How to grow a paid newsletter.

I’ve Grown My Newsletter to 2,900 Subscribers — Here Are My Favorite Paid Newsletter Growth Strategies

Despite knowing the importance of having a newsletter, before launching a paid newsletter, I struggled with consistently publishing one. There’s nothing like having paid subscribers to keep you accountable.

If you are new here, in January of 2022, I launched Grants For Creators, a monthly newsletter curating grants and other funding opportunities for US-based creatives and small business owners. Leveraging my research skills, interest in securing grant funding for my projects, and background as a former grant administrator, by the end of the year, I gained over 2,000 newsletter subscribers.

A little over a year later I have a subscription base of nearly 400 paid subscribers and 3,000 subscribers total. While I see a lot of advice for growing a newsletter, growing a paid newsletter has different nuances. There’s also a lot of conversation on how to start a paid newsletter subscription but not enough insights into how to run a successful one with hundreds or thousands of paid readers. Ready to dish out my best advice, here are my favorite paid newsletter growth hacks.

7 Practical Strategies To Grow Paid Newsletters

1. The platform you host your newsletter matters

I’m not saying this to delay your launch, but platforms promoting newsletter visibility make growth easier.

My paid newsletter is powered by Substack.

One of the many benefits of using Substack is its robust referral network. Other Substack in-network newsletters can recommend you and vice versa. About 10% of my paid subscribers find me through recommendations. The more newsletter recommendations, the greater your growth potential.

Grants For Creators is recommended by newsletters, such as Podcasters Getting Paid, BlkPodNews, and many more.

Another feature I appreciate — Substack offers traditional broadcasts sent via email, but also subscribers can visit a dedicated website, whether your own domain or a Substack subdomain, and leave comments just like they would on a blog.

This blog/newsletter hybrid coupled with their advancements in SEO (search engine optimization) makes Substack a worthy investment.

Did I mention getting started with Substack is free?

2. Make your newsletter the pinned Tweet

Use social media to introduce your followers to your newsletter.

Talk about the benefits, why you started the newsletter, and the problems you hope it will solve. Share the behind-the-scenes, including photos and videos of you working on the next issue.

In addition to adding a link to your newsletter in your bio, pin a tweet on Twitter and pin a post on Instagram. My pinned tweet has been retweeted over 100 times and brings visibility to my newsletter daily.

3. Appear on podcasts

Podcasts are a great way to spread the word about your work. However, the best interviews will come from your subscribers and focus on your newsletter’s topic of expertise. During the interview, tactfully mention joining your newsletter, especially at the end.

For example, I’ve been a guest on several shows to talk about grants, including Audience by Castos and Be a Better Ally.

New subscribers continue to find me through these channels every month.

Learn my step-by-step framework to pitch yourself on podcasts including podcast guest pitch templates in my podcast guest pitch course.

How to pitch yourself on podcast. Podcast pitching course.

Helpful Tip: Share your podcast guest appearances in the newsletter and invite your subscribers to have you on their podcasts to continue spreading the word. When given the opportunity, collaborate with your subscribers.

Alternatively, if you have your own podcast, create content around your newsletter on your show.

Here’s an episode on my travel podcast, The Thought Card about how to find grants and how my newsletter can help save time on research.

4. Develop a signature talk

How to improve podcast media. What to include in podcast media to land podcast sponsorships.
Speaking at Podcast Movement Evolutions in Las Vegas.

Speaking solidifies you as an expert and thought leader.

Speak at conferences and events, inside memberships, associations, and communities about your topic of expertise related to your newsletter.

Mention joining your newsletter as the next step after the session.

Helpful Tip: Transform your workshops into additional income streams by recording them and offering them as supplementary digital self-paced resources to your newsletter.

My 1-hour Introduction to Grants Workshop is a good example of this. In this Grants 101 workshop, learn what a grant is, what it isn’t, the pros and cons, and how it can help fund your project, program, or business as a creative or small business owner. 

5. Cross-promote with other newsletters

Another paid newsletter growth strategy I’ve found a lot of success in is approaching other newsletter writers to swap mentions.

When approaching another newsletter, introduce yourself and share why a cross-promo would be beneficial to both parties.

Determine the promo dates, exchange newsletter blurbs, and links.

During my high-growth periods, I lined up one email swap per week.

Here’s an example of what I’d typically say when reaching out.

Hi Jacob,

I love your newsletter and how it keeps us in the loop of freelance writing gigs and residencies.

I’m Danielle, a travel podcaster (The Thought Card) and curator of the newsletter, Grants For Creators, where I share funding opportunities for US-based creatives and small business owners.

Last year we shared 655 awards, helping our community secure over $77,000 in funding.

I was wondering if you’d be interested in a newsletter promo swap where we shout out each other’s newsletter in hopes of growing and broadening our reach.

Please let me know what you think.

6. Promote your paid newsletter with free content

Promote your paid subscription by generously sharing free content. FOMO will eventually set in after seeing just how good your newsletter is week after week.

With the goal of encouraging free subscribers to upgrade to the paid tier, for the first year, I shared 20% of each newsletter with all my subscribers and the remainder exclusively with paid supporters.

In each newsletter, I’d include language to become a paying subscriber, sharing the many perks paid subscribers had access to.

Remember new subscribers are joining daily and may not know the full extent of your paid offer so spell it out clearly in each newsletter.

7. Improve from feedback

Similar to paid subscriptions, it’s really important to look at the feedback paid unsubscribers leave for how you can improve. Be open to feedback but also don’t carry the rejection with you. Focus more on the people who opt-in and support your work.

We recently moved Grants For Creators from bi-weekly to monthly as a result of seeing similar feedback over the last year.

Subscribers wanted to take advantage and apply for grants we shared but the timing of the newsletter didn’t always give them enough time. Switching to monthly we are hoping to reduce churn and increase our impact.

I hope you found this article helpful and offered plenty of insights into the growth strategies that are moving the needle for me. Which of these strategies stood out to you? Which do you hope to implement?

Also, join my newsletter Grants For Creators, and get a list of funding opportunities you can quickly qualify for and apply to sent right to your inbox every month.

2 replies
  1. Ayo
    Ayo says:

    Hi Danielle,
    Thank you for sharing this advice! I recently launched my newsletter Sounds Like Impact. My newsletter isn’t paid yet, and I’m pledging to keep core parts of my newsletter free, but this was helpful to think about drumming up support for pledging support. I think for now I’m going to have to look to another platform like Buy Me A Coffee to convert those pledges into paid since it doesn’t seem you can really tweak some of the paid features on Substack to be more donation-oriented.

    Anyways, this all has provided food for thought. Thank you!

    P.S. I’ve subscribed to your newsletter for awhile and appreciate what you do! When I’m in a better financial position (recently laid-off), will definitely look to upgrade to paid.

    • Danielle Desir
      Danielle Desir says:

      Hi Ayo, thank you for your comment and for joining Grants For Creators! Like you mentioned, Substack is great for subscriptions but lacks flexibility for donations, this is an important point.


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