How I Got Over 1,000 Subscribers in 50 Days

I launched my newsletter How It Actually Works in January and passed 1,000 subscribers a few weeks ago.

I’ve separated this into 2 parts.

IMO people often create a narrative about being successful without really knowing why something worked.

So to try and avoid that I’m doing this in 2 parts:

  1. Where I got traffic from (objective)
  2. Why I think people signed up (subjective)

This way you can separate what’s real, and what’s just me guessing.

Traffic Sources

Friends

The first thing I did was tell all my closest friends and family. This is easy. While this isn’t targeted traffic (i.e. your family has almost zero chance of ever being a paying customer) getting a quick win and seeing the numbers go up feels really good.

Morale & psychology is 80% of the game so don’t downplay this.

Twitter

The newsletter comes out every Monday morning so I’ve tweeted out a few times on Sunday nights what I’m writing about. This has driven some decent traffic.

I also have some followers/friends with non-trivial numbers of followers who have retweeted me.

This post about Sam Walton

I wrote this originally as part of the newsletter but it got such a positive response I wrote it up for Medium where it now has almost 4,000 claps and over 24,000 views.

It ended up making the front page of Hacker News, /r/entrepreneur, and got seen by a lot of people on Twitter.

You might be thinking “ok that’s great for you but how is that a repeatable strategy?”

And I hear you.

But in the optionality driven internet where you don’t know what’s going to resonate with a huge audience, the strategy should be to grow optionality.

AKA give yourself more chances to get lucky.

You can do this by:

  1. Writing more
  2. Publishing more
  3. Building relationships (no matter the size of someone’s network)

And when you see something is working double down. I saw that people liked it and so posted it everywhere I could think of (various subreddits, etc.)

I even recorded an audio version… not sure what to do with it yet, but it exists. Also considering making a YouTube video of this in the style of CGP Grey.

Indie Hackers

Writing for Indie Hackers is great because I have the same problems as everyone else so it’s relatively “easy” to get into the mindset of this audience. I can almost write for myself as a journal entry and post it here.

You Don’t Need Another Tool got over 2,000 views, and this post about giving up a profitable business has over 4,000 views.

Sign Ups

So that’s what gets people to the page, but why do (I think) people sign up and open my emails?

Dead Simple Signup Page

I use Instapage for my signup page but you’d never know because it’s so simple. It’s all text and loads super fast, and it’s really easy to sign up on mobile too.

Maybe the lack of sophistication hurts? Who knows. My conversion rate is just under 25% right now.

Single Opt in

Since I’m so small I’m not worried about spam signups so this makes sense for now. I also get a text every time a signup comes in and if it’s obviously bogus I just delete it (this has only happened once or twice).

Welcome Videos

In the 1st few weeks I made a 30-second personalize welcome video for almost every person who signed up who I didn’t already know (sorry close friends and family!)

Welcoming Ramit Sethi to How It Actually Works
Welcoming Ramit Sethi to How It Actually Works

This got some great responses and is a fantastic way to be remembered better by people who only know you as a wall of text.

(I plan on doubling down on this in my professional life in general. What is the “normal” way of doing something, and how can I do something just a little bit better to help stand out?)

Testimonials

I got some unsolicited praise a few newsletters in and starting compiling a list. Now you can find almost all of them under the signup form. Social proof is obviously important, and I like having an easy, scrollable list of support.

BTW: most of the testimonials are men because AFAIK almost all my readers are men. If you’re a woman and like How It Actually Works I’d love to add you to my testimonial page!

That’s it. If you’re a reader I’d love to hear your honest feedback!