March 15, 2023

Newsletter Success Launch Plan: 4 Effective Strategies to Kickstart Your Newsletter

Newsletter Success Launch Plan: 4 Effective Strategies to Kickstart Your Newsletter
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E22: Emails. They seem so old-school, right? You have to first write who you are sending them to. Then you write why you're sending them. Then you write what it is all about… So boring! And yet, as of November 2021, Substack had over a million paying subscribers and the top 10 authors on Substack collectively make $20 million per year. If that alone doesn't change your perception of regular ol' email as a powerful business on its own, maybe you should stop right here. Still here? Good. Because I'm devoting the rest of the episode to telling you how you can launch a successful newsletter.


Growing Business of Newsletters (1:00)

Who Should Have a Newsletter? (1:53)

How Many Subscribers Should You Have Before Launch? (2:38)

How to Choose Newsletter Topics (3:06)

How To Get Your First Subscribers (3:55)

Building in Public (5:46)

Newsletter as a Start Up (9:03)

3 Questions to Ask Yourself (9:25)

Content is Everything (10:45)

Content + Distribution = Growth (14:18)

Pass the 'Regret Test' (17:27)

Ask Me Anything (17:54)


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Episode 13 - Rag to Riches: How I Built a Successful Business from Scratch
Episode 14 - I / We / They Framework: 3 Simple Steps to Growing Your Business
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Yong-Soo is a serial entrepreneur bootstrapping his business from $0 to $20m over 8 years. Now, he's on a mission to help founders & creators build a loyal audience, create irresistible product offers, and grow their business sustainably.


Just a month ago, I launched my newsletter with 88 subscribers from family, friends, and other supporters from random online communities. Three weeks later, I had more than tripled my subscriber numbers and, as of recording this podcast, close to 500 people are subscribed to the First Class Founders Brief newsletter.

How did I achieve this? Let’s dig in, shall we?

Hi, My name is Yong-Soo Chung and I am a first-generation Korean-American entrepreneur living the American dream. I started Urban EDC to cater to enthusiasts of everyday carry gear. I also own two other successful ventures GrowthJet, a climate-neutral certified third-party logistics company for emerging e-commerce brands, and SpottedByHumphrey, an online boutique curating dog goods for good dogs. Through these three ventures I make an annual revenue near eight-figures and I'm here to tell you how YOU can do the same!

Emails. They seem so old-school, right? You have to first write who you are sending them to. Then you write why you're sending them. Then you write what it is all about… So boring! 

And yet, as of November 2021, Substack had over a million paying subscribers and the top 10 authors on Substack collectively make $20 million per year. If that alone doesn't change your perception of regular ol' email as a powerful business on its own, maybe you should stop listening here.

Still here? Good. Because I'm devoting the rest of the episode to telling you how you can launch a successful newsletter. I am going to share with you a list of all the things I did to TRIPLE the number of my newsletter subscribers in just three weeks! Let’s get down to business!

Before I begin, there is something I want you to understand first.

Everyone should have a newsletter.

And when I say 'everyone', I mean EVERYONE. Regardless of whether you have anything to say, you should have a newsletter. In fact, you should start collecting emails right away. Because, you may not have anything to say YET. But you will. And, when you do have something to say, you can launch with this list that you collect now instead of scrambling for emails then.

As soon as I launched the First Class Founders podcast back in November, I started collecting email addresses. Before I knew it, I had 88 subscribers. I didn’t have a newsletter back then but I knew that someday, I would have one. So, I started as soon as I could.

If you’re just starting out, a subscriber number between 50 to 100 is something you should shoot for. You want to start off within this range because you can gather feedback quickly. At the beginning, you’re not worried too much about growing your list. Rather, you want to make sure that your newsletter is great. And to do that, you need your initial base of readers. Less than 50 means you probably need to make new friends!

Before launching a newsletter, you need a topic to hone in on. The easiest exercise is to come up with a list of topics that you can spend hours talking about. Come up with 50 headlines that can be used as email subject lines. If you can’t easily come up with 50, then maybe you need to choose a better topic!

After you come up with your area of expertise, choose an email service provider. Most of these should have a free plan so it shouldn’t cost you anything to start collecting emails. I personally use and recommend Beehiiv. You can also use other platforms such as Substack and ConvertKit but I chose Beehiiv because of how quickly they release new features focused on the creator space. Beehiiv is a new player but they’re growing very quickly. It’s like getting on a rocket ship before it really starts to take off! I’ll leave a link in the show notes for Beehiiv if you’re interested.

After you’ve chosen your email service provider, here’s where the fun starts. Start posting organic content on your favorite social media platform and direct people to your newsletter sign-up page by putting your newsletter sign-up link in your bio.

You should also start engaging online with your favorite people within your niche. It is social media, after all. It’s time to get social! Make new friends and start supporting each other’s journey. Once you make new friends, they’ll want to support you and sign-up for your newsletter.

Slowly but surely, you will start attracting your initial group of subscribers.

I already had 88 subscribers even before the first edition of my newsletter, the First Class Founders Brief, went out. These were my family, my friends, and other supporters from random online communities that I was a part of. I knew I wasn't going to get loyal readers in those first few issues immediately.What I was looking to do in my first few issues was plant as many seeds as I could. That's the first lesson I want you to learn.

1. Plant as many seeds as you can

Don't worry about who your subscribers are, don't worry about who is signing up and who isn't - all of that comes later. For now, focus on getting people to sign up - that's it. Once you launch, a lot of it will clear out - either on its own or through careful pruning and we'll come to that a bit later in this episode.

Okay, say you have collected seventy-five email addresses. Now what?

Well, now launch. Publicly. In fact, make it as loud and as public as possible.

Think about it. This is your newsletter and, if I might assume, your ONLY newsletter. That means you only have one launch. Another way of looking at this whole thing? YOLO - You Only Launch Once!

Jokes aside, building in public is a great way to build confidence, support, and momentum. Sharing your journey with your subscribers helps them become a part of your journey. Remember, people who are subscribed to your newsletter are your FOLLOWERS. They are looking to follow along on your journey. If you want, you can imagine it as building a rocketship to fly to the moon and letting your closest followers in on the ground floor!

That's the second lesson I want you to commit to memory.

2. Build in public.

One of the greatest advantages of building in public is that you can iterate quickly. You can ask your subscribers for feedback and - most of the time - they will gladly do it! Being small means you can adapt quickly and grow in any direction you want. Use this to your advantage to make small course-corrections along the way. Try new things every so often. If they work, great, you have a new segment in your newsletter. If they don't, ah well, too bad - wipe your hands and move on!

To me, this part of the process is the most exciting because this is where I am also building a community around my newsletter. I share everything publicly and make it known that I am sharing everything publicly. This has proven to be a really effective strategy for me time and again! Why? Because my audience is entrepreneurs, creators, and founders. And this strategy shows my audience that I am not afraid to be vulnerable.

By building in public, by sharing my experiments as a creator, I am not acting as a dictator shouting commands from some ivory tower. Instead, they see that I am working alongside them and they are learning and growing alongside me.

Here are some examples to give you an idea of how I am building my newsletter “First Class Founders Brief” in public.

I have been sharing all podcast download numbers and newsletter subscriber metrics
I share the results of my mini-experiments as weekly lessons I have learned 
I get raw and unfiltered feedback of my next newsletter edition from my followers on twitter BEFORE it comes out

I should mention however, that building in public is great if your target audience is other entrepreneurs or creators who are looking to build their own newsletter or podcast. If your newsletter is political science or sports, I’m pretty sure your audience would NOT care about your podcast or newsletter metrics. In such situations, it makes more sense to build in public only at the start - just as a way to get your earliest supporters in on the ground floor as you launch your new newsletter. Remember YOLO? You Only Launch Once. Yeah, launching a new project is always an exciting time so take advantage of it!

Then, gather feedback and add or remove segments from your newsletter as necessary.

Okay, so now you have a bunch of subscribers and you have figured out how you plan to 'build in public'. Now comes the most important part of having a newsletter.

As I was saying, after you have started your newsletter, now comes the most important part - content. You want your readers to look forward to your newsletter each week.

It goes without saying that content is the heart of a newsletter. If you think of your newsletter as a startup, your content is essentially the product on which the whole operation is built. 

Start by answering THREE questions for yourself:
1. Who exactly is your audience?
2. What problem is this solving for them?
3. Who will find this extremely interesting or useful?

Finding the answers to these three questions is just the beginning. You then need to look at your newsletter and revise and rewrite your content so it can be understood by your audience and can solve their problems in a way THEY find interesting and useful.

And that's not enough, by the way. Your content needs to be -not just good but- GREAT. Because people only read good content but people will almost always SHARE great content. And we have a term in marketing that we use when people share things quickly. You may have heard of it. It's called going 'viral'. (laugh) And isn't that the ultimate aim for all content creators? No, I don't mean going viral. I mean creating something so great that it gets shared beyond your own network reach. And what is going 'viral' but being shared far and wide?

So, make sure the content is GREAT and not just good. That is lesson number three:

3. Make your content -not just good but- GREAT.

This is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT and I'm willing to repeat this until you fully internalize it. Make your content -not just good but- GREAT. Why? Because your content is your product and you can't grow a bad product. You can spruce it up, you can put bells and whistles on it, you can make it look all fancy but a bad product is still a bad product.

I can tell you what to do when you have GREAT content and I am going to do exactly  that, a few minutes from now. But if your content isn't getting good engagement then stop whatever you are doing and improve it first. MAKE IT GREAT. Get whatever help you need to make it happen.

One way to ensure that your content is great is to make it original. And by original I mean not rehashed from anywhere else. Because I can tell you from personal experience that unique content is underrated. Recently, two of my posts on Linkedin went viral. And, as a result, I doubled the number of my followers in a week!

That's how necessary it is to have GREAT content. It sells itself. If you want people to sign up for your newsletter, you have to provide value to them! (pause for effect) Provide value and then ask them to sign up for your newsletter. If people want more, they will definitely sign up!

I recently had a feedback session on my twitter @YongSooChung, in which I gave honest feedback to people with their newsletters. I went through their past editions and gave them tips on what I felt was currently missing from their newsletters, or what could be tweaked to make them better. The one thing that I noticed in the newsletters that immediately grabbed my interest was how fresh their content was or - more accurately - ‘unique’ it felt.

By the way, quick sidebar, this is something I do quite frequently with members of the First Class Founders' community, if that helps.

On that note, if you're enjoying this content, I just launched a companion newsletter called 'The Brief'. I'm building First Class Founders in public so I reveal all my podcast and newsletter metrics like downloads and subscriber numbers inside the newsletter. Plus, I share weekly reflections including valuable lessons that I learned while experimenting with strategies on growing my podcast and newsletter. I don't hold anything back so if you like behind-the-scenes stuff, you'll love my newsletter. Go ahead and sign up at I'll see you there.

Okay, back to what I was saying before that little detour. 

There is no substitute for great content.

But great content by itself can only grow so far. To continue this analogy, if your newsletter is a car, great content is the fuel that powers the car. What you also need is smooth roads. And, I don't have to tell you that the roads out there are bumpy. And you don't get too far on bumpy roads even if you have the best and greatest fuel... So you need smooth roads to drive that car!

But how do you get smooth roads? Well, you could wait for someone to pave them for you. And you could drive your car after it has been paved. Or, you could pave it yourself. And what does paving the road mean, in this context?

Paving the road is establishing an effective distribution strategy.

Because, if you want your car to go far, you need both content AND distribution. Fuel AND smooth roads. And that is our lesson number four.

4. For a newsletter to succeed, it needs both good content AND effective distribution.

I am not exaggerating when I say that distribution is key to growing a product. In fact, distribution is how I made my first million! If you want the details, you should check out episode number 13 of my podcast in which I go into excruciating details about how I built by myself from the ground up.

Simply put, distribution is about reaching new audiences. You can either reach out to your existing audience and you can reach out to other people's audiences. Let’s unpack both of these one-by-one.

You can always bring over an existing audience. For example, I have 2 businesses in the e-commerce space that I run. I have this podcast as well. You just heard me speak about my newsletter "The Brief" a little while ago. Maybe you had already heard of it, maybe you hadn't. At least now I know you definitely HAVE heard of it! It just makes business sense for me to make sure that all my audiences know about all my business ventures, doesn't it?

And, in the early days, every subscriber counts.

It is still early days for my newsletter and I have gone all-out trying to promote it. I put a pre-roll on my podcast. I put up links in the welcome emails of my e-commerce businesses. I will reach out to every possible person who has interacted with anything I have done. And by every possible person, I mean EVERY. POSSIBLE. PERSON. Remember those two viral Linkedin posts I told you about? I DM-ed every new follower with a sign-up link. I use an auto-DM tool on my Twitter. I work with a virtual assistant on Linkedin.

And you know what? Most of my followers THANKED me for DM-ing them! Yeah! They were happy to hear from me! And that makes ME happy because I know that these will be my HIGHEST quality subscribers. And I don't have to tell you how valuable those are to any business, let alone a newsletter!

That brings us to the end of today's episode. Let's quickly summarize the four key lessons we've learned, shall we?

1. Plant as many seeds as you can. Gathering an audience is key for any product and a newsletter is no different. In the early days, your focus should be primarily on collecting subscribers for your newsletter.

2. Build in public. Building in public refers to being open and honest about your attempts on a regular basis. However, note that this strategy works especially well, usually only with a certain kind of audience.

3. Make your content -not just good but- GREAT. Good content gets a like, maybe a comment. Great content gets shared. And your aim should be to get as many shares as you can.

4. For a newsletter to succeed, it needs both good content AND effective distribution. Distribution strategies can often make or break your newsletter. A good, effective distribution strategy requires you to stay hyper-aware of your audience and react quickly to any changes to your discovery platforms such as any social media networks.

Finally, here's a bonus lesson: Ensure that your newsletter passes the regret test.

The regret test is a brutal but effective way of evaluating whether you are doing things right. Basically, imagine asking your audience the question, "Do you regret opening this newsletter?" How are they likely to respond? (pause) Don’t make your audience regret subscribing to you.

That's it.

It’s time for our Ask Me Anything. This question was submitted by a member of our First Class Founders community.

“I have a proprietary blend diaper rash paste called Pedi-Derm that I run through a sister company concurrently with my main pharmacy business. We've never attempted anything beyond regional reach and it's really taken a backseat since the start of the pandemic. We have about 18 months remaining on the expiration date of our current inventory so we need to decide soon if we'll re-up or wrap-up. What strategies would you deploy to boost awareness and drive sales for our product?”

I love this question. First, I want to congratulate you on building a successful business already with your pharmacy. Not many business owners even get to the stage of your business where you can take a step back and work on a new business venture to supplement your current income. We discussed the framework that I use called I / We / They in episode 14 where you start your business yourself, then work with a team to build systems and processes, then have your employees run your business on your behalf.

Looks like you’ve already done that with your pharmacy business and are now moving on to developing a new business with the product called Pedi-Derm! 

Leveraging your experiences in pharmacy and building a new product line is exactly what you should do once you reach the “They” stage of your business, which you’ve done with your pharmacy.

The first thing I want you to understand is that this new venture will require time to build, but I think it’s a great initiative for the next phase of your business. Having both your pharmacy and Pedi-Derm will set you up nicely for your future.

Second, let’s discuss strategies. 

What I would encourage you to do is lean into your family history in pharmacy. It’s rare to find a business these days where a business can transition through multiple generations. This is already a unique story that you can share with the world.

Then, start creating organic content around this and show your audience what it’s like running a pharmacy that’s almost 100 years old. Show off the product, explain the 5 all-natural ingredients and explain why it’s so important to use all-natural ingredients.

If you can, make videos that show the product being used. People love behind-the-scenes footage and they’ll buy into your story.

Remember that people often make purchasing decisions based solely on emotions. Once you get your story out there, people will start spreading your message for you!

You can also get free content from your customers. This is called UGC, or user-generated content. Get testimonials from your raving fans and have them share how they’re using your product. Then, get their permission to post those testimonials on your social accounts. For the posts that have higher engagement, you can use those for your ads if you’re willing to put some money behind your marketing.

Remember how I always say, ”Always test your content first, before putting marketing spend behind it”? Well, this is how you do it!

Finally, optimize each part of your customer journey: your website should inform and educate, while getting your customers’ email. Then, build trust with your audience through a robust email welcome series. Explain why you created Pedi-Derm. Show why it’s better than other alternatives. Insert testimonials from other customers as part of your email welcome flow.

It’s all about building that trust first!

Alright, that wraps up today's show! If you also wanna ask me a question like this, you can sign up for a membership at

In the next episode of First Class Founders we’re taking our newsletter one step further. Now that we’ve launched, I’ll be sharing all the strategies for growing your newsletter through all the distribution channels that I’ve found. I put in many hours of research on this topic and I can’t wait to share these newsletter growth tactics with you in next week’s episode!

And, one last thing before I go... If you're a new listener and you enjoyed this episode, you can follow the show by going to and clicking on the link that matches your preferred podcast player - like Apple Podcasts or Spotify. If you are a repeat listener, I'd really appreciate a five-star review. I know every single podcast show asks you to leave a rating and a review but this is a relatively new show and your ratings and reviews really help new listeners find the show! Every single review matters and I really appreciate them! Please head over to and leave us a five-star review. Thank you so much!

If you wanna connect with me, I'd love to hear from you! You can follow me on Twitter @YongSooChung and let me know if you enjoyed this episode. I take feedback very seriously and would love to hear your thoughts on how to improve the show. You can find links to all my social accounts in the show notes.

I'll see you on the next episode of First Class Founders.