm looking at Mighty Networks which is not perfect but it's probably the best that's available, and I'm trying to figure out how, what to, how to, whether to integrate the paid community with the, whether to integrate the free community with the paid community or not, and Let me ask you this. Yeah. Why does your free community still exist? Because my book says join the free Facebook community. Oh, so maybe we should've thought about that long game piece! Yeah, we clearly should have. But we didn't. Earlier, I mentioned when you're building a community you need to think long-term. Yeah, well, I wasn't thinking well enough long-term. I mean I can, it doesn't direct people to the Facebook page, it directs people to an extras page on my website so I could change that page on my website Sure So one thought that I have had is that I could give people who buy the book a little free trial or something like that and then I have been thinking for a long time about creating tiers and offering, because the pricing right now for my paid community is a big barrier for entry for a lot of people and I would like to grow the community but I don't wanna just lower the price so I was thinking of creating a lower price like the basic membership and then adding some more value for the people who have the existing members and then maybe inviting the people in the free book group in as charter members. So (sighs) I think hands down, the free community should not exist anymore Okay So whatever you need to do, to feel good about shutting that down, whether it's, I know you can, Facebook has some options where you can leave the posts up and people can get access to them but they can't post anymore. That might be a good option for you, maybe you want to pin a post to the top to say you can still join this but this isn't tended anymore and no one's here, that kind of thing, lots of different options for that, but it shouldn't exist anymore. I would say be careful with the tiering of things. We've had a lot more success offering, making different offers as tiers of our community than creating actual tiers. So saying this is one thing but you get access to different things as opposed to saying we have this, and then we have this which also includes this. Does that make sense? It makes sense to some people, it doesn't have to make sense to everybody. Say it in different words. Sure, so the difference between the leader circle and the insider mastermind, the leader circle to me is a tier of co-commercial, we gave it a nice name, it's awesome, I think everyone should be in it, I don't know why more people don't come to flash masterminds and co-working hours and things like that, but the difference between those offers, why you would choose the basic versus why you would choose the leaders circle is sketchy at best. I can articulate it to you, Shannon can articulate it to you, you guys can articulate it back to me, but when a new member is looking at, well why does this cost this and this cost that? They don't get it, and that's the only thing that matters. Whereas, it's very easy for somebody to see the difference between the insider mastermind and belonging to co-commercial Right Okay, so if you're going to create different tiers, I would encourage you to make your pricing and the offers themselves different enough that it is easy to see at a glance where you belong. If you can't, if someone doesn't say immediately, that's what I want, or that's where I belong, it's not a good tiering strategy. Make sense? Makes total sense. And I would say yeah, no I'm gonna leave it there, I'm gonna leave it there Okay. Okay, Denise? Okay, I have a similar situation so I just want to get some clarity because what's, okay, I have a free group on Facebook. It's okay, it's okay, there's no Facebook shame here. No, and I've been wanting to move it and that consists of people who do free challenges and also an on-demand challenge Okay And that's where they get support and I'll put prompts in there and get them to do stuff or whatever if they want to. And I have a paid group which is a mastermind group. So one of the thoughts I was thinking of is that my paid mastermind group I'm gonna keep paid but starting similar to co-commercial basic, inviting all those free people to come in at a low investment and just not even talking about the mastermind, because, honestly I had no idea there was a leadership circle. Right, yes, we know. Yeah, that's why I'm not there. But so just putting people there, giving them less than the mastermind people get but giving them plenty, which I already do, but they pay for it, and then when I wanna open up the mastermind to new people or another thing, then make the offer. So is that kind of what you were saying? Yes, yeah, I would say those two things are plenty different. At least in my head I would assume that they are plenty different. I will caution you around inviting, or let's say migrating from a free group to a paid group. I have seen that go haywire a lot of times. And it's not that it's not worth doing, just one, you can't overcommunicate about the changes, and two, make your projections on it really conservative and make sure the numbers make sense for you. Because not as many people, I won't guarantee this, I'm sure someone can prove me wrong, but I am going to guess that your conversion rate from free to paid is not going to be what you think it is. And that you actually may have a better chance getting more people from your email list, getting your higher conversion from your email list to a paid community than from your free Facebook group to a paid community. And something else you can consider is you know, let's say you move it to a Mighty Network, you can keep it free and still have that paid mastermind on top of it, so and then you're still reducing your workload 'cause they're all in one place and they're talking to each other and it's still creating the sense of FOMO around the mastermind and they're getting to exercise their new skills and so there's really great stuff that you can create there and then you might have a little less pushback on the migration as well. Another thing that you consider, could consider is taking all of the members from your Facebook group, migrating them over to a different platform as charter members, lock them in as free, and then start charging on top of that, too, so new people come in at $9.99 a month, $29.99 a month, whatever it might be, but all those people who have been with you, were on Facebook, they're the people who you get in there, create culture, and reward them for that as free charter members. There's many hundreds of them. Okay, then it would be like, okay, I like that. Yeah, and then you Makes me feel comfortable (laughs) Sometimes I like to make people feel uncomfortable with pricing so I'm not sure how I feel about that. (laughs) Well it's been a tension that's kind of stopped me from actually just signing up and starting a platform. So what I would say is I would consider how much a free member who's thrilled they're still getting it for free is worth to you in terms of referrals versus how much a small percentage of your existing Facebook group paying you a small amount every month is worth to you. And depending on the price points you're thinking, and the conversion rates you're thinking and how those things play out, maybe it does make more sense to charge those people but I would play with both sets of projections. Thank you very much. Yeah, absolutely, absolutely, yeah. So I have awhile, almost a year ago maybe, a friend of mine who's also a speech pathologist and I started a free Facebook group kind of as an experimentation place. It's full of both of our ideal clients, it's a place where parents and professionals of infants and toddlers can come and hang out and talk about what's ailing them, their concerns and frustrations and people can get answers. And it's a great, it's a very active, vibrant community and we've done next to nothing except every once in awhile policing it for the bad eggs. And what it's been really useful for is marketing, really, because it is full of our ideal people Yeah So I mean really this is not a question but mostly just to say I don't think that I wanna change that Sure! 'Cause there is a need for that, there is a really nice use for something like that in addition, because I can market to people who get to know me, the kind of value I can provide, I can send them my links to my website, my blog post, my podcast episodes, my opt-ins, and then they can get on my email list and they can join my paid community. Now I'm also thinking about the sort of top members there who I've developed a relationship with about potentially inviting a few of them into my community I like this idea As additional culture makers Yes, culture makers 'Cause I think that's really Write that down Yeah, I know, that was a good one. (laughs) Because I think it's really important to have those people and people who you know are active and you know can offer good value. And would appreciate being tapped on the shoulder in that way? Exactly, yeah, that's honestly I think the only change I'm gonna make to that. Yeah, so yes, that's such a great point because I am, what I am not saying here is shut down all your Facebook groups Right, yeah Cause there's actually been a trend toward that especially among my peers, people with literally tens of thousands of people in their Facebook groups just shutting 'em down Yeah I'm done with this. Doesn't sound like the kind of group that you have No But I just wanna say that, I am not prescribing that everyone shuts down their Facebook group. If something's working for you, and you love it and it's supporting your mission and it's supporting your business, keep doing it, that's awesome! And also maybe ask yourself how can I better utilize this Exactly How can I make it better than it is right now, what does that look like? That's really exciting, but yeah, I love the idea of taking, pulling some of the people in there and saying don't leave here but I've got something else I think you might like and I'd really like you to be there so yeah, come join on me. Yeah. Yeah. I love that. Alice? Love the culture-maker thing, I wanna be a culture-maker, that's cool. (laughs) Gosh, now we're pushing Karen hard. We'll talk later. I have a sort of a model that a friend of mine and I have been talking about, who is building, anyway I don't wanna go into the details, one of the models that she had for her community before, now I can go back to her and be like you need to build a community around this, is creating almost like a foundation within the pricing structure, so making it like $50 a month and that goes straight into a foundation to, like for example in my mission, creating projects that actually serve the world, like contributing projects as opposed to just noise-making things, sorry, that, artists, yay, I just wanna make projects that matter. Anyway, and yeah, so I'm just wondering like your thoughts on this or if you've seen something similar? I have seen something similar, yeah. My friend Molly Mayhar from Stratejoy, I forget which community it is of hers or exactly how she does it, but that's something similar where she takes a certain amount of proceeds from every month, puts it into an account that then gets spent on behalf of the community in one way or another, sometimes it goes to an individual person, I think it's just sometimes, maybe it's all the time. Sometimes it goes to an individual person, sometimes it goes to some other cause, but yeah, there's a, I forget what she calls it. What's her name? Molly Mayhar of Stratejoy, you'd think it was spelled is her website,, yeah. Alright, Melissa and then I think we've got an online question then we're gonna move on. So right now the way, the only way that people can join my community is through my funnel, they opt in to get a free goodie and then they're offered the opportunity to buy my e-course, Creative Sandbox which is a seven-day e-course and if they buy the e-course they're offered the opportunity to join the community. The tricky thing is, the challenge is that actually they'll get like 10 times the value, 20 times the value out of the e-course if they do it in the context of the community, but very few people actually join the community, so how can I change this? It's a very skinny funnel. Yeah so do I just like wrap it up so that when they buy the e-course, they're just automatically in the community for two weeks or a week or whatever it is? That's how Shawn Fink does the Abundant Mama Piece Circle Community, you buy the Abundant Mama project and it comes with your first two months I think of the community free so it's all part of that. And then your payment process for that, that gets a little tricky, so you can do it as actually people are signing up for a trial and the e-course is included in that's sort of the onboarding process. You're going to run into some friction around that, but yeah, there's I think the best way to do it is you're signing up, there's an initiation fee essentially, so let's say the e-course is $39 dollars, the $39 dollars is the initiation fee then you get 30 days free and then or whatever it might be, and then you get charged for your first month. I think that's the cleanest way to do it, different payment processors unfortunately have some weird wording around how that all works even the way I said it is not the way I would put it on a sales page or a checkout. Like I would like to be able to say you buy the e-course for this, after 30 days, we automatically charge you for continued support in the community, something like that, even that isn't right, but that's closer to how I would position it on a checkout page. So look around at what your options are in terms of actually executing that because that's gonna be your challenge. It's very doable on a number of different platforms but it is. No, I can do that on Rainmakers, so I can do that, yeah. I think they're probably really well set up for that. Yeah they are, great, thank you. Yeah, totally. I think we have an online question, let's get there and then we're gonna keep going and talk about more ways, oh it's Jennifer Armbrust. Okay, when you talk about a community as your Core Offer, does that mean it's your biggest revenue maker or is it more a question of positioning, branding, and company focus? It's the latter, great question! Yeah, your core offer isn't always your biggest revenue maker, it's not for us, but it does, it is what you're putting your attention towards and your focus towards in terms of marketing, positioning, branding, and your company overall. It's what informs the capabilities of your company, where you invest, all of that good stuff. I talk about that way more in the product planning class that we did, when was that, in September? Was it, no the marketing one was in August. I'm pretty sure it was the end of September. (laughs) There's been a lot of classes this last year, yeah, so it's definitely the latter, it does not have to be your biggest moneymaker.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Build a Community Workbook
Sample Community Policies

Bonus Materials with RSVP

Build a Community Resource Guide

Ratings and Reviews

Ayelet Marinovich

This class was exactly what I needed. It clarified, confirmed, and connected SO MANY more of the remaining dots for me. Tara, as always, is brilliant, energetic and a general joy to watch as she shares her immense knowledge and helps others get to "the nitty gritty" - thank you Tara, and thank you Creative Live!!

a Creativelive Student

Like I said on air... "Wow!" I've been building an online community for about 4 years now, based on what I thought I wanted to my business to be. Now I realize the value of creating a community around my VISION, then building the business based around the community needs and values. What I thought: 1) What people needed from me was my expertise. 2) Members will naturally bond with and engage with one another based on their shared interests and needs. What I learned from Tara: 1) Members rely on me to FACILITATE conversation and sharing. 2) It's my role to be the a connector and mediator. Tara has an amazing presence on stage and is super skilled at drawing out your vision as a business owner/entrepreneur. She makes community building easy to understand. I'll definitely be watching more of her courses. This one alone has changed the way I think about my business and my plan for building in monetization and community building.


I went from a vague idea of wanting to build a community to having a clear path to take to start building it. I appreciated the focus on the member vs the business model. Tara presented a clear path for creating the plan first, from vision and purpose to creating the experience for community members, to helping members take the journey to how to monetize in many different ways. My brain is full and I'm excited to take action and launch a community that consolidates my current varied business offers. The presentation was thoughtful and well presented. Excellent and highly recommended.

Student Work