Weekend Club: Charlie Ward

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Community Name: Weekend Club

Community Leader: Charlie Ward

What is Weekend Club? The weekend co-working club for bootstrappers

Publish Date: February 23, 2021

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What is Weekend Club?

We're focused on bootstrappers and online creators who still have a day job, but work on their side hustle on weekends. Every Saturday we have a co-working session. It starts at 10am with a stand up on what we're working on. Everyone's introduced to their accountability buddy for the day. At lunch, we have an office hours session where we try and help solve each other's problems. And at the end of the day there's a retrospective where we share what we got done. So it adds a bit more structure and accountability, plus makes it more fun than doing it on your own.

How did the community start?

A few years ago I started a monthly meetup in London called IndieBeers, made up of indie hackers and future founders, where we would just go to a pub, have a few drinks, and talk about product. I think meetups are sometimes overengineered - there have to be keynote speakers, catered food and all that stuff, and it's hard to do consistently. So I thought it'd be good to do something every month where we'd just go for some drinks and focus on talking to other people.
About a year in, people started saying, 'Hey, it's nice to go for drinks, but it'd be cool to actually work on projects together.' So we started in a co-working space in London and eventually charged a subscription for that. Obviously, COVID happened in 2020, so we've switched to remote, but that was actually never the plan.

On the transition from offline to online

The first thing I asked myself was, should we even try. But it was turning into a nice community with a good vibe, so I said, 'Let's just see what happens.' It's not that simple to just take everything online; not everything translates well. Some things, like the stand-ups and the retros, worked well because they're very organized events.
There are some advantages to remote that you don't get in person, but there are also drawbacks. One of the advantages is it's easier to split people up into one-on-one video through breakout rooms, which is a bit weird to do in person. You can also get people from around the world to join, rather than just local people.
One thing I found that was difficult was figuring out how to translate unstructured events, which work well in real life - you can just dump a load of people in a room and they'll work out how to enjoy themselves. But if you get 20 people on a Zoom and there's no format, it can be quite awkward. I hadn't really run remote events before, so we had to iterate on it: it turns out that guided discussions and office hours work quite well. People like to bring their challenges and it's quite fun to get involved in helping people out - it's quite self-sustaining.

Leaning into the human side of the community

We do a few things to encourage serendipity and building connections. We don't really have the equivalent of going for a drink after work, but we're going to try out game nights. After our standups, I match everyone in a breakout room with another person - it's a really good way of getting people to meet and get to know each other.
I think it's really important to have channels or themes on your Slack or Discord that are not just about work or your side hustle. We have a memes channel and it's probably one of the most popular. It makes people come back and enjoy their time there; it's not just about the projects you're working on. We also have a channel called #strugglebus where people share projects gone wrong, or talk about things generally not going well, and the comments that folks will make keep it fun.
I think adding the kind of human side to your communities is quite important. But we also use slackbots to help introduce people to each other. Donut was really expensive and more focused on companies, so we actually built our own version of it called Catchup (which should be in the Slack directory soon).

On the business model and being a bootstrapper helping other bootstrappers

We have a subscription for $49 a month. We'll be at about $1,800 MRR by the end of the month. But, you know, living in London, it's not enough to live on, because that's not all profit. So, I've set myself a public goal of getting to $5k MRR and every month I tweet my progress. I used to think that you shouldn't charge people for community, but I realized that I can actually just offer people a lot more. If I do charge, I can spend more time on it, I can pay for different services that improve members' lives. So I think that as long as you're providing lots of value, it's okay.
I have a full-time day job as a UX researcher - I actually just went part-time. Unlike growing an audience or growing a SaaS company, there are potential downsides to growing a community really quickly. If you get 10,000 new people in a month for a newsletter it's usually just purely positive news, but in a community that would mess things up a bit.

On the challenges of running a community

The biggest challenge is just that running a community takes a lot of time. You're constantly talking to your members and figuring out things to help them out.
I think it's worth mentioning that it's very difficult to build communities on your own. I'm grateful to have folks who help me out. And we have hosts that manage different sessions - we have a North American session and a European session, and they help to manage the European one. Shout-out to James McKinven and Abhishek Kumar, and all the people building communities - it's not easy at all.