How Our Newsletter Earned $11k Annualized In The First Week

Jan 18, 2021
 Created by the author — original image from Pexels.
“I want to help writers to grow through a newsletter but there’s just so much noise out there. I don’t know how to stand out”
“Yeah there’s so many opinions out there, how do people decide who to listen to”
“I feel like people could learn just from listening to the conversations we have with each other.”
“Wait that’s actually an idea. No one else is showing that debate between trusted writers who don’t always agree”
“Yeah! And we can get a couple others involved too, it’s be awesome. Let’s do it.”

This conversation between myself and Mike Thompson in late December was the birth of the idea of Write Your Future. Over the last two years, he’s one of the best performing writers on Medium and I’ve grown rapidly too.

We brought on board two other writers we knew aspiring writers looked up to and forces of nature in their own right. We now had four sharp brains to create content that would stand out in the ocean of single-person newsletters. We stormed forward with excitement about collaborating together and were ready to launch in less than two weeks.

In the week following the announcement of our venture, we gained just under 100 subscribers and a cool annualized revenue of $11k. We were blown away by the response as this was before even sending our first email.

We did it without paying for ads or breaking our backs and still managed to crack the top 10 on Substack Literary charts. Initial feedback has been incredible and we see this as only the beginning as our subscriber base grows every day.

Screenshot by the author


We chose Substack because it is so easy to set up and get a paid subscription going. In this article, I’ll take you behind the scenes of the mindsets that led to our success. We believe this is just the beginning.


Don’t try to do everything yourself

Our newsletter is different from most others because we are a team of 4 which affords us many new benefits and challenges. It’s designed in a way where we don’t have a single point of failure which means minimal stress for each of us.

We all bring something to the table that is difficult for one person to have. I have the design skills to create logos and our images in minutes. Zulie has a YouTube channel so could handle the video and audio. Sinem has built a 10,000 subscriber email list. And Mike has a huge network and the reason we even know each other in the first place!

This spread of talents allowed us to blitz-scale without needing to take the time to go through the bog of learning new skills from scratch. Perhaps the greatest asset of the project is how much we can learn from each other. With the first newsletter out, we can systemize everything and batch so, in a few dedicated days, we can create content for months!

It’s crucial to understand the motivations of each co-founder. We were all primarily driven by the joy of working together with money secondary. I have a full-time job that is my priority so this is a way for me to raise funds for causes I care about. The others have their own personal and charitable interests.

Even if you don’t want to start with a co-founder, outsource the tasks. Time is your most valuable asset.


Reputation matters

“Omg the four of you working together? Shut up and take my money” — Happy subscriber

Substack is bring-your-own-audience and it’s not a place for beginners. Unless you are on one of the leaderboards or featured by Substack, you’ll get little help and this was fine for us.

All four co-founders had built up a considerable audience and loyal fans. Between us, we have just under 100,000 followers on Medium and large fan bases across social media. Critically, these fans had the problems we could solve in our newsletter. Sinem runs the prime Facebook group for our niche and Zulie the prime YouTube channel.

There aren’t any cheats or hacks to this other than consistently creating quality people want to see. I consider newsletters a derived success because it depends on you already being successful elsewhere. You need to gain trust on another platform with organic reach wherever it may be.

We all regularly receive messages from people asking us for help or thanking us for our advice. We’re seen as approachable and friendly by people and we lean into this in our about page as well as offering our credentials. This meant we weren’t going in blind or faking it until we made it, we knew people valued our thoughts and opinions.


Start with an MVP

It’s scary launching a new product and it’s easy to overthink it. Imperfect and started is better than perfect and draft.

We debated about doing market research, would people be willing to pay? The problem is until there’s an actual product, it’s all hypothetical. People will obviously want as much as possible for their money when given a choice so it’s hard to judge the tipping point for a sale. The only way to know what customers are willing to pay for is to put the product out.

Our newsletter is simple, one roundtable a month and weekly written emails with views from all four of us. We didn’t do crazy promotions or a million features. If we had, it would have been impossible for us to know why people subscribed. We’ve now got data that proves people want what we are delivering and if we add anything in the future, we have a baseline to compare with.

Create a clear and concise value proposition and deliver on it.


Perspective: our product costs the same as two coffees

Imposter syndrome can run riot when success takes off initially. Humanly, we feel the need to make sure are getting value for their money. Yet the price isn’t extortionate for most newsletters. For our early bird price, it’s the same as two coffees, not a college education.

The Pareto principle should guide your effort. If many people are happy with the product then going out of your way to please a small minority distorts the whole value of your time. You go from earning potentially a hundred dollars per hour to below minimum wage quickly. We don’t offer significant information in our free newsletter because it devalues what we offer in the paid.

You should target those who value your time reasonably for fewer headaches. Some people will never pay for a newsletter and that’s ok, don’t take it personally. In 2020, there were 65,000 new Medium writers, we only have a tiny proportion of those people. We’ve got high growth potential and there are surely many people out there who value our words.

I think we already give away far more value than our $10 suggests. We never know if just one newsletter might flick a switch in someone’s writing and they earn their first $1000. Maybe it’s not in the first month, maybe it’s in the 5th or 6th and I hope our subscribers enjoy the journey.


Going forward

We each grow our audience significantly without Write Your Future. Our words reach millions of people a year. This means we don’t have to do anything special to keep growing our subscriber list as we organically grow our fan bases. This is the beauty of a newsletter as an add-on for an existing digital presence.

For the moment, we need to send out more editions to get a better understanding of our subscribers and maybe we adjust in the future. Yet for the time being, we can enjoy the experience and try to help people with our words.

Amar's Letter

Real talk on driving impact as an imperfect human.