Charlie is the founder of Ramen Club (formerly Weekend Club), a community of indie hackers, all working with each other to reach their side project goals and stay accountable. Ramen Club was born out of the London indie hacker meetup Charlie also founded called Indie Beers. Since then Charlie has become a prominent figure in the London indie hacker scene, also running the Indie London community. He's also a notoriously terrible mug reviewer.
Short, bite-sized conversations with indie hackers that have started small, profitable and bootstrapped businesses. You'll learn how they come up with ideas, what they do to validate, find those first customers and make a sustainable income. Episodes every Tuesday.
James: Hello and welcome to Indie Bites, the podcast where I bring you stories from fellow indie hackers in 15 minutes or less. In this episode, we have Charlie Ward of Weekend Club.
Charlie is the founder of Weekend Club, an online community of indie hackers, all working with each other to reach their side project goals and stay accountable. Weekend Club was born out of the London indie hacker meetup Charlie also founded called Indie Beers. Since then Charlie has become a prominent figure in the London indie hacker scene, also running the Indie London community.
Charlie, welcome to the podcast. How are you?
Charlie: Very well, James, how are you?
James: Yeah. Fantastic. Good to have you on Indie Bites. I gave a little summary there of Weekend Club, but how would you describe it?
Charlie: I describe it as were a remote support network and accountability community for bootstrappers. So we're mainly on Slack and Zoom. So it's built around Saturday deep working sessions with up to 20 or 30 other, boostrapped entrepreneurs, and those people vary from some people building SaaS to productised services and everything else you could imagine in between.
And we charge a monthly subscription of £29 a month, that's about $36 or something like that . So we just try and cultivate a community where you can really build relationships with other entrepreneurs, get feedback, advice, support, see what other people are working on.
Being in the community of other people, building things, shipping things, seeing other people's habits influences your habits as well. So that's how we can help with accountability. The Saturday sessions is set up like a one day sprint. So we do a stand up at the beginning at 10:00 AM. We have lunch where we have a Q&A, or a chat half way through. and then we do a kind of demo and reflection on how you did against your goals at the end of the day.
James: That's amazing. Where did you come up with the idea for Weekend Club and also Indie Beers?
Charlie: So Indie Beers, this is pre COVID mainly, but, it was a monthly meetup with indie hackers, at a pub in London, basically. I saw that regular meetups at the pub works in other kinds of communities
I used to work in ad agencies. There was a community called Group Think, that did something called planet pints. I thought that would work really well for bootstrappes and indie hackers.
Weekend Club came from conversations I had with Indie Beers members. So a bunch of people, were saying they wanted to not just meet people at the pub but actually work on stuff with other people.
And that's where Weekend Club was born. It was originally at a coworking space, as you were there in early days as well. so it was a little bit different back then and so, yeah, that's where it originally came from.
James: Tell me about those first few Weekend Club sessions in Whitechapel? If it's just the idea of indie hackers working together, how did you start to look into it and then start to execute, find the coworking space and also do it while generating revenue?
Charlie: Yeah. the process was like , tell a few people, throw up a landing page and see if you get any signups. So I've got, enough signups to think, okay, maybe there's something in this. And from some conversations I had, so I was like, okay, let's do it.
So then it was just finding a coworking space. One in particular, shout out Ben Davies from Ministry of Startups - he called me back within 60 seconds of me sending the email and he was like; "sounds cool, let's do it"
I was like, great. So I went to see it and I was like, I was like, yeah, this is had the right feel to it Then just following up with people just to make sure everyone turned up and then it was just figuring out the format. We came up with a kind of make it like a one day sprint sort of thing, which seemed to work. So that one was free and it was like the MVP version.
And from that I was like, okay, set up a Stripe account and let's do this, let's do this more regularly. So it was wishing twice a month that we do it, up a monthly subscription. Yeah. After that session, got about 15 odd subscribers.
James: Did you start charging right from the very beginning and how did you decide on what to charge people?
Charlie: Yeah. I always had in my head, I wanted to do a subscription business and I thought, coworking is subscription anyway. So just, this is a subset of coworking, cause it's just like on a weekend, but it's plus the community as well. So this is at the time it was slightly different at the time.
Cause it was just meet up in a coworking space. The Slack was actually a bit of an afterthought originally and but now it's the main thing. But in terms of pricing, I'm not saying I'd recommend this exact approach, but I did a survey after the first session and, to get gauge how much people would pay for this, if they did twice a month.
And basically picked somewhere, not bang in the middle, but not at the top or the bottom of the range, based on what I think that could actually support me doing it. But, yeah, I'm not saying that's the best way doing it, but it was an amount that does work well for me and for the members I think. So I think it balances out nicely.
James: Indeed. And how much did you charge at the start? You said you put the landing page up to get some interest, but how about actually getting those first users to pay and also attend in person?
Charlie: For the first one we ever did, no one had to pay. First of all, I didn't know if anyone was going to show up and luckily they did, it was full. And then I didn't know if people would enjoy it enough to pay. And so yeah, after that first session I use Checkout Page which is like a no code tool where you can accept payments, . And then I just sent an email out to everyone that came, and luckily, I think probably 15 out of 20 people actually became paying customers after that.
James: Now we're about, how long are we, about a year in to Weekend Club?
Charlie: Yeah. I think at the start of October it will have been one year, which feels crazy that it's gone by quite fast.
James: And what was your revenue right now?
Charlie: So I might as might be flicking between pounds and dollars , but we're on about $800, in monthly recurring revenue now, which is roughly £600 as of the day we're recording this. Which is it's not like a giant amount. but considering I still work full time, I'm pleased with where it is, especially as our churn is very low. So we haven't had anyone churn for about three or four months now. So yeah, very happy about that.
James: That's amazing. Before we go on to talking a little bit about community building, obviously with coronavirus, you had an in person product or service that you had to completely rethink. Tell me through quickly how you approach that and what you changed?
Charlie: The first thing was like, am I actually going to continue this or not? Because I was worried, around in March time, I was like, there's going to be a lockdown soon. And even if there isn't, I'm not sure it doesn't seem safe.
So the first thing was having to rethink the format remotely rather than in person. So doing the whole thing over Slack and Zoom, and it took a bit of iteration to rethink it.
I realised that if I'm just going to be at home anyway, I can probably do it weekly. So we made it a weekly thing. And to help that obviously, got you involved, shout out James hosting the sessions when I'm not there, extremely well. We added accountability buddies, to help people meet other people a little bit more, because when you're in person, it's easy to meet people at lunch, you just start chatting to someone or get a coffee. But when you're all at home, remote, you need to put more effort into , helping those interactions happen.
Those are some of the main things we did, and adding other services to it as well. Like adding software discounts, we've got over a hundred software discounts like Stripe, Typeform, Airtable, that kind of thing.
James: What does it take to build a community and keep it active? Is it just as simple as setting up a Slack and setting up your checkout page and away you go - you've got a community?
Charlie: Yeah, that's a good question. First and foremost needs to make sure you understand your audience really well. If you don't, it is really going to struggle. That's true in building any kind of product or business or a community. You really need to understand your audience, but I would say the first... the basics you need, and this is recommended in a great book called 'Get Together' on building communities. You just have to have a really clear idea about who your community is for. Like what kind of people are you actually getting together and what its purpose i s? Like why does it exist? and if you don't have a clear idea of those two things and they don't align, then you're really not going to go any further. Before you even get started, you should try to have some inkling of that in place and it can evolve, but you should have a good idea of that.
Then after that you need to be able to actually get people to start showing up in the first place. So it's probably an underrated thing, but you need to be able to market it in some way and you don't have to do anything really complicated, just make sure it's very clear what it is, you're promoting it where your kind of would be members are at the beginning and take it from there.
And if you can build a brand that always helps. But once you have all that in place, you need to be good at building relationships and building communities is not the same as necessarily building an audience. It's not just about you and your relationship is about. You and your relationship with others is it's about other people's relationships with each other. You need to make sure everyone else is having fun with each other or like chatting to each other, not just chatting to you thing.
So you need to get pretty good at whether it's offline or online, being able to introduce people or like seeing Oh, you should chat to, You know this person because they know about this and they've had a similar experience. You just start getting quite good at that. And I think an interesting misconception about community building is that you have to be an extrovert to be good at it.
Some of the best community builders have ever seen, not naturally that extroverted. They'd probably describe themselves as introverts and sometimes being an introvert actually can be an advantage in community building. Cause I think some introverts notice certain more subtle cues or like think a bit more, a little bit more deeply about certain things, which, holds them in good stead.
James: Yeah. And what would you say your biggest struggle or the hardest thing about building a community is?
Charlie: For me personally, because I, I still, work full time. it's the time it takes to build a community, not just like, it's like compound interest. It takes time to become really good at, but it just takes, you need to show up every day basically.
Making the time available and being disciplined to show up every day. I love doing it. So that obviously helps a lot, it's difficult to do over a long period of time. I think that's been, a little bit of a challenge for me because I've got this, there's like vague rule where you should never let a comment or a post, go unanswered wherever that's by you or by tagging someone else or whatever it is like.
If people post say three times and no one answers, they're probably not going to go back again. So you need to be quite on top of that. And it just takes quite long diligence to stay on top of that. I think.
James: Yeah, I think that's very clear, a great bit of advice to close on there. Never leave any question unanswered .Charlie, it's been fantastic chatting to you. I'm going to end on a few quick fire questions. If you don't mind.
James: Let's do it.
First of all, what is your favorite book?
Charlie: A great book is one called Dark Matter. So it's like a sci-fi thriller, a bit lof quantam physics in there as well. I'm not saying I greatly understand all of it, but it's super interesting, but maybe more actionable because it's the Indie Bites podcast is 'Influenced' by Robert Cialdini.
It's a very interesting book on, persuasion and it's actually more useful than most business books and it's not even really about business. So I would recommend reading that to understand the human mind a little bit more.
James: Two for the price of one there with recommendations, how about your favorite podcast?
Charlie: I really like the Farnam Street podcast. It's about thinking and decision making but they talk to quite a wide range of interesting people and particularly I really like the one with Rory Sutherland. What I like is that he talks a lot about the kind of, how sometimes the impactful things, whether it's in business or anything else, is not logical. He talks about really strong creativity is not something you can figure out with an algorithm. And I think that thinking is sometimes a bit missing in today's landscape. Everything's like very quantitative, which has it's place, obviously, but I think you need to think about both sides sometimes.
James: What Indie Hacker do you admire, who should people follow?
Charlie: Yeah, it's a difficult one. There's so many to mention. I will shout Willhelm Klopp. Weekend Club member, what he's doing with Simple Poll, Simple Decisions and some other stuff he's got coming. He's like the Slack apps guy, I think of him like that, but yeah, he's great. Shares a lot of knowledge in there.
James: And then finally, Charlie, what are you most excited about for the future?
Charlie: Yeah, a few things. so for indie London, we started doing Indie London remote events with speakers. We've got a good one with Sabba Keynejad of Veed coming up. So that should be good. We've got also a bunch of stuff in the pipeline for Weekend Club. So we've got some interesting ideas around gamifying certain parts of the experience
Post-COVID I'd like to also start doing in real life sessions, again, some people are like really happy with remote as some people also really enjoyed the in real life. So I think be interesting to bring that back when we can, it wouldn't replace remote, but as a, as an option as well,
James: Amazing. All right. Charlie, thank you so much for joining the Indie Bites podcast. I'll make sure I put links to yourself and Weekend Club in the show notes along with everything discussed in this episode.
Charlie: Awesome. Thanks very much, James.
James: Thank you so much for listening to this episode of Indie Bites. I've got some more fantastic episodes coming up for you, including Harry Dry of Marketing Examples, Rosie Sherry who runs the Indie Hackers community and Corey Haines, who is the Head of Growth at Baremetrics running various projects alongside that.
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