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$10,000 ARR with Blogging Guide

Hey everyone!

I just hit $10,000 Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR) with my Substack newsletter, Blogging Guide. While this growth did not happen overnight, it was faster than I would have predicted when I first launched my newsletter. I was skeptical that Substack would even generate a single paid subscriber.

Blogging Guide (the newsletter) was really my first attempt to build a community for writer looking to navigate the digital publishing landscape and monetize their content.

This momentum has also lead me to create a related website full of free content (BloggingGuide.com). I didn't want to give up on either the newsletter or the website, so I made the call early on that despite covering similar topics, I would create 100% unique content for each. This has been quite a challenge and upped my content production requirements significantly.

However, the strategy seems to have paid off as the two direct significant amounts of traffic toward each other. They also help me map out my content production so that each site's articles are tailored to its unique audience.

For example, the newsletter tends to go to readers who are already familiar with at least one blogging platform, but may be looking for a new blogging platform, or a different way to monetize their existing blog. Some are looking to make the switch from traditional blogging to producing a newsletter. So many are curious about how to monetize their newsletter. Much of this traffic comes from readers viewing the content on their mobile devices, so the content needs to be a bit more concise.

The website is much more SEO focused, and tends to offer in depth guides on blogging topics. Most of these readers view the content on desktop devices and there is significant engagement with the content. Many also take advantage of the tools and forum that I created (using PeerBoard). Although the Blogging Guide forum is still in its early stages, it's a great way to build out a more robust community for my Substack subscribers.

Even if Blogging Guide's newsletter were to plateau in terms of ARR, it has effectively subsidized the creation of my Blogging Guide website, which I really love building. I am still amazed by this progress, and am eager to see how I can continue to grow this Substack newsletter over time.

And while it has been challenging, I actually enjoy the unique pace and content structure of both the newsletter and my main website.

If I hadn't seen this success with the newsletter, I probably wouldn't have created the main Blogging Guide website. I even managed to acquire the .com domain for my website (was formerly bloggingguide.org but is now bloggingguide.com). Without the success of my newsletter, I probably wouldn't have pursued this.

  1. 4

    Congrats! A few questions:

    How did you decide how much to charge subscribers? How do you choose which content goes behind the paywall and which is free?

    1. 1

      I've written an article on how much you should charge you Substack subscribers, and I more or less followed all these tips.

      The second question is much tougher to answer. I took an unusual approach and put very few posts behind a paywall. The obvious problem with paywalling your best content is that no one (who is not already a subscriber gets to read it).

      But if you don't paywall your content why would subscribers pay at all (because everything is essentially free)? My solution to this was to offer several premium sources of content up front to subscribers.

      This has the advantage of (1) delivering clear value upfront and (2) allowing you to paywall as few posts as possible.

      This is definitely not a common posting strategy, but it's worked well for me.

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        I’ve been considering starting a newsletter, and had thoughts along the same lines, so hearing your perspective is extremely helpful.

  2. 3

    Congrats Casey!

    Where and how did you launch your newsletter to get your first users?

    Cheers!

    1. 2

      I launched my newsletter with almost no deliberate promotion. I sent out a few messages/wrote a few posts on Medium. As the original version of Blogging Guide was focused solely on Medium, using my existing Medium publication was almost exclusively the source of my first paid subscribers.

      As I recount in an earlier IH update, I actually had my first paid subscriber before I had really intended to launch, so this sort of set the pace (create high value content, build highly scalable newsletter that does not rely upon expensive advertising or marketing).

  3. 2

    Amazing, congrats on all the hard work paying off. Would you consider doing an AMA on IH?

    1. 1

      I definitely would if there was enough interest! Feel free to ask any questions here too :)

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        Great.. ok, here’s a couple of things in addition to the replies above.. all related to the newsletter:

        • what did week 1 or month 1 look like for you?

        • did you have a clear format (or formats) that you planned or developed over time based on open rates?

        • what were the main drivers of traction and what do you think the reason was for these?

  4. 2

    Amazing milestone Casey! Congrats :) It takes a lot of hard work to make this happen!

    I love that the whole brand has evolved into a series of offerings. This is really inspiring for me.

    I want to ask about your experience with PeerBoard? I'm currently using Circle for my community but from my observations, it is not as intuitive for members. 1) Need to proactively visit, 2) notifications a bit messy, 3) takes time to jump in to help. Just want to get some new opinions! Cheeers!

    1. 1

      I love using PeerBoard! Probably my favorite thing was how easy it was to integrate the WordPress forum plugin with my website. Literally, probably took five minutes. I've also written an article about my experience using PeerBoard here.

      As far as the product itself, it is still in the early stages of development, but based on their roadmap, there are a lot of new features coming soon.

      Circle, in my experience, is expensive and tricky for members to use. This is especially true if you are building an online community that is not tech savvy.

      I like the email digest features for PeerBoard discussions (members getting sent a roundup email of relevant threads discussions). This is important both for me to keep track of what's going on and for the members to stay engaged (most will not be checking a new forum itself for the latest posts, this takes a long time to develop).

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        Thanks Casey - can tell you've spent some time figuring this out!

        I chose the Circle path 🤣 because I enjoy the async style and it seems to be popular. Indeed it is expensive (I'm paying $79/mo!) and very hard to get engagement in the beginning. I have very savvy members, but as you said, it is not really a habit for them to visit a new forum. The community has to be SO GOOD that they want to visit every other day. Tough for the start. I'm now doing more monthly community activities + sending newsletter to help bring engagement back. Hopefully that'll help.

        I need to follow you because I really like what you do and the journey! I'm surprised you only have a BloggingGuide Twitter account, no personal haha!

        I don't know if you're very busy now, but love to get to know you and exchange ideas. I'm actively running http://publiclab.co/ (a community + a challenge) these days.

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          I'm pretty busy, but never too busy to exchange ideas or consider new interesting projects :)

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            Haha Just learning from each other! What's the best way to talk to you? :)

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