19. October 2020Comments are off for this post.

Takeaways from building and growing a (profitable) newsletter to 500 subscribers

Two weeks ago, the first week of October, I reached an incredible milestone: Creativerly now has over 500 subscribers. Over 500 people who are interested in weekly creativity and productivity-boost. Over 500 people who are willingly signed up for this newsletter to consume the content I create and curate. Not gonna lie, this is an amazing feeling. I am thankful for every single subscriber, for every single email I get from you, and for every single Coffee, I got send (your support means the world to me).

Read on for a little story about how everything started, what I have learned so far, and why my newsletter is already profitable.

The beginning of Creativerly.

I started back in January 2019, the first 100 subscribers took me 14 months. I went from 100 to 200 within 5 months From 200 to 300 it took me 3 months. 300 to 500 happened within the last two months. So, Creativerly is growing, and I am extremely happy about that. Of course, there are people who grow much faster. Most of the time that growth is based on an already existing network/following/community, spending money on loads of ads, doing growth hacks, or spending the most time of your day on different marketing measures.

Growing without a network.

When I started, I basically had no network. No following. No community I could ping. No money to spend on ads. No idea about growth hacking (I still think this term has something bad to it), and since Creativerly always has been (and still is) a side-project, I also had no time to focus on marketing measures the whole day. Whenever I had an idea to push Creativerly with the intention to deliver value, and not just the sake of gaining subscribers, I created content and shared it across social networks. It is great to see Creativerly is growing faster, whenever my content evolves.

Since starting this newsletter I learned a lot. A lot I want to share with you, since this was always one of my main goals when I started to write my newsletter. Sharing my insights, experiences, and learnings with my audience. Here are some takeaways from writing a newsletter consistently for nearly 2 years:

You probably heard it a lot, but consistency is key.

Build up a habit, you do not have to start with a daily or weekly writing habit straight away. Start with monthly, then bi-weekly (every two weeks), weekly, and so on. Also, this depends straight on your content. For me, as I am doing a mixture of long-form writing and curation, the weekly format is the best. If you are in a news niche, where you need to put out content fast so it is up-to-date and you want to inform people about the latest news, you could consider creating content on a daily basis (although this is not a must, since there are also news formats, which are doing a recap of everything happened throughout the week).

Focus on delivering value.

There are a lot of people who are currently starting newsletters to make some quick bucks. This is possible, without a doubt, but it shouldn't be your number one intention. You shoul start a newsletter because you have something to write about, because you want to deliver value, share insights, tips, and useful stuff you come across, you are building up an audience, a following, a community, which basically turns into building a brand, and that is of much bigger value, than starting a newsletter just to make money.

Do not get me wrong, I do not want to say, that you should not think about monetisation once you grow (I am doing so right now), that is a legit topic to think about and to keep it a sustainable side-project, you should definitely look into different monetisation strategies. What I mean is that you should not start a newsletter, grow it, and then use just to make money, delivering no value, just ads, affiliate links, which are not of interest for your audience, and most of the time just spam.

The best monetisation strategies are those where you keep delivering great value to your audience, by curating affiliate products, only accepting sponsors of tools and services you personally know about and use on your own.

Let me give you an example.

Best example: Steph Smith's book "Doing Content Right". I preordered it, read it, and was super excited about afterwards, since it delivers such an incredible value, to everyone who is creating content for a newsletter or a blog. Since I know from some of my subscribers, that they are also writing a newsletter, it was a no-brainer for me to share it in one of my issues. In an email I received from Steph, she included a link to become an affiliate for her book. I never was a Gumroad affiliate until Steph introduced me to it. Steph accepted me and provided me with a personal discount code ("philipp20"). So, this was a win-win situation.

I shared the book since it is high-value content for my audience, but I also used the affiliate link from Steph, so I could earn a little commission once someone bought the book through it. On top of that, I was also totally transparent about that, and told my subscribers, that I am using an affiliate link. This way I generate trust, important trust for future sponsors, ads, and affiliate links, because my subscribers can be sure, everytime I recommend them a tool, a service, a book, or anything else, it will provide value to them. Therefore, always focus on delivering value.

(Disclaimer: the above link to Steph Smith's Book is an affiliate link, also you can still use my discount code if you decide to buy the book)

Be active in communities to become an expert of your niche.

If you want to be a curator of a specific niche you need to an expert of that niche. As a curator you need to be active in different communities, show your presence, and filter everything that is going on. Before I started Creativerly, I observed some Facebook Groups, Subreddits, Communities on Slack and Discord, and engaged with a lot of users on Twitter. I came across a lot of designers, who struggled to boost their workflow and productivity by findind the right tool for them. At that time, I was already deeply ankered in the productivity/creativity tool space and I knew what was going on, since I spend a lot of time reading and researching that specific field. On top of that, I am simply a sucker for productivity tools.

Everything started out with recommending tools like Khroma, Dutone, Setapp, Workflowy, to my fellow collegues during my studies. In progressed with recommendations I made in specific Facebook Groups to fellow designers. And ultimately, I was actively writing about creativity and productivity-boosting tools and resources in different communities. I did not realise I already had an audience, by just being active in different communities. But, it finally clicked in January 2019 when I started my weekly newsletter.

Growing slowly does not mean you make somewthing wrong.

You probably may think why my growth was so slow, when I already knew where I need to share my newsletter to gather all the people from the different communities. Well, I simply did not want to rush it. I am not trying to sacrifice my slow growth rate, I am just elaborating on it, and showing to that a slow growth rate is nothing which should stop you from continueing. Retrospectively, I am happy about that "slow-growth", because my newsletter evolved its content with the growing audience. Therefore, I had the chance to get important insights about my audience, and I could connect with them since there were not that many subscribers over a longer period of time. So I learned how to nail the content I created, curated and tailored it bit for bit to my growing audience.

Stay curious, ask questions, slide into DMs.

You want to know how a specific newsletter creator is operating their newsletter? Well, simply ask them. Drop them an email or a DM, and ask the questions you want to know. I made this mistake early on, of just not taking this opportunities and simply ask questions if I wanted to know something. Of course, it might happen that you will not get any answers, but that does not stop you from trying it. And if you get an answer back, it is a win, since anyways you made a new connection. This also implies to being active in communities.

When I started Creativerly I wasn't sure about which ESP I should use, if I need a custom domain and a landing page, where I should promote my newsletter, etc. Guess what I did? I went onto Indie Hackers and asked those specific questions and got help from a lot of creative minds, which I really appreciate. Most of the times, communities are here to help, although there still will be some negative voices. Nevertheless, stay curious, ask questions, learn from the answers.


Creativerly is already profitable

I do not sell ads. Also, I do not have any sponsors for Creativerly. Therefore, you might ask yourself how Creativerly then can be profitable. Well, first of all, let's take a quick look at my total expenses. My domain creativerly.xyz costs me around $11 per year (I use Namecheap whenever I buy a domain). My landing page is made with Carrd using their Pro Standard plan which costs $19 per year. That's it. I do not have any other expenses. That means I have a total of $30 in expenses per year for my newsletter. How do I monetise? As I already mentioned in the "Focus on value" section I use affiliate links. Let's take [Steph Smith's Book "Doing Content Right"]() as an example. So far, I managed to get 16 sales through my affiliate link, which totals to $81,20. That means, just by promoting this one product I am able to pay for my domain and for Carrd. The best thing about affiliate links is the fact, that I can curate it. I can get in contact with tools and services I personally use or admire, and ask them if I can be an affiliate for them. If I ever start doing ads or sponsorships for my newsletter this will also be my main focus when reaching out to possible sponsors. I do not want to promote a product just because they were the highest bidder.

The easiest way to receive support.

My second income channel is a simple Buymeacoffee page. By far the easiest way for supporter to show their love for a newsletter. So far I got 11 supporters, and a total of 22 received coffees. That means, I earned a total of $66 through Buymeacoffee. This feels so incredibly. I still remember when I received the first notification from Buymeacoffee. I was so hyped. That was the first $ earned on the internet (actually, it was $3) everyone is talking about, and I can say without a doubt, it is indeed a magical feeling.

To summarize, I made a total of $147,20 (not recurring) from writing a weekly newsletter for the last 1 1/2 years.

$147,20 I am super proud of. Those are the very first $ I earned from a side-project, which never had the intention to make money. I did start this newsletter in first place to learn, share my experiences, build a habit, doing something creative every week, improve my writing, build a community, and ultimately build up a brand.

I think I am on the right path. Therefore, I can not wait to see what the future has to offer.

Questions?

If you have any questions, remember to just ask. My DMs are always open. Also, I try to be as transparent as possible when it comes to my newsletter. So, if you have any further questions regarding this topic, just drop me an email. I will try my best to answer them.

I am thankful for every single subscriber, reading Creativerly every single week. You are the reason why I just keep going, always trying my best to deliver just the best content.

Be prepared for some announcements coming up really soon. Who will get notified about them first? Of course, subscribers of Creativerly! So, go ahead and subscribe to Creativerly for your weekly creativity and productivity-boost delivered straight to your inbox.

Extra links:

If you want to read some more stories about Creativerly and how I grew it to 500 subscribers, you can check out one of my earliest blog posts: Growing my newsletter to 100 subscribers.


26. October 2019Comments are off for this post.

Growing my newsletter to 100 subscribers – My journey so far.

Anyone who has read my first blog post will notice that I'm a fan of content curation (and curating my newsletter). That is the reason why I am working on my latest project. I introduced it to you in my first blog post. Desingsupplies is a curated resource website for designers and creative minds. Read more in my previous blog post.

Using my newsletter for content curation

This blog post is also about Content Curation. Before I started working on designsupplies, I already curated a weekly newsletter. »Creativerly« is my personal weekly digest. Every Sunday I send an email to currently 40 subscribers. The newsletter is about the design scene, as well as other creative areas. It features apps, tools, resources, books, and more. Moreover, creativerly is about boosting your workflow, your creativity, and productivity. I spend a lot of my free time on Twitter, Product Hunt, Medium, Gadget Overflow, and so on. It is a great feeling gathering all the useful stuff and sent it out to fellow creative folks.

Without doing a lot of marketing, I already had 40 subscribers since the launch eight months ago. Over the past few months, I have not focused on gaining new subscribers. I focused on the content and the look of the newsletter. Overall, I am satisfied with the look and feel of the newsletter now. Therefore, I would like to return to my subscriber target. Four months to go to reach 100 Subscribers. This blog post will focus on the tactics and strategies I use to win new subscribers.

Growing a community around my weekly newsletter

One of the first steps was to be active in the Twitter design community. It's not about leaving any comment on any postings that have a design reference. Moreover, it is about to leave a relevant comment that not only fits the topic, but also provides a certain value. This tactic works well in any social network. I keep hearing that some big accounts are using comment bots on Instagram. They leave generic comments on posts that use certain hashtags. Such comments definitely do not have any special added value.

I focus on social channels, especially Twitter, Reddit, and Indie Hackers. Twitter? The design community is quite strong there. Reddit? There are big subreddits with a constant exchange between designers and creative minds. Indie Hackers? I can inform like-minded makers about the status of my side projects. Some of them may not work for one. For another, they might be the solution to an unsolvable problem.

Likewise, my blog is another measure of subscriber acquisition. It is also a reason to pursue my passion for writing again. On my blog, I will write about my side projects. But, also more general articles on very different topics will find their place. Writing is a creative process. That's why I love it so much to put my thoughts into words. Because that's exactly where I have to pool my creativity. On the one hand, it may be that a blog post gets finished in a few hours. On the other hand, there are also topics that concern me so much that I sit for several days in a blog post. In the end, though, it is a great feeling that I take the time to switch off and concentrate on my written words.

Road to 100 newsletter subscribers

I have set myself the goal of reaching 100 subscribers within a year for the following reasons. With Creativerly, I've created a product that I'm convinced of that definitely one or two creative minds can benefit from. Therefore, I will also post regular updates and insights here on my blog.

My most recent step is the rebranding of my entire project. Until a few days ago, Creativerly was The Creative Abstract. My original access was also quite different compared to now. At the beginning of the project, I had the idea to pack everything I find throughout my week into the newsletter. Hence the name The Creative Abstract. Because it was a summary of the week. In the meantime, however, I place much more value on the content of the newsletter. Both the apps and the blog posts focus on qualitative content.

The newsletter's intention is to provide readers with added value. The apps, tools, resources, blog posts, which are in the newsletter should help the reader, by giving value. I'm always looking for a variety of tools that boost my creativity and productivity. However, when choosing these tools for my newsletter, I make sure that they not only help me but also many other creative minds.

Creating a brand

Another tactic is, that I wanted to create a brand around my newsletter. Therefore, I bought a domain and set up a landing page. I love how easy it is nowadays to create things like this. Namecheap provided me with a domain. The .xyz costs 1.16€ for the first year. After that, the renewal will cost around 11€. A crazy good deal. As a next step, I bought a Pro Standard license from carrd.co. I love carrd as it makes it super simple to create and launch a landing page literally in minutes. With the Pro Standard license, you can publish your site to a custom domain and get a lot of customization features.

What's next?

Now it is time to focus on everything mentioned above. I really want to build a community. So being active on twitter, reddit, and indie hackers is really key for me. Also I want to constantly improve the content of the newsletter. I love working on this project, and it is just a great feeling that there are already 40 people who are enjoying it.

Photo by Stock Photography on Unsplash