In 2020, Vidya was first introduced to the world of indie hacking and by 2021, she’d grown her newsletter to over 1,000 subscribers. In this interview, she breaks down her processes for cross-promoting and finding sponsorships.
Vidya is the creator of the free newsletter The Curious Bunch where she brings her audience productivity tools, maker resources, and bite-sized bits of interesting reads. She’s got a fresh perspective and can-do attitude that makes indie hacking feel so possible, no matter who or where you are. 🔥
None of my friends are entrepreneurs or on a startup journey of any kind. In India, most parents have a lot of influence over their children and they prefer that they go into traditional jobs. So, I didn’t even really know this way of living existed until covid happened. At that time, I happened upon a Twitter community where everyone had more time on their hands because of covid restrictions and they were using that extra time to build products and newsletters.
I’d been writing articles and blog posts on and off since 2010. I’ve always loved going down rabbit holes and then picking out the most interesting details and sharing those pieces with friends. So when I saw other people writing and curating newsletters, I got excited.
Watching people build in public and starting at zero showed me that everyone starts somewhere. I launched my newsletter in November, 2020. Starting at zero is way less daunting when you know everyone else starts there too.
The first 300 subscribers I remember really well because that's when I made the most effort to reach out to my ideal audience.
As a physics student and analyst, I didn't have any marketing background and I didn't know how to reach my audience. I didn't know where to find them. So I had to get into the marketing mindset somehow. Everyone was talking about Indie Hackers. So I just started reading posts on IH and Twitter, and I started reaching out to people to understand how to acquire subscribers.
Then, I learned about cross promotion. And it’s been one of the things that’s worked best for me. I’d say 50 percent of my subscribers are acquired through cross-promotion.
I just reached out to other writers who were in the same niche as me. None of them said no to my request. When I had only 700 subscribers, I cross-promoted with someone who had 1700+ subscribers — most of the time, writers look for overlap between our audiences more than the number of subscribers I have.
Here are a few tips:
Here’s an example of cross-promotion in my newsletter:
And here's an example of how my newsletter has been cross-promoted:
Everyone says that you need to have at least a thousand subscribers to attract sponsorships. But why is a thousand this magic number? So I thought, I’ll just try with 500 and see if anyone is interested. At that point I’d sent out 10-12 issues of my newsletter and I felt ready.
I approached a few sponsors who were really in line with my audience. One of the very first sponsors I got was Email Octopus which is a marketing service. They booked a one-month sponsorship and that was how I first monetized my newsletter. My newsletter has been consistently sponsored now for more than six months.
A few suggestions about sponsorships:
Here's an example of my sponsorship outreach:
After I got my first sponsorship I started thinking seriously about leaving my day job as a data analyst. Before Covid hit, I didn’t even know what it meant to be “bootstrapped” so this all happened fast. But, I wanted a chance to take my newsletter seriously and to explore my other interests more. A couple of months later, I quit.
It wasn’t a hard decision because I know I can always get another job as a data analyst. What I was actually most worried about was losing my motivation if I failed. So that fear made me a little hesitant.
Everyone says it's difficult to be a successful indie hacker or maker, but I think making a hundred dollars per month through your indie hacking journey feels like success to me. I mean, I’m sure my bar is much lower than many people’s. But I think indie hacking becomes easy when you realize so much of the journey is just about starting, and then defining success on your own terms. 💪
What I’m reading: The Bluest Eye by Tony Morrison
What I’m watching: Harry Potter Series
Quote I find compelling: “If you saw Atlas, the giant who holds the world on his shoulders, if you saw that he stood, blood running down his chest, his knees buckling, his arms trembling but still trying to hold the world aloft with the last of his strength, and the greater his effort the heavier the world bore down upon his shoulders - What would you tell him?"
"I…don't know. What…could he do? What would you tell him?"
One sentence of advice to new Indie Hackers: Give yourself permission to explore your interests and see the magic unfolding in front of your eyes.