Last week I reached an incredible milestone: Creativerly now has over 500 subscribers (as of writing this we are up to 525). Over 500 people who are interested in a weekly creativity and productivity-boost, over 500 people who are willingly signed up to this newsletter to consume the content I create and curate. Not gonna lie, this is an amazing feeling. I am thankful for every single subscriber, for every single email I get from you, and for every single Coffee, I got send (your support means the world to me).
Read on for a little story about how everything started, what I have learned so far, and why my newsletter is already profitable.
I started back in January 2019, the first 100 subscribers took me 14 months, I went from 100 to 200 within 5 months, from 200 to 300 it took me 3 months, and 300 to 500 happened within the last two months. So, Creativerly is growing, and I am extremely happy about that. Of course, there are people who grow much faster, but most of the time that growth is based on an already existing network/following/community, spending money on loads of ads, doing growth hacks, or spending the most time of your day on different marketing measures. When I started I basically had no network, no following, no community I could ping, no money to spend on ads, no idea about growth hacking (I still think this term has something bad to it), and since Creativerly always has been (and still is) a side-project, I also had no time to focus on marketing measures the whole day. Whenever I had an idea to push Creativerly with the intention to deliver value, and not just the sake of gaining subscribers, I created content and shared it across social networks. It is great to see Creativerly is growing faster, whenever my content evolves.
Since starting this newsletter I learned a lot, a lot I want to share with you, since this was always one of my main goals when I started to write my newsletter, sharing my insights, experiences, and learnings with my audience. Here are some takeaways from writing a newsletter consistently for nearly 2 years:
Build up a habit, you do not have to start with a daily or weekly writing habit straight away. Start with monthly, then bi-weekly (every two weeks), weekly, and so on. Also, this depends straight on your content. For me, as I am doing a mixture of long-form writing and curation, the weekly format is the best. If you are in a news niche, where you need to put out content fast so it is up-to-date and you want to inform people about the latest news, you could consider creating content on a daily basis (although this is not a must, since there are also news formats, which are doing a recap of everything happened throughout the week).
There are a lot of people who are currently starting newsletters to make some quick bucks. This is possible, without a doubt, but it shouldn't be your number one intention. You should start a newsletter because you have something to write about because you want to deliver value, share insights, tips, and useful stuff you come across, you are building up an audience, a following, a community, which basically turns into building a brand, and that is of much bigger value than starting a newsletter just to make money. Do not get me wrong, I do not want to say, that you should not think about monetization once you grow (I am doing so right now), that is a legit topic to think about, and to keep it a sustainable side-project, you should definitely look into different monetization strategies. What I mean is that you should not start a newsletter, grow it, and then use just to make money, delivering no value, just ads, affiliate links, which are not of interest to your audience, and most of the time just spam.
The best monetization strategies are those where you keep delivering great value to your audience, by curating affiliate products, only accepting sponsors of tools and services you personally know about and use on your own.
Best example: Steph Smith's book "Doing Content Right". I preordered it, read it, and was super excited about afterward, since it delivers such an incredible value, to everyone who is creating content for a newsletter or a blog. Since I know from some of my subscribers, that they are also writing a newsletter, it was a no-brainer for me to share it in one of my issues. In an email I received from Steph, she included a link to become an affiliate for her book. I never was a Gumroad affiliate until Steph introduced me to it. Steph accepted me and provided me with a personal discount code ("philipp20"). So, this was a win-win situation. I shared the book since it is high-value content for my audience, but I also used the affiliate link from Steph, so I could earn a little commission once someone bought the book through it. On top of that, I was also totally transparent about that, and told my subscribers, that I am using an affiliate link. This way I generate trust, important trust for future sponsors, ads, and affiliate links because my subscribers can be sure, every time I recommend them a tool, a service, a book, or anything else, it will provide value to them. Therefore, always focus on delivering value.
(Disclaimer: the above link to Steph Smith's Book is an affiliate link, also you can still use my discount code if you decide to buy the book)
If you want to be a curator of a specific niche you need to an expert of that niche. As a curator, you need to be active in different communities, show your presence, and filter everything that is going on. Before I started Creativerly, I observed some Facebook Groups, Subreddits, Communities on Slack and Discord, and engaged with a lot of users on Twitter. I came across a lot of designers, who struggled to boost their workflow and productivity by finding the right tool for them. At that time, I was already deeply ankered in the productivity/creativity tool space and I knew what was going on since I spend a lot of time reading and researching that specific field. On top of that, I am simply a sucker for productivity tools.
Everything started out with recommending tools like Khroma, Dutone, Setapp, Workflowy, to my fellow colleagues during my studies. In progressed with recommendations I made in specific Facebook Groups to fellow designers. And ultimately, I was actively writing about creativity and productivity-boosting tools and resources in different communities. I did not realize I already had an audience, by just being active in different communities. But, it finally clicked in January 2019 when I started my weekly newsletter.
You probably may think why my growth was so slow when I already knew where I need to share my newsletter to gather all the people from the different communities. Well, I simply did not want to rush it. I am not trying to sacrifice my slow growth rate, I am just elaborating on it, and showing that a slow growth rate is nothing that should stop you from continuing. Retrospectively, I am happy about that "slow-growth", because my newsletter evolved its content with the growing audience. Therefore, I had the chance to get important insights about my audience, and I could connect with them since there were not that many subscribers over a longer period of time. So I learned how to nail the content I created, curated, and tailored it bit for bit to my growing audience.
Do you want to know how specific newsletter creators are operating their newsletter? Well, simply ask them. Drop them an email or a DM, and ask the questions you want to know. I made this mistake early on, of just not taking these opportunities and simply ask questions if I wanted to know something. Of course, it might happen that you will not get any answers, but that does not stop you from trying it. And if you get an answer-back, it is a win, since anyways you made a new connection. This also implies to being active in communities. When I started Creativerly I wasn't sure about which ESP I should use, if I need a custom domain and a landing page, where I should promote my newsletter, etc. Guess what I did? I went onto Indie Hackers and asked those specific questions and got help from a lot of creative minds, which I really appreciate. Most of the time, communities are here to help, although there still will be some negative voices. Nevertheless, stay curious, ask questions, learn from the answers.
I do not sell ads and I also do not have any sponsors for Creativerly, so you might ask yourself how Creativerly then can be profitable. Well, first of all, let's take a quick look at my total expenses. My domain creativerly.xyz (I will soon switch to the .com) costs me around $11 per year (I use Namecheap whenever I buy a domain), my landing page is made with Carrd using their Pro Standard plan which costs $19 per year. That's it. I do not have any other expenses. That means I have a total of $30 in expenses per year for my newsletter. How do I monetize? As I already mentioned in the "Focus on value" section I use affiliate links. Let's take Steph Smith's Book "Doing Content Right" as an example. So far, I managed to get 16 sales through my affiliate link, which totals to $81,20. That means, just by promoting this one product I am able to pay for my domain and for Carrd for two years. The best thing about affiliate links is the fact, that I can curate it. I can get in contact with tools and services I personally use or admire, and ask them if I can be an affiliate for them. If I ever start doing ads or sponsorships for my newsletter this will also be my main focus when reaching out to possible sponsors. I do not want to promote a product just because they were the highest bidder.
My second income channel is a simple Buymeacoffee page, by far the easiest way for a supporter to show their love for a newsletter. So far I got 11 supporters, and a total of 22 received coffees. That means, I earned a total of $66 through Buymeacoffee. This feels so incredibly. I still remember when I received the first notification from Buymeacoffee. I was so hyped because that was the first $ earned on the internet (actually, it was $3) everyone is talking about, and I can say without a doubt, it is indeed a magical feeling.
To summarize, I made a total of $147,20 (not recurring) from writing a weekly newsletter for the last 1 1/2 years.
$147,20 I am super proud of since those are the very first $ I earned from a side-project, which never had the intention to make money since I did start this newsletter in the first place to learn, share my experiences, build a habit, doing something creative every week, improve my writing, build a community, and ultimately build up a brand.
I think I am on the right path, and I can not wait to see what the future has to offer.
If you have any questions, remember to just ask. My DMs are always open. Also, I try to be as transparent as possible when it comes to my newsletter, so if you have any further questions regarding this topic, just drop me an email and I try my best to answer them.
I am thankful for every single subscriber, reading Creativerly every single week, you are the reason why I just keep going, always trying my best to deliver just the best content.
Be prepared for some announcements coming up really soon. Who will get notified about them first? Of course, subscribers of Creativerly, so go ahead and subscribe to Creativerly for your weekly creativity and productivity-boost delivered straight to your inbox.