5 Things I Learned From Getting to 500 Subscribers

I just crossed the 500 subscriber mark for BrainPint, my weekly newsletter for the curious that I’ve been writing for the past 23 weeks.

For the past month, I’ve been growing at ~50 subscribers per week, while the past week I peaked at 80 new subscribers a week!

I’d like to share 5 lessons I’ve learned along the way.

Growth Comes Slow, Then Fast
For 13 weeks I wrote to 25 people (mostly my friends) because I had huge impostor syndrome and didn’t dare to share my work publicly. It was a slow grind.

I had been inspired by @anthilemoon’s article Writing 100 articles in 100 days so I knew that consistency was going to be the most important. Focus on curating or writing high-quality content consistently and the growth will come.

People have been asking me how I’ve grown.

Some quick tips to get to 500:

  • Submit your newsletter to directories
  • Add your newsletter to your profiles on ProductHunt, Twitter, Communities
  • Explore cross-promotions with similar audiences
  • Tweet about your newsletter whenever you release it, tagging anyone you’ve featured

Don’t be afraid to promote yourself if you feel like what you’re writing will help other people!

Landing Pages Are Important
Many newsletter writers don’t have a landing page for their newsletter and directly point potential subscribers to their Substack/Revue sign up pages.

While that alone isn’t too bad, why not try using a Landing Page?

You can use it to:

  • Share what your newsletter is about
  • Tell readers what to expect
  • Track where your readers are coming from (using analytics)
  • Showcase your social proof
  • Highlight your best issues

Say you want to move off Substack/Revue or switch ESPs, you’d have to resubmit all the links you’ve left floating around the Internet again. Sounds like a nightmare? It is. Avoid that by building a stand-alone landing page!

The best thing is that you can set it up within a day. I’ve done mine using Carrd and built it in public. I tweeted about it here

Don’t Be Afraid To Change

I started writing my newsletter on Revue, which is excellent for a curation-style newsletter.

But after a few weeks I felt that it was cramping my style, as I wanted to write longer-form comments and share some images. So I started the hunt for my next Email Service Provider and landed on MailerLite.

Took me a while to read up and make the changes, but now I have full control over my format, my links and it gives me more creative capital.

Benefits of moving off platform and onto custom ESP:

  • Better analytics
  • Ability to set up custom, automated workflows
  • Easier to keep subscriber lists clean
  • Possibility to automate with Integromat in the future

I was a little worried that my Open Rate & Click Through Rates would fall through and my email would end up in spam. But my friend @nicwondering taught me about DKIM/SPF/DMARC and a bunch of other technical things to keep my emails safe!

I clicked send eventually and almost all my readers loved the change. Don't be afraid to switch tactics along the way if what you started with doesn't work for you.

Follow Your Curiosity & Lift Others Up

One of the coolest things about writing a curated newsletter is being able to surface the awesome work of other creators, writers and makers.

I read a lot (150+ articles, 50+ newsletters a week) so I have no lack of content. I typically skim stuff when I read and bookmark the best content to feature weekly.

It’s the best feeling to shine a light on the work of other indie makers and writers, then be thanked by your readers & the people you feature.

By lifting others up, you gain new friends. I’m thankful to have my newsletter as my serendipity vehicle that has brought me new friendships, conversations and opportunities.

Community Matters

Don’t build your newsletter alone. Seek out other people who are building newsletters and collaborate and share tips to grow. It’s not a zero-sum game in the newsletter world.

I’m a member of two newsletter groups, Newsletter Geeks and Newsletter Crew, and like commenting on the Newsletter Crew group here on Indie Hackers. I also have a close circle of friends that I talk to on a daily basis. We share no-holds-barred feedback & useful resources and I’m really thankful for them.

Hope this was useful to you.

This post was less about growth in #, but more about the process as I sometimes feel like we obsess over metrics. At an early stage, learning, relationships and thoughtful reflections are more important.

Click here to subscribe to BrainPint, a curated newsletter with interesting reads, tools & learning resources sent out weekly to help improve your life.

  1. 3

    Great insights!
    Next milestone is 1k subscribers 🚀

    Let's connect?

  2. 2

    Congratulations Janel! Very insightful article. Thank you.

  3. 2

    great work, and a well articulated post, thanks and best wishes👍🏻

    1. 1

      Thanks for these nice words and encouragement!

  4. 2

    Thank you for this. This was exactly what I needed to to get my ass in gear and recreate my landing page. I’m looking forward to your next issue!

    1. 1

      Hey Ryan, all the best with your landing page and thank you for subscribing!

  5. 2

    With regard to adding to your Product Hunt profile, do you mean setting your website to your landing page URL? Or something else?

    1. 2

      It really depends, I have two projects, BrainPint.com and Pheedback.co so sometimes I just write that I'm working on those in my bios.

      1. 1

        I was just curious because I couldn't find a bio field in Product Hunt, I guess the headline? There is that and a single website field - there doesn't seem to be a spot for a longer bio, at least I can't find it :)

        1. 1

          Yeah I meant the headline, oops. That applies to any social media network or community you’re in as well. Find any blank space to tie it to your profile

          1. 1

            Great thank you that helps a lot!

  6. 2

    Thanks for the shoutout to Newsletter Crew! I really appreciate it :) For anyone that runs a newsletter, you need to become a member. You will become a more successful newsletter creator guaranteed.

    1. 1

      Such a wonderful, giving community. Love the discussions

  7. 2

    Great share. Like you style and signed up. Keep it up.

    1. 1

      Thanks for subscribing! Appreciate your kind words

  8. 2

    Congrats on hitting 500! Just subscribed too. 🙌

    These tips are super helpful, thank you for sharing! Have always toyed with the idea of starting a newsletter of some kind, and this is great insight to keep in mind if I do.

    1. 1

      Thank you and definitely do it! You’ll learn so much from writing and build wonderful friendships if you start one.

  9. 2

    Congrats Janel, and really helpful insights 🙌😊

    Keep it up, next milestone is 1000 subscribers 💯

    1. 1

      Thank you Philipp, I love finding cool products on Creativerly, so thanks for helping me curate better newsletters.

  10. 2

    Great tips! Thank you.

    1. 1

      Thanks for your kind words and thank you for Tabler Icons which I've used in my landing page.

  11. 2

    kinda shed a tear while reading this! Very well done Janel!! Super chuffed for you and BrainPint! Here's to the next 500!🍺

    1. 1

      You are the best Nic! Thanks for teaching me all about deliverability! Loving The Slice as always :)

  12. 2

    Congrats! Awesome article too 😊

    1. 2

      Thank you Yaro! You're doing a fantastic job with Newsletter Crew!

  13. 1

    Nice work Janel! I'm closing in on 100 subs for my own newsletter and I love finding out how others who are just getting started have found success. Thanks for sharing!

  14. 1

    What sort of automation are you planning to do with your newsletter?

    1. 1

      Posting & collection of links, but it's not very important at the moment

    1. 1

      Thank you for reading!

  15. 1

    @Janel Congratulations on reaching this milestone! Amazing.

    Thanks for sharing your journey so openly and giving insights for us all to learn from your success.

    1. 1

      Thank you and happy to share!

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