Ok this one’s gonna be a liiiiittle bit controversial, but I really, really hope you’ll hear me out. I’m going to share some of the “behind the scenes” 👀 of my community and business, and honestly, I’m a bit nervous. 😨
How it all began
I started the DNG Facebook Community nearly 5 years ago after I had just begun working online as a freelancer. I was doing all sorts of jobs, from translation to social media management, web design to writing.
And I had SO many questions. ALL the questions.
And I’d had enough of being shut down by some bromads in business-related FB Groups (even some I had paid to be in). 🙅♀️
So I decided I would start my own Facebook Group, it would be just for girls 👭 and it would be different. It would be fun, friendly and supportive 💜, and there would be no bullying allowed. 🛑 Ever.
I called it Digital Nomad Girls, invited the girls I had met so far on the road and in coworking spaces – and encouraged them to invite their friends.
I didn’t have a massive plan with this group, none whatsoever actually. 🤷♀️ To be honest, I wasn’t even aware that I was building something here.
But I was.
The girls I invited, they invited their friends. And they invited theirs. 💌 And so we grew, organically and steadily, to nearly 30k members in 5 years. 🤯 That number still blows my mind daily.
We could have grown MUCH faster, in fact, I’m sure we could have 50k, if not 100k members by now. But I’m really strict about who is approved and I remove members that don’t stick to the rules or are mean to others.
Because that’s how I make sure the group stays a safe, supportive and friendly space that isn’t flooded with spam, like so many other FB Groups.
I have a small but mighty team of moderators (my mum included) who help me approve posts and members and keep an eye on everything. It’s a full-time job in its own way. Just not a paid job.
All the free things
Honestly, for the longest time I’ve been hiding behind my community, as if it was an accidental achievement – as if I’d had nothing to do with it. Because I didn’t plan it all in advance.
But I had everything to do with it.
For almost 5 years I have nurtured this community 🤗, created daily content 📲, highlighted & interviewed members 🗣, shared my own lessons 👩🏫, and cheered on my friends and members 🙌 along every step of their nomad & business journeys.
- 🥂 I organised local meetups and then helped members organise their own meetups abroad.
- 📧 I shared jobs & resources, even created a newsletter where we curate all the jobs shared in the group every week.
- 💬 I’ve invited experts to share their knowledge in FB Live Q&As.
- 📅 I run an annual Virtual Advent Calendar with 25 surprises, one for each daily door.
- 📑 I’ve created free workbooks, video series, challenges, checklists. Even pretty desktop wallpapers.
And I love all of these things. I love that I can be creative and come up with fun ideas and try them out.
I have learned so much, I have met so many amazing people, I have grown as a person and become 10x more patient, diplomatic and tolerant in the process.
But I have also done all of this for FREE.
She means business
Through sheer trial and error, determination and passion, I have turned this brand that I “accidentally” created into a business. One that pays my bills.
Because here’s the thing that most people, including most of my FB members, don’t realise: A Facebook Group is not a business. It’s a channel, a platform.
No matter how successful it looks from the outside, none of my 29k+ members pay a cent to be in the group.
I’ve turned DNG into a business by running retreats for my members 🌴 (four so far), by running our paid member’s club, the DNG Inner Circle, which is a Virtual Coworking Community & Social Club 👩💻 🥂 (you should really join > >), and through my brand new course 👩🏫 for aspiring digital nomad girls, Stop Dreaming, Start Packing. 🧳
And while I am now 100% financially supported by this business, it’s taken many years and I’m no way near bringing home that online business holy grail of a six-figure income… yet. 💰
And I’m being honest about that because I want to see more honesty around these topics in online business.
As soon as the coronavirus sh*t really hit the fan I knew I had to step up for my community. I didn’t want anyone to feel lonely or too isolated. I wanted to be there for you. All of you.
So I went into overdrive.
- “I should run free events every month! No, every week! No, better, every day!!!”
- “I will create a free course for everyone!”
- “I will run a 24-hour Zoomathon for charity!” (ok, that I’m still debating, it sounds fun)
Thankfully I stopped myself and decided to “only” run 2 free events every week. I wanted to do more, but I also had to look after my own time 🕑 and mental health 💆♀️ – after all, I’m already running several live events for my paid community every single week.
(If you’re not sure about what virtual coworking is and why it’s so great, I’ve got a whole blog post about it here > >)
So I ran 2 events every Friday. I met new members, we chatted. We played games. They met new people. And we had fun. It was lovely. 🥰
Then it ended. I always invited the girls to join the Inner Circle, in case they were really lonely and needed more support, which most of them said they really needed right now.
Yet, most of them didn’t join. They’d see me next week at the free event, they said. Cool, I said.
But I was also a little sad. I had a weird feeling about it all. 😔
Then, of course, I felt guilty because I’m shouldn’t be in this for the money, I just want to help my community. Just like when I started DNG 5 years ago, right?
So I kept running the free weekly events. But some girls kept postponing – they said they’d come next week. After all, I’m doing them every week, right? Right.
After 6 weeks and 12 free events for my community, I had to take a break. 😫 I’d given up my only call-free day a week to host them, and I was a bit knackered and not even sure what I was doing it for anymore.
And if I’m 100% honest, which I want to be, I was a little disappointed.
Because I thought that some of the girls who joined and loved the free events would also like to join the Inner Circle. They said they were looking for something just like that. Yet, they didn’t join.
Don’t get me wrong, I really love nothing more than running virtual events 💗 (it’s why I started my members’ club!), but I’m also running a business, and I need to earn money. Otherwise, it’s just an expensive hobby. #truthbomb
Then, as chance would have it, I came across a podcast called “How to Handle Baby Birds”, which was about why you should NOT give away all your best content for free, and why it’s not actually serving your audience.
What? It’s not??
I was flabbergasted! 😲 For years I was taught you should give, give, give.
Your best content. Great value, more value. More freebies. Workbooks, challenges, events.
And I did it all. Whenever I felt stuck in my business, I gave away even more.
I mean, 25 days of free content in the DNG Advent Calendar. Hello!?
Because if they like my free stuff, they’ll come and pay me for my paid stuff right?
Well, yes. But also no, not if you give everything for free and then hope someone will pay you.
Then it hit me.
The podcaster was right. I really wasn’t serving my members best. And here’s why.
Why I’ve stopped giving my best stuff away for free
It’s not been an easy decision to make – I’ve thought long and hard about this. But here’s why I stopped giving my best stuff away for free (and why I’m happy with that decision).
1. I’m burning out.
First of all, I’m exhausted. 😖 It takes a lot of energy to run an active and engaged FB group, and keep it happy and engaged. Countless women have told me over the past 5 years that it’s their favourite FB Group by far. Achieving that has taken a lot of time and energy.
And if I burn out from giving more and more for free, I won’t be able to sustain this long-term, which won’t serve my free or paid communities. Or me.
Now, more than ever, I have to put my oxygen mask on first.
2. I want to be a good example
I want to walk the walk and show up for myself in the same way that I do for my business besties. 👭 If they were giving everything away for free, I’d tell them that enough is enough – that they’re offering so much value and creating something special, and they should be paid for that. 💵
So that’s what I want to do for myself. It’s always been super important to me to be as transparent and honest as I possible about my business. Because I know a lot of you are a few steps behind me and I don’t want to be another “guru” 🛑 who sells the dream without showing the ups and downs. 🎢
This is a real business lesson and it deserves to be shared.
And finally, by far the most important reason:
3. I want to give you the absolute best I can
I’ve always tried to go above and beyond to create great experiences 😍, whether that’s at my DNG retreats, in the Inner Circle events, or even in our free Advent Calendar.
It’s the same for the free events I’ve been hosting since coronavirus struck.
But sadly, I wasn’t doing that.
Because what I was offering was a series of unconnected, one-off events. Yes, they were fun, the girls really enjoyed them. But then they went away and never saw the other members they met again. Or they’d show up again next week to a whole new set of people.
That can be fun and a great distraction, but it’s not compatible with my core values, which include creating meaningful experiences for my community.
The difference between these free events and the events that I host for my paid members in the Inner Circle is that the paid members can hang out with each other every week. Or even every day if they like. 😃
I create dozens of different settings and events for them to really get to know each other (from book club 📚 to feedback sessions 🙋♀️, Happy hours 🥂 to Ted Talk nights 🗣, Virtual coworking sessions 👩💻 to crafting hangouts 🧶, and lots more!).
They get to hire each other. Refer each other to clients. Start projects together. Travel together. And, you know, become real friends. 👭 Build a real network.
I simply can’t offer this through free one-off events for the whole 29k+ community on Facebook. It’s not possible and I want to deliver the best I can.
(Let’s not even get started on the Facebook algorithms and the fact that most people weren’t even notified of the weekly free events)
When I launched the DNG Inner Circle, I knew what I was doing. I had a real vision for what this space would be like. And that’s what it has become. A true community, our online family. 🤗 We support each other through ups and downs. We cheer each other on. We’re friends.
A 29k+ member FB Group can’t compete with that.
There’ll still be resources and job posts and FB Lives with experts and all sorts of other fun stuff.
But I won’t be hosting free weekly events anymore. I’m not saying that I will never host free events again, in fact, I’ve always enjoyed hosting free coworking sessions, but that used to be maybe 3-4 times a year. And they served as a sneak-peek into the Inner Circle so you could see how awesome it is.
I know not everyone will agree with me on why I stopped giving away my best stuff for free, and some might even get annoyed. But that’s ok. Because I’m sticking with my values and I choose to show up for my community – and myself – in the right way.