I have one tip if you're going paid:

*Send those new paid subscribers a personal email of thanks.*

I bet few people do this, and certainly nobody beyond a certain level of success when they have thousands of subscribers, because that could get really time-consuming. But early on, when you're just getting a few dozen or anything up to a hundred? Say thanks, and go that extra step towards appearing human and approachable to them.

(And if you can spare the time, write that email entirely 'by hand', not using a copy & paste template - and maybe even Google their email address to see if you can find out something about them. If you say thanks and then "ps. I think you're in Montana? Is that right? Gorgeous part of the world - I'm jealous!" then you will look amazingly human. And you can't look too human in this line of work.)

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Not sure if this is the right place for a little encouragement, but hopefully someone who needs it will see it this week. ♥️

As creatives we can get kind of obsessed with the idea of originality, especially when we're thinking of adding "value" in our work. I've found myself thinking on more than one occasion that if I can't say something "new, distinct, and different", then there isn't any point in writing or sharing. It's natural to chase the shiny, right?

But I believe that originality isn't nearly as crucial as authenticity. You're never going to come up with something completely new to say; originality is always going to be relative. BUT, your unique voice and genuine thoughts are what will keep readers coming back time after time. Sure, a new shiny thing might go viral, but an authentic voice will become beloved to the right community and have real, actual staying power!

So don't focus on trying to be as original as possible. Instead, write from your gut. Write your authentic self, and the right people will love it.

Most importantly: keep going, keep writing, and DON'T GIVE UP! 🌿

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Great resources. I’m at 500 subs with 31 paying. It’s going well but it’s generally a slow process 💪

Michael Mohr

‘Sincere American Writing’


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Just reached the milestone of 30 free subscribers today. I'm still a ways away from going paid, and I plan to keep my newsletter free and instead add extra content for paid subs.

I have my plan all laid out for that, and I'm pretty happy with it...how my question is: how did you know when it was time to start announcing that you plan to introduce a paid option?

Was it subscriber count? Engagement? Pledges? What was your tipping point?

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Just hit 400 subs and 5 paid...However, my paywall is just for access to the archives...trying to soft pedal the paid thing, because my priority is 2,000 subs for my book launch in 2024. jamesrichardson.substack.com

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^^^ tldr: How I ~stopped worrying and learned to love my Thirst Marketing Era ^^^

I was wildly encouraged when a number of my IRL friends bought subscriptions when I started my substack.

That growth, however, quickly plateaued, and my fantasies of semi-effortless fame/fortune were DASHED. I've reluctantly come to the conclusion that if I want this thing to grow like a business then I have to treat it like one.

Which is to say that I literally MADE BUSINESS CARDS—lots of affordable and reasonable options for this, I went with My Local Staples®️—and have tried to smush them at new people whenever possible.

While most of these cards presumably end up in the trash, This One Random Dude who I met at a soccer game—a friend of a friend's friend!!—apparently woke up the next morning with my card in hand and purchased a subscription. Meaning that, to my astonishment, my "investment" of 500 business cards has already paid for itself.

As much as I am averse to QR codes, spiritually speaking, I did plaster one on on every card. And I think that has been the key. I watched an acquaintance take the card, see that one side had only my name on it, and look discouraged; he flipped it over, saw the QR code, literally said "Thank god" out loud, and immediately scanned it with his phone. He just didn't want to type anything into his phone by hand! AND WHO COULD BLAME HIM.

SMALL VICTORIES. and onward.


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Some advice for going paid.

1. Set your founding subscription price high and click the box that lets people pay less than that price, but more than the annual. This is a good way to make sure that people who are super-fans have plenty of wiggle room in their budget. Also, founding subs can be a really big revenue driver, especially for smallish Substacks where passion is probably really high, but there isn't enough audience (yet) to convert monthly and annual paid subs in the hundreds or thousands.

2. Wait until you've put out enough posts and grown big enough in terms of audience to go paid. I say this because I wouldn't have come close to being able to figure out a value prop in my first year, but as you scale (both in terms of audience and content) you will have more information and feedback to help you find your value prop.

3. Communicate, communicate, communicate. I've found that paying subs are among my most understanding readers, but the key to that understanding is that I share what I'm going through. Sometimes that's as simple as taking a break, sometimes it's more complicated stuff like raising prices, or adding a new benefit. But the point is, whenever you run into a jam about what to do with the business side or operations of your Substack, it's really helpful to let readers in on your thinking as early as possible.

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I'm offering paid now, it's nice to be able to paywall a lot of my work now after 2 years and also the support is appreciated greatly. I think paid needs promotion, and a longer and established audience before turning on the tap. I did no paid posts for a long time.

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I am terrified of going paid!!!! That is all. Thank you.

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This is something I have been trying to reconcile for a while now.

I opened paid subscriptions early because I had it in my head that if I didn't, I was leaving one more mental hurdle to get over and it would impact my ability to concentrate on the content instead of whether this post would be the one I would start "accepting" paid subs.

And I don't paywall any of my content yet, which I have attempted to lay out clearly.

About two weeks ago I got my first paid sub. They paid a full year at once, which was wonderful. I was flabbergasted, to be sure.

And yesterday evening I hit 100 free subscribers.

Both milestones have left me looking around wondering what I am supposed to do now.

Neither seemed a reality when I started, just a pipe dream.

And I am truly grateful for both.

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Does anyone offer paid subscriptions as a donation, rather than in exchange for accessing content behind a paywall? My substack Ask an Author (katebroad.substack.com) is an advice column for writers with a focus on craft and publishing, and the point is to answer people's questions and help make the publishing process less opaque and more equitable. So I don't want people to have to pay to ask q's or see the answers! I'm currently offering people the option to pay if they'd like to support the work, and I have some takers but am wondering if anyone has tips for how to approach the ask for donations, or advice in general around this type of subscription model. I could offer different content behind the paywall, but I'm not quite ready to make that commitment on top of all my other work!

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I've just created my first paid newsletter option (monthly, going out on Monday, in addition to a free weekly) and I'm soooo curious to see how it turns out! I love the idea of personally thanking subscribers, and will be following up on that. Thanks

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Launched paid options this week. I announced on Tuesday in a dedicated, longer email, then mentioned again at the top of my regular Wednesday post. Just got the notice from Substack that I've hit my first $1K!! Obviously I'm not going to quit my full time gig and live off writer income tomorrow, but I'm still stoked about the show of support.

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Hey Substack fam! This week I received my first paid subscriber! It feels so much more heartwarming than getting a job or client (despite the massive difference in dollar amount). I feel that's because it's so much more personal, so much more intimate when someone who's discovered you online decides your work is great enough for them to support it.

So there was the thrill, and then I fell back down to Earth. Crikey, I've got a paying subscriber. Where to go from here... what have others done? Do you produce differently for that first, say, 100 paid subscribers, than you do once you have 500 or 1K? How do you balance paid vs free content? Appreciate any insight as I start to ramp up paid content.

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I send a signed copy of one of my books to every paid subscriber.

The book sells for $28, but I get them for much less and by shipping via media rate, it costs me less than $10 total. Hopefully, some will also buy one of my other books.

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Hi all. I have adopted a softly softly approach so far with mainly just my archive being behind the paywall.

I don’t have time to post separate content for paid but may consider one week paid then one week free. I’m worried about putting off my free subscribers though.

I’d also consider threads for paid only but you need a decent number to make this viable or people will be talking to themselves.

Another thing I’m considering is offering a time where I will be online for them to talk directly through a thread to me.


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Hey everyone. This isn't advice, but I wanted to take a moment to urge all of you to be as authentic to yourselves as possible.

It's easy to start comparing your content to those you find on Substack and other channels. It's even easier to assume your readers want a certain opinion or style or whatever. But as your subscriber base grows, it's better to be following your path and not the path of someone else.

It gets harder as those subscribers roll in, not easier.

So take the time to consider what you really want to write about and check in with yourself from time to time to see if those topics and ideas feel authentic to you. The rest will follow.

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I think your charging is important.

Getting people to renew every month is tough.

So what you really want is people signing up for an annual pass.

To do this, charge much more for your monthly and then seriously discount it for annual. So say $9 monthly and $40 annual.

This means you will have a smoother income and not have to worry each month about whether people will renew and spend time on that process.

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Hi - I'm a writer at Nominal News (where I cover variety of current issues from the lens of what academic economics research and what that research tell us.) I recently reached a 100 free subscribers. I know that that is too little to go for paid subscribers, but I was wondering when did other writers decide to go paid?

Secondly, regarding pledges - do pledges automatically get charged if I'd go paid, or is there an option to allow people who pledged to confirm whether they want to actually go through with it.

Thirdly, especially for smaller substacks - which of the for options have you found to be best regarding going paid (freemium, private club, donation, exclusive).

Lastly, (a little self-promo) - https://nominalnews.substack.com/ - if you are interested on what economics has to say on a variety of topics (such as gift giving; how partner preferences impact career outcomes; what is driving current inflation; what are the impacts of some recent economic policies) - please feel free to subscribe!

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I'm actually turning on paid tomorrow and launching with a (free) sample of what will be the first format of paid 'bonus content' I'll offer as a supplement to the free weekly post. So, yay me! I hadn't really looked at the paid option until yesterday and wanted to do the $5 monthly and $50 annual so I changed it to that (from $8 and $80). My question is...

I had one person pledge and annual sub while the yearly was set at $80, but I don't want him to pay that. Since I've changed it to $50 before actually turning on paid, will he be automatically dropped to the $50? Otherwise my plan was to reach out and offer to venmo refund the difference back to him. I was just wondering if me changing the price would drop his pledge down automatically? Probably not...

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Has anyone ever done cold outreach to free subscribers that have 4 or 5 star ratings? I'd love to ask them a few questions and get their input on what I can do to improve but not sure if that would look / feel weird.

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One question on voiceovers: is it possible to make voiceovers only accessible for paid subscribers? I'm considering adding voiceovers, but I'd love to make them only paid subscribers as it'll take additional time and effort to create them.

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So appreciate this thread!

Curious to hear how people decide which content to paywall v offer freely? Do you share your most "valuable" (however you define that) to attract readers, or do you reserve it for paid subscribers?

I'm in the middle of an experiment after being here on substack for almost eight months (I had an exisiting list of 8,0000 on Mailchimp and the majority of paid subscribers came during the launch month, so there has been some stagnation)

My original approach was that essays (the most "valuable") were reserved for paid subscribers, with curated links/recommendations sent each month to the entire subscriber list to promote the paid essay as well as share interesting things to read, ponder, do etc.

After a chat with fellow Substacker Rob Hardy (www.ungatedcreative.com — great stuff!) I have switched — essays are now free to attract more readers generally, with more personal notes and curated lists sent weekly with a more personal/intimate touch.

I've seen an increase in free subscribers (around 300 in two weeks, mostly through promoting the essays on social media) and paid subscribers have remained relatively the same.

Keen to hear other experiments people might have tried? As Ralph Waldo Emerson put it, "All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better."

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I'd love to bat around when to go paid and using paywall vs open posts... I have close to 800 subs and what seems to be a typical percentage (about 5%) paying. Most of what I put out is open to everyone, including long form essays like "Anxious Masculinity" https://bowendwelle.substack.com/p/anxious-masculinity-things-fall-apart

I'm also serializing my memoir in progress here, and so as a benefit to paying subscribers I paywall new chapters (with a free preview) and then schedule them to open up to free subscribers automatically after a few weeks, e.g. https://bowendwelle.substack.com/p/09-i-let-confusion-in

The down side is that maybe I'd get more exposure (and subscribers) if everything was free. I'm sure some folks do just the opposite--publish everything free, and then make certain things paid after some time. I know that some others recommend wait to go paid at all until you have a larger subscriber base.

Thoughts on balancing free vs paid vs growth?

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I currently have paid subscriptions on pause. I am an artist currently writing a book about the intuitive voice and I also teach art workshops. I'm considering dividing my offerings into two separate newsletters to give readers more control over what they want landing in their inbox. Are we able to have different payment tiers for each newsletter?

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Do writers have the ability to offer subscriptions for less than $5/month?

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Hi all. I am new to Substack and as a well-known journalist already, I'm a bit unsure when it is best to add a subscribe/paid option as presume it is best not to do so until I have a reasonable amount of followers? I'll be writing content that has not been published elsewhere but am a bit conscious of not wanting to look a fool if nobody subscribes. How long would you suggest I wait for please? This is me: https://suzannebaum.substack.com/

Thanks for any advice.

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Question for those of you who do paywall new content: do you always send it to all subscribers, both free and paid? Is there an option to only send it to paid subs?

I'm also curious how many others here share my frustration as a free subscriber when I get sent "previews" of paid content that I start reading, then hit the paywall. I have never upgraded to a paid sub just to read that paywalled content. In fact, sometimes getting those emails when I can't read all of the content pisses me off enough that I end my free subscription!

In a previous writer office hours, this issue was discussed and a few others agreed with me, but I'd love to hear input from more writers about this!

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Here's my story on going paid:

Started my newsletter on Oct 24, 2021. Got my first paid subscriber on Oct 27, 2022.

Was mostly going with the "hey, upgrade to paid to support / donation" model.

But then I moved a section from my twice-weekly newsletters (called ANTISOCIAL), and moved that to its own paid-subscriber only newsletter / section.

So that became sort of something I could "talk about" to encourage people to subscribe. I send them out to everyone as a free-preview (with the paywall line break about half-way through), and that's just made it an easier "sell" for me, and what I do. And I make sure every newsletter has my "hey, if this newsletter is helpful, considering becoming a paid subscriber!"

It also helped that I got recommended from a bigger music industry newsletter. Most all of my growth / subscribers comes from that. Very few come from social media.

Obviously not for everyone, but that's just how I've been doing things, and I now have 318 free subscribers, and 7 paid. It's a journey!

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One tip that I got from fellow Substacker Scott Britton is to check new subscribers (free and paid) to see if they are also writers themselves.

Unfortunately this takes a little manual work, but it's worth, it to unearth opportunities to collaborate and cross-promote.

His post with this idea and a few others is here →


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What I'm struggling with is this:

I have some paid subscribers who kindly support me but it's a tiny amount. I try to create content for them but unfortunately it's hard to do too much because so few people will see it and the income stream is so limited, so it affects how much time I can put in.

I disclose this upfront before people sign up.

Still, I hugely appreciate the support and want to offer more to these paid subscribers, but I'm not sure what I can provide that's not paywalled posts & doesn't take a huge amount of my time. Yet something that provides actual value.

Any suggestions would be very much appreciated!

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Is there a plan to offer more templates on Substack? For example, one that looked like a letter or one that looked like a posted note etc? Some more themes could be super cool :)

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Single-month purchases:

I will upgrade to paid subscriptions to other newsletters to try for one month before committing to annual. But to ensure I don't get recurring charges, I immediately cancel. Then my access is cut off. Can Substack fix this?

I've written the author and in most cases they restore access for the remaining weeks.

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I am wondering about how the process works to convert people who pledged to paid subscribers. When I read the faq pages, it looks like it should happen automatically. However, when turning on paid they don't always show up in the paid subscriber list. Is there a follow-up email involved that subscribers have to confirm, or something along those lines?

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I just wrote a whole post about how I thought the tip jar button at the bottom of emails, was a great idea and then thought about a donation button. People who subscribe could give to the charity of their choice like Amazon Smile, or to a topical charity like Liberty North Korea, an NGO that helps refugees. Yeonmi Park was on Joe Rogan talking about the horrific circumstances of her life in North Korea. Even better would be a drop down menu included at the end of the email. A host of charitable organizations compiled by Substack. We are all constantly being bombarded with requests all day every day. It's overwhelming. Let's just make it easy for them to click on a link in their email. A percentage would go to the writer and a percentage to the charity. That way it's a win/win for all involved. The reader gets to give to both a charity and the writer, the charity gets money and Substack gets kudos for being philanthropic. Just an idea. Asking people to pay for something they have gotten for free is awkward.

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Curious to know how people feel about gifting paid subs?

I try to be pretty generous with this because I know I have some fans who don't have the money. I ask anyone who wants a paid sub, but can't afford one, to email me. Only a handful of people have done this, btw, so I can't say the policy has been abused at all. But what's nice is that those readers are so appreciative and they do a lot to contribute in non-monetary ways by leaving great comments and sharing posts off of Substack.

Do you gift paid subs & if so, what's your policy for doing so?

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Hi. I started with a paid option when I launched (at the beginning of the month). So far, I have 75 subscribers, 5 of which are paid (annually). The annual is set at $40 and monthly is $5. Free subs get all the main posts, paid subs get the archive (posts go there after 2 weeks) and some bonus posts. I'm also flirting with a "buy me a coffee" button for anyone who wants to support the 'stack without a monthly or annual contribution (like a tip jar). I would put in a paywall to posts if @substack would allow comments from Everyone even if there's a paywall. **Hi, Substack, can you put in that option?** It would save authors from having to send out an additional post to paids as well as letting all readers share their thoughts on the open post. I don't want readers to feel that only paid subscribers have a voice worth hearing. And, in some ways, I think that would drive more paid subscriptions. xo

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I'm not "paid" yet, but it is my goal! That said, I just took a several month long break from writing at all, and dipping my toes to coming back. I'm curious if anyone else has done this, and if so, how they re-engaged their followers.

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My writing focuses on the Bible and helping people come to know Jesus Christ. I'm not interested in putting what I write behind a paywall, because I want as many people as possible to have access to it. I have had 3 people pledge support to my writing - and that's without me promoting that option at all.

I've thought about the following to build up my paid subscribers:

- Use money from paying subscribers to pay for publishing books or other resources.

- Use money from paying subscribers to produce video content.

What are some ideas you may have to keep my writing free and available to all, while encouraging support from those who would like to help?


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How can I get my publication One Could Argue featured in one of Substack's roundups of emerging voices? I have no interest on going paid; I just want to see if I can get on one of your lists and expand my Substack contact network as a personal challenge for my own amusement.

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Someone donated to my writing with out my asking! So I set things up to receive her gift, but am ambivalent about asking for money. My work has been free for a long time and I was committed to it being free. But I know Substack deserves fees for this marvelous platform. I also don’t publish regularly as it takes a long time to compose my essays. I’d appreciate any advice.

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Several folks have mentioned making business cards -- great idea. Similar is to use something like Stickermule to make buttons or pins that people can wear. Some people LOVE this and it's much more memorable than a business card -- although harder to include a QR code ;)

Here are my pins, which I give away as business cards and also send out to all paid subscribers →


and... here's a discount code for Stickermule → https://www.stickermule.com/unlock?ref_id=5731919601

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A small victory share for other writers. I haven’t made the switch to paid but I do have pledges turned on. The more I’m posting on Instagram about my Substack the more pledges/subscribers I’ve been getting. Ive been creating personalized assets to post on Unfold and they have been getting a lot of great feedback/attention/converting to pledges.

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If you've gone paid, have you had success with time-based benefits?

For example, I'm thinking about having all of my paid posts be available free for 24 hours, and then put them behind the paywall. Or alternatively, have paid posts appear in the free archive after 2 weeks or so.

Thanks for your thoughts!

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hello all, just started on substack in February, as an extra for an architecture magazine, On Site review, that I edit and publish. I don't want to ask anyone to pay for what I say, but in the end, after say, 6 months and a healthy readership, would like to go paid so that any income from the substack posts would go to pay honoraria to the contributors of the magazine (currently can't afford to offer honoraria; most contribs just want to be published). Has anyone told their subscribers that payment (isn't for my own deathless prose) but is specifically for a parallel project?

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Hello everyone!

I was wondering if you could share your benefits for free vs. paid tiers. I find myself constantly testing the language for my Visual Storytelling Newsletter: https://newsletter.visualstorytell.com/about

What seems to work or not work for you? It'll be interesting to see if any clear best practices could emerge for the benefit of everybody here.

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I have been posting quality content daily since Feb. 14, about six weeks ago. I get good feedback on it. I have grown from 10 to 34 subscribers, but seem to be stuck there. I could invite people more often. I have added my substack link (harthagan.substack.com) to my email signature. I could add that link with an invitation to my Facebook groups (I have several and participate regularly). I could send out a personal invitation via messenger, text and email to people who I think would be interested. I need to upgrade the "image" that appears when I post the link. I could recommend other people's substack, and hope to be recommended in return. What else can I do?

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Hi Everyone! I'm launching a new offering, "Creative Contemplation" in April with a few tiered options. The one I'm most excited/nervous about is hosting an online gathering once a month for Founding Members.

Has anyone hosted onling gatherings for their community? What went well? What needed improvement? My biggest fear is being the only one who shows up. I'd love your ideas and advice!

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Curious how you guys knew when to go paid? Was it when you reached x amount of free subscribers or when you felt like you were in a good flow content-wise? I launched a month ago and surprisingly had several Founding Members but I largely promote my newsletter as free since there's no premium content yet. Thanks in advance for any advice - this community rocks!

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