Community Name: Ship 30 for 30
Community Leader: Dickie Bush
What is Ship 30 for 30?: A community that helps you build a writing habit in 30 days.
Publish Date: February 9, 2021
How did Ship 30 for 30 start?
It really stemmed from me solving my own problem. I came into 2020 consuming a lot on the content side, but everything that I heard in podcasts or notes that I took on books would end up buried away in a Notion document. I was doing all of this work and thought that I wanted to start sharing it to unlock the unlimited upside that the internet enables. I made a commitment at the beginning of the year to write one weekly newsletter for a year.
So, nine months in, I had been writing online for a while, but I was struggling to find my voice. I had published 20 or so weekly posts, but I felt like I wasn't exploring enough ideas to really find what I wanted to write about longer term. Plus, I had all of these ideas in my head that were too short for blog posts but too long for tweets.
So I said, 'You know, I want to start writing every day,' and I wanted to publish a daily atomic essay, something around 200 words. But I thought that it was going to be pretty damn hard to write on my own, every day. So I said, 'Let's see if I can spin up a community because I bet there's a lot of people who want to do something similar.'
So I did that. I built a Typeform and a landing page with email capture and had 300 people interested in my group within four days. It was going to be free, but I couldn't manage that many people, so I set the price at $50 for the first one and you got your money back if you completed the program. I wanted a lot of feedback on what worked to understand the right levers to pull for the behavior change, and how to run the community. So we launched with 171 people, which was pretty awesome, and that actually wrapped up yesterday. We had a very large contingent of people finish the challenge, we learned a ton about human psychology and behavior change, as well as about managing communities. The next one is going to start on February 12 - we have 200 people signed up for that one. And we'll see what happens.
What's the experience like of being in the program?
The goal of Ship 30, above all, is to build a daily online habit, where you overcome the friction of sharing your writing. The goal is to write 30 atomic essays in 30 days.
We send slack invites on a Friday and start every cohort on a Monday. Every member of the community is introduced to a comprehensive document on how to build a writing habit. We help people find what we call their 'sacred hours', the topics they're going to write about, and the idea generation and capture workflows that we use.
Everyone joins the Slack channel, introduces themselves, and then we pair them with a community accountability partner. In the next cohort, we're going to put people into groups of four, instead of pairs, to kind of create more group discussion. Inside the Slack channel there's a bunch of different channels for each topic where people just basically spam their essays. This is designed to keep the momentum high. Any day that you're struggling to write, you can pop open that Slack channel and you're gonna see hundreds of others, sharing their work.
We have office hours with some prolific writers, we have weekly Clubhouse sessions riffing on whatever is top of mind for people. We send you email updates every two or three days with practical writing tips, workflows, advice. or motivation. It's really just a factory to create a forcing function for you to write every day for 30 days.
We try to do everything possible for every single person to make it through the challenge. Along the way, you'll improve as a writer, you'll learn to write faster, and you'll learn to think more clearly, but that's a secondary goal. The primary goal is to build a writing habit.
The result is a foundation for future content, where you have lots of ideas out there. You accelerate what we call 'making noise and listening for signals.' You probably don't even know what you want to write about at the beginning. You think you do, until you've done it for six days and you have 24 days left and you're out of ideas. Or maybe those first six days didn't really resonate with you. So, you need to share as many ideas as possible. This helps you get the backlog of ideas out of your head.
On the scale of the community
Our first cohort had 171 members from 17 time zones. We had 31 different sub-channels on everything from self-improvement to crypto to parenting to the creator economy. Every single thing under the sun.
On the principles they've learned
Ship30 is based on the fact that people are intimidated to write because they think they have to share long posts But we start smaller.
Constraints create freedom.
Writing something everyday is hard, but publishing a 200 word essay with a 30 minute time limit, every day for 30 days is a lot easier
Fear is ego in disguise
People think they're afraid to publish ideas online, but they really have an ego problem. They think people care too much what they have to say when in reality, no one cares what you have to say - and that's a good thing!
Focusing on finding your tribe
Writing alone every day is very hard, but writing every day, surrounded by 250 others on the same journey? That's easy.
Put skin in the game to build habits
With Ship30, there's financial accountability. It costs $200 bucks to join now. You don't want to pay that and fail.
On what happens after people complete the 30 days
We start a new community every month. We offer a roll-over option for $79 for everyone who wants to keep the habit. We can bring you on as an alumni mentor where you get to manage a smaller group within the community, take a leadership role, and build a little bit of an audience with people
We also have a exciting project in the works called "Write the Ship," which is live cohort-based writing. We're basically going to teach you the ins and outs of online writing. I partnered with Nicholas Cole, a prolific online writer who wrote a book called The Art and Business of Online Writing. We're going to teach a live cohort on distributing your ideas online and building an audience.
We say that you can't steer a stationary ship, so you got to build the habit through Ship30, but once you're there it's time to "Write the Ship" and keep going.
On growing the community
We've had 407 signups with only 6000 website visits, so clearly something resonates here. We could scale very easily, if we really wanted to, but we want to be intentional about it.
There are some built-in growth loops where you have writers going through the program who then end up writing about the community. Every person become san asset for showing how the community works. We don't want to rush - we want to make sure everyone has a good experience.
On the longer term vision
We're trying to deliver a very valuable community experience for everyone who joins. That's the biggest thing. Eventually, we want to empower over a million writers - that's the long term goal.
On balancing Ship30 with his day job
I work a full time job as a Portfolio Manager at a hedge fund, so that's my 7am to 5pm. This has been a weekend and nights gig, which has bled a little bit into too many nights and too many weekends. But it's been so rewarding and I get to learn so much.