Over the past four years, I have tried to build a vibrant, open, sharing community of folks who love using technology to make stuff. However, this has cost more an I originally budgeted, and I need to find a way to fund the continued operation of these services.
The YouTube channel has over 75k subscribers and over 6 million views. These subscribers represent only a fraction of the people watching the videos. This community forum is approaching 5,000 registered users, and models.makewithtech.com has over 6,000 registered users. I have reached building a community where we learn together.
Now I have a challenge. The MakeWithTech educational resources are expensive to operate. I have been paying for supplies used in videos (manufacturers provide most of the equipment at no cost), video equipment, office space, AWS fees, the hosting of this forum, email services, and outside consultants working on many of these efforts. I need to find a way to fund both the ongoing operation and the continued growth and expansion of these services.
The models.makewithtech.com application memberships are not meeting my expectations. I have refocused the memberships on the models.makewithtech.com site as a way to both gain access to additional features and also a way to support all of the work at MakeWithTech.
As a member of this community, I am very interested in your thoughts about how to support these educational services.
All the best.
People are more willing to pay for something that they can’t get any other way. For example, I pay for quality newspaper subscriptions even though I can get news from other sources for free. However those free sources tend to be more biased and unprofessional.
Unfortunately, in the 3d printing sphere, there are lots of free sources and some of them are pretty good. I’ve never used OnShape, for example, but I hear good things. And then there’s the other relatively free sources, such as Printables, and a few others.
I have one suggestion:
Get to know your current user base a bit better. How many of them just use others’ models? How many start with other models and modify them? How many are willing to learn OpenSCAD? What is missing, from their perspective, from the 3d printing “universe” in terms of content that could make their life easier, more fun, etc.? Basically what are that gaps the could be (hopefully lucratively) filled?
This could be accomplished with a detailed survey, using that google surveys tool (I forget the name).
I personally see the first issue in “marketing”.
I only know about this because of my prior usage of the forum. From watching 3d printing content outside the DrVax bubble I would simply not know about this section at all.
In addition to that the customizer idea is great, but somehow not real world compatible. Not in the way that users are not customizing stuff, but in the way that people usually do not design stuff using OpenSCAD. They use Fusion360, which is already the worst case possible as this also limits the stuff to Windows. Also people need to release their source files and make them properly parametric, which rarely happens.
I can only speak for myself, but I simply use FreeCAD for all of my designs. They are all parametric and I always include the source file. This limits me to upload the files to thingiverse, printables or host them on my own webspace and users are not doing the customizable part, because it involves a CAD software, which is complicated. Even so you just need to change stuff in spreadsheets. I consider those uploads as public cloud backup.
So in most cases people search for stuff on Thingiverse, Prinables and other platforms and at last they search for a model here, when they know about this place. It is the chicken egg issue, just with users and models.
Even so the customizer option is great, it is the feature that limits the whole thing. Since you cannot do high volume competitions like on printables, the motivation to produce something using OpenSCAD is quite limited. OpenSCAD itself is a strange language to use and I say this being a software developer myself. And now this is the main software required by creators to support this platform. The ordinary user would never use this to create stuff. Those users use the geometric kiddyCAD approach and drag and drop boxes around until the get the shape they need. Others use more advanced CAD applications. A programming language is a next to zero option for creators.
In a perfect world every CAD software would have an API to expose parametric data like open SCAD sort of does by being a programming language allowing to define constants at the top of a file. This would allow modifications without “using” the CAD software.
Sorry for not having a suitable solution, but maybe there is something in it to take your stuff to the next level.
How about Patreon?
Since YouTube now monetizes short vids too, from what I have picked up, how about a series of short YouTube vids? So far, I have not seen short decent vids on how to clear a clog, how to level a bed, what is under-extrusion, how should a first layer look and and if it looks wrong, what causes it, etc, sorta 3D printing for dummies. It’s all still overwhelming for a beginner. Most vids are wayyyyy to long for them when they want to solve an issue fast.
The attention span of people in general is getting shorter and shorter. I think short-bursts vids could work well.
There are so many websites and communities and only so much time in a day.
@Pigjes is right, capitalize on the short YouTube videos if you can and work to grow the community in that way.
Regarding “paying” for content such as discussion forums, I just don’t have the expendable funds for something like that. Back in the day I did not do Compuserve because of the associated costs.
There are YouTube creators who use Patreon in addition to other means such as single pay options. You might explore some of those options.
Good day DrVax and forum users. You say "he hosting of this forum, email services, and outside consultants " and my question is why?
Why do you need consultants? After half a century of running my own software company I never found a consultant that was worth anything. Among your users I am sure you can find all the information you require just by asking.
Why are you using outside suppliers for hosting this forum and email service? Is there not a better way? I would be inclined to do it myself. No point in buying a RollsRoyce when all you need is a taxi to take you from A to B.
Is Patreon available for this site? I would contribute monthly? Never did it before so unsure how it works.
Would prefer this to advertising.
Before I was disabled, as a manager, I worked with many consultants in various companies. Same applies to hub. We found them far more driven, punctual, efficient and knowledgeable than most standard employees here in Belgium.
That said, there might be people here who can help indeed, but then they need to know exactly what one is looking for .
What you do is fantastic, wonderful and much appreciated. Other posts, however, correctly point out that there are a lot of people doing similar stuff. Which gets me to thinking that what is needed is a USP (i.e. something you can offer that others can’t or don’t do so well or don’t specialise in). You have mentioned several aspects which maybe could form the springboard for such. It may simply be a matter of collating and building of your knowledge of what others do, what they offer, what they don’t offer, what you do, what you could do, what you could focus on, what people would value … and potentially pay for. You will need sufficient base content to gain and retain people interest, and then the ‘premium’ bits bolted on top that would add real value to users and be worthy of a KoFi / etc. I’m sure you already have a solid view of that … and may not necessarily need consultants for that purpose.
Another option may be sponsorship. Maybe even a tie-in with MatterHackers … as they seem to be a solid favourite. Something like ‘sign up and get 10% off at x, y and z’.
Interestingly, a dear friend of mine has a channel interested in classic cars. He is asking exactly the same questions. Would it help if I were to ask for you two to chat to perhaps share thoughts, ideas ?
I like the idea of a high-quality sponsor(s) for the web site. It could be Matter Hackers (as mentioned), Bambu Labs, a good quality filament company, etc., though there is some concern about impartiality of product reviews.
Personally, I don’t mind seeing ads that are relevant to 3D printing, laser cutters, etc. I don’t want to see scammy/junk ads, though I think my browser plugins would automatically block those anyway.
Maybe you can scale back on some of the costs of running the site as well. For example devote fewer CPU resources. The site will run more slowly, but it’s just a stop gap until the revenue exceeds the expenses.
Some compromises may be needed if you want to keep it running.
So far you seem to have had a “build it and they will come” mindset about the system. Maybe it’s time to not spend so much on the technical development, but rather focus more on promoting it, and cultivating a user base.
Thank you everyone for your valuable inputs. I am spending some time figuring out the most appropriate path forward. Thanks again.
Perhaps you could brainstorm with similar people.
For example. I see a relation between your chanal and the one of Tiger Spreadsheet solutions, who explane Excel on the same way as you do.
I know he has the same (kind of) questions as you have.
He should (could) have the same problems as you and perhaps the solutions you are searching for.