...more like, counterintuitive lessons I wish I knew when I started this journey.

The timing was crazy.

Right before I sent out the 77th weekly edition of my Growth Currency newsletter — I hit 2,000 subscribers.

It was fitting, too: my first edition went out January 19th, 2021. And hit 2,000 on July 18th, 2022 18 months to the day (basically).

What began as a little Substack writing experiment has now turned into a small business side hustle. One that’s taught me a lot, helped me teach a lot, and brought in over $5,000 in direct & indirect revenue.

And all I did was promise myself to write 100 editions before quitting. Piece of cake, right? Hah.

Here’s a non-exhaustive list of counterintuitive things I’ve learned from this journey to 2k subscribers.

Note: this is not a growth playbook. There are no growth hacks here. Instead, I’m sharing some unique lessons and observations I’ve learned that I wish I had known from the beginning of my newsletter journey.

12 Things from 2k subscribers in 18 months.

1. You don’t have to be everywhere.

90% of my subscribers come from one platform: Twitter.

The newsletter is published on ConvertKit (affiliate). But Twitter is where I build audience and relationships. I knew intense focus on ONE platform would help growth — especially in the beginning.

“If you try chasing two rabbits, you won’t catch any.”

2. If you don’t promote yourself, nobody will.

Self-promotion feels icky. But you have to do it. So consider that what you’re “promoting” is helpful to others. That’s how I approach it. And it’s how I feel less like a used car salesman and more like a helpful tour guide.

“To your right, you’ll find the exact headline used to get an 85% opt-in conversion rate.” (Image by SolStock via Getty Images)

3. Growth is not linear — but it is correlated.

There are boom days, weeks, even months — if you’re lucky (and good).

Then there are periods where getting 10 new subscribers feels like years. But usually it’s because I haven’t been disciplined with promotion. Promotion is powerful & effective. Growth is highly correlated with how much you’re promoting yourself at the early stages.

And it’s crucial until you can get the promotional flywheel spinning.

4. The publishing platform doesn’t matter.

Don’t stress about which newsletter platform to use. It won’t matter at the start. Those are future concerns. The time you’re wasting trying to decide is more valuable than the “right” platform at the start. Every day you’re not collecting subscribers is a wasted opportunity.

Here’s my summary of the top 5 email & newsletter platforms to help you speed up the decision.

5. Consistency is important. But being resilient is critical.

Getting in the habit of being consistent was huge for me. And it wasn’t all that hard to publish a brief, weekly newsletter. What was hard was the slow growth at the beginning. Knowing that I needed to keep a long-term mindset for any chance of newsletter success. That’s why resilience to battle slow growth and feelings of “publishing into the void” is critical — otherwise you will give up. Keep publishing consistently, but a resilient long-term mindset.

Here are 4 ways to be resilient when starting a creative pursuit.

6. Switching platforms is scary, until it isn’t.

I started with Substack. Then switched to ConvertKit 9 months later. I was scared to switch — even though I knew it was in my best interest. But it wasn’t as big of a deal as I made it out to be. I reached out to the ConvertKit team who reassured me it was going to be fine. And it was. More than fine. I increased my open rate by ~15% on my first send.

7. Breaks are necessary — and helpful.

I published a weekly edition for 52 weeks straight before taking a break: 2 weeks off in January after #52. I relaxed, dabbled with other interests, and refocused. And funny enough, after 2 weeks off… I missed publishing. It was a good thing.

Khe Hy's advice to Dickie Bush before Dickie began his newsletter.

8. A website helps. But you don’t need one.

I used Substack as my landing page + newsletter + blog site for 9 months. I grew nearly 1,000 subscribers with it — no buying domains or web hosting, or setting up some headache-of-a-WordPress site. I didn’t get distracted with the unnecessary and grew my list instead.

Now I have a website. But it would have been a waste of time — and major distraction — at the start.

9. A niche helps. But you don’t need one.

Starting a newsletter with a focused topic or niche is ideal.

But I started Growth Currency with nada. Instead I curated interesting resources, tools, articles, videos, and podcasts on a variety of topics I was interested in. Over time, my newsletter morphed into what it is today.

You can get there faster with a niche, but don’t let the lack of a niche stop you from starting altogether.

10. Being engaging, responsive, considerate, and helpful trumps going viral.

There is value in a viral post or two. Don’t get me wrong. But doing the things that don’t scale will deepen your subscribers’ experience with you. More than any viral post. So respond to newsletter replies. Engage with people on Twitter. Send a DM. Help people. I firmly believe these little things that don’t scale will keep a subscriber invested in you longer.

11. A newsletter worked for my ADHD brain when nothing else did.

I quit everything I start. Except my newsletter.

I was diagnosed with ADHD in June 2021. So the quitting made more sense. I believe a newsletter works well for me because of constraints, novelty, deadlines, and incentive. I’d previously started Twitter & IG accounts, blogs, websites, and they all fizzled out. But writing a newsletter stuck.

A newsletter could be the thing that sticks for you, too.

12. Think about monetization from Day 1.

I didn’t consider monetization much at the beginning.

Like, I knew about affiliate sales. But I never considered newsletter ads! Ultimately — directly or indirectly — your newsletter’s goal is to drive revenue. And it’s SO much easier to actually make money with it when you’ve been strategic from the start.

(Here’s how you can reverse engineer newsletter monetization.)

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