Newsletter Crew October 29, 2020

How I feel 10 weeks after starting a newsletter

Justin Chu @jkchu

I feel a bit disappointed, but also a bit hopeful. Disappointed because I wish I had more traction and growth (only around 40 subscribers so far). Hopeful because I find that I do enjoy creating each weekly issue.

I decided to start a curated newsletter because of two reasons:

  1. I've always wanted to write more, a weekly newsletter was a good excuse to regularly write content.
  2. I'd like to build an audience around indie founders, as one of my long-term goals is to build a business that helps others build successful indie businesses

I shipped my first issue of Small Tech Business on August 28th, 2020 - almost exactly 2 months ago. I shipped it with 0 subscribers 😅. I shared it on IH and I think Reddit and in total it got around 70 views.

It wasn't until my 3rd issue (Sept. 10th) that my newsletter actually landed in someone's inbox. I had 1 subscriber - they opened it and had a couple click-throughs! 💌

Email subscriber growth

Over the next 7 issues I have been able to get my subscriber count to almost 40. I am encouraged that I get over 50% open rate on average and quite a few readers seem to be enjoying the content and they often have multiple opens and clicks.

I have found that sharing my curated newsletter issues via IH or Reddit posts isn't a great idea because forums like IH are already a form of curated content. Instead I have created a Twitter account (@SmallTechBiz) and I only post once a week with each issue. I do tag the authors and creators and that does help grow my audience a bit.

My logic around this is:

  • My posts benefit the authors because it is just helps share their great content.
  • If they choose to like or retweet, then it helps me find my ideal audience because their followers likely want more content like theirs.

I hope I am able to continue to grow my newsletter, as I find I am much more motivated when I get new readers, positive reinforcement is one of the most exciting part of being a creator for me.

I think the main thing I will focus on is managing my time well around this project. In early issues, I would spend around 6-8 hours. As I have gotten more comfortable and focus, I have gotten it down to about 4 hours. It has been a lot easier to refine the process after 10 issues, and I want to continue to do that as it will make it easier for me to continue this project long term.

This was a bit of a brain dump, but thank you for reading!

  1. 5

    Keep going! The habit and finding your voice is more important at this stage than subscribers.

    It took me 6 months to get to 100 subscribers. Then 8 months after that I'm at's the snowball effect.

    1. 1

      Thanks Rosie, really appreciate the encouraging words!

  2. 3

    A few notes to help you convert more subscribers:

    • Simplify your landing page description. you can delete everything after "or". You can delete "a weekly source"
    • Email every single person who is featured, mentioned in each newsletter. send them a link. tweet about them and make sure you send the tweet link to them too.
    • From what I can tell, you tweeted 4 times in all of October. Yet had 4 newsletter editions that are full of stuff to share. share every item over the week after, make sure people know "hey you can sign up to get this in your inbox before i tweet it" or something like that.
    • Analyze the small tech spotlight more. Just mentioning that they exist is not super helpful. What are they doing differently that makes them special? Already I've read two spotlights of companies I know are rather open. If you can't do an interview or analysis, I'm not sure what purpose spotlighting has.
    1. 1

      Thanks for taking the time to write such helpful feedback! I will definitely look into each of your suggestions. I especially like your suggestion around expanding the Small Tech Spotlight so there is always some analysis even if there isn't an interview. Maybe that might make more sense as the main content for each issue - thoughtful analysis and sometimes an interview of an inspiring small tech business.

      Really appreciate the help and suggestions!

      1. 1

        Something that I think is under-utilized: Talk to your subscribers.
        Get on a call with them. And talk with them.

        Reach out 1-on-1 to those you know already, and put a calendly in your newsletter.

        Book 30 minute calls. Find out what they do, who they are, why they subscribed. Why they keep reading. What do they like? What do they love? What do they hate? (ask them about their lives and work, not just their connection to your newsletter)

        At the end of the call, ask them "Who is 1 person I should talk to? Can you put me in touch with them?"

        If you do 10 calls, you'll have 10 more people to talk to after.

        I was averaging about 2 calls a week for the first 2 years of my newsletter.

        I'd skew towards decision makers who might have staff that should also read your newsletter, or investors who have cash to spend on premium subscriptions later if you offer it.

        I had 2 investors both after I was on a call with them, purchase my yearly subscription within 24 hours.

  3. 3

    Don't get discouraged, I still have 66 subscribers after 40 issues. But I enjoy doing the newsletter and I think it has long-term potential.

    Growth is hard.

    1. 1

      Thank you, Paolo! No kidding about growth being hard, really makes me respect successful founders/newsletters that much more.

  4. 1

    keep going friend!

  5. 1

    Yup it's tough, I just cracked 50 subs after 25 weeks for Lean Code Weekly. Keep trying new ways to talk about the newsletter, eventually you'll find something that works great for your audience!

  6. 1

    You're killing it! What's your next milestone and how can we help?

    1. 1

      Thank you, really appreciate the kind words. Hmm..getting to 100 subscribers is probably my next milestone, but honestly just looking to have some steady growth.

      Would love any feedback/suggestions on what I could do better especially around the quality of the content.

      1. 1

        Sure thing. What in particular do you need support? Happy to assist

        1. 1

          I think there are two main things I am hoping to figure out:

          1. Ideas for growth for a curated newsletter that don't feel too forced. I've posted my newsletter in a lot of newsletter directories and I do some outreach/posting on Twitter (@AndrewKamphey gave me some nice suggestions above as well). I would love to hear other strategies that might work!

          2. Would love to just get more feedback on what parts of my newsletter content is interesting/valuable to people and what types of content would people like to see added.

          Appreciate you taking the time to help! 🙏

  7. 1

    good luck, starting out is the hard part. You have a good concept, I really like the "Small Tech Spotlight" part of the newsletter.

    Also, I do think you should share your newsletter on IH, even if it's curated content, I found a lot of newsletter this way.

    1. 1

      Thank you, Monique. I really appreciate the feedback!

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