Podcast: Packy McCormick on Building Not Boring

We talked about how he started, his hacked together referral program and the various ways he's monetizing.

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Packy McCormick is the writer and creator of the business strategy newsletter, Not Boring. Although he has only been doing this full time since April and doesn’t come from any sort of media background, it has quickly morphed into a project with a loyal audience and an advertising-driven business model that bucks the trend of many of the newsletters launching today.

We discussed a lot about what goes into building these solo products, but a few things jumped out to me...

On building a referral system

The referral system in newsletters has become a favorite way to grow audiences; however, for Substack writers, it doesn’t exist. Packy decided to go around that and build his own, hacked together version of it.

The way it works is straight forward… They use a system called GrowSurf that is plugged into a Webflow landing page. GrowSurf manages the whole process of giving unique codes to everybody.

When people sign up, he has to download a CSV of the email subscribers and upload them into Substack so they can start receiving the newsletter. So, as Packy says, it’s a manual process.

On going ads vs. paid subscription

Most people who have launched newsletters over the past year have gone all in on subscriptions. I, too, have leaned heavily into subscriptions. Packy, though, opted not to go that direction.

Instead, Packy does what a lot of media companies do and sells advertising. He has a couple of different products that range from sponsorships in newsletters to outright, dedicated sponsored content emails.

His logic? He wasn’t sure if an audience would be able to justify expensing his newsletter and he preferred seeing the list grow faster with the free newsletter. And so far, he’s been very pleased with the results.

On staying focused on your passion

Early in his attempts at building Not Boring, he tried to lean heavily into community. But what he found was this wasn’t the right play for what he was trying to do because he didn’t enjoy it. He preferred to focus on the business strategy side of things.

His advice for others is to be very specific about what you want to focus on and continue leaning into this. It allows for more informed conversations with readers and allows you to meet a lot of new people, which is integral to these one-person operations.

However, he also advised creators to experiment with different things. There are a variety of ways your specific focus can manifest itself, so be comfortable with those different potential options.