Should I give free memberships to influential makers?

I regularly come across talented and influential makers I'd love to have on WIP. These people could have disproportionate positive impact on the community.

I'm reluctant inviting them though, as it feels disingenuous saying I love their work but then asking them to pay $20/mo for a membership.

It's common practice to just give influencers a free subscription, but it feels unfair when others (perhaps like yourself) do pay a monthly or yearly fee.

I'm curious to hear your views on it. If you're a paying member, how would you feel if some other members don't pay? (but perhaps bring value through different means).

Disclaimer: early members of WIP, back when it was still free, might still be on the free plan. These people help kickstart the community and were grandfathered in. That seems different from the above though.

If influencers provide extra value for the platform I would do it. They "pay" with that value instead of currency. Actually I don't care if I pay and they don't. They provide this value probably for the whole group, so I would get them on without paying. Not sure if not paying has effect on their commitment (proabbly not).

Good idea, and also why not give certain number of new makers that are not that influential but have been doing lots of work and are driven, maybe you can set certain amount for this, per month per season or whatever, have some criteria that are musts for applicants to sort people.

I believe this would encourage more people to join the maker community.

I was indeed also thinking about non-influential makers who are working on really cool stuff, but are just not likely to join WIP by themselves.

interesting. mind sharing the reason why (I mean, from your experience/assumption of course)?

They might not have heard about WIP yet

Perhaps use your own discretionary and decide for yourself whether a person would be a positive contributor to WIP - not only by constantly shipping and /done things with the bot, but being kinda active in the chat etc, that makes WIP what it is today in the broader sense.

And of course, by having said 'influencers', will probably increase the value of your product for a lot of users as a whole, simply by having them in the chat.

Sounds good, and I believe that we all here understand that it's not unfair that they don't pay while we do.

And hey, when I become more "influential" I want my free membership! ;)

Only for influencers who really want to be a part of our community!

Good idea!

It would be great if we can have an opportunity to get to know and learn more from them.
Also, probably some influencers want to pay for the community in the end.

Yeah they'd still have the option to upgrade to a paid membership.

I'm okay with paying while influencers don't. That's how the world works. Police officers often don't pay for meals. It's a thank you for the value the customer brings that other customers don't.

I also think some customers bring value to the platform in ways other than being an influencer who deserve rewards. Early adopters, substantial contributors, etc.

You might be able to implement this such that customers who receive a certain number of claps per week/month/quarter/year receive a particular reward or achievement. This could allow the community itself to choose who the valuable members are.

Thanks for asking us!

One idea I've been thinking about is the idea of Reddit Gold. Perhaps every (paying) member could gift a month of free membership to someone else, every month. Then members who are specifically helpful, could earn enough free months to basically have a free membership forever.

And people who don't want or can afford $20/mo on a recurring basis could still pay $20 for the first month and aim to earn free months from there on out.

Of course I'd need to consider how this would change the dynamics of the community, revenue numbers, ways to prevent cheating, etc. But it's an interesting concept.

My humble point of view: influencer or not, I would want them to pay as everyone else does. Paying is a way of committing or expressing commitment. It would make me feel uncomfortable if that person could join for free - speaking as a paying customer.

And yes, I understand they could contribute value but they could also not.

Ultimately that’s of course an executive decision from you Marc. As a paying customer I would consider it unfair.

Thanks for sharing that Alexander. Hearing these opinions is exactly why I asked the question.

What do you think about makers who would have not joined otherwise? Not because they don't want to pay, but simply because they might not have known about WIP at all, if it wasn't for me inviting them?

I guess that's really the reason I'd consider giving a free membership. I might come across a maker on Twitter, Hacker News, etc, I'd really think would be a valuable addition to WIP, but just telling them "hey sign up for WIP for $20 per month" wouldn't be the same.

With pleasure, Marc.

What do you think about makers who would have not joined otherwise? Not because they don't want to pay, but simply because they might not have known about WIP at all, if it wasn't for me inviting them?

That’s a good question, and it’s actually two things:

  1. Learning about WIP (first or early contact)
  2. Joining WIP (having had multiple contacts ending up in the sale)

In copywriting, the term that I’m aware of for that is market awareness (or customer’s journey), and it’s ultimately a sales (funnel) question.

You would talk differently to a number 1 audience because they don’t know about WIP and you want them to know about WIP. There’s no sale yet because - as you said - they’re a „cold” audience and "hey sign up for WIP for $20 per month" wouldn’t work. They need more warm-up, more contacts, and more trust-building.

(I also learned that even if something is for free you still need to sell them on that. It can be almost as hard as selling things that have a price tag.)

Your job as a salesman of WIP (among other duties, course) is to make it obvious for them that the value they get out of WIP is a multiple of 240 USD (annually speaking). If you do that, paying will be a no-brainer for them.

Once they’ve reached that point, then "hey sign up for WIP for $20 per month" would actually work because they (the number 2 audience) been waiting for you to send that message.

BUT: And I think I heard that before in some WIP conversation where someone said that WIP could offer a 14-day or even 30-day trial period to actually see WIP in action. Me, as a paying customer, I would consider that to be fair and probably the best compromise between respecting your early customer’s loyalty and wanting to attract new (great) people.

Because look (and again that’s just my humble opinion), why would you devalue or give a 100 % discount on your product when it actually has a price tag? It can have this slightly desperate connotation and I prefer to buy from someone who is convinced about the value of their product and not in doubt about it. So maybe there are (unexpressed) doubts that you have about WIP and what value it can provide (even to those „influencers” who are just regular people like you and me but with more eyeballs on them; that’s it.)

I hope it helps.


Thanks Alex. A free trial might indeed be the best approach. I'm already experimenting with his using "invites" active members can give away. They allow your friends/etc to try out WIP free of charge for a certain time period.

I could give away similar invites when sending a cold email.

With regards to doubt about the value of WIP: I stand behind the pricing, but I think it's the type of product you need to experience before you truly understand the value.

So yeah the free trial approach might be a really good compromise.

I'm already experimenting with his using "invites" active members can give away. They allow your friends/etc to try out WIP free of charge for a certain time period.

That’s a good reminder. I actually noticed that and I still have one invite left. Let’s see who I want to invite.

With regards to doubt about the value of WIP: I stand behind the pricing

I’m glad to hear that :)

but I think it's the type of product you need to experience before you truly understand the value.

Indeed it is.

I have adopted a realistic point of view and understand that, while I pay for some services, someone else might pay less or nothing or even get paid to use them or whatever. It's all vitamin C and the world works like this.

However, from an entrepreneurial point of view, I just think that's not the way to go. You'll get too many people (percentage-wise) in, who don't really care about WIP.

Remember, that those people are still people. Just with a few more followers for what it's worth. They will bring the same positive and negative characteristics into your community like everybody else, but you're not filtering the bad ones out by offering free access (by the way, "bad" doesn't mean bad people or professionals or whatever. Just a bad fit for WIP). It's just not a good business decision. They won't do the things for the community you hope them to do if they got a free-ride, because they are not invested with their skin. They won't act authentically.

Ask yourself:
- What made you decide to set this up as a paid community, in the first place?
- Would you repair windows for any one of your family's friends for free? (Really???)
- Could it be that you're actually doing them a favor if you tell them about WIP?

As a simple solution: Just tell them what you've done in your life. "Built this and that. Oh, and also created WIP. It's a community of makers. Last week I also took some cool photos of people's fridges, you should check them out!"

That should be easy enough to do in a conversation. If anything, they will catch up on the WIP part and have a look at it. Maybe they join. Maybe they don't. Maybe they contact you asking for a free membership. How is it they don't feel disingenuous doing that (if they ask)?

The price doesn't change anything for someone who wants to bring and receive value and genuinely is hooked. It only changes something for someone not willing to pay it anyway and probably not even interested in the product.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts Maxim.

I agree someone willing to commit is a better fit for the community than someone unwilling to pay.

If an "influencer" with a large following would reach out asking for a free membership, I would be inclined to say no. They can just pay like everyone else.

But let's say I come across a really talented maker on Hacker News, and they aren't familiar with WIP yet. I think it's way more likely they try WIP if doesn't cost them anything. A message "hey I love you work, signup for my paid community" just seems like spam.

I wonder if long-term inviting some makers like that, would result in an even more vibrant community, ultimately being better for everyone. And those members who initially signed up for free, might end up upgrading to a paid subscription later. (e.g. many early WIP members who got access for free decided to pay anyway, to support WIP).

I'll give it some more thought. Perhaps there's a way in-between as well (free 1-year try-out trial, etc)

Actually, I changed my mind! :D (Although I still stay by my original statement fundamentally).

I think you should go and try it. Invite 5 people you'd like to join and offer a free membership. However, also invite 5 people from Hacker News just asking to join paid. Then have a comparison / evaluate the results as far as possible.

Where I still strongly disagree is, that offering a paid membership sounds like spam or makes you sound / feel "disingenuous". It's not about what you offer, it's about how you offer it. Try something like the following:

"Hey John, I admire your most recent project, "XYZ". Because you're rocking as a maker so much, I'd like you to know about WIP, a project of my own. A community of makers with a very active and supporting Telegram group.

Great indie hackers like Arnold and Tim already use the community daily. Access is paid though, and as much as I'd love to offer you a free membership (mainly because I believe it would make this message sound less spammy), I can't do it because I feel it would be unfair in regards to the paid members.

I would love to see you around, thanks!"

For me personally, that's more than enough sincere touch to view it as a genuine message.

Love that. Calling it out like that does indeed make it seem much more authentic 🙌

I just figured, you could also append that refunds are not a problem, if they don't like it. That also takes away some of the financial weight to the message.

Kinda depends, if they would not join otherwise, are they really a good fit? I think a paywall is amazing, it keeps out the uncommitted with the unfortunate side effect of also keeping out people who cannot afford it.

I would:
- Offer 1 year trials for free (feels more like a "how would you like to try this out I think you'd like it" than: "I'm giving you this for free because I'm the one getting more value out of this transaction than you")
- Focus on people for whom it is too expensive, smaller people still working on something super duper cool that has not yet blown up, I love to see the stuff that people are building in WIP, and you'll have them as loyal members later on.

Good luck!

Great points! And I 100% agree they are probably not a good fit if they weren't willing to pay.

I see the benefits.

But the downside is it might frustrates smaller, non influential makers and creates a hierarchy. I think there's a small risk involved.

One option is to just do it and not talk about it. That way you get the benefits without the costs ...

Haha yes I considered just doing it without mentioning it. That's what most people tend to do. But it just didn't feel right for WIP as we tend to be an open community.