Growth Currency by Dylan Redekop
"My newsletter has been the most rewarding project I’ve taken on professionally—even though I started it as a personal experiment."
Newsletter Circle is the newsletter all about newsletters for indie creators.
👉 Every week, you will read the unique journey of a different newsletter creator and learn more about how to start, grow and monetize your own newsletter.
🙏 Please help me to improve Newsletter Circle
I want to create the most insightful publication as possible for newsletter creators so I always need your opinion to understand your needs better.
Last week I started the “Newsletter Niches” series and shared 3 newsletter from unique niches. I’ve received mixed reactions, so please vote and tell me how to proceed.
Until I understand what you ask for, it is paused.
📣 Don’t miss THE event of the year!
The Creator Economy Expo (CEX) 2023 is for content creators & content entrepreneurs like YOU! Join 500+ creators in Cleveland, Ohio May 1-3.
👉 Register now by using my coupon code CIRCLE200 to save $200! Don’t miss early bird pricing, which will end on March 31st!
📣 The Newsletter of The Week: Conversion Alchemy Journal
Learn what makes people tick and write higher-converting copy for your SaaS, Ecommerce or service business - in 2 minutes a day.
👉 Subscribe to Conversion Alchemy Journal
This week, we will have a chance to listen to the whole journey of a successful newsletter strategist.
He has a newsletter for newsletter creators, which probably is followed by most of you.
Dylan Redekop has been sharing the secrets about how to start, grow, improve and monetize a newsletter in Growth Currency with his 3,000+ readers. It is one of THE sources in the newsletter space.
Similar to his valuable newsletter issues, this interview has turned out to be an insightful article full of learnings for newsletter creators thanks to his transparent and comprehensive inputs.
Here is how Dylan’s humble lockdown project turned into a solid side business and all behind-the-scenes of Growth Currency.
🏷 NEWSLETTER IDENTITY CARD
🛠 Tool Stack
ESP → ConvertKit
Writing → Google Docs
Idea capture → Otter.ai
Organize curated links → Airtable
Cross promotions → LetterGrowth
Sponsorships → CKSN
Design → Canva
Growth → Twitter, TweetHunter, Sparkloop
Payment → ConvertKit Commerce (Stripe)
Forms → Tally
Website → Webflow
👋 MEET THE CREATOR
Hi Dylan. Let’s start with getting to know you.
I live on the West Coast of Canada, an hour outside of Vancouver, with my wife and kids. I’ve been working in various marketing roles over the past 10 years. During that time, it became apparent how important email is to the marketing function. There’s no denying the power of a growing & engaged email list.
While I’ve dabbled with blogs and social media ventures in the past, starting a newsletter has been the most powerful and effective way to build an online business.
What is Growth Currency all about?
Growth Currency has evolved since it was originally named in January 2021.
At first, I was sharing as much knowledge as possible about the creator economy while curating links and resources about earning an online living. I believed knowledge was the currency of growth (hence the name). After a year of doing that, I narrowed my focus to helping creative entrepreneurs (i.e. “Creators”) build their own newsletters.
The 4 main elements I landed on when thinking about the newsletter journey were 1) starting, 2) growing, 3) improving, and 4) monetizing. They aren’t necessarily in sequential order but that’s what the newsletter and the content I share are focused on.
Why and how did you decide to start Growth Currency in the first place?
I decided to start GC⚡ in 2020. We were all spending more time online during the lockdown and looking for ways to make more money, right? Based on my marketing experience, I knew I’d never regret building an email list—I’d only regret not doing it sooner. And I’d heard about this popular platform called Substack that made it super easy to get a newsletter started. I signed up in September 2020 but didn’t publish my first post for several more months. I struggled with coming up with a niche and topic of choice.
Here is a popular question among aspiring creators. Why didn’t you start a blog but prefer a newsletter?
I love this question.
I tried and failed with blogs in the past. I spend lots of time and energy setting up the websites, fussing with domains, writing the content, and sharing it “into the void,” only to get zero traffic and attention. Plus, if someone actually lands on your blog article, you then have to convince them to sign up for your newsletter. So I thought, why not cut to the chase? Substack offers a blog-style archive that people can read—AND—I can grow an email list while publishing.
How did you gain your first 100 subscribers?
It took me 100 days from my first edition to get 100 subscribers.
I only focused on Twitter as my promotional platform of choice and passionately shared my newsletter articles and sign-up page regularly. I would also send DMs to new Twitter followers, thanking them for the follow and letting them know about my newsletter. It might have felt a little “pushy,” but most people politely replied and some of those DMs turned out to be great connections I still DM 2 years later.
Which growth channels do you mainly use?
I use Twitter primarily for promotion, which has turned out to be one of my main growth channels.
I have also used SparkLoop’s referral program as well as their Partner Program & Upscribe for growth. And I republish my articles to Medium and Substack, which also bring in a smaller portion but a not insignificant amount of subscribers.
What are the most effective growth strategy & channels?
My most effective growth strategies have been lead magnets, cross-promotions, and SparkLoop (leveraging the Partner Network, which is a paid strategy).
How did your growth strategy evolve in parallel to your subscriber list growth?
In the beginning, I relied almost 100% on Twitter for growth. I would curate a lot of content from bigger accounts that were posting relevant content for my newsletter. I would tag them in the post about my latest newsletter edition and they would often like, comment, and/or RT the tweet. This was a great growth strategy in the beginning, as it got my newsletter in front of larger audiences.
As growth began to slow down on Twitter, I created a lead magnet about getting started on Substack. This got me another 150 subscribers—which was significant for a newsletter of under 1000 subscribers at the time.
Then 9 months later, I released a second lead magnet called the 1KS Roadmap, which was a free 5-day email course summarizing 5 strategies to get your first 1,000 subscribers. This brought in over 200 subscribers in the first month—over 1000 subscribers since May 2022 launch.
I have also relied more on cross-promotions for growth over the past 6 months. Platforms like LetterGrowth and InboxReads have really helped with finding the right newsletters to partner with.
Can you please elaborate on how you utilize Sparkloop?
I’ve used SparkLoop’s referral program for nearly 6 months. The challenge with referral programs is determining what is truly valuable for your subscribers. What reward will incentivize the majority of subscribers to share your newsletter? This is a work in progress. I haven’t cracked the code quite yet.
SparkLoop’s Partner Program has been massive for growth. This is a paid strategy, so you need to be willing to pay the price to acquire new subscribers. The benefit is that it’s cost controlled by you. I love knowing how much I can spend and exactly what I will pay per subscriber. If you’re making money with your newsletter already and you know your Subscriber LTV, this is a no-brainer strategy, in my opinion.
How do you leverage social media to distribute your newsletter?
I’m embarrassingly unorganized when it comes to social promotion. I don’t have a calendar. I rarely schedule tweets. I have an IG account that I rarely post to. I’ve tried being more organized with promotion but it never works well for me. I find going by feel and inspiration works better for me: if I have a great tweet idea, I tweet it.
The only thing I am regimented with is sharing my newsletter once it’s been either scheduled or published like this—and sharing a weekly post tagging any creators whose articles I may have curated that week like this.
I have big plans to grow on LinkedIn over the next few months. It’s an untapped channel for me as I had a previous conflict of interest discussing my “side hustle” there while working full time. That work arrangement has ended and now I’m going to focus a lot more time and energy with LinkedIn growth. Jay Clouse’s recent LinkedIn growth breakdown on his podcast was SUPER insightful and a great playbook to follow.
Regarding growth efforts, what would you do differently if you had a chance to start over?
I would have focused more on cross-promotions in the first year of growth.
I would have built (and still should build) a bigger & better suite of lead magnets that solve the most common problems related to my niche.
I should have figured out a better referral program sooner and really doubled down on it. I don’t have a good excuse (except overthinking it) for not starting the referral program sooner, and it could have been growing exponentially a lot earlier.
What are your plans on your way to 5000 subscribers?
I’m eager to see where a new focus on LinkedIn can take me. I’ll be writing about that journey as I go.
While 5,000 subscribers is a solid milestone, I’m more interested in maintaining an engaged list with a solid open rate of over 50%. Often that means removing cold subscribers and taking a little longer to get there. Growth for the sake of growth is never optimal. Intentional growth with invested readers will get you further in the long run.
How do you make money currently?
My newsletter makes almost all of its money with newsletter ads/sponsorships.
I am part of the ConvertKit Sponsor Network which means their team pitches advertisers, negotiates ad rates, and coordinates the creative for me. I net close to $400 USD per email send (or “ad insertion”). So in an average month where I send 4 weekly editions, I will net approximately $1,600 USD.
Another income stream has earned me close to $1,000 this year: newsletter strategy 1:1 calls. Those sell for $75 USD for a 30-minute call and $150 for a 60-minute call.
I have also done some newsletter growth work and some Done-For-You newsletter work in 2023. Those have totaled close to $2,000 thus far.
Lastly, I’ve earned some affiliate revenue from promoting ConvertKit and Medium, which totaled around $500 for 2023.
How did your monetization strategy evolve in parallel with the growth of your subscriber list?
My first dollars earned were with some small affiliate sales. I only had a few hundred subscribers and Twitter followers at the time.
Then, I signed up for Swapstack 8 months after launching Growth Currency. Within a few weeks, I booked my first paid ad in my newsletter for $25. It wasn’t the money I was excited about—it was the validation of an ad revenue strategy.
Since that first $25, advertising has been my main source of revenue.
What are your plans to increase your revenue?
I plan on growing my readership, maintaining (and increasing) engagement metrics, and increasing the value of reaching my audience. In doing so, I’ll be able to command higher ad rates.
📩 E-MAIL SERVICE PROVIDER
Why did you choose ConvertKit? Pros and cons?
I started with Substack and used it for nine months.
But I fell in love with ConvertKit when building a landing page for my first lead magnet. It was so user-friendly and enjoyable to use.
I was nervous about switching email platforms, but the team at ConvertKit was super helpful and reassured me the switch would be worth it. They were 1000% right!
My open rates jumped from 43% average on Substack to 58% on the first broadcast with ConvertKit. I’ve stuck with ConvertKit for 18 months now because they offer everything I need from a newsletter perspective (design options, sequences, etc.) and everything I want from an email marketing perspective (automation, segmentation, detailed analytics, etc.).
The only true con with ConvertKit is that you have to pay for it beyond 300 subscribers. But I’m happy to pay for a product that does so much for me as a creative entrepreneur.
👉 Check out Dylan’s detailed article on switching from Substack to ConvertKit.
🧩 SYSTEM & PRODUCTIVITY
What is your typical weekly process from creating to releasing a new issue?
I’ve written about my weekly process in the past (here & here). But my process isn’t overly regimented, to be honest.
I use my Airtable database to choose my 4 curated links (START, GROW, IMPROVE, MONETIZE) and lean on my trusted resources for that content.
Throughout the week, I’ll also work on my weekly article. That part of the process takes up 80% of my time. I usually finish it and edit it the Tuesday morning before it gets published in my Tuesday evening newsletter. If I’m really organized, I’ll have it ready a few days ahead.
Once the contents are in the newsletter, I work on the subject line.
Then I send myself a test email where I check all the links and read through the content for errors & typos. Then I’ll do one final check and schedule the newsletter for sending.
🎢 NEWSLETTER EXPERIENCE
How did writing Growth Currency contribute professionally and personally to your life?
It’s been the most rewarding project I’ve taken on professionally—even though I started it as a personal experiment.
It’s enabled me to connect with and meet a lot of creators I respect and admire, whom I otherwise wouldn’t have.
It’s created several opportunities that I know wouldn’t have come my way had I not started it.
It’s helped me grow an online audience, fulfill a desire to run a “side hustle”, and support my family with a modest, growing income outside my 9-5.
What is the most challenging part of writing a newsletter and how do you handle it?
The most challenging part is the actual writing.
As I’ve been writing about newsletters for nearly a year now, it’s becoming a little harder to come up with original content that’s still helpful to readers, informative, and interesting. I need to put more time aside to brainstorm, research, and remix article topics.
All that aside, simply finding the time to write with a full-time job, a wife and two kids, and training for a triathlon (not to mention social obligations, extracurricular, and sleeping…) is always a challenge. I’m very grateful for an understanding & supportive wife who gives me time to work on the newsletter.
I haven’t struck a perfect balance between it all, but I’m getting there.
Can you tell us one big mistake you made during your newsletter journey?
It’s one we’re all guilty of: not removing cold subscribers from my email list.
It took me over a year to “trim the fat” because my ego was holding me back. My list was growing but my open rates were falling, as were my click rates. And these metrics matter when selling newsletter ads.
I finally swallowed my pride and sent a re-engagement automation sequence with ConvertKit and ended up removing over 300 subscribers at the end of 2022. After doing so, my open rates have increased and I plan on doing the same procedure at the end of every quarter (4x per year).
What is next on your newsletter journey?
I’d love to start a secret newsletter about one of my other passions.
I also want an excuse to use Beehiiv as an ESP. As someone who writes a lot about newsletters, it would be smart to know the ins & outs of another platform that’s skyrocketing in popularity.
Other than that, I don’t have any specific plans for Growth Currency other than continuing to write & publish the best damn newsletter I can.
What would it be if you had the right to give one piece of advice to aspiring newsletter creators?
Don’t worry about the email platform you start with—you can change it later.
Don’t worry if the topic you want to write about it is the “right” topic—you can change (or narrow) your focus later.
Just make sure you write about something that interests you. Unless you’re trying to build the next Morning Brew, you’ll need the interest (dare I say “passion”?) to keep you engaged, writing, and publishing regularly. If you are trying to build the next Morning Brew, you’ll need a whole lot more than passion ;)
What are your favorite newsletters that you can’t wait for the next issue?
There are a few!
The Newsletter Operator by Matthew McGarry
The Boonly by Irena Spegar
The Steal Club by Alex Llull
Tim Stodz Newsletter by Tim Stoddart
Thank you so much, Dylan. Keep up the great work. Looking forward to watching you grow while you help other creators grow!
🔗 Where to find Dylan Redekop and his work
👉 Subscribe to Growth Currency
That’s all for today.
Sorry for the one-day delay this week and thanks for reading.
If you liked reading this, don’t be shy to click the ❤️ button on this post and leave your comment (so that more people can discover it on Substack).
See you next week.
Ciler - (@cilerdemiralp)
These interviews are so inspirational. Dylan highlighted my greatest fear: running out of stuff to write each week! I try to be proactive: I think about next week's as soon as I hit publish on the current week's newsletter.
Dylan's "breakup" post is fun. I keep finding counterpoints to my own reasons for ditching MailerLite for Substack! LOL Honestly, I'm not bothered about landing pages, conversion rates and whatnot. I just want a place for my fans to hang out. Substack provides the least friction. Even my dad is a subscriber!
Ciler, thanks again for a great interview.
Great interview... Love Dylan!