• Indie Hustle
  • Posts
  • A Newsletter About Desk Setups Making $2,000 MRR

A Newsletter About Desk Setups Making $2,000 MRR

And getting acquired by a YC startup

Making $2,000 monthly from a newsletter showcasing desk setups

What is the business and who’s behind it?

Workspaces is a twice weekly newsletter started by Ryan Gilbert, that gives readers a behind the scenes tour of their favourite entrepreneurs, designers, developers’ desk setups.

The goal of the newsletter was to give readers these behind-the-scenes tour of new desk setups as they shifted into this new workstyle.

In Sept 2022, Ryan’s newsletter was acquired by YC startup Loops, and Ryan joined the team as Head of Content to continue publishing Workspaces among other content and marketing initiatives.

How was the business started?

According to Ryan, he started the business in 2020, when the pandemic had people shifting to a WFH environment.

To start the newsletter, Ryan went with Substack for ease of use, and run the entire newsletter out of:

  • Twitter DMs - to pitch people to share their workspaces

  • GMail - general communication (sending the requirements, getting the content)

  • Notion - setting up a simple sponsor calendar

All these cost him $0 to run the whole business for the longest time.

He’s featured more than 167 workspaces (with 70 more in the backlog) and have grown the newsletter to 6,500 subscribers while maintaining a >50% open rate in a span of 2 years.

He mentioned this very important point:

“ I published the fist 117 editions of th\e newsletter without a sponsor. I had inbound requests but I was focused on growing the subscriber base as much as possible. With the new year, I shifted this focus slightly and began offering one sponsor slot per newsletter edition.

I think it’s important to note that this was not an immediate cash cow… sending out 117 editions of a newsletter without receiving a dime can be draining. You have to truly enjoy the content you are putting out (I do!).”

Interested in more growth strategies?

Check out this extensive database of over 300+ growth strategies from various indie founders.

With this database, you would be able to find out stories of:

  • who got 100 paid users in just 1 day for his SaaS

  • who used a pricing strategy to hit almost $15,000 in sales for his digital product

  • who shared a step-by-step process to finding journalists and their email address in order to get free PR coverage for your business

  • who went from merely hundreds to over 200,000 monthly search impressions implementing just this one strategy

  • how this creator went from 0 to 2,500 email subscribers in just 30 days

  • who generated 6 figures from a digital product in just 2 weeks

What are some of the marketing strategies used?

When asked for his “most important advice for growing his subscribers’ base”, Ryan gave the following reply:

"For me it has definitely been to produce content that is not only shareable in a social setting (in my case Twitter) but also able to loop in/tag other people and their communities. Leaning on others as a growth lever probably seems like common sense but is often overlooked.

Every time I share a workspace I am able to tag that person on Twitter and ask them to share it with their community which leads to an immediate bump in views and subscribers.”

He also shared that:

“I really looked for guests with larger Twitter followings (I still do but less so now if the workspace itself is great).

All but 5 or so have gone on to RT or share their workspace post in some way after the fact, which makes sense seeing as they took the time to provide all of the content in the first place. :)”

To encourage his guests to retweet the content, Ryan mentioned this:

“I posted all of the newsletters as a blog post on Twitter as well - tagging all of the featured guests.

99% of them retweeted it or created a tweet of their own to share their space!

Over time, this snowballed and people actually organically started mentioning me in tweets of others spaces to get me to include them in a future edition.

After 100 workspaces being shared consistently each week (never missed a weekend since the start!) all of the mentions, tweets, etc. seem to have just gained momentum together.”

When asked “what motivates people to willingly share their workspaces design”, Ryan said that the “main incentive is the large audience that they get to plug whatever they want in front of.

Other than that, they simply enjoy sharing info about themselves and how they work.”

How does the business make money?

According to Ryan, the business was doing $2,000 monthly in revenue before getting acquired by Loops:

“the newsletter has been sold out weekly and the price has risen from the initial $150 to $250, earning $2,000 per month from sponsorships.

I had roughly 3,300 subscribers when I started looking for sponsors. With the exception of one sponsor, all sponsors have been inbound. “

He also shared his approach in getting sponsorships:

“To start I added a blurb in the intro of a newsletter stating that I was looking for sponsors and the numbers to date.

I immediately received replies + DMs and was quickly booked out months in advance. The exception was Baronfig... I just thought they would be a great fit so I cold-emailed them and they immediately booked two slots while offering a discount to my readers.”

Ryan said that he “sold the majority of my sponsorships to readers of my newsletter without needing to do any actual selling. They either ran or worked for companies that fit the market of the newsletter.”

When asked about what sort of data that sponsors would want from him, Ryan said to “simply list size (number of subscribers) + average open rate and click rate”.

What are some other advice shared by the founder ?

Consistency is king! Ryan shared the following wisdom:

“I think it’s important to note that this was not an immediate cash cow… sending out 117 editions of a newsletter without receiving a dime can be draining. You have to truly enjoy the content you are putting out (I do!).

However, I think this shows that consistency rules and as long as you continue to show up, put out great content and iterate based on feedback you will continue to see your newsletter grow and ultimately the money will come.”

Where can we go to learn more about this business?

Here are some links you can learn more about Alex and his business:


Subscribe to keep reading

This content is free, but you must be subscribed to Indie Hustle to continue reading.

Already a subscriber?Sign In.Not now