The Bootstrapped Founder by Arvid Kahl
"I discovered that I love writing and I created a business out of that."
Welcome to Newsletter Circle!👋
This is Ciler - the founder of Newsletter Circle, the newsletter all about newsletters for solo creators.
Every Sunday, you will read the unique journey of a different newsletter creator and learn more about how to start and grow your own newsletter.
Subscribe to Newsletter Circle for free to receive new posts every week!
📜 Weekly Z-Report by Ciler
Another warm welcome to 90 new subscribers who joined this week.
That was the first big influx to NC since I started it three weeks ago. The main sources are Substack Network and Twitter followed by Jamie Northrup’s mention of our interview in his newsletter and a cross-promotion.
I experienced the power of the Substack network and the potential in other sources I’ve mentioned. Up until that point, I was hesitant about spending time on social media. Now, I’m ready to take Twitter seriously, which has huge potential not only to reach more readers but also to build authentic relationships. Currently, I’m studying the platform with courses and articles from the pros and working on a system to get the most out of it.
Shoutout to “Deplatformable Newsletter”
Paul Macko is aiming to teach and provide value to small business people, newsletter writers, and creatives of all types with his newsletter "Deplatformable Newsletter”. You will find actionable insights that you can directly apply to grow and improve your media business. Here are two articles that help to get a sense of it. Definitely worth checking out.
Before today’s interview, I have a question for you:
WHAT IS THE QUESTION THAT I DON’T COVER HERE AND YOU MADLY WANT TO ASK NEWSLETTER CREATORS?
👉 Hit reply and tell me that ONE QUESTION.
In a world where we are all forced to grow fast, earn more, and achieve bigger, there is a special group of entrepreneurs who tell us, “Be calm” and share what you learn.
Arvid Kahl is one of the most well-known names that falls under this category.
He works to encourage other entrepreneurs to see bootstrapping as a viable option and build calm and sustainable businesses in public.
He shares what he learned along the way on a diverse set of channels as a full-time creator. He is the author of two books, a podcaster, a Youtuber, a blogger, a newsletter writer and a creator-influencer on Twitter with his 97K followers.
It is not an easy choice to walk on your own path instead of following the hypes. It requires wisdom, courage and a humble attitude. So, although we focused on his journey as a newsletter creator specifically, I highly encourage you to follow Arvid’s other creations to broaden your horizon and learn from his experiences.
🏷 NEWSLETTER IDENTITY CARD
🛠 Tool Stack
ESP (E-mail Service Provider) → ConvertKit
Writing newsletters → Notion
E-mail templates → Palladio
Unsubscribers → Smart Subscribers
Writing Assistance → Grammarly
Hello Arvid. Let’s start with getting to know you.
I’m a developer turned founder turned creator.
For decades, I’ve been building software and software-enabled businesses. Many failed, some of the horribly, but a few worked out. One that worked out was FeedbackPanda, an Online Teacher Productivity SaaS I co-founded and sold for a life-changing amount of money back in 2019.
Ever since then, I have been doing what I want — and at the moment, that’s building a media business around entrepreneurship.
👇 MicroConf Europe 2019 Attendee Talk by Danielle Simpson and Arvid Kahl just after selling Feedback Panda
How and why did you decide to start The Bootstrapped Founder?
After my partner Danielle and I sold FeedbackPanda, I was looking for something else to do now that we had been catapulted into financial security. Fortunately, I discovered that I love writing and I created a business out of that.
First, TBF was a blog. I wrote a new article every week. But I can be quite lazy, so I forced myself into an accountability regiment: I started a newsletter that quickly turned into a podcast and YouTube channel as well.
The Bootstrapped Founder exists because I believe that self-funded businesses are a great way to build wealth without being beholden to the financial interests of others.
Which growth strategies have you utilized to reach 7700 subscribers?
In the beginning, I made sure to engage my blog readers through social media to encourage them to sign up for my newsletter.
Whenever I wrote a new article, I would post about it on Twitter, and then attach a tweet encouraging people to sign up to the newsletter as a delivery mechanism for more articles like this.
Here is the copy I still use for that:
If you want insights like this in your inbox every week, I invite you to subscribe to my no-bullshit newsletter. Every Friday, one article, including one interview & several interesting links from our community, and that's it. Feel free to check it out: https://thebootstrappedfounder.com/newsletter/
It works like a charm and attracts new readers from Twitter.
Later, I started using SparkLoop to establish a referral system inside my newsletter. A lot of readers used that to get access to unpublished materials.
But the true growth lever was using SparkLoop’s internal partner network and their UpScribe product. A massive influx of new readers just from cross-promotional partnerships there.
Generally, I cross-link all my points of contact. My YouTube videos will link to the newsletter and the podcast. The podcast links to the blog, YouTube, and newsletter. All blog articles have easy signup for the newsletter. It’s a cross-funnel flywheel.
What is the most impactful growth strategy?
The biggest reader influx happens whenever an influential entrepreneur or creator talks about an issue of the newsletter or the whole media brand.
Word of mouth has the most positive results, so building relationships with other creators have been the most impactful strategy for me.
My whole brand is about connection and empowerment, so this approach works particularly well for me.
How do you monetize your newsletter?
I have sponsors for every issue —one or two main sponsors and a classified section— and occasionally highlight my own info products.
Why did you choose Convertkit? Pros and cons?
ConvertKit has been a reliable companion on my newsletter journey. Their internal automation systems make it easy to create email workflows, segment my list(s) and integrate outside tooling.
Which other tools do you use for which purposes to create your newsletter?
I use Palladio for templating my emails and Smart Subscribers for unsubscribes. I write my newsletter in Notion and then just copy & paste it into the ConvertKit editor interface.
What is your typical weekly process from creation to sending a new issue?
On Monday, I ideate. I come up with the topic —or I just pick one off my giant list of topics— and write an outline.
Then, I fill it out for the rest of the day. At the end of the day, I have my article, which is the source of all other media for the week.
Throughout the remaining days until Thursday, I record, edit, and prepare the podcast and YouTube version while making sure I have all my sponsor assets.
I then compile the weekly issue on Thursday and schedule it for Friday morning delivery.
After releasing a new issue, what is your distribution mechanism?
I share a teaser on Twitter, linking the blog post, the video, and the podcast. People eventually funnel themselves to the newsletter. Anyone talking about the issue gets extra engagement from me.
How do you generate feedback and engage with your readers?
I spend a lot of time on Twitter, where I have cultivated an audience of almost 100,000 followers.
I use a tool called Syften to notify me when my name, central topics, or info products are talked about. I then engage there and often add a link to the recent blog post where people can sign up for the newsletter.
How did writing The Bootstrapped Founder contribute to your life?
Well, it allowed me to provide my ever-growing audience with a place to find my work reliably and repeatedly. One big consequence of the blog was that at some point a few months in, someone told me that they’d love to see me write a book, which I then did. It turned into a best-selling book that still gets recommended heavily by entrepreneurs and creators. In a way, the blog turned me from a writer into an author.
Do you have any writing experience before your newsletter? Have you done anything specific to improve your writing?
I really didn’t have any professional writing experience, particularly as English is my second language. But hey, I was a software engineer, and while we don’t write prose, we do write code. Writing is writing, and as a coder, you have to read a lot. Clarity is just as much a writing exercise as it is a reading one. One thing that really helped was using Grammarly as a quality control piece of software. I still use it today.
What is the most challenging and the most rewarding part of writing a newsletter?
The challenging part is overcoming imposter syndrome. “Who am I to talk about this” is a constant companion on my journey.
But the most rewarding part is the answer to this problem: getting feedback —good or bad— from my audience. No matter if they love or hate it, at least they READ it. That’s all I need :)
What is next on your newsletter journey? Short-term and long-term objectives?
I want to keep growing the newsletter at the same time as professionalizing my podcast and YouTube efforts. I have no plans to do anything else in the near or distant future. I love writing and helping people. So I’ll keep doing that!
If you had the right to give one single piece of advice to aspiring newsletter creators, what would it be?
Consistency is what keeps attracting people.
I am at issue #183 of my newsletter/podcast/video content.
It’s a lot of work, and people understand that someone who does things for 200 weeks in a row is serious about stuff. Start and keep going. The number will tick up, and you will leave unmistakable traces of your ambition. People will notice eventually.
You manage many projects at the same time. How do you manage your time? Any productivity tips, maybe?
I keep my calendar as empty as I can. No meeting unless absolutely necessary. If it can be an email, it has to be an email. If it could be a meeting, it should still be an email. If it has to be a meeting, I’d rather do it today than tomorrow.
Which other newsletters would you like to recommend?
Why We Buy by Katelyn Bourgain and For The Interested by Josh Spector. Great and impactful periodicals.
Any final words?
Building a media business —and that’s what having a newsletter is— is a long-term project.
Instead of dreaming of millions of subscribers, build relationships with as many individual people as possible.
Don’t force high growth: spend time, energy, and money to get to know the people who say “yes” to you when there are no peers to pressure them into it.
Those people are genuinely interested in what you have to offer, and you can and should learn about that from them.
Thank you so much, Arvid. Never stop creating, it is a pleasure to be a companion on your journey.
🔗 Where to find Arvid Kahl and his work
👉 Subscribe to The Bootstrapped Founder
The Embedded Entrepreneur / A Book by Arvid Kahl→ How to Build an Audience-Driven Business
Zero to Sold / / A Book by Arvid Kahl → How to Start, Run, and Sell a Bootstrapped Business
📌 HANDPICKED PIECES
Theme: Why is it a good idea to start a newsletter?
Writing helps us to connect the dots and makes sense of what we learn, think and feel. It lets us organize our inner world, settle the chaos in our minds and progress in understanding ourselves.
Newsletters are valuable assets. You will have your algorithm-free e-mail list and the power to reach specific audiences, which gets more expensive day by day through traditional online channels.
Starting a newsletter is more than how it is perceived. It is starting a media business that you can buy and sell. Duuce is the very first marketplace for newsletters and they recently started a newsletter on Substack.
Visit 👉 Duuce Website & Duuce Newsletter
Read 👉 Real Cases: Newsletter Exits
More platforms and newsletters entering the business are proofs that the market is growing yet full of potential.
Paul Metcalfe shared a list of newsletters for newsletters where Newsletter Circle is also mentioned. Thanks again Paul!
Bookmark 👉Newsletters for Newsletters post
That’s all for today. Thanks for reading and don’t be shy to leave your comment if you have any.
See you next Sunday.
Great interview, love seeing your progress each week
love the concept of this newsletter, subscribed for more!