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The Future of Karlstack
we all need a little structure in our lives sometimes
I had reservations about writing this article because it’s trite to use January 1st as a “fresh slate”, but nevertheless, here we are. As the saying goes, clichés become clichés because they are the hammers and screwdrivers in the toolbox of communication.
I have big things planned for 2023! The future is bright, unlike this new color scheme.
This is the year Karlstack takes the next step. I started this Substack in May 2021 as a hobby, and transitioned to full-time in March 2022. It has been a learning process where I’ve made more mistakes than I care to admit, but also learned the corresponding lessons. Here is what this looks like in term of subscriber growth, where the red line is when I went full-time:
These 3,626 free subscribers translate into 155 paid subscribers — good for a 4.3% conversion rate. As per Substack’s official “Guide to Going Paid,” We tend to see 5-10% of free subscribers convert to paying subscriptions, with 10% being a rate to aim for.” I think my 4.3% conversion is relatively good in this context because I barely provide any paywalled content whatsoever, just one or two articles here or there. I think I can double my conversion rate.
This is one of the things I struggled with this past year, the decision of what to paywall. Sometimes I will tell myself (or I will even tell my subscribers) that I will paywall more articles, then I will write an article with the intention of sending it to only paid subscribers, but once I put in the work and step back to look at the finished product, it feels like such a shame to send it to dozens of paid subs rather than to thousands, that when the moment of truth arrives I invariably click “send to all.”
I guess I value my own ego rather than valuing providing value to my paid subscribers. That is something I want to change, and now that I am getting hundreds of paid subscribers, I think I can comfortably shift my mindset from “drat, nobody will read this if I paywall it,” to, “great! hundreds people will read it if I paywall it!”
To that end, I am moving to a new system where I put out one paid-only article every Sunday.
One big reason I felt this change was necessary is to give my life some structure. It’s chaotic/stressful/anxiety-inducing following a “click publish as soon as you are done writing” schedule because my mind immediately goes to the next one. I can never relax.
Another reason is that it’s simply more professional to have set publishing days, which sets consistent expectations with readers. If you read any of the guides written by “growth experts” on how to grow a successful Substack, the most important key is always to set a consistent posting schedule and stick to it. Initially I flaunted this advice because I thought I was too cool, I thought I was a maverick for posting at random times on random days, but I am man enough to admit when I am wrong.
More generally, I just like the idea of becoming a Sunday columnist. I crave structure.
To receive my 52 paid-subscribers-only Sunday articles in 2023, consider becoming a paid subscriber. My first paid-only Sunday article will be released next Sunday, 7 days from now, and it will be titled, “The Federal Reserve Goes Woke 2: Electric Boogaloo.”
Washington Free Beacon Names Karlstack “2022 Man of the Year ”
It was surreal to wake up this morning to see this from a semi-legit outlet:
I was confused for a few seconds before figuring out it was a sarcastic, sneering hitpiece. Their hitpiece is divided into 2 parts. First, they make fun of me for only lasting at the Daily Caller for 3 months before flaming out, and second they shit on me because I shit on their owner, billionaire Paul Singer.
God forbid anyone such as myself suggest that CIA has any assets planted in the journalism world. Its so funny how the Free Beacon guy got his parents to get him endorsements from multiple fucking ex-CIA directors, but you’re not allowed to point out that’s fishy lest the GOP slime machine write a half-baked hit piece on you.
It’s very on-the-nose that I shit on them for being a deepstate GOP slime machine, and they respond by sliming me at the behest of deepstate GOP operatives. It kind of proves my point?
Here is my response:
All in all, very weird episode. Very out of left field.
You might ask, who cares about this inside baseball BS? A random, petty personal grudge isn’t newsworthy. This isn’t news!
The answer is that apparently nobody cares.
Their article has gotten 8 likes from their ~152,000 Twitter followers.
To Preview, or not to Preview?
Whenever I’ve sent paid-only articles so far, I sent them to paid subscribers only, so free subscribers would have no clue that these articles even exist.
For example, I wrote this paywalled article which I’ve unpaywalled so free subscribers can read it now:
I notice a common practice by many authors,and for example, is to send their paywalled articles to free subscribers. Only the first couple of paragraphs are free before you hit the paywall. I have 2 minds about this: I am sure this teasing is extremely effective in converting free subscribers to paid, but it’s also annoying to be sent a paywalled teaser.
What do you think I should do every Sunday?
Have you been thinking about starting your own Substack?
If you click this button, you can start your own Substack that will be officially referred by Karlstack.
What this means that you’ll appear at the top of my Substack page, it looks like this:
This will appear at the top of my Substack page, too. So, if you don't have any audience, over the course of the next year this presumably will be a small boon to your growth because people will organically stumble onto your Substack from my Substack.
If you don’t want to be affiliated with me, that’s cool too. You can probably reach out to literally any Substack writer and ask for their referral code and they will give it to you. It will probably be more effective for your growth to be referred by someone extremely famous.
On Public Speaking
The biggest professional weakness I have is public speaking. It’s held me back in terms of growth — every few weeks I get invited on podcasts, streams or even TV, and I always say no. If I could just say yes, I would be way ahead of where I am now in terms of subscribers.
Obviously the solution is to rip off the bandaid and just do it. Easier said than done. I’ve been working up to this for a long time, and think I will start saying yes to these requests in 2023. Part of my hesitation is that I wonder who would want to listen to me speak? But I guess if I am already getting the invites, the proof is in the pudding. I just need to be cockier.
The State of Travelling
14 weeks ago I fled Canada. First stop: Mexico.
I didn’t like Cancun.
I learned that the only reason to go there is to chill in the “Hotel Zone,” which is a secluded strip of hotels on a nice beach and nothing else. This is what the beach looks like:
The problem is that I couldn’t afford to live in the hotel zone (no AirBnBs there, and didn’t want to pay a hotel rate), so I lived downtown with the townie population, which was, in a word, a shithole. It was kind of charming to hear stray cats fighting in the alley outside my window every night, but it got old quickly.
So after a few weeks living in downtown Cancun I moved to a smaller beachtown a couple of hours away, and this town is muuuuch more the vibe I was looking for. I’ve been here for the past couple of months and I enjoy it so much that I extended my stay for 3 more months. The building I am at long-term has a really nice roof, which is where I often hangout and write.
Here is my WFH office: