0 -> 5000 subscribers in 10 months


12 months ago: started writing in private to "find my voice"
10 months ago: realized best way to improve is to publish
Last week: crossed 5000 subs!

Let's talk:

  • Overcoming cold start: 0 readers!
  • Finding your red pill
  • Best-performing subject lines
  • Monetization potential

First, # subs is a vanity metric without digging deeper:

  • Open rates vary from 33%-50% (more on this later), never done a scrub of inactives but probably should
  • Unsub rate <0.5% (think this is healthy?)
  • Countless new friends!

How do you figure out what to write?

Good advice: sweet spot is the intersection of what you know, what excites you and what others want

However: when you start, it's hard to know what others want! So focus on what you know and what excites you

Optimize for the starting line, which is simply hitting publish

How do you grow from zero?

Experiment with different communities where your content is relevant (e.g., reddit, FB groups, slack)

Relevance >> reach for cold start. When you have 0 audience, hard to crack follower-based channels like Twitter

Organic growth = holy grail, but doesn't kick in until AFTER you have a solid base of engaged readers

How I cracked cold start:

  • First 300 subs from upvoted comments on reddit
  • Next few hundred from FB groups
  • Twitter = great now but took months before I had any reach

Small can make you mighty!

What is your red pill?

What have you uncovered that nobody else is saying?

I enjoy sharing unfiltered POV on navigating PM career, hypergrowth startup and solopreneur life - turns out many people find it refreshing!

Embrace your hard-earned perspective

Your subject line is an invitation to keep reading

Just like a product, you can have an amazing post that goes nowhere because there was no compelling hook

You have 5 seconds to get people's attention. Write a great post, but don't forget your invitation

My best-performing subject lines:

  • How I got a $375K Instagram PM offer
  • Stop being a generalist
  • Why I left a billion-dollar startup
  • I quit my job, here's what I learned
  • What to do when your metrics drop

Be entertaining or practical - ideally both! Choose your verb with care

Perks of being small

  • You can respond to every email and get to know your readers
  • Your readers genuinely like you, and aren't subscribed just because it's "cool"
  • You have little to lose! Experiment freely

If you're not enjoying the journey, why do it at all?

Monetization potential

You don't need a big audience to monetize. I launched a paid product, Product Toolkit when I was ~3500 subscribers and did $22K in 4 weeks!

Key inputs: engaged audience that trusts you x product designed for them

What's next?

  • Turn newsletter archive into a library of resources that's easily filterable
  • Learn SEO to optimize discoverability of each post
  • Launch on Product Hunt
  • Scout out collaborations

If you found this interesting, you can follow my journey on Twitter, and check out the library of resources I'm building.

Happy to take questions and feedback!

  1. 4

    Nice reading, very helpful! Indeed the most challenging part is to crack a cold start and to find relevant topics for your target audience. Can I ask you where did you find content inspirations to write?

    1. 3

      Great question! I mostly follow one rule: what's something I know / have thought about in detail? I aim to write for my former self and have found there are many people in a similar position who appreciate the inside knowledge

      Once you grow an audience, you'll get also topic requests. These are helpful to note down, but I still follow my own instincts. If it's not interesting to me, it's too much of a grind and it shows in the quality

  2. 2

    Congrats! The first of anything -- starting from zero -- is always the hardest part and I'm glad you persevered.

    I'd add 3 tips for subject lines:

    • use numbers to stand out (most subject line are text) -- e.g. the 3 simple ways to speed read. Your first example with the $375k also include numbers.

    • use contrast -- e.g. how this expensive laptop blows up on the first day (expensive stuff should be high quality)

    • short and sweet (most subject lines are lengthy, and people scan their inbox. Having a short subject line attracts their eyeballs)

    I can only imagine more growth for you moving forward!

    1. 1

      This is awesome, noted for the future!

  3. 2

    Huge congrats, impressive milestones. All of this advice is so on point as well, particularly enjoy: "Embrace your hard-earned perspective"

    In your experiments so far, have you tried anything which really didn't work, or avoided doing certain things to avoid killing your passion/enjoyment of working on your newsletter & paid product?

    1. 1

      Great q! Two big lows are: 1. setting a tight deadline for the paid product and having to pull long nights to get it together - made it far less enjoyable but at least got it out the door; and 2. writing articles that I didn't find interesting just because I knew there would be an audience - this may be short-term useful but long-term detrimental

  4. 2

    Linda, awesome post! 🙌

    1. 1

      Aw thank you Maeva! Appreciate your support :)

  5. 2

    This was very helpful!
    Recently started a newsletter and I'm enjoying the writing process very much. I just need to focus on growing steadily at this point.

    1. 1

      Great to hear! Let me know if you have questions :)

  6. 2

    Great start! Is Reddit risky to post? I'm always afraid it could go both ways (well, ok, 3 ways): viral, hate, or indifference.

    1. 3

      Ha great q! Really depends on the subreddit culture. I found more success in answering people's questions and linking to articles for more information. Been surprised by the beehive of activity there

      1. 1

        Any "kinder" subreddits you'd recommend? I've been lurking in webdev lately, trying to help people when I can.

        1. 1

          The ones I’ve used are probably less relevant to you: tried consulting and product management. Entrepreneurs if I have relevant info to share

          You have the right approach though!

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