What is Substack?
Substack is a free newsletter platform where writers can do independent publishing. It is an email newsletter platform where writers get paid for writing from their subscribers.
It is a free content management system (CMS) that allows independent writers to publish newsletters. Substack also allows people to start a paid newsletter with an integrated payment via Stripe. Anyone can start a Substack newsletter and it won’t take money unless you start a paid newsletter irrespective of the number of subscribers you have.
What is the Business Model of Substack?
Substack business model works on a commission basis, which means it takes 10% commission every time you get paid.
In this way, writers don’t have to pay a single penny unless they start making money. Although, there are so many email marketing tools that ask you to pay, no matter whether you are making any money or not. Also, they ask you to pay higher when you have more subscribers.
Substack works in a different way. It doesn’t matter if you have zero or a million subscribers. You only have to pay when you have money.
Benefits of Substack over other Email Marketing Tools
If we compare the other email marketing tools with Substack Newsletters, there are so many advantages here—
- Substack is Completely Free (takes 10% only when you start paid newsletters).
- Easy User Interface
- No need to purchase a separate website for newsletters.
- You can increase as many subscribers as you want without paying extra.
- Easy Monetisation
- All-in-one Newsletter solution.
How many people read newsletters on Substack?
There are millions of readers on Substack in this creator economy.
According to data by SimilarWeb, Substack generated 24.57 million visits in September 2021, up from 18 million in April 2021.
How to Start a Substack Newsletter?
As I mentioned above Substack is a Free Newsletter platform, so creating an account is absolutely free. There are five simple steps to start a free or paid newsletter on Substack which you can follow to make money.
1. Choose a Topic of your Interest
The very first step to starting a free or paid newsletter is to identify your interest. Find out the most fascinating topic on which you really want to write something that your audience would also like.
Make sure that your newsletter would be based on a single topic otherwise, your audience may get confused. Also, remember that the topic must be related to your passion so that you could write as much content as you want. And you will not get out of content ideas.
With Substack Newsletters, you can write anything you love and also make money from it. There are so many people who are making over $1000/month from Substack.
If you are confused about choosing a topic, you can also take some inspiration from others’ ideas. Substack allows people to explore others’ newsletters on its explore page.
Picking your target audience
The right targeted audience is fully dependent on the type of topic you choose. For example, if your interest is business, your targeted audience would be those people who either want to start their business or already doing it.
People who earn through writing
1. The Profile founder Polina Pompliano successfully targeted those people who are interested in reading the biographies of people.
2. Another inspiration, Emily Atkin’s ‘Heated’ (a climate reporter) makes $1000/month with her newsletters.
3. Judd Legum: ‘Popular Information’ – A political news newsletter has tens of thousands of paid subscribers making $100,000 monthly.
We will later discuss this in detail in this article.
2. Create a Free Account on Substack
Now, the next step is to create a free account on Substack. It’s super easy, I’ll tell you how.
Step 1. Sign Up
Go to the Substack Dashboard, and click on Sign Up.
After this, Substack will ask you to add your Twitter account but you can skip this step.
Step 2. Setting Up your Profile
Now, the next step is to set up your profile.
The next step is to name your publication.
Step 3. Import Your Subscriber List
This step is completely optional, if you have already a subscriber list you can import it here. Otherwise, you can go by getting subscribers from Substack itself.
Substack allows you to add subscribers either manually or in CSV format. If you are already using an email marketing tool, you might have the option to export your contact list.
From there, you get your CSV file which you can add from your Substack dashboard.
If you have already written any content on Medium or WordPress, you can import your content from there.
Go to Settings > Click on “Import Posts”
Just write your post URL and confirm the ownership, it will automatically retrieve the data from there.
3. Create your First Newsletter
Congratulations! If you have finished the above details, you are now ready to write your first newsletter.
Go to your dashboard, and click on the Posts.
Write about favourite topic and when once you’re done, just hit the Publish & Send Email or simply Publish on Website. Substack gives you the option of either publishing or publish + send email. You can choose whatever you want.
There is another cool option which Scheduled Post. If you want to write several emails at once, you can simply Schedule your post for later. You can set a particular date and time for it.
Some Additional Features
There are some additional features like you can see the stats of your newsletters. You got a graph where you can see the visitors coming on your Substack website.
On your Settings tab, you can enable paid subscription by adding your Stripe account. It takes only 5 mins to set up an account on Stripe.
When you send your first newsletter, after 24 hours you would be able to see the activities of your subscribers like a number of subscribers received newsletters, open rate, clickability, etc.
Recommended Read: What is the Creator Economy?
4. Market your Substack Newsletter
Once you have created the account and started writing the newsletter, the next step is to do marketing. Marketing is the most important step as most people just skip this step. But if you are skipping this step, your growth may get decrease. Without marketing, it becomes difficult to grow in any sector.
So, here are some ways to promote your newsletter—
1. Join Online Forums to Promote
Don’t just directly insert your links, instead answer some questions and then ask people to see your newsletter.
2. Join Facebook Groups
There are thousands of Facebook groups. You don’t need to join all of them but try to join at least 3-4 groups and start to add values in those groups.
3. Promote on Medium
Medium is also a free blogging site, which you can use to promote your newsletters. You can give a simple CTA at the end of your blog posts.
4. Promote on Social Media Platforms
Social Media Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram can be a great source for you to do marketing.
Simply ask other people if you have started something new, and would they like to join it.
5. Use Facebook Ads
If you have some budget, you can use Facebook ads to promote your Substack Newsletters. Facebook would be a good choice to market your Substack Newsletters because it gives you a wide exposure of audience.
6. Promote Offline
It’s not necessary that if you have created something online, you must have to promote it online. You can also do promotions offline as well. A good example is Morning Brew, which first started promoting its newsletters office in their college. Later, they thought to expand and promote online as well.
So, you can also do the same thing to promote your Substack Newsletter.
5. Making Money on Substack
This step is completely optional. Substack is a free newsletter platform, so if you don’t want to turn on the paid newsletter you can skip this step. Otherwise, keep reading.
Now, if you have turned on the Paid Subscription and added your Stripe Payment option, you are good to go.
If you have successfully sent your first newsletter, it’s time to check the analytics. Substack allows you to see how’s your recent post is doing. You would be able to see the analytics after 24 hours.
On your dashboard, you would be able to see your recent post analytics.
Some Popular and Successful Substack Newsletters
Number of Subscribers – Tens of Thousands
A news organization, built on Substack. Its Editor and CEO Stephen Hayes says it’s now approaching 10,000 paying subscribers, adding up to more than $1 million in annualized revenue.
He also said that building a subscription business with newsletter-focused digital media platform Substack was key.
Initially, when it was launched, it offered a lifetime membership ($1,500). Then added an annual membership ($100). Now, finally introduced a paywall and a monthly membership ($10) less than a month ago.
Its growth is tremendous.
Popular Information by Judd Legum
Number of Subscribers – Tens of Thousands
It is a newsletter based on journalism by Judd Legum. According to Wikipedia, the newsletter organized a protest against companies that donated to politicians supporting particular political causes
This newsletter talks basically about current topics related to politics. Till now, it got over 10,000 subscribers as of 2021.
Number of Subscribers – Thousands of subscribers, $15/month
It’s a business newsletter, that talks about productivity, growth, leadership, writing, and investing.
After spending 7 years at Airbnb, Lenny was thinking to grow and taking her next step. She first started writing on Evernote, later she used to work on Medium.
Finally, she decided to move on Substack because you can build a direct relationship with your audience. She used to promote her Substack newsletter on Twitter and other social media platforms.
Number of Subscribers – Thousands of subscribers, $10/month
This Newsletter was started by Polina, who is an enthusiastic reader. She started her newsletter in 2017 from where she was able to grow her newsletter to thousands of people.
Her readers are usually those people who are interested in learning people’s biographies and improving their personalities.
Number of Subscribers – Thousands of subscribers
This newsletter talks about daily financial news and analysis. Its readers are highly targeted lawyers, investors, business owners, consultants, and others.
As we are seeing the increasing demand for newsletters, a lot of other big players wanted to start their newsletter platforms.
Facebook has also started Bulletin, which is a Substack-like tool for independent writers.
Twitter has recently introduced Revue integration to its platform to support paid newsletters.
So, it would be very interesting to see what is the future of Substack and other newsletter platforms.
What are your thoughts on this? Let us know in the comments below.