How do you make money with communities?

I get asked this question a lot.

For some reason we think community is different when it comes to money. It is, but it isn't.

It's one that really has a simple answer.

Communities make money just like any other business makes money.

There are finite ways of making money in the world, the same comes to community. When you think about making money through community, there are really only a few options you can choose from.

  • Subscriptions: the dream of 1k true fans
  • Advertising: ads, sponsorships, affiliates
  • Services: Consulting, Freelance/contracting, Productized services
  • Content & Education: newsletters, content behind a wall, courses, books.
  • Events: conferences, meetups, training, masterminds, cohorts
  • Marketplaces: Etsy, Airbnb, Ebay, Mentor Cruise
  • Ecommerce: sell stuff!
  • Product: create a product for your target community.
  • Donations: πŸ€” it can work, it’s super hard though! This can apply well to non-profits.
  • Web 3: I'm no expert, but some people are making all that jazz work.

Have I missed something off this list?

The point that I want to make: there is no magic bullet and making money for communities is really not that different from making money as a business.

After all, if you want a sustainable community, it is a business. Businesses survive and thrive on transactions. The main difference with community led businesses is the greater value and emphasis you put on the community.

Instead of putting a bunch of your money in R&D, marketing and sales, you understand and value what community brings to the table. When you have a community that you care for and respect, there's a good chance you can find your way through to a business that works.

For Ministry of Testing there were stages on how the revenue grew:

  1. Advertising
  2. Advertising + Events
  3. Advertising + Events + Membership

I had tried services and dislike them. I also had fun creating a 'newspaper'. It was fun but not sustainable as a business model.

The hard part of building any business is that, unfortunately, you can't just copy and paste what other people are doing. You have to put in the work, experiment, try stuff out and find what works.

The world just moves too fast to rely on someone else's expert advice.

Go hang with your people. Talk to them. Observe intensely and look for problems that you think you can spend the next 5-10 years of your life working on.

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