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Newsletter Circle by Ciler Demiralp - Part 2
Self-Interview: An Inside look at Newsletter Circle - Part 2
Learn the secrets of successful newsletters with Newsletter Circle!
👉 Every Sunday, you will read an exclusive interview with a successful newsletter creator and learn how to start, grow and monetize your newsletter.
As promised, I'm back with the second part of my journey with Newsletter Circle. Today we’ll talk about:
My initial experiences with monetization
The pros and cons of the interview format and how I handle it
The main challenges I encountered
The most rewarding aspects of running this newsletter
My current projects and future plans
Before we dive in, in case you missed it, you can catch up on the last week’s issue here, where we explored the behind-the-scenes of my drastic career shift from the corporate world to the newsletter space and how I gained my first 1,000 subscribers.
🏷 NEWSLETTER IDENTITY CARD
🛠 Tool Stack
ESP → Beehiiv
Design → Canva
Landing Page → Carrd
Payment → Stripe
Meetings → Calendly
🙏 From You
It is such a great feeling to hear that you are among a few newsletters that someone keeps reading. Thanks Corey!
P.S. You need to check Corey’s newsletter Google Uncomplicated if you want to learn how to use Google to run your business.
Let’s continue with Part 2 of the Newsletter Circle journey:
You recently started to monetize your newsletter. How was the first sponsorship experience?
I was not actively searching for sponsors but when I received an inbound request, I decided to seize the opportunity. The process was surprisingly smooth, as I shared in a tweet above.
Up to this point, I've had sponsors for three issues of Newsletter Circle, coming from two different brands. Here are the key 10 lessons I've learned:
Embrace Inbound Requests: If you receive an inbound sponsorship request, go for it. The initial earnings might not be substantial, but it's a valuable chance to learn how to manage the process. This includes technical aspects like handling payment links and sharing invoices. This knowledge will prepare you for more significant deals down the road.
Share a Preview of the Ad: Share a preview of the ad with your sponsor to show how the ad will appear in the issue and where it will be placed. It helps align expectations and is greatly appreciated by sponsors.
Collaborate on Copy: Work together with the sponsor when crafting the ad copy. Flex your creative muscles and don't hesitate to suggest changes that align with your newsletter's tone. This collaboration can boost click rates, leading to a win-win situation for both you and your sponsor.
Experiment with Placements: Try out various placements and formats for ads within your issue, and then closely monitor the results.
Share Detailed Results: After the ad runs, share a comprehensive breakdown of key metrics with your sponsor.
Seek Sponsor Feedback: Invite sponsors to provide feedback about their experience. This input can help refine your sponsorship process.
Promote Brands Aligned with Your Audience’s Needs: Focus on collaborating with brands that can provide real value to your audience. Even in commercial partnerships, maintaining your audience's trust is essential. Continuously delivering value should remain your top priority.
Build Strong Relationships: Focus on nurturing strong relationships with sponsors, with an eye on fostering long-term partnerships.
Invest Your Time Wisely: Keep in mind that sponsorship efforts can be time-consuming, particularly when seeking sponsors through outreach. Before diving into this process, assess whether the potential earnings justify the time you'll invest. Building enduring relationships is crucial in this aspect, as it can save you time in the long run.
Create Funnels: If possible, consider reinvesting your initial earnings back into your business. You might experiment with paid advertisements or explore new tools to enhance your journey further.
The sponsorship involves both short-term gains and long-term strategies. By maintaining a solid foundation of trust, collaboration, and careful planning, you can successfully manage it.
Do you have any plans to increase your revenue?
It's a given that I need to make Newsletter Circle a profitable venture for its sustainability. However, my main focus is on achieving steady and healthy growth. There are still various growth strategies to explore for me, such as referrals, lead magnets and paid ads.
“I'm planning to allocate a significant portion of my time to enhancing growth, which in turn will elevate the value of my advertising space. This way, the investment of time and effort will be more than justified.”
In the meantime, I can add a curated links section in the newsletter and share affiliate links.
📩 E-MAIL SERVICE PROVIDER
You started on Substack but switched to Beehiiv a few months ago? Why did you decide to change your ESP?
Substack was the platform I first heard of when I entered the newsletter space and it was quite popular at the time. I appreciated their philosophy of empowering independent writers by freeing them from the restrictions often imposed by larger entities on their creative process and earnings.
It was also free and very easy to set up, making it an ideal option to start a newsletter.
However, as my subscriber base grew, I found myself needing more advanced features that Substack lacked:
No subscriber segmentation
No integrations (no API support)
Limited user analytics
For instance, I wanted to track key metrics for subscribers from various sources, like paid ads and organic channels, and compare their engagement. Integrating tools like Sparkloop was also on my wishlist, which wasn't feasible on Substack. I also desired advanced design options, survey forms, and A/B testing for headlines.
In parallel, Beehiiv was a rising star with a range of compelling features and a proactive approach to platform enhancement.
The availability of advanced and creator-friendly features I mentioned above and their regular efforts to improve the platform convinced me to make the switch to Beehiiv.
I'm currently using the Grow plan, although the Scale plan perfectly aligns with my ideal needs. I'm considering it for the future.
My experience with Beehiiv so far has been highly positive, and I definitely recommend it.
There are two main cons in my eyes:
It doesn't offer a mobile app like Substack does, which provides convenience for both readers and creators.
Readers don’t leave comments on Beehiiv, possibly due to the required log-in and limited visibility of this section. The immediate likes and comments that used to flow in after publishing on Substack were a great motivation source for me and a reliable channel for interacting with readers.
Ultimately, it's about priorities. While Beehiiv has some areas for improvement, it offers creators substantial value. I believe they'll also address the points I mentioned eventually.
I've been working on an article to share my experience of switching from Substack to Beehiiv, and I'll be releasing it this month, as promised! It is delayed but will come.
💡Important Tip: If you switch from Substack to Beehiiv or any other ESP, be sure to keep your Substack updated and publish your new issues on your Substack webpage. The previous recommendations you've set up will still attract new subscribers.
🧩 SYSTEM & PRODUCTIVITY
How does the interview format work? How do you manage the process?
I have an asynchronous written interview process.
To keep things organized, I maintain a list of potential interviewees in my Notion workspace. This table also serves as a hub for key dates, like outreach status, the need for follow-ups, agreed-upon interview dates, question submission deadlines, answer expectations, and publication schedules.
Here is my typical process in 4 steps:
Reach out to creators: I generally reach out to the creators via their social media accounts or by responding to one of their newsletter issues.
Craft interview questions: While I have a standard framework and core questions to maintain consistency across interviews, I take the time to conduct individual research for each creator. This ensures that my questions are tailored to their unique strategies and perspectives. I then share the questions using either Notion or Google Docs, based on the creator's preference.
Follow-up: Upon receiving their responses, I often follow up to get missing answers or request elaboration on specific points.
Create the actual newsletter: The final phase involves crafting the issue on Beehiiv by designing and adding necessary items such as hyperlinks, visuals, newsletter identity cards and thumbnails and writing supplementary sections such as the introduction, cross-promotions, and sponsorships.
What are the pros & cons of running a newsletter in the interview format?
There are a couple of great advantages of the interview format:
Valuable Insights: Interviews offer a unique perspective by providing insights directly from experienced individuals in the field. This can greatly enrich the content and offer readers valuable takeaways.
Relationship building: I met incredible people thanks to this format. When I initially began, I was concerned whether established creators would be open to my interview proposals, considering my lack of prior presence in the newsletter space. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see that most creators accepted to be featured. An interview proposal is a great way to start a conversation and build relationships with industry experts and fellow operators.
Learning Opportunity: Conducting interviews is a fantastic learning experience for me. The format grants me the freedom to inquire about any topics that I’m curious about, allowing me to expand my knowledge continuously.
Audience Reach: The interview format enables me to tap into the audiences of the interviewees. Encouraging them to share and repost the interview content across their platforms is key. While I've been leveraging this advantage, there's room for enhancement. I aim to optimize this aspect.
On the other hand, there are certain challenges:
Reliance on others: Occasionally, obtaining timely responses can be a struggle and multiple follow-ups are needed. There have been instances when I've prepared an issue at the last minute, creating a certain level of anxiety :) Additionally, this is my first summer operating Newsletter Circle, and meeting deadlines have become even more difficult due to vacation schedules.
The ideal approach to address this challenge is to provide the questions at least two weeks in advance and maintain a stock of interviews ready to be published. However, managing this isn't always feasible.
Limited elaboration: Sometimes, it's challenging to obtain as much detailed insight as one might capture in an audio or video interview.
🎢 NEWSLETTER EXPERIENCE
How did writing Newsletter Circle contribute to your life professionally & personally?
Personally, it is the greatest challenge I’ve taken. Through this newsletter, I consistently test my self-discipline and emotional resilience with this newsletter.
Professionally, it has connected me with valuable creators and founders from around the world, broadening my horizon. I learn a lot about the dynamics of the newsletter business and running a solo business. It also plays an important role on my journey toward establishing a thriving newsletter business.
What is the most challenging part of writing a newsletter and how do you handle it?
There are a couple of challenges that I face:
1) Perfectionism: I'm in a constant struggle against my tendency to be a perfectionist. This is mainly due to my 10-years of experience in corporate life, where the final product holds the highest importance and mistakes aren’t well tolerated.
I'm still working on developing the ability to embrace mistakes and not be overly critical of myself.
2) Resilience: I run Newsletter Circle solo. Despite various advantages, working alone makes it difficult to deal with emotional up and downs.
On the other hand, these challenges are also the reasons why I love running a newsletter. It helps me enhance my self-awareness and continuously improve myself in those areas.
What is next on your newsletter journey?
During August, my main focus area is to build my CRM system, get to know my subscribers better and understand where they stand on their newsletter journey. Once I have this information, I will also spend time gathering more detailed insights from my VIP subscribers, who continuously read Newsletter Circle and engage.
This will eventually help shape where Newsletter Circle is headed. I have some passionate ideas about turning this into a thriving business. For now, I want to keep them for myself. Once I clarify my business model, I’ll tell you more about the plans. Promise!
What would it be if you had the right to give one piece of advice to aspiring newsletter creators?
Like many of the creators I've interviewed, my advice is simple: Just start. It is the only way to ensure that you have a product-market fit and learn how to grow your publication. You need to jump in the sea to learn how to swim. The more you write, the easier it will get to find your style.
Additionally, I highly suggest dedicating time to understanding your audience right from the beginning. Integrate short surveys with key questions right after subscription.
Learn who reads your content and why they do so. This early insight will illuminate your path when expanding your business and offering relevant products and services to your audience.”
“Without knowing your audience, you'll either invest considerable time and energy in creating products they don't need, or you'll be stuck, unsure of the right direction to take.”
I've also included a subscription survey to learn who runs a newsletter among my subscribers. Let's see how it goes.
What are your favorite newsletters that you can’t wait for the next issue?
I have a lot! There are tons of newsletters I read but I will share the first 3 that directly come to my mind:
Every always helps me to challenge my mind and widen my horizon
Newsletter Operator by Matt McGarry is a real gem for anyone who is serious about growing a newsletter
Huzursuz Beyin by Emre Ozarslan is a psychology & philosophy newsletter in Turkish and followed by 30,000+ subscribers. I love it a lot and couldn’t find such a good one in English. I’m open to suggestions!
👋 FINAL WORDS
I would like to thank all Newsletter Circle subscribers who give me the courage to keep going. And thank you for reading my journey.
Please feel free to reach out to me at any time!
🔗 Where to find Ciler Demiralp and her work
🔎 3 Popular Issues from Newsletter Circle
That’s all for today. Thanks for reading.
See you next week.
📌 P.S. I’ve switched from Substack over to Beehiiv (here). But don’t worry; you don’t need to do anything; I will manually add you to my Beehiiv list if you subscribe here. This is just for you to know :)
And don’t worry; you will receive the new issues only from “cilerdemiralp.beehiiv.com”, no duplications.