Jonah Malin on hustling to one hundred and the only way he attracts subscribers
Hello! Who are you and what newsletter did you start?
My name is Jonah Malin. I’m a copywriter by day and creative writer by night based in Washington, DC. My newsletter “Barely Relevant” provides unconventional writing wisdom to make your words pop in a noisy world.
I try to provide a different way of thinking about writing through personal experiences and storytelling that creative folk can directly apply to their own work.
How did you launch it and what did you do to get the first 100 subscribers?
The first 100 subscribers was a grind. The most important thing I learned early on is to have a brief and gorgeous CTA. Then plaster that bad boy anywhere you can––Twitter bio, articles, email footer, website pop-up, etc.
You can also collab with other creators, writers, and creatives. I’d feature articles from writers I admired and they’d usually share the link to my newsletter in return.
What does your process for creating the content look like?
I typically write one to two long-from articles each week, cut them up into smaller pieces, and use it as the newsletter content.
If something crazy happens I’ll tell a story. Or if I learned a lesson I can’t wait to share, then that’ll be the focus.
What tools are you using to create, send, and grow the newsletter?
Canva and Giphy are godsends for creating newsletter content. I work in the ad world so… aesthetics is very important to me.
I send each newsletter through Squarespace because it also houses my website, though I’ve tested several alternative platforms.
Growth comes from Medium, Twitter, and website traffic.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain subscribers?
Giving something of value away for free.
Showing my work in public is the only way I attract subscribers. If I write an article that pops off and people vibe with it, I see a boost in subscribers. If I stop writing for a few weeks, my subscriptions slow dramatically. You need to prove to your audience you know what the hell you’re talking about.
To retain subscribers, try not to switch up the content approach week to week. I always play with aesthetics, but the writing style and takeaways remain consistent. I find more people unsubscribe when you disrupt their rhythm.
How are you doing today and what are your plans for the future?
The email ebbs and flows. I used to commit to one weekly newsletter, sent every Sunday. This occasionally meant pushing out content I wasn’t super proud of in the name of “growth.”
Now I don’t really pay attention to my list size. I’m more concerned with writing to the smaller group of people who read and respond.
A big, shiny email list is cool to talk about. Who cares if your audience isn’t engaged? What’s the point if no one is listening? Twenty hyperactive subscribers mean more than 2,000 dormant ones.
My next phase is to introduce products exclusively for subscribers.
What’s one piece of advice you’d like to share with someone who wants to get started or is just starting out?
Create an automated follow-up sequence people fall in love with. I usually get one response per email sent. My email opt-in has received dozens of responses with people excited to see what’s coming. I spent hours writing it and carefully selecting the featured articles.
Inject the heart and soul of your newsletter into it. This is your first impression. It will determine if someone comes back for more. Don’t fuck it up.
Where can we go to learn more?
You can subscribe to my newsletter here: www.jonahmalin.com/barelyweekly
I’ve also written several articles on growing your newsletter: