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What I Learned from a Guy Making $977,000 on Substack After 6 Months

by | Mar 31, 2024 | Writing

Almost $1M on Substack sounds like bullsh*t.

I wouldn’t have believed it either. But it’s 100% true. Unfortunately, I can’t share the American writer’s name as they showed me their Stripe account in confidence.

What I can share is how they made so much money so fast.

The social media strategy I was sure was rigged

Their main driver of readers to their Substack is X (Tw1tter).

This isn’t uncommon. So I was sure they’d have been writing on X for years like most of us. Nope. They began on X in April 2023. They’ve made almost $1M on Substack in the last 12 months.

The only way I could see this would be possible is if they bought followers or paid some heavy hitters to share their posts. So I asked them. Nope.

They haven’t spent a dollar on attracting readers.

One reason they didn’t want to trade reshares/retweets with other writers is it would make their X timeline and profile full of other people’s junk. They wanted theirs clean.

So what did he do?

  • They tweeted every hour in a 24 hour day.
  • They studied the best tweets.
  • They made sure they presented their money ideas in a compelling way.

They found longer form tweet threads on X worked the best to get attention. They always made the last tweet a link to their newsletter.

Writers often overlook the simple “perspiration over talent” argument. They don’t want to hear it. It’s hustle culture. But if you don’t have money or special writing skills, then hard work is the best strategy.

The hack to defeat Elon Musk’s Substack block

It’s widely known that after Elon Musk had an argument with Substack in 2023, any links that take X users over there will be mostly blocked.

I didn’t know this.

What this writer does is place a link in the last tweet of every thread that leads to a ConvertKit landing page. These aren’t blocked by Elon.

Each week they dump people from ConvertKit into Substack to get around the block. A bit of extra work but an awesome workaround.

Take that Elon!

This will piss you off

They don’t write under their real name.

Notice I haven’t mentioned their gender. I didn’t know before I did a Zoom with them what gender they were. That’s how much a personal brand doesn’t matter if the content is great.

Their X account is labeled the same as their Substack publication. I asked them why and they told me that their finance 9–5 job specifically prohibits them from writing about money or giving advice online.

This scenario is rare, but it also goes to show that if you have the drive to write and make money, you’ll find a way.

The gurus tell you nameless social media profiles are a bad strategy. “You’ll go broke and piss mommy off.”

Maybe.

But even using this not-so-great strategy, they’ve absolutely crushed it on X & Substack. If you’re afraid of who might read your writing, use a nickname.

How they make $977,000 from their Substack

They started their Substack 6 months ago.

I fact-checked this and it’s true. Since then they’ve got 2300 paid subscribers paying an average of $425 a year to read their Substack finance publication.

2300 paid readers x $425 = $977,500

Holy crap. That’s a lot of cash.

The first thing to note is if your writing helps people make money, then you can charge a premium. So maybe not all of you are going to write about money, but it’s still possible to get 2300 paid readers or charge $425 a year.

If they did this in 6 months, there’s no reason you can’t do it in a year or two. And for most of you, even $100K would be more than enough.

I’ll remind you that this writer isn’t particularly talented. They’re not sharing super secret information either.

What they do in their words is “Teach people about finance like they’re a 5th grader.”

Simplifying complex ideas makes you a money-making machine.

Yet most writers won’t do it because they think it’s selling out or boring. Or they believe no one will pay for simple/basic content. WRONG.

Growing their Substack readers on auto-pilot

Other than X their main driver of new readers comes from Substack recommendations.

They spent a few hours getting other finance writers with similar-sized audiences to agree to do a recommendation swap. They do this by reaching out to them via Direct Messages on Substack, X, and LinkedIn.

“You recommend my Substack, I’ll recommend yours. Deal?”

This brings them in thousands of new readers each month. No work.

The subscription hack to more money and to get long-term commitment from readers

If you’ve ever run a subscription business, you’ll know that monthly customers are the worst.

They’re flaky as hell. Every month you feel like you’ve got to resell them on why they should stick around.

It’s a waste of time.

This smart writer did an experiment. They tried turning off monthly subscriptions. Guess what? Revenue went up!

Lesson: If you want longer term readers on Substack, then turn off monthly subscriptions. Plus, you’ll get paid more money upfront, which will help with the motivation to write each week.

Diversify like your life depends on it

So everything’s great, right?

$977K a year. No employees. What a life. Well, not quite. The one danger is a lot of their readers come from X. If Yolo Elon does something stupid, then their newsletter growth could stop.

Even if it did, I’m sure the existing $977K a year would help wash away a few tears. But still, writers need to think like business owners or they’ll be screwed over.

This clever writer built an audience on LinkedIn too. They figured finance was also a good topic over there — and they were right. They took all their best X posts and reposted them there with some light editing.

The one hurdle they hit is LinkedIn doesn’t allow anonymous accounts or profile pictures with monkeys smoking cigars like X does. They were banned when they tried to use a fake name.

So they made their LinkedIn account their real name. How?

They quit their finance job. Problem solved. When you’re making $977K a year, do you really need a job? N-a-a-a-a-a-a-h-h-h-h-h-h-h. Smell ya later boss boy.

Why can’t you start a 6-figure Substack in the next 12 months?

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