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Masterclass: Everything bloggers and creators need to get started on Substack

Hosted by Christina Loff, Substack Partnership Lead: Lifestyle and influencers
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If you take one thing from this masterclass, it’s this: just start. We cover a lot in the masterclass, but publishing your first post and sharing it with your audience, wherever they are, is the best thing you can do today. You can iterate on the rest of your publication as you go.

Over the course of an hour, I covered:

  • What a Substack is

  • How to earn money

  • Getting started in four steps

  • A tour of the settings and the dashboard

  • How to bring your community with you

I’ve spent my career working with writers, artists, and independent business owners. Part of my job has always been to give the best advice I can to help creatives grow their businesses, own their audiences, and make a living doing what they love. 

In my two years at Substack, I’ve helped writers like

, , , and more build a direct relationship with their audience and earn an independent living the Substack way. In my masterclass, I package up everything bloggers and creators need to know to get started. 

Below we share the basics of getting started, and you can watch the full session for all the best guidance for bloggers and creators looking to bring their audiences to Substack.

Get started

Getting started in four steps

After you claim your Substack URL, follow these steps. 

  1. Update the short description of your Substack
    A great one-liner clearly and concisely highlights what your publication is and what differentiates it from the other newsletters out there.

    For some writers, that’s their particular domain expertise; for others, it’s their unique voice and personality; and for others, it’s covering a niche that nobody else can. Your one-line description should speak to your target audience and emphasize the value they will get when they subscribe. The goal should be for a reader to see your one-line description and think, “That’s for me!”

    Examples: 

    • : A newsletter for people who are pissed off about the climate crisis

    • : One ridiculously impressive complete-meal recipe delivered to your inbox every Sunday morning that dirties minimal dishes and requires under an hour of time

    • : Examining current cultural trends through the lens of addiction, recovery, alcohol, and all the other drugs like your smartphone

  2. Create an About page
    In more detail, tell prospective readers what they will get from you and why they should subscribe. A great About page includes a combination of:

    • About: What your publication is about, such as topic areas, post types, and who your reader is
      Example

    • Your philosophy: What do you believe in and what is the reason someone should subscribe?
      Example

    • A brief personal bio: Who you are and why you’re qualified
      Example

    • Subscriber benefits: What paid subscribers get, including logistics like how often you publish
      Example

    • Call to action: Be sure to include subscribe buttons!
      Learn more

  3. Tailor your welcome emails
    Your welcome email is the first message someone will receive when they subscribe to your Substack. It’s also a chance to thank them and let them know what else you’re offering at the paid subscriber levels. Learn more 

  4. Make an announcement
    Share your new Substack with the world and make the most of the moment. Write a launch post on your Substack that brings readers along for the ride—you can likely repurpose a lot of what you wrote on your About page. Keep the following questions in mind as you draft the post: What philosophy can they help you bring to the world? What is the community they are joining? Why does all that matter? Tell this story in your launch post, and be sure to share it on your social channels. Learn more.

    Example: Welcome to So Many Thoughts on Substack! by Elizabeth Holmes

Get started

There are few communities like a Substack community. It’s not a connection based on how an algorithm is feeling that day. It’s a real, deep, and meaningful connection that requires work and care and investment to grow. My Substack started by me literally just saying, “I want to build the social media resource I wish existed.” What’s something you wish existed? Write it.

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Best practices

As you keep going and growing, here are a few key recommendations.

Launch with paid subscriptions, but keep all your content free at first. Assuming you have a sizable engaged audience on another platform or an existing email list in the thousands, you should launch with paid subscriptions on. For the first month or so, make all your posts free so everyone can get a taste of what you have to offer. Then start paywalling. Your fans want to support you, and you should get paid for your work.

Pace yourself. It’s a good rule of thumb to publish at least once a week, but there are always exceptions to the rule. Choose a cadence that feels sustainable. You can easily avoid burnout by starting small and adding more stuff as you get into the swing of things. Pick a day and time that you can consistently publish, and your audience will make a habit of finding you in their inbox. Learn more.

Mix up your content. You don’t have to write longform stuff for every single post. How can you give your community more of a voice onstage? How can you craft smart PTO messages? Can you do more office hours/discussion threads where your readers talk to each other? Can you plan for some guest posts (also great for growth!)? Is there a new format—like a voice memo or a short video—that might feel easier for you? Can you share some raw background material and make your readers feel they’re seeing the sausage get made and are part of the creative process? Learn more.

Build the muscle of always telling your free subscribers what they’re missing out on. It’s very easy to create two lovely walled gardens—free and paid—and that’s not good for growth. Every time you publish something paid, stop and ask yourself: Have I told free subscribers this was coming in some way? Have I shared the best paid stuff free subscribers have missed out on anytime recently? Can I do that better, in a direct email to free subscribers, or in headers or footers? Am I using free previews? Learn more.

Write good manifesto and high-level reflection posts often. They are great for growth. Use every excuse (anniversaries! new growth! new projects!) you have to recommit yourself to your project and your readers, and explain to them all over again what this is and what you’re doing. Take advantage of every chance you can to reflect on this in a big way; use it to rope your readers into the journey with you even more. Remember how inspiring your announcement post was (if you had one)? The readers who joined you along the way probably haven’t ever heard this stuff.

Collaborate with other Substacks. Whose work and audiences do you want to tap into? Who is recommending you that you could develop deeper connections with? Can you create some kind of content collaboration with these other Substack writers—interviews or guest posts? Learn more.

If this masterclass inspired you to start a Substack, please let me know! When you publish your first post, share it via Notes and tag me,

. I can’t wait to see the work you do and the community you cultivate here.

Get started

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