+ 33 6 28 36 29 41 agathe.brusset@gmail.com

On how to create a bootstrapped newsletter that pays – Part 1

by | 7 Oct 2020

Recently, I came accross the book “Make : Bootstrapper’s Handbook” written by Pieter Levels, the creator of successfuls start-ups NomadListRemoteOk, Hoodmaps. In his book, he talked about how he managed to create 12 start-up in 12 months and what were his advice on how to create a start-up, bootstrapped style.

What is bootstrapped ?

It just means that you’re self-funded. You use the resources  you have to get started. The odds of building a successful bootstrapped business are way higher than building a venture funded billion dollar company. Because the goal of a bootstrapped business is much more reachable. You don’t need to do a billion dollars in revenue. You’re already there if you can pay yourself enough to live from.

So, as I wanted to experience the adventure of start-up life and had some extra-time, I tried his method. This is the first article where I talk about what I did to stick as much as possible to the bootstrapped book.

Step 1 : Ideation

We started the process of the book by ideating what could be an idea of a start-up that would take less than 2 weeks of development. We had various ideas :

  • a sports course directory,
  • kindness acts by email,
  • a feminists quote generator,
  • an organizer of activities for people who wanted to make new friends…

From a quick assessment check, we ruled out too complicated ideas or too competitive. We ended up with Kindful. It’s a newsletter that sends you a random act of kindness per day, for you to do as a challenge, for people who want to become kinder towards others and practice gratitude. As simple as that !

Step 2 : Building

The first step was to create a website, so people could subscrib to our newsletter via a CTA button, we used the SAAS patform Carrd.co, it’s a simple yet effective tool to build one-page websites. We paid the domain name 2$ (because of the domain extension .life) at GoDaddy, and set up the website in less than an hour, using one of Carrd’s ready-to-use templates. We added some beautiful pictures from Unsplash and voilà !

The website looked so professionnal that my family believed it was a company I wanted to work for.

The second step we took (we, as my co-founder and I) was to build a newsletter in a service. We chose Mailerlite because it was the only one that offered free service of mass mailing until 50,000 subscribers. I would really recommend this platform over Mailchimp, that I used before, for the simplicity of their interface and their customer service.

So, we created a template of what the email would look like in the future, set up an automation of subscription confirmation, a reengagement flow and an embedded form for the future. We even could have set up the website directly on Mailerlite. Maybe a next time. It took us roughly 2 days to set up everything so we could launch. That’s way under 2 weeks of development !

Step 3 : Launching

Now that every thing was set up : the website, the newsletter and the automation between Carrd and Mailerlite, we needed input into our product : would this be liked from our peers ? So we sent the website to our family and friends, made a rapid first iteration to the texts and designs. So far so good : we gathered some positive feedback !
Second step was to launch the website to an audience that didn’t know us. We chose Reddit and Facebook as platforms to talk about Kindful, as our product is a B2C one, a fair personal one. We chose different subreddits and groups in accordance to our target demographic : people who wanted to better themselves, via yoga, morning routines, meditation or gratitude practicing.

We sent a couple messages to various groups and subreddits and the answer has been very positive ! In fact, much more than we expected. People wrote that that was the kind of products that should be more known, especially in times like this one (I writing in Oct 2020, as the american elections are raging and COVID is nowhere near the end).

Here are 2 examples of Reddit comments :

By that day, we had already 80 subscribers in less than 3 days after starting the newsletter. We continued on posting on Reddit, thanks to the tool Delay for Reddit, that can analyze best time to post on a given subreddit, and post it at that time. We automated the process.

In order to track users, we set up Google Analytics and Hotjar to our website, so we could know if there was any hitch during our user’s experience.

On Hotjar, I set up a survey widget for desktop users, asking users if they’d prefer a daily or weekly newsletter, a feedback widget asking for their opinion on the concept, a heatmap to see if they’d scrolled until the end of the website (40% of them do !) and where do they click (20% of mobile users subscribe). All in all, we had great news.

We stagnated around 90 subscribers after that for a week, until a Reddit user proposed to “hunt” Kindful on Product Hunt.

And that’s all for the moment ! I’ll write ASAP to let you know how our PH campaign has been doing.

Agathe Brusset

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