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94 Comments

My newsletter is making $2,000 per month with 6,500 subscribers - AMA

Hi everyone!

Roughly two years ago when the pandemic had people shifting to a WFH environment, I started a twice-weekly newsletter called Workspaces that gives readers a behind the scenes tour of their favorite entrepreneurs, designers, developers, etc. new desk setups.

Growth has remained consistent week to week, relying on the featured guests Twitter presence to help spread the word.

I have featured 167 workspaces to date (70 more in the backlog) and have grown the newsletter to 6,500 subscribers while maintaining a >50% open rate.

I published the fist 117 editions of the newsletter without a sponsor. I had inbound requests but I was focused on growing the subscriber base as much as possible. With the new year, I shifted this focus slightly and began offering one sponsor slot per newsletter edition.

Since then, the newsletter has been sold out weekly and the price has risen from the initial $150 to $250, earning $2,000 per month from sponsorships.

I think it’s important to note that this was not an immediate cash cow… sending out 117 editions of a newsletter without receiving a dime can be draining. You have to truly enjoy the content you are putting out (I do!).

However, I think this shows that consistency rules and as long as you continue to show up, put out great content and iterate based on feedback you will continue to see your newsletter grow and ultimately the money will come.

Happy to answer any questions around newsletter growth, finding sponsors, etc!

Thanks!

  1. 1

    How did you grab your first 100 subscribers?

  2. 1

    Something so simple, yet, something I never knew I wanted to see! Great inspiration for my future desk setup!
    Congrats on those last 2 years by the way.

    Now, with the list of all the items in the articles, some affiliate links could be the cherry on top of the cake! Get extra sugar each month!

    1. 1

      I have a few Amazon affiliate links sprinkled throughout... not a ton though.

  3. 1

    My questions for you are — did sponsors start coming to you? Did you reach out? Is there a third party who handles finding the ads?

    I launched a space newsletter this month that's gained 3,000 subs so far. Was thinking about waiting until 15K-20K subs before monetizing, but sounds like earlier may be the move!

    1. 1

      All sponsors came to me :)

  4. 1

    Persistence, perseverance, patience and knowing when to back off are important in both business and in life. I am so happy to read about your success with your newsletter. I am trying to create a newsletter for ecommerce businesses or people who wanted to start their own ecommerce business. I am going to start out with substack. Do you have any advice for me ?

    1. 1

      Outside of the advice already given here I'd need more specific questions to noodle on! I'm not too too familiar with ecommerce to be honest so would need to brainstorm a bit. :)

  5. 1

    It's a good article.

  6. 8

    What's your most important advice for growing your subscriber base?

    1. 12

      For me it has definitely been to produce content that is not only shareable in a social setting (in my case Twitter) but also able to loop in/tag other people and their communities. Leaning on others as a growth lever probably seems like common sense but is often overlooked.

      Every time I share a workspace I am able to tag that person on Twitter and ask them to share it with their community which leads to an immediate bump in views and subscribers.

      1. 3

        Thanks Ryan for sharing this🙏

      2. 3

        Great advice, thanks for the reply :)

  7. 1

    Awesome example of persistency paying off, thanks for the write-up, Ryan!

    I am working on the sponsorship for my newsletter as well (weekly, 42% open rate, 4300 subs).

    What did you find sponsors look for the most? Did they just want exposure to your audience or did they emphasize CTAs with trackable links?

    Cheers & keep up the great work!

  8. 1

    This is so inspiring. It also reminds me that I need to get off my butt and get some work done. it's been frustrating for me honestly. I started the whoile online thing many years ago but haven't really been able to put my full weight into it.

    Family stuff, money problems, juggling jobs and contracts and also trying to grow an online business, it's been tough.

    The thing is I KNOW I provide content (courses, plugins, workshops etc..) that people want, I've been told that my courses are the best in my topic (electronic music production).

    But I really have not been able to find my rhythm, and stories like this give me some comfort, but also sort of make me angry at myself if that makes sense, because I feel like I should be doing more.

    I feel like I'm behind.

    So, in that light, what do you think about using Facebook or Instagram ads to grow? I have experience using them and have a lot of good content mostly in video form. Do you think that would help me make up for lost time? Also, do you think it would help reduce the time and effort spent producing tons of content (which for me is rather draining)?

    Thank you!

  9. 5

    Great circular growth tactics and virality built into this. Nice!

    1. 2

      Exactly! Earlier on I really looked for guests with larger Twitter followings (I still do but less so now if the workspace itself is great).

      All but 5 or so have gone on to RT or share their workspace post in some way after the fact, which makes sense seeing as they took the time to provide all of the content in the first place. :)

  10. 4

    Nice work! And thanks for doing an AMA. I've got a fledgling newsletter of my own so I'm thinking a lot about monetization.

    1. How many subscribers did you have when you started monetizing?
    2. How did you find your sponsors?
    3. Why don't you have a paid tier?
    4. How did you grow your subscribers to 6500?
    1. 3

      Hi James! Thanks for the questions.

      1. I had roughly 3,300 subscribers when I started looking for sponsors
      2. With the exception of one sponsor all sponsors have been inbound. To start I added a blurb in the intro of a newsletter stating that I was looking for sponsors and the numbers to date. I immediately received replies + DMs and was quickly booked out months in advance. The exception was Baronfig... I just thought they would be a great fit so I cold-emailed them and they immediately booked two slots while offering a discount to my readers.
      3. I briefly considered it before adding sponsorships and ultimately decided that I didn't want to decide which workspaces would end up stuck behind a paywall or which content of the newsletters (ex. Q/A section) would be paywalled.
      4. Consistency! It was a grind. I have been outlining the time to each milestone on Twitter. https://twitter.com/rjgilbert/status/1507389206213054464
      1. 3

        Thanks for the info! Re #4, were you posting it anywhere or using tactics like referral rewards, etc., or was it purely consistency?

        0 to 1,000 → 422 days
        1,000 to 2,000 → 77 days
        2,000 to 3,000 → 107 days
        3,000 to 4,000 → 62 days
        4,000 to 5,000 → 48 days

        What would you say is the reason that it got faster and faster? More word of mouth? Or were you doing something differently?

        1. 5

          I posted all of the newsletters as a blog post on Twitter as well - tagging all of the featured guests. 99% of them retweeted it or created a tweet of their own to share their space!

          Over time, this snowballed and people actually organically started mentioning me in tweets of others spaces to get me to include them in a future edition.

          After 100 workspaces being shared consistently each week (never missed a weekend since the start!) all of the mentions, tweets, etc. seem to have just gained momentum together.

          I did start the @workspacesxyz Twitter handle around the sponsorship time as well and began tweeting from this vs my personal handle. This account quickly grew to >5,000 followers as well and is now more recognizable for workspace-related content.

          1. 1

            doing the same each week for my ReactJS curation newsletter :)

            the Twitter thread is my primary acquisition channel, it can grow as much as 200 new subs/week

            1. 2

              The format looks really good.

          2. 1

            Interesting, thanks for all the info - i appreciate it!

      2. 1

        Do you feel like looking for sponsors at the 3,300 subscribers mark was the right time? Or do you think you can do it earlier?

        1. 1

          @garyliang I definitely think I could have introduced and booked sponsors earlier than I did. There were 2 main reasons that I continued to wait:

          1. I was really focused on growing the subscriber list and keeping the emails as short and consumable as possible. At the time I had a 60% open rate and I valued this more than anything. The open rate is still >50% so maybe this wasn’t a legit concern after all.

          2. I didn’t want to be chasing lower $ sponsors. I was willing to wait until the money per sponsor would be worth possible back and forth headaches. I introduced sponsorships at $150.

          I think you could realistically introduce sponsorships at ~1,000 subscribers but for a much lower $ amount and increase as the list grows.

  11. 2

    love it, Ryan! Big fan here. I have a few questions:

    • what worked best in terms of subscriber growth? I've seen newsletter creators offer a lead magnet.
    • what do you think are some ways you could 10x your revenue?
    1. 1

      Twitter for growth >>>

  12. 2

    Thanks for sharing! This is very inspiring for me because I have very similar project now: I need to gain subscribers for the newsletter.

    I'd like to ask you some questions.

    1. Do you think that after a particular amount of newsletter issues some can conclude that the project takes off or fail? Like, I send a monthly newsletter. How many issues should I send before making conclusions about if it's successful or not?

    2. What channels did you use for subscriber acquisition? Just Twitter?

    3. Did you use any paid promotion?

    4. How do you think, what was the key factor of the success?

    1. 2
      1. That totally depends on what your actual goals for the newsletter are (ex. money, followers, becoming an industry expert, etc)

      2. Just Twitter!

      3. Nope!

      4. Everyone works from home in some capacity now

      1. 1

        Thanks!
        You did great job, I'm really inspired by your post! Thank you for sharing your experience

  13. 2

    I used to work at Cisco and the internal comms team regularly featured "what's on your desk" in the company blog. Congrats on monetizing something similar!

  14. 2

    I just subscribed to your newsletter. Such a refreshing idea. Loved it. Cant wait for the next one.

    1. 1

      Thank you! Coming tomorrow morning!

  15. 2

    I love this, I signed up for this newsletter and looking for my own inspiration for my cluttered workspace!

  16. 2

    Wow, amazing to read about your journey.

    1. What kept you motivated during those 100+ initial newsletters? Were you always thinking of turning this into a sponsored model eventually, or was it initially just a passion project?

    Also, 2) how much time does it cost you weekly? 3) And have you checked out ConvertKit’s program to hook up newsletters with sponsors? Curious to hear whether you think that’s helpful or if selling the sponsorship isn’t actually that hard.

    1. 3

      Thanks!

      It fluctuates a bit. I have pulled back a bit on the cold outreach for new guests since I currently have a 70+ workspace backlog.

      Without that back and forth and simply churning through the backlog it probably takes ~4 hours per week? It really depends on the space I’m picking and if the guest provided an intro blurb for me or not - if not I need to do some additional (but nothing crazy) research.

      Haven’t looked into ConvertKit too much but I think finding your first sponsors on your own/through your readers is important.

  17. 2

    That's awesome work! Have your sponsors asked for much demographic type info before agreeing on a deal, or is it simply "how many on your list and what's the open rate?"

    1. 2

      Simply list size + avg open rate and click rate.

      They are also aware that while the sponsor slot was for the newsletter that the posts were also shared via the https://twitter.com/workspacesxyz Twitter account and some of the posts take off and receive an additional >50,000 impressions there.

      1. 2

        Brilliant thanks. Sick logo by the way.

  18. 2

    How did you found the people who show you their workspace?

  19. 2

    Great and inspiring story! You just gotta keep at it.

    1. 1

      Thank you!

      Consistency >

  20. 1

    Damn, we're trying to grow passivebasics... It will probably take 2 years until we hit 2000 subscribers.

    1. 1

      How can I help you get there quicker?

      1. 1

        Hey Ryan! By answering this question:

        We target non-technical founders and teach them high level web technology basics so they don't get scammed by agencies. What marketing channel + strategy would you absolutely maximize if you only had ONE to choose from?

        Thanks so much for your answer.

        1. 2

          Twitter! There's a very active and growing no-code community on Twitter that you could tap into.

          Start by following + replying to their tweets and eventually craft content specifically for them to grow their own no-code businesses.

  21. 1

    Hi Ryan -- thanks for sharing! Sounds like you've built a great product. I have a few questions about your journey:

    • What did you do to get your initial few followers?

    • Was there a noticeable inflection point when growth took off? If so, what do you think caused it / around how many users was it?

    • Related to the first question, did you already have a following on any other platforms that you found useful for promoting your newsletter?

    1. 1

      Hey there... the rest of the AMA covers pretty much all of this :)

  22. 1

    Did you start with Substack? If not, what tools are you using for your newsletter? I'm building content to start one for my product.

    1. 1

      Yep, Substack.

      Recently moved to Webflow for the site and Loops for the emails.

  23. 1

    First off, congratulations.
    Secondly, I'm just planning to start a newsletter for sansnote.com, and had the following questions:

    RATES
    1.
    (a) Did you base your sponsorship rates on some market rate / CPMs?
    (b) Do you remember the readership at $150 and what was it when you changed to $250?

    TIMING
    2. Is there any particular day of week / time (timezone) that you schedule your newsletter to be sent? And how did you arrive at that time?

    OTHER CHANNELS
    3. Do you plan to expand / repurpose your content to YouTube?
    4. TikTok?
    5. Instagram? As your content is quite visual.

    1. 1

      I've answered these questions throughout the rest of the AMA from a month ago :)

  24. 1

    Hey, great stuff!

    I write a newsletter focused on investing and we just crossed 1,500 subscribers. We monetise only by paid subscription at the moment but ads are on the table for the future.

    Newsletters are never an immediate cash cow, and the more unknown you are in the beginning, the less cash they make. The whole journey is until people discover you, and trust you. All this while you produce quality content consistently over time..

    Absolutely the content one produces has to come from the heart - there is no faking this!

  25. 1

    Thanks for sharing your experience. I am glad that I found out about such an inspiring and very beautiful newsletter. I wish you good luck with this project!

  26. 1

    What a brilliant idea. I come across Workspaces from a comment on Twitter, it is really a cool idea to feature workspaces of creatives. I look forward to your newsletter every weekend now.

  27. 1

    Great progress! Congrats! Do you mind me asking if you are also earning from the affiliate links you include in the newsletter? Thanks!

    1. 2

      A little bit where it makes sense! I've only been using Amazon for this.

  28. 1

    I like this story. Thanks.

  29. 1

    Congratulations! This is awesome, we got like 24K subs and we still havent monetized it, may be its about time

    who can help me figure this out? our niche is digital health

  30. 1

    These are newsletter goals! @ryangilbert

    Congratulations on the milestone. I have close to 1000 subs on my newsletter that I started 2 years ago. Haven’t monetized yet, but I think it’s time to start and see how it works.

    $1000 a month would legit cover my living expenses. So it’s time to double down now.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

    1. 2

      Good luck! Let me know if there is anything that I can help with :)

  31. 1

    amazing and inspirational , your story has really motivated me . Keep sharing the good things

  32. 1

    What a great story! Thanks for sharing and do you use any tools for twitter specifically and for analytics of who views your tweets, and also to track newsletter analytics?

    1. 1

      Thank you!

      I track next to nothing related to Twitter. The only thing I track for the newsletter are the growth rate and then making sure the open rate is consistently ~50% with a decent click rate.

      If I publish an edition that has significantly less clicks than the average I will take a look and see why that might be (less interesting items in the space, less links overall, etc?)

  33. 1

    Hi Ryan - Thank you for sharing your story. I have been working in Tech Sales since 2016 but recently started looking into copywriting. Lots of learning to do but stories like yours is definitely an inspiration!

    Saoud

  34. 1

    Hey! I have been meaning to start a blog since I don't enjoy my coding life. Any suggestions

  35. 1

    Congratulations!
    This is a really inspiring story!

  36. 1

    Oh dang, my newsletter just passed 4k. I think I need to start charging more for sponsor slots.

    @ryangilbert why were you hesitant to accept sponsors at first? What changed?

    1. 2

      I think it is important to note that when estimating the cost of sponsorship slots the niche you are in also matters. You could try a small increase with only some partners just to test the water.

      1. 2

        Each new partner I ask for a bit more.

    2. 2

      I just didn't want to introduce sponsorships until I was sure I could sell most of them out. I didn't want to have one sponsor followed by a month of none (I felt this would indicate to others that it might not be worth it).

      1. 1

        That makes sense.

        I built up my emailing list for a long time before ever releasing a newsletter. People joined to access the Indie Worldwide community.

        Started publishing only because someone offered to sponsor it!

  37. 1

    Awesome work! I love this content.

    Question:

    How did you go about deep diving for this content? Did you reach out to them first and ask for pictures or just find people who had posted their setups on the internet already.

      1. 1

        Thanks for the insight. I've had some ideas around a newsletter and you've given me the inspiration to do it!

        1. 1

          Good luck! Let me know if there is anything I can help with :)

  38. 1

    Just starting to build a newsletter myself and this is really interesting. As are many of the questions you've answered in the comments.

    I might have missed it but did you use a lead magnet or freebie at a time to encourage sign up?

  39. 1

    Curious to hear what you think of your newsletter platform, Substack. Do you recommend it, or if you started over would you choose a different platform?

  40. 1

    Congratulations!

    I'm seeing similar numbers with my newsletter. Can you elaborate on how you handle sponsorships? Any tools / templates you'd be ready to share? I am doing all of this very manually, and it gets hard to manage.

    1. 1

      Thank you!

      Mostly handling sponsorships via email without any special tools. The only tool I use is a Notion doc for marking who's sponsoring which dates on a calendar.

      It definitely is getting tough to manage manually but it's been nice that the avg sponsor for me is booking 3-4 slots at a time. If it ever transitioned into more one-off buys with more hand holding I don't think this current system would be fun or efficient.

      1. 2

        Then we are exactly at the same stage with that as well :D

        The tools out there like Sponsy are way too expensive. Let's see how far we can go with emails and Notion. Please let me know —and every other operator out there as well— if you ever find something!

  41. 1

    Would you pay $29 a year to get 10% more signup rates on your newsletter's landing page?

    I'm making Socialscribe that does just that.

  42. 1

    Congratulations, keeping the consistency and focus for a publication is super hard. It is a marathon, not a sprint 🏃‍♀️

    I do have a question actually: do you have something in place to manage sponsorships? If so, what would you improve?

    1. 1

      Definitely a marathon!

      Re sponsorships… I actually manage all of the communication/copy in email. I use a simple Notion calendar to remind myself who’s sponsoring each edition and then I dive back into the email to grab everything that I need.

      Maybe not the best process but with only 2 editions per week and the majority of sponsors booking multiple slots this has been manageable so far.

  43. 1

    Love to hear about your success!

    How long have you been running your newsletter?

    1. 1

      The first edition went out April 5, 2020!

      1. 1

        Wow that's great progress! Huge props! I'm subbed haha.

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