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What is Substack?

What is Substack?

Substack is an online platform that allows writers and creators to start their own subscription-based newsletters. It was launched in 2017 by Chris Best, Hamish McKenzie, and Jairaj Sethi with the goal of providing writers with a means of building a direct relationship with their audience and monetizing their work.

Substack simplifies the process of setting up a paid newsletter. Writers can send digital newsletters directly to their subscribers’ inboxes and charge a subscription fee for access to their content. This content can be anything from news articles, opinion pieces, and industry insights, to serialized novels, recipes, and more.

Substack handles the hosting, design, and subscription management aspects, allowing writers to focus primarily on their content. Writers can choose to offer free content to grow their audience, paid subscriptions for exclusive content, or a mix of both.

The platform has become popular with many independent journalists, subject matter experts, and enthusiasts as it offers a new model for journalism and content creation, allowing them to monetize their work directly without relying on advertisements or a traditional publisher.

Why is Substack Popular with Writers?

Substack has gained popularity among writers for several reasons:

  1. Monetization: Substack provides a direct means for writers to monetize their work through subscriptions. Writers can set their own subscription prices, and Substack only takes a small percentage of the subscription fee. This has made it a viable option for independent journalism and content creation.
  2. Control and Independence: Substack allows writers to retain full editorial control over their content. There are no editors to satisfy, no content guidelines to abide by (other than the standard terms of service), and no algorithms to game. Writers are free to write about the topics they’re passionate about.
  3. Direct Relationship with Readers: With Substack, writers can build a direct relationship with their readers. The newsletter format enables regular, direct communication with subscribers, fostering a sense of community and engagement.
  4. Ease of Use: The platform is designed to be user-friendly. It takes care of the technical aspects like web hosting, subscription management, and payment processing, so writers can focus on producing content.
  5. Flexibility: Substack offers the flexibility to provide both free and paid content, allowing writers to balance monetization with audience growth. They can send free newsletters to attract and engage readers, while offering premium content to paying subscribers.
  6. Email as a Stable Medium: While social media platforms can change their algorithms and affect content visibility, email is considered a more stable medium. With newsletters, writers’ content lands directly in subscribers’ inboxes, increasing the likelihood of it being seen and read.
  7. Growing Popularity: As more well-known writers and journalists have joined Substack, the platform’s profile has risen, attracting more readers and writers to it.

How Can Writers Make Money on Substack?

Writers can earn money on Substack through the platform’s subscription model. Here’s how it works:

  1. Create Your Newsletter: After setting up a Substack account, writers create their newsletter, which can be about anything they’re passionate about – from specific industry insights, personal musings, political analysis, to creative writing, and more.
  2. Build Your Audience: Writers then start building an audience by publishing free newsletters and sharing them across their networks. Building an audience usually takes time and consistent effort in producing high-quality content.
  3. Set Up Paid Subscriptions: Once they’ve built an audience and established trust with their readers, writers can start offering paid subscriptions. They set a price for subscriptions, which can be charged monthly or annually.
  4. Create Exclusive Content: To incentivize readers to subscribe, writers typically offer exclusive content to paying subscribers. This could be additional newsletters, early access to content, subscriber-only comments, or any other premium offerings.
  5. Earn Subscription Revenues: Substack collects the subscription fees from the readers and, after taking a small percentage.

My Personal Experience with Substack

I’ve been using Substack for several years now (since 2019), and I can confidently say it has revolutionized my approach to content creation. As a passionate writer, finding a platform that seamlessly marries creative freedom with monetization potential was always the dream. Substack has made that dream a reality.

What sets Substack apart is its uncomplicated, user-friendly interface. Publishing a newsletter feels as straightforward as writing an email, but with the added sophistication of customization tools that ensure each issue reflects your unique brand. The platform just gets out of the way, allowing your thoughts and ideas to take center stage.

Substack has also empowered me with the tools to grow a thriving community of engaged readers. The comment feature has made it possible to interact with my subscribers on a more personal level, fostering a sense of connection and dialogue that goes beyond the newsletter itself.

The true game-changer, however, has been the ability to monetize my work directly through paid subscriptions. While I had reservations about charging for my content initially, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the number of readers willing to support my efforts financially. It’s validating to know that there is a real market for independent, thoughtful writing.

And let’s not forget the freedom Substack offers. As a writer, I retain complete control over my content, my subscriber list, and my schedule. I can write on the topics I love, at a pace that suits me, free from the constraints of traditional publishing.

Final Thoughts

Substack has not just been a platform for me, it’s been a launching pad into the world of independent publishing. If you’re a writer looking for a tool to connect with your audience, to share your insights, and to monetize your passion, I cannot recommend Substack enough. It’s truly a writer’s best friend in the digital age.

I hope you found this guide on what is Substack, useful! If you want to learn more about creating, scaling, and monetizing a Substack newsletter, check out the free content on our blog! If you are still in need of more detailed strategies for making money with Substack, you can also check out my Substack course.