Let’s say I traveled back in time and told 2020 Simon where his newsletter would stand in May 2022. Would he be disappointed or encouraged?
If I’m being honest with myself, I’d say he’d be pretty disappointed. I always assumed that there’d be some sort of tipping point that led to accelerated growth. Instead of only expanding my list by a few dozen a week, I would suddenly start growing the list by the thousands. I would then convert a sizable chunk of those incoming readers into paying subscribers, and then before you knew it I’d have my 1,000 true fans.
But while I certainly did have good weeks when I saw spikes in new signups, those spikes always leveled back toward the norm.
I’m probably sounding pretty down right now about the business, but the truth is that I’ve been incredibly optimistic these last few months. In the beginning of 2022, I finally admitted to myself that I wasn’t going to build a sustainable income through paid subscriptions alone, and in March I announced both sponsorships and an $800 online course. We now have 20 enrollees in the course and my sponsorships are sold out until August. For the first time since February 2020, I’m making something close to a living wage from my content.
Simon had been doing awesome work on his newsletter, and was an inspiration for my newsletter; I am happy to see his work paying off for him. That said, I can't help but that that a lot of people in Substack are in this boat of waiting for the "hockey stick growth" only to find out that never happens.