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How to grow your audience and income on Substack

Tips from Substack's Writer Partnerships team

Hi everybody, Linda here from the Substack Writer Partnerships team. I have something fun to share with you today: a video conversation between Christina, one of my colleagues here at Substack, and myself, where I pick her brain about top tactics Substack writers can use to shape their strategy and grow their readership.

Christina not only works with some of the top writers on Substack, she also boasts a storied career of working closely with creative folks, helping them cultivate audiences and achieve commercial success.

She and I often chat and trade notes about strategy and tactics. I wanted to take some of those learnings out of our one-on-one conversations and capture them on video so that I could share them with you. Look out for a cameo appearance from George the cat! A few highlights:

On strategy:

Christina: You don't need to be locked in stone with your ideas. But you do need some kind of clear plan so that you can set expectations for your readers and subscribers and tell them: “here's what I'm going to be doing here, here's when you should expect it,” and stick to that schedule and be consistent.

Oftentimes when people just start and they're randomly writing and they don't have any real clear content strategy and plan, it can really not set them up to be successful.

On going paid:

Christina: I am pretty bullish on telling writers to go paid immediately. I love that we have the pledges option available now. That's a newer thing for us.

For my writers who are very reluctant and hesitant to go paid because they feel like there's going to be a bigger obligation to their readers, I like that we have this pledges option. And that's something you can turn on or off. And I tell people if you're not going to launch with paid turned on, launch with pledges turned on for sure.

On finding your voice:

Linda: It really resonates when you talk about being conversational, because sometimes the finance and business cohort of writers, because of the way they’ve been trained in the corporate world, they feel like they have to keep the reader at a remove: “I am an institution and I am broadcasting to you!”

But you and I know what works on Substack is very often to remind people: “I'm a real person—there's no corporate or advertising money behind this, it's just you and me.”

Christina: And I also think it's reminding them what's behind the paywall when they upgrade, but also just talking about what a difference it makes to yourself—being personal and saying “by paying, you're also enabling me to create this content, this is what I do for a living,” or however it fits into your life.

We sometimes call it the NPR approach, right? Like a pledge drive—where you're reminding people what they're doing for you when they upgrade.

On top tactics to boost growth:

Christina: I always start by saying recommendations, because that is a tool that we have, I think it came out almost a year ago now, that is just an incredible tool for growth for writers.

So, launch with recommendations turned on and recommend as many people as you can and you'll see that reciprocity.

Linda: For sure, I recommend all of those same things with using the actual features of Substack and just being being a human being and reaching out to people. Notes [short-form posting on the Substack app] does make it easier because you can socialize and discover new people who might have that audience overlap with you.

If you have a Substack, we hope you got a few nuggets from our conversation that you can try with your own publication. And if you don’t have a Substack yet, why not jump in and become part of the Substack writing community?

Getting started is easy

You can get started for free, and publish for free for as long as you want. The first step is to set up your Substack publication so you can grab your desired domain name. This takes less than a minute:

Click here to start a Substack

For further guidance, here are step-by-step instruction on initial setup, including how to import any existing email list you may have, and how to make your first post: 
How to start a Substack in three easy steps

Want to learn more, or have a question not answered here? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Substack FAQ
Substack FAQ
Linda @ Substack