Indie Hackers
May 8, 2020

How to Make Millions by Writing Online with Sam Parr of The Hustle


Sam Parr joins Courtland for a catch up on what's happening with The Hustle during the pandemic. And they talk about his latest newsletter project, Trends, which is on track to hit 8 figures.

Plenty of practical advice in this one - growth, media business models, how to launch a profitable newsletter and improving copywriting skills.

If newsletters are your thing, you have to listen to this.

Lessons learned

On starting a newsletter

  • People can build a much bigger company with 1 or 2 people than you think. You can make $50 million a year with 4 writers
  • How to start a brand-new newsletter today: pick a very small but fast-growing niche, know who you’re trying to attract and who you don’t want to attract
  • Then charge more than you think you should, $500-1000 a year, and make sure information you provide is very utilitarian. “It has to be like a vegetable smothered in peanut butter”: it can be entertaining and interesting but it has to help you get something done better. Make sure the people make money from the information you provide them. Then you get the right kinds of customers
  • Spend a fair bit of money on advertising to make it grow, write great blog posts that go viral, try to guest post for other people too
  • “Launch something tomorrow! Do it fast and don’t think about anything else, just do it!”

On copywriting

  • Being a good copywriter is the number one skill that you can ever have if you want to make money
  • What does copywriting mean? Copywriting means understanding human behavior and understanding people’s wants and needs and "manipulating" that into get them to buy stuff.
  • Easiest way to start thinking about copy is AIDA: Attention (grab their attention), Interest (tell them facts to get them interested), Desire (tell them stories to make them desire it by showing features and benefits) and Action (tell them what action to take)
  • Nobody in Silicon Valley is doing great long form sales pages. Maybe seen as too "internet marketing" and not cool. But long form works. Doesn't have to be all text - use photos and videos. Give tons of information to make the sale.
  • Typically the more expensive the product, the longer the sales page needs to be

On launching Trends

  • Build your community - a loyal audience - before building a subscription business
  • Before starting talk to people with similar business models - Sam talked to everyone who was successful before he launched Trends: Motley Fool, The Athletic, The NY Times, Wall Street Journal. Success with The Hustle opened doors. But anyone can do it. Be persistent and genuinely interested
  • Pricing is important, you can charge more than you think. Do annual billing only, that enables great cashflow. Lots of startups charge $5 a month, big mistake. Don’t do freemium either. You want to charge yearly up front
  • Create a launch page and offer early access on the thank you page people see when they sign up to the newsletter. Talk to people who purchased it. Email it to 500 people saying "I’m thinking about launching this, you can get lifetime access for X" Call them and see what they think

On hiring good writers

  • You have to like writing (his writers write all day and then at home too).
  • You have to be talented: can you get the words into my brain/tell a story?
  • He’ll ask them about the bottom of their resume, their clubs etc. to see if they can tell a story and hold his interest.
  • Then general knowledge: do they like to learn about stuff?
  • And specific knowledge: ask them about a very specific thing – can they become an expert?

Sam Parr (@theSamParr) returns to the podcast for the second time. You may remember his journey as the midwesterner that went from running a hot dog stand to creating an 8-figure ad-supported newsletter. In this episode, Sam shares how he's now on track to build an 8-figure paid newsletter — — and how other indie hackers can do the same. We talk growth strategies for media businesses, advertising vs subscription revenue, and why learning to write persuasively is the most important skill any founder can have.

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