Designerpreneur #5: Doubling in half the time
A business check-in on growing from 1,000 to 2,000 subscribers
Hello! I’m Pat and Better by Design is my newsletter devoted to bringing more quality creative work into the world. If you’re new here, join 2000+ creative professionals as we uncover new insights each week.
Today I'm back with the fifth edition of "designerpreneur": my quarterly-ish business review with my imaginary board of directors (aka you!).
We crossed 2,000 members last week and it felt like a good time to check in. The growth from 1,000 to 2,000 took about half the time it took to reach 1,000 (5 months vs. 10 months), so we’re moving in the right direction. While I can’t say this represents “exponential” growth, we’re certainly growing faster than before which is a good signal.
In today’s review:
Review the data
Check-in on content
Before we start, I need to ask a favor:
Can you please take 3 minutes to fill out a short, content-focused survey to help me create work that’s more relevant to you? 😇
This is your chance to influence the direction of Better by Design! I’ll be super grateful!
Review the data
Today’s count: 2,087 subscribers on July 30, 2023
Trailing growth: Last 6 months → 17% MoM
Things have picked up again after a slow May when I was focused on moving back to LA. I got settled in June and then started finding a groove again in July.
I started posting to Twitter (umm… X?) daily again in June and had some luck with a couple of posts. The platform continues to be my best option for promoting my work and connecting with like-minded people I might not otherwise bump into.
While the overall trend line is steady, I had three posts stand out.
I posted this to Hacker News and it briefly made it to the front page. However, while it led to a lot of views it did not convert many new subscribers which indicated to me that HN wasn’t worth much of my time.
My best-performing post in terms of pure numbers. It was based on a concept that had shown proven interest on Twitter, then benefitted from several shares from other publications and creators.
A strong performer considering it’s not a bookmarkable/shareable resource like the strategic thinking post. Shares were again the main driver of views above the trend line.
Average open rate last 30 days: 44.2%
The open rate has been trending lower for the last few months as the number of subscribers has grown. However, it seems to have settled in the low-to-mid 40% range which still seems reasonable considering how frequently I publish and what I know about general benchmarks.
New subscriptions driven by posts
“50 resources to grow your strategic thinking”: 41 new subscribers
“The era of design entrepreneurship”: 10 new subscribers
The average post only directly accounts for a couple of new subscriptions.
Despite a long lull between “hit” posts (outliers in driving subs), the overall growth remained steady due to Substack network effects.
Readers located in: 103 countries and 48 US states
Number of Substack recommendations: 22 (+5 since last check-in)
A big thank you for your support! These make an impact! 🙏
Number of subscribers via recommendations: 904 (+372 since last check-in)
It’s fascinating for me to see the global interest in my work. Thank you!
Within the US, California is the biggest group. If you happen to be a fellow Los Angeleno, please say hello!
I’m starting to organize weekly events for design folks in LA. Follow the local event calendar to get notified automatically when I organize a gathering.
Generally, a cadence of 1-2 posts per week still works well for me with anchors on Sunday and Wednesday.
I plan to always hit the 1 post per week mark on Sunday, then give myself the option of a mid-week post in addition. Now that I’m adding in-person events to my agenda each week, I will likely need more mid-week flexibility.
I’ve experimented with different lengths, but thankfully, in a poll sent a few weeks ago you all indicated that you prefer shorter reads (<5 min or 5-10 mins) which aligns with how I prefer to write.
I had noticed a trend of newsletters popping off by doing super deep dives and was a little worried I’d have to follow suit, but it seems like we embrace the “less, but better” philosophy in this community. And for that, I’m grateful! 🙏
We’ve somewhat come full circle in terms of the content I publish each week.
It seems like the mix of one post on product/design analysis and one post on the design practice combine to form a nice balance.
Let me know what topics I could cover to help you more and what products/designs you’d be interested in seeing me review! Fill out the survey! 😇
Understanding my strengths and tolerances
I continue to learn a lot about myself and what I’m uniquely suited to offer by creating this newsletter each week.
For one, I’ve recognized that I have strengths in strategy and technical knowledge relative to most designers due to my background before getting into design. This puts me in a good position to be able to help other designers level up in these areas.
I’ve also recognized that I tolerate writing better than most other designers. Many designers write a little, but few that I’ve met seem to really enjoy it like I do. This is also a skill that I developed long before becoming a designer when I was a philosophy major in college.
I’m still figuring out who my audience is and how I can help them (you) the most
The makeup of the Better by Design community is diverse and multidisciplinary.
As you’d expect, we skew toward design, but other disciplines are well represented.
We’re split between seasoned practitioners (7+ years) and early career folks (<3 years).
We have more business owners (or those interested in pursuing it) than I anticipated.
While these are data points from a small sample size, they’ve given me food for thought:
How might I create things that are useful to our multidisciplinary group?
How might I help both seasoned practitioners and those just starting out?
How might I better support the entrepreneur vs. career employee path?
Please let me know what problems you’re facing so I can consider how to help! Fill out the survey! 😇
“Scenius” is greater than genius
Musician Brian Eno coined the term “Scenius” to describe the magic that happens when you get creative people cross-pollinating ideas in a cultural “scene”. This applies to artistic movements as well as entrepreneurial ones.
A big focus of mine in the coming year is to grow and facilitate that kind of creative scene both locally in my home of Los Angeles and online across the globe.
Even if particularly potent breakthroughs tend to be driven by a singular voice (“genius”), the ideas and support of the collective are what create the conditions that allow major innovations to surface.
A life of service and adventure
Jeff Bezos has a line that’s been stuck in my head:
You can choose a life of ease and comfort, or you can choose a life of service and adventure. Which one of those when you’re 90 years old are you going to be more proud of?
If I’m being honest, I’ve spent a decade focused on ease and comfort for myself within the confines of conventional career paths.
This is fine, and probably necessary to some degree for my growth and financial independence. However, at this point in my life, it’s no longer aligned with what I want.
I want a life of service and adventure and I think I’m now well equipped to serve in a way that many can find useful.
So, in a nutshell, that’s what I’m chasing with Better by Design.
How might I best offer myself in service to the community to elevate what we’re collectively capable of?
How might I embrace adventure to continue to inspire myself and others?
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