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EXECUTION [Progress] Paid email newsletters

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Andy Black

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Hi

Jtads Newsletter

For those who give a sh*t yes this is what I've been doing lately!

One day I may make a forum post about it. That day will not be today.

This post is meant to get you to think. So think.
Woohoo! One in a row!

I’ve bullied my first person into creating an email newsletter.
 

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Andy Black

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[UPDATE]

Blimey... I can't keep up with all the emails flying about in my inbox. (I send a manual email to thank each person who signs up, and then ask how they found out about the newsletter and what they're up to.)

My (mental) list of things I don't like about Substack is getting a bit longer. I'll add it in here later. None are show-stoppers, but collectively they're starting to bother me. One is that I don't get people's first names when they signup. I like to address people by name so that's a bigger issue than I initially thought.

Anyway, here's the total subscribers and paid subscribers:


And here's the stats for August to date:


 
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Andy Black

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[UPDATE]

I took my three sons and one of their cousins to a kids “Jungle Den” this morning for a couple of hours.

I sat at a table checking emails and Basecamp on my phone, and then wrote up the Substack post below and hit publish.

Seriously... it’s amazing being able to work from your phone. What an incredible time we live in.


Given how I’m able to get free subs easier than paid subs I’m focused on providing them value and giving them an incentive to become a paid subscriber.

I’m now trying to write each free email/post so it adds value in its own right, and so it naturally continues onto a paid issue/post.


This morning’s free post:

I now have to write a continuation post for my paid subscribers to expand further on what I wrote about.

Is this a potential new process emerging out of the haze?
 

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[UPDATE]

Blimey... I can't keep up with all the emails flying about in my inbox. (I send a manual email to thank each person who signs up, and then ask how they found out about the newsletter and what they're up to.)

My (mental) list of things I don't like about Substack is getting a bit longer. I'll add it in here later. None are show-stoppers, but collectively they're starting to bother me. One is that I don't get people's first names when they signup. I like to address people by name so that's a bigger issue than I initially thought.

Anyway, here's the total subscribers and paid subscribers:


And here's the stats for August to date:


Hey Andy, great progress. Really cool to see you go through this documenting your experience.

Your traffic stats surprised me a bit for the ‘direct’ source. How are people going directly to it who haven’t heard about it? I see next in line is TFLF which makes sense.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

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Thought you'd find it interesting, Andy:

Why We're Launching Paid Newsletters

And just a few months later, they closed it down:

Goodbye, Readers

I have a feeling that it's not really about the content belonging more on their site than in the newsletter. It's that people were used to consuming their content on the website and now it's very hard to change their habits. It could probably work if it were a completely separate business.
 
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Hey Andy, great progress. Really cool to see you go through this documenting your experience.

Your traffic stats surprised me a bit for the ‘direct’ source. How are people going directly to it who haven’t heard about it? I see next in line is TFLF which makes sense.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
Thanks @jcvlds.

I think the “direct” bucket must be when Substack can’t figure out the source.

I know a lot of people from a Discord group have signed up as free subscribers recently, and maybe some have signed up as paid.

I also emailed all the people who signed up for the free trial or who bought my AdWords course. At the end of that email I linked to an article on Substack that was relevant to the content of the email. Mailchimp tells me none of the 80 people who opened the email ended up clicking on any link on the email. I find that hard to believe so maybe Mailchimp isn’t tracking that correctly? Anyhow, maybe some of them show up as “direct” too?

I suppose I could put in some utm_source parameter into each link so I can see where the last click came from. I’ll address more detailed attribution later on when/if it becomes a problem.

Suffice to say that Substack itself isn’t much of a discovery channel for my newsletter. Yet another reason I’ll migrate off it eventually.
 
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Thought you'd find it interesting, Andy:

Why We're Launching Paid Newsletters

And just a few months later, they closed it down:

Goodbye, Readers

I have a feeling that it's not really about the content belonging more on their site than in the newsletter. It's that people were used to consuming their content on the website and now it's very hard to change their habits. It could probably work if it were a completely separate business.
Thanks @MTF.


Blimey... they didn’t sell it very well.

The headline of that page was:

“Why We're Launching Paid Newsletters
As we ramp up our storytelling to meet new challenges, we’re asking you to make a direct contribution to our efforts“


A while back I checked out the sales pages of a few of the writers on Substack. They were similar in that they seemed to be asking for a favour from readers instead of offering something of incredible value for the $5/mth.

Some of the writers pretty much say they need the contributions to keep writing.

I’m kinda waiting for the ban hammer on there for being an evil marketer. Haha.
 

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A while back I checked out the sales pages of a few of the writers on Substack. They were similar in that they seemed to be asking for a favour from readers instead of offering something of incredible value for the $5/mth.

Some of the writers pretty much say they need the contributions to keep writing.
That's a good point. They were selling it from the position of "here's what it will do for us" instead of "here's what it will do for you."
 
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Andy Black

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[UPDATE]

Substack:
  • 30 free subscribers.
  • 6 paid subscribers.
  • $30/mth MRR.
All paid subscribers are people who already know me from TFLF.

Most of the free subscribers probably are too.

“Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time, and always start with the person closest to you.” (Mother Theresa)


Things I’m pondering:


1) The newsletter name.

Freelance And Beyond is a great name for people who want to go freelance, and freelancers who want to go beyond.

It’s a great name and domain name for offerings to those two markets.

But it’s anchored at freelancing, and I now mostly write about learnings from steps beyond (agency, productised services, subscription businesses).

I think the name repels people who might like the content, and attracts people who might be confused by what I’m writing.

A TFLF member confirmed this by saying he’s following my newsletter but wasn’t sure if it was for him or not because he’s not a freelancer and has no intention of being one.

I’m pondering a new name for my blog and newsletter. One that isn’t too specific a name, that isn’t tied to my name, and that can allow me to change direction without having to move domains.

The more specific domain names can be used for standalone entry points for different markets.


2) When to move off Substack.

It’s not if, but when. I want to get onto Mailchimp sooner rather than later, for reasons already mentioned.


EDIT: I repositioned the newsletter and wrote about it here:
 
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Andy Black

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[QUICK UPDATE]

I'll likely go with ThriveCart and ActiveCampaign for my paid Google Ads newsletter.


Still at 33 free subscribers, 6 paid subscribers, and $30 MRR on Substack.

I've not done much to grow the newsletter, but it's super easy to send out free and paid newsletters.

I'm considering killing the free newsletter and just sending paid issues.

In the meantime I'm trying something with the latest issue:

Here's what it looks like on the www.substack.com/discover page:
 
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^^^ That post didn't bring any new subscribers from the Substack discover page.

Just sent this out to everyone on my Substack list:
 

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Freelance and Beyond was a good name, good idea... you just didn't write the right content for it. Looking at your archives, you were writing about starting freelance instead of sending info that helps freelancers move 'beyond'. Kinda jumbled up the content and intent...there was too much broad information.

There is a need for that newsletter tho, millions of freelancers have a career already but are looking to grow out of it, it's not just people 'aspiring' to be freelancers. In fact, Freelance and Beyond shouldn't have been for newbs at all. Seems like you were more excited to execute a newsletter and didn't do your deal customer avatar and what THEY want.

FaB could have been more for folks like me who want to move off of it and the newsletter could be great help with ideas and processes that diversify from freelance (for some it's teaching, for some it's doing digital products, for some it's affiliate stuff etc, ton of content for newsletter etc). That kind of newsletter featuring info, case studies, experiences of diversification would be quite useful. I can see myself paying monthly for that.

If you like Subscription niche tho, stick to it, good you've stumbled on it. That's also a growing market.

Paid newsletters are very intriguing! Looking forward to see how it goes further.
 
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Andy Black

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Freelance and Beyond was a good name, good idea... you just didn't write the right content for it. Looking at your archives, you were writing about starting freelance instead of sending info that helps freelancers move 'beyond'. Kinda jumbled up the content and intent...there was too much broad information.

There is a need for that newsletter tho, millions of freelancers have a career already but are looking to grow out of it, it's not just people 'aspiring' to be freelancers. In fact, Freelance and Beyond shouldn't have been for newbs at all. Seems like you were more excited to execute a newsletter and didn't do your deal customer avatar and what THEY want.

FaB could have been more for folks like me who want to move off of it and the newsletter could be great help with ideas and processes that diversify from freelance (for some it's teaching, for some it's doing digital products, for some it's affiliate stuff etc, ton of content for newsletter etc). That kind of newsletter featuring info, case studies, experiences of diversification would be quite useful. I can see myself paying monthly for that.

If you like Subscription niche tho, stick to it, good you've stumbled on it. That's also a growing market.

Paid newsletters are very intriguing! Looking forward to see how it goes further.
Thanks for the feedback @Gymjunkie. I'll come back and reply with thoughts soon.


I'm curious is the list of previous posts you found was on the blog at FreelanceAndBeyond or on Substack at Subscriber Growth

Below is what a paying subscriber sees in the archives on Substack. I don't think it's aimed at newbie freelancers?


 
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I renamed my newsletter. An Australian media company subscribed to my free newsletter and I think the name “Subscriber Growth” mislead them.

I sent a personal email to him asking how he found out about the newsletter etc.

We’re 5 emails deep already, discussing paywalls, MVPs, and Substack SEO itself.

Engage people. If they’ve taken the effort to take even a small action such as signup then there’s a reason.

“Do things that don’t scale.” (Paul Graham)



I also nuked all free issues and pruned the paid ones. It’s now going to be a paid newsletter only (which was my original intention anyway).

You have to eliminate to focus.

It’s great deleting stuff. I could feel those free issues that I’d spent time on starting to weigh me down. “What do I write that’s a continuation of what I’ve already written? What would look good in my library?” Meh to that.


I went paid only and a couple of people who already know and have conversed with me have signed up.


I’m at 8 paid subscribers and $40 MRR.

Free subscribers is no longer a metric I’m interested in. MRR at this stage is also less important than engaging and helping the paid subscribers.
 

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Your latest PAID newsletter was really good. The idea resonated with me. Funny thing is I've thought about just that in the last few weeks. And I even listened to a podcast with Scott Adams a few hours before receiving your email. He talked about the exact same concept described in a somewhat different fashion. Interesting how everything lines up perfectly sometimes.
 
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Your latest PAID newsletter was really good. The idea resonated with me. Funny thing is I've thought about just that in the last few weeks. And I even listened to a podcast with Scott Adams a few hours before receiving your email. He talked about the exact same concept described in a somewhat different fashion. Interesting how everything lines up perfectly sometimes.
Thanks for the feedback @jon.M

Did you like the specific idea I spoke about, or the idea of stacking your skills, experience, network, and resources to create your high ground?
 

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Hi everyone

I just released my paid newsletter last week and released the first issue!

Currently sitting at 14 subscribers (I cheated and gave the early birds a lifetime sub haha! But they keep reading + interacting with me so whatever I love it! Also @Andy Black really wanted to pay for it so I let him even though he didn't have to)

Why should you join? Because in my paid newsletters, I'm actually going to be talking about some really cool stuff that we're learning and doing that will help you guys become better at making sales (while also making damn sure not to break my NDA with the company i work with!!!)

Here's an introduction. I work for the fastest growing company in my industry. I'm the media buyer, and one of 2 forum members who work there. We're a team of just over a dozen.

Our record month was July, which is one of the slowest months in the industry. How did we succeed where others failed?

We're hitting snags on Facebook ads and we're pulling ourselves out of the muck. How can you compete when CPMs are higher than living F*ck and everything just tanked all of a sudden? All ad buyers have their 'come to Jesus' moment, and advanced ad buyers are going to like hearing how we get out.

Of course, I'm going to be sharing some content to help understand what ad buying is and how to break it down intellectually (while also giving actionable insights on what to do).

I'm not directly linking to the paid newsletter here: just the free one. When it's time to advertise the paid one for real, I'm going to pay MJ and actually do it for real.

The free one is up earlier in the post: not gonna link to it again out of respect for forum rules.

My free content is available to anyone who makes an account. If you like that, then there's more where that comes from.
 
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Hi everyone

I just released my paid newsletter last week and released the first issue!

Currently sitting at 14 subscribers (I cheated and gave the early birds a lifetime sub haha! But they keep reading + interacting with me so whatever I love it! Also @Andy Black really wanted to pay for it so I let him even though he didn't have to)

Why should you join? Because in my paid newsletters, I'm actually going to be talking about some really cool stuff that we're learning and doing that will help you guys become better at making sales (while also making damn sure not to break my NDA with the company i work with!!!)

Here's an introduction. I work for the fastest growing company in my industry. I'm the media buyer, and one of 2 forum members who work there. We're a team of just over a dozen.

Our record month was July, which is one of the slowest months in the industry. How did we succeed where others failed?

We're hitting snags on Facebook ads and we're pulling ourselves out of the muck. How can you compete when CPMs are higher than living f*ck and everything just tanked all of a sudden? All ad buyers have their 'come to Jesus' moment, and advanced ad buyers are going to like hearing how we get out.

Of course, I'm going to be sharing some content to help understand what ad buying is and how to break it down intellectually (while also giving actionable insights on what to do).

I'm not directly linking to the paid newsletter here: just the free one. When it's time to advertise the paid one for real, I'm going to pay MJ and actually do it for real.

The free one is up earlier in the post: not gonna link to it again out of respect for forum rules.

My free content is available to anyone who makes an account. If you like that, then there's more where that comes from.
Thanks @The-J

I’d love to follow a progress thread on you thinking about and then finally creating your paid email newsletter. Why you chose Substack. Why you chose to write about Facebook Ads. Why it took you so damn long. ; )

I probably should create a Marketplace ad, but I actually only want people who are following me in here to subscribe anyway.
 

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I’d love to follow a progress thread on you thinking about and then finally creating your paid email newsletter. Why you chose Substack. Why you chose to write about Facebook Ads. Why it took you so damn long. ; )
1) Because you told me to

2) Because it's all I know

3) Because you weren't bullying me hard enough
 

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Just checking in to see how it's going for you. I know that you're sending new letters quite frequently. How do you like the Substack platform now? What do you, or don't you, like about it?
 
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Just checking in to see how it's going for you. I know that you're sending new letters quite frequently. How do you like the Substack platform now? What do you, or don't you, like about it?
I actually really like the Substack platform. It’s simple to use, and it stores all the paid issues behind a paywall. I hadn’t intended creating a library that paid subscribers could access, but I like having it.

I’ve not promoted my paid email newsletter and am at 11 paid subscribers.

So far I’ve not created a paid email newsletter for Google Ads, because I don’t think I want to write about it every week.

I’m not precious about the title of mt current newsletter and may just change the name to Andy’s Paid Email Newsletter.

I love having somewhere I can post content whenever something comes to me, or as somewhere to store hinge I’ve posted elsewhere.

Overall, I’d recommend having a paid email newsletter, and using Substack.
 

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I think subscriptions to email "newsletters" is an amazing first subscription business, or step for a budding subscription business.

For instance:
  • One of my neighbours cycled in the Olympics
  • He's a businessman now, selling bike gear to shops.
  • He wants to create a subscription box or app for cyclists.
  • I asked him to consider a free and a paid email newsletter.
  • He's got tips and stories coming out of his ears.
  • And what a great way to build up a following and authority... before he's even thought about sourcing products and getting stuff shipped.
  • He can use those initial lists (and revenue!) to then add a subscription box later.

Anyway. I thought I'd document me trying to figure this out.
I would create a knowledge base modeled after an FAQ. There are platforms out there that can then use artificial intelligence (AI) to create a bot allowing people through natural language query (NLP) to gain the answers and insights they are looking for. A good business model would be to provide a free access and then a paywall. Through data analysis you can determine the best avenue to monetize this knowledge and up selling a cross-selling people.
 
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I would create a knowledge base modeled after an FAQ. There are platforms out there that can then use artificial intelligence (AI) to create a bot allowing people through natural language query (NLP) to gain the answers and insights they are looking for. A good business model would be to provide a free access and then a paywall. Through data analysis you can determine the best avenue to monetize this knowledge and up selling a cross-selling people.
Interesting angle. It’s the exact opposite of what I do.

I try to help people one at a time. I don’t survey groups of people or anything.

By helping people repeatedly I find out what problems are common, and what the common root causes are. I then polish and polish content until it resonates and helps people, and help by addressing the root cause and not the symptoms

Once that’s done I may well have a course that I know can help people. I may then be able to put a price on it, or “just” use it to help more folks.

No bots or AI involved, just me chatter my to folks and observing where they get stuck and where they get aha moments.

I prefer not to do formal data analysis. I find the content that helps kinda rises to the top. The market tells you what helps them if you’re listening.

I’m not saying it wouldn’t help if I approached this more formally. But I suspect it would take all the fun out of it for me and would stop it being something I do naturally every single day.

PS: I’m actually a Maths and data geek, who doesn’t want to manage by numbers because I’ve seen that go off the rails.

I just firmly subscribe to the phrase that you can’t outsource passion or insight - to a person or a machine.

PPS: I’m not throwing the baby out with the bath water though. I’m going to keep re-reading what you wrote to figure out if I’m doing this in a manual way, and if I can be a bit smarter.
 

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I was just providing insight into where the "knowledge management" market is going. The NLP capability today is amazing. The ability to perform sentiment analysis on who, what, where, when, how people tap, talk, and text in determining the most important why. Sorry if Minority Report becomes reality, it is my fault.
 
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Had two paid signups today.
I'm still sending out issues and I love having somewhere private to post.
 
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Ha. I'm tickled. I renamed the newsletter to:

... wait for it

...

..

.

"Andy's Paid Newsletter"


All that wondering about the name at the start, and I end up going with the most descriptive.
 

Crushbowl

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So I've been watching this thread for some time and I'm now deciding to contribute with my own research. To get everyone on the same page, here's the preliminary discussion:

RE: Email Newsletter Subscription Model

Ever since reading a 'welcome email' from DailyWorth as an example of how to 'indoctrinate' our subscribers, I realized that there's a whole other world of "Email Subscription Business Models" that perhaps has been overlooked.

Examples of Digital Newsletter subscription businesses:
- DailyWorth (recently acquired by Jean Chatzky)
- TheSkimm
- HARO (acquired)
- Thrillist
- DailyCandy (acquired by NBCUniversal; shutdown in 2014)
- PureWow
- TastingTable
- Groupon
- Craigslist (started as an email newsletter)

If we're plunging head first into building a Customer Value Journey (CVJ), couldn't one leg of that be devoted to the Email Newsletter Paid subscription model?

I found this interesting post that breaks down the various business models into 4 different camps:
- Freemium + Original Content
- Freemium + Curated Content
- Paid + Curated Content
- Paid + Original Content

The business models behind popular email newsletters

How publishers monetize their newsletters with paid subscriptions

Also, there are two startups created just to make it easier to make money off of your email newsletter.

Substack is like Medium.com in its UX/set-up. It's a platform geared toward freelancer journalists and hobbyist bloggers. But I don't see why it couldn't work in our market as well.

The platform is in beta and currently integrates with Stripe for accepting payments to subscribe to your newsletter.

Substack - Substack - Paid newsletters made simple

The other is Revue, which is a Dutch company, that has the same goal of monetizing your newsletter via a subscription. They're slightly different in that they set you up for 'content curation' (pulling content from other parts of the 'net and neatly organizing it into email newsletter format).

Revue - Build a newsletter that pays

I don't think it's completely out of left field and perhaps wondering if DM can devote a full-on Workshop or EC to this topic.

Rather than wait... wait... wait... to build a list to a critical mass, have the subscriber opt-in from day 1 - as a customer (paid subscriber).

If we're going to pour ourselves into writing these crafty, titillating email series where we cycle product promotions every 3 sends, why not have the email list be a 'breakeven' point - like a Tripwire (SLO) - thereby lowering the CPA?

Or flat out, make the email list a revenue source, from Day 1.

I think the most pertinent question taken directly from the article is: "Is it better to get subscription revenue out of less users or better to sell ads or further monetize traffic against a far greater amount of users?"

This is the core difference between Email Newsletter Subscription Biz Model and what most Internet Marketers are familiar with which is the Autoresponder Series method.

Do we get the money upfront or wait to ask for it through several email sends?

I also imagine that having a Paid Email Model skyrockets that dreaded open rate we're always consumed with increasing.
 
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Andy Black

Andy Black

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Substack is like Medium.com in its UX/set-up. It's a platform geared toward freelancer journalists and hobbyist bloggers. But I don't see why it couldn't work in our market as well.

The platform is in beta and currently integrates with Stripe for accepting payments to subscribe to your newsletter.

Substack - Substack - Paid newsletters made simple
Yeah... I'm using Substack. It's nice and simple, and I can send out an issue on my phone if I want. It also stores all back issues in an archive for new paid subscribers to view. Handy that it does it by default.

I had another paid subscriber signup a couple of days ago. I don't know how many paid subs I have. Between 15 and 20 I think. I'll check with support to find out. (The reason I'm not sure is that I gave some free subscriptions to team members and friends, but I can't tell who's who as Substack only collects email addresses and not names.)


EDIT: I’m at 16 paid subscribers...
 
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Andy Black

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I increased the price of my paid email newsletter from $5/mth to $9.99/mth. I prefer $9.99/mth as a price point - it doesn’t look so cheap now.

I’m still tickled seeing €3 payments hitting my business bank account every few days. They’re kinda cute, although probably adding extra work for my accountant.


I had to get Substack support to do the price change. Previously I had followed a workaround supplied by them to manually remove the annual plan in Stripe. This means I have to get Substack support to make any future price changes to my monthly plan.

This isn’t a big deal, but it’s odd Substack force us to have annual plans, and for them to then end up with this manual work to do. I guess most people have an annual plan (and I guess most people make no sales).


What’s more baffling is that I can’t see which subscribers are on a paying plan, what they’re paying, how much they’ve paid to date, and how much I earn each week or month.

The whole point of Substack is to create *paid* email newsletters... so why can’t you get basic metrics about what you’ve been paid?

@Fox says Kajabi reporting is similarly poor. The mind boggles that these businesses who’s purpose is to help us generate revenue haven’t got basic revenue reporting in place.
 

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