How Blogging for Devs Reached 1K Subscribers in Under 2 Weeks
Hi there! Who are you and what’s your background?
Hey! My name’s Monica and I run Blogging for Devs.
As for my background, I learned to code at a super young age (we’re talking single-digits here). I was building websites on my own domain in the late 90s, uploading files with CoffeeCup FTP and coding in Notepad on a Windows 98 machine. Simpler times, eh?
Despite growing up glued to the computer, working in tech was an afterthought for me.
One of the things that surprises people most is that I actually studied Latin and Ancient Greek in University. I also studied French and Japanese. But by the end of my four years, I got burnt out from studying languages and being in school in general.
So converting my student job as a web developer into a full-time role was somehow the path of least resistance.
After 10 years in tech and a cross-continent move from the United States to Germany, I quit my role as the frontend engineering lead at a startup in Berlin to build my own company. For a long time, my goal was “not to have a boss by the time I turn 30” and somehow, I managed :)
Today, the company is my main focus. It’s a conversion-rate optimization tool for affiliate marketers, called Affilimate. Apart from that I’ve got numerous side projects, including my newsletter.
What’s your newsletter about?
Blogging for Devs teaches developers how to grow their blogs through writing and SEO.
It begins as a free 7-day email challenge to help developers go from concept to keyword research, writing, and distributing an excellent blog post. After completing the challenge, the reader is subscribed to the newsletter.
Every week the newsletter starts with some of my own writing. Sometimes it’s educational, sometimes it’s motivational, but it’s always geared towards trying to help people ACT and take that next step towards creating a successful blog.
In addition, I share and create a variety of resources around blogging in different formats. For example, I’ve done a screencast on keyword research, an interview with a well-known tech blogger, and written blog posts about launching a newsletter and SEO for Gatsby websites. I also include links to great content created by my subscribers whenever possible.
It’s a pretty new newsletter so I’m still experimenting and learning more about what people find most interesting and helpful.
Besides just wanting to help people, I also started the newsletter as a sort of way to get exposure: both that I’m building Affilimate and establish myself as someone who knows about blogging and SEO. This has worked really well.
When did you get started writing your newsletter? What motivated you to get started?
I’d learned a ton about blogging from building a profitable travel blog over the last few years.
When a number of friends in tech asked me for advice about how to grow their own blogs, it was super fun for me to teach them all the techniques I’d learned: ranking content in Google, collecting email subscribers, and writing articles people love engaging with.
So it kind of dawned on me that developers as a whole could find the topic interesting, too.
I’m generally not a competitive person (I prefer to compete with myself), but the desire to get my articles on the first page of Google really drives me to create something 100x better than what’s out there.
My hypothesis was that developers could actually grow to love blogging and SEO like I did, if only it was explained in a way that appealed to them as developers instead of the typical marketing angle.
It seems my hypothesis was right. After an initial launch at the end of May, over ⅔ of people who shared feedback on the 7-day challenge mentioned how much they liked the lessons about SEO and keyword research (and that it was way more interesting than they expected!).
What does the process of writing your newsletter look like for you?
I keep a backlog of ideas in Asana. Every week I decide on an angle or a theme, and I collect links to interesting news related to blogging in that issue.
For example, last week’s edition was about “How to Market Yourself (When You Hate Marketing)”. I opened with a bit of writing about how developers may hate marketing, but how important it is for their career to become visible and create things in public. Then I also include original resources by myself and others about how to do that.
In total, it takes me about 2-3 hours to write the newsletter and compose it.
I typically write it at a fixed time on Thursday, and then I sleep on it and edit it on Friday before sending it out.
What are some of the difficulties you’ve encountered in running your newsletter?
My only real difficulty was when I launched my newsletter, it picked up so many subscribers (I know, an absurd thing to complain about), and my welcome email solicited so many responses, that I was receiving dozens if not over 100 emails per day.
But since everyone wrote me such long, personal emails, I couldn’t feel good about sending canned responses to people.
So I spent hours writing individual responses to everyone who emailed me (as well as replies to replies). It took me several hours a day for about a week to get through them and regain control over my inbox.
Of course, this is a good problem to have. I’m really grateful that people felt they could share their personal motivations and struggles with me, because it helps me create something that will serve them better.
What’s your favorite part about writing your newsletter?
Hands down, my favorite part is being able to give advice and see people actually execute it.
Anyone can consume books, blog posts, watch YouTube videos, or whatever.
But what stands out is when I see someone consistently acting on my advice and then showing me the results of doing that.
It motivates me to go further and see how I can help them even more.
Those are the people I’m writing my newsletter for, because I know that the combination of my experience and their drive will deliver results.
How do you grow your audience?
Blogging for Devs recently surpassed 1,500 subscribers after launching it about a month and a half ago.
I did an analysis of where my subscribers came from, and found that the primary source was Twitter (about 75%) followed by word of mouth.
Anecdotally, a lot of people write to me and say the newsletter was personally recommended to them, which is a great feeling.
I haven’t done any additional marketing after the initial launch, but my plan is to both promote articles I write on the newsletter’s blog via Twitter and ultimately (of course) to rank some of the articles in Google.
What are some of your favorite newsletters, books, and podcasts?
I don’t subscribe to many newsletters (ironic, I suppose?), but one I always enjoy getting in my inbox is Marketing Examples by Harry Dry. I love how crisp and concise his delivery is. He inspires me to delete unnecessary fluff from everything I write.
As for books, I read mostly product and marketing-focused books these days. My recent favorite is Obviously Awesome (a book about product positioning), and I’m currently reading Predatory Thinking (a series of short stories about out-thinking your competition written by a famous ad exec).
Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of Startups for the Rest of Us by Rob Walling. He talks a lot about the reality of building bootstrapped companies, which is highly relevant for me as a founder myself. There are also over 500 episodes so you can really binge on it if that’s your thing.
For people who write newsletters, I definitely recommend Kate Doster’s Inbox Besties. Her podcast is easily the funniest one I listen to and the episodes are bite-sized.
What goals do you have for the future?
My goal is to grow Blogging for Devs to 5,000 subscribers this year. I’m not sure if that’s a lot or a little, but it’s my plan! Ultimately, I want to create a community of developers who can help and support each other in their blogging journeys. I’m just figuring out the right way to go about that right now.
As for me personally, my goal is to build my company to the point where it’s worth acquiring. Still a long way to go before that point :) I’ve got a lot of other projects and goals for them, but those are secondary to my main focus.
Where can readers go to learn more about you and your newsletter?
My newsletter’s website is simply https://bloggingfordevs.com. If people are interested in following along the journey of building the newsletter and my other projects, they can find me on Twitter at @monicalent.