In just 30 days, she reached 10,000 subscribers.
At 8 months, that number grew to over 50,000.
Within 12 months, the newsletter hit 100,000 subscribers.
And just when you think that level of growth can’t continue, in just 3 years, it’s now at a staggering 250,000.
This is how Codie Sanchez built the Contrarian Thinking newsletter and brand.
How Contrarian Thinking Makes Money
Codie is a master at monetizing businesses.
She’s been buying and selling businesses for a while now, so don’t be discouraged by these numbers. I only add them here to show you what’s possible when you work your a** off and build an audience of this caliber.
Codie and her team put together playbooks around specific small businesses.
She interviews people who have run those businesses and puts together a full guide on finding, buying, and growing the business.
Often, these include worksheets and financial spreadsheets to help you jumpstart the business.
Most of the playbooks cost $249 to get access.
These playbooks used to also be included with Contrarian Cashflow, her first premium membership community.
Contrarian Cashflow (Sunsetted)
$2,000 per year
Contrarian Cashflow is the name of the private group Codie and her team runs. It started off at $399 per year, but eventually ended up at around $2,000 per year.
You get playbooks of successful businesses you can run, private interviews with founders, a private Facebook group to interact with other members, and weekly calls with her team.
October 13, 2022 was the last time she actively promoted Contrarian Cashflow in the newsletter.
I’m going to guess she is/has already sunsetted this group:
Either way, let’s look at the numbers.
She’s been much more heavily promoting a separate business she runs with Ryan Snow, called Unconventional Acquisitions.
So while these numbers were probably close, moving forward I think that revenue has gone away, so let’s focus on the real money-maker at this point.
Cost: $8,800 per year
Unconventional Acquisitions is the business that Codie is much more heavily promoting now with her co-founder Ryan Snow.
It’s made up of a few different pieces, helping people at different levels.
- 9-Day Challenge – low-ticket offer to help you learn the basics of buying businesses. – $49
- Buying a Small Biz course – 1-year access to their mid-tier course around buying small businesses. – $1,497
- Private Mastermind Group – their premium group for people looking to purchase businesses using Codie and Ryan’s methods. – $8,800 per year
While $8,800 sounds like a lot of money (and it is), if you’re trying to figure out which businesses to buy and how to run them successfully, I’m sure you’ll make your money back pretty quickly.
Buying the wrong business, or not knowing what to look for can cost you much more than that over time.
The landing page says they have over 200 active students, but their private Facebook group has 476 members, not including the moderators.
Since Codie and Ryan co-founded this business, split 2 ways would be around $2 million per year before expenses.
That doesn’t include all of the other revenue they make from the $1,500 course or the lower ticket challenge.
Miscellaneous Revenue Streams
My guess is that Codie has around 50+ ways she brings in money from having built an audience like this. Here are some of the others.
YouTube Ad Revenue
With over 500k YouTube subscribers, YouTube ad revenue is probably quite decent. Her channel isn’t super old, and a lot of companies want to get in front of an entrepreneurial crowd.
These estimates are probably quite low, but let’s go with $200,000 per year just from YouTube.
Every once in a while there will be a sponsor in the Contrarian Thinking newsletter. Codie only accepts sponsorships from businesses she uses on a day-to-day basis.
Deal Flow & Contrarian Capital
One of the lesser-known ways she makes money comes from “deal flow.”
People learn about Codie, see how savvy she is with buying and growing businesses, and want her to invest.
She uses Angel List to run a syndicate other people can use to invest with her. If you remember, Packy McCormick has something similar.
But she’s also mentioned in a few interviews that she gets approached a lot by people letting her know about business deals she can buy, etc.
So while I have zero knowledge of how much she makes from these, I’m sure it’s probably the second largest, if not the largest revenue stream.
The Growth Timeline of Contrarian Thinking
Not only has revenue exploded over the last 2.5 years, but this growth timeline is wild.
So wild in fact, that I had a hard time capturing it all in one chart.
There is a LOT going on here. Codie has now mastered a variety of social channels, as well as her newsletter.
When I told a friend earlier this week that I was doing a deep dive on Codie, he didn’t even realize she had a newsletter. That’s how widespread this brand is these days.
This chart makes it hard to tell, but Codie hit 100k subscribers in just 12 months.…before getting good at any of the social channels you’re probably used to seeing her on now.
This might help:
She now has a team helping with content production, so I’m going to focus heavily on these first 100,000 subscribers, because I think that’s what will be more relatable for most.
The Growth Levers Codie Used
While there are a million things that Codie and her team have done to grow this brand, here are the main ones I think have made a huge difference.
⏱️ 1. Growth Experiments….on speed. I’ve talked about others using experiments and trying to grow their audience in different ways. But Codie set out to get 10,000 subscribers in 30 days…and hit the goal. She wasn’t messing around.
? 2. Other People’s Audiences. Whether it’s podcasts, social groups, or interviews, Codie is great at getting in front of other audiences to grow her brand.
? 3. Twitter, but not in the way you might think. Codie didn’t pass 10k Twitter followers until after she hit 100k subscribers. She used it in a really interesting way that I’ll dive into.
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⏱️ 1. Growth Experiments….on speed
Getting 10,000 subscribers in 30 days was no accident.
Codie learned about the newsletter business from a friend running a little newsletter called the Dispatch…he had done over $1 million in subscriptions in a year.
After hearing that, she was hooked and hit the ground running to create her own newsletter.
It seems like she was giving herself a specific amount of time to see if this was even a viable business to move forward with. So she had a fire underneath her to grow it quickly.
Codie details exactly how she got her first 10k subscribers in just 30 days in this post.
They can be broken down into a few categories:
- Using her personal network
- Social media posts
- Getting on podcasts
- Running live webinars
Let’s dive deeper into some of these.
Tapping Into Her Network
Codie is not afraid to ask people in her life to join the newsletter. She emailed a lot of old contacts she found in Gmail and messaged friends she hadn’t been in touch with in a while.
Many people (including myself) cringe at this, but in an interview with Nathan Barry, she said:
“You know, people email me all the time with Christmas cards every year that I haven’t seen in decades. And I’m like, okay, thanks. So you’re cool emailing me like a picture of your Christmas card or your baby’s announcement.
And this is just my business baby.
So I’m going to tell you about it and you can decide if that’s cool or not.”Codie Sanchez
I love this. Many of us get caught up in feeling weird telling people about our new thing that we just skip the process.
I had this exact hestiation. So I’m adding this to my list of things to do next.
So she emails and reaches out to a bunch of people in her contact list and network. This gets her up to around 400 subscribers.
But about 1 week in, she realizes she needs to step up her game a bit or she’s not going to grow as fast as she wanted to.
She also starts reaching out to her previous list of friends who have their own podcasts and pitches them to have her on. She schedules around 10 of them over the course of 2 weeks and this leads to “100s of subscribers.”
This is just the beginning of her podcast journey.
? 2. Other People’s Audiences
Getting in front of other audiences is something Codie is really adept at.
Just like reaching out to her network, Codie has no fear of reaching out to people to get on their shows. I think this is based on a combination of having great content and interesting life and business experiences to draw upon, and an extra layer of confidence.
Working for a typical venture capital firm and being in the finance industry, Codie also had a lot of experience on National Television and on podcasts.
I found around 15 episodes she was on before she even started Contrarian Thinking.
These didn’t grow the newsletter, but I bring this up to show you she did have some experience being on podcasts and also knew a group of people who were in the podcast space.
In her first 30 days post, she mentions getting on around 10 podcasts to help jumpstart the growth. But that was just the beginning.
Since then, I’ve found over 100 podcast appearances for Codie.
I overlayed them onto this chart to give you an understanding of just how frequently she has been on podcasts.
The list of places she’s appeared is really diverse and spans the gamut from small niche podcasts for business brokers, to massive audiences like My First Million.
She doesn’t just choose the “big name” podcasts either. She’s been on much smaller podcasts that have super-engaged audiences as well.
This strategy is brilliant because while she was building something new, she took that new “business baby” and promoted it in front of audiences other people have been building for years.
And that sounds like a bad thing. But it’s actually great.
Podcast hosts need great content, and that’s what she was giving them.
In return, she got a ton of press (and backlinks to her site), which resulted in thousands of subscribers right out of the gate.
Aside from being on podcasts, Codie has been able to get on many major media channels including Rolling Stone, Forbes, and major TV outlets.
I’m not going to spend a ton of time on this because it can be challenging to get on these major outlets if you don’t know someone and/or know how to pitch to journalists.
Since Codie was a journalist by trade, it was likely a lot easier for her since she knew what they were looking for AND had the contacts right out of the gate.
Posting in Facebook Groups was another method Codie used early on to get more eyeballs and subscribers to the newsletter.
She would take one of her articles, or a business idea she was highlighting and post about it in those groups.
This is similar to how Harry Dry of Marketing Examples did this. Provide a ton of value, and then let people know about the newsletter afterward. And oftentimes, she wouldn’t post a link at all and just waited for people to ask for it.
Then she would add it as a comment so it didn’t get flagged by the moderators.
This example is so conversational it would be hard to say she was just promoting her own stuff, even though that’s exactly what this was.
But, she was smart about it. She posted it in a super relevant group (Trends.co which is all about the business of businesses), and she came at it from an angle of sharing cool info with people who’d be interested.
Some of the Facebook Groups Codie posted in were:
- Trends by the Hustle
- Newsletter Creators
- Side Hustle Nation
- My First Million
- Young Entrepreneurs Club
Judging by the number of comments and likes these posts were getting, I’m going to go ahead and guess they drove a lot of subscribers for Contrarian Thinking.
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Codie even started using Reddit to try and spread the word.
But she knew it was a platform that you couldn’t just jump into randomly and be successful. She knew she needed some sort of strategy but had no clue where to start.
So she posted in the Trends Facebook Group and asked if anyone had tips or advice about starting on Reddit:
I think this is genius.
Codie has talked about how she would rather “steal” someone else’s 10,000 hours than try to reinvent the wheel and become an expert in something that is not her core focus.
This is just a real-world example of her doing that exact thing.
If you don’t know how to do something, why not ask the community around you for advice to get started?
This is why a lot of successful people will take courses and hire coaches. It’s not that the information isn’t widely available, they pay for the speed of implementation and having the right knowledge all in one place.
Just because she got advice doesn’t mean she didn’t fail. I found a few posts that were “deleted by the moderators” because they didn’t fit with how you’re supposed to use Reddit.
Cross-promotions can be a great way to grow your audience by using another person’s audience.
Codie now runs cross promotions with large newsletters like Sahil Bloom, Noah Kagan, and Ali Abdaal.
All of these have over 100-150k subscribers, and likely bring in thousands of new subscribers for her.
The smart thing she does with these is to give other people a snippet of what to include in their newsletter promotion. She doesn’t just leave it to them to guess.
Here are two examples of a promo she did with Ali Abdaal and Noah Kagan. You can tell they were given some “talking points” to go off of.
While this is a hugely beneficial thing to do as a larger newsletter, I don’t believe she did much of this at the beginning. Though has ramped up the strategy after hitting 80k+ subscribers.
Dan from the TLDR newsletter had a similar thought and waited to do more cross-promotions until the newsletter was much larger.
When you’re small, a cross-promotion might get you 10-50 subscribers, so other growth methods could be more worth your while at that size.
? Twitter, in a Different Way
From the growth timeline above, you can tell that Codie’s Twitter journey didn’t follow the typical one we see from previous deep dives.
She didn’t have a huge audience while she grew to 100k newsletter subscribers. In fact, her follower count didn’t even cross 10k before she hit that milestone.
She was using Twitter as a way to connect with bigger names, not to gather a ton of eyeballs.
Yes, she started posting threads to grow her audience and get the quantity. But if you look at the replies and engagement she was doing, it was interacting with bigger names.
She mentioned this in a podcast interview as well. She said if she were starting today, she’d choose one platform, i.e. Twitter, and she would focus on only creating tweets that the top 2-3 people in her industry would find interesting.
She wouldn’t focus on growing a large audience, she would focus on getting those few people’s attention.
She wrote a post in 2016 on her personal site about the quality of your network vs the quantity:
“I am all about strategic connections. That is the law of the universe. The 80/20 rule or the Pareto principle. In this context, this means that 80% of your revenue, relevance, and positive growth comes from 20% of your contacts, clients, etc. This law is KEY.”
I also found this post she had on LinkedIn hinting about this exact thing.
Do you see that part about “build cool things that might serve them”? I have to imagine this is exactly what she’s talking about.
One More Quick Example
In May of 2021, Codie started interacting with Polina Pompliano on Twitter, wife of Anthony Pompliano. If you aren’t familiar, he has a massive podcast and presence in the crypto and business space.
Then August rolls around, and Codie ends up on the Pomp Podcast – which is a top 10 podcast. If you think it had nothing to do with them engaging each other on Twitter, I think you’re crazy.
So while her audience size wasn’t growing, the quality of her network on Twitter was exploding, it was just doing so quietly.
This one was a gem just hiding in the rough. I listened to at least 20 podcast interviews with Codie, and on most of them, she said LinkedIn never worked for her.
I almost wrote it off, until I listened to her interview with Noah Kagan.
Codie told Noah that her videos on LinkedIn were driving around 10% of all subscribers. 10%!
But it “didn’t work for her”.
I’m not sure if she was trying to throw everyone off the trail and he got her to let her guard down or what, but that’s a big number.
She told Noah that she posts a video, and then puts a link to her newsletter in the comments. It’s that simple.
She told him that in 2021. I still don’t see a lot of people using LinkedIn for videos.
I scrolled ALL the way back and found a video from right around the time of the interview with Noah.
This video got 60 comments and 154 likes. My guess is it probably drove around 100 subscribers, because LinkedIn engagement is sneaky.
I’ve had a post on LinkedIn get maybe 18 comments and I got around 30 subscribers from that. People might not engage by liking, etc. but they are engaging behind the scenes.
Here is the link she posted in the comments, nothing fancy at all.
Aside from videos, Codie has posted quite a bit on LinkedIn. So while she made all of those comments about it not working, I’m going to guess that it’s still performing at least a little bit. 🙂
?️ A Roadmap for Using Codie’s Strategy
While you might be thinking that Codie had a huge network already so this isn’t something you can replicate, I have to disagree a little bit.
It may take longer, but you can still have similar results if you’re willing to work for them.
Start With Twitter (or LinkedIn)
I didn’t touch on it a ton above because she really started figuring it out after she hit those 100k subscribers, but Twitter has been a huge growth lever for Codie.
I think you can swap out Twitter for LinkedIn if it makes sense for your business.
In addition to posting your own content, in the beginning, it’s really important to start engaging with other people’s content too.
If you just post every day and do nothing else, you’re not going to get much (if any) traction and the threads will just go into Twitter oblivion. The same goes for LinkedIn.
Post consistently, and engage.
While tweeting is great for growing a following and getting subscribers, it also can lead to you rubbing elbows with some big names in….podcasts.
⭐️ Bonus points if you’re willing to start posting videos.
Get On Podcasts & In Front of Other Audiences
Although it might take longer than it took Codie to get on other podcasts, it’s 100% doable. If you’re not already friends, you can hustle a little bit and start pitching smaller podcasts at first.
Once you’ve been on a few, you can step up and go for those medium-sized audiences. It’s kind of like stair-stepping a ladder. Start small. Go on brand new podcasts to get experience.
Another option is to use your new Twitter following to engage with podcasters and get on their shows.
? Here’s what I would do:
- Make a list of 10-15 podcasts that would be super relevant to your industry
- Add 10-15 more adjacent podcasts you could go on. If you help people with SEO, you can reach out to specific industry podcasts and teach their audience about SEO.
- Optimize your Twitter profile to show that you know about SEO. Make sure the link in your bio goes to a page that lists your experience and past media appearances if any.
- Create a Twitter List and add the hosts of those shows to the list
- Go through that list 2-3x per day and engage with everything those people are posting.
Eventually, you’ll get on these people’s radar. Once you’ve interacted with each other a few times, go ahead and DM them and pitch to be on their show.
A percentage of these will say yes. Go on their show and then add that “media appearance” to your about page in the profile.
Don’t Recreate the Wheel
As we’ve seen in the past from people like Packy, or Harry Dry, you can build a massively successful business with just 1-2 social platforms and amazing content.
While Codie has now transitioned over to using a ton of other platforms, she has a team so that’s hard to replicate for one person.
Instead, take the threads and posts you’ve been putting on Twitter and repurpose them over on LinkedIn.
Nathan Baugh did a great job of this and now just reposts his threads on LinkedIn and has tens of thousands of followers just from that.
Then take those same carousel posts, and publish them on Instagram.
Eventually, you can start creating content for those platforms, but in the interim, just repurpose what you’re already creating.
What most people might see from Contrarian Thinking at this point in time is a business with huge audiences on 6 social channels. Don’t forget how it started.
Simple, consistent growth on 1-2 channels, and then you can explode into others.
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