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Circle Editorial Team

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How to create a premium, paid community from scratch in 7 simple steps
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Creating a premium paid community can be tricky, even when you’ve been building your free community for years. But starting your own premium paid community from scratch? Well, that’s a whole other ball game.

You might be worried about convincing people to buy into your premium paid community with no prior experience of it, securing the first group of founding members, or marketing the value of a community that hasn’t even started yet!

Aside from those worries, you may also struggle with the fact that you could be putting all this time, money, and effort into building a premium paid community that doesn’t work out, making it a complete waste of time.

These are very understandable concerns and ones we hear about often, but it’s certainly not impossible to create a successful premium paid community from scratch. In fact, we recently spoke to someone who did just that – and in only a few months!

Our interview with the founder of Swipefiles.co, Corey Haines about how he created a premium paid community from scratch has inspired today’s guide, which will give you all the tips, tricks, and advice you need to get members to pay for your community from the very beginning in 7 simple steps.

Step 1: Find your members

Without members, you have no community. So the first step you need to take for building a premium paid community from scratch is to create a network of possible members. Here are some possible channels you can take advantage of to do so:

  • Social media

Whether you’re active on Tik Tok, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or all four popular social media platforms, it’s time to harness the full power of social media by creating a community – before you create a paid community.

Find similar communities and befriend members, engage in their posts, use similar hashtags, and reach out to people to connect over shared interests. By connecting online, you can build trust with potential paid members for your premium paid community.

  • Newsletters

Having potential members sign up for an informative newsletter can help you build credibility with your audience, give them something of value, and ensure they understand the benefits of learning from you.

You could fill your newsletters with free how-to guides they might find helpful, downloadable checklists they can save, video tutorials, or even invitations for free 1:1 calls with you to connect.

  • Social circle

Reach out to your family and friends to see if anyone might be interested in joining a community like yours. Once they discover that you’re building a community, they’re highly likely to support your endeavors and help get the word out there.

You could even offer them a friends and family discount for participating in your paid community or offer the membership for free for a while, so they can help you get the ball rolling with community engagement and growth.

  • Manual outreach

Do you ever come across people online that you know in your gut would be perfect for your premium paid membership? Don’t just scroll on by; why not reach out personally and see if they’d be interested?

By sending a friendly DM or email, you can help potential members understand the value you can offer them. Maybe even invite them to try out your community for free with a free trial before purchasing. Even if they don’t join, they can help spread the word to other people that may be interested in a community like yours.

  • Website

One of the best ways to secure paid memberships from the very beginning is by making the process of joining easy and the value your premium community offers clear with a compelling sales landing page.

On this landing page, highlight the benefits of joining your premium community, explain price plans, help people understand if the community is the right fit for them, set expectations, communicate your value, and describe your credentials to build trust.

Step 2: Build a founding members group

Once you’re confident that your online network is strong and expansive enough to set your premium community up for success, it’s time to get your founding members or “beta testers” on board to kickstart your community. Here are some critical steps to follow to create your dream founding members group:

  • Conduct interviews

To increase your chances of getting buy-in for your premium community, it’s a good idea to see what people actually want from a community like yours. So don’t be afraid to connect to your network and ask people what communities they’re a part of, why they like it, why they don’t, and what value they get from it. This information will inform your approach.

  • Communicate benefits

Reach out to your network and see who might be interested in becoming a founding member. Explain how they benefit from joining your community from the beginning, leveraging the advantages of the Circle platform itself (no distractions or ads, only people ready to contribute can join).

  • Choose founding members

Gauge interest within your network to see who might want to join as a founding member and create a shortlist. You may have more people than you think who want to help you grow your premium community, so narrow them down based on their level of interest, dedication, and relevant background.

Step 3: Use founding members to build support

Great! You’ve created your founding members (or beta testers) group! These people will help you get the word out about your premium paid community and all it has to offer. So, what next?

  • Set expectations

Make it clear what you expect from founding members from the start to ensure everyone is on the same page and ready to commit to things like posting a specific amount of times, engaging with posts, giving feedback, etc., in return for a free trial, discount, or free membership.

  • Build momentum

Once you’ve acquired some members in your premium paid community, ask your founders to encourage as much interaction as possible by posting questions, replying to new members, offering 1:1 onboarding support, and building momentum by sharing the community with their contacts.

  • Post reviews

If you’ve been building an online community for any length of time, you’ll know how important member testimonials are for increasing community growth, especially with premium paid communities – where the stakes are higher. Ask your founding members to post community screenshots and reviews on their personal channels to help attract new members.

Step 4: Increase member participation

Nothing makes a paid premium community die quicker than a lack of engagement. If your paid members aren’t feeling the love, finding connection, and getting much value out of your community, they’re highly likely to quit paying for a subscription. Here’s how you keep the momentum going with your members:

  • Explain tools

Premium paid communities are still a new concept to many people. So when they’re on your community platform for the first time, they may not know how to engage and interact with others. Message them during the onboarding phase to make sure they know how to use all the communication tools on offer.

  • Set expectations

Community engagement is a team effort and something you can only guarantee if you set clear expectations with your premium members on how much you expect them to engage within the community and what that engagement looks like.

  • Check-in regularly

While it’s important to ward off “buyers’ regret” by checking in during the onboarding stage to ensure your premium members enjoy the platform and have no problems, you also need to check in regularly to ask for feedback and keep your members happy.

  • Post strategically

You might find there’s little to no activity in your premium paid community from time to time. Though this is not the end of the world, it’s important to keep engagement levels high if there’s no activity. So keep an eye on member engagement levels and post or ask others to post if they’re dipping.

Step 5: Create quality spaces

Like with posting content, it’s quality over quantity when it comes to your Circle spaces. By creating too many spaces, your members might have difficulty choosing which one to engage with, whereas with fewer spaces, they’re more engaging and easier to switch between. So, how do you create the perfect spaces for your premium paid community?

  • Research ideas

Check out other premium paid communities and see what works for them in terms of spaces. Ask your members for feedback and survey them to see what kind of spaces they enjoy or feel are missing in your community.

  • Collate similar topics

By grouping similar topics into one space, you can boost engagement, make it easier for members to find the information they’re looking for, and stop any spaces from becoming dead zones.

  • Space examples

As you can see from the example below, you can keep your spaces general enough that members can discuss many topics in one space – rather than segmenting too much and making choosing a space confusing for your members.

  • General
  • Feedback
  • Questions
  • Resources
  • Tips
  • New members

Step 6: Consistently ask for feedback

Whether you’re running a premium paid community or a free one, the key to community growth and member satisfaction is regular check-ins and feedback from your members. A community should be an ever-evolving space that keeps getting better.

  • Create processes

Make it a key part of your community growth and engagement strategy to ask for member feedback regularly. Asking what your members think is the only way you can meet their needs, resolve any issues, and keep improving their experience. You can keep your finger on the member satisfaction pulse through surveys, polls, emails, and group discussions.

  • Set up check ins

There’s nothing quite like a personal check-in with your premium members to show them how much you care about their experience in your paid community. You set up check-ins as frequently as you like to mentor members, answer their questions, and generally see how they’re getting on.

  • Show you listened

After all those check-in calls, surveys, and polls, you want to ensure you’re actually implementing the feedback and showing members that you listen and will take action to enhance their community experience at every opportunity. So let members know anytime you implement new changes to keep the community fresh, vibrant, and cared for.

You see? Creating a premium paid community from scratch is possible!

You’ve reached the end of our 7 steps to creating a premium paid community from scratch. From knowing where to find potential members and building your founding members group to setting up the best spaces and increasing community engagement – we hope you now have the confidence to start putting these steps into motion.

We’d like to thank Corey for the insightful ideas and tips explored in his interview, and can’t wait for the next one!

If you’d like to learn more about successful paid community leader Corey Haines, you can visit his website, Swipefiles.co – a community of marketers and library of marketing and copywriting examples.

Or, you can check out Circle’s other training videos for more inspiration, motivation, and top tips.

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