Back on Sunday 19th April 2020, I have sent out my weekly newsletter Creativerly to 100 Subscribers for the very first time. What an incredible feeling. I started to work on Creativerly back in February 2019. Back then I set myself the goal to reach 100 subscribers within 12 months. The goal was ambitious in my eyes, but also possible to manage
Creativerly is a weekly digest about tools and resources, which boosts your creativity and productivity, combined with useful insights, articles, and learnings, from the fields of design and tech. So I built this newsletter for the creative community.
It started off well, and I quickly gained my first 30 subscribers by promoting my newsletter in different Facebook groups which were all around the topic of design. Shortly after I started to tweet about the newsletter. Whenever I have sent out a new issue, I wrote a tweet mentioning all the tools, resources, authors, which I shared in my newsletter. As a result, I have gained some likes, retweets, followers, and also subscribers
At that time I was a long-time lurker of Indie Hackers. I never thought about posting about my newsletter here, since I wasn't sure if it is the right fit, since I mainly read about technical side-projects, like apps, tools, etc. on Indie Hackers. But then I found several people who asked questions about newsletter growth, and therefore I thought I should give it a go. It was great to engage with so many like-minded people, exchanging thoughts about growth, and learning so much new stuff. I decided to buy a domain, set up a landing page (Carrd is a lovely tool) and take things more seriously
I got the tip from several fellow Indie Hackers to start being more active in topic-related communities. So my next tactics were to engage with communities on Reddit. But I did not simply plug my newsletter every time I wrote a comment. I took my time to provide real value with my comment. At the end of my comment, I then wrote something like "I am sharing more of this in my weekly newsletter, you can check the archive right here, to get a taste of it". I did the same on Twitter and LinkedIn, and it was a game-changer. Since I got stuck at around 60 subscribers in the summer of 2019, I quickly gained ~10 new subscribers every month. I have to admit that this, obviously, only worked out when I really spend a lot of my time searching for postings with a lot of engagement and preparing a comment with really great value. Whenever I stopped doing this, I also recognized that I am no longer gaining more followers. Since this newsletter is just my side-project beside my full-time job as a UI Designer, I hadn't the time to use this tactic to constantly grow my subscriber list.
At the beginning of 2020 I had ~80 subscribers and I thought that I could really reach my goal of 100 subscribers within 12 months. But my work kicked in and I couldn't promote the newsletter as much as I wanted to reach my goal. I started to blog about my newsletter back in October 2019 and I saw that I got some traffic from it whenever I published a new blog post, so my Blog was doing its thing without the need to promote it.
At the end of January 2020 I realized that it wouldn't be possible to reach my goal. But it wasn't stressing me out. I was so happy with what I have built constantly within the last 12 months. It was by far one of my most creative and productive year. I have launched a newsletter, started a blog, set up a landing page, built a following and an audience, gained so much good feedback, got featured several times, and learned a lot. I have gained incredible value from starting this side-project. And this is exactly my main reason why I would call myself a side-project enthusiast, it is the most fun way to learn something and build up a knowledge base.
Therefore I was over the moon as I just got the notification about my 100th subscriber last week. The first 100 are hard but definitely doable. I am still promoting my newsletter as much as I can since I think I am providing great value for creative minds. I am still active in different communities, writing blog posts, and sharing my progress just like I do right now. This works out great for me, as I just received 19 new subscribers, within the last two weeks. That is my all-time high and I am incredibly thankful for that
If you want to check out the newsletter you can do that right here by browsing through the archive – quick note: I will move my newsletter from Mailerlite to Substack. Newsletter issue number 61 was the last which got send from Mailerlite. I just like the clean and professional look of Substack, and I am somehow done with those heavily designed newsletters. So if you want to sign-up then you can do that right here: creativerly.substack.com
To summarize things up – What have I learned and what has worked for me in growing my newsletter to 100 subscribers
Be active – try to engage with communities on social media and Indie Hackers, which are touching the same topic as you are.
Provide value - share your progress with like-minded people, tell them about what you have learned. If you took profit form a specific blog post, share it in your community and tell them what you have learned from it, and how it helped you evolving with your project
Write a blog - I was getting just a little amount of subscribers from my blog, but nevertheless start writing a blog. Writing is an incredibly creative process, as you and your project grow, knowing how to write well could be a game-changer
Stay curious - I did not touch this one above, but it is also a tactic that worked out great. Keep asking questions. If you want to know how something works, how somebody achievement something, how somebody managed to get 100 subscribers, just ask them. It will happen that you get no answer, but if you get one, you are able to connect with new people.
Be transparent – People love to know what is going on behind the scenes of a specific project. Being transparent about how you are building your project not only gives value to your audience but also gives you approval of what you are doing.