Newsletter Circle by Ciler Demiralp - Part 1

Self-Interview: An Inside look at Newsletter Circle

Newsletter Circle is the newsletter all about newsletters for indie creators.

👉 Every Sunday, you will read the unique journey of a different newsletter creator and learn more about how to start, grow and monetize your own newsletter.

🙏 From You

Misya is sharing the best new tools, including AI ones, in his weekly newsletter The Pen Pivot and reaches 5K+ writers, creators and content marketers.
He kindly recommended Newsletter Circle on Twitter.
Thank you for the shout-out, Misya!

🎙CREATOR INTERVIEW

This is me :)

Hello everyone! Get ready for an exciting issue ahead.

After featuring 26 successful newsletter creators in past editions, I've decided to turn the spotlight on myself.

I haven’t given the decision to start Newsletter Circle overnight. It took some time to discover what I really want to do. It all started with leaving behind a well-established corporate career and stepping out of my comfort zone after a decade, all to begin a new one. In the end, starting this publication was one of my life's most rewarding decisions. For me, Newsletter Circle is more than just a business venture; it helps me shape a new and fulfilling life that I truly enjoy. It plays an important role in both my professional and personal growth.

I'll be sharing this self-interview in two parts because there's so much to share! Today, we'll dive into:

  • How I made the bold decision to embark on such a drastic career change, bidding farewell to the corporate world

  • The journey that led me to create Newsletter Circle

  • How I achieved the milestone of reaching 1,000 subscribers

Next week, we'll continue our conversation, exploring my initial experiences with monetization, the pros and cons of the interview format, my process for managing it all, the main challenges I faced, and my current projects and future plans.

I hope you'll enjoy this self-interview as much as I do.

Let’s start with Part 1.

🏷 NEWSLETTER IDENTITY CARD

Newsletter Circle Identity Card

🛠 Tool Stack

👋 MEET THE CREATOR

Welcome Ciler. Let’s start with getting to know you.

Hi everyone, this is Ciler!

I’ve come from a relatively small city in the western part of Turkey but I’ve been living in Istanbul for the past 17 years except for a 6-month study period in Belgium and a work assignment in Lausanne, Switzerland, back in 2019.

I studied Business Administration in college and started working for a big global company in the tobacco industry right after graduation. Over the course of 10 years, I took several roles in marketing, market research and portfolio strategy until I decided to resign 2 years ago to start a new career and build a new life around it!

Since January 2023, I've been fully dedicated to Newsletter Circle, making it my primary focus to nurture its growth and transform it into a thriving business.

Outside of work, I love reading, traveling, listening to music and watching great cinema and TV series. Whenever my knee allows, I enjoy running a lot and regularly do reformer pilates to stay active and balanced. I also have an interest in psychology and philosophy and try to expand my understanding through various resources when I find time.

Why did you decide to leave your high-paying job and start a new career?

It was not an easy decision. The more you stay in your comfort zone the more difficult it becomes to leave it.

After graduating, I followed the traditional path. My university was one of the best in Turkey, and at the time, all my friends were seeking jobs in global FMCG companies. However, to be honest, I found myself constantly questioning my corporate experience during the last couple of years. I was having difficulty finding meaning in my job. I didn't feel like I was learning or growing, nor was I able to unleash my creativity. It wasn't just the regulated nature of the tobacco industry that stifled creativity, but also the tasks such as preparing 25 versions of the same presentations, long and inefficient meetings and the overall politics that seemed to dominate the corporate world I experienced.

The real challenge was that I had no idea what alternative path to pursue, which is why it took me a while to take any action.

What changed then?

I realized that the longer I waited to take action and change my life in the direction I desired, the more difficult it would become.

I took some time to reflect on my values, priorities, and the kind of life I truly wanted to lead.

What I desire is to be a creator, to challenge myself by exploring new opportunities, and to work on my own terms.

At first, I saw such a drastic change as a big risk. But then, I came to understand that the real risk was staying in a life that didn't bring me joy and doing nothing to change it. I didn't want to end up like those who fear facing their fears and pretend to love what they do.“

Considering all these factors, I realized that being part of the online business world would be the most feasible option and the one that aligns best with my needs.

My previous job was a very demanding one, leaving me with little time and energy to explore new spaces and start a side project. Luckily, I had been saving money for such a scenario for some time, which gave me the courage to leave and pursue this new path.

What did you do after quitting your job?

Initially, I dedicated myself to studying as if I were doing a master of online business, utilizing online resources extensively. I spent my days by reading and delving into one subject after another. It was a rewarding period where I refreshed my knowledge and absorbed a wealth of new information. My primary focus was on content marketing, online market research, and the fundamentals of running an online business.

However, I soon realized that theory alone wouldn't be enough. To implement my learnings, I began offering online marketing consultancy services. This allowed me to bridge the gap between theory and practice.

After a while, I found myself reassessing my path and I returned to my initial passion for content marketing and started exploring potential opportunities in that field.

During this period of exploration, I discovered the power of newsletters as a new channel for self-improvement. I was amazed by the quality of content some newsletters offered and how they transformed into thriving businesses.

“Recognizing the growing potential and seeing it as a valuable online asset that I can genuinely enjoy building, I made the decision to start my own newsletter.“

🥁 START

How did you come up with the idea of Newsletter Circle in the first place?

Initially, I launched a different newsletter called "Digiboarding," where I wrote 101-level articles about online business and shared my learning journey to help newcomers navigate the online world more smoothly.

However, I soon realized that "Digiboarding" was too broad and lacked a distinct identity. I struggled to define my target audience and the unique value I could offer through the newsletter.

While trying to improve "Digiboarding," I stumbled upon an opportunity. I noticed a gap in the market to showcase the stories of newsletter creators. Reading inspiring stories from platforms like Starter Story taught me valuable lessons.

In parallel, I was running a podcast in Turkish where I was hosting women entrepreneurs and learning how they built online businesses with a global reach. I hugely enjoyed it.

“So I decided to combine my passion for sharing others' stories to foster a culture of mutual learning and my enthusiasm for the art of building a newsletter business. This is why I started a newsletter about newsletters :)“

For the readers who are not familiar with Newsletter Circle, what is your newsletter all about?

In Newsletter Circle, I do in-depth interviews with successful newsletter creators to understand how they built their newsletters. The goal is to provide valuable insights and inspiration to newsletter operators and to help them take their newsletters to the next level by learning from real-life examples.

“I want to clarify that when I refer to "success," I don't solely measure it by the number of subscribers or other metrics. Instead, I seek out creators who offer something unique in their content or employ innovative strategies, regardless of the size of their email list.“

Lately, I've been considering defining specific criteria for the newsletters I'll be featuring in the interviews. This will help set clear expectations for my publication, ensuring that readers know what to anticipate. I value feedback from my readers, and their input will play a crucial role in shaping the direction of Newsletter Circle moving forward.

🚀 GROWTH

How did you gain your first 1000 subscribers??

As you can see from the above chart my growth is mainly driven by Recommendations, Direct and Social Media.

Let me give a few details about some acquisition resources I utilized:

  1. LinkedIn Outreach

The first 100 subscribers to my newsletter came from friends and my initial network on LinkedIn.

To reach out to potential subscribers on LinkedIn, I reviewed my connections and messaged those who I believed would be interested in my content.

“Rather than sending a generic message, I took the time to personalize each one, explaining why I thought my newsletter would be helpful to them. Remarkably, this approach led to an impressive conversion rate of over 80%.”

While this method was effective, it is time-consuming and not sustainable in the long term unless automated. But it helped me gain the initial subscribers, which created a sense of accountability to deliver a new issue weekly and maintain my motivation.

2. Recommendations

I switched from Substack to Beehiiv a few months ago. However, I haven’t put enough effort into collaborating with other creators on Beehiiv yet. On Substack, Newsletter Circle received recommendations from 21 publications, three of which contributed the most to gaining new subscribers. This highlights the importance of partnering with creators who share a similar audience.

  1. Twitter & LinkedIn

I started my newsletter with just 99 followers on Twitter, and I wasn't active on the platform. However, over time, my followers grew to 460 without following a consistent publishing schedule or implementing any Twitter growth hacks.

“Surprisingly, even with such a small audience, Twitter became one of my most effective acquisition channels. This untapped potential motivates me to leverage Twitter for organic growth in the future.”

Beyond acquisition, I've found Twitter to be an excellent platform for building relationships with like-minded creators and reaching a targeted audience.

I also used Twitter to outreach newsletter creators and it worked well. I found tweets targeting newsletter creators by using Twitter advanced search. Then, I messaged everyone replying to these tweets. Below, there is a good example of how I messaged a creator and the positive reactions I received.

Example for Twitter reach-out

  1. Refind

    I mentioned Refind a few weeks ago as well. It is a great platform to reach a targeted audience with minimum CPA. It also removes the entry barriers to paid marketing.

    I spent $150 and gained 78 subscribers in one day.

    You can read my interview with Refind’s founder Dominik Grolimund and learn more about “Conversion Ads” in this issue as well.

  2. Other Social Media Channels

“I believe it's crucial to concentrate on one or at most two social media channels when sharing your newsletter content, especially if you don't already have an established audience. Once you find success on a platform, you can consider adding another one.“

As you can see from the graph, I attempted to post on Reddit, Indie Hackers, and Medium, in addition to Twitter and LinkedIn. However, I lacked prior experience and an existing audience on those platforms and dividing my focus across multiple channels hindered successful growth in any of them.

Regarding growth efforts, what would you do differently if you had a chance to start over?

There are two things that I truly wish to apply since day 1.

  1. Assessing where each subscriber is located on the newsletter journey just after the subscription with a survey. Whether they have a newsletter or not, if yes, the size of their newsletters, main pain points and needs.

  2. Being more consistent on Twitter.

What are your plans to continue growing?

Reaching the milestone of 10,000 subscribers is a significant goal for me in the near future. However, I'm committed to maintaining the quality of subscribers throughout this journey, even if it means not reaching rapid growth. I prioritize connecting with an audience who can benefit from my content. This approach ensures that my metrics remain healthy and opens up more monetization opportunities.

To achieve this;

  1. I'm taking steps to understand my audience better. I'm building a CRM system, segmenting subscribers, and working on ways to gather missing information and feedback from them. This will help me tailor my content and decide which products and services I should create to boost growth.

  2. Another crucial aspect of my growth strategy is consistency on social media, particularly on Twitter and LinkedIn. I've set a target of 1 tweet per day and 2 threads per week. For this aim, I will repurpose my existing content and share my insights about the newsletter business more frequently.

  3. Moreover, I see an opportunity to leverage the current audiences of the creators I've interviewed. I plan to create social media assets for each interview to share with the interviewees. By doing so, they won't need to spare time creating posts to share our interview, which will likely increase sharability and engagement.

By focusing on meaningful connections and valuable content, I aim to reach 10,000 subscribers while staying true to my vision.

Next week we’ll continue with part 2 and talk about:

  • How I find my first sponsorship and my experience

  • My content creation system, how I find interviewees and pros & cons of the interview format

  • Challenges and rewarding parts of writing a newsletter

  • What I’m currently working on and plans

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That’s all for today. Thanks for reading and don’t be shy to leave your comment by clicking the below button.

See you next week.

Ciler

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