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$1,200 ARR — Why You Should Launch Your Substack With Pledges Turned On

  • 7 min read


On going paid on Substack and the social media cloverleaf when writing online.

On Substack, you own your audience — your subscribers.

You could take them with you wherever you like to go.

On Medium and any other social media platforms you only “rent” your followers. In addition, you’re one of hundreds of thousands of writers people pay for.

Plus, the algo giveth. The algo taketh.

On Substack, your subscribers pay you. There is no algorithm. Substack sends your emails right into your subscribers’s inboxes. That’s it.

That’s why Substack is in everybody’s mouth and many (seasoned) Medium writers also start sharing their stories on Substack — even Tim Denning.

But what’s the buzz all about?

In my Substack series, I’m answering questions I received from the Medium community about starting a newsletter on Substack.

Today we want to talk about getting paid on Substack — even if you don’t dare to enable the paid button (yet).

My Substack is free and still, my newsletter is already worth $1,200 to me

The questions number one people ask me when they come across my top-performing milestone video “From Zero to 1,000 Subscribers on Substack” or my Substack series on Medium is:

“Kristina, how do you get paid? Your Substack is free.”

Of course, it’s crucial to get paid for your writing. I’m a fan of giving as much as possible away for free but the idea of Substack is that you can earn a living from writing! That’s what I love.

“But Kristina, why don’t you go paid then?”

When I started my Substack last winter, I wanted to spread my wings and go beyond Medium.

Medium’s ecosystem is wonderful and I love the kind and inspiring community, however, due to the paywall it’s limited to a (small) number of readers.

“Haven’t I read a story from you that Medium is about to reach 1,000,000 paying members, Kristina?”

That’s true. However, as an online writer, my goal is to reach as many people as possible and to amplify my reach. Oftentimes stories perform well outside of Medium. Oftentimes you see an increase in your views if you simply turn off the paywall.

As a marketing expert I know, that amplifying is key.

When I started my career as a marketing and comms consultant, the first thing I learned at Edelman, the largest CommsMarketing firm in the world, was the 3 pillars of success: Paid Media, Owned Media, and Earned Media.

photo credit: BrandSearch

Paid Media — Ads

In social media cloverleaf paid media means traditional ads. I’m not a fan of ads and I don't want to invest in ads (yet). So this is a story for another day and I guess you get it. You’d pay for Facebook ads, being promoted on X or being shown more often on other platforms.

Earned Media — Sharing

That’s what happens if you put pen to paper and start writing in public on the internet. If you inspire, educate, or help others, people gonna share your work with their friends and family. They’ll spread your message organically. Suddenly you see someone sharing your story in a Facebook group, in Substack Notes, or on X.

Owned Media — Substack, Medium

Now let’s talk about owned media. Media you own! This is the pillar of the cloverleaf I love the most because I can control it. If you’re a small business or personal brand it means your (corporate) content on your website, blog, or socials.

Substack and Medium are owned media. You can publish whatever you like (as long as you don’t break any rules) BUT there’s a big BUT if you gain followers that’s nice but you don’t own them.

As mentioned in the introduction, on Substack you do own them.

Every single one…

screenshot dashboard Kristina God

that’s what I love!

The email list is the most valuable asset in any business

In the past people asked how many followers you have. Now they ask how many subscribers you have.

There are influencers on Instagram who tried to monetize their work but learned they couldn’t. People like their photos and reels, but wouldn’t pay for the content they share.

That’s why many influencers also start their own Sustack. To see how many people will follow them and actually pay for their content.

Getting tips here and there is nice.

Kofi Kristina God

Medium also offers to get tips (via PayPal, Ko-Fi or Buy me a Coffee), but the idea of Substack is to earn a recurring income and keep doing what you (and your audience) love.

This vision really is what I like about the platform.

So let’s come back to my free newsletter with 3,000 subs.

Here’s my strategy

I wanted to attract as many people as possible. Show them how valuable my content is so that at some point I’d get paid (and offer a premium newsletter) and they’d follow me.

Substack says on average 3–5% will pay for your work, which is really good — depending on the size of your email list. haha

What gives me an extra confidence Boost is that I already received 14 pledges.

Pledges are a tool for your audience to show you they believe your work is valuable:

pledges from fellow subs Craig Gauvreau and Patricia Ross

Yeah! So lovely!

But there’s more. Substack also shows me the pledged annualized revenue (ARR).

Here’s mine so far:

ARR from Kristina God

Don’t know how to activate pledges?

Simply head to your publication’s Settings page and scroll to the Payments section.

To turn on Pledges, click on the toggle next to “Allow readers to pledge subscriptions”.

allow readers to pledge

Super! Now people can pledge their support.

All you have to do is adapt pricing for monthly, yearly, and founding subscriptions and enter your own minimum.

The standard Substack minimum is $5/month and $50/year.

Mine is 9$/month and $90/year.

You could get paid immediately!

Once you receive several pledges, you can turn on payments and earn recurring income from paid subscriptions.

This way you know whether people would actually pay for your writing or just like it or comment on it.

This is really important.

It encouraged me to offer a paid version of my newsletter till the end of this year.

Here’s what Substack says about pledges and going paid

I am pretty bullish on telling writers to go paid immediately. I love that we have the pledges option available now. That’s a newer thing for us.

For my writers who are very reluctant and hesitant to go paid because they feel like there’s going to be a bigger obligation to their readers, I like that we have this pledges option. And that’s something you can turn on or off. And I tell people if you’re not going to launch with paid turned on, launch with pledges turned on for sure”, shared Christina Loff who is working together with some of Substack’s top writers.

I’ll soon share an interview with Christina with further insights! So stay tuned and feel free to ask your questions in the comments.

Any questions about getting paid on Substack or activating the pledges?

For more about Substack, check out my Substack series:

I also started my “Substack for Beginners series” on YouTube with tutorials:

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