Grow: How BowTiedBull created an ecosystem where anonymous writers rise together
The Grow interview series is designed to share the nuts and bolts of how writers have gone independent and grown their audiences on Substack. It has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
We invited the anonymous writers behind BowTiedBull to share how they’ve uniquely helped writers across categories launch and grow publications.
What’s your Substack about in one sentence?
BowTiedBull helps people earn more money by growing an internet-based business and investing in crypto, stocks, and real estate better.
Learn more: BowTied Island
Who reads your Substack?
Surprisingly, despite being an anonymous Substack, we’ve grown BowTiedBull to the #2 Substack in crypto. Our audience is primarily:
Tech, Wall Street, and sales professionals
People who work at hedge funds, mutual funds, and VCs
What we’d label as “upper to upper middle class” individuals
This would be the core audience, although we do have people from all incomes and ages given our size.
What do you uniquely offer readers?
As BowTiedBull, we’ve been writing about Wall Street, crypto, real estate, and the general economy for over a decade. The goal is to provide valuable information versus creating repetitive items when there isn’t anything in the sector to talk about.
We’re biased to say BowTied publications are the most unique out there.
If you type “BowTied” into Substack or Twitter, you’ll find information on topics from Wall Street to sales to skin care to cooking. We’re quite serious about building a digital nation. The goal is to have information on every single topic that is niche and valuable.
The goal is to provide valuable information versus creating repetitive items when there isn’t anything in the sector to talk about.
Growth by the numbers
Started Substack: BowTiedBull started in April 2021 and went paid immediately
Free subscribers: 30,000+
Paid subscribers: #2 top paid Crypto publication
Why did you start a Substack?
One of the main drums we were beating for years was to earn some money online. In 2020 and 2021, when the world was in pure chaos, we realized we were big enough to prove that anyone could do it and we could help anyone start a small Wi-Fi business [a business that makes money over the internet] if they were talented and producing something of value.
We spun up the BowTied community, and within about one to two months we had several accounts that we knew had valuable information. Several of these individuals now earn a living wage online.
Our advice is to get started as early as possible. If you don’t start early, it’ll be hard to stay motivated over the long term. Two hundred dollars a month is a big deal for a 21-year-old; it might not be a big deal for someone who is 40+.
What’s the BowTiedBull content strategy?
Schedule: Typically three times a week, but at this rate a bit more. We do two paid and one free per week. However, if we work with a talented person, we will publish various free posts to help build an audience.
Topic: The primary content is what we’d label as “finance trends.” Crypto is a big focal point. If the market changes and we see something different in stocks, real estate, or e-commerce, the posts will highlight those items.
Free vs. paid: Free posts are more topical, while paid posts are more specific. The main difference for us is access and detailed analysis.
Voice: We want to cater to an audience that cares about the truth and for our writing to be easy to remember. No one reads earnings calls or SEC filings, because they are boring. Our writing style is the reverse of these filings. They have to use specific words to avoid getting in trouble. Most people don’t know that public conference calls are run through by lawyers. You can’t just say you have an “EXTREMELY HOT PRODUCT” and get away with it on a conference call. It has to be factually true. If a CEO or CFO goes from saying “strong growth” to “modest growth” for a business line that doesn’t have financials in the 10-K [a comprehensive report filed annually by public companies about their financial performance], you know it was bad. It went from, say, 10%+ to 2%. The numerical difference is large, and the lawyers have to decide what they can say without misleading investors. In other words, what they are really saying is that the division missed expectations by a mile.
What’s the sharpest insight you can offer other writers about growing a Substack publication?
Produce as much as you can. We write around 200 pages a month. At minimum, that shows we’re working hard and following everything we can. After you prove you can produce, work on what is most important and drill down on the topics most valuable to your audience.
A large chunk of people won’t like you no matter what. Remember, even the president of the USA, no matter what party, has about 50% of the population entirely against him. Ignore them and focus on the people who do like you.
What advice do you have for anonymous writers?
The worst part of being anonymous is actually trying to grow. It’s pretty difficult to build an audience of our size with no “brand” backing you, like Goldman Sachs or Harvard. But we don’t believe in credentials as a signal for value. We have to put enough info out there that anyone in the know can deduce the legitimacy of the information.
We don’t believe in credentials as a signal for value. We have to put enough info out there that anyone in the know can deduce the legitimacy of the information.
If you took the time to read all of this, try not to laugh when you realize you read an entire interview written by a cartoon bull with a bowtie. The same authors are read by VCs, hedge funds, influencers, and some of the largest financial institutions in the USA.
Now, on that note … if a group of cartoon characters online can earn a living wage, what’s the excuse now? Anyone can figure it out if they try.
What questions do you have for BowTiedBull that we didn’t ask? Leave them in the comments!
To read more from this series on growing your publication, see our interviews with Noah Smith, Carissa Potter, Jørgen Veisdal, Anne Byrn, Nishant Jain, Michael Fritzell, Glenn Loury, Erik Hoel, Jessica DeFino, Mike Sowden, Elizabeth Held, Jonathan Nunn, Polina Pompliano, Michael Williams, Judd Legum, and Caroline Chambers.