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This is the BEST Grow edition by far. Why?

Here's a guy who wrote everyday for years, did not have a huge online following unlike many successful authors on this platform with a vast writing portfolio and 10,000 twitter followers before they start their own blog. He represents the reality of a non-writer starting a blog - unknown, unheard and lost in the WWW ocean.

His success is the closest thing to evidence I've seen for the popular aphorism "keep writing consistently and you will find readers". Its easy to say, but bloody hard to do for someone with a career outside of writing. I would so love to pick his brains more! Especially the "Keep Writing for myself" phase. What stories did he tell himself to persevere?

P.S: As a technical professional, even a couple months of writing has radically changed my quality of emails, communications and ideas. I am more thoughtful, concise and crisp. I agree with him that this alone is a good enough reason to write. And so I carry on.

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Thanks! One thing to add is how, until 2021 - and not much before starting my Substack - I never intended my blog to be anything other than an outlet for me to write in, and much less think that it would be part of a potential new career (which career is quite unexpected, and came by me deciding I might as well give this paid newsletter thing a go).

I'd add it was more about "keep writing consistently and find readers". Not shared here is how I've actually been blogging since 2007!! But 2007-2015 my old blog (this one: https://web.archive.org/web/20150719193519/http://gergelyorosz.com/) was a mish-mash of randomness: personal updates, learning, "hey here's how you can use Objective C and Swift together" etc.

In 2015, I decided to start a *professional* blog where I only focus on one topic: software engineering. I made it my professional outlet. And I made it a point to write things that are... worth writing. So taking a bit of pride for myself.

And then, every few months I'd publish something, usually around what I learned at work, reflections etc. I usually shared the blog post with my colleagues at the time. You can see the full archive on the blog of the topics I started with and how it evolved: https://blog.pragmaticengineer.com/page/2/

And I'm fully with you that writing meant a lot to me, professionaly. At my day jobs, I worked with distributed teams, and email / Slack / docs became important. This was increasingly so when I became a manager at Uber, and I was emailing/messaging (and calling) people in the US, India, and other locations. Suddenly, expressing myself clear and concise became a "superpower", and one that I accidentally honed by writing on the side.

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Thanks for a peek into your thought process. The last sentence rings true: It is ironic that as a scientist just 3 months of writing my Substack made me a much better communicator than years of writing academic journals! My theory is that prioritizing simplicity in explaining complex topics makes you less lazy and more aware as a writer, unlike tech or science where jargon lets you get away with poor prose. You have honed that skill for years, and your success is well deserved.

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Agree with this comment. Came here to say something very similar but this comment captured it in a better way, so thanks :D!

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Thanks. Btw checked your Substack - Useful stuff, subbed. Good luck to both of us on our writing journey!

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Thanks and good luck to you too! Subbed to your Substack too, big picture on climate change sounds interesting!

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Two great comments from this:

1. It takes time to find your voice [**couldn't agree more]

2. Writing benefits professionals even if there aren’t as many people reading [**the discipline of writing brings many tacit rewards]

What a phenomenal outcome!

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Very relatable to my present thinking. Thank You for sharing your insight. All The Best.

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Great Post, thanks - lots of concrete advice

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The break down of where the traffic is coming from was insightful. Ideas are brewing for how to drive traffic. Thanks for sharing!

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Excellent reminder of the value of sweat, grit, persistence supplementing well informed skill in a crowded world.

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how people discovered your blog in the first place? did you ever had to use paid ads? thanks in advance :)

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Unfortunately, Google Analytics no longer lets me access historical acquisition data.

I shared my articles with a few friends and colleagues. And from my memory, early on - 2015-2017 - I had a small but growing RSS traffic (people who added the blog) and a few spikes thanks to someone submitting to Hacker News or Reddit (one of the software engineering topics). I didn't pay that much attention, and I never had any plans or goals in terms of visitors.

Over time (over years), the site seemed to get backlinks to articles, and so more traffic came via Google. And as I started to write about topics that seemed to have resonated better with people, it became a bit of a cycle.

E.g. this was one of my most popular articles, I wrote it in 2018: https://blog.pragmaticengineer.com/distributed-architecture-concepts-i-have-learned-while-building-payments-systems/ and a few people took it and translated it to other languages as well (Russian, Japanese).

But just to add: the blog was never any "goal" for me to get visitors on it. Heck, up to 2021 I never thought it would have any professional relevance, much less that it would help launch me into a career I didn't even think about.

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Congrats, but I found your story rather discouraging since I do not have any specialized skills to share.

I looked very closely at the opportunity Substack provides and concluded that I have nothing to offer that is truly unique in any meaningful way ... but let me say it again - CONGRATS!

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Nice article.

Can anyone share thoughts on starting paid from day one vs launching paid after a while?

Maybe @Gergely himself has something to say here... :)

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I think I'm an outler. Technically, I launched a paid newsletter 2 years after having a free newsletter and with 9,000 subscribers. I had this early "newsletter" where I'd send out one article-like-thing a month. BUT I also had a blog which got lots of visitors, and my newsletter was a continuation of this blog.

People paying for a publication is a high bar in terms of trust and value. I seemed to have built this trust up over years, and then took a gamble by launching a paid newsletter from the start.

As with much advice coming from people with success, this advice will have lots of survivor bias, so apply critical thinking and then do what might work best for *you*. Good luck!

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What I’m doing is a paid option but always free. I’m doing ok though it’s slow going. Later you can do a paywall or add paid-only content. For now unless you have a big audience I’d consider starting free but with the option to pay.

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You lost me at “their.”

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Wow, I wonder what topics he was writing about back when he was only writing for himself

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Gergely, what is your day to day career? If it is now writing only how do you stay in the mainstream of the information you dispense to your readers?

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خوشحال میشم نظر ها و انتقادات شما را بدانم

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Good advice: write consistently and authentically. It seems like a lot of the battle is just writing often and posting every few days or so. I think a lot of SS writers start strong but then slow down and sometimes give up. I started in late August. I have 120 free subscribers and 7 paying. It’s slow going but it is growing. I am very consistent. I try to respond on other Substacks I like. It feels like a part time job, and it kind of is one. I don’t mind that because I love writing more than anything else. I’m currently publishing my ‘fictional memoir’ about living in East Harlem during Covid, on my SS, ‘Sincere American Writing.’

Michael Mohr

https://michaelmohr.substack.com/

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Thanks for such a great read. I found it extremely inspiring and encouraging. ❤️

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"level up their knowledge?"

If the dogs will eat it, it must be good dog food.

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