Josh Spector is a marketing and business consultant who writes For The Interested, a newsletter for creative entrepreneurs with more than 20,000 subscribers.
Josh Spector is a marketing and business consultant who writes For The Interested, a newsletter for creative entrepreneurs with more than 20,000 subscribers.
Josh also recently launched the I Want To Know podcast where Josh answers three questions from creative entrepreneurs to help them overcome their challenges and accomplish their goals.
In this episode, we talk about how Josh has built his newsletter, the benefits, and challenges of publishing daily, why I think he’s undercharging for sponsorships, and why Transformation is what you need to deliver to your readers.
Since you're listening to Creative Elements, we'd like to suggest you also try other Podglomerate shows surrounding entrepreneurship, business, and careers like Rocketship.fm and Freelance to Founder.
Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Josh Spector 00:00
If I could get you 100 or 500 people to listen to your podcast or read your blog post or see your product or whatever it is, and they can be anyone in the world, but they can't be people who know you and they can't be people who are famous. Who do you want that 100 or 500 people today?
Jay Clouse 00:17
Hello, my friend. Welcome back to another episode of Creative Elements. If there's one piece of advice that I hear consistently from guests on this show is that every creator should have an email list. My email newsletter is the oldest part of my business. I began publishing consistently in January of 2017. And I've published every week ever since. If you're a student of email the way that I am, a name that you've likely heard thrown around is Josh Spector. Josh is the writer of, For The Interested, a newsletter for creative entrepreneurs. But before Josh was writing an email newsletter, he had a career in media and entertainment.
Josh Spector 00:55
And I was running digital media and marketing for the Academy of Motion Pictures in the Oscars. And six years ago, I left to become a full time independent consultant slash creator, that's around the same time that I launched for the, what, it wasn't called For The Interested at first, I don't even think it really had a name. It was like 10 ideas were sharing or something like that. And I think after doing it for a few months, I came up with the For The Interested name, and that has, that has certainly stuck.
Josh Spector 00:55
Fast forward to today and for the interested lands in 20,000 inboxes every single week. Josh has built a reputation as being a great newsletter for advertisers. He is a master at crafting subject lines and driving his readers to take action. And one major key to Josh's success is that he is expanded from a weekly newsletter to a daily newsletter.
Josh Spector 01:43
You know, I also was interested generally, in daily newsletters. I didn't, it's a lot of work traditionally. But I was like, well, if I did this really short one, and it's sort of timeless content, I can schedule them in advance and all that kind of stuff. It might be doable.
Jay Clouse 02:01
So in this episode, we talk about how Josh has built his newsletter. The challenges and benefits of publishing a daily newsletter. Why I think he's under charging for his ads and why transformation is what you need to be promising your readers. This is a really fun episode, we actually spent a good amount of time workshopping my own business, my own messaging, my own marketing. I think you're going to enjoy the peek behind the curtain. I'd love to hear what you think about this episode. You can tweet at me @jayclouse or find me on Instagram @jayclouse, tag me, let me know that you're listening, you can leave a comment on YouTube. And be sure to subscribe if you have not already. Alright, that's enough of me. Let's dive in. Let's talk with Josh.
Josh Spector 02:54
This week's issue was I think, 3, 313th week in a row. I think the only week I didn't publish was the weekend of my wedding. So basically 313 out of 314 weeks I've published. The newsletter has sort of evolved. So for the first four years or so it was just a once a week newsletter that came out on Sunday mornings. And then about two years ago, I added a weekday addition, that is a one paragraph daily newsletter. So now it's sort of two newsletters, and one people can only get the Sunday one if they want, but most people get both. So they get a one paragraph email every weekday. And then Sunday is a sort of longer edition.
Jay Clouse 03:35
Talk to me about the journey for you in terms of defining your newsletter audience, you know, and you're starting this six years ago, and you didn't have a name for it yet. What did you think you were doing then? And how have you woven your way to creative entrepreneurs today?
Josh Spector 03:51
When I first started it, again, it's sort of being an evolution of other things. I had gotten to a point where with all these different projects that I had started over the years, I actually had three separate newsletters running at the same time. So I had one called Connected Comedy, which was tied to this blog and website and some consulting that I had done in the comedy space helping comedians grow their audience and use social media and that kind of stuff that had probably a couple 1000 subscribers, very specific niche. Then I had started for a couple years, I ran this blog slash daily newsletter called A Person You Should Know. And that was a daily, very short like six or seven sentences with links of like, I would feature a person and go, hey, here's what you should know about them. Here's a quote, they said, here's a link to a TED talk they gave and every day I would feature a different person. I wasn't interviewing them. I was literally just like finding interesting people go in to see stuff they had done and sort of curating it. And that had built up a couple 1000 followers. And then I had my own blog posts from my website, which also had sort of a couple of 1000 followers. So I had these three newsletters that had overlapping interests sort of, but I couldn't post, if I wrote a blog post that wasn't specifically about comedy, I couldn't send it to the Connected Comedy, I could, but it didn't really make sense to send it to Connected Comedy. A person you should know was all about other people so I can feature my stuff in there and vice versa. So it was it just didn't, I had this audience sort of spread out. And even though they were all sort of overlapping interests, they were too different. It just didn't make any sense. So the origin of For The Interested, was I said, all right, what if I were to collapse all these lists. Also, at this point, I wasn't really doing Connected Comedy anymore. A person you should know I had done for a couple of years, but I was sort of shifting focus from just featuring other people to more of my own stuff. So I was like, what if I just collapsed all three of these lists, and came up with a newsletter format that could kind of contain all this stuff, right? That was sort of purposefully broader and a little bit more flexible. So if I did it comedy thing, I could include it, if I wanted to feature a person, you should know, I could include it, I can include my own thing. So initially, I just, you know, called it sort of 10 ideas were sharing, I think my initial tagline or sort of target audience was ideas to help you get better at your work, art and life, which is basically everything.
Jay Clouse 06:25
Josh Spector 06:27
So the niche was basically anyone that wants to get better at anything like, you know, sign up, I guess there's some people that don't want to get better, but it was very broad. And the format was basically 10 sort of links and short summaries. But that allowed me to sort of put almost anything in there, that's where it started. And then over time, I sort of realized, like, the self improvement stuff, first of all, I wasn't really doing the comedy stuff anymore, a person you should know, I sort of phased out. And the self improvement stuff was fine. Like I could, you know, here's a cool article about how to get a better night's sleep. But it didn't really align with what I was doing. I was, you know, wasn't going to get me consulting clients, I wasn't doing you know, sleep products, like, it was just sort of randomly interesting and valuable. And, and so I honed in on initially, I think I started saying it was for creators, and really helping creators market themselves and sort of grow their audience in business. And that's what it was for a while. And then I started realizing, you know, creators become such a weird creator six years ago was a lot different than creator now. Creators become such a such a, you know, it means a million different things to different people, as you well know. And I started thinking about, well, when I say it, like what kind of creators do I really mean, I don't mean, the sort of Instagram influencer, the TikTok creator, the, you know, I really meant, you know, business creators. So then I started saying the audience was creators and entrepreneurs, because I had a lot of people who were solopreneurs types who were in my audience and who I was working with from a consulting standpoint. And really, I was talking more about sort of the increasingly more about the business of monetizing your creations in your expertise. And then creators and entrepreneurs eventually became this creative entrepreneur audience that I focus on now. And, you know, I honed in to now it's, you know, like I said, proven strategies to help creative entrepreneurs grow their audience business, when you compare the specificity of that to ideas to help you get better at work or in life, like you can see the degree to which it has shrunk and narrowed. And every step of the way, that's been a good, a good thing. I certainly lost some people along the way, but that's fine, because they weren't really my people anyway.
Jay Clouse 08:47
I relate to this story a lot in the kind of like, narrowing down but also kind of winding nature of it. And do you think it could have been done any other way? You know, part of me wonders, like, are people willing to start sufficiently niche and be like, very specific and should they be or is there like this necessary messy discovery process upfront that you think is unavoidable?
Josh Spector 09:12
I wouldn't say that it's necessarily unavoidable. But I would say in most cases, that's how it's going to work, right? So I do think there are people that know specifically because by the way, the even with my consulting and the services I've offered, that has also gotten way more specific, right? So in the beginning, it was like, oh, I can run Facebook ads so you want to hire me to run Facebook ads for you? Great. I can you know, I can ghost write stuff, ghost write social posts for you, you want that? Great, we'll do that, right? I had a very variety varied set of skill set. So I was doing all sorts of stuff. That end was also maybe not as scattered but slight, you know, almost as scattered, right? So I don't I think it is avoidable if you're clear on what you're trying to do. It's funny because this is what I help creators with a lot now is helping them get clarity and figure out, what are you trying to do. So they don't have to take a year, two years or three years, like I do think that timeframe can be really shortened. Because once you get clear on what you're trying to accomplish, and how you want to use a newsletter, social content or whatever you're creating, to accomplish it, it's actually not that hard, it's actually easier to have that specificity. The problem is, if you're just out on your own, like I was, and you're just starting out, and you're not 100% sure yet where you want to go, in that scenario, it is sort of unavoidable. And you just have to kind of put stuff out there and see what feels right.
Jay Clouse 10:39
Yeah, I think it is avoidable. People just often choose to not avoid. Like, it's a scary thing to do the avoidance, which is like to be meaningfully specific and targeted and be willing to like, speak to no one for a while. I'm going to take this layup you pass me though and ask you okay, so I'm a creator, I'm coming to you. How do you help them get clear on who they're trying to serve and shorten that timeframe?
Josh Spector 11:05
Let me just sort of jump on. Because what we're really talking about here a little bit is niche. And everybody gets freaked out about niche. And one of the things that I say to people all the time that I have found to be really helpful and resonates with them, is people's resistance to niching down and being more specific, is they feel like it's going to cost them stuff. But I can also do this and I can also help that person. And I like to do this, I don't want to just do this one. This one thing, right. They feel like they're excluding stuff and turning down opportunities. When I have the conversation with people, what I say is, it's not about excluding that, let's instead of talking about niche, let's talk about ideal audience, right? So let's talk about what your ideal scenario is. I'm not excluding anyone, they're gonna they're still to this day, people I work with that maybe don't fit my exact niche, right? You're gonna get I use this analogy all the time of a dartboard, right? You aim for the smallest circle, that's where you get the most points, but you're still gonna, some darts are gonna land outside that and you're still gonna get points, you're gonna have people in your audience or who you work with, who may not be that exact bull's eye target. But the conversation that I think you really want to have is let's talk about ideal, right? Ideally, who do you want to work with? Because you most like working with them, you think you can best serve them? That let's focus on that and what you're doing with content and messaging and positioning, and all of that is aimed at your ideal, you're not excluding anybody, but you want the people that you're, that are your ideal target, again, audience or customer, whatever, to see you as the perfect fit for them. Right? You want to be perfect for someone, not just okay for everyone. The other piece of this and one of the questions I it's a deceptive exercise, because it seems simple. And then whenever I ask it, people always like get stumped. And they're like, oh, my God, I don't know. But it's really helpful is I say, whatever it is that you do, if I could get you 100 or 500 people to listen to your podcast, or read your blog post or see your product, or whatever it is. And they can be anyone in the world, but they can't be people who know you and they can't be people who are famous. Who do you want that 100 or 500 people today, your answer is going to be I want the people that are going to be either that I most want to serve most liked to work with or whatever or that are going to best value, you know, get the best results from what I have to offer, right? And you start thinking about it. And these can be demographics or psychographics. Right? Are they men or women? Are they older Young? Are they urban or rural? Are they college educated or not? Are they married or single? Do they you know, and that sort of typical demographic stuff, but also psychographic, right? Are they do they lack confidence? Are they looking for more work life balance, it all depends on what you're, you know what your offer is. But basically, you would come up with you would choose the people that you would most one in that 100 That's your ideal audience. And once you have that, everything you're doing should be aimed at them, even though you're going to get other people and it's still it's still tricky, and still people will get uncomfortable. But I think just framing for yourself. My niche is really about my ideal, not about my only, I think makes it easier for people to do that. Because now you feel like you're gaining. You're gaining the right people. You're not excluding other people, which is what leads to a lot of the push back.
Jay Clouse 14:38
After a quick break, Josh and I talk about how you create transformation for your audience. And later we talk about how he's been so successful selling sponsorships for his daily newsletter. So stick around and we'll be right back.
Jay Clouse 14:52
Welcome back to my conversation with Josh Spector. I've been following Josh's work for a long time now and one thing that he talks about a lot is transformation, promising transformation for your audience. So I asked Josh to explain what he means when he says transformation.
Josh Spector 15:07
I think the key to any success with a newsletter with content with product service, I think is it's all about providing value. And I think you want to aim I talked about this a lot with content, you want to share things that are valuable, not just interesting. There's a difference. And I think a lot of people don't see or think about that difference, right? So one of the differences is something that is valuable, usually, when you consume it, or you know, learn it, or read it or buy it or whatever, you can do something with it, right? There's an action that you can take, if there's not a direct action for you to take, it might be interesting. Oh, that was an interesting article that I read about bah, bah, bah. But if it's not, actually you can't put it into action in some way. It's less valuable. So when I talk about this, people always go Alright, well, I get it, I should create valuable content, but like what is valuable, and I think this is where you're getting and, and one of the ways that I define it for people is, this isn't the only way. But you know, value tends to be transformation, your target audience are at point A, they want to get to point B, and the content, the product, the service, whatever you offer is the bridge that gets them there. It's transformative, there is a transformation that you are helping them make. So when I think about both my own things, and other people's other people's stuff, and talk to them about is this valuable, a great place to start is, what is that transformation, right? That's why when I talk about my audience, I don't just say, Oh, my audience is creative entrepreneurs and the stuff I do is for them, it's to help them grow their audience and business, there is a transformation. And with that in mind, it makes it very easy for both a content creation and a content curation standpoint, when I'm figuring out what to put in my newsletter, I can look at anything and go is this going to help them get from point A to point B? If it's not, it's just interesting, and I'm probably not going to share it. So I think that is a very simple thing that applies to any niche, and any anything that you can always sort of be asking yourself, How is this transforming this person? And is it is it aligned with the transformation that my audience wants? Right? That's another thing you see a lot of times is like, you know, they're trying to convince people to make a transformation, versus helping people make a transformation they already want to make.
Jay Clouse 17:30
And it's such a powerful frame. And reminder, yes, it's so much easier to sell a solution to someone who is already aware of their problem, instead of having to sell the fact that their problem exists, and then sell a solution to them. It's such a big difference in terms of growth and things.
Josh Spector 17:47
I'm getting ready to launch my own podcast is going to be called I want to know, and people come on and ask me questions. And so one of the people who's going to be on sales courses and stuff for podcasters. And one of the questions that he's going to ask me, because he sent me the questions he wants to ask, was some version of how do I get more people excited or want to start a podcast? And my answer to him is going to be why are you trying to convince people to start a podcast? Why are you not focused on people that want to start a podcast. And that's a perfect example of it right? As soon as he focuses on not trying to convince people to do something they want to do. But there's so many people that want to start a podcast or have thought about it, go find them and help them make that transformation, not try to convince don't why fight the uphill battle if you don't have to.
Jay Clouse 18:36
I think this has the biggest unlock for coaches, of course creators is a good one too. But like I talked to so many coaches are trying to find clients and they find themselves trying to prove their value and trying to explain like why coaching is valuable. And my advice to them is always find people who don't need you to flip that switch for them, find people who are looking for a coach to help them with what you help people with. And you have half of the battle less, less than half of the battle.
Josh Spector 19:02
I had a conversation earlier today with someone who helps sales teams and sales managers and leaders take a more sort of human approach to sales. It's interesting, because so much of his content and his LinkedIn posts and all that stuff is about his approach, right? Be more human, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And that's great. And I find this with coaches a lot. They're focused on talking about their approach and their tactics. But the thing is, their audience the transformation is they want more sales and more money. What they care about your approach is your approach in the context of the transformation that they want. So he shouldn't be talking about his approach, but he should be talking about why a more human approach to sales is better than sleazy sales tactics. Right? It should always be why his approach is going to drive you more sales, not just Hey, be a good person and do you know be human because they want that. And that's a perfect example to have, like, if you can come across things that your target audience wants to be true sales leaders would like it to be true that not being sleazy is going to get them more sales, they would genuinely like that they're predisposed to buy into what your quote unquote selling no pun intended, if you position it in that way, but if you don't talk about how your human approach to sales is going to drive more sales than the end result that they want. They don't really care what your approach is. But when you connect it because it's a thing they want to be true, it's going to actually be relatively easy to get them on board, as long as it actually is true.
Jay Clouse 20:43
Let's dive deeper into this transformation idea. Because I'm actively working through this a little bit right now. And I see a couple of different potential approaches. On one hand, I could wrap the ideal transformation into my ideal target audience and it's almost like a psychographic. It's this type of person who's looking for this transformation. But I could also look at it as well, there are several transformations that people are going to need experience along the way. So is it like a Russian nesting doll situation of transformations where it's like, well, this is the this is the long term thing I'm trying to help you do. But there are these six steps along the way. So right now I'm focused on this transformation. Now this one and this one, this one, how do you think about that? Because people might need more than one transformation.
Josh Spector 21:26
Yeah, they probably will, and by the way, even with my own stuff, you know, grow your audience. And business is pretty broad, right? So there's some people that want to know how to grow their newsletter versus want to know how to grow on Twitter, you know, there's different varieties within it. But let me let's get a little more specific, if you don't mind with with yours, right. So talk to me about kind of how you think about your ideal audience and the transformation and how you're you said, you're sort of thinking it through. So how are you thinking about it?
Jay Clouse 21:53
Yeah, similar to you, you know, similar audience, I'm still using the term creator, as broad as it can sometimes be. And my typical audience, or my ideal audience is somebody who's trying to get to the rung on the ladder of creator, where it's a professional thing, you know, it's supporting them financially, it's more about building a machine than it is just expressing creativity. So a lot of people come to me, and they're one or two rungs below that, which I would call either aspiring at the very bottom where they haven't started taking action yet, or everyday creators, people who are creating and making stuff, but you know, they haven't really built systems or made it into a machine yet. So the transformation I'm trying to help people get to is gets that rung of professional creator, where you have the optionality of this can support you financially, if that's the choice you want to make?
Josh Spector 22:42
That seems pretty clear. So is your concern, though, the people that are sort of beyond that?
Jay Clouse 22:48
Well, the concern is more like How early do I need to meet people, you know? Or do I say like, is my overall promise that I'm making, when I'm attracting people to me, I'm gonna help you become a professional creator or is it like, I'm gonna help you build an audience, I'm going to help you generate more money, I'm going to help you build a digital product, like there are all kinds of mini projects within that journey. So do I focus on one of the earlier more discrete steps, or the overall, I'm going to help you turn pro as a creator?
Josh Spector 23:17
I would probably focus on the overall thinking that once you get them in your world, then you're pointing them in the right direction, because they're going to have different interests in different ways that they create and different things they want. I think the sort of outward new audience growth, the sort of entry, quote, unquote, entry level into your world, is that sort of broader banner. Once they're in, then you have a variety of different ways that you can help them based on sort of the sort of more micro ones. The other thing that I think as you were talking about it, I had a client, she's basically a career transition coach, for doctors and medical professionals who want to basically stop seeing patients. So maybe they want to go work for a pharma company, or maybe they want to go into academics, but they want to get out of this sort of clinical, they want to use their skills, but how do they transition out of sort of seeing patients all the time and that kind of thing. And when I was talking to her, we having a very a totally different niche, but a very similar conversation to what you were saying. And I was asking her like, Okay, well, where are these people? In, in the trajectory of their journey? Where are they? And one of the things that she said to me that I think, you know, makes me think about your situation was, she was like, they're not just unhappy or burned out or wondering, she's like, they've taken some step, right? They've already sort of made the decision. They want to do that. So in your world, they've already started creating something, right. They're already doing something they take. They've started on that journey. They've committed a bit because one of the things I said to her was like You know, when she's when she meets with these people and coaches them, is there a lot of sort of indecision, she goes, No, they've decided they want to do this, they're just not quite sure how from point how to get where they want to go, right. And so I think for you, again, I'm just riffing here. But what might be interesting is your target audience is people who have already decided they want to do this, even if it might not be for a few years, or whatever. But they're like, I know, I want to do this, I want to become a pro creator, whatever that means to them. And probably they've already started to it's not just an idea, they've started a newsletter, they've started to make a core sort of like they've taken those first steps on their own, which I think shows some initiative and removes my guests. This is theoretical, but removes the people that are just like, oh, it seems cool to be a creator, maybe I'll do that someday, or I hate my job, maybe I'll like that better. The difference between the I hate my job, maybe I'll like that better. And the person who's already doing it, and showing some consist is massive. So to me, I think that's where it seems like with what you want to do, that's where it starts. And they're really coming to you because they're like, I know, I want to do this, I'm started to I've taken some initiative, I just don't know how to get from here to there, I don't know how to cross that chasm, and get to the place where I can really do this for a living. And that I think, is how I would probably focus it.
Jay Clouse 26:31
When we come back, Josh and I talk about the importance of specific language. And then we talk about how he drives results for advertisers. So stick around, we'll be right back.
Jay Clouse 26:42
Hey, welcome back. Before the break, Josh and I are beginning to riff on my business. And it became really clear to me just how important specific language is one phrase you'll hear me use a lot is professional creator. And even though I don't hear a lot of other people using that phrase, it really encapsulates the transformation that I'm trying to give to my readers.
Josh Spector 27:01
Language and words are, they make such a massive difference? It's such a little thing that makes such a huge difference. And I think in your case, it is interesting, like procreator, because you also don't want to turn away that people are gone, but I'm not a procreator. So I guess that's not for me, right? It's like if you're going to use that term, which I know you already are doing, making sure that they understand it's like the transition to become that not, you know, not whatever. But But I think yeah, I mean, I think but this goes back to what I was saying originally, and I it sounds like you're finding this as well, there's a clear transformation there. And I think everything becomes easier. As a creator or entrepreneur, when you understand clearly the transformation you're trying to make help somebody make because now you know what to share and what to offer.
Jay Clouse 27:53
The more I've started to explicitly say that this work or this membership is for creators who are more advanced, who are trying to become pro, it doesn't filter out people who are earlier on, it actually seems to just bring in more people net, because it's sending the signal that it's higher quality, I think and the people who are lower down are still aspiring to this and they feel like oh, this is four, this is what people who are ahead of VR reading. It's interesting, you know, I thought it might be exclusionary in a positive helpful filtering way also. But it's actually just been useful from a pure marketing sense.
Josh Spector 28:32
What are you comparing it to? What was it before or how would you talk about it before?
Jay Clouse 28:35
I wouldn't really, you know, it was it was just like, I help people become creators, you know, like, I think that was kind of ambiguous, like adding on any qualifier is probably helpful to say like, what does that mean? Well, professional, or if I would have said, Instagram creators, that would have been more attractive in some way also.
Josh Spector 28:51
I think some of it is, it's a clear to use my point A to point B, it's a clear point B that lots of people want. Yeah, right. So people want to get to that thing. And you're saying you're gonna help them get to that thing. One, it's funny, I just pulled up your I pulled up your site and just talking about words. And I don't necessarily have a suggestion here other than this is, I guess, an exercise I recommend people do all the time. Like just as a sort of brainstorm what if so, the headline on your site right now is I help people become professional creators, right? My first thought goes people is very general. And I'm not saying better or worse, right? I think it's an interesting exercise to go what other words could go in there, you know, I help part time creators become professional creators, not better or worse, sends a different message if it's I have women become professional, it sends a different message if it's, I owe you know, men if it's I help high earners become professional creators, if it's, I help, you know, recent, like it doesn't. I'm not saying those are things that you would do, but it's a really interesting exercise for anyone to sort of look at your messaging and copy. Look at the words in particular you can do it with only worried but in particularly words that are general and see what it would look like or feel like if they were more specific, and how that would impact everything else you're doing. There may not be better, nothing wrong with people but it's interesting.
Jay Clouse 30:15
I've played around with it because I actually hate the word people in a like I help statement because it is so bland. But the trade off or the, the A or B I was playing with is do I say I help people become professional creators or do I say help creators turn pro, because help creators turn pro is more specific. But it's only speaking to one step of the journey.
Josh Spector 30:36
I'll help you become a professional trainer.
Jay Clouse 30:39
Yeah, it's like, it's like speaking to that person.
Josh Spector 30:41
Right, speak directly, like if you're gonna, and I think that's another thing, if you're gonna be sort of general, I don't just mean you, but anyone, like speak to them, because they're going to insert their own. When you say I help you, that person is going to think yeah, they assume it's their be those kind of people. Right. The other thing I would say, again, while we're just, you know, turning this into random ideas for copy. So then the line under that is join 10,000 Plus creators who subscribe for advice, inspiration and encouragement for building your creative platform, I would think about transformation in that as well. There's a little there that you're doing features for the whole features versus benefits thing, right? You're gonna get advice, you're gonna get inspiration, you're gonna get encouragement that gives you a place to define a little what it means to be a professional creator. Yeah, the other thing that I think is interesting, is I mean, let's be honest, and on some level, professional creator means money, the difference between a professional and amateur, because the money allows you to put the time and all that stuff, right. But what's interesting is then in the description, nothing there mentions revenue or money, or entrepreneurship. You know, it's advice, inspiration, encouragement, but the real difference. The real difference is, when you're done working with Jay, you're making money.
Jay Clouse 31:57
One thing that you've really built a strong reputation for, especially lately is how effective your newsletter is for advertisers and getting results. And that's also having a good impact on your bottom line, I'm sure. So talk to me about when you started accepting newsletter, advertisers and why you made that decision.
Josh Spector 32:18
The first four years or so of my newsletter. Not only did I have no ads, no sponsors, no direct revenue or monetization from it, I got clients from it. But it was not a direct, you know, there was no direct revenue. And I was actually strongly anti advertisement sponsor, I thought it had misaligned incentives, because now you're worried about your sponsors and not worried about your readers, I didn't see it as anything that added value to people other than maybe I can make a little money off of it. I saw it as likely a pain in the ass to try to track down sponsors and negotiates like, zero interest strongly against it. Then one day, about four years into a news into my newsletter, I got an email from one of my readers. And she said she had run a classified ad in and Friedman's newsletter. And she said it was by far the best marketing she had ever done. She was a therapist who worked with creative people. And she said she'd love to do more marketing like that. Did I know anyone else that had an audience of creative people, that she could try to do something similar? I thought about and I was like, Well, I have that audience. But I don't offer ads. And I'm not gonna, you know, so I don't know if I recommended somebody else or just kind of whatever. But then I started thinking about it and really started to question, it made me question my anti advertising stance, because here was a woman who was my reader who wanted to reach the audience that I have. She wanted to promote a service that would if she got clients from it, it would help her but also it helped my audience like therapy for creative people. And the only reason I was not offering this was because I had some assumption that ads are evil, or they're gonna ruin everything or whatever. So it made me at least question like, maybe there could be maybe this can be valuable. Like, let me see what my audience thanks. So I sent out a survey one literally a one question survey. And it was if I included ads in my newsletter, would you a be curious to see them. Be be curious to see them and you might want to buy one, or see no ads, you hate ads. They're annoying about 300 or so people responded. 90% Said they either would be curious to see them or they might want to buy one. Only 10% said no ads. And I was like, wow. Like it really surprised me. Because like you would think people would be like, now what? You know, I was like, Okay, well, clearly I was wrong. This was not a master plan. But what I realized at this point was I also had 30 or 40 people, maybe 50. Who had said they might want to buy one I had leads for ad sales. which was not my intent, but I was like, oh, okay, so I decided I would try it. I decided I'd do very simple classified like one sentence ads, you know, 150 characters, one link, no images, none of that stuff. And I would price some low, I priced it at 50 bucks and add, I think at first and I figured I would put up to five per issue. And I sold out like the first three issues before I had even announced it. So when I announced the ads, it announced people saw, I was like, Oh, you can go here to buy the ads. And they would see immediately three issues were sold out, which made it seem like a hot product. And this is just a quick side note, I used to produce stand up comedy shows years ago, I applied one of the lessons from that is if you this isn't just stand up. But this is anything like if you're putting on a show, and let's say you think you can sell 70 tickets to it, you're better off booking a 50 seat theater than 100 seat theater. Because with a 50 seat theater, you sell out and people perceive it as a hot show. Whereas 100 seat theater, you sell 70 tickets you make more initially, but they don't perceive it as a hot product. There's no buzz about it, whatever. So I took that and applied it to the pricing of my ads. I was like, I want to say I'll purposely price these low. I want people who are considering buying to see that they have to book way in advance. This is basically a hot product. And that's exactly what happened. So it's sold out. And I went, you know, it's sold out ever since I went from $50 to 65 to 80 to 100 to 200. And I'm probably going up again, soon, I sell out every every issue. And it's worked really well. And you know, nobody, my audience likes them. The ads are irrelevant. The audience I don't I haven't done really any outreach to sponsors probably can make more money if I did. But that's a whole other story. But the big game changer for that was about a year and a half ago, I added this one paragraph weekday addition to my newsletter. So my newsletter, now you get an email every weekday that's like a paragraph, sometimes it's only a sentence and a link. And then there's a one line like today's email sponsored by whoever the sponsor is, and then Sunday, you get a longer full issue. That format, that's really the difference because the ads in my so when people buy an ad, now they get an ad in the Sunday issue. They're one of five sponsors. And then in the weekday issue, they're the only sponsor of one weekday issue that week, those weekday issues drive the vast majority of the clicks, that's not only true for the ads, it's true for whatever link I put in the you know, the one link of the content, the stuff is good my audience Trust me, I under like all of that has been built up over time. Also, I write the copy for the weekday ads advertisers supply the copy for so that probably helps as well. But the format, it's really interesting, and again, I stumbled into it, you know, the one link that I will put in a week day, email will get more clicks than all 15 or 20 Links in the Sunday issue combined. I believe it's the same type of content. But it's just so focused, there's you know, and they're a little the weekday issues are a little people hear the term clickbait and they assume it's negative. It's only clickbait, if it doesn't deliver on what you promise, if it delivers on what you promise, it's a great headline or a great copy. Right. So I don't mislead anyone into clicking, but I do write them in a way that's designed to generate curiosity to get the click, but as long as it delivers and lives up to it, that's fine. You know, I don't for example, in on the Sunday issue, when I share a link to an article, I'm going to give a little summary of what it is in the weekday issue I don't really like I'll give, give some context, but I'm not going to summarize it. So but yeah, that format, the Sunday links do well, as well, and the ads do well. But that format, I think is really what is differentiated me from the others, people know that they can open it. They know when they get that weekday email from me, it's gonna take them 10 seconds to look at. And if it's interesting, they'll click it. And so I think that just fuels itself and it's worked again, I stumbled into it, but it's been incredible.
Jay Clouse 39:14
And you were running the weekday issue before you were using it as a way to basically double promote the sponsors, right? You were just doing like,
Josh Spector 39:22
Yeah, I started it as a complete experiment. Well, they actually here's how it came out. It came out of this, I was working with clients, and I would help people with newsletters a lot. And I'm a huge newsletter proponent and I would always be like, we need to start a newsletter, you need to blah, blah, blah. And people have assumptions about what a newsletter is. Right? Like, it sounds like a lot of work or I'm not a writer or I don't know that I want to do that. And you know, all that stuff. One of the things that I would find myself saying to them is, you know, a newsletter is just a value delivery mechanism. That's it. It doesn't have to be long. It doesn't have to be include news. It can be curated or not, it could be anything. And I would say over and over, I'd be like, You know what, you could send a one paragraph newsletter. You could send a one sentence newsletter, as long as that sentence is valuable, I bet people would love it. Right? I remember telling someone, you know, telling a comic, I was like, Look, you don't have to create any other content. Once a week, send an email to people with a link to a YouTube video you watched this week that you thought was funny, you're doing it on social media anyway. As long as it's good and valuable, people will like it. And so after years of saying that, I started thinking myself, like, you know, maybe I should put my money where my mouth is, I also found for myself, I had newsletters I loved. But I knew they were long. And I was less likely to open them than other newsletters. I liked that were short. And I just found that as a user, my behavior, so I was like, I think that people are more, especially with the daily, long daily newsletters weigh too much, no matter how good it is, in my opinion for people. So I started as an experiment, this separate thing, I called it the daily graph, because it was one paragraph, I promoted it in my main newsletter, and I said, Hey, I'm doing this thing. So a couple 1000 people signed up for it, I did it for a couple months. And I was like, Oh, this is really good. And like, people liked it. And it was different. And it was feasible for me to do, because it wasn't that time consuming. And I could schedule it and whatever. So I wound up in this place where I had a couple 1000 People getting it and some people were subscribing now just to get that and didn't even know about the Sunday one. And no matter how often you tell people like hey, go check out this new thing. Like, you know, it's tough to get people to opt in to anything. So I realized I was like, there's a lot of, I know the people on my mailing list with like this. They just weren't, I just can't get them to go sign up. And I can try to continue to grow this thing separately. Or I can flip a switch, combine them and just send it to my main list, give them the chance to opt out if they don't want the week, day one, and instantly go from 2000 subscribers to 18,000 subscribers. And I had already seen in the small version, I could tell how high the clicks were. And I was like, wow, like, if I sent this to nine times as many people, there's going to be massive clicks on this stuff. So I did that. And that is exactly what happened. Some people opted out of the weekday, but not many honestly, it's been like one of the best things for from a business standpoint and traffic driving standpoint. It's been incredible.
Jay Clouse 42:24
How long has this been running now?
Josh Spector 42:26
March, a year ago. So a year and a half ish, something like that.
Jay Clouse 42:32
How does the unsubscribe rate of the daily compared to the weekly?
Josh Spector 42:35
The unsubscribe rate is similar and the unsubscribe rate is pretty low, all things considered. So I'm emailing to about 18,000 people, I'll get usually 20 to 30 people will unsubscribe when I send an email, which is certainly not bad at all. It's actually a pretty good number. What I hadn't thought about though, is now I'm sending six emails a week. Yep. So even with a low unsubscribe rate, if it's 20 a day, let's say if it's Well, yeah, I'll say it's if it's 20 a day, and I'm sending six a week, I'm losing 120 subscribers a week with a newsletter that's really successful, you know, so I'm losing almost 500 subscribers a month, which means I have to add 500, just to break even. So while it's been really good, and I would certainly not change it by any means. It has definitely slowed my growth, because it's just hard, the more emails you send them more unsubscribes. Like, if I was only sending weekly, my list would probably be bigger than it is right now. But I think the strength of connection and the engagement to the people that are reading every day is, you know, is much better than it probably would be so it's worth it. But it is something like when people have asked me about it. You know, I've said to people, you just need to be aware, the more emails you send, the more you're going to lose. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but it is something to keep in mind. It has slowed my growth.
Jay Clouse 44:05
So what action do you think you'll take on that, if any? And it's like, what would you have to see to make a change? Are you considering any type of change or is this all what you would expect and you're good with it?
Josh Spector 44:18
If I saw that the numbers were higher, because by the way, it's the same as what happens on the Sunday issue, basically. So like my Sunday issue this week had I'm at almost 19,000. So went to 18,947 people and had 24 unsubscribes. I'm good with that. Like that's super like I don't know what that percentage is, but that's really low, right? So I have that Sunday and then this week, so the difference of the dailies went to 18,007 78. So that's about 150 different, you know, smaller audience or whatever and those had 24 unsubscribes 20 unsubscribes seven Tn unsubscribes. And then today, it's interesting today was unusually high. For some reason, I had 37 unsubscribes. So that I might notice and be like, Well, what? Why did you know and sometimes it also has to do with like, if you have a boost in subscribers, then you may have a boost and unsubscribers. You know it, it varies. But those numbers I don't worry about at all. And I think when I did this, it's always nice. Everyone wants to have a bigger list. But at the end of the day, my list is plenty big. And the strength of relationship. I'm good with that, you know, I do, I'd say I pay more attention to how do I bring in new people than I do worrying about people leaving because those numbers are pretty low.
Jay Clouse 45:42
I still think you're under charging for the results you're driving, as someone who's recently experimenting with a lot of paid acquisition, like yours is winning out for sure. And I've paid far more for other things that delivered less value, but like I was still happy with, you know, like, absent of having been in for the interested, the amount of money I paid to newsletter a over here for fewer subscribers, I was still happy with the number of subscribers and the quality. So yeah, I think you, you have a lot of room to expand there if you want.
Josh Spector 46:12
Yeah, I definitely I definitely think that's true. And, and I will and I buy a lot of ads or experiment with buying a lot of ads for my newsletter as well. And it's funny, because when I do it, there are some that I found that work well, but a lot don't. And by the way along with that, and as some of this goes back to format, you know, I think a lot of these newsletters that have ads that look like ads don't perform very well, like the images. And I think you'll see a lot of people that they think they're helping the advertiser by at the top of the newsletter go in today's issues sponsored by blah, blah, blah. But I think people are trained to just go past that and just ignore it. And I think that's a big part of my success as well is that they're simple. They feel like content, they don't feel like ads. The biggest thing though, is you know, my audience trusts me over this time, the ads are mostly, you know, are pretty relevant and pretty, pretty good stuff that helps. You know, for example, like, if I'm featuring you in my newsletter, like your stuff is good and relevant to my audience. So it shouldn't be a surprise that it does well. But yeah, I'm definitely undercharging and I will, I will be going up. But there's also a part of me that I don't mind undercharging completely, because it sort of runs itself. At this point. I'm not doing any sales or pitching people. It's priced. It is underpriced. But it's priced at a rate where a lot, you know, a lot of my audience are the ones buying this stuff, buying these ads. And, you know, at $200 It's not hard for an indie and indie creator that want you know, they can buy that if I you know, if I go to 500. And I may, and I probably will, at some point, that becomes a different thing. And your buyers become a different thing. And you know, and et cetera. So I think what I'm actually thinking about is also figuring out kind of Premiere sponsorships. And now that I'm going to have a podcast, I can do some packaging stuff that can be sort of higher ticket stuff. But yeah, the, you know, I like that there. I like that they're really valuable. And I do think it's sort of I have noticed that there's value, and I think I'm just sort of, again, this wasn't necessarily planned, but I think I'm starting to notice it just like you said, and your perception, people's perception of my newsletter, and its ability to drive traffic and its ability to drive engagement and results and all that sort of stuff. There's a lot of other benefits to that beyond the short term money. And I think I'm starting to see some of that, you know, I was having a conversation with Louis Nichols who runs spark loop the other day, and I've gotten early access to a new kind of up scribe product that they have, that's, that's really cool. And he was saying, you know, he, they work with all sorts of newsletters of massive sizes. And you know, and he said he was like, look, there are newsletters that are way bigger than yours that can maybe drive more traffic but he was like, I don't know that I've seen anyone that has the sort of level of traffic and engagement that you're able to drive that being out there within the you know, the reputation piece is helpful probably in ways that may not be immediately apparent to me. So that's that I will raise the prices.
Jay Clouse 49:30
It was really fun to actually workshop some of these ideas with Josh in real time. He is a master at crafting subject lines and driving readers to take action. So if you don't already subscribe to For The Interested. I really recommend that you do you're going to learn a lot. Just go to fortheinterested.com or find Josh on Twitter @jspector. Links to both of those are are in the show notes. Thanks to Josh for being on the show. Thank you to Connor Conaboy for editing this episode and Nathan Todhunter for mixing the audio. Thank you to Emily Clouse for making the artwork and Brian Skeel for creating art music. If you like this episode tweet at me, let me know @jayclouse or leave a comment here on YouTube. Be sure to subscribe if you haven't already. But if you really want to say thank you leave a review on Apple podcasts or Spotify. Thanks for listening. I'll talk to you next week.