Should I Start a Substack?

Choosing to start a Substack means thinking about a few things: Do you want to start a newsletter? Do you love writing? What are your money goals? Are you looking to make money fast, or do you have another reason? This page will answer lots of common questions about beginning a Substack to help you decide if it’s a good fit for you.
Editor’s note: We updated this information on November 23, 2023.

Can you make good money on Substack?

Yes, earning a significant income on Substack is definitely possible. Some individuals are making as much as $1 million a month there – more details on that below. However, it’s important to remember that your earnings will largely depend on your ability to draw in and maintain a paying audience.

How much money can you realistically make on Substack?

The potential earnings on Substack vary greatly and hinge on factors like your subscriber count and subscription pricing. While some top writers earn upwards of tens of thousands of dollars monthly, the reality for many is more modest. For further insight, consider reading the top earners on Substack who make around $25,000 per month.

Key to success on Substack is having an ‘unfair advantage’—be it deep expertise from a previous career, a large following from other social media platforms, or a unique offering that sets you apart. This advantage can significantly boost your chances of thriving on the platform. Without it, you may find it more challenging to differentiate yourself in a crowded field. Though a substantial income is still attainable, it typically requires more effort and strategy without these advantages.

Can you make a living writing on Substack?

Yes, many writers manage to make a living on Substack. Just look at two examples from the thousands of successful newsletter publications available there (see screenshot below).

Substack’s leaderboard

However, it’s hard to gauge the likelihood of success since Substack hasn’t shared specific data. For instance, they haven’t provided percentages about how many writers make a certain amount per month over the last six consecutive months. Helpful statistics would include:

  • X% of Substack writers earn at least $1,000 per month over the past six months.
  • X% of Substack writers earn at least $2,000 per month over the past six months.

Such data could either motivate or discourage people from starting on Substack, depending on how high or low these percentages are.

Who makes the most money on Substack?

One of the top-earning publications on Substack is “Letters from an American.” Its creator, Heather, a professor of American history, focuses her newsletter on the current political scene in the United States. She describes her work as an exploration of “what it means, and what it has meant, to be an American.”

According to Substack, Heather’s newsletter boasts hundreds of thousands of subscribers, each paying $5 a month. This means if she has around 200,000 paid subscribers, she’s earning $1 million each month. For more examples of top earners, you can check out our list of successful Substack newsletters.

Letters from an American has hundreds of thousands of paid subscribers 1

How much does the average Substack writer make?

Unfortunately, Substack doesn’t share data on the average earnings of its writers. It would be interesting to know, but we can try to estimate it in other ways. For example, you can look at Substack’s ‘explore’ tab to see the top newsletters in each category, like Technology. Here, you can find out which ones have paid subscriptions.

By clicking ‘see all,’ you’ll see a leaderboard for that category. In the Technology section, there are 448 newsletters with paid subscriptions. Some have been around for years, while others are newer. Out of these, 94 have paid subscribers, as seen in the screenshot where I used CTRL+F to search for them.

In the screenshot below, I show three of these publications, each with hundreds of paid subscribers. The lowest number mentioned by Substack for paid subscribers is ‘hundreds,’ so there aren’t any listed with just ‘dozens.’ With the minimum subscription fee being $5, those with hundreds of subscribers are making at least $1,000 monthly.

Therefore, in the Technology category, 21% of the 448 publications with paid subscriptions are making $1,000 or more a month. You can do similar research for other categories. But remember, this assumes that these 448 are ALL the paid publications in this category. If there are more, the percentage of those earning $1,000 or more would be lower.

Is it easy to make money on Substack?

Like most successful ventures, earning money on Substack is not easy, especially at first. Even later on, some find it challenging to maintain a regular schedule of sending out newsletters. It usually takes time and hard work to build a large group of subscribers who pay. Writers need to be good at promoting their newsletters and attracting more readers to earn more. While Substack can be rewarding for some, it generally requires a lot of effort and a well-thought-out plan.

As with 99.9% of successes it’s isn’t easy to atain it, especially in the beginning but also when you’re further along some might find it hard to keep a consistent schedule of publishing newsletters. Building a substantial, paying subscriber base often takes time and dedication. Writers also need to be adept at marketing their newsletters and growing their audience to increase their earnings. For some, it can be a rewarding platform, but it usually demands a significant commitment and strategic approach.

Additionally, I recommend watching, listening to, or reading interviews with Substack creators to get a clearer picture of how such a business operates. The interview provided below offers valuable insights:

Additional interviews with Substack creators:

Is Substack a good place to start a blog?

Is Substack a good place to start a blog?

When you look at a Substack creator’s page, like The Ankler, you’ll see it resembles a blog. However, on Substack, every post you write is also sent as a newsletter to your subscribers. Sure, your followers can read these posts on your Substack site, which you get automatically when you sign up.

But, if you want to start a traditional blog without the newsletter feature, which is a big part of Substack, you might want to explore other options like WordPress, Wix, or Squarespace. These platforms offer more design freedom compared to Substack, whose layout options are quite limited. However, this simplicity can be a plus if you’re not very tech-savvy. Starting a blog on WordPress can be much more challenging than on Substack due to its complexity. So, more flexibility often means you’ll need more technical knowledge.

Should I start a Substack or Patreon?

Deciding between starting a Substack or a Patreon depends on your goals and the type of content you plan to create.

Substack is ideal if your focus is primarily on writing and publishing newsletters. It’s a platform tailored for writers who want to start and grow a newsletter. Substack also allows you to monetize your content by offering paid subscriptions, but again, it is heavily focused on newsletter formats.

Patreon, on the other hand, is broader in scope. It’s suited for a wide range of creators, including artists, musicians, podcasters, and video creators, in addition to writers. Patreon provides a platform for offering exclusive content, behind-the-scenes access, merchandise, and more to your ‘patreons’. It’s more about building a community of supporters who pay a monthly fee for access to a variety of content types.

If you’re still unsure whether Patreon or Substack is the right platform for you I suggest reading our article Substack vs Patreon that goes into way more depth into the differences and similarities between these two.

If you’re still undecided about whether Patreon or Substack is the better choice for you, I recommend reading our detailed article titled ‘Substack vs Patreon.’ It delves deeply into the differences and similarities between the two platforms, providing a more comprehensive understanding to help you make an informed decision.

Additional Resources

Recommended Articles

Here are some articles that you may find interesting and valuable:

  1. Substack review
  2. Substack top earners
  3. Substack vs Patreon
  4. Best email marketing software tools
  5. Best free email marketing email tools
  6. How much money YouTubers make

Recommended Videos

Check out these engaging videos from our YouTube channel:

  1. Substack. (n.d.-b). Top U.S. Politics publications. Retrieved November 23, 2023, from ↩︎