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I built a product for newsletter writers with no-code and earned >$35k, AMA

Hi founders! I’m Janel.

I'm a maker, marketer, writer & founder who loves exploring my curiosity. A huge fan of the creator economy, I'm obsessed with newsletters and am addicted to creating new things & optimizing operational workflows using no-code tools.

I created Newsletter Operating System, which I've bootstrapped to over $35k in revenue. It has helped more than 900 newsletter writers start, grow, organize and earn from their newsletters.

I met my co-creator for my second product, Podcast Operating System via a cold DM he sent me on Twitter and we've earned more than $10k in revenue with our product.

When I'm not making my own stuff, I work full-time in tech, helping builders to bring their ideas to life at On Deck's No-Code Fellowship. I also write a weekly newsletter for the curious called BrainPint

Ask me anything, I'm excited to chat!

Do leave comments and questions and I'll answer throughout the day.

  1. 5

    I learned a lot from you @Janel months ago. I still learning, thank you for sharing valuable content and pro tips on the categories I love.

    I would like to learn more if there are pro tips on automated curation. Currently working on a directory on a B2B complex industry: supply chain..

    1. 3

      Thanks Mahmoud. In my opinion, Mailbrew is the best tool for automatic curation and I use it for my newsletter SaaS Investing Digest. It pulls information from a myriad of sources including Twitter, Reddit, Google Alerts and more.

      If you want to create something that is high signal there is no running away from hand-curation though. I read a ton of articles and check out many tools before selecting the best for my newsletter.

      For a B2B newsletter it's important to have the latest news so make sure you are following the people / publications that are in the know, and filter the news for accuracy, as well as share tips that are relevant to the industry

  2. 5

    Hey Janel! I'm currently building a newsletter and a repository of tools to help newsletter creators, one question I've been asking to people who run successful newsletters is, how did you get your first 100 subscribers?

    1. 5
      • Shared it with my friends
      • Had a tweet go viral and attached it on the back of that tweet
      • Shared it on Indie Hackers
  3. 5

    Hey Janel. Congrats. Love to see your success :)

    My question is about Newsletter OS.

    Do you see it as an info product with a big sales spike at the start!? Or are you trying to market it every month. And if so... how are you going about that?

    Be interesting to know the sales split from first week / rest of time as well if you're willing to share. Gracias!

    1. 4

      Thank you Harry, the love goes both ways!

      Yes my sales' largest spikes were on:

      • Pre-sale day (Twitter)
      • Launch day (Twitter)
      • Product Hunt launch day

      I'm trying to drop it into places where the conversations veer towards people who are interested in starting, growing and/or monetizing a newsletter. I was very busy in March and my sales suffered because of that.

      My customers seriously have been doing an amazing job at promoting my product, because I get a sale on average a day, even when I don't talk about it.

      Active ways I've promoted it:

      • Wrote threads about newsletters
      • Done AMAs in different paid communities (mostly to give back to them or share about my journey, not so much for self-promotion haha)
      • Have it on my newsletters' landing page
      • I've taken out ads on a few newsletters before
      1. 3

        Hi Janel, thanks for doing this AMA. How were the results from paid ads in newsletters vs the other methods?

        1. 1

          Thanks Kieran!

          Paid ads haven't really performed as well as I'd liked, so I'm cutting down on that and focused on just delivering value in live sessions (for free!) That way, I help share my love for newsletters while sort of growing my audience and giving my product a little bit extra exposure. And even if people don't buy, at least they learn something and hopefully get inspired.

      2. 1

        Interesting! Appreciate such a thoughtful response.

  4. 4

    Hi Janel,

    Congratulations on your amazing journey! Some questions:

    1. What are your thoughts on doing bundles/collabs with other makers who have complimentary products so that you can each benefit from the buzz and the other person's audience?
    2. How much time do you spend on marketing/promoting your product per week?
    3. Do you have any specific ways of encouraging your customers to promote your product?

    Thanks!

    1. 3
      1. I've been thinking about this but the nature of taxation & profit sharing does my head in! It is a good idea though and I know some people who have successfully done it. Are you planning on something like this?

      2. Now I spend about 2h/week on average, between AMA appearances and tweeting about it / sharing about it and fielding emails. When I launched I spent way more time obsessing over copy, landing page and stuff.

      3. I retweet their stuff if they share on Twitter that they've built their newsletter off Newsletter OS. Plus I try to be approachable and supportive of their work & side projects (giving shoutouts in my newsletter). I also try to keep my product updated, for free! This generates goodwill that makes them excited and happy to share.

  5. 4

    Hey Janel,

    I've learned a lot from you and had the opportunity to see you grow!

    I initially thought I'd write a tweet thread around how I gained my "first 500 subscribers" but then there are already some awesome posts on Indie Hackers and on Twitter about this.

    That's when I thought it would be beneficial to other newsletter beginners to share my own challenges and how I overcame them to go from 0 to 500 in the form of a short guide.

    When you were just starting out with your newsletter, what kind of resources you thought could have been helpful to accelerate your growth?

    What were your challenges in getting your first 500 or 1000 subscribers (before NewsletterOS launch) for Brain Pint?

    1. 3

      Thanks Vidya, you've been such a huge supporter and I'm grateful.

      Woo love the different challenge framing - way to take a different spin on things!

      What resources would I have liked?

      • Newsletter OS. That's why I built it. A guide / blueprint to help me grow.
      • An understanding of where I can go to promote my newsletter and how to grow my Twitter account (since it IS a driver of newsletter growth)

      My challenges:

      1. Being too scared to actively promote my newsletter. I seriously wrote to 25ish people for 13 weeks before I exploded.
      2. Not knowing how to leverage Twitter & communities to promote my newsletter
      3. Sticking on my first ESP for too long and not wanting to promote my newsletter because I wanted to change ESPs and was afraid I'd lose people when I switched! After going through the switch, I would say it's really not a big deal if you're under 1k subscribers, so don't worry too much about ESPs.
      1. 3

        Thank you so much! These are very helpful.

        I totally second the 'being scared to promote' part.

        Thanks for sharing your insights with us. So much to learn from you :)

        1. 2

          Thank you for sharing yours too, have loved watching you grow and share belief capital with others too!

  6. 3

    Daang Janel, that's a lot!
    Congrats.

    1. 1

      Thanks Michael! Appreciate your help, support and friendship these past few months!

  7. 3

    Hi Janel!

    Big Congratulations!🥂

    What observations have you noticed through building tools to support other creators that might surprise us?

    1. 3

      Hey Daniel! Thanks for coming onto Indie Hackers to ask this question! I love it.

      Three things.

      1. I used to think that my product was tailored more towards beginner-intermediate level writers, and that advanced newsletter writers (with huge 5-figure audiences or advanced writing expertise) would not find value in it. I was wrong. Products created by "the little creator" can be useful for "bigger creators". In Newsletter OS' case, it was the "getting organized" aspect that was a huge draw for the more advanced newsletter writers/

      2. You don't need to be an expert in a niche in order to be able to create products to support other creators. You do need some level of credibility, and have to exhibit a lot of passion, but you really don't have to be an expert if you have the correct partners. This is the case for me when I co-created Podcast OS with Josh.

      3. My third observation is an insight I've gotten from my job at On Deck No-Code and my interactions with various communities including Indie Hackers. Creators want community. There are many brilliant minds who are amazing at creating stuff, but they can truly accelerate their journeys when they make connections with others who are doing the same in a positive-sum way.

      1. 2

        This is wonderful. Thank you for sharing your journey with us!

  8. 2

    Hi Janel.. I follow you on Twitter. I’m a big fan / supporter.

    My questions:

    1. If you were to start a NoCode Agency, how would you do it? How would collect your first paying clients? Would you learn NoCode platforms like Webflow or outsource it? Very curious to see how and what you’d do with the idea of starting a NoCode Agency.

    2. What tips do you have on creating a paid newsletter? I have some solid newsletter niche ideas that can be VERY successful but I’m having trouble on getting started. The niche? Engineering leadership advice, targeted at EMs and heads of engineering. Can you please help me? I know this can be successful. Any advice, reference links would be greatly appreciated.

    1. 1

      Hey there! Thank you!

      1. I would first do no-code work on my own as a freelancer and figure out what kind of clients I enjoy working with, and want to target. I would also niche down on a few tools to begin with. It's not fun to be a no-code agency specializing in everything... because everything is boring.

      I would become embedded in no-code communities (there is a LOT of work floating around in the communities I'm in, like On Deck No-Code). I would create a good portfolio of projects to show what I'm good at, and set up an intro call to explain how I can add value to someone's project.

      The way I roll personally means I'd like to learn at least the basics of any tool / service I would offer, then I might find people who are subject matter experts in different areas / tool and bring them onboard. I'm not into 100% outsourcing. (But this is all hypothetical anyway as I don't have a no-code agency and neither do I have plans to run one)

      1. I would first build a free list and grow it by creating tremendous value, then try to convert some of the free subscribers to paid. To be successful in any niche, you need credibility + visibility. Start building that + an audience in that niche first before you think of a paid newsletter! This is just one way of doing it.

      Another way is to try to get subscribers through paid acquisition but that requires heavy investment. I prefer the long + value-add route.

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