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Step-by-step story of how we built The Remote Clan👨🔧

So, we made a big decision this week - to make Remote Clan an Open Startup. Basically, to openly share all our metrics, etc. But the idea is to not just stop there. I also want to share the thought process behind taking certain decisions. I hope to learn along the way and believe this will help any others who are looking to build a community too.

So, it all started as a side project called Remote Tools - a platform to discover remote-first products. I have already written about it and how it helped us gain 4 customers in a short period of time. Fast-forward about 2 years and we have Remote Clan, which simply put, is a community of/for remote workers.

In this post, I'll walk through the genesis of Remote Clan - the 2-year journey that I just mentioned, where we started as complete novices (as will be evident soon) and learnt on the go. To keep it interesting, I have broken this into two parts. While I have already written the second part, I would love to hear any questions you might have, so that I can also answer those when I send it next week.

With that, I will start off.

Remote Tools version 1 - testing waters

A quick recap of Remote Tools:

  • Started purely as a side project for Flexiple
  • The idea was to attract companies who hired remotely
  • The 1st version was static - we added products and reviewed them ourselves(to keep development work minimal)
1st version of Remote Tools - static repository website

Our launch on Product Hunt (PH) was successful. We got some 1000 upvotes and a ton of traffic. While we did get clients for Flexiple, we also screwed up big time - no mail ids were collected, so we had no audience for our next version. But the generally positive reception pushed us to think of building further, which leads us to version 2.

This is where we first outlined internally that the ultimate goal was to build an engaged community of remote workers. The outline was quite sketchy, but our thought was to build enough traction which would serve as the foundation to build a community on.

Remote Tools version 2 - failed attempt

Many founders had reached out and suggested that we build a platform focusing only on remote-first products. Such products get crowded out in PH and having a separate platform did make sense to us. So, we added the usual suspects - sign-ups, upvotes, comments, forms.

2nd version of Remote Tools - a discovery platform with user engagement features

As you know, we had 0 subscribers. So, we started some outreach. We looked through past/current PH products, those on Betalist, etc. and largely reached out through email or Twitter. The target initially was to get 5-10 products each week.

We (incorrectly) thought that as more products started posting on the platform, we might slowly start to drive traffic. The logic here was that each product maker will advertise their post on social media and that will slowly start to gather momentum - nope. These kinds of 'loops' are great in theory but often work out only once the product already has some traction.

We added elements of engagement on our website - I wrote a separate post about it. It did help, no doubt. But these were incremental improvements. The truth, though, was that people were posting their products and then forgetting about Remote Tools. What do we do now?

Remote Tools version 3 - finding direction

So, just 'tools' wasn't enough to get people's attention, it had to be more. That 'more', we realised had to be a place people came to learn and stay updated about remote working. We had to create high-quality content consistently. Let me explain.

We needed top brands to be associated with us in some manner. So we added a podcast and invited top guys from Gitlab, Invision, FlexJobs, Hubstaff and Scrapinghub. But what about individual remote workers? We started publishing detailed stories of varied remote workers. We also had the top 5 remote tools of the week.

Giving subscribers and content higher priority
Using podcasts and stories to build affiliation with top brands & remote workers

What brought all of the content together was the weekly newsletter. We didn't want it to be a collection of links. So, we handcrafted a mail discussing a new framework, concept or perspective of remote working and then also introduced the other content we had. We even launched a remote work guide that was 8k+ words long. Now we really had something here.

You see quality content around remote work was scarce. So, we had people consistently subscribing to our newsletter. We also launched it across PH, IH, HN and Reddit. Along with my other startup, I built the domain authority of Remote Tools too. So slowly, people started finding us from various sources and our subscriber count started increasing by over a hundred each week. But where do we take this?

On that cliffhanger :P, I will end this week's note. What we did and how that turned out will be covered in the next post!

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