The one where I talk about launching my membership community, The Lightbulb Academy.
Hello and welcome to this podcast episode. Thank you so much for joining me.
Today has been a very exciting day for me because it is the culmination of a massive project I've been working on... today I launched The Lightbulb Academy at thelightbulbacademy.com.
If you're new to the podcast you might not know what that is. I'm just going to take a moment to tell you about it.
The Academy is an exclusive community for creative people who want to turn their hobby or blog into a business. By being a member of the Academy, you get access to a variety of training resources and this includes live training once a month from me.
You also access a thriving community filled with people who just want to help you succeed and also celebrate your success. I'll be doing regular office hours in the community so you get good access to me as well.
Essentially it's a high-value group coaching program.
What I thought would be useful for today's episode is if I tell you a little bit about how I got here why I decided to create a membership site and also maybe share some of the practical sides of how I built the site and a few bits and pieces like that.
If we rewind 12 months... when I was writing or rather updating my business plan I was very keen on going the online course route. I always knew I wanted teaching to be at the heart of my creative business but from my experience of online courses, I decided that was the right way for me to go.
So I set about creating a signature course as well as some smaller courses.
I've done a lot of courses so I've got a really good idea of what works and what doesn't. For an online course and I thought that was really going to be the right model for me. But actually something was missing and it took me ages to work out what it was.
The thing that was missing was a sense of community and additional support to complete your online course. Because I'll be honest with you, I have a really bad habit of buying an online course, starting it, and then not get around to finishing it.
As a teacher that doesn't sit well with me because I'm responsible for supporting you through your learning process and making sure that you achieve.
So that was what was holding me back from going all the way into the online course model around this time.
I joined a couple of membership sites because I was looking for inspiration and I wanted to work out how to make the online course model work for me.
It was only then that I realized the membership site model did exactly what I wanted to do. It offered training but also a huge amount of support and community.
I made the decision there and then; the membership site was the right thing for me to do. And I'd already created quite a bit to put into the site in terms of resources and training.
Another thing that made me think a membership site was the right approach was the success of my private Facebook group The Lightbulb Club. People seemed to really enjoy being in the club and get a lot out of it.
So that made me think that creating a paid community offering could be a good move. Once the decision was made I had to build the site.
My research tells me that the vast majority of people who build a membership site use Wordpress.
If you've listened to this podcast for a while or you have followed my blog you will know that I have a very complicated relationship with WordPress because last time I was using WordPress I got hacked very badly and as a result, I moved to Squarespace. I've been very very happy with Squarespace
Not one to shy away from a challenge. I made the decision to build my membership's site on Squarespace. Lots of people told me it couldn't be done and I am delighted to report that it can be done. I have the membership site is built on Squarespace and I'm delighted with the functionality.
All obviously be waiting for feedback from my founder members to see what can be improved but so far so good.
The one thing Squarespace doesn't offer and I had to find a solution for was the login and member management side of things, but it was easy to sort out.
Once you've set up your membership package on Sentry you generate a bit of code and you copy and paste the code behind the scenes for every page of your website that you want to be password protected. It's as simple as that.
Once I built the site I had to start thinking about community.
I wanted a community or forum element to the membership and there were lots of options for this.
You can create a forum, although that's not particularly easy, in Squarespace. I should add the option there would be to use something like Muut and embed it into the Squarespace site.
You can, of course, use a closed Facebook group which is something I considered given that The Lightbulb Club has gone very well.
Or you could try something different. And I am going to try something different for the first few months of the Academy. I'm going to I'm going to use Slack.
Slack is team messaging service and it's something I use at the moment with several of my accountability partners for everyday office chat. I think it's going to work quite well for our membership community.
However, if it doesn't we will look at something else. I suspect quite a few people would be in favour of using a closed Facebook group for the community element of a membership site. However, I've got a funny feeling that Facebook doesn't allow you to charge for membership of a group. Furthermore, when people are on Facebook it's so easy to get distracted and when people are in the light bulb Academy community I really want them to be able to focus on whatever we've been talking about in there and not get their eyes distracted by a 'Tom Hiddleston holding a cat' gif.
You know what I'm saying.
So I'm going to wait to get the feedback from my first founder members.
I'll be accepting 25 members into the Academy maximum for this launch. I don't want to take anymore so once I've got the 25 I'm going to close the virtual doors.
And the reason behind this is the site is new; to an extent still a work in progress. So those founder members will be giving me feedback over the next couple of months so we can make the Academy fantastic.
I have set the membership fee. It's 15 pounds sterling per month. And if you join the Academy as a founding member you'll be grandfathered in at that rate, which means you will only ever pay £15 a month for the life of your membership (regardless of price increases).
As this episode is called the membership site launch, I should tell you a bit about my launch plans.
This has been a very soft launch because the site is new and I'm wanting to test it and make sure I'm happy with it and the members are happy with it.
I opted for a soft launch to my email list and members of my private Facebook group.
The reason I chose to launch to just those people is they are already in my ecosystem. They have shown an interest in the work that I do so I've kept it to that set group of people.
I've launched by sending emails. I've posted on social media. I had a waiting list of people who were interested in the Academy so I contacted them as a priority.
I might do some Facebook advertising later in the week but that really depends on whether I need to or not. If I've got 25 founder members by then obviously I won't need to.
I've used Trello (that won't come as a surprise to regular listeners) and I've got lots of checklists outlining the things that I need to do today and over the coming days.
I'm keeping a tally on my white board so I can keep track of how many members join.
Every day when members join the Academy I'm doing a rather nifty thing that I'd like to share with you and I'm using an app called Bonjoro. Bonjoro allows me to send a personal video message to whoever I want. So every time member signs up I send them a message. It's quite fun.
So that's the background to my membership site and a little bit about my launch process. I hope that's been useful. When my launch and beta testing period is over, I can record a follow-up podcast if you'd like that. Just to let you know how things have gone.
So that's it for me today. Before I go I'm obviously going to say please think about signing up for The Lightbulb Academy at thelightbulbacademy.com. At the moment I have space but in a few days, I doubt I will, so get in there quick. Thank you for listening. I hope you'll tune in next week.