Why I'm Building a Newsletter In Public

Why and how I'm starting a newsletter from scratch

Deep Dive

Building a Newsletter In Public

I’ve got some exciting news to share:

I’m working with Tailwind to build a newsletter in public, from scratch.

I’ve wanted to start a new newsletter for a long time.

But I haven’t had time to write it and do all the work it takes to set up and manage it (design, branding, template, scheduling, ESP, website, etc).

Ryan Carr and his team at Tailwind are doing all that for me so I can focus on growth and monetization.

But here’s the best part:

We’re building in public

You’ll get a behind-the-scenes look at everything.

Growth, monetization, engagement, retention, and more.

Plus, I’ll be revealing all the numbers, growth channels, tactics, revenue streams, budgets, projections, etc.

Why build in public?

A few reasons:

  • First off, it’s fun

  • I can apply my learnings to help our clients at GrowLetter (my newsletter growth agency)

  • It makes for great content for this newsletter, social media, and the Newsletter Operator podcast 

  • We can use this newsletter to experiment with new growth tactics, content types, newsletter formats, monetization methods, and more

Here’s how to stay up to date with this project

  1. Follow me on LinkedIn and Twitter.

  2. Follow Ryan Carr (founder of Tailwind) on Twitter.

  3. Sign up for Newsletter Operator (this newsletter). If you haven't already go here.

  4. Subscribe to the Newsletter Operator Podcast wherever you get your podcasts (Ryan Carr from Tailwind is my co-host and we’ll have an episode dedicated to this each month).

We’ll be sharing different parts of the journey on all these platforms so make sure you’re following each one.

What’s the new newsletter about?

I’m revealing everything about this project except the newsletter topic, niche, and name.

I know, that may disappoint some of you. But there’s a reason behind this…

1/ I’m not using my existing audience to grow this.

I’m truly starting from 0.

2/ If this goes well we don’t want copycats.

I’m sharing everything (with screenshots) so if we were to share the newsletter as well that would make it too easy to copy.

Plus, copying the newsletter niche and content won’t help anyone.

Learning from all our strategies, wins, and mistakes will.

And finally…

3/ This could fail.

It’s an experiment.

I don’t know if this will be a profitable business.

Building a media company is hard. Especially as a side hustle, with a small budget, and no existing audience.

The only outcome I’m confident will come from this is lots of learning and great content. Win or lose.

Okay, you get the idea.

Let’s talk about how I actually plan to grow this…

How I plan to get the first 10,000 subscribers and $10,000 in revenue

First, it starts with picking the right niche.

How I picked a niche

I’m not going to share the exact niche yet but I will say it’s a newsletter for entrepreneurs, business people, and investors.

The niche isn’t anything new or trendy.

In fact, it’s crowded. But in some ways that’s good.

There’s a ton of demand for great content in this niche and people in the niche have shown they’re willing to pay for content.

A market that’s willing to pay for content is key.

We’re going to have a paid newsletter offering from day 1 and measure our free-to-paid conversion rate (more on this later).

I see a lot of people start paid newsletters in markets that don’t pay for newsletters.

There has to be market demand and awareness for a product for it to work!

Think about it:

How many newsletters do you pay for? Probably 0.

However, in this niche, people do pay for newsletters and information.

We also want to pick a niche that has lucrative sponsorship opportunities.

This niche doesn’t have the best CPMs but they’re much better than what sports, lifestyle, and AI newsletters see.

Also, I’ve done analysis of top newsletter advertisers and most of them buy ads from newsletters in this niche.

So I’ve picked a niche that has:

  • Readers who need to stay up to date on news and events because things move quickly in this space

  • Readers who are willing to pay for content that helps them make more money

  • Lucrative sponsorship opportunities - advertisers want to get in front of this audience

  • A crowded niche but it’s big and there’s room for content that’s different and unique

How I picked a name and domain

I’m bad at names.

In fact, I don’t love the name and domain I got… but I’m running with it.

I spent about 30 minutes doing some research on top websites, terms, social media accounts, keywords, and slang in this niche.

Then I picked the first name that came to me.

The .com was available for about $2k so I bought it.

Honestly, I wish I spent <$500 on a domain so I could use the money on other parts of this business.

But I do think having a .com is key to looking legit.

A big part of growing a media company is trust and authority (or at least the appearance of it) and a .com helps with that.

Growing from 0 to 100 subscribers

Here’s the plan:

1/ Ask friends and colleagues to subscribe

(I’ll probably get ~20 subs from this).

Not much growth, but we’ll have people to write to and a small group I can ask for feedback.

For the first 5-10 newsletter issues, 1on1 feedback is key.

I’ll be talking with friends after each issue to get their take.

There will be lots of changes to the content in the early days until we dial in a formula that works.

2/ Social content and warm DMs

I’ll be working with my team to post on social daily. Then we’ll DM all new followers asking them to join the newsletter.

Some DMs will be automated, some manual.

It depends on the platforms and the tools we can use.

One thing I won’t be doing is cold DMs…

I believe warm DMs will work because prospects already know the brand, making the DM much more likely to be seen and acted on.

The math just doesn’t back out for cold DMs. Plus, it’s annoying.

Growing from 100 to 1,000 subscribers

1/ More social content and warm DMs

Growing on social from scratch is hard.

The only opportunity I see to grow a brand account from 0 is with short-form videos (aka TikToks, Shorts, Reels).

I’ll be working on a content production process to post 1 short-form video per day. Then ramp up from there.

The plan is to post the same videos on TikTok, Reels, Youtube Shorts, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

And I don’t plan to be filming these myself - or writing and editing them.

Instead, I’ll build a team and system to outsource this.

We’ll use actors and/or AI voices and Broll for the videos.

2/ FB and Twitter ads

I’ve written about this in-depth and we do it as a service at GrowLetter.

The plan is to get subscribers for <$2 each — then use SparkLoop Upscribe to earn ~$1-$2 per subscriber and offset that cost.

Ideally, our net CPA will be <$1.

3/ Affiliate marketing - SparkLoop Partner Program, Beehiiv Boosts, Refind Conversion Ads

This one is simple. I’ll pay for other newsletters to promote it.

The cost (CPA) will likely be $2 or less per qualified subscriber.

Growing from 1,000 to 10,000 subscribers

More short-form videos, FB ads, Twitter ads, and affiliate marketing.

….And more budget behind all of them.

I don’t want to spread myself too thin with a bunch of different growth channels to manage.

I know these work.

I’ll also add in a simple referral program with 1 reward after we hit 1k subscribers.

10,000+ and beyond

After 5k-10k+ subscribers you start to unlock a new growth channel:

Partnerships with other newsletters.

This means:

  • Cross promotions

  • Partner giveaways

  • Recommendations

  • DojoMojo sweepstakes

I want to get to 10k+ as fast as possible so I can use partnerships to grow.

10k+ subscribers also unlocks sponsorship opportunities.

The first $10,000+ in revenue

Until we reach 10,000+ subscribers there will be just 2 revenue streams:

1. Paid newsletter recommendations

We’ll use SparkLoop Upscribe to recommend other newsletters post-sign-up and we’ll use SparkLoop’s 1-click recommendations in each newsletter issue.

We might also work directly with newsletters on an affiliate basis. (Meaning they pay us for each subscriber we send to them).

2. Selling a premium newsletter subscription

The plan is to sell a subscription at a low price (<$100 per year) to see how free subscribers convert to paid.

At first, there won’t actually be a product. We’ll market it and refund all buyers immediately or pre-sell the product.

Later on, we’ll launch an MVP version of the subscription.

Here’s how the math backs out at 10,000 subscribers:

  • If we see an earning-per-subscriber (EPS) of $1.00 we’ll make $10,000

  • Then if 2% of subscribers convert to paid (200 customers at a $99 price point) we’ll make $19,800

At first, that paid subscription revenue will be refunded. But if we’re getting customers we’ll quickly build the product.

All of this is theory.. for now

This is my plan.

It’s likely a lot of it will change.

I’ve tried to make realistic plans and projections — but not all of them will pan out. Or there might be other things that work.

I guess it’s all part of building in public.

I get to share a plan, then you’ll see over time how it changes.

Also, 10k subscribers and $10k in revenue is just the beginning…

The plan is to make this much bigger.


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