How to Make Money on Substack – 6 Best Strategies

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Key Takeaways

  • Understand your readers and differentiate your content for success on Substack.
  • Set clear goals, consider your income stream, community, and knowledge expansion.
  • Leverage Substack features like Boost, Recommendations, Notes, and Comments effectively.
  • Consistency in writing and promotion is crucial for Substack success.
  • Increase your Substack’s perceived value with diverse content formats and original reporting.
  • Recognize the mechanics of Substack, start with high-quality free content, and prioritize self-promotion to monetize effectively.

Know Your Readers

Understanding your readers is a crucial step for making money on Substack. To effectively monetize your content and engage your audience, consider the following key points:

  • Identify your ideal readers:
    • Who does your writing bring together?: Clarify the audience that your content resonates with.
    • Why will people rally around your writing?: Understand the unique value that your writing offers to your audience.
  • Differentia your writing: Once you have a clearer picture of your readers and their motivations, determine what sets your writing apart from others in your niche. Consider these approaches to differentiate your work:
    • Distinct voice: Develop a unique writing voice, tone, and style.
    • Refreshing content: Explore different topics and categories that stand out from other writers.
    • Unique formatting: Experiment with unconventional post formats.
  • Engage with your paid subscribers: Recognize that paid subscribers have a higher level of engagement. Tailor your paid content to meet their expectations, and use this opportunity to diversify your offerings.
  • Experiment with post types: Translate your audience understanding and differentiation strategy into the types of posts you publish on Substack. Use multimedia tools to cater to your audience’s preferences, such as audio versions for multitasking readers or open discussion threads for community building.
  • Free vs. paid strategy: Decide which posts to offer for free and which to make exclusive to paying subscribers. Generally, it’s recommended to make your best work free and accessible to everyone, as this can attract a wider audience and potential subscribers. Paid content should offer additional value, such as in-depth investigations, personal insights, behind-the-scenes access, or exclusive events, to incentivize readers to subscribe.

Set Goals

When contemplating the transition to a paid model, begin by analyzing your data. The assessment of your writer-reader relationship hinges on two key dimensions: reach and engagement.

Reach pertains to the size of your readership, while engagement relates to the level of attention your readers devote to your content.

Examples of goals you can set to make money on Substack:

  • New income stream: Generate additional revenue to support yourself.
  • Explore topics: Address subjects you can’t explore elsewhere.
  • Connect with peers: Connect and engage with individuals within your field.
  • Expand knowledge: Learn new insights about specific subjects.
  • Enhance portfolio: Develop and diversify your writing portfolio.
  • Community: Build a dedicated readership and foster a vibrant community.

Use Substack Features Effectively

Substack has a few built-in features that you can use to increase the chances of making more money on Substack. Substack has Substack boost, recommendations, Substack notes, and comments sections, and each one of those features can increase your revenue potential on Substack.

  • Substack Boost: By activating Boost, Substack uses data-driven insights to strategically offer discounts and special incentives to readers at pivotal moments, ensuring maximum revenue potential. While the specifics of Boost may evolve, its core objective remains constant: assisting writers in expanding their readership and earnings.
  • Recommendations: Substack’s recommendations feature is a powerful tool to increase your publication’s visibility among a broader audience. By making recommendations, you enhance the chances of receiving recommendations in return, amplifying your reach. This feature is accessible to all Substack writers, podcasters, and publishers.
  • Substack Notes: Substack Notes is a dynamic platform for writers to share short-form posts and exchange ideas with peers and readers. Within Notes, you can recommend various content elements, including posts, links, images, and quotes, while fostering discussions through comments and more. Use Substack Notes to promote your work within the Substack community, whether it’s by endorsing other writers’ content or celebrating your milestones.
    • Types of notes: Text note, Restack, Quote
  • Comments: Engaging with other writers’ publications by leaving thoughtful comments can significantly impact your visibility. Substack displays your reader and writer profile when you comment on fellow Substacks, increasing the discovery of your work by their readers.

Be Consistent

Being consistent on Substack to monetize your content requires careful consideration and commitment. First and foremost, it’s essential to recognize that going paid represents a commitment, not just to yourself but also to your readers.

Substack’s experience has revealed that maintaining a regular and consistent writing schedule stands out as the most significant predictor of success for new writers on the platform.

Before embarking on the paid journey, it’s vital to conduct an honest self-assessment. Assess your capacity, ensuring you have the time, interest, and dedication necessary for this endeavor. Substack typically recommends a minimum writing frequency of at least once a week, catering to both your free and paid subscribers.

In addition to writing, you should be prepared to invest time in promotional activities, branding efforts, and various aspects of managing an independent writing business.

Increase the Perceived Value of Your Substack

You can increase the perceived value of your Substack by offering your readers more than your competitors while not burning out from writing. More doesn’t have to be about more content but can be more unique ways of presenting content or including different content formats in your articles.

Examples of how you can increase the perceived value of your Substack:

  • Explore alternative means of connecting with your audience beyond written content: Consider adding images, videos, and such to your content.
  • Use data: Making mathematics integral to your content can set you apart by providing original insights and analytical depth that distinguishes your newsletter.
  • Illustrate for your readers: Use illustrations to present complex ideas and maintain reader engagement, ensuring your content remains accessible and informative.
  • Do original reporting: Adopt the mindset of a journalist, inquire, and uncover stories that resonate within your community, shedding light on narratives that deserve to be told.
  • Seek endorsements from other Substackers or readers to boost your newsletter’s credibility: As you prepare for your paid launch, reach out to individuals who appreciate your content and ask them to share your newsletter, explaining why they find it valuable.
  • Nurture your relationship with your readers: If your goal is to cultivate a thriving community around your work, allocate time each day to respond to messages from your readers.

Understand the Substack Mechanics

Achieving substantial income as a writer on Substack often requires patience and persistence. Many of the platform’s most successful writers didn’t reach six figures overnight; it took them months to attain their current status.

The advantage of subscription-based models lies in the steady and predictable nature of recurring revenue, unlike one-time content sales such as books or articles.

However, your journey as an independent writer may need ongoing experimentation to sustain growth. Typically, around 5-10% of free subscribers transition to paid subscriptions, with a target conversion rate of 10%.

Tips to making money on Substack:

  • Start with high-quality free content. Top Substack publications prioritize offering their finest and most accessible content for free.
  • Subscribers are primarily drawn to the sense of connection they feel with the publisher.
  • Share your most thoughtful and accessible content for free to increase its potential for wide sharing and readership despite the instinct to keep it behind a paywall.
  • Subscribers pay for empowerment and value, not for volume.
  • Neglecting self-promotion stifles progress; as an independent writer, you must both create content and embrace the role of a marketing officer for success.
  • Adopt the perspective of a consumer, someone who supports artists they adore, because that’s precisely the role you play for your readers.
  • Respond to comments, and recognize and appreciate those dedicated readers who keep returning for more.
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The eight different themes of why readers become paid subscribers. Image credits.

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Okuha

Digital Artist

I’m a digital artist who is passionate about anime and manga art. My true artist journey pretty much started with CTRL+Z. When I experienced that and the limitless color choices and the number of tools I could use with art software, I was sold. Drawing digital anime art is the thing that makes me happy among eating cheeseburgers in between veggie meals.

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