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My Substack Newsletter Just Hit 1,000 Subs — Here’s What I’ve Learned

  • 9 min read

5 months ago, I started from rock bottom. Today, my subscriber numbers are ticking up.

Five months ago, I started my Substack journey with:

  • zero subscribers
  • zero views
  • no idea how the whole newsletter game worked

I started from rock bottom.

Today, I organically hit 1,000 subscribers — without getting my friends, parents, or grandparents to sign up.

Plus, I can watch my subscriber numbers ticking up every single day.

See it for yourself:

Kristina God Substack

Things can change quickly in the list-building game.

Within five months, I’ve transformed my newsletter from zero into a healthy and growing email list and a valuable asset.

If you‘re hot on the heels of starting a Substack newsletter, I want to tell you all about what I’ve learned over the last five months.

Let’s get to it.

Substack is the fastest place to start

There are different places to start a newsletter in 2023. For example, Beehiiv, ConvertKit, Ghost, MailChimp, and Substack.

If you’re starting off, I personally think, Substack is the fastest place to start.

Substack’s business model is easy enough to understand:

“Start a newsletter. Build your community. Make money from subscriptions.”

It’s completely free. There’s low friction. You just get started.

It’s a true newsletter platform that makes it super simple and fun to set up an account, start creating a newsletter, grow it and monetize your content.

Name, category, and description are the foundation

Setting up a Substack newsletter is easy, however, in the first place it was kind of intimidating.

There are so many bits and pieces to muddle through.

The newsletter name

You might think the easiest piece is the name of your newsletter. It’s not.

People think for hours about what to name their new baby…. Well, I didn’t think about it too much or make it complicated.

With the newsletter, I wanted to grow my personal brand, so I decided to call it “Kristina’s Newsletter”.

Some might say that’s a mistake. No one knows what it’s about. It should be more specific.

But there’s also one of Substack’s most successful writers who annually earns more than $1.5M. His personal newsletter is called “Lenny’s Newsletter”.

My lessons learned:

  • If you want to build and grow your own brand, it’s totally okay to go with your name.
  • If you want to build a niche newsletter around a specific topic, give it a catchy name so that there’s no question about what’s it about. “Is My Kid the Asshole?” is a great example.

The newsletter category

To make your newsletter discoverable, it’s super important to select categories such as Technology, Science, Business, Food & Drink, Parenting, and Faith & Spirituality.

The best-performing genres are #Politics and #Culture.

The genres you pick for your publication do help determine where you end up in Substack’s discovery.

So if you would prefer to be visible in a particular category, try putting it first in your category list in your settings.

I chose #Business and then #Education since I couldn’t find another category that would fit better such as #Writing and #Entrepreneurship.

The newsletter description

In addition to the name of the newsletter and the genre(s), the description of your newsletter is important to make it more discoverable in the Substack ecosystem.

When I started my newsletter it was “Medium Blogging & Writing”. With this description, I was soon among the top newsletters in the unofficial category #Writing along with Medium publications like “The Writing Cooperative”.

However, a few weeks ago, I decided to change my description to this:

Kristina God Substack

Why?

I’m multi-passionate and besides being a full-stack marketer, I have multiple part-time income streams.

I love to build in public and share my journey so that others can learn from my mistakes and my experience.

The look and feel of your site is crucial

I pay for several (Substack) newsletters.

Why?

Because I love their clean and well-structured look and feel and the value they are providing.

That’s why the look and feel of my publication is clean and minimalistic too.

I only have three tabs: Home, Archive, and About as recommended by default.

Kristina God’s Substack newsletter

Like my publication homepage, each newsletter is short and concise and includes links to my latest stories, videos, and free resources.

Create original content consistently

I kicked off my newsletter by repurposing a very successful and cynical story called I Write One Article Every Month And Get $2,000 Easily.

But soon I realized I wanted to create original content to add value.

The results: the subscriber curve started to really bend upwards.

My plan was to write consistently and share one newsletter issue per week.

Did I make it?

Well, as a busy working mom with a toddler in the house, it’s not easy for me to keep the newsletter hula hoop spinning.

Because of my family obligations, I also had to take a break around Christmas.

However, I somehow managed to pump out 21 original newsletter issues.

Now I’m on a weekly publishing schedule. I publish every single week at this point.

Kristina God total Substack traffic 2022/2023

Week after week I get more and more traffic to my Substack newsletter.

I recommend always creating original content because it will not only attract new subscribers, it will also keep your existing subscribers engaged and they don’t just sit on your Substack list.

60% open rates thanks to a short and sweet content strategy

My newsletter open rates are pretty good — ranging from 40% to 60%, which is amazing!

Kristina God Substack

In comparison, in marketing, we say that a good email open rate is between 20–30%.

My Substack newsletter is way up above that, which blows my mind.

In comparison, I have a different email list that I host with the email service provider MailChimp. The average open rate is below 40%.

Promote your newsletter on any social

In the stats, I can see where my subscribers are coming from.

About 50 % come through Substack’s network. That’s a new audience that I didn’t have.

But I can’t credit my newsletter growth entirely to Substack’s ecosystem.

First and foremost, I gained new subscribers thanks to my main writing platform, Medium, where I regularly tell high-quality stories.

Followers and readers became subscribers because they knew and trusted me from Medium.

Plus, on YouTube, I publish tutorials about Substack and link to my own Substack newsletter.

Writing on Twitter also helped me to attract new subscribers.

I personally think you should take advantage of any platform (also Facebook groups, Slack groups, Discord channels, or subreddits) you’re using to tell people about your newsletter.

If you’re content is good enough, you’ll feel less like you’re selling it and more like you’re doing someone a favor — especially if you believe what you have to offer will truly help someone.

Network and build relationships with others

Networking is super important on Substack.

Building relationships with other writers and content creators in your niche can help you reach a larger audience and gain new subscribers.

By collaborating with others, you can cross-promote your content and tap into their existing subscriber base.

Here’s an example:

29 publications started recommending my newsletter and I gained 118 subscribers through recommendations.

Kristina God’s Substack newsletter

I collaborate primarily with other Medium writers by cross-posting or recommending their newsletters.

Embrace the HOPE principle

I see many people starting a newsletter, gaining subscribers, and then stopping publishing.

Why?

Because they think they grow too slowly.

That’s a pity.

I embrace the HOPE principle — help one person every day.

I’m happy about every new subscriber who joins my list, maybe even responds to my welcome email and says hello.

It isn’t the number of subscribers that matters, it’s what they represent.

Each and every person who joins your email list is a human being.

Every single human being has a unique personality, dreams, and problems.

When they join your newsletter, they believe that you might be able to help them!

That’s a wonderful feeling that motivates me to keep going.

Giving everything away for free

Another aspect of my growth on Substack is that I’m giving away everything for free.

My Substack newsletter is free. I don’t offer a premium newsletter.

I want my newsletter to hit my subscribers’ inboxes and have them be excited to click to open and read it.

It’s not a salesy newsletter with the purpose of selling my products and services.

It consists of a story plus…

  • links to my 2 best-performing stories of the week
  • links to my free YouTube tutorials and TikTok shorts
  • links to my free eBooks and resources in my Gumroad shop

As one of my subscribers stated:

“You’re giving things away for free and you’re teaching us new things. I trust you faster. I’m buying what you’re “selling” in your newsletter.”

Your turn!

If you want to kickstart your newsletter momentum, Substack is the perfect place for it.

Substack CEO Chris Best says,

“The goal is to allow writers and creators to run their own personal media empire.”

Within five months, I amassed a Substack newsletter with over 1,000 subscribers. I really like the platform and am happy that I’ve discovered it.

I’m sure this newsletter will make a huge difference in my part-time business.

Small email lists can make an impact too!

Slow growth is super cool and healthy.

I know you can do it, and there’s no better time to start than right now.

Your future self will thank you.

What do you think about Substack?


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