An Engineer's Guide to your First 10 Sponsors
- General Strategy
- How to set up GitHub sponsors
- How to write your product tiers
- How to get your first sponsor
- How to get sponsors 2-5
- How to get Sponsors 6-10
- Corporate Sponsors
Epistemic Status: Draft, work-in-progress. Notes for myself and others. I’m writing this in an attempt to capture information while it’s fresh on my mind. There’s a lot of opinion in here, and I don’t have time to add the great deal of qualifying statements I would normally add, so please accept this as a general disclaimer.
I set up my GitHub Sponsors page a few weeks ago. March 8th, it looks like, according to some emails I sent. I’m writing these words April 14th, when I’m at 21 sponsors and ~$1300 in monthly sponsorship.
I feel like I got pretty lucky with the $1000 sponsorship. It’s very bespoke and specific. For the purposes of this guide, lets aim for a few hundred dollars/mo from small sponsorships. (between $1 and $150/mo)
General Strategy #
I’ve got a background in B2B SaaS companies, and I’ve sat on customer-facing teams (Sales, support, customer success).
I think most software developers (myself included), despite all of their training and technical knowledge, are a little under-powered in two ways:
- Recognizing the ways that they bring value to the world
- Asking for others to compensate them for that value
This post isn’t about resolving the first item. Hopefully you realize that you’ve got technical skills. If you don’t think you do, you’re wrong, and you do. More on that at another point in time.
Lets unpack number 2. Here’s what we’re going to talk about:
- How to set up your GitHub sponsors account
- Talk about how to write your product tiers
- How to get your first sponsor
- How to get sponsors 2-5
- How to get sponsors 6-10
How to set up GitHub sponsors #
- Head to https://github.com/sponsors and click
How to write your product tiers #
- When you get the setting of choosing to display
dollars per month of incomeor
total numbers of sponsors, choose the former. (I warned earlier that this is an opinionated guide…)
- When you are choosing tiers, Have at minimum three tiers:
medium. For example: $1-2, ~$15, $100. Feel free to base your copy off my tiers, or copy-paste from mine: https://github.com/sponsors/josh-works.
- I’d strongly consider adding a “very large” tier, to help anchor the other tiers.
For example, we’re all software developers. Companies routinely pay north of $10,000 USD PER MONTH for the privilege of employing a single software developer. I suggest having a tier of at least a few thousand dollars, for nothing else but the purpose of recognizing that you’re worth many thousands of dollars a month. If you’re not sure/convinced of this, please take a few minutes to read Patrick McKenzie’s famous piece on salary negotiation.
How to get your first sponsor #
If you’re following this guide, PLEASE LET ME KNOW WHEN YOU HAVE YOUR SPONSORSHIP ACCOUNT SET UP! (Leave a comment below, and I’ll sponsor you ASAP!)
I’d be honored and thrilled to be your first sponsor. This is why a small minimum tier matters. At $1 or $2/month, I can sponsor a nearly unlimited number of people. At $50/mo, I cannot sponsor very many people.
Now you have your first sponsor. It’ll be me, unless you send it to a friend first, and then I’ll be your second.
How to get sponsors 2-5 #
Once you have your first sponsor (or before then) create a new email to a few people that know you well, and who are “in your corner”. Say something like:
Hi there! I’m working on making money via open-source contributions on GitHub Sponsors. My primary goal is to deliver so much value to some people that it makes sense for them to pay me hundreds of dollars.
To do that, I need some public evidence of competence and support. A sponsors page with only one or two sponsors is kinda… sad. It’s like a big room thats empty. It doesn’t look right.
You, the recipient of this email, know me, and you want me to be successful. I’m asking a favor that’s a little uncomfortable. Will you sponsor me at $1/mo? You showing this public support will help me get after the larger/”corporate” sponsors I’m aiming for.
To sponsor me, head here: https://github.com/sponsors/your-github-username
It’ll cost $1/mo. It’ll mean so much more to me than $1/month.
PS I know you’re busy. I’ll float this up your inbox in a few days!
Here’s the first message I sent to my friend, who immediately sponsored me:
I sent this via Signal. Some of the sponsorships I picked up via Slack messages. Some were email. Some were Twitter DMs. However you communicate with your friends, communicate with them. Ask for $1.
Sales (that’s what this is, by the way. Sales) is really hard. I’ve done sales for prior jobs, and I still find this to be very difficult.
I was able to get sponsorships from people I reached out to, because I’ve got strong friendships with these people. Every sponsor I have, I know exceedingly well. They’re in my corner.
More examples of how I got my sponsors #
I always like to see exactly how others do what they do. My first few “requests” also had a request - not to sponsor me, but to review the copy on my page, to help me fix typos, make sure the “tone” was friendly, and more.
I sent it to a few friends who have sharp eyes, and each of them reviewed the page, made suggestions/comments, and started sponsoring me.
I was not being duplicitous. I truly wanted their eyes on the copy. But a down-stream effect of having good copy was picking up the sponsorships. Many of my friends would give me a beer without asking for a refund, and a good beer might be $5-7. That’s 7 months of sponsorship at the lowest tier.
2nd sponsor #
3rd sponsor #
4th sponsor #
5th sponsor #
How to get Sponsors 6-10 #
Rinse and repeat. Once you have five sponsors, go get another 5.
If you’d like to see more examples of how I got the sponsorships, leave a comment below (and open up your own sponsorship account, so I can sponsor you!)
I got a few sponsorships at the $1/mo level, and a few at the $14/mo level. The $1/mo level is so low I’m comfortable asking nearly anyone for it. I added the $14/mo because… well, it’s the cost of a friend buying us both a beer or an inexpensive lunch. It’s not nothing, but it’s not super expensive, and very quickly turns into real money.
Corporate Sponsors #
Once you’ve got ten sponsors, it’s time to start thinking about corporate sponsorships. Those are (in my mind) any amount above $100/mo.
They don’t have to come from corporations, per se, but the use case you should target is “solve business problems”.
I think a lot about $100/mo expenses that I spend money on. $100 is meaningful money to me. It’s irrelevant to companies, so you’re going to have to think differently about landing larger sponsors than the small ones.
I’m still thinking on this, don’t have it perfectly sorted out, so I’ll end the document here, for now.
Questions/comments? Leave a comment below!