Your Business Your Way by Shruthi Vidhya Sundaram
"Working towards my freedom has made a better person."
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Reading newsletters is like an addiction (in a good way) to me. The more I find value, the more newsletters I subscribe to. However, dozens of newsletter subscriptions turned my inbox into a real mess. I get lost among hundreds of emails each week while trying to find the stuff I really want to read.
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I meton Twitter in a conversation where we talked about the rewarding and challenging parts of switching from corporate life to solopreneurship.
From the very first moments of our chat, her positive energy and being a real listener made me feel as if I’ve known her for a long time.
She left her SAP technical consultant job in PWC and decided to go solo bravely to build a life in line with her realities and values. She started her first newsletter under a different name and after eight months, switched to a different niche and launched “Your Business Your Way” on Dec’22.
Shruthi is a fearless newsletter creator who puts herself out there transparently regarding both her professional and personal experiences along her solopreneurship journey. I think she is a true inspiration.
Enough of me talking. Let’s listen to her story from herself.
🏷 NEWSLETTER IDENTITY CARD
🛠 Tool Stack
ESP (E-mail Service Provider) → Substack
Drafting & Editing → Google Docs
Idea Generation → Notion
Logo Design → Figma
Grammar Check → Grammarly
Promotion → Twitter
MEET THE CREATOR
Welcome, Shruthi. Let’s start with getting to know you.
Hey everyone! I’m an Organic Business Coach for Coaches. I help them kickstart their coaching business and go from 0 to working with high-ticket clients.
I realized I was passionate about business and people in early 2022 and switched my career from a technical consultant in corporate to coaching. My vision for this business is that enable people to do their business their way. For a long time, I tried to ‘fit in’ to societal and business norms creating tons of friction, and I’m passionate about helping coaches who navigate the same.
Leaving the corporate world to become a solopreneur is a serious transition.
How did you decide to build your online business alone? How is your experience with solopreneurship so far?
Ah, what an intense year it has been! I won’t deny, I never expected the huge-ass ups and downs, but it’s been so worth it.
Working in corporate made me realize that, I work my best when I’m alone and don’t work well with teams because of my ADHD. Even in the future, I know I’ll never have employees (I will work with freelancers, though). It was the same realization that made me go solo.
I never felt lonely, which is the primary concern of most, because I built my tribe of friends who support and encourage me. I’ve had to take responsibility for all my actions, and steer the ship for the first time, which has been huge. You don’t have team members or managers to guide or blame, right?
This has exponentially improved my confidence, and, to be honest, has been the biggest self-improvement journey of my life.
My relationship with money has changed too. I value a $1000 invoice from a client more than the 6-figure job I was in.
Working towards my freedom has made me a better person for sure.
What is “Your Business Your Way” newsletter about?
How and why did you decide to start it?
I was running a newsletter called “Social Media Conversations” for eight months before I shifted to “Your Business Your Way”. Somehow I always felt the pivot in my gut but was simply procrastinating on it.
But in November and December, I was meeting people from such diverse conditions - A single mom of 2 kids, a cancer survivor, a disabled person, someone who was taking care of their parents, a college student going through intense mental health and anxiety issues - everyone was trying to set their coaching business up, their own way.
Having those conversations changed my life. As a woman with ADHD and as someone who has struggled with mental health issues my whole life, I innately knew that one size doesn’t fit all.
I was trying to implement all this “bro-ey” advice on Twitter for a long time, only to drive my head up the wall in frustration. I wanted to help other people through that phase, and aid them in building the foundation of their coaching business according to their lifestyle, vision, mission, work habits and rules.
So that’s whatis about.
It’s an inclusive newsletter, where I try to give all perspectives and points of view for you to build your business in a way that feels right to you. I’m also planning to interview people from different backgrounds to inspire people.
How did you manage the process of changing the niche of your newsletter?
Speaking of niches, what do you think about the famous “find your niche” pressure?
I think it is important to highlight that it is always possible to make changes & iterations.
Oh yes, definitely!
Anyone who asks you to find your niche in 3 steps in 5 days is bullshitting. All we can do is ebb and flow by following our intuition.
It’s not a marriage decision too. You can always do mindful pivots in your business.
I wrote a whole piece about my experience and more here:
How did you reach your first 100 subscribers?
Hahaha, I still cringe when I think of it lol.
So I used to post content on LinkedIn then, and every week I ran polls on the subjects to write.
It was something like, “Are you interested in XYZ? Yes/No?”
And I DM’ed everyone who responded yes with, “Hey, you showed interest in this subject! I’m releasing it in an hour. Would you like to subscribe? No pressure, though!”
Yikes. But this did get me a ton of subscribers. And my first freebie also got me, my initial folks.
Then, which growth strategies have you utilized to reach 400+ subscribers?
Two main factors played a role in my growth:
Posting on Twitter, and adding it to my profile
I released 4 products (3 free, 1 paid) last year, which got a bulk of subscribers
What is the most impactful growth strategy in your case?
I did not realize when people said it before, but it is “providing value”.
Since I started this long-form newsletter, I can clearly see the difference. The number of replies, likes and shares have exponentially increased. Until you cannot nail that down, there’s no point in ‘growth’.
Other than that, getting featured in other newsletters is the best. Especially if they’re in the same niche as yours. Because the other creator has already built trust with their audience, which you can capitalize on. The vice-versa applies too.
What is the role of social media in your newsletter business and how do you leverage it to grow?
I think Twitter was the best thing that happened to me last year. And the two things that have truly helped me in my growth are:
Building relationships with amazing people. I got into 150+ calls last year for sure
Consistency. Not in traditional terms. I think I’ve started seeing long-term. I’m okay with taking a couple of days of a break here and there, and using it based on my energy, instead of driving myself insane and quitting it altogether
Tapping into my values, experiences and core mission and truly implementing them in my content was crucial. Also, keeping an eye on the problems people face so that I can help them out the best way I can.
I talk to a lot of people to get feedback…so that becomes my idea library. I simply send a WhatsApp message to myself, whenever an idea strikes or directly draft it in whichever Twitter tool I use at that point.
For writing social media content, again, it depends. Sometimes I write days of content because inspiration strikes. Sometimes, I get ideas on the spot, don’t overthink and simply post directly. Worst-case scenario, I don’t force myself to post content when life happens.
But throughout all this, I make sure to keep in touch with my friends and support them as much as possible.
How do you generate feedback and engage with your readers and other newsletter creators?
I mainly get my newsletter ideas from conversations with people, which is more than enough for me, right now.
From time to time, I take polls from my readers to see whether I’m going on the right path.
Most of my friends online have their own newsletters. So yes, conversations and discussions on this topic are bound to happen. That becomes an amazing insight for the direction I’m going in too.
Do you monetize your newsletter?
I did not want to add any links to the newsletter for the first few editions. Give only value. So I haven’t monetized it yet. I do have some plans, though:
Get coaching leads
I’m planning to release a cohort-based course sometime in April. So I’ll be promoting the course here.
Sell products or affiliates
E-MAIL SERVICE PROVIDER
Why did you choose Substack? Pros and cons?
It was easy to use and I wanted the lowest barrier to getting into a weekly newsletter routine. I am planning to switch soon, though.
Ultra simple to use
Their recommendation feature is amazing!
You can focus on writing and nothing else, basically.
You cannot sell products or create automation here (for example, welcome or promotional sequences)
Open rates: It’s much lower than other platforms. Many of my friends immediately felt the difference once they switched (minimum 5 to 10%)
Everything is standardized. You cannot change the layout, landing page, etc.
SYSTEM & PRODUCTIVITY
What is your typical weekly process from creating to releasing a new issue?
Can I be honest? I don’t 😄
I am trying to get better at that, though. I’m a huge procrastinator and usually write just the day before or a couple of hours before the release. Most of the time, I have the structure, outline and even words in my head, it’s simply a matter of putting it on paper.
A year of writing has definitely helped with the process. What used to take about 5 hours for me, now takes no more than 2 hours.
I think distribution is the most underestimated part of growing a newsletter. It takes so much time and effort.
What is your weekly newsletter content distribution plan/system?
I tweet about the upcoming issue and ask people to sign up
I add the newsletter as a CTA to all my posts
What I want to do (I’ve started the process):
Take mini-interviews of people, about how useful YBYW is (or not), and post them as case studies
Cross-post with other creators and coaches
Setup a referral system
How do you manage your time? Do you have productivity tips that you can share with us?
I don’t think I can, because that’s something I struggle with too.
But I’m actively trying to tap into my inspiration and utilize it fully.
For example, on good days, I’m ok working 12 to 13 hours and doing the minimum for the next couple of days. The traditional concept of work-life balance is so skewed. We all need to find our balance :)
How did writing Your Business Your Way contribute to your life professionally?
Somewhere along the line, I had lost my way. I binge-read/watched a ton of content, and while getting inspired by them, I lost my writing voice and my interest in writing, to be honest.
YBYW rekindled my passion for writing; my thoughts have become much clearer in the process. I’ve become ultra-aware of people’s feedback and their responses, which has tremendously improved my coaching and sales process.
What is the biggest AHA moment along this journey?
My biggest AHA moment was understanding that I must tap into my gut more. When I started YBYW, I was actually scared of putting out only long-form content, but I followed my intuition anyway. From then, periodically, I’m getting at least seven responses for every edition! It’s crazy…for “Social Media Conversations”, I hardly got any:)
What is the most challenging part of writing a newsletter and how do you handle it?
I think it’s consistency. It’s so easy to fall off the bandwagon. Especially when you’re running a business.
Mostly time flies so fast! It feels like you’ve just sent your newsletter and bam! Here it comes! Another Monday! Sometimes, it can get tiring, but it’s crucial to tap into our energies and find a system that works for us.
What is next on your newsletter journey? What are your goals and plans to reach them?
I feel like there’s so much to do and so little time.
I’ve started approaching my friends to feature YBYW in their newsletter to promote it. And vice-versa
I want to create mini case studies about the impact the newsletter has created, and publish them to increase awareness
Release a freebie to get more subscribers
Interview coaches from diverse backgrounds to get their perspective (neurodivergent, folks who’ve undergone trauma, minority communities and more)
Create a full email marketing strategy: freebie —> welcome sequence —> weekly emails —> occasional promotional content
Take active steps to increase the metrics: open & click rates, response rates etc.
Imagine someone who decided to create a newsletter but has no idea how to start.
Where should this person start?
Are there any resources that you can recommend?
I know this sounds simple and stupid, but they’ve to simply start and get used to publishing at whatever frequency they’re comfortable with. That’s much more crucial than subscribers in the beginning. Not format, fancy design, or subscribers. Get practice on writing.
I love love love Dylan Redekop’s Growth Currency newsletter and Dylan Bridger’s emails on marketing.
Jeff Felten’s emails on welcome sequences are fantastic too!
Unfortunately, I do not see many women in this space (or I don’t know them.)
What would it be if you had the right to give one piece of advice to aspiring newsletter creators?
Be true to yourself and your writing voice.
Even if you get inspired by someone else’s work, you be you, as simple and complex as it sounds.
For your first draft, don’t filter your thoughts as they come on paper. That you can do later in editing.
And writing when you feel intense emotions always produces the best result. So tap into it.
What are your favorite newsletters that you can’t wait for the next issue?
Oh, there are sooooo many! But some of them are:
Any final words?
More than anything, I wish people have fun in this newsletter journey.
Be ready to pivot, experiment, ebb and flow with time. No one’s gonna notice as much as you are!
Thank you so much, Shruthi. Never give up listening to your gut feeling and building a life around your values.
🔗 Where to find Shruthi Vidhya Sundaram and her work
👉 Subscribe to Your Business Your Way
That’s all for today. 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 Sunday.
Shruthi put out so many nuggets. I agree with her views on finding your niche. I spent years working toward my niche! I made the mistake of thinking that I had to stick with certain things in order to be profitable, when nothing could be further from the truth.
As for authenticity, her advice is spot-on: "Even if you get inspired by someone else’s work, you be you, as simple and complex as it sounds."
That was insightful and inspiring, thank you!