Broke 200 Subscribers Last Night

I am trying to celebrate my wins here because getting subscribers in a niche newsletter is HARD. I write about how the world is essentially influenced by chemistry and that how some/most of our hardest and most important problems will also be influenced by chemistry.

I may have a problem of not making my content more accessible to the majority of people, but I also want it to be enjoyable to the professional with deep experience. My audience I think tends to be highly fragmented. I think one post that did quite well for me was about carbon capture since it is in the news with Elon Musk and VCs are pouring money into it.


My goal is ultimately 1000 free subscribes by October 2021 which is potentially possible if I keep my current growth rate. At 1000 free subscribers I might have a better idea of how to monetize and/or see if I can get some sponsors (I've read the posts here about sponsors and they are great).

I am essentially doing 3 jobs with my newsletter for the subscribers.

  1. I read and digest news for them and offer some analysis. This type of job is performed primarily in my Friday Morning emails and I've split up the themes of each Friday to cover different topics (green chemistry and plastics recycling, specialty chemicals, and M&A/funding/finance). This is in an effort to make each Friday email more valuable and editorial to those who only care about a specific topic. An attempt at making the newsletter more long tail.

  2. I educate by attempting to explain one topic in depth and publish this on Tuesdays. The carbon capture piece is an attempt to educate you that even if we can pull CO2 out of the air its going to be a challenge to figure out what to do with it once we have it.

  3. I tell stories, often my own stories about my life and my own struggles. These are the most difficult I think to write, but they tend to resonate more. This writing has typically centered around my experience in being a career chemist to date. I try and write one of these a month.

Anyways, on to my next milestone of 400 (trying to celebrate every 2x). Till then keep newslettering everyone.

  1. 3

    I love how niche and individualistic this is. It feels like everyone's trying to do tech/startup newsletters of some variant, but this chemistry education really stands out.

    1. 1

      Thanks. I think the SaaS and programming newsletters are probably useful if you are trying to do development, but I agree that they appear to be a bit saturated. If we consider our world's most challenging problems they are all eventually related to chemistry I think.

  2. 3

    Congrats! I also write about a very niche topic so I understand your pain. I write about fonts (sometime with a little history of typefaces and handwriting) and design tips to a non-designer audience. The struggle for me is always, how to cut the professional jargon and make it more accessible. If you want to check it out it's at http://fonts.substack.com/. Just checked out Polymerist and I'm a marylander! Keep going, you are doing great!

    1. 2

      I loved the documentary Helvetica. I subscribed. I also remember Steve Jobs was really into fonts too. Keep newslettering.

      1. 1

        Helvetica was nice! Another thing I just thought of is, have you tried instagram ? there are lots of education and chemistry accounts on there. DM on instagram works for me, though it's not scalable. but if you create sharable content, it could work really well.

  3. 2

    Just a quick thought: was thinking that getting soon graduating chemical engineering students / chemists onboard might be a good way of growing. If they see the value during their studying time, they'll surely continue to learn from you as they grow their careers. And could even pay for a premium version later?

    1. 1

      Yeah, I have been attempting to make some in-roads on the undergrads. I need to start campaigning chemistry and ChemE departments are Universities. I gave a talk about what its like to be "practicing chemist" in the chemical industry awhile back. Definitely need to refine it, but this is definitely something I've thought about. Thank you for the suggestion and validation of my thinking.

      1. 1

        They must have mailing lists. Just a mention on those could be great. Probably takes some good ol' networking to get mentioned on those but could be a huge opportunity :) Always happy to help fellow newsletterists.

  4. 2

    Subscribed to it! The carbon capture piece really piqued my interest, and I really like how you dig into the specifics of the science behind different aspect of sustainability in other articles.

    My own team works on writing about the intersection between business, technology, and sustainability, and how we might "indie hack" our way to drive positive environmental outcomes. Happy to have you cross-post a piece as a guest if you'd like! insight.interseed.co

    1. 1

      Hey, yeah definitely interested in a cross-post. Feel free to DM me on twitter @TPolymerist to talk details or email me at [email protected]. Happy to have you cross-promo on mine as well.

  5. 2

    Congratulations and good luck.
    I recently launched a newsletter and I'm stagnating at 30 subscribers, but it's always interesting to read other people's experiences.

    1. 1

      Getting from 0-100 is really hard. 100-200 was harder, but not 0-100 hard. Definitely consider your in-bound funnels that would bring people in. I've found that twitter and LinkedIn are the most useful. I even started a LinkedIn Company Page for the newsletter. I also sometimes post archives to my Medium Publication, but I think Medium is a bit stagnant or really only appeals to tech people.

  6. 1

    Congrats! Such an interesting niche

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