I always wanted to start a business that had product ownership in addition to running a services business.

However, I had never really thought about being a writer in terms of business, despite many years purchasing media, press releases, and other digital marketing services for work.

I’d also always wanted to write a book about some earlier life experiences but never got around to it. I always assumed writing was easy to do, something that I’d do soon (in relation to the book idea I wanted to write), and time-consuming.

What was our publication?

It is called The GC Minute (The Gold Coast Minute), a name drawn from what I felt was a great digital version of the newspaper that I’d stumbled across in San Francisco back in 2021, I think.

I had all these digital skills, a great, yet small team, and experience, though all the work we were doing was in e-commerce and digital marketing projects(which we are really good at and still run as our core).

The Opportunity

I figured it was time to put our skills to good use in addition to the gaping hole of an opportunity to add another local news option to my city, the Gold Coast, Australia’s 6th largest city with the least number of news options (it has only one and it’s called The Bulletin).

There was one key thing I had identified before anything else, and that was consistency. Rain, hail, or shine I was going to commit to this idea, having seen it working for a few years during which I was 100% confident I could turn it into a sustainable business and a great product for the local community.

After reading about Substack and setting up my account, I was up and away with my first but default post of ‘Coming soon…’ Followed by 9 months before actually forcing myself to get the first edition done... I was wrong with my assumption. Realizing I’d let precious time slip by, I made the call that from that week onwards, every week on the same day, we would put out the weekly news edition.

The same day, every week, without fail. We were going to commit to it for at least a year, most likely two, intensely and see how we went.

We started on March 3, 2023, and on December 7 (which happened to be my birthday),I hit 1,000 subscribers. It took us 10 months to hit 1,000 subscribers.

How We Did It and Lessons We Learned

For context, I didn’t want to lean heavily on my existing social media following.

I didn’t want to post on my own social media (not a big following, between my FB,IG, LinkedIn, and Twitter I probably had 2,000-2,500 followers in total, nothing much).

I wanted to do this the hard way, through getting the content right and the cold outreach supporting the bulk of my readership before leaning heavily on my network and paid advertising.

Lesson 1: Don’t Overthink, Just Do

Just get it done. No excuses. Keep showing up and press the publish button.

A lot of people would think 10 months is an age, but it isn’t; those 9 months between opening our Substack account and writing our first newsletter went in an instant. Where would we be if we’d started straight away?

I’d say up to about 3000 subscribers, or more, by now, but we’ll never know.

There are so many typos I stumble across on the best and biggest news and content sites and websites almost every day, so just get it done as you’ll learn and grow.

Lesson 2: Stick to Your Lane

Just keep doing what you had in mind; the readers who are interested will find you based on the topic of interest.

Your readers like you and come back for more, so make sure you are giving them what they went to the effort to sign up for in the first place.

Lesson 3: Experiment

We added new sections that required the community to do something, i.e., vote on a poll. This helped us learn the type of things that people were interested in more depth. If a majority of people indicate that they have a preference for something that you’re not doing, it’s likely that many others want it too.

4. Lean on Friends and Family

This goes without saying. Some within these circles can be your harshest critics with the most honest feedback. Most will be willing.

5. Groups Got Our Ball Rolling

Local Facebook Groups provided excellent feedback, but we needed at least 3 months under our belt to get to this stage.

We’d write a very honest note asking for some feedback on a new idea (our city had a particular case where it only had one news source, and our Substack was a local newsletter, so we definitely struck a nerve with some readers wanting an additional option to the single and only news source available on the Gold Coast).

We got to just over 900 subscribers by October 20, simply using the free methods above.

Australians are a funny bunch whereby we cut through the rubbish of outlandish marketing pretty quickly, so our outreach in these forums was straight-up genuine, where we asked a great community group to provide some honest feedback.

To date, some of our most engaged and responsive readers came from the early stages of this group and forum strategic outreach activity. A big shout out to you guys for being a part of the journey!

6. Paid Ads

We came from a standing start with no financial backing to get our local newsletter up and running.

We had no marketing budget.

We just had a bunch of pretty good internet skills, and idea and a new found persistence.

Being so close to the 1,000 mark after about 6 months, I was very keen to try some paid ads.

Eventually, I put in my own money, $50 on each platform (listed below) to see how some paid ads would go. The small eCommerce and digital services agency I own and run offers some social media services, and I roped in our social media girl to help out with some creative and platform hacks.

We tried paid ads on:

●     Reddit

●      X (formerly known as Twitter)

●      Facebook

●     Instagram


The winner, by far, was Facebook where after a few trials we learned that our new subscriber conversion cost was about $2.80 (for now).

My social media team feels they can get this under a dollar, but again, this is just a post on how we hit the 1,000.

7. No Distractions When Writing

Turn your phone off, and turn your emails off.

Sounds crazy in this day and age, but it makes your thinking and writing 10x clearer and faster.

Our weekly newsletter takes about 3.5-4 hours each week to put together.

8. Newsletter Reads Are More Important Than Subscriber Numbers

With our small marketing efforts now effectively growing our base, combined with our organic efforts, we are seeing our growth start to compound.

In Reflection

Writing The GC Minute has been hard but fun.

Keeping in mind that we are free and that we only write once a week, there has been a lot of growth left on the table that we plan to tap into once we have our base in both the paid and total reads and subscribers areas.

There are some pros and cons with the platform, especially since partway through X/Twitter made it a lot harder to share Substack content, and in addition to ChatGPT coming on board (we are human-written).

Overall, however, we have found that there is a total market for our content and our local news business to the point that we have opened up another five for other cities in Queensland.

If anyone ever has any questions regarding building Australian Substacks or the social media efforts that helped really put a rocket under our growth since building our initial core organically, please reach out anytime.