Listen now (50 mins) | In today’s episode we dive into this letter from a listener: I am hanging on your every word about Substack. I just can't seem to shake this question: Is Substack really right for my business? And if so, am I doing it right? How should I think about it and prioritize it among the many other things I could be doing with my limited time and energy?
This episode (as usual) was so timely for me. I have been slowly increasing my work here on Substack because I love the platform, and it is scratching a lot of my creative itches. I am going all in on here at the moment, specifically looking to meaningfully grow my audience here and make this a significant part of my business income. Last month I put a call out to help me write a poem about the wild, and I had 54 beautiful submissions and we created such a beautiful piece of writing together. This helped me solidify that I really want to grow my community here. On Saturday I (with so much vulnerability AND excitement) posted something I have been working on in my heart for a while - I am writing a book. Not exactly mind shattering here on Substack, but I actually want my community to help me write it. Both by signing up to paid subscriptions where they can to help me financially, but also, I want to have lots more collaborative adventures that I will publish in the book (with credit to the contributors). I created a 28 day class at the beginning of the year and only ran it once. I decided to repurpose all of this material, reweave parts of it to really tell the story of The Wild Forgotten, and am using this as the paid benefits. It is extremely generous, but it feels so authentic and aligned with what I want this place to be for me and my community. So yes, I am also running a course here (though only at $10 a month), but I have the content for a year, and it feels so gentle. "It is a publishing platform with community built in" - as Jen said, and that feels so perfect. At the moment I am doubling down on how best to serve my community here, how to write well and grow my community (and other writer and creator relationships), and...to figure out how to write this book that the muses keep screaming at me to write! And bring on the Substack Soiree - I am so looking forward to it!
This feels so true to what I've been finding here and doing here! I have heard two wise and beautiful souls say often that "we have to put ourselves in the way of a little bit of magic". That's why I'm here. I write what I love and love what I write and that is enough. I started writing on substack because things took an unexpected turn in my business and I didn't want to lose the connection with my small email list, but sending email marketing and writing blogs and newsletters through my website marketing platform about products and commissions just wasn't right anymore. I have that little voice that craves the big numbers and wishes substack could be decent revenue stream, and maybe that will happen with time and growth, but for now, I tell the voice that I'm here because I love the creativity, connection, community and conversation. And that is enough. If people also love the words and pictures that I share, then that's an unexpected extra.
I related a ton to what you said including the burnout from every piece of writing becoming a piece of marketing. Yet, I see it happening here already.
Just today I asked myself how I ended up in the neighborhood of how-to. How to grow you Substack. How to go paid. I'm sure that's all interesting, but don't we know that stuff already? Isn't what we're craving is just to BE, to write, to connect?
The problem with the other platforms might be their algorithms and ads. The bigger problem is, we started playing their ad and algo game and stopped playing our own.
How will we be different on Substack? Will we start to play the marketing game with just a change of location, or will we truly change the game? I deeply include myself in that we.
Listened to this on my way to work. Time well spent.
I moved from Mailchimp to Substack in order to link my artistic sharing with my marketing. I relate to what Sara said about Substack allowing us to both write AND place our service offerings. That’s what I do and it feels more comfortable than when I was only trying to convince people through the mailchimp thing. The automation and the segmentation drained me a lot (I did it all by myself and I hate that!).
Moving here has allowed me more freedom, because of these main reasons:
1/ we can put letters, podcasts and so on (videos) in the same place. I know I could do all this with another autoresponder platform but the ergonomic aspect of Substack makes me feel more at ease. I can really feel this is made for writers and not just « write your marketing content once a week ». I kept my email list for almost one year, writing poems and sharing my books extracts here on Substack and sending news and offerings to my email list.
2/ I needed to simplify my process and reunify my things. This leads me to lose many subscribers and to get some new ones. Depending on what your content is, having different things on different places can be a good choice, but to me, I needed to have subscribers interested both by my creative sharing and my online offerings. So I decided to gather everything in one letter. Simple. Aligned with my process and my identity. So I’m just opposed (apparently) to Jen : I want to be the same whenever I write about my offerings or my creative process, everything is here on Substack to let people know different aspects of my content.
3/ I’m not feeling alone anymore while sending my news, my podcasts or my poems as I used to do… that was all I was missing when I was on mailchimp : this was like a « private » platform where quite no one else but your subscribers can discover you (a closed place).
Doubts about the content or the form :
I must admit I still have moments where I ask myself if I’m not to far from my business sometimes or in the contrary too direct while writing a letter with just the infos about the current workshops. What helped me, fueled me a lot was to subscribe to quite different letters, ranging from coaches to well reknown writers. As Jen said, substack is just a playground.
I remember some years ago when admins sent a questionnaire to writers about our needs and dreams for Substack. I said I wanted Substack to become my home. Home for both my podcasts, my sharing about my upcoming books, about my online offerings and so on.
Substack as a secret island?
Funny to hear that Substack is still so unknown in your area - here in France I can say it’s totally unknown! So what I love in Substack is that it allows me to write in several languages. Most of my subscribers speak french but all of my subscriptions except one are in english…
Actually I feel home here and what I like the most is having neighbors that I can easily connect with.
Commenting, liking or sharing is also great as there’s place for real interactions and discussions.
From time to time I wonder : « am I doing it well? Does that work ? » and I listen to my soul’s voice respond: « Search for pleasure. Remember this is YOUR place. You can do what you want, you can change the rules anytime, you can have an agenda or simply go with the flow. But you are free. »
I feel that apart from the imposter syndrome, this is also due to the restrictions and the pression on other social medias. Here I compare myself too but the diversity and the versatility of the platform helps me to release the pression and to really have fun.
And I love receiving my subscribed letters… which is really needed when you’re an artist and need to hear or read other creatives. There’s good fuel for me here. :)
Oh my goodness, I love you two so much. Thank you so very much for answering my letter. There were so many lightbulb moments for me in this episode.
“You get to be hopeful AND realistic.” 🙌🏼
“Low cost AND low touch.” – The point here about not over-giving really hit home.
And Sara, a technical question for you about the Substack Soirée: will you be manually switching paid subscribers to “comp” after 3 months, or will you pause payments for the whole substack after 3 months?
Thank you again. You two always put my heart at ease and make things just feel a bit lighter ❤️
Very timely. Thank you. I’m tuning in now.
I'm so happy I listened to this episode. I'm still finishing it. I'm here because I want to share what excites me and give a complete picture of my work, what sparks it. I was worried that I wasn't being " niche" enough and that I wasn't focusing exclusively on my core message but this episode proves that instead, I'm on the right track. I simply don't have the capacity to be exclusively on my business anymore but that's because my business is the sum of everthing in my world and that's why I'm on Substack. For the freedom. To be fully creative. I love having options again!
That was--like everyone else is saying!- a great episode. Thank you both!
I had just sent you gals a Substack question which could have had the same question, except for the “as a visual artist/maker who doesn’t consider herself a writer” tacked onto the back end. I’m still turning this all over and over in my brain, but leaning towards taking the leap...if I can ever think up a decent title for a Substack 😫😂.
thoroughly loved this episode! I feel so excited about substack and it feels so great to be growing something here. I definitely dream of what I could create on here and hope for my small community to grow but for now, I'm so happy to show up each week for myself and others in this way. Thanks so much for this episode!!
Really appreciated this episode and really wanted to join in on the substack soiree programme, it just happens to coincide with my family's 3 week road trip wherein we're also camping - someone save me now... (slightly kidding).
My trouble getting really good and going with substack seems to lie with my visuals, oh dang it's 2 problems: it's that I do too many things and that I also do a very visual thing, though I'm also a writes-just-enough-to-be-dangerous sort, so therein lies my problem. I'm 3/4 still stuck on instagram and 1/4 dabbling on substack.
I'm having a hard time figuring out how to bring the visuals to my substack in a way that I like. Most folks that are subscribers to my substack came here for my writing, so figuring out how to incorporate more of the visuals to the party I want to throw as Sara said, has me stuck.
There's more - making me realize I might just have to write in my own Letter From a Hopeful Creative...
Really loved this episode - I might have to listen to it again! I'm in a quandary about whether to bring my business over to Substack. So far I have been using it for my own passion project creativity around our travels as a family (https://everydayjourneys.substack.com/) but I'm considering bringing my business here too. I was diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder several years ago and created an app to support the practices that helped me to manage worries (worry-tree.com). I have a monthly newsletter but I think it could be better in terms of engagement. On the one hand it's hard to see how a business built around an app could work here on this platform. But then the feedback I get is that people connect with my personal story about my experiences with worry, and so it feels like Substack might be a good fit for building a community around that personal story. Hard to know whether to take the leap or not!! Would signing up for the Soiree help with that decision, or should I have decided to commit beforehand?
Looking forward to tuning in 👍
This was such a useful and inspiring episode! Thank you! Answered so many of my questions and fuelled my curiosity to have Substack as a foundational pillar for my heart work! X