Anne Helen Petersen earns six figures writing a Substack newsletter
Here's how she grew Culture Study into 65,000 subscribers and a thriving business.
Anne Helen Petersen writes Culture Study, one of my all-time favorite Substack newsletters. Every article is a geek out on some fascinating aspect of our culture—like twin influencers and Mormon mommy bloggers, Peloton celebrities, and revenge bedtime procrastination.
Not only are her articles enthralling, but writing them is her full-time job. Her newsletters are free for everyone, but paid subscribers (at $5/month or $50/year) have the ability to comment on them and receive “Friday Threads,” where she holds discussions about whether or not we should have kids, how each of us “found our person,” and what small changes made a big difference to our lives. And comments role 600-800 deep!
Anne was recruited as part of Substack’s Pro program. As Substack co-founder Hamish McKenzie outlined in his post about the program, Pro offered several writers (like Anne) advances of $100,000 or more to cover their first year on the platform. During that first year, Substack keeps 85 percent of the subscription revenue with the hope that, after the first year, the writer is able to support themselves on their own.
(And by the way, this is exactly the sort of ideal scenario I outlined in my article What if we fund artists the way we fund startups.)
With an advance to fuel her first year, she quit her job as a culture writer for BuzzFeed News and went full-time with her newsletter. The day she went paid she converted enough free subscribers to paid subscriptions to reach $100,000 in annual revenue—and she’s been doing it full-time ever since—and with great success! As the team at Substack puts it, she is Substack OG.
Not only have I become a big fan of her work, but I’ve been fortunate enough to have Anne as my mentor as part of Substack’s fellowship program, and she agreed to let me trade two of our phone sessions for a written interview, so that my newsletter subscribers might learn from her newsletter journey as I am.