Codie Sanchez runs the amazing newsletter Contrarian Thinking, whose topics include passive income, generational wealth, contrarian investing, and learning from strivers who think big.
Her motto is “Question everything and stack income streams”, and that’s exactly what we talk about in this episode. Not just “how to build a newsletter”, but one of Nathan’s favorite topics: how to build wealth!
You’ll learn how Codie went from journalist to investor to partner in a fund, and how she runs her 100,000-subscriber newsletter plus other companies besides. Codie talks growing a newsletter from 100 subscribers to 1,000 and beyond, but that’s not all.
Tune in and find out:
- Why Joe Rogan’s deal with Spotify was a huge mistake.
- Getting people to promote you… without sounding thirsty.
- How to build an all-star team for your growing business.
- Whether ads or sponsors are a better way to monetize your newsletter.
It’s a great show!
Links & Resources
- Unconventional Acquisitions
- Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel
- Joe Rogan
- Howard Stern
- Mr. Beast
- Noah Kagan Marketing & Business Blog – OkDork.com
- Sam Parr CEO at The Hustle
- Jonah Goldberg – The Dispatch
- Charles E Gaudet II » Predictable Profits
- Contrarian Cashflow
Codie Sanchez’s Links
The funny thing about audience is money doesn’t care if people care about you. So capital as a leverage source, doesn’t care about relevancy, your dollar, as long as it stays in the market. And you keep reinvesting will have compound interest. The thing about audience is, it can be a depreciating asset. If you don’t pay attention to it, if you don’t upkeep it just like you would a house, then your audience is going to think that you’re not relevant.
Today’s episode is with Codie Sanchez. Now Codie has a fascinating background where she started in journalism and there, she was covering a lot of things in Mexico and on the US-Mexico border. So she has crazy stories from that. And then she goes into investing, right? Like it goes to Goldman Sachs and Vanguard and goes to the whole investing world.
And then now she’s in not just investing, where she’s a partner in a fund, what was the investing in cannabis companies, but she’s also running a newsletter, with over a hundred thousand subscribers, which is pretty crazy. And we get into how to monetize the newsletter, how to grow it, her take on the creator economy, so many other things. So it was a great conversation and let’s dive in.
Codie, thanks for coming on the show.
My pleasure. Thanks for having me.
So you and I have we talk newsletters and everything, which we will, but first we have a shared love for the same topic, a topic that some people love to talk about. Like we do, and other people dance around and think is weird and awkward and everything else. And that is building wealth. Like you and I both love this topic.
Why is it something that you, what about so much on all your social channels and your newsletter and everything else?
Yeah, well, I mean, yeah, I nerd out about this. It might be just because I’ve been in finance for 72 years, but, more than that, I think if you want to. Control the art, you have to control the resources behind the art. And so I’ve always loved creating, I mean, similar to you in multiple different ways, whether you’re creating a business or a newsletter or whatever the case may be.
I like the act of creating and if you don’t have the financial resources to actually do the creative, and then there are all of these pressures that get put upon you, and I don’t think you get control of the art. And so that would probably be one of my main reasons. And then secondarily, I just think financial freedom without financial freedom, you don’t have any freedoms. And so that’s sort of one of the building blocks, I think, crucial for people to get.
Yeah, that makes sense. So, one thing that you talk about quite a bit is leverage and finding leverage on, you know, as a tool for building wealth, maybe explain some of your thinking behind that and how you’d like to encourage your readers for your newsletter and, you know, companies you invest in to find leverage.
Yeah, well, we were kind of talking about this before, you know, I thought I was like brilliant and some of these ideas, and then I realized that like the internet also now has caught up and some of this stuff is more normalized, but, You know, when I thought about leverage, I thought about it with four parameters.
And that was first you had labor, then you had capital. Then you had code. Then you had audience. Now Naval Ravikant talks about the first three. he doesn’t mention the fourth and the fourth I think is really, in my opinion will be sort of the next frontier, the creator economy, and leveraging your audience in order to get different revenue streams.
Because audience is really fascinating in that it’s like an annuity, meaning that it can cashflow consistently, but instead of annuity—only having one revenue stream, you know, they pay you out based on the investment that you make—audience can have have a billion revenue streams. And so anyway, when I think about leverage, I don’t think about it as a financial way.
Lots of people think about leverage. Like you loaned me a dollar and I take that dollar and go do something else with it. but the world we live in today that was old school leverage, you know, that was the leverage that created. Basically the biggest Titans of industry in the US: the Rockefellers, the Rothschilds—they were all created right after banking was established.
So the banks came out, capital was created. These guys made a ton of money, and then you had code come out, software, right? Robots in the form of software and the next biggest billionaires were created. That’s the Jobs, that’s the Elon Musk, etc. And now in the next realm, I think those with audience will be the next sort of wave of billionaires that are created.
And they’re all enabled based on code to some degree. but I think that’ll be the next evolution. So if you are able to understand leverage in a modern day format meaning not just human capital, the most inefficient form—labor like you and I working for living and renting out our time—and not just money like me and the fund, having a bunch of other people’s capital behind me.
But instead code paired with audience, it’s going to be so, so powerful. And I think we’re just starting to see the fruits of that labor.
Yeah. And when you get the audience going, like you said, there’s so many different channels that you can drive revenue from. And so I love that. I hadn’t thought about it, of. You know the difference between an audience and an annuity of one channel versus many, because so many people are finding that, right?
You can do a paid newsletter, you can raise a fund and have the deal flow from that. You can bring a lot more than just money to the companies that you invest in.
Yeah, I was just going to say, you know, I’m in finance, right? And so I have a lot of partners that are older than I am, and they like, kind of don’t understand this internet thing. They’re brilliant at structuring. They’re brilliant at deal flow. but when it comes to the internet and creating an audience, they’re kind of like code of your faces on everything.
It’s weird. Like, you know, do you just want to take selfies all day and like film these videos, they’re really like, they’re serious. They’re sincere in those questions. And, that makes a lot of sense because that was their wave of capital creation and wealth creation. And it’s, you know, we, humans calcify as we get older, we don’t like change, but what’s fascinating for me is that they’re just now starting to get it, because we’ve been able to raise millions and millions of dollars based off an audience that is a newsletter and that is social media channels.
And so I think it will change, but I’m not sure it’ll change for the generation before us. It’ll be our generation. And the next that really capitalize on it.
Yeah, that makes sense. okay. I want to dive into the creator economy. so many other things, but maybe before we do that, we should take a step back and, and, you’ve had an interesting career going from journalism to the most traditional forms of finance to now, you know, a lot more unconventional, sides of exactly what you’re talking about, where the older partners are like, wait, how do you do business?
You know? And so I I’d love to take a step back. what got you into journalism initially, and then, then we can tie it all the way through to running a newsletter, you know, later in the conversation.
Yeah. Well, I mean, what got me in initially is I love to write, I think the power of the pen is unparalleled and, continues to be one of the most important things that you can do. And you obviously think the same because you have so much about copywriting. In everything that you do. And, you know, most people think about writing like journals or books or literature, but in fact, it’s also sales and it’s also marketing and then it’s also brand new in it.
So many things. So that’s what started me off in journalism. but what was fascinating, I think is what less, why I got into journalism and more why I got out, which is I realized that. In my opinion, this was a little bit different of a time. We weren’t. So opinionated in journalism, then you were supposed to really have an unbiased perspective.
But what was fascinating is I could spread this awareness. Like we won the, Ethel Kennedy award for print journalism and the Howard buffet award, for, journalism and all of that was great. We had our 15 minutes, but we were writing about these heart wrenching. Stories in Latin America, about humans, separated from each other at the U S Mexico border.
And what I realized is we got a bunch of press, a bunch of people heard about it and nothing changed. And so I was just upset a little bit that you could raise awareness and have no material impact. And, what I started to realize is that the thing that actually makes things change is, is money. It’s the green language that we all speak.
And power really stems from who controls the money and who can then make control of the laws or legislature or whatever the case may be. And so I actually got out of journalism and into finance because I wanted to understand money, not because I liked financial spreadsheets and it’s probably the best decision that I ever made because I could be an investigative journalist behind the scenes asking questions.
Why do you do it this way? I don’t understand it. Can you go deeper? And I could draw all the information in to understand this language of money, while simultaneously. Kind of keeping it dumbed down, which is what journalists are supposed to be good at take complex contexts and sort of skinny it down so that you and I can understand.
And so, ever since then, I’ve realized that, you know, I still believe in the power of Penn and sharing, but in a way that was not on somebody else’s platform in a newsletter or in a newspaper, sort of how we used to do it old school, I wasn’t interested in that.
Yeah. And so you went all the way from, you know, pure journalism, straight to jumping into Vanguard and Goldman Sachs. was that a hard transition to make?
Well, I certainly didn’t know what a mutual fund was back then. I knew nothing about the stock market. I mean, I couldn’t have told you what a stock ticker was. So it was hard in the fact that I had no idea, you know, I didn’t know anything about this space. but the part that wasn’t hard is, as a journalist.
All you’re doing all day is getting a new and interesting topic. Getting curious about it, opening 572 Google tabs going really deep into all of them and eventually pulling that data into something that resembles a storyline. Right. And so I could do that with finance too, and that’s probably how I got through it.
And it’s why I think. You know, my newsletter Contrarian Thinking is all about the tagline question, everything and think critically. And it’s because if I had to hire on one basis, it would be your ability to ask questions. Are you willing to do it? Are they good questions? And do you actually put yourself out there in a place of vulnerability as opposed to ego?
And, and if you can do those things, you can be an incredible investor and you can usually get to the heart of most problems. And so it wasn’t that hard from that standpoint. the only thing that is hard in finance and money is so much of it is generational. You know, when you go to Goldman Sachs, everybody went to Harvard and Yale and Stanford, and I went to Arizona state for undergrad, you know, so they were literally like, Who are you related to?
Who do you know, or who did you sleep with? You know, and I’m like, Oh God, you know, I’m just here trying to figure it out. and then I did go on for the advanced degree at Georgetown later to sort of like, make myself feel better, that I was capable of being there. but that part was a little bit hard.
It just, you had to prove yourself a lot. but then the trick and you know, this is, you just work harder than everybody else ask the right questions, learn each time and outwork everyone else. And. And usually, especially in something like finance that’s so playbook oriented, you can have pretty massive success, I think.
Yeah, that makes sense. And then take us through, into joining the fund that you’re at now and investing in the cannabis space.
Yeah, I’ve always looked for emerging markets. I don’t believe I’ve ever been smart enough to go where the market’s really competitive and beat out everybody else. Instead of doing that, what I try to do is find where is there a space where the narrative. The common narrative or a common sense is different from the actual numbers.
So we tell ourselves a story over here, but the numbers show something different. And anytime there’s a disconnect between the two, we have what I call contrarian arbitrage, and that’s what I’m looking for in every deal I do. And that’s what I’m looking for in every opportunity. And I saw it in cannabis because cannabis was hugely stigmatized.
There was no money going into the space. And so I said, well, wait a second. If no money is going into the space, but people have used weed for millennia and they like it. I think that there will be an opportunity going forward. And so I started to allocate some investments to the space, which is what I usually do when I find an area that I’m intrigued by.
See if I’m right. and it turned out there was a huge opportunity. And so it was very similar to what I did Latin America, where I found an emerging market in Chile. it was a new financial market that was opening up to exchange traded funds. And so I opened up our Latin America business for a company called first trust.
And the only reason we had success and we’re able to build a billion plus business, and assets under management, not revenue, is because, Nobody else was doing it. And there was this disconnect. People thought it was dangerous. You know, they didn’t know if you wanted to go down South. We did some business in Columbia.
They were concerned about that market. I knew that it wasn’t the Columbia of old. and I think it’s actually the same thing in the crater economy today. And we’ll see more and more. VCs and Gen Z investors and individual corporations, or what I call “You corps”. because that’s the next move is that, you know, media is in just as much of a mix up and disruptive state as cannabis was. And I, and I think that’ll be one of the next frontiers.
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I love the phrase, contrarian arbitrage. maybe let’s start with that in the creator economy. Where do you see the contrarian arbitrage right now?
Yeah. Well, first of all, I think, the biggest opportunity is to look at yourself, you know, as a You Corp. So instead of an S-corp where we’re, you know, in a corporation, how can you individually be a company, right. And what are all the revenue lines that you can have as a company? For instance, right now I have, you know, Contrarian Thinking, which is a sort of a media business.
It’s got a newsletter underlying at a free version and a premium version. We did a founding membership, Uh, you know, opportunity that was an annual subscription, a little bit more expensive. We’ll do a monthly version. we also sell another product for another company I own called Unconventional Acquisitions, through Contrarian Thinking.
So I use my own business instead of having ads. On there. and then I have another couple of businesses that support the ecosystem. So a podcast production business that I invest in and we’ll do more audio through. we also have a business that does digital media. Which we own a portion of it that does, PPC.
And so, you know, I’ve used this, whatever social media following and following, I have a contrarian thinking to add on these other businesses to it so that, you know, from my peace of mind right now, too many of us think. In a ridiculous way, which is that, you know, we read Peter Thiel’s Zero to One and we were like, Oh, we got to do the one thing and we have to be massively focused or we’re not going to be successful.
The problem is you’re not diversified then. And so I think that’s the biggest change is you’re going to see people diversify their revenue strands, and you’re going to see you corporations that treat themselves as a corporation that have many revenue streams in it, as opposed to being not focused. so right now, you know, I probably have like, 15 revenue streams that come from different business lines that are all related to my media businesses.
And that’s going to be in my opinion, in the future. And we’ll. Increasingly because we don’t trust institutions as much anymore. And this sort of divided world that we have, I think we’ll start trusting individuals more. And I think we’ve already seen that happen with things like the Joe Rogan deal. and I think we’ve seen it happen with some of the cults of personality of these other people, whether you like them or not on each side of the equation.
Okay. We’ve got to dive in there cause you have, you have strong opinions on the Joe Rogan deal. I think a lot of people have said like, Oh, this validates the creator economy, this is amazing. Joe got a fantastic deal. And I know from our conversations that you have a little bit of a different take.
Oh, I think Joe Rogan made a massive mistake. And the only reason I know this is because I was digging through media businesses and looking at their P and L and balance sheets. Right. So, Because I’m a nerd. So I go back to finance. You go back to the numbers and you ignore the narrative. If you hear the narrative, it’s that Joe Rogan is rich and he’s moving to Texas and he’s avoiding taxes and he built a weird podcast studio and it’s super cool, right. But the truth is when you look at the numbers, it’s fascinating. And there’s been a few people who have written about this as well in regards to Howard Stern. And what the, the The funny thing about audience is money doesn’t care if people care about you, right? So capital as a leverage source, doesn’t care about relevancy, your dollar, as long as it stays in the market. And you keep reinvesting will have compound interest, right? It’ll keep growing as you keep adding to it. And you really you’re pretty passive. You don’t have to do much with it.
The thing about audience is it can be a depreciating asset. Meaning if you don’t pay attention to it, if you don’t upkeep it just like you would a house, then your audience. Is going to think that you’re not relevant anymore. And a perfect example of that is, Howard Stern, Howard Stern built Sirius basically.
And the numbers are incredible. If you look at Sirius radio and the amount of users that they kept, because Stern was on there. Now, if you were to ask a Gen Z-er who Howard Stern is. They don’t have any idea. I mean, I want to do these, the effort here, cause I wasn’t cause like no idea. Right. And and why is that?
It’s because he gated himself and he allowed a platform to own his own company. So he became less relevant, which means that his audience depreciated and his compounding interest lessened because he couldn’t keep putting it back in. And I think Joe Rogan’s done the same thing. So Joe Rogan, by going to.
So Spotify has had to stop posting videos on his YouTube channel, which had 8 or 9 million views viewers and has had to stop on, you know, Apple iTunes, where I listened to his podcast. So I no longer listen to him and has basically cut his audience—we don’t know he hasn’t shared the numbers, but have to imagine—at least by half. And I would be amazed if he kept half of his audience on Spotify. so we’ll see, they don’t share that. and instead of doing that, what I’m baffled by is who gave him the advice on this deal, because it is so easy to see with, you know, 150 to 180 downloads, which is what he said he had per month.
And with, you know, an audience. In double digit millions per month. if he had put any sort of paid gate on it, just, just a premium payment a month, he would have gotten just as much in revenue. Let’s call it 65 to 100 million dollars instead of a clean 100 million dollars. I have a spreadsheet that I kind of worked this out in because I was so I was like, I can’t be this wrong about this.
And, and so he would have recouped his entire, at least three year, Spotify deal. I’m guessing it’s a three-year deal again, this isn’t disclosed, but usually those it’s definitely not a one-year deal. It probably can’t be a two year deal because that’s not a long enough to grow a business. It’s at least three or maybe more.
And, and he did it for a hundred million dollars, which he could have gotten in a year. And so that to me is astounding not to mention now he can’t productize on YouTube. and he’s had some hiccups in the platform actually, whether or not it’s true, you know, letting him play some of the more controversial episodes.
And so, I think that is. Gonna be something very different in the future. And you’re never going to see like a Mr. Beast go and sign an exclusive deal with somebody because you can monetize content in a way that you can’t monetize music. People will pay for a Joe Rogan and China is the perfect example of this.
They’re doing it all over and I think we will do it in the future as well. And we’ve already done it with newsletters. Podcasts are just a matter of time.
That’s interesting to think about the continuum between say like Howard Stern and Mr. Beast of you’ve got different business types and then, you know, different generations and Joe Rogan sitting like being the transition, the, you know, the transition creator in there who is using a lot of these new ways to create, you know, on the forefront of some podcasting and stuff like that, but still you’re being attached to this older business model of letting me do a big deal with Spotify rather than pursuing, you know, product lines, memberships, et cetera.
Totally. I actually had an interesting call with one of the very high execs at CAA, and I got connected to her because her brother’s an investor in one of my funds. And when she heard about Contrarian Thinking that I grew by a hundred thousand subs, and I know she was thinking in the back of the mind, the Joe Rogan thing and like, Oh, I should, I should figure out what these people are doing with newsletters.
And I should like get a board seat. Right. So she wanted a board seat on Contrarian Thinking; I’m like, I don’t even have a board. Like we’re just running. We don’t know what we’re doing right now. And, and she said to me, well, you, you know, you too, Codie could like do a, a big, obviously not Joe Rogan, but like you could do a deal at some point maybe.
And that’s what she was going for. And I had to stop her and say like, you’re, you’re missing the business model. The business model is not that I have like a platform or a brand that allows me to monetize the business model is I go direct to the people. They helped me monetize and then nobody ever owns me ever again.
And if I want to do some deal on a one-off basis on something that I do, like series or something fine. but. For the future. I don’t think anybody will sell out to, a network like that again, or if they do it’s because they really don’t want to run the business and they’re over it and they’re kind of slowing down and that I could see it.
Yeah, that makes sense. Because the other side of it is I think it’s an amazing deal. For Spotify, where, when they look at the long-term benefits of, you know, what a subscriber is worth to them, you know, I obsess over like freemium business models, free to paid conversion rates. And Spotify is the gold standard of, you know, in like software and SAS have free to pay conversion rates and then they do great on retention to everything else.
So for Spotify there they’ll print money off of this deal. It’s just not the win for the creator.
Oh, you nailed it. I mean, they had a $3 billion uptick in their stock price after Joe Rogan closed a hundred million dollar deal. I mean, that’s how, you know, the deal is shitty and it was great for Spotify, but not for Joe. and not to mention, I mean, I doubt he got equity in the company. Maybe that’s some of the upside that he got.
But you know, if you see the. The value of Spotify today versus then, and the continual capture, like they’re winning as the platform, as opposed to the creator. And I think creators are waking up to that more and more and more, especially as they’re able to pause, you know, the like traditional celebrities, the actual Hollywood celebrities, I think are usually running gun in competing from you to movie deals, whatever the case may be.
But now that. The movie theaters and, or I’m sorry, the movie studios get to decide who gets to work. I think people are slowing down and saying, wait a second. You know, I don’t need these guys. Like I used to. And, you know, and even they, and they need massive budgets, you know, to do their films, podcasts. It costs us nothing.
Look at what we’re doing this for right now. You know, I have like a camera I’m sitting on like some pillows at a higher chair. So the views okay. Behind me, like this all costs 20 bucks. Right. You know, it’s very cheap. and so, yeah. Yeah, I think going forward, you don’t need the platforms to give you the money to, for you to make cool things.
Yeah. What do you think about the amount of capital and attention that’s pouring into the creator economy right now? Like we’ve seen, so ConvertKit is totally self-funded and we don’t. Take on capital and any desire for that, but the amount of outreach, lately it’s absolutely wild. Like, I got some of them, Google ventures reached out and I was like, okay, I’ll take like one call every quarter or something, but it was the founder of Google ventures, the former CEO of Google.
And I was like, there’s a level of money and attention coming into it, into the space that, you know, a year ago, 18 months ago was not the case at all. So I’m curious for your take.
Yeah, well, I mean, I think we have a little bit of a. Short-term memory. I mean, everybody thinks about Apple and like Steve Jobs is like doing a $10 million seed fund or seed raise. Like that’s not what happened, you know, they self-funded by selling the hard, you know, motherboards to a bunch of mom and pop shop shops forever.
And so, I think. You know, people caught on to tech, but they caught on later than people remember. And this, you know, a wash of money, that’s common to not just the creator economy, but every single thing that can be VC backed right now is VC backed. you know, I was, I have a good friend. That’s a partner at Andreessen Horowitz and, and he told me.
You told me verbatim that capital is a commodity to them. They have so much money that it’s not interesting. They turn it away and Sequoia perfect point. They don’t take new investors unless they’re non-profits or pensions. If I had a hundred million dollars and I went to Sequoia, they would tell me to go pound sand, like that’s wild.
And so to your point, I don’t know, I’m of two minds, because part of me is like, wow, well, when you have that kind of rocket fuel, you can grow like crazy. Right? And so there’s a real benefit to that. And there’s the scary part is they try to scare you. If we don’t fund you, we’re going to fund Joe. And Joe is going to sweep the floor with the amount of money that I have, but I’m going to give him Write, which is what they do.
So there is that. but I also think in this world today, you know, if I’m sitting in your shoes, I, I mean, I’m not taking, I don’t, I don’t want to take funding. Why? Because I don’t really want to exit contrarian thinking ever, you know, and yours is a SAS business, much more equitable. but, you know, you probably don’t want to exit right now.
You want to build something cool cashflow for a long time. And if you do exit, you don’t want to do it because of pressure for a 10 year fund return and to have, you know, To work for another boss, which is investors. So, but you’re rare. Most people do give into the money. so it’ll be interesting to see what happens, but I do not think that capital is the only type of rocket fuel anymore.
There’s so, I mean, perfect example is like, look at what we’re seeing on Twitter. I mean, you and I go back and forth on Twitter all the time and I’m amazed, like. You know, Sean Perea and having him in country and thinking on Friday with him raising three and a half million dollars, like on Twitter and 30 days from like total strangers.
And, you know, there’s just so much money a wash, that it does. It makes me a little nervous, but I get why you won’t take it because then you work for somebody again.
Right. Yeah. So let’s, let’s pivot a little bit and dive into newsletters since, that’s, you know, what’s on the, on the label of art of newsletters. I’d love to hear, take us behind the scenes of growing concern and thinking and what it’s been like to, to grow it to the level that you’re at now versus how many subscribers do you have on contrarian thinking?
We have about, yeah, we have about 102,000 subscribers now, so that’s awesome. Thanks. You know, we, there’s a couple of things that led there. Like one, you know, I had a newsletter list that was maybe like 10,000 or something like that, that I had just never paid attention to. It was called the struggle.
Isn’t real back in the day. and I hadn’t emailed them and like, Yeah. Year’s I don’t even know. And so I started with that and then, you know, you and I both have been kind of public, not like trying to be public failures, but relatively public on social media. So I had like some social capital built up.
I’d never asked. Anybody for a dime. I’ve never asked anybody to subscribe to anything. for years I just kind of talked out there and if somebody was interested. Cool. but what happened in January of 2020 is to be fair. I saw. A world in which we were not open to thinking critically anymore. It was a world where questioning things.
Wasn’t okay. And I’m a journalist. I think that is the most important thing that we can continue to do is ask why, why, why, why, why, why, why, why? And people weren’t doing that. And I think that’s really dangerous. And so I emailed a group of my friends and I kind of went to the ones that I thought were most influential.
And I said, I’m going to start this newsletter. It’s just going to be for us. If there are 10 of us on here having real conversations while we’re locked in our basements during this pandemic, then awesome. We’ll have cool conversations and it’ll be hopefully compelling. And I hope you disagree with me on some things.
And if, if that’s all there is then great. So that was sort of, the impetus was thinking critically. And then, it grew from there and, and I did, I’m not one of those people. That’s like, Oh, they just showed up. And one day, like I created this thing and then the millions of people just found me and like, Oh, it was so sweet.
Like I never believe that I’m always like, no, not like what happened. Tell me the truth. So I did, I’ll get to some of the Marketing things I did. I absolutely did do that. But when I started, it was really with this sort of idea. And then, how it evolved slightly was I realized like a lot of the reasons why we aren’t questioning things is because we’re scared about our financial freedom.
We’re scared if we questioned things, we’ll get de platformed or, somebody won’t agree with us or whatever the case may be. And this isn’t a political thing. This is just like broad based questioning. And so I started it. Some people got interested. They shared it with a few people who had other big platforms and it started to grow.
And then I have a link if you go to Contrarian Thinking, that says how I went from, you know, basically my first zero subscribers to 10,000. And on there, you can see the hustle, the LinkedIn posting, the social media posting, you know, the emailing, all of my contacts, asking them if they want to join. I did all that stuff.
And it was a slow roll. But I’ve never used ads and I’ve done a lot of, organic promotion and cross collaborations like this, which has probably been the fastest way that I grew was like, you know, this’ll be great. And then, you know, Noah hooked me up, Noah Kagan hooked me up with talking about it and Sam Parr at the hustle and trends.
And, I think when you’re saying something, because you can’t shut up about it, like you just have to say the thing, People tend to respond to that. And that’s how stuff seemingly goes viral. And I haven’t ever had anything go crazy, crazy viral to like the tune of hundreds of thousands, but definitely thousands and tens of thousands.
And it’s spread.
Yeah, that makes sense. So when you’re putting together, you know, a partnership or someone you’re wanting to do a crossposting with, I know newsletter swaps are, are kind of a popular thing. I’m curious how you go about that. You, and I have a bit of an advantage in that we’ve been, we’re friends with a lot of people already.
And, you know, so it’s kind of just like texting a friend, like, like Sam Parr, and saying Hey, let’s do this thing, but how do you go about planning those out? Or are they all just purely?
Yeah. I mean, it’s, I think it’s really hard. I was just, I have a little bit of a team now I was a one-woman show forever. And then. basically last month or the month following Noah again, yelled at me and was like, like, this is a real business. Why don’t you treat it like one? And I was like, why don’t you mind your business and go back to talking about tacos.
And he, basically was right. And so, I hired a few people and I’ve been having them do try to do cross promos and to be perfectly frank, it doesn’t work with strangers for me. Like it doesn’t work for a couple different reasons. One because. I think it comes off as like thirsty to people. You know, if you’re like, Hey, will you share my newsletter?
And I’ll share yours, unless it’s a newsletter that curates other newsletters or other specific things, and it’s hyper targeted. broad-based outreach hasn’t really worked for us. the thing that has worked is like you said, You know, providing a lot of content and value to people for years, and then finally calling in a favor, then also engaging a lot with their stuff.
So like to people that I like, I’ll S I’ll write about something that they’re doing authentically. No expectation. And then I’ll share it with them I’ll be like, Hey man, I’m doing this thing. Like, and this was cool that you did this. So, I wrote about it and maybe you get a few new subscribers or whatever the case may be.
And, and so that’s helped, but I think the biggest thing is authentic connection and, and actually giving to people before you ask, we tried piping for awhile, which was like newsletter. cross co-lab like a site. and you’ll have to tell me if anything’s worked for you, but I found it was a lot of, it was wasted time, you know, you’d reach out to somebody they’re mostly one man shows, so then they’d reach back out to you and they’d be like, yeah, I’m interested.
And then you’d get into the nitty gritty and then they’d like fall off and then they’d come back a little bit later and be like, Oh yeah. Well, where are we going to do about that thing again? And, So I, I didn’t find that was hugely valuable. It’s much easier in my opinion, to retweet people, to, you know, ping back and forth on Twitter, to repost people on Instagram, to like post people and Instagram stories and use other social media platforms and then circle them back around to the newsletter, which is usually what we do.
I like what you’re saying about writing about people. Because that brings it, that ties back into being a journalist, a journalist, right. Of taking their story. Anytime you see someone doing something interesting, right? Like you wrote about Noah and his, his video and everything. He posted about getting to a hundred thousand subscribers on YouTube and you can do it from such a genuine perspective where you’re like, Oh, Really they’re doing that.
Like, anytime you come across something on the internet where you’re like, I hadn’t thought about it that way, instead of just like putting it in your private notes and archiving that and remembering to circle back to it later, like write about it in your public notes and say like, Oh, it’s amazing how Sean went and raised this fund on, you know, on Twitter or like other things he’s done.
He had a paid newsletter and he shut it down and you could write about that and you know, anything you’re fascinated and then publish it. You know, or send it to the person before and saying, Hey, I’m about to publish this. You want to give me any commentary? Or like, would you mind making sure, like fact check a little bit, make sure I got everything correct.
And that’s such a great way to, to meet someone and get to know them when they’re like, wow, you care deeply about what I’m doing. You understand it more than like a quick glance at Twitter. but you know that at that high level, and if you find it fascinating, you probably think like I do. And so great.
Sure. Let’s be friends. And by the way, thanks for sending me.
Yeah, exactly. And also one of the things that’s worked for us is like reaching out to people that I think are doing interesting things and just saying like, Hey, this is really interesting. I might want to highlight this and here’s where I’m at. And maybe this is useful to you or maybe I’m too small.
I don’t know. but like, what do you care about and what are you actually focusing on right now? Is there something cool that you’re doing that I should know about and that I should push out as opposed to the stuff that’s already out in the marketplace. And that just happened with, Hmm, I’m blanking.
But another person we’re going to do a cross promote with. And, and he basically was doing a panel on SaaS evaluations and was like, well, you know, the newsletter cross promo doesn’t really work for me, but if you want to share this thing, why don’t you come on my panel, it’s going to be to a thousand people.
And maybe we get, you know, mutual contacts from there. And so leading again with like, what do they care about? It’s a pretty selfish ask for me to reach out and be like, Hey, bud. Trying to grow. You want to go ahead and give me all those followers you created. That’d be awesome. and instead saying, Hey, what do you care about?
And then I’ll try to help you grow that. And you know, it’s the used car salesman way. Honestly, we’re trying to do it in a nice way, but that’s why they give you the hot dog or they give you the soda or they give you the lollipop. They like almost make you take something. And that’s because it works. It’s called reciprocity.
If I give you something and you take it, you feel like you have to give me something. And, and humans are funny like that.
I’d like to get into a little bit of those nitty gritty tactics that you did, you know, for someone listening, who has, you know, they’ve started their newsletter, maybe they’ve got a hundred subscribers or, or 500. What are some of those things you’d recommend to get them to 1,000, 2,500.
Yeah, well, first of all, you know, this, it, like if you want to do a subscription game, it is a, it’s not a viral one-and-done situation. Sorry, not going to happen. So if you don’t have a consistent process for moving forward on client acquisition or, you know, email acquisition every day, I don’t think you’re gonna make it.
Maybe you don’t have to do it every day, but at least like one day a week, you’re spending two or three hours thinking about how do I get more eyeballs on the stuff that I do. a lot of people think if I build it, they will come. And I think you’re crazy. That’s not how it works. and so the, the couple of things that I did are like, here’s some hacky stuff, like for instance, in your Gmail contacts, If you go to all your Gmail contacts and you click on it inside of actually all of us have like six different emails we’ve had from different companies over the years, and you click on all of them.
There’s a whole host of other contacts, which is basically anybody that’s ever emailed you of all time. Now you gotta be really careful for email laws. But you can reach out to these people on a non-spam basis. So individualized or through mail merge, and basically say, Hey, I started this thing we’ve been in communication.
I was really honest about it. I was like, we’ve been in communication at some point in time. You could have been selling me an ice cream cone in Mexico city, or we could be buds. Like, I don’t really know. There’s a lot of you on here. but, I’m starting this newsletter. Here’s why, here’s how it might be interesting for you.
You’ll only get one email from me. It’s. From me direct, I’m a human on the other line of this. And if you want to join along, that’d be rad. so, and here’s Here’s the thing. Some people are going to respond. Like when I wrote that somebody, like, I got some nasty comments on, on my newsletter, Like if anybody did that to me, I would never speak to you again.
And it’s like, okay, great. Right. Well then don’t speak to me again. Like we obviously okay. and so, you know, just put yourself out there, but I think that that Google contacts hacks kind of fun. And then you can download all your. You know, phone contacts, which I did to just make sure to not auto subscribe people that’s shitty.
But I thought about it, like, 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, you’re 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. And then, some of the other stuff I did was just using tools that are very straightforward, you know, like being really dogmatic about buffer scheduling. You know, a tool for scheduling on social media consistently, being really dogmatic on asking some of the people who are centers of influence in my life.
I mean, we’re all six degrees away from Kevin bacon, right? So we’re probably six degrees away from everybody else. And so asking people that I know have some influence, even if it’s just with the PTA, Hey, I’m creating this thing. Would you be open to sharing it? Like, you know, do you have anybody else that you think.
You know, would be interested in this and those little tiny ads probably got me to my first, you know, 1,000 2000. And, I didn’t know, a more viral way to do it than to go sort of modern day door knocking. and that’s what worked for me.
Yeah. And I think if you think about it like a flywheel, those are the first few times, like those first rotations are a lot of those really hard, hard things. And then now future rotations with flywheel, like if you think of a fly or a turn of the flywheel as like an additional thousand subscribers, that first one is really hard. And so you all the scrappy stuff but now Write we’re talking let’s go from 102,000 subscribers to 103,000 subscribers And you’re like over here and you’re like give a flywheel spin you know like you’re there we You know we got And it’s still a bunch of work, but, not to the same level that it was in the early days.
That’s exactly right. Yeah. And you, your, your goals shift. So you’re like, if you’re the type of person that’s into this, you’re never happy. Like every time I have a week, that’s like less than 500 or a thousand new subscribers. I’m like, Oh, what’s happening. And then, you know, back in the day, that would have been the Holy grail.
And so I think just. Trying to remember where you’ve come from and the journey along. And then also not forget, you know, the reason we create any of this stuff is good because we think that there’s, somebody might want it. And so if there are so not to forget and to engagement, instead of subscribers is one of the things I have to train myself for, because I.
Who cares if I have 500,000 people on the list, but nobody’s really engaged. Nobody’s commenting. Nobody’s asking questions. That’s worth much less to me than a 50,000 person really engaged email list.
On the engagement side, you have, an interesting writing style in a couple of things. You’re very conversational and you’re very like straight to the point, whatever. Someone else would dance around, you know, or say with, nuance. You’re just like here it is. Exactly. And I’d love to is that because that’s naturally who you are or is that trying to drive engagement?
How do you think about it?
That’s a great point. you know, I think it’s probably a pushback for the fact that I’ve been in finance for so long and we have to be so, you know, prim and proper all the time. And, and it’s exhausting and I don’t think it’s very efficient. And as a sales person, you’re always just like listening to the other person and pretending like, Oh yes.
Tell me about what you did. Johnny’s soccer game last night. Like I cannot wait. and so with the newsletter, it was a chance to not do that. I was just like, fuck it. You know, I’m gonna have to say what I want to say. If people don’t like it, that’s all like, we don’t, it doesn’t, it’s not in your face.
If you don’t want to listen to it, you just unsubscribe. And so it’s not mean it’s just, you know, I’m not your cup of tea. No problem. and so. I think that’s probably a natural, it’s one, you know, all of us have so many segments, right? There’s like the Nathan with your wife. And then there’s like the Nathan with like, you know, the CEO of XYZ company.
That’s coming to you to give you a bunch of money. Like we’re all a little bit different. And so this Codie is, yeah, she’s kind of in your face because I think. Maybe we need a little bit of that as a society. and also, because it’s fun to write that way. And I think some of the best newsletters or writing sources in general, it’s, it’s a, it’s a person, you know, it’s like when you read a novel and you hear the voice of the main character, the protagonist in it, and you associate with them and the main voice when it’s, you know, I dunno if you think about like the Hobbit, when it’s.
You know, the Hobbit and you have the original cast, the voice is one way. And then when you move along and the characters change the voices another way. And so, that is the cool part about writing is, is you can change sort of who you are in that moment. and I have a lot of fun with it and I think.
You know, if you’re going to talk about subjects like wealth creation and revenue streams and compounding interests, like, you know, immediate snores mill, you have to do it in an interesting way because I picture it like every single reader when they’re reading contract and thinking, and they have their phone out, they are simultaneously driving.
With the music at top speed with the person next to them, blaring some tick talk nonsense with the people in the back recording for IgE TV. And it’s like a clown car of attention, grabbing things. And I have to like slap him in the face with what I’m saying, and it’s hard to do and writing. And so, my favorite writers do that.
Like I think Sam and his team are geniuses and that. aspect. And I think Jonah Goldberg from the dispatch talks about politics and this like incredibly funny way. and if you’re going to write a newsletter, you might as well do it with some personality.
Yeah, well, and it just brings so much of this. I don’t know when people are saying like, Hey, I’m doing this business and I don’t know, it’s hard and you’ve just come. And you’re like, Oh, of course it’s hard. Like, you know, and this tone of you can still be kind, but instead of having to dance around any issue, you can just dive right into it.
A hundred percent.
One of the other things that I want to talk about is, monetization. So with a newsletter, when you taking all the way back, when we’re talking about building wealth audience, being this pillar of it, and you can, once you have the audience and the attention, you can earn money in so many different paths.
I’m curious what you’ve explored with the newsletter for monetization, and then you do have this, paid component to it. And so I’d love to hear why you chose that.
Yeah. You know, it’s also funny because once you go down this monetization realm and I’m sure you’re the same, right. It gets overwhelming for me because there are so many different things that you can do and everybody is right when they talk to you and they can be very convincing. And we run in a lot of friend groups with very smart people.
So I listen to one person, Charles Gaudet. And he’s like, you’re crazy. If you don’t just sell $5,000 products and do it this way. And then this other, person’s like no $19 newsletter and sell it for 300 a year and get a million subscribers. And both of those things are, are right. You know, it just depends on what business do you want to create.
And so the hardest thing for me has been. Being like, okay. Input, input, input, input. And then nobody talk to me for 48 hours and I’m going to figure out what kind of business I want to create, because if it’s not fun, it’s not going to be sustainable. And you’re going to be in the graveyard of newsletters that exist out there.
And also if anybody’s selling a newsletter, I want to, I like buying them. So, so shout out for that. If you’re not doing anymore and you want to sell your, your, your newsletter hit me up, But, so, the way that I first Monte wanted to monetize was, not selling anything from the newsletter. I had a separate company that does an affiliate code with my newsletter and I own this other company and we sell.
You know, $500 and $3,000 products that are related to M and a buying businesses, selling businesses, how to do that. So it’s like an education business. And so we posted some stuff organically and contrarian thinking and that business. that was the only way I marketed that business. And that business did a $50,000 launch basically on the back of Contrarian Thinking. We really didn’t know what we were doing. You know, we’d like just kind of like, like, Oh, here’s an affiliate code and here’s a little story. And now that business, I think we’ll do about a million dollars this year. So that’s cool. and, and that’s a million dollars gross. Like I don’t, you know, margin wise, it’s, it’s not the same thing, although we don’t do ads, so we have pretty decent margins.
And then in Contrarian Thinking. I did want, I like each of my businesses to be profitable. I don’t know what you think about this, but like, I like each of them to be incentive aligned so that I can have team members that I’m like, okay, you are focused on this creative thing, but also this creative thing drives a monetary thing.
And it’s very easy for you to know if your actions drive revenue because the business has a profit line to it. And so. we launched a founding membership. It’s $500 and it’s a lifetime yeah. Membership to start. And we’ve done about a hundred thousand dollars. So that’s about like 200 members, something like that.
And I think we’ll, we’ll cap it. If we get there, we’ll cap it at like 300 members. There’ll be some exclusivity for the fact that they joined us early and then we’ll do a paid monthly mechanism. And I’d be curious on your take, but I don’t think I’m going to go cheap. I’m not going to go 10 bucks. I’m not going to go 19 bucks.
I’m going to go. 29 to $49 a month. And I’m going to have a bias towards an annual subscription because I’ve heard churn is pretty aggressive in most newsletter businesses. And the premium version is not just another newsletter that people get. It’s a live recorded call on a specific topic related to cashflow.
So this one’s called Contrarian Cashflow, and it’s with an expert, somebody like John Perry, who’s raised a couple of million on Twitter or somebody like rebuilt, who grown a hundred thousand Twitter or YouTube followers and makes about a hundred K a month from his Airbnbs. and what it is is it’s not just like Codie.
Tell me your story. It’s very tactical. Sean, what exactly did you do to raise? What was your tech stack? How do you value the companies? Do you have models for all of those things? And so the goal is each month over the course of a year, you’ll have 12 ways to cashflow and you’ll have a playbook to do it, and we’re going to try it for a year and see how it goes, but I’m having fun with that right now.
Yeah. Well, what I like about that is it doesn’t get you caught up in the problem of growing the list with free content that now is behind a paywall and you can’t use it to get new subscribers. You’ve actually got. A distinct thing where, where you can grow the list in the same way that you always were.
And yet you don’t have this like huge burden of New, you know, premium content that you have to create.
Okay. Yeah. I mean, I don’t think anybody opens their inbox and it’s like, God, I wish more emails were in there today. That’d be awesome. so I try to avoid that.
What were some of those other things, when you, when you came to that monetization, like, were you considering sponsorships or. You know, more premium products, you know, of the courses and other things, or, you know, like when you did that whole download and then unplugged for 48 hours and send like, okay, stop talking to me, I’m going to sort this out.
What were some of the other factors that went into that?
Well, I looked at the ad model, which is interred and a few people reached out to, have sponsorships or ads, but it’s so non-scalable, you know, that’s not there it’s, it’s not automated. so you know, each person you’ve got to negotiate with them and then they want to know what you’re going to Write.
And like, I started this thing because like, just like, like don’t tell me what to do. I’m like a four year old, No. And so if I have to get ads, then they tell me what to do again. And I hate that. And like, maybe at some point I’ll be big enough where. That won’t be necessary, but for the short term, for a hundred bucks or 500 bucks or a thousand bucks, which is a lot of money, but it’s, it’s control and it’s time.
And I think if you were to average out the amount of hours, it takes to get ads and sponsorships in your newsletters divided by the actual amount that you make on them, the ROI would actually be really low. it’d be interesting actually, to try that. and so I, I didn’t, I don’t want to hire a sales person to do it right now.
Now, as we get bigger, maybe that actually makes sense, but I don’t want to do it myself. And so I said, no, thanks to ads and sponsorships. Then I did look at doing the course thing, but I have unconventional acquisitions as a course. And my real interest is not creating a Codie business. It’s creating a media business.
And so I want people to come for the content. You know, I want to have a community that they stay for and I want to have some, I don’t want it to feel like you’re in a copywriting funnel. Like, you know, like they come to Contrarian Thinking, and they’re getting sold down the funnel to my big products.
Like, that’s not, it, this is actually a media business where we are trying to give you incredible content that is actionable, that we take action on ourselves and we do it in a way that doesn’t bore you to tears. And, that seemed interesting to me. But I do think like, I think we could have had a $600,000 launch.
If we did, like an actual funnel with multi thousand dollar products. and, and, you know, maybe one day we’d do some part of that, but I, I would even do it. I would do like a sprint or something. I would do like an eight week maybe educational course or something on something that I’m interested in. I wouldn’t be tied explicitly to a revenue. Yeah. Forever.
Yeah, that makes sense. One of the last things I wanted to ask you about is building a team. I think a lot of people, you know, get to this point where they, they start an audience, a newsletter, maybe it’s at 10,000 subscribers or 5,000 or 50,000, somewhere in there. They’re like, this is more than I can handle.
And so they’re listening to you and you’re like, yeah. And I spun up this thing and I like it to be, you know, operate on its own and have its own, you know, profit and everything and, and all of that. Well, you make it sound pretty easy. So what, what advice would you have for someone who’s ready to make that shift and go like maybe beyond an assistant or something and actually start to build out a team for their business.
I mean, it’s not easy and I don’t have it all figured out and I screw up all the time. but I’ve hired a lot of people in my career, in finance. And so I’ve learned a couple of things. One is fire super fast. So like when I first started thinking of building out a team. Start with what you’ve already created.
Start with the people who are already obsessed with what you’ve built, which is your subscribers. Every single person that I’ve hired for Contrarian thinking is a subscriber to Contrarian thinking naturally, I don’t go out and search for them. I don’t go out and find them. I write in the newsletter that I’m looking for, these certain types of things.
And then I ask them to come to me with some. Some showing of them wanting to be part of the, of this movement. and so they do in funny ways in videos and whatever the case may be. And so, and then I, and then I try to pay them well. so, that would be one is like go to your subscriber base and find people who are irrationally into what you’re doing.
Everybody’s got like, even if you only have a thousand people on your email list, I bet there are one to 10 people that love it. And they just read it and they love it and you get the emails from them—find And so those people to work for you. And then second, a bunch of those people are not going to work out and they’re going to love it, but they’re going to be totally inept.
What I basically do is I do projects. I don’t hire anybody straight away. As employees, everybody’s project-based And the first project is usually something really tangible, like put together a proposal for me on how to grow and then show me the three different ways you want to try to execute on it.
I’ll pay you 500 bucks or something for that. And then you go try those three things. I’ll pay you another 500 bucks when you try it. And you tell me what the results were. And you’ll be able to tell pretty easily if, if somebody is good or not, and then. Sometimes they sneak back that past that phase and they’ll get in any way.
And, if you don’t get rid of non high-performers upfront, they’ll bring the whole team down. So, but usually they’ll self-select if you’re on top of them. So like we use Slack, we use something called the top five, which is we go over on Mondays and Fridays. everybody writes in their top five. You won’t believe the amount of people that won’t write in their top five by Monday morning.
And naturally right They’re over the weekend, they forgot about it on Friday. That’s a great self selector. and so if you don’t fill it out, it’s like Hey That’s what we needed. Sorry. Like this isn’t a good fit for you. and then I think the other thing that’s important is being really self-aware like most of the time, if it doesn’t work out, it’s my fault.
Either I picked the wrong person or I didn’t explain it properly. And most of the time I am. I’m still the choke point. You know, I still am the one that’s involved in too many things. And so, realizing that and trying to pull yourself out and let you know other delegate to other people. Oh, and if you find a good copywriter and you don’t write all your own copy, never let them go because they’re so rare.
Yeah, that that’s so important because that’s probably the last thing that people feel like they could ever give up. They’ve been writing a newsletter and it’s like, Oh, this is my voice. This is, how it is, which you should put a ton of your attention into that. But when you find someone great, I editor copywriter and they come back and write something exactly as you would write it, you’re like, what is this? This is magic. That’s better than I would have written. So I agree.
A hundred percent and then it just opens up your time to focus on the content pieces that you’re obsessed with, you know, and go really deep into those. I’ve only ever found one good copywriter and I’m trying to make her mind forever. And we’ll see if that works.
Yes, that makes sense. Well, thank you, you so much for coming on. Where should people go to subscribe, to concern and thinking and, follow you on social and everything else?
Yeah, so, the website, we’re actually building a new one, so you’ll have to tell her that’s wrong with it. If you go check it out, it’s a contrarian thinking.co. so check it out, subscribe there. the blog and all the old newsletters will be on there right now. It’s it’s on sub stack. And the only thing you can publicly see, and then I’m pretty active on Twitter and Instagram.
It’s just Codie Sanchez, @Codie_Sanchez. So I’d love to connect and if I can answer any questions or, you know, yell at you and the tone that I usually do, I’m, I’m happy to do that.
It’s it’s yelling with your best interests at heart, you know? And so, you know, that’s Write or, you know, it’s that older sister or someone else who’s like, come on, you can do better. I know you can do better.
And believe me, I do it to myself in the mirror all the time. but I, I certainly appreciate everything that you have built and everything that enables creators to create. So thanks for all. That
Yeah, well, it’s good to connect and we’ll chat again soon.