How Justin Welsh Built a $1.7M Solo Business in Just 3.5 Years

Justin Welsh is a master of short-form content. He’s built an audience of over 360k people on LinkedIn in 3.5 years.

He’s quickly approaching that same number in just 16 months on Twitter.

And he’s grown his newsletter to over 77,000 people in just 12 months.

how justin welsh grew his audience to $2 million

How Justin Welsh Makes Money

Justin has quite a few different income streams that account for the $1.7 million dollars he brings in each year.

Here’s a quick breakdown using numbers he talked about in an interview in January.

Let’s walk through each to get a little more context.

Courses & Digital Products

Courses and products are the main drivers of Justin’s revenue. He currently has two main courses that he’s selling:

  1. LinkedIn OS
  2. Content OS

LinkedIn OS is all about, you guessed it, LinkedIn.

He walks through his strategy about how to create great content for LinkedIn, the tools he uses, and more.

I went through it a few weeks ago and some of the stuff he shares in there is gold.

The Content OS is his course laying out his exact strategy for how he sets up his content system (more on this later).

Content Operating System by Justin Welsh

Justin Welsh's exact system for creating a high-quality newsletter and 6-12 pieces of high-performance social media content each week.

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His courses cost around $150, and you can go through them in around 2-3 hours. They’re simple but jam-packed with information. Instead of going the route of adding hours and hours of stuff, he makes them short on purpose.

And yes, his courses are $150, and he sells enough of them that he makes $1.3 million a year from them.

Let that sink in.

$1,300,000 ÷ $150 = 8,667 sales

That’s more than 23 sales per DAY.

This just goes to show you the power of building an audience online and being consistent in providing them value.

Coaching

Coaching is something Justin does quietly. You’re not going to find links on his website or in his emails to sign up for it.

I think he’s pulling back on this as well because it’s really time-consuming. But I have a feeling he’ll continue doing at least some of this because he seems to like helping people.

Sponsorships

Justin makes a decent chunk of his money from sponsors for his newsletter.

Currently, the going rate is $1,500 per issue and he’s booked out around 6 months ahead of time.

justin welsh newsletter sponsorship

I think that’s wildly underpriced, and if I had an extra $1,500 lying around, I would happily sign up for one of those.

Plus, he now takes on 2 sponsors per week, so he brings in $3,000 per week.

$3,000 x 52 weeks = $156,000

Subscriptions

This one is super interesting to me. When I signed up for the LinkedIn course, there was an option to sign up for monthly templates at $9/mo.

Of course, I signed up. I mean, I have to do research for all of you!

Here is what that welcome email looks like:

I’m not going to lie, these are great templates. He gives you the outline of the template, and an example of them being used.

Super helpful, especially if you’re just getting started writing on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Okay, so at $9/mo, he has almost 1,000 people signed up to keep receiving these every month.

Affiliate Marketing

Justin supplements the rest of his income with affiliate marketing.

He includes links to some of his favorite tools, he gets paid a commission if someone signs up with those links.

It’s not a huge portion of his income, but $25k is nothing to sneeze at either.

Anytime people ask him about what tools he’s using, he can give them his affiliate link. He’s done a smart thing and created a “resource” page of sorts that includes all of the tools he uses to run his business.

Most of these are affiliate links.

I love this, affiliate marketing can be such a great way to supplement your income. And it’s not like he’s doing it in a way to just make money, he’s literally just telling people what he already uses.


The Growth Timeline

Justin started off on LinkedIn and was only growing his audience on that platform for a few years.

Then in October of 2021, he added Twitter, which he’s essentially been able to get to the same following he has on LinkedIn within 16 months.

In January of 2022, he started his newsletter, The Saturday Solopreneur, and has grown it to over 77,000 subscribers in just 1 year.

With the audiences he has elsewhere, it’s no question he’ll reach 150k newsletter subscribers soon, it’s just a matter of when.

The Growth Levers of Justin Welsh

⚙️ 1. Systems & Automation. The level of systemization Justin has put into running his business is wild. I can’t wait to show you this.

✍️ 2. Mastering Short-form content. If you know anything about Justin’s story, this will come as no surprise. He’s an extremely smart content creator and it’s the entire backbone of his success.

⏮️ 3. Reverse Engineering. Oh, you know I love this one. Justin reverse engineers all kinds of parts in his business, including how other creators were having success on Twitter. With over 300k followers there in just 16 months, I’d say this was one of the smartest things he’s done.

♻️ 4. Repurposing Content. Every newsletter he creates turns into 10-20 different pieces of content that go out on social media. In addition to those, he uses the same social posts that have done well before.

1. Systems & Automation ⚙️

Sure, we all have certain systems we use to make life easier and more consistent.

But Justin is a self-proclaimed Type A guy who likes to be in control of all aspects of his business. This might sound like a bad thing – until you see exactly how he’s set up everything.

He has a system for everything it seems.

  • Networking with connections? System.
  • Daily and weekly to-do’s? System.
  • Content creation? System.

As a guy running his million-dollar business as a solopreneur (he has 1 VA helping with customer service stuff), you need some sort of structure to be able to stay consistent and not burn out.

And Justin has built this out for himself.

Are you ready to have your mind blown? Okay, let’s do this.

Justin’s Content System

You may have heard about this before because he talks about it A LOT. And he has a course called the Content OS that explains in detail how he does this.

The way Justin produces and distributes content is so methodical.

Here is the basic outline of his content system:

Step 1: Idea Capture

He goes through top YouTube videos in his niche, looks through newsletters he’s subscribed to, and scours through Twitter and LinkedIn to find content.

Twice a week, he ideates for 30 minutes and tries to come up with 5-7 ideas for future newsletters.

Once he has a newsletter topic he’s focusing on that week, he moves on to research.

Step 2: Research

He spends time researching the topic to find supporting content and ideas he can use to improve the topic.

These might be tweets, books, quotes, or articles he finds online.

Step 3: Newsletter Template

He has a structured format for his newsletter as well. This is the formula he uses week in and week out.

  1. Introduce a big problem
  2. Here’s how most people solve it
  3. Here’s why it doesn’t work for them
  4. Here’s how you can solve that problem in a different way – this is usually a list of 4-5 tips or strategies

It’s simple but effective.

Step 4: Editing

He goes through, yet another system within this system:

  • Are the sentences at a 5th-grade reading level?
  • Did you go on any tangents you should remove?
  • Add visuals and images as needed
  • Add links to sources

Step 5: Pre-Newsletter CTA

Justin teases his newsletter on Twitter and LinkedIn the Friday before the issue goes out.

Step 6: Post-Newsletter CTA

The day after his newsletter goes out, he posts about it on Twitter and LinkedIn telling people to go sign up if they missed it.

Step 7: Twitter Thread

He breaks down his newsletter into a Twitter thread, methodically distilling down each part of the newsletter into a thread.

Step 8: LinkedIn Carousel

He then takes that same Twitter thread, and uses the screenshots to create a Carousel post for LinkedIn.

Step 9: Short-Form Writing

From there, he takes everything he’s put together so far and creates 6-8 pieces of other content.

These could be any combination of the following:

  1. Listicle
  2. Story
  3. Contrarian take
  4. Analysis/Tear-down
  5. Present vs Future
  6. X vs Y

Step 10: Publishing & Scheduling

This is the step where he publishes multiple pieces of content from the “hub” of his newsletter.

Here is the publishing schedule he shared with Dickie Bush and Nicolas Cole on their podcast.

justin welsh publishing schedule

Do you see the power of what he does here?

He’s staggering his content out across 4-6 weeks. This allows him to continue plugging that same issue of the newsletter weeks later, so it’s not just a one-and-done piece of content.

Each time he posts that future listicle or contrarian take on that topic, he can then plug the newsletter in that social post.

This drives people back to his website to sign up for the newsletter.

And he’s creating content he can use in the future, instead of just recreating the wheel every single week.

It’s all on auto-pilot because he has a complete system he follows every time.

Let’s Look at an Example

I found a recent example to show you he is 100% still using this strategy.

He posted this tweet on February 11, 2023:

Once it got some traction and a link wasn’t going to hurt it, he then plugged the relevant issue of his newsletter:

That issue of the newsletter was from June 11, 2022. 8 months before he posted that tweet.

It’s still relevant, so why not repurpose it?

You don’t see a lot of people doing this, so I love that he’s working smarter, and not trying to recreate the wheel every time.

You can learn more about his methods in his ContentOS course (highly recommend).

Content Operating System by Justin Welsh

Justin Welsh's exact system for creating a high-quality newsletter and 6-12 pieces of high-performance social media content each week.

Buy Now
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

Eliminate, Simplify, Automate, Delegate

Because he is running this business as one person, he has to be ruthless with his time.

His background in sales taught him a lot of skills that apply, but the one I see come up again and again is:

  1. Eliminate
  2. Simplify
  3. Automate
  4. Delegate

It’s not a new concept, and he certainly didn’t come up with the idea. But it’s wildly useful for entrepreneurs and sales leaders.

Justin uses this in coordination with the Pareto Principle or the “80/20 rule.”

He is constantly reevaluating the 20% of things that are moving his business forward. Those are the things that he keeps doing.

The rest he runs through this 4-step process.

1. Eliminate

What should he completely get rid of? If it’s not moving him closer to his most important goals, then he gets rid of it.

2. Simplify

Is there an easier way to do this? Are there any steps that can be removed?

3. Automate

Can I automate any part of this process? These can be done with tools like Zapier or Make, and sometimes even the software itself has options for this.

Justin says he values his time at around $1,000 per hour.

He doesn’t mind paying $30 a month for a tool that’s going to save him a few hours of work. The economics just make sense.

In total, he uses tools that cost him around $650 per month to run. While that might sound like a lot, that’s less than an hour of his time is worth.

4. Delegate

Is this something that I can hand off to my VA?

Justin has a virtual assistant who works around 20 hours a week and handles all of his customer support stuff.

He noticed that he would get emails from people who needed a receipt or couldn’t log in to the course website. While these tasks only take a few minutes, they can really ruin your workflow.

He even wrote a full Twitter thread around this concept.

Remove the Friction

Justin will go back and iterate on these processes if he starts to encounter friction. Something might stop working as well, so he’ll change it.

Or he realizes that this one thing could be done better. And so he’ll build a process for it.

2. Mastering Short-Form Content ✍️

Justin’s business wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for short-form content. It builds trust with his audience, drives traffic to his website through his newsletter, and gets people to buy his products.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is the bread and butter for Justin Welsh. He’s been on the platform since 2018, and has been writing every day on the platform since.

He’s gotten so good at understanding what works on the platform, that he literally has it down to a science.

It hasn’t always been a home run for him. And it took him years to build up the audience he has now.

He went from writing about sales and SaaS companies, to talking about writing on LinkedIn, to now focusing on the “solopreneur” niche.

Of course, his LinkedIn posts have themes and use a system he’s created.

Many of the story posts he writes on LinkedIn follow this PAIPS formula:

  1. Pain – introduce the problem – “most people post on LinkedIn write lots of posts, but never get any attention. Often, they hear crickets after posting.”
  2. Agitate – “This means you’re missing out on growing your audience and getting the speaking gigs you want to get booked for.”
  3. Intrigue – “What if I told you there’s a better way?”
  4. Positive future – “And it will help you land XYZ client in just 30 days.”
  5. Solution – “Here’s how to do it.”

It’s simple, but genius. And they perform so well that he can just keep doing them and get incredible results.

Twitter

In October 2021, there was a glitch on LinkedIn and Justin’s profile disappeared.

Since that was his entire audience (he didn’t even have a newsletter yet) this was kind of a big deal. Eventually, the LinkedIn team got it reinstated, but this was a wake-up call.

It was the kick in the pants he needed to start diversifying his audience over to another platform.

That day he made a commitment to start publishing on Twitter.

And he wasn’t messing around – and he’s barely missed a day since.

It started off pretty slow, but over time he’s been able to grow his audience to over 315k on Twitter.

I think he’s going to surpass his LinkedIn follower growth on Twitter in the next few months.

Kind of like we saw with Codie Sanchez, when you focus on one platform until you master it, you can take what you’ve learned and grow your following on another one so much faster.

But you have to master that first platform initially.

How did he do that?

The key is not just posting consistently, but going back and analyzing what worked and what didn’t.

He’s been able to get to 300k followers in just 16 months on Twitter, where it took him almost 4 years to do the same on LinkedIn.

3. Reverse Engineering ⏮️

Justin is a man after my own business heart.

If you’ve been reading these deep dives for any length of time, you know I fully support to the idea of reverse engineering.

Justin had grown his LinkedIn page to over 100k followers when he decided to start diversifying and expanding to Twitter.

I think he was trying to emulate some of his favorite creators on Twitter. One of those was Sahil Bloom.

Sahil had a lot of success with his “101” tweets early on, and I think Justin noticed that.

He started replicating that content:

He was having success with this strategy and got to around 30,000 followers on Twitter in just 5 months.

Then in February of 2022, he saw an article on Trends.co where Ethan Brooks had reverse engineered how Sahil Bloom had grown really fast on Twitter.

💡 That was a lightbulb moment for Justin.

He realized that he could reverse engineer any creator and see how they grew before they had hundreds of thousands of followers.

He went back and found old tweets from successful creators, analyzed each one that did well, and then created a template around those.

Since then, he started trying new things and writing in his own voice, but at first he says you shouldn’t be afraid to replicate what others are doing and try it for yourself.

“I just needed to borrow a cheat code to try and get an audience there, and now I can be myself.”

Justin Welsh

You can’t just go copy his tweets from today and expect them to work.

You need to go back and copy the tweets he was posting in 2021 when he didn’t have 300k+ followers.

Always Be Analyzing

There are 2 pieces to getting better at short-form writing:

  1. Consistency
  2. Analysis (the part most people miss)

Consistency is not going to lead you to the golden gates of 300k followers.

Justin says that the secret to great short-form writing is to analyze your own work regularly.

Go back to your recent content and see what worked and what didn’t. If you’re not getting better at writing, you aren’t doing that second part.

“You have to constantly be analyzing your writing to figure out what works, and your job is to replicate what works as often as possible.”

Justin Welsh

4. Repurposing Content

Justin has created thousands of pieces of content at this point. He doesn’t need to create much more to keep his content engine running.

Instead, he takes what’s work in the past, and repurposes it.

The Same Content on Different Channels

Justin will repurpose his best LinkedIn content over to Twitter and vice versa.

This applies to different channels as well as different styles of content.

While there is bound to be some overlap between the two audiences, people who hang out on LinkedIn are not necessarily the same people on Twitter.

He will tweak some of the words because on LinkedIn more people’s bosses are on there. So he tailors the wording a little more towards getting better at business in general, vs building your own business.

Do you see how he used most of the same content but swapped out the word in his hook? On LinkedIn he uses “business dreams” but on Twitter, he used “solopreneurship.”

Posting the same content on both platforms expands the reach of that content, and gets more people to join the newsletter.

Reusing Templates

Here’s a simple example. Justin tweeted in October of 2021 about how his business was doing and how he grew it.

Then in 2022, he used the same template for the tweet and just changed the numbers to reflect where he’s currently at.

To save some space on this page, I didn’t screenshot the full thread, but the rest of the tweets below it are word for word the same.

But isn’t that a terrible idea?

Nope. Here’s why:

  1. His audience has grown by almost 200k people since that first tweet. Most people never saw it.
  2. The people who did see it, likely don’t remember seeing it because it’d been a fully year. And even if they do, it’s a great reminder of how to build a business with updated numbers.

Justin talks openly about repurposing content.

🗺️ How You Can Replicate Justin’s Success

Justin does a lot of things I think we can all learn from, but here are some of the places I would (and am) going to start with.

1. Become a Master at One Platform

Choose one social platform that you’re going to commit to for the next year.

Get mastery-level good at that platform.

For me, it’s Twitter. Here’s what I am going to be doing:

  • Take courses on that platform. Implement what you’re learning.
  • Learn everything about that platform (i.e. Twitter hates links, so wait until a post has some traction before adding one to a tweet)
  • Reverse engineer people with larger audiences like Dickie Bush, Sahil Bloom and Justin Welsh. Make sure you’re going back deep into the archives to find their old content. For Twitter, you can use a Chrome extension called Twemex or just Twitter’s advanced search.
  • Post 2-3 a day. Try multiple styles of content (contrarian takes, listicles, etc.)
  • Analyze what worked and what didn’t. Sometimes the time of day can impact a post, but other times it just didn’t resonate. Maybe you needed a better hook for your thread.
  • Engage on your favorite creator’s posts (cough cough, shamelessly self-promoting my Twitter feed). In the early days, engagement is where you’ll gain the most traction.

This example is for Twitter, but the same idea goes for LinkedIn, or wherever you’re looking to start.

If you try to master Twitter and LinkedIn at the same time, it’s going to take you 2-3x as long to grow on both.

Once you’ve built out an audience, understand how each post is going to perform before you even hit publish, and have a system in place, then you can move on to the next platform.

2. Build Systems Into Your Process

Justin talks a lot about friction as where he would start building processes. If you go to write one day, but you don’t know what to write about, you might want to build a list of content ideas.

Create a system around making sure you add to them on an ongoing basis.

Other systems I’ve seen in this research that you can add:

  • Content creation system
  • Content distribution system (Mondays you post a story, Tuesdays are for threads, Wednesdays are for listicles, etc.)
  • A system for analyzing your posts. Maybe a Google sheet pulls in all your tweets, and you can look through and figure out why each worked.
  • Incorporate tools into your as you scale. These can be Tweet scheduling tools like TweetHunter (aff link – it’s the one I use), Notion, etc.

There are tons of these you can build out, but start small and incorporate more as you encounter friction in your processes.

If you want the systems Justin has built out, I would recommend his Content Operating system course for templates and how to implement them.

Content Operating System by Justin Welsh

Justin Welsh's exact system for creating a high-quality newsletter and 6-12 pieces of high-performance social media content each week.

Buy Now
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

3. Don’t be Afraid to Repurpose Your Content

Nothing on social media is new. And so we shouldn’t expect all of our content to be new either.

Build out a system for going back and finding posts that did really well, and reuse them. If it’s been over a year, you can copy and paste them word for word if you wanted.

If they were more recent, maybe use that same style of post, but include some new information.

4. Start Reverse Engineering

This entire post has been me going through the archives and reverse engineering Justin’s journey.

I listened to podcast interviews, YouTube videos, read articles, and scoured through Twitter and LinkedIn.

Justin reverse engineered top creators on Twitter to see how they were able to grow their audience so quickly.

What you see your favorite creators doing today is not what is going to lead to your success. You need to go back in their archives and look back 6 months, a year, or longer and replicate what they’ve done.

As Codie Sanchez always says “I’d rather steal someone else’s 10,000 hours” instead of creating her own along every aspect of the creative journey.

The information is out there, you just have to dig deep enough to find it.

This Story, as a Twitter Thread

These posts take me upwards of 20-25 hours to put together.

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chenell basilio

Chenell Basilio

Chenell is the head writer and reverse engineer at Growth In Reverse. She spends her days researching newsletters, audience growth, and generally figuring out how to help others create better content.

She has an almost useless Bachelor's Degree in Geography, enjoys running, listening to podcasts, and eating guacamole. 🥑

Where I hang out on social media: