Proposal: Make WIP free and invite-only?

I've been toying with three related ideas for WIP to grow the community and get more (relevant) people onboard:

Idea 1: Free

Currently, anyone considering to join WIP will need to commit to paying $20 per month. This is great in the sense that we don't get any spam, and the majority of new members are commited to get the best out of their membership.

However, I'm sure there are also many makers who would be a value-add to the community, but who either can't afford the current membership fee, or are unwilling to risk paying for something they aren't sure is worth it.

Additionally, requiring payment means it's a lot harder for us to invite our members or other cool makers we find online.

If we make WIP free of charge, I think we could welcome a ton of cool people to the community and improve the overall value of the community. More answers to your questions. We could build out a big member directory allowing to find and meet other makers near you, or those with expertise you're after, etc.

Idea 2: Invite-only

One of the main upsides of being a paid community, is that there's a built-in relevancy filter. It's not perfect (not everbody who pays is necessarily a good fit, and not everbody who's unwilling or unable to pay would be a bad fit), but overall we've been able to attract mostly relevant members.

I believe this "relevancy filter" sets us apart from some of the free alternatives, so it's not something we want to throw away by making WIP a free-for-all and letting anyone in.

So I'm proposing we make the whole community invite-only. We would rely on existing members, you, to invite and vouch for new members.

Depending on to-be-determined criteria you'd receive invites to share with friend, collagues, etc. When inviting someone you would be "vouching" for that person to be a upstanding community member.

People inviting active and helpful makers would be rewarded with more invites, and people who tend to invite members who are a bad fit, would no longer have the ability to invite new people.

We could also replace our traditional sign up page with an "apply to join"-form where people can tell a bit about themselves and why they'd like to join WIP. Then, when you have an invite to share but you aren't sure who to give it to, you could browse these applicants and award one of them your invite instead.

WIP would remain a curated community.

Idea 3: Optional paid membership

The final piece of the puzzle is to have some form of monetization. After all, if I'm going to keep improving the platform I need both the financial incentive and resources to do so 😄

So while the main membership would become free, we could have an optional paid membership. With additional features.

We might increase the number of projects you could have, allow you to choose a a vanity URL for your projects, get access to a patrons-only chat, etc.

It would take some figuring out how to provide enough value to people for them wanting to pay a monthly fee when the main part is free, but I believe we can work that out. I'm willing to take that gamble.


What do you all think?

I bought WIP early on as lifetime offer. I doubt I would buy it for a monthly fee. Maybe just me. I like both Idea 2 and Idea 3. Maybe a premium option could include voice chats?

We don't have (or had) any lifetime plan, but I think you joined early on before we introduced the paywall? All those early accounts kept the free plan.

Premium feature could definitely include voice chats. Or maybe you'd get priority for speaking, or proposing topics, etc. Lots of things we can do here.

Good ideas and good to get more engagements. I remember paying a once off fee.

I looked into it, and you were one of the first to become a paying patron so thank you for that!

It was a $100/year payment that didn't automatically renew and I never reached out to ask people to renew because it didn't feel right to ask for more money.

So you had the "patron" status for that one year. But because you initially joined WIP before we made a paid membership required, you were also grandfathered into a lifelong free membership.

2 and 3 are excellent ideas. I think influx of more members is nice. I do wonder how that would work with telegram, it seems slack / discord are just more suitable for larger numbers of people but that might just be me.

About paying/free. Maybe you can look into a pay-once for lifetime access model.

It has the added advantage that it might keep members around after they "figured things out", as-in WIP for me is still a valuable community but it was a lot more valuable when I just joined and had not yet quit my fulltime job.

A lifetime offer is something I've been considering lately. I'm generally not a fan, as I wouldn't be as aligned with the customer (lifetime-plan products often end up over-optimizing for new sales rather than providing long-term value to customers). But to your point, it would help grow a larger community overall which has its own benefits.

Yeah agree with you on Telegram. If it becomes a problem we'd either need to push the other groups we have a bit more (maybe create cohort-specific groups in addition to the topic-based groups we already have).

I'm also considering Slack, Discord, or even creating something custom that's better optimized for WIP.

Having too many members for the chat would be a nice problem to have tho :)

Maybe a monthly challenge. Ship in six days or something like that may work.

Ah yes! Want to do these for sure. Like diferent themes. Marketing week where we all do marketing for one week. Hackathons where we all try and ship something by a certain date. Etc.

Yes, this would be so perfect! Love hackathons)

Hey @marc,

Most of all, I feel that you and WIP deserve to be paid for all the work you do\have done — my personal experience is that I'm happy to pay $20/m.

I'd be happy to pay even more if there were online events/round-tables to meet more fellow makers.

In relation to your proposed idea this is what comes to mind:

Maybe a hybrid solution would work: you could allow paid members to invite who-ever they like, and those that are invited receive access for free.

Hope this is useful,

Thanks! Yes my hope is that WIP is well worth the $20/mo fee and fortunately that seems to be the case for many members.

However, it's still a big barrier for new people and makes it hard to get new people in. Hence the proposal of first getting (relevant) members through the door with a free plan, and once they are convinced of the value offer additional functionality and access with a paid membership.

What about only allowing paid members to give free invites?

If people really like the community, they'll want to invite their friends - and they'll need to upgrade.

In addition, you can also have several paid features, such as creating discussions, roasts, etc.

More or less, only private tasks and chat would be free; ex. they wouldn't be able to. post /done to the main wipchat but only to their account - they can, on the other hand, engage in chat/discussions/roasts.

Nice, yes these are some great suggestions for pro-only features 👍

The only thing I want to be careful with is making "invites" a perk of being a paying member. As then people might feel entitled to get them, whereas I'd like to keep the option to be selective about who get to invited other members.

But it's definitely something we can experiment with

@marc I would definitely pay for online events and round-tables for the opportunity to ask questions and pick the brain of people who are successful in their niche, in my view it's very motivating. I also love how you share actionable tips like where to host website and which libraries you use, this saves a lot of time and eliminates decision fatigue))

As for payment I am happy to pay, it is totally worth it and more! But for a person coming from a third world country it might be a bit expensive, especially for people who have potential, but are just starting their career? So, I think inviting people for free based on merit and their fit to the community would be great.

Thanks, yes we're currently excluding a lot of people from different parts of the world.

Part of my response has been that with remote work and the online gig economy, it's becoming a lot easier for any entrepreneurial person to earn some money to afford a $20/mo subscription (e.g. spending 1-2 hours a month on doing gigs on Upwork should cover it), but perhaps that's an overly optimistic view?

Either way, I think having a free-tier would definitely open up to a wider audience. And as long as we make sure we still curate for pasionate, positive and entrepeneurial people, then they should be a value-add to the community regardless of their current discretionary budget.

With regards to the online events, I'll be looking into which @marver777 recommended to me a while ago.

All three are kind of meh to me. I'd recommend #3 + #2 and skipping #1. I like #3 so that there is money coming into to help grow/build the website. I don't think you need to do free if you go that route, #2 makes a lot of sense.

If people are not seeing the value, maybe change up the pricing to $89 or $99 for the first year and re-evaluate your pricing for the next year if renewals don't pick up.

How would #3 work without #1?

Or are you saying just keep charging the $20/mo like we do now? But make it invite-only?

The "problem" I'm trying to solve is there's relatively few new members joining each month. So if we were to restrict it further (making it invite-only), that just makes matter worse.

Or are you saying just keep charging the $20/mo like we do now?

I'm +1 keeping a paid plan. I'd experiment with pricing to see if that's a barrier. May factor in purchasing power parity (big mac index) since ~$200 does not scale outside of US/UK/Europe very well.

But make it invite-only?
How would #3 work without #1?

I think invite-only free accounts are a decent model to avoid SPAM. I have invited several but I think that leap from free for a month to mentally ~$20/year or $150/yr might have scared a few off.

If you have a distinct line between paid and unpaid features, then that gives people an incentive to want to pay you. I'm that way with Twitter too. I would love to pay them but not for what Twitter Blue gives me when I'd pay to never see an ad.

Oh nice. You just gave me a crazy idea.

What if we showed ads to free members. But instead of regular ads, they would be ads for the products of the paying members!

I think paying for access to the community makes sense. I just honestly don't like Telegram - it's a blocker to me engaging more with the community. I prefer something more asynchronous.

Yeah people seem quite divided over Telegram. Some people like myself use it all the time with friends etc so it makes sense to also have WIP accessible there.

But if you don't use Telegram already, I can how it's not ideal having to use that for WIP.

Would you mind elaborating on a more asynchronous solution you'd prefer? Is it something where the website could play a role?

@marc I want one good email summary per day of what's being discussed. That way, info gets pushed to me - but in a calm way, where I don't have to remember to check all the time. I miss web forums, which are close to this. But, they are all so clunky.

The best asynchronous, modern forum I've used is YC bookface. I've been working on a project called #booklet, which is inspired by YC Bookface. If you're interested in testing it out - I'd love to keep developing it for a community like WIP. It's made to be high-polish and realtime, but able to be used over just email with one good summary per day.

The closest I've seen to what I want today is - but it's still pretty clunky.

Do you subscribe to the current daily WIP email?

It only shows todo activity of the people you follow, but there's a lot more we can like you suggest. Include new discussions, recently added projects, etc.

What would you like to see in such a daily email?

I've been building out our own forum software which we're having this conversation in right now. Are you saying you want more of an email interface for this, including the ability to reply to comments, etc?

No, I do the weekly email - I'll switch to daily.

The main point of a forum for me is non-realtime discussions. Replying via email is secondary for me.

I think having a paywall guarantees no spammers, giving invites to everyone might lead to ppl handing them out via Twitter etc., so not sure about that.

I like the mentioned idea of having invites for ppl paying, free members have restricted access or sth like reddit karma that gives you points for adding value (good comments etc) and then opens up some restrictions for free users

Yeah I definitely don't want to give invites to everyone. That would defeat the purpose of having invites.

We'd need to find the right mechanism for deciding who gets to invite new members, but I think we can figure that out.

I like the suggestion of a Reddit-like karma system. I also thought about Reddit Gold. So maybe paying members can gift (a month of) "pro"-access to "free"-members if they want to get the involved in the paid-only sections of the community.

Like things they way they are :)

I personally dislike paying monthly so I resort to annual or lifetime - so try experimenting with that or testing the pricing.

I think the main issue with upfront payment (regardless of the exact price) is that people aren't sure what to expect of WIP. It's not like a SaaS that solves a specific problem. For many people sharing their todos publicly already feels like an alien concept, so why would they start paying to do that?

I tried to combat that by providing existing members with invites to share that give 30-day access free-of-charge, but it hasn't been that effective at driving up memberships.

My current thesis is that part of the reason for that is it doesn't feel great giving away what's basically a free trial. But when it's actually giving someone access to something that's otherwise inaccessible, then I think it will hold a lot more value. So people would be more inclined to use invite someone, and those who get invited would value that invite more.

To me, don't change the price. :)
allow us to do affiliate with discount.
Like 25% discount + 25% shared revenue for the person who invited.
having the right of 4 invitations total
each time invite is granted and person start to pay a 25% is deduce from your own subscription.
and you get back your invit slot
after 4 paying you don't pay anymore.
but you can continue to invite people with discount 25 or 50( you choose)

each time one person we invited cancel sub we loose one invit slot and have to pay again.

the paying filter is important, please keep it.
it's good for both side.
that motivated me to commit more into making

I like the idea of rewarding members for bringing in more people, but I'm not sure the economics of a $20/mo subscription will allow us to offer an incentive significant enough to get people to actively start inviting more members.

I think the key incentive for people to invite cool makers is that it helps improve their own experience of WIP. However, right now that's complicated by the fact that those cool makers need to get over that $20/mo hurdle first.

Hence the idea to offer a free (but invite-only!) membership.

If there was a stripped-down free version, in addition to the current paid membership, would you downgrade? If not, do you think it would negatively effect that motiviation you mention?

i agree totally my proposal was to complex after read it again.
your approach seems more doable, and inspired by a model who already work Dribbble

Dribbble follows an invite only model for posts to be distributed, and then a paid Pro option.

Yeah, Dribbble's approach is a big inspiration for this. I think they are in a similar position where having a larger community increases the value of their platform, but only if the quality of the content and the members remain high enough.

The Pro subscription along with some of their other revenue models seem to work well enough to offset the free memberships.