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Substack for Writers: Is It Worth Joining?

Jackie Pearce

When it comes to making a career as a writer, you have probably come across Substack as an option.

Substack is an online platform that lets writers publish their work while also offering subscriptions so they can make money in the process. For writers looking to make extra money or find a way to make a full-time income, Substack is a great option.

If you are looking for advice and tips on if it is worth it to join Substack for writers, we will be going over all the basics of this platform, including how much money you can make and how to get started.

What Is Substack?

Substack is a subscription newsletter platform that lets writers publish newsletters and get paid if they choose to. You can also offer a free newsletter if that is what you would prefer to do.

It is a place where thought leaders start to create content and get paid for sharing their emails to their audience. You do not need to be an expert in order to start to publish your newsletters, you can simply sign up and start publishing right away.

Substack has a loose approach when it comes to censorship and for that reason has drawn criticism and attention, but it is also why many writers and journalists have come to this platform.

Substack decided to use the subscription model to fight against clickbait and rage-filled articles. When there is a subscription model, companies do not have to rely on advertising to make their money. If they do not need advertising, then they do not need to worry about getting clicks to make money.

That way, it’s a win-win for almost everyone, especially for writers and readers.

If you care about the nerdy details of a company, you can know that Substacks was started in 2017 by Chris Best (one of the original co-founders of the famous messaging app, Kik Messenger), Jairaj Sethi (also from Kik), and Hamish McKenzie who was a tech reporter.

As you can imagine, three people who were involving in writing and communication would make a good app for writers in the first place.

Why Writers Should Use Substack

Now that you know the basics about Substack, you probably understand why it is a popular platform for writers.

There are a lot of platforms out there for writers to share their art and grow an audience. However, there are not a lot of platforms that pay writers for their time and energy to create their content.

Or, the ones that do pay writers have a terrible pay rate which does not end up being worth the effort.

With Substack, you are in charge how much you make from your subscribers and it is more possible to earn a living through this platform instead of some other platforms.

Some writers who use Substack:

  • Roxane Gay with a newsletter called The Audacity
  • Heather Cox Richardson who is a historian
  • George Saunders
  • Blake Nelson
  • Daniel M. Lavery
  • Chuck Palahniuk
  • Salman Rushdie

Pros and Cons of Substack for Writers

If you are a writer and you cannot decide whether you want to use Substack or not, let’s go over some of the pros and cons to joining and help you make your decision.

Pros of Substack

  • A great way to build a portfolio and grow your brand as a writer
  • Able to get paid for your hours of writing and work
  • You own your content, mailing list, and payment relationships
  • Can publish some posts for free to give readers a good idea of what your content is like
  • Get paid directly instead of waiting for an editor or publication send you money months later
  • Reliable income from your subscribers

Cons of Substack

  • Will need to get people onto your list through your own efforts
  • Not a guaranteed way to make money or build an audience
  • Will need to keep up with a publishing schedule to keep subscribers happy

How Much Money Can You Make With Substack?

As of writing this article, there are 500,000 subscribers representing one million subscriptions on Substack. That should give you a good idea of how many people use and trust this platform to host their content and get subscribers.

Keep in mind, not everyone is making good money on the platform, but if you are willing to put in the work, you can make decent money.

Substack gets paid by taking 10% of your subscription revenue (and about 3% or so in processing fees), which means you get 90% of your revenue. Generally, beginner writers charge around $5 per month of $50 per year for subscribers, but you can hunt around to see what other writers in your niche are charging.

You can offer monthly or annual subscriptions to your subscribers, depending on what make sense for you. You can also choose to offer your newsletter for free, which is an interesting idea for writers in the beginning while they try to build their reputation.

The sky is the limit with how much you can make, but you will still need to attract the readers yourself and convince people to pay you for your writing.

There are a ton of writers out there are who are at least making a nice side income with their writing on Substack.

It is easy to set up your account and start getting paid, compared to other ways to make money with your writing.

If you do not end up liking Substack, you can quickly and easily move your subscribers so if you are not happy, you can switch platforms and still bring your readers.

How To Get Readers on Substack

One thing that is harder for some writers to figure out is how to get subscribers on Substack. There are a lot of ways, but let’s just mention two of the best.

Offer free editions

If you want to give readers a good idea of what they can get when they subscribe to your work, you should offer a rew free versions of your newsletter so they can see what your writing is like.

That will give them a good idea of what they will get when they buy your subscription.

Mention your Substack where you can

If you are already on social media platform (which most of us are), you should be mentioning over and over the fact that you have a Substack that people can subscribe to.

You can post clips from your substack or do whatever you need to do to mention it.

Alternatives to Substack

If you are not sold on using Substack to make money with your writing, let’s take a look at some alternatives you could use instead.

Patreon

Patreon is another option for writers to make their money in a subscription format. You can also offer different “tiers” for subscribers, based on different types of perks you want to provide.

Medium

While Medium is a little different from these types of models, you can offer subscriptions and get paid for your writing. It is more for people who write blogs instead of newsletters, but it is an option to know about.

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