87 days into my media subscription startup

A look at revenues, subscribers & strategy.

Welcome to a new investor update of the Hatchet. We share career advice for new managers working at fast-growing companies, directly to your email inbox.

Interested in receiving these stories too? Sign up here.

Investor Update #2

Dear investors,

In the 60 days since my last investor update revenue is up 119%.

You'll understand why I had to open with that statement, since I might not ever get another chance to impress you with triple digit growth.

I am now at a total email list of 1029, of which 53 paid subscribers, 1 content partnership deal and a combined gross annual revenue of €5.863. More importantly, I am at 30% of my €19.836 target to prove I can generate minimum wage in 10 months.

Thank you Sille, Joris, Tino, Doenya, Robin, Cas, Anke, Daan, Marvin, Bart (2x), Martijn, Sebastien, Kriszti, Matthias, Hans, Jemma, Daniel, Yoram, Sebastiaan (2x) and Màr for your support since my last update. Great to have you on board!

Why am I building The Hatchet?

I want to start off a little philosophical before I talk results and strategy.

The last 3 months have been a rollercoaster of trying to wrap my head around how I want to shape my own future of work. Some of the puzzle pieces:

  • what do I enjoy doing most during a week of work

  • what is my long term vision for building The Hatchet

  • how do I best spend my own time to make this a success

I've come to realise that what's most important to me about building this company is creating a sense of legacy. I want to build a brand that people enjoy interacting with, that genuinely provides value and to feel pride knowing it comes from something I've built. I care about this a lot more than I care about making money.

This realisation has led me to make a few key decisions:

  • I want to start hiring a team of people (parttime) with complementary skillsets in marketing, social media or content strategy to help me grow the brand;

  • I'm going to pay for that by reinvesting most of the cashflow I generate this year — this should also free up more of my time to help the company grow faster.

I could save up all the money I make to try and succeed as a fulltime writer, but the reality is that I started this project to become an entrepreneur. My ultimate goal is not just to work in my company, but to work on my company.

My financial buffer will keep me going until the end of the year, and I'm confident by then I'll be able to sustain myself financially by paying out some of the earnings.

Over to the results.

#1 - Marketing

After trying out various different paid and organic methods to promote The Hatchet I've finally found something that works extremely well.

Each week I ask around 5 people in my network to post an update on their own Linkedin account promoting the newsletter, with a boiler template story that I personalise to their relationship with me. It takes a bit of work from my side, but it's fascinating to see that these posts get me an influx of 5-50 new subscribers per post.

When I started The Hatchet I also created social accounts for Instagram, Facebook and a company page on Linkedin, but I've started to realise that:

  1. I don't have a strategy in place for how, when and what to post here

  2. I could research what a good strategy could be, but..

  3. I don't particularly enjoy this part of the work as much

With this in mind I'm very excited to announce the addition of a new team member to the Hatchet: my good friend, early subscriber and marketing expert, Lana Miller. I'm grateful to have her on as a sparring partner to talk strategy as well as someone to help me make better use of these social accounts than I have so far.

#2 - Editorial

Now that I have an actual team member I need to clean up my act and make sure there's some planning going into the articles planned for the upcoming months. I built this beautiful content calendar in Trello last week so that I can plan ahead which stories I want to work on for the upcoming weeks.

The other great news is that I've signed a content partnership deal with a government funded project to co-produce a short series of articles aimed at convincing people of the allure of working in technology. After approval of the topics, I get to write the articles myself and we'll publish slightly adapted versions on both of our platforms.

The funding for this deal will also allow me to spend a bit more time than usual to create articles that warrant some research versus my opinion only.

Finally, my lovely ex-colleagues have syndicated one of my articles as a guest post under their Growth Quarters brand. I'm curious to see whether this will drive signups to my newsletter in the coming months.

#3 - Sales

I didn't quite make my ambitious target of 100 subscribers by the end of Q1, but overall I am satisfied about the number of paid subscribers so far.

Currently there's just a strong correlation between sales effort and subscription sales.

I need to actively reach out to free subscribers to ask them if they'll consider upgrading, as it rarely happens people will upgrade due to the friendly reminder to consider doing so at the top of my free posts. As you can see, I accurately keep track of my efforts in my cheapskate Google Sheets CRM version of Salesforce.

From what research I've done, I've concluded there are two things that could encourage more subscribers to upgrade without my personal intervention:

  • I (still) need that referral program and I'm in talks about launching a separate landing page on top of Substack that would let me integrate referral software;

  • I've seen others be successful by bundling offers together into special deals ie. get a subscription + a free ebook I wrote.

I like the idea of coming up with some interesting ways for me to package a subscription into a special deal, although I would first need to come up with something smart that doesn't require locking myself up to write an ebook.

Goals for Q2 of 2021

This next quarter is going to be quite hectic, considering I have an additional commitment to my newly signed partner as well as a baby due to arrive March 30!

Here are the goals Lana and I have outlined for the upcoming quarter:

  • Reach 300 followers on our Instagram account

  • Reach 500 followers on our Linkedin account

  • Launch a sponsorship proposition and sign 1 partner

  • Grow to a total email list of 1500 subscribers

  • Reach 75 premium subscribers

  • Reach €12.000 in gross revenue

Thanks again for all of your support everyone!