So you want to start a community? | With Lola Gilbert
So you've been eager to start a community of your own. Maybe it's photography based, all around motherhood, lifestyle, your love for tacos ( add me immediately ) or beyond. Starting TBC has been one of the proudest accomplishments of my life, but it doesn't come without growing pains and learning curves.
From the beginning...
When I started really immerse myself into photography back in late 2015, I like many of you , turned to the vast word of internet communities. With hopes of friendship, support , collaboration and lots of dance parties I found much of the opposite. "Communities" filled with competition, cliques, popularity contests, picture perfect lives and a lack of diversity. I remember vividly the first time I posted a picture from my first ever session.
Although there are a million things wrong with this photo, I was on cloud nine. I thought this is it, this is what I want to do. I was met with 100s of comments ( it was a large group ) and 75% of them were comments pointing out what I did wrong, how I could improve, and how these clients were going to hate their photos. I remember crying and really feeling defeated. How could I be so proud of myself and this online community was telling me I was anything but validated in that feeling. I spent the next 6 months still shooting, learning and growing but doing it alone. I didn't really post in an groups, I didn't reach out or have a support system and it was really, really hard.
I have always been a craver of community. I love seeing other people find happiness, support and friendship over common interests and passions. There is something so real and honest about babes putting their hard shit out there and the rest of us saying " That shit sucks, but you're amazing regardless. Turn it into fuel for the impact that you can have on the world. "
and so Babetown was born...
I get the questions all the time " How did you get Babetown Started?" - The truth is, I just did it. It's one of my own personality flaws that I am trying to work on but when I'm passionate about something, I just fucking do it. I'm impulsive in that way. So I made the Facebook group, Instagram account and a makeshift logo and then I added my close photographer babes. It wasn't until about a month later that the website and blog where was born. I quickly decided what my own missions were and where I wanted to take us. I was constantly involved in the group, even when it was only about 50 babes. SHOUT OUT TO THE BABETOWN OGs!
In the beginning, it was a bit of a clusterfuck. I didn't know what I was I doing, I didn't have a plan , and I most certainly didn't know how to create a movement. I did know that any form of unsupportive or close-mindedness was not allowed and quickly removed any of that from the group. I started opening up about my own struggles with mental health, my past in an abusive relationship, being in an LGBT relationship and more. I love listening to those stories and helping babes feel welcome to bring their scars and heart to this place.
How can you learn from my mistakes?
Know what your mission is. Your why is so damn important. How are you different? What makes you and your movement/community stand out. Making a carbon copy of what is already out there will only get you so far. Being authentic in what you want from your community and how you are going to give back to them for doing so is the best policy.
Under promise and over deliver.
This is something you can apply to all aspects of your life but truly when you are thinking about taking on the responsibility of leading a community. Think about managing the hopes, dreams, emotions and personalities of 1000 members, 4000 members, 10,000 members. Don't make promises you can't keep, and when you do fuck up, be honest about it. There is nothing more stank of bullshit than a bullshitter.
Don't do it for the money.
There is no shame in wanting to get paid for all the hard work you put into your work, and trust me , it's a lot of fucking work. However, if that's your number one motivator, you won't get very far. As I am nearly a year into community curating, I can see a money motivated mission from a mile away. Their first instinct isn't to create an environment where their members are supported and set up for success, but purely to exploit them for their weaknesses in a way to make money. Being a community leader that listens, that asks questions, and that truly takes into account the feedback you receive. I am constantly asking our babes what they want, posting polls, sending our surveys ect. Not to took my own horn, but I give a lot of fucks about the babes who are dedicated to curating a safe space, a supportive space and a fun space for other like minded creatives. Do the same. Do better. Make our larger community better. The money comes second to all of that.
give more than you take.
Come from a place of servicing versus selling. What can you GIVE to your community without expecting much from return? I've had to learn a balance of not pitching 24/7 to our babes. It's something that a lot of us fall victim to when we are so excited about what we have to offer. However, it's important that your community knows they can come to you without being pitched to. We have a lot of free resources that we offer, you can get access to a lot of them by signing up for our newsletter! Instead of pitching immediately, think about how can you educate, advise or just be there for your people. Follow the 80/20 rule + try to focus on being super helpful. The rest will happen naturally, I promise.
LET IT GET BIGGER THAN YOU.
As your community grows, it’s important to remember that your job as the leader is to facilitate, not suffocate.
You don’t need to answer every question yourself. You don't need to worry that someone inside of your community might be better at something than you, (I assure you, as your community grows, someone will be).
Even though you're the head babe in charge, please allow other to show up and share their expertise. No one likes a know-it-all, I promise you. Encourage collaboration within your group + create opportunities for people to meet.
You actually WANT people to find each other and network. The beauty of this is that it’s YOUR community that has allowed this connection to be made. People won’t forget that, and they will love being a part of the group because of it.
Let people know what to expect of them. What kind of posts are allowed? Are there going to be prompts? How can they interact? How can they get involved? Where can they find more information? This is where you can set open expectations so new coming members don't feel lost.
Find a support system
Without my team, Babetown wouldn't be thriving. It's as simple as that. I couldn't possibly make a well rounded community or at least give it the best damn shot without help. Check out my Safehouse Recap for more on some of my favorite people who have dedicated their time to TBC. Jamie, Noella and many more give their all to the Babetown mission, and I can't thank them enough.
Get comfortable with the idea of outsourcing, working together with other creative minds, and have immediate babes you can reach out to, brainstorm with and take shots with on the days you feel like it's just not working.
PUT PROCESSES IN PLACE
One of the things that I quickly learned about running an online community alongside my photography business was that if I didn't have processes in place, nothing was ever getting done. Lay out each and every moving part of your business and the steps that go into producing them.
You website is the first thing that your community sees when it comes to your online presence. Make sure it's easy to navigate, has all the moving parts that will make your job easier and is a place that your members WANT to visit. We are just getting ready to launch our NEW website in the next few weeks and working with SquareMuse has been the best decision we have ever made! Check out their templates here, and use code BABEMUSE for 20% off!
Have a team? I strongly suggest Slack for team communication. Get off Facebook and cut down on your email inbox communication. Have a hub for those who are dedicated to seeing your mission grow and thrive on a daily basis.
A place to house all of these workflows, brand information, content calendar and more? We love Trello here at Babetown. I use it to let me know what my daily tasks are, assign some to team members, add documents, organize workshops and more.
Contracts? Questionnaires? PDFs? We LOVE Dubsado. Especially since we got into using multiple contracts for different jobs, sponsorships, media kits, interviews and more. Use code BABETOWN for 20% off!
Let’s not sugarcoat things. The world of online business can be pretty brutal at times.
You could be an expert in your field + have the most epic content. You could sell a life-changing product or service + have a winning personality. But if you don’t have the attention + support of a community of people who know that, get ready for an uphill battle.