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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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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It might be tempting to rapidly grow your email list with paid subscriber acquisition. But make sure you consider these 3 things first.
My Growth Currency⚡ newsletter just added ~1000 subscribers in March. Here's how I—and many others are growing their newsletters faster than ever.