0 to 8,000 Subscribers in 2 Months

The full step by step playbook.

Working at Morning Brew as a scrappy 23 year old was the best experience I could have asked for. I joined the company in 2017 as the second employee, back when we were just four guys in a closet-sized office.

  • One of my first projects was to build the referral program, which over time led to well over a million subscribers.

  • The other was to build social sharing functionality for each story, which organically allowed readers to spread the reach of the newsletter.

  • I went on to lead growth for 18 months, creating my own ads in Photoshop, managing a ~$500,000 monthly budget, and everything in between.

Fast forward to 2020 — we had over 3.5M subscribers and were acquired by Business Insider.

Fast forward to today — I’ve now seen up close and personal thousands of others utilize the beehiiv platform to grow and scale their newsletters at a remarkable pace.

So when I decided I was going to kick off 2024 by launching my own personal newsletter (the one you’re reading in your inbox right now), I was chomping at the bit to marry my Morning Brew experience with the beehiiv platform.

The verdict: so far, so good 🫡. Over 8,000 highly engaged subscribers in just 2 months.

Important caveat: I probably spend at max 2.5 hours per week on this — 2 hours writing, 30 minutes refreshing my dashboard and hoping the number goes up.

This week I’m going to share the full step by step playbook on how I went from 0 to 8,000 subscribers in just two months 👇.

Pre-launch hype

I started by teasing on socials that I was launching something new and then dropped this on Twitter + LinkedIn.

I never actually planned to launch the newsletter until the first week of January anyway.. but created some hype on socials over the course of a few weeks to drive signups.

Mission accomplished…

Referral program

From day 1 I created a referral program to help incentivize readers to share the newsletter with others (using the native beehiiv referral program obviously).

First, I built a quick online shop with our friends at Fourthwall to dropship some BDE gear.

Second, I configured my referral program in beehiiv to incentivize anyone who shares the newsletter with just 1 person to receive 25% off anything in the online shop.

…literally just 1 referral is all it takes. You should totally share your custom referral link (https://mail.bigdeskenergy.com/subscribe?ref=PLACEHOLDER) and get some discounted BDE gear 🫡.

Not only do I have a referral section at the bottom of every newsletter.

But I also include it at the bottom of the welcome email too, so every new reader gets an immediate CTA to share the newsletter with someone else.

In total I’ve driven several hundred signups via referrals in just the first two months, and still think there are plenty of optimizations to be made.

Email gating posts

beehiiv allows users to seamlessly capture new emails on their website and posts using two different strategies:

  1. Popup: a subscribe form that appears as you scroll down the page, but can be ignored.

  2. Gated: a hard gate on content so it is only accessible to active subscribers or those who signup on the page.

Each post I publish, like 4am Club or Building in Public, all sit behind an email gate. It ensures that those who land on these pages are forced to subscribe to access it.

Teasers and promotions

I believe every post that I write provides value to my core audience and also has a unique and effective hook.

One of the easiest and most underrated ways to grow your list is simply teasing your upcoming newsletter on socials. And then sharing a second promotion after it goes live.

On Monday nights I usually share something like this to encourage signups…

And then follow up after it goes live on Tuesdays with something like this…

If your content is worth reading, you should be able to create an effective hook as to why others should care.

Repurposing content

The hard part is writing the actual post itself.

The easy part is repurposing content to expand reach and drive more signups.

I’ll occasionally take a few core takeaways from my posts and tease it on socials. Then end with a CTA to read the rest.

Lead magnets

I know exactly who my target audience is — founders and others interested in startups and technology.

So working backwards, I brainstormed resources that those in my target audience would find interesting and valuable.

The answer: the beehiiv seed deck we used to raise $2.6M back in 2021.

Seed decks are awesome for so many reasons:

  • They show the initial vision of a company before anything really substantial exists.

  • It’s an interesting glimpse at how entrepreneurs approach storytelling.

  • Most founders don’t publicize them so there’s also some mystique to it.

So by using some of beehiiv’s native features I…

  • Created a custom embed form to collect emails

  • Built a custom webpage to promote the lead magnet

  • Built an automation that grants access to the seed deck after someone submits their email into the lead magnet

If your curious to see it in action, you can see the lead magnet and experience the full thing end-to-end here.

Twitter ads

Sure, I shared the lead magnet organically across socials… but I knew that this was something a much broader market would be interested in (beyond my immediate followers).

So for the first time I opened up my wallet to help grow the newsletter by promoting my tweet.

I opted to spend roughly $25 per day for a few weeks to expand into net new audiences beyond my immediate followers.

I’m no rocket scientist but I think a 29% CTR and $0.02 CPC is pretty damn epic.

More lead magnets

I was already planning on writing a post about the benefits of remote work and how we have scaled the team at beehiiv to over 60 employees across 8 countries.

The post quickly grew to be wayyyy too long for a single newsletter, so I split it into two. Then I decided afterwards to combine them into a single Remote Playbook and put it behind a lead magnet just like the seed deck.

And then replicated the playbook once more for our monthly investor updates.

I have been sending a detailed investor update every single month since we first launched the business, and it tells the entire story and evolution of the company as it was happening.

Side note: this is truly the project I am most proud of and think any startup employee or founder could learn so much from our mistakes and journey. Sign up here.

Boosts to monetize

As I began to pick up some momentum, I decided to tap into the Boosts network and promote a handful of newsletters that I enjoyed.

Boosts are the easiest way to passively earn revenue from your newsletter.

I’ve likely allocated no more than 20 minutes to this since first launching in January, and have passively earned over $500 to date.

I call this out because it helps justify…

Boosts to grow

I created an offer in the Boosts marketplace to pay out $2.00 per lead.

By the way, you can apply to Boost BDE here.

I’ve spent a little over $1,000 to date, but if you factor in the $528.69 I’ve earned from Boosts.. I’m essentially acquiring these subscribers at half price.

Most importantly, the engagement of these subscribers is full bananas 🍌.

Over 70% open rate and 40% CTR is unheard of. It’s been an incredible use of funds.


None of these growth tactics is a pure silver bullet to scale your newsletter, but they all work together and compound over time. Hopefully there was something in here to take away and apply to your own newsletter.

If you enjoyed this post or know someone who may find it useful, please share it with them and encourage them to subscribe: mail.bigdeskenergy.com/p/0-to-8000-subscribers-2-months

Credit: @thetrillionairelife

I’m a sucker for both jungle vibes and water views… so this is a nice little treat.

Reply with your own AI generated office and I’ll feature it in an upcoming issue.

Turn on, tune in, drop out. Click on any of the tracks below to get in a groove — each selected from the full Big Desk Energy playlist.

Some of my favorite content I found on the internet this week…

  • This guy is either trolling everyone and winning.. or the world’s biggest loser, but free entertainment either way.

  • Understanding social media recommendation algorithms (Knight Colombia)

  • I’ll take an inspirational Steve Jobs talk any day of the week 👇️ 

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