AMAs November 4, 2019

Hi, I'm Noemi Stauffer. I'm the girl behind Fresh Fonts, a newsletter read by 10k+ people, with a successful paid version. AMA!

Noemi Stauffer @stauffer

Hello Indie Hackers! My name is Noemi Stauffer, I'm an indie founder, a self-taught marketer, a frontend developer and a writer / editor. I am originally from Switzerland, but am currently based in Barcelona. As a part-time digital nomad, I spend months traveling the world every year.

I founded Fresh Fonts in my mom's basement two years ago, which is a curated newsletter sharing the latest and hottest font releases by independent designers and small, little-known type design studios. I have been working on it almost full-time since then.

Growth has been slow but steady, that is until I started offering a free font as a lead magnet a few months ago, and that is when things started exploding! Soon after, I launched a paid version of the newsletter, to bring me MRR.

I also talk openly about being a woman and a lesbian in tech, the emotional rollercoaster that is being a solo founder, and how to create your support squad.

I'll be here on Thursday 14th of November at 6pm Barcelona time (CET). AMA!

  1. 3

    Hey Noemi, free fonts as a lead magnet sounds great.

    The challenge I see is getting in front of hundreds/ thousands of people for it to explode. How did you solve this problem? Any specific forums/ partnerships you looked at?

    1. 3

      Hey Suvansh!

      What worked best for me to get a lot of traffic and visibility was to:
      – Make a minisite for the font / lead magnet (freshfonts.io)
      – Make a project page for it on Behance, redirecting users to the minisite
      – Asking other newsletters in my niche to share the font, linking back to the minisite (each newsletter with at least 20,000+ subscribers)
      – Posting the font on directories of free fonts (Font Squirrel)
      – Writing articles for blogs in my niche featuring the font and linking back to its minisite

      Cheers and good luck with your projects!

      1. 2

        Thanks for the detailed answer, Noemi! It is very helpful.

        If I generalize the growth tactics used by you, then I am looking at an amazing checklist for this tactic :)

        1. Have a landing page to drive subscribers
        2. Post on a forum your target audience is highly active (Behance, Font Squirrel)
        3. Partner with affiliates who have a similar audience
        4. Write guest blogs on publications catering to your audience
        1. 2

          Yup, that's exactly it! :)

  2. 3

    Can you go into the details of how offering a free font has helped explode your newsletter? How much has it exploded, what's the month over month growth? Did you invest any money to achieve this growth? How do you get the word out about your newsletter (other than word of mouth)? What's the best advertising medium for you?

    1. 2

      Sure, so what I did was to share the free font at different places where my target audience (designers) hang out online (always redirecting to the minisite that I made, where they could sign up for my newsletter and download the font at the same time):

      – Behance (I made a project page for the font)
      – Directories of free fonts (Font Squirrel)
      – I asked other newsletters in my niche to share the font, linking back to my website (each newsletter with at least 20,000+ subscribers) and luckily for me, they did :)
      – And I wrote articles for blogs in my niche, featuring the font (Muzli, Smashing Magazine)

      Doing this brought me over 7,000 subscribers in less than six months. I've never paid for advertising so far, but I obviously paid the designer who made the font that I offer as a lead magnet, so that would be the only money that I invested in my growth.

      I hope that answers your questions. Cheers and good luck with your projects!

      1. 1

        Where did you find the designer and what is your ultimate goal for this project?

        1. 1

          I had seen the work of the designer, as I had shared some of his fonts on the newsletter, and I saw on Twitter that he was looking for freelance work, so it was just perfect timing.

          My goal right now is to get to 1000 paid subscribers, so that I could live from this project, and travel the world while doing so :)

          1. 1

            Love the entrepreneurial spirit.

            What does a paid subscriber get that a typical subscriber wouldn't?

            1. 1

              Paid subscribers receive the newsletter more often, with exclusive deals, and special issues entirely dedicated to free / open source fonts: https://www.getrevue.co/profile/freshfonts/members :)

  3. 3

    Hi Noemi! I would be curious to know where is your traffic coming from and what is your average conversion rate.

    1. 2

      Hi Andrea!

      Most of my traffic comes from Behance, Font Squirrel and Smashing Magazine, where I shared the free font that I offer as a lead magnet. My average conversion rate is 11%.

      Cheers and good luck with your projects!

  4. 2

    One more question: how do you approach sponsorships, and when is the right time to try and get them?

    1. 2

      All my sponsors so far reached out to me via the newsletter, as they were already reading it. So I would encourage you to mention in your newsletter how potential advertisers can contact you if they’re interested in sponsoring an issue :)

      There are also a few places where you can submit your newsletter so that potential advertisers can find it:
      – Upstart (http://upstart.me/)
      – Pear (https://www.thepear.co/)

      These didn't really work for me but maybe it's worth a try.
      Hope this helps!

    2. 1

      This comment was deleted a year ago.

  5. 2

    What’s next from 10k ? Do you have bigger goals and how do you intend to get there? Or happy with the way you are progressing with current strategy?

    1. 3

      Hi Paul, these are great questions, happy to answer them :)

      Right now, my goal is to grow the amount of people who pay for the newsletter, from 200 to 1000. This would bring me about $4000 MRR, and would be enough for me to live. This way, I could work on this project full-time.

      I'm pretty sure that what worked to get to 200 paid subscribers won't get me to 1000. These are the things that I hope will take me there:

      1. I recently hired a branding and ux agency to do a solid branding and redesign my website (I had done the current one myself and it's a bit crappy, especially given that my target customers are designers). Note that I will code the website myself to save costs.
      2. I will start paying to promote the newsletter online, which I have never done so far.
      3. As soon as I will have enough financial resources, I will hire staff to take care of writing the newsletter, so that I I can focus on marketing and growth.

      Cheers and good luck with your projects!

      1. 1

        Thanks for the answers. Sounds like a good plan going forward. Having done some paid advertising in the past (but no way an expert) don't underestimate how expensive it can be to test a channel(s) and creatives to find what works. And your conversion funnel but sounds like that's already working for you. 200 paid subscribers is awesome.

  6. 2

    Hey Noemi, thanks for offering to do the AMA and congratulations on the milestones achieved so far.

    I'd like to know the different struggles and solutions you've experienced at different levels of growth to get to 10K subscribers. Marketing changes when you go from 0-10, 11-100, 101-500 and 500+.

    Thanks in advance.

    1. 1

      Hi there,

      In fact, I keep facing a recurring challenge: after a while, what was working to bring me new subscribers no longer does, and growth starts slowing down.

      I got the first 260 subscribers by making a very basic sign up page to test and validate the idea of the newsletter, and then shared it on Designer News. It got me 260 subscribers over a few days, but then they stopped coming in.

      That's when I started sharing the newsletter on Reddit, Facebook groups for designers and Slack communities of designers. It brought me about 600 new subscribers.

      From there, growth was slow but steady until I reached 3'000 subscribers. I think it was fuelled by word of mouth as I did very little marketing efforts over that period.

      Because growth had slowed down, I introduced the free font as a lead magnet, and shared it around (on Behance, Font Squirrel, etc) and growth started exploding. My subscriber base went from 3'000 to 10'000 people over the course of six months.

      I took advantage of this surge and wrote a few articles as a guest editor for blogs in my niche (Muzli, Smashing Magazine).

      Now that I have about 10'000 subscribers, growth started slowing down again. So, I'm working on new strategies to keep growth steady. Mostly, I want to experiment with paid advertising to promote the newsletter, and also, introduce a referral program.

      I hope this helps! Cheers and good luck with your projects

      1. 1

        Sorry for the delayed reply. Thanks for the awesome answer. Very insightful!

        Have you started doing paid ads yet?

  7. 2

    Thank you for hosting an AMA! I am curious about where are you sharing the offer of the free font to get these leads? Are there on your website or different social media platforms ? Do you do paid advertising with them to reach a wider audience?

    1. 1

      Hey Sarita,

      So, these are the places where I shared the free font to get these leads:
      – Behance (I made a project page for the font)
      – I asked other newsletters in my niche to share the font, linking back to my website (each newsletter with at least 20,000+ subscribers) and luckily for me, they did :)
      – Directories of free fonts (Font Squirrel)
      – Articles that I wrote for blogs in my niche featuring the font (mostly Muzli and Smashing Magazine)

      I don't use social media that much, except for Instagram, which is great to share the design work that my readers have done with the free font that I offered them as a lead magnet when signing up, and encourages more people to sign up and download the font.

      Lastly, I haven't tried any paid advertising yet, but I guess it will come as a natural progression.

      Cheers and good luck with your projects!

  8. 2

    Hi Noemi,

    This looks great, I've just subscribed to the newsletter 😀

    I'm working on a project that lets users publish one-page websites via my page builder. Part of that is providing the users with some nice fonts to use in the templates. It's been really difficult trying to find quality fonts that offer server/app licenses for under $600 each. Do you have any tips? I know Google Fonts is free, but their fonts (especially handwriting) are not the greatest. Should I try to strike deals with smaller studios?

    Thank you!

    1. 3

      Hi Andy,

      Yes, I would definitely recommend trying to find a way to collaborate with small type design studios, or even with independent type designers. They are most likely to offer affordable pricing on their fonts in exchange for good visibility.

      If you're interested in quality handwritten fonts, here are a few of my favourites:
      – Pique by Nicole Dotin (https://processtypefoundry.com/fonts/pique/)
      – Lemongrass by Joana Correia (https://novatypefoundry.com/10_lemongrass/)
      – Brushland by Laura Meseguer (https://type-o-tones.com/fonts/brushland)

      Hope this helps!

    2. 0

      Adobe Fonts is great. They offer a very simple license and distribution model.

  9. 1

    +1 I geek out on good fonts but haven't seen/heard of Fresh Fonts before. Subscribed. Good luck Noemi! (:

    1. 1

      Thanks Ankit! I hope you enjoy reading, and your feedback would be really appreciated :)

  10. 1

    Sorry my question is a bit late! I'm wondering if you plan on offering more free fonts in the future? And what led to your decision to create a newsletter about typography in the first place? Thank you!

    1. 2

      That's a good question, I'm not sure yet about commissioning more free fonts.

      How Fresh Fonts started is a bit of a funny story: https://blog.usejournal.com/how-i-grew-my-newsletter-from-0-to-2-000-subscribers-in-a-year-part-1-ddf80c6fba92 :)

  11. 1

    saludos de un español desde berna, suiza.. ;)

    1. 1

      Jaja espero que mi país te trata bien, a pesar del frío... ;)

  12. 1

    Could you share some numbers, for example open rates, click rates? Do you put advertisement on the newsletter? If so, how do you price it?

    1. 1

      Hi Aquiles,

      Sure, so I have two versions of the newsletter:
      – One that is free (10'000 subscribers) with open rate ~45%
      – One that is paid (200 subscribers) with open rate ~85%

      I only put ads on the free version of the newsletter, and only one ad per issue, at the top of the issue. Regarding how to price an ad, I found out that a good benchmark is to charge $30-40 per 1,000 subscribers that your newsletter has. Given my high open rate, I charge $40 per 1,000 subscribers, so 40 x 10 = $400 per ad.

      Cheers and good luck with your projects!

  13. 1

    When you started, where you already known in that niche (ie did you already have traction that could easily lead to a sign up?) if not, what were your very first steps to be known?

    1. 1

      Great question, thanks for asking it :)

      No, actually I wasn't known at all in the design not typography field before starting the newsletter (I come from a business background and have no education in design). I also hardly had followers on social media, so no traction or audience to start with.

      What I did to start gathering an audience for Fresh Fonts was what we often call a "smoke test". I created a very simple sign up page, explaining what the newsletter was about, just to see if people would be interested in signing up. I did it with TinyLetter actually (https://tinyletter.com/) and it was super basic. There was no "example email" to read, as I hadn't sent one yet. I then shared the link to this sign up page on https://www.designernews.co/ and within a couple of days, 260+ people had signed up.

      From there, I had an initial audience of 260 readers, so I thought that I was probably onto something and that the newsletter was worth publishing, after all!

      You can read about how Fresh Fonts started, with early successes, pitfalls and practical tips, over here: https://blog.usejournal.com/how-i-grew-my-newsletter-from-0-to-2-000-subscribers-in-a-year-part-1-ddf80c6fba92

      Hope this helps!

      1. 1

        That is very refreshing to read! I've seen so many people claiming things like '1000 sign ups in just a day', while they have 100k followers on Twitter. I'm glad to hear that perseverance and hard work pay out.

        Thanks for your answers, they are very helpful!

  14. 1

    I'm a type nerd. I haven't heard about Fresh Fonts until now. Subscribed instantly.

    1. 1

      Thanks Min! I hope you enjoy reading, and your feedback would be super appreciated :)

  15. 1

    Any tips on someone who wants to start working remotely?

  16. 1

    Hi Noemi! This is so awesome :) Really looking forward to hearing not only the valuable lessons you've learned from running Fresh Fonts, but also from a fellow LGBTQ+ woman in tech.

    1. 1

      👯‍♀️✌️

  17. 0

    I would like to know more about how you did it and what challenges you face.
    and finally . would you like to come to Morrocco, tangier?

  18. 0

    Hi Noemi,
    thanks for doing this AMA. Is there any alternative way you can be reached?Email maybe? I would have quite a lot of questions since I will be also using Revue...

    Thanks.

    PS: Found your email :)

    1. 3

      Hi Mihec,

      I would prefer it if you could ask me your questions here – this way, it will also benefit the IH community! :)

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