What is Substack?
Substack is an email newsletter platform designed for small publishers hoping to turn their subscribers into paying customers.
Writers get a content management system (CMS) built for publishing email newsletters, integrated payments through Stripe, and a website that can host free and subscriber-only content.
Substack makes it very simple for a writer to start a paid or free newsletter.
How Much Money Can Writers Make by Publishing Content on Substack?
I’ve divided this content into three sections:
- Screenshots of Substack Earnings
- My Anecdotal Experience Using Substack
- Earnings Data Released by Substack
1. Screenshots of Substack Earnings
In the era of internet marketing and self help gurus, it’s hard to trust what you read online, especially if it involves earning money.
So while this is by no means a thorough scientific answer, the following screenshots offer some testimonials about earning potential on Substack.
Given that exceptional results are typically bragged about (and would subsequently be posted) I’m going to assume that many of the authors who posted results are among the upper 10–25% of paid writers on Substack.
Sample Earnings #1 — Normcore Tech
$3,942.35 (net of Substack fees) from 137 paying subscribers (cumulatively) | $575 in monthly recurring revenue (MRR)
Normcore Tech is a Substack newsletter:
“about making tech less sexy, more boring, and anything adjacent to tech that the mainstream media isn’t covering”
A newsletter about making tech less sexy, more boring, and anything adjacent to tech that the mainstream media isn't…
The author of Normcore Tech provided several screenshots of their earnings.
At the time of the post, the author had earned nearly $4,000 (net of Substack fees). They had reached nearly $575 in monthly recurring revenue (MRR).
Sample Earnings #2— Historica.ly
Approximately $10,000 per year | $1,000 in monthly recurring revenue (MRR)
Historic.ly is a Substack newsletter covering:
Our esteemed researchers are hard at work compiling all the stuff they forgot to teach you in school. Pull up a desk and get out your #2 pencils, because class is in session!
Our esteemed researchers are hard at work compiling all the stuff they forgot to teach you in school. Pull up a desk…
The author shared screenshots of their subscribers (as they approached 200).
Based on these numbers, and a quick glance at the subscription price, we can infer that the author was likely making approximately $10,000 per year or roughly $1,000 per month in monthly recurring revenue (MRR).
Sample Earnings #3 — Founder Stock Investing
~$3,800 (net of Substack fees) from 81 paying subscribers (cumulative earnings)
Founder Stock Investing is a Substack newsletter covering:
How to win as a long-term investor in the world’s most innovative Founder-led stocks.
Founder Stock Investing
How to win as a long-term investor in the world's most innovative Founder-led stocks.
At the time of the post, the author had earned approximately $3,800 (net of Substack fees).
2. My Anecdotal Experience Using Substack
I’ve been experimenting with Substack for the past couple of months. Even though I have an email marketing system, and can create my own website/blog, I loved the user interface and sleek design.
It actually reminded me of the first time I wrote on Medium!
I have two Substack newsletters, although only one offers the option for subscribers to pay for premium content.
My Substack newsletter with premium content is about succeeding as a writer on Medium (Medium Blogging Guide).
Medium Blogging Guide's Newsletter
Learn How to Make Money Writing on Medium
I also have a newsletter which is more of a mix of content called Escaping The 9 to 5. It’s new but I plan to include content that will earn my readers an extra $100+ per month in addition to some interesting stories, so I think it will do well. I will update this article when I have some data.
Follow my entrepreneurial journey...
Welcome to Escaping The 9 to 5 by me, Casey Botticello. Sign up now so you don't miss the first issue. In the meantime…
With Medium Blogging Guide, I’ve been surprised at the high conversion rate I have seen from readers.
I knew that I provided a lot of useful content through my Medium publication Blogging Guide, but I wasn’t sure if people would be interested in more in depth, premium content, centered around Medium writing success. (i.e. maybe I am the only person crazy enough to want a never ending supply of Medium writer tips, tricks, and earnings)
The other obvious pause for concern was:
I’ve already built an established following on Medium (and I can get paid for writing about Medium on Medium since author compensation is based on reading time), so is there any benefit to creating content on a brand new platform?
It did not necessarily make sense for me financially, since once someone reads Blogging Guide on Medium, they tend to find the content useful and they keep coming back (it is all “free” to them as they are already a paying Medium subscriber).
But I was interested in more than just increasing my earnings. I wanted to build an exclusive community for Medium writers.
And although it seems counter intuitive, doing so on a another platform seemed worthwhile for a number of reasons:
- I wanted to experiment with alternative writing platforms. Even if my readers hated the concept, I could just make all the posts on Substack free or scrap the whole thing after a few months.
- I wanted to find my “1,000 true fans” as popularized by Kevin Kelly’s famous blog post 1,000 True Fans (if you haven’t read the post, this is an absolute must read).
- I wanted to produce higher quality content and not focus on going viral (I may have a background in SEO but writing is still a fun and creative outlet for me, and feeling compelled to write content that “will do well” on Medium is a frustrating feeling).
To my surprise though, I’ve had a lot of positive feedback from both paying subscribers and free subscribers (some articles are free for everyone to read).
Based on my test with Medium Blogging Guide, I can confirm that it is possible to make over $100 monthly recurring revenue (MRR) utilizing a Substack newsletter.
You need to have an audience that truly values your content, but it is possible (which I was skeptical of).
3. Earnings Data Released by Substack
Another way to estimate Substack writer earnings is to look at the data provided by Substack and other media outlets.
- According to BuzzFeed News, the top 12 writers on Substack make an average of more than $160,000!
- Petition, an anonymously written newsletter that covers restructuring, distressed investing, and bankruptcy, is making “meaningful six-figures,” one of its founders said. And Exponential View, a tech-focused newsletter written by the investor and adviser Azeem Azhar, is pulling in “well in excess of six figures” between subscriptions and advertising, Azhar said.
- Substack has more than 50,000 paying subscribers.
Additionally, Substack maintains a leader-board tracking some of the top newsletters (both paid and unpaid):
While these are obviously top performers (and presumably outliers), the data is interesting as it shows the earning potential.
If you liked this article, here are some other articles you may enjoy:
How to Create a Substack Newsletter
How to create a successful subscription email newsletter on Substack
Casey Botticello is a partner at Black Edge Consulting. Black Edge Consulting is a strategic communications firm, specializing in online reputation management, digital marketing, and crisis management. Prior to founding Black Edge Consulting, he worked for BGR Group, a bipartisan lobbying and strategic communications firm.
Casey is the founder of the Cryptocurrency Alliance, a Super PAC dedicated to cryptocurrency and blockchain advocacy. He is a graduate of The University of Pennsylvania, where he received his B.A. in Urban Studies.