Rachel Karten Grew “Link in Bio” to 54k Subscribers in 36 Months

Rachel Karten launched her newsletter, Link In Bio, in February 2021.

36 months later she cracked 50,000 subscribers and has a highly valuable audience in her industry.

Her newsletter is now one of the top places for social media managers to stay up-to-date and find community among their peers.

This isn’t a hypergrowth story, but it’s one of determination, flywheels, and sustainable growth.

How Rachel Makes Money

Rachel left her day job in social media in 2020 and started her newsletter shortly thereafter.

While she doesn’t have a “full-time” role, she is still helping companies with social media.

Paid Subscriptions

In April 2023, Rachel launched a paid newsletter for her readers.

Right now, it costs $8/month or $80 per year. You can also join the “C-Suite” level and pay a little extra to support her work.

As a paying member, you get access to a private Discord community as well, that is pretty cool. It’s active enough, but not so much so that you’re missing a ton if you’re not in there constantly – which is usually my main gripe with Discord.

The community seems to have around 1,015 members, which could correlate with the number of paying users she has. Although, it’s not easy to run a community, so who knows how diligent Rachel is with kicking people out if they stop paying.

Not everyone joins the Discord either, so this could be much higher.

But if we use that as a benchmark, you could estimate she’s making around $80k from the paid newsletter. Of course, that’s estimating based on everyone paying for the cheaper, annual plan, but let’s be conservative with the numbers here.

Job Board

Rachel also has a job board where companies can put their openings in front of her audience. This costs $250 per posting, or you can buy a bundle of 3 for $600.

There are currently 43 postings listed there. Who knows what the cadence is or if it’s a busy month, but even if every company is only paying $200 per posting (via buying a 3-pack) that’s around $9k-10k per month from the job board.

That’s potentially more than the paid newsletter is making. Wow.

Sponsorships

Rachel also does have sponsors for some issues of the newsletter. In fact, this is one of the really creative ways she’s built the newsletter, but I’ll get into that more later.

Social Media Consulting

One of the main ways she makes money is through consulting and doing freelance work.

This has the benefit of bringing in money quickly, but also keeps her skills sharp as a social media manager.

Her newsletter is almost like a funnel for people to learn about her skills and hire her as a consultant.


The Growth Timeline

Rachel’s story is kind of a refreshing change from some of the past deep dives. It’s a consistent up and to the right growth timeline, without huge spikes and insanely fast growth.

You may notice that Rachel had around 65k followers on Instagram when she started the newsletter.

A lot of those followers came from her time working at Bon Appetit, because people would follow her for food recommendations and advice.

So while she had a decent sized following there, don’t let that sway you into thinking she had it easy trying to grow this newsletter.

I think if we remove the Instagram numbers from her growth timeline it shows a better story of this growth.

This second one just shows more of the “details” of growth and when certain things happened.

I hope this deep dive helps you see that you can grow without huge viral spikes and writing daily Twitter threads.

Okay, let’s dig into how Rachel was able to grow Link In Bio.

The Growth Levers

🎁 1. Give the people what they want! Find the holes in the content that exists for your industry. Rachel has done this masterfully. And her audience have come to love her for it.

♻️ 2. The interview flywheel. This flywheel gets me so excited, because Rachel is able to create content, show her credibility, and build her subscriber base in one fail swoop.

🤝 3. Build community.

👥 4. Relationships. I know you hear this from me every week, but it’s important!

1. Give the People What They Want 🎁

When Rachel started the newsletter, she was really unimpressed with the content that was out there.

There was a ton of SEO focused content around social media – and it was not helpful for people in the industry. You’ve undoubtedly seen some of these posts:

  • “Here is the Best Time to Post on Social Media”
  • “15 of the Best Influencer Marketing Tricks for 2024”
  • “How Many Hashtags Should You Use On Instagram?”

Sure, some of this might be helpful for a complete newbie who isn’t in the trenches every day, but there wasn’t content around what social media managers actually talked about in their day-to-day.

Rachel created Link In Bio with this in mind and put out content she wished she had access to when she was working for a brand.

Most weeks, she interviews someone who is actually working in the industry to get their insights on how it’s going, what challenges they’re facing, what’s working for them, and more.

This is content you’re not going to find anywhere else. And it’s highly relevant for people working the day to day in social media roles.

If her readers go on to implement some of these ideas, they look smart to their boss and their team.

If we learned anything from Katelyn Bourgoin, you know that making your audience look smart is one of the best ways to get people to share your work.

And, these interviews kick of an insane flywheel that I’m excited to tell you about in a bit.

Novel Insights

One of Rachel’s most popular posts came about when she did her own research into a trend she had seen one brand doing that no one else was.

The post itself is short, but Rachel found this super interesting tactic Reformation was using on social:

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No one was talking about this – but there it was hiding in plain sight.

This post alone got Rachel backlinks from Business Insider and BuzzFeed.

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I mean, talk about credibility for Rachel and her newsletter – the brand called her a “social expert.”

And that backlink had to have driven at least a few subscribers 🙂

This post went extremely well for Rachel as well because it’s hypersharable.

2. The Interview Flywheel ♻️

One of the really interesting ways that Rachel keeps her business going is through what I’m going to call “the interview flywheel.”

Here’s how the flywheel works.

Rachel needs to stay on top of the ever-changing social media landscape, both for her newsletter content and for her consulting side of the business.

To do this, she has conversations with other social media managers who are running these accounts day-to-day. These people are the “boots on the ground” if you will of what’s working and what other brands are trying.

She doesn’t just talk to them in private and call it a day. These interviews also end up being content she publishes in her newsletter.

This means she’s doesn’t have to come up with tons of new ideas to write about.

And it allows her to stay sharp with what’s going on in the social world.

But these interviews also attract new readers. People love seeing their name in print, so they’re likely to share this with friends or their coworkers (who are probably also social media folks).

Those people might also be interested in staying up to date, and join Link In Bio as well.

Once they do, Rachel is also sending insights from around the space and sharing ways to stay sane while working in social media.

Because she has a newsletter about social media, she’s looked at as an expert in the space, and this can lead to consulting gigs.

More readers and more clients, means more potential interviewees – and the flywheel keeps spinning.

Interviews get published, people find her newsletter through this content, and she is seen as an expert.

3. Build Community 🤝

Paying members of Link In Bio also get access to a Discord community where they can interact and share insights real-time.

With this community she’s created a space for brand managers from a variety of industries and different companies to come together and talk about trends and what they’re seeing.

And she knows that even different industries do social much differently. So her Discord has separate channels for a bunch of types of social:

This is brilliant. People who work in automotive are going to approach their social media profiles much differently than those in healthcare.

By breaking these up into groups, people are able to find likeminded folks who are going through the same issues they are.

She also has channels for each platform (LinkedIn, Instagram, Threads, etc.) so you can talk about specific algorithm updates and trends you’re seeing.

People love this group, and Rachel is not afraid to share their testimonials:

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Rachel drops these into her newsletter every few weeks to make sure people don’t forget what they get access to as a paying member.

Here’s another one:

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I love this, because she’s continually keeping the paid community top of mind for people. After you see these a few times, you’re much more likely to say “okay fine!” and sign up 🙂

It’s a very straightforward strategy, but one that’s helping her community learn and grow together.

4. Relationships 👥

If you’ve read any deep dive I’ve written in the past, you know that I harp a lot about building relationships. And Rachel does this extremely well.

Rachel has been able to “seed” that flywheel we just talked about by building relationships over the years.

These relationships lead to interviews, more subscribers, and even sponsors.

Interviews

By building relationships with people in the industry, she’s able to get more interesting folks to interview for her newsletter.

Even if she doesn’t personally know someone, she can probably leverage the “6 Degrees of Rachel Karten” and find someone who does know that person.

And on the flywheel concept, by interviewing people she’s also likely getting recommendations and intros to other people who she could interview. Flywheels are fun!

Sponsor Relationships

I was going through some of the issues of the newsletter, and noticed that the same sponsors kept coming up time and time again.

Sprout Social sponsored the newsletter at least 12 times.

Dash Hudson sponsored Link In Bio at least 9 times.

This helps Rachel by removing a ton of work from the sponsorship acquisition side of things. You get people results, are friendly, and probably send them some insights into clicks, etc. and keep these sponsors coming back.

When you’re considering newsletter sponsors, make sure you’re thinking long-term, not just one-off placements.

Not only does it create less work for you over time, but you’re also building more impactful relationships.

And she was even able to get an interview with the head of social media at Sprout Social:

This reminds me of Packy McCormick’s sponsored deep dives. You can charge more for these spots since they’re essentially a full page promotion for the brand – but done in a more ethical way.

Recommendations & Referrals

Rachel has also said she gets a lot of subscribers from recommendations. These come from putting out good content and building relationships.

A lot of newsletter creators will swap recommendations, i.e. I recommend you and you recommend me.

Here’s one example:

Rachel is recommending Perfectly Imperfect (and Hunter Harris!).

If we go to Perfectly Imperfect’s page and look at their recommendations, what do you think we’ll find?

A classic recommendation swap. These can be super impactful and a big growth lever – I know this because they have been for me as well.

These kinds of things don’t happen without some sort of relationship being built.

How You Can Replicate Some of Rachel’s Success

I think the overarching themes across this deep dives are ones that I feel like I come back to every week:

  • Get started
  • Be consistent
  • Building relationships

Okay we’re done.

Just kidding. 🙂

But in all reality, these are the foundations of any newsletter, creator-focused business – pretty much any business if we’re being honest.

Get Started

You want to know a fun fact? Rachel announced her newsletter almost two full months before she actually send the first real issue.

Two months.

Maybe she deleted some of those first posts, but maybe not.

I know there are a lot of you out there hesitating to hit publish, so I hope this makes you feel better.

At the end of the day, Rachel got started. She did hit publish and now she’s seeing the success of putting herself out there like this.

If you’ve been putting off starting for a while, take this as your sign to get started. The longer you wait, the longer you’re going to keep waiting.

Build Relationships

People say the magic happens in the DM’s – and it’s true.

Relationships can take you from being someone who writes good stuff, to having a much bigger audience than you would have without those relationships.

They can also lead to long-term sponsorships, making your job as a creator even easier.

Message the creators you enjoy following.
Reply to their emails.

Start planting those relationship seeds before you need them. Your growth will compound over time.

You know who is really good at building relationships, and even had a full-on system for managing them? Austin Belcak.

He takes this to another level. One example is he sent Justin Welsh some local beers because they both enjoy craft breweries.

If you haven’t yet, go read that deep dive so you can get a better idea of how to build and sustain relationships like this for a long time.

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: