I went from 6 to 500 substack subscribers in 9 weeks. A summary of what I did with all the stats.

I started writing a weekly Chinese tech analysis newsletter on Aug 13th 2020 with 6 subscribers. I am now at 510 subscribers as of Oct 16th 2020. Proof.

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I’m super surprised and grateful to all my readers and subscribers, but you didn’t come here for my gratitude journal. You came here for some cold, hard stats and what worked for me along the way. So let’s get to it.

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I started the newsletter during a two-week hotel quarantine after landing in China. I didn’t promote it to my friends or family since my topic is relatively niche (and my performance anxiety would have drastically increased in front of loved ones). After putting hours into crafting my first article, I pressed publish and also posted it to Twitter and GGV’s chat group on China tech.



But I was signal boosted by some very kind people (like Vinoth, Rui and Ollie), which meant others could find me eventrually. My first big spike in sign-ups came from an endorsement from a kind blue tick on Twitter without any prompt from me.

Woooo recognition!

My next big spike came from me just asking people to subscribe to my newsletter. This single thing didn’t even cross my mind until I saw someone else do it. So a tip is to ask people to subscribe, nicely, but ask. This was again signal boosted by some kind people. I’ve annotated the rest of my growth journey here:

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Standing on the shoulders of Twitter giants and getting some help from Hacker News and Reddit
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Conversion rates has been averaging around 12%

Growth tactics that worked for me:

Strategic actions that helped:

“Everyday, it gets a little easier. But you gotta do it every day. That’s the hard part”

Writing something every week that I don’t hate is time-consuming and difficult. It’s often a slog. But this is the case for everyone. The fact that I’ve consistently put in the time is a competitive advantage. Not everyone who wants to start a newsletter can do this. New and old readers can also trust that I will deliver.

My biggest issues right now:

What’s next:

I’m very thankful for the support of Vinoth Jayakumar, Ollie Forsyth, Rui Ma, Sarah Noeckel, Meri Beckwith and Alex Flamant. Biggest thanks to Alex T and Noah S who consistently help me proofread and give me thoughtful feedback ❤.

Follow me at @lillianmli to see what I get up to next.

Written by

Heretic. @lillianmli on Twitter. I write a longform newsletter on Chinese tech at https://lillianli.substack.com/

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