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Superhuman by Zain Kahn: 135,000 Readers in 3 Months on beehiiv

Zain Kahn’s Journey & Advice for Creators

Table of Contents

This creator spotlight has been reposted from creatorspotlight.com

He’s got a full-time newsletter team of eight people.

He’s got 200,000 subscribers.

And the craziest part? He only launched three months ago on beehiiv.

Who is this man of mystery?

None other than Zain Kahn, one of the leading AI voices on the planet.

Superhuman by Zain Kahn: 135,000 Readers in 3 Months on beehiiv

We recently sat down with Zain Kahn, the founder of the Superhuman newsletter, to discuss his approach to rapidly building and growing a successful newsletter business in the oversaturated AI space.

Zain was happy to share how leveraging his most important skill—writing—and building it on Twitter allowed him to find success in the niche. He also shared plenty of insights and warnings about building a team and scaling.

If you’re thinking of starting your own newsletter, or you’ve already got one but need help making it a success, then keep reading. This Creator Spotlight is jam-packed with invaluable advice for creators!

It All Started With a Roommate’s 8-Figure AI Exit

Zain Kahn wasn’t an overnight success. How did his journey to creating a successful AI journey begin? He happened to be in the right place at the right time, rooming with AI startup founders.

Tony Robbins once said, “Proximity is power.” Zain’s journey into AI and entrepreneurship is a prime example of this quote.

Superhuman by Zain Kahn: 135,000 Readers in 3 Months on beehiiv

He shared, “I have a background in marketing, I work in tech. My housemate, a few years ago, sold an AI company for eight figures, which first got me into AI. My roommate was building that company, and we used to live together, and he used to tell me all about it.”

“I lived right next to the University of Toronto campus, which was one of the biggest (if not the biggest) universities for AI research. So I got a lot of exposure to it.”

Whether he realized it or not, Zain had dove head-first into an AI hotspot. But, there was a problem: AI was still for tech junkies, not the average Joe.

Superhuman by Zain Kahn: 135,000 Readers in 3 Months on beehiiv

“I just didn't feel like AI was at a point where it had reached a mainstream appeal or there were any mainstream applications. But, a few months ago with GPT-3 and ChatGPT coming out, a lot of that changed. I saw that a lot of it was becoming mainstream.”

So, what did Zain do? He decided to finally hop aboard the AI train. This was the right time.

“I noticed that a lot of folks had a lot of questions about it. And then I decided to launch Superhuman, which is my AI newsletter. It’s essentially trying to make AI accessible to the general audience and help everyday folks like me (who are not from an AI background) understand what's happening in AI, how you can use it at work, and how you can use it to become more productive.

Validating the Concept on Twitter

But, Zain didn’t launch his newsletter flippantly. He had a large Twitter following already, so he wanted to put out his feelers to see if there was a demand for an AI newsletter.

“I started doing the newsletter part-time and it happened in stages. There was a lot of groundwork that went into the newsletter. I think the newsletter's only been around for about 100 days, so just over three months at this point. Initially, I did a couple of Twitter threads on AI, just to see what the appeal there was, and both of them were big hits. I think both of them got 15,000 to 20,000 likes.”

Superhuman by Zain Kahn: 135,000 Readers in 3 Months on beehiiv

“I was like, ‘Okay, cool. Seems like folks are finally interested in AI and they want to learn about this.’ Then, I slowly started to do my own research and started posting a little more content. It seemed like people were still keen.”

Slowly wading into the waters of the AI niche, Zain figured he would just go for it–so he set a clear goal to see if there would be enough demand for a newsletter.

“Before I launched the newsletter, I said, ‘I'm gonna do a small test for two weeks.’ My stretch goal was—in these two weeks—if I can get 2,500 people to sign up, I'm going to launch this newsletter.”

And, it worked. Big time.

“Within two weeks I had 5,000 folks who signed up for the newsletter. I was like, ‘Cool. This beat my stretch goal. There's pretty strong demand here. This deserves my attention at this point.’”

Superhuman by Zain Kahn: 135,000 Readers in 3 Months on beehiiv

From Side Hustle to Full-Time Gig

“I started doing it part-time. I was spending maybe half an hour a day creating content for growth and to get people into the newsletter—find it and sign up for it–and maybe an hour every week writing the newsletter (in the beginning it was weekly).”

“It's been around for a little over three months. I started off as a once-a-week thing and I was working on it, all-in, in less than five hours a week. But the growth was pretty strong, I gotta say. It reached a point where, after a month, I was like, ‘Let me just open up sponsorships, and let's just see what happens.’”

Superhuman by Zain Kahn: 135,000 Readers in 3 Months on beehiiv

That’s when everything changed. You see, Zain had found his golden nugget while out prospecting the digital world in an AI newsletter. But now, he realized he had stumbled upon land that he could transform into a fully functioning gold mine.

“Within 48 hours of opening up sponsorships, we'd sold out two months' worth of advertising spots. We couldn't sell anymore just because I hadn't opened up anything beyond two months. I just never thought that would even be a possibility.”

“Readers were saying, ‘We want more. Why didn't you include this news in this week's edition?’ There's only so much you can fit into a newsletter. This led me to turn it into a daily newsletter. Then, in less than three months, we hit 100,000 subscribers—extremely strong traction, both in terms of the readers and the sponsors.”

Superhuman by Zain Kahn: 135,000 Readers in 3 Months on beehiiv

“At that point, I quit my job. Now, I've very suddenly gone from a five-hour-a-week kind of hobby into a full-fledged company. Now I have a team approaching 10 people that are there helping me build a newsletter.”

While Zain has grown his newsletter to the point where he’s earning a full-time income, he believes it’s not an easy journey. He shared that most people who want to make a newsletter their main source of income need to reach a significant subscriber count.

“I think most newsletters are probably stuck in the 5,000 to 50,000 reader dead zone. It's a dead zone because at that point it's good enough to be a side hustle, but it's not really good enough to go full-time.”

Subscriber count isn’t always an indicator of success, though. “There are some extreme niches,” Zain explains. “If you're writing some kind of private equity newsletter where you have 2,000 readers who are mostly senior managers at funds, that's a very different situation because that's an extremely valuable audience. Even with a 2000-person newsletter, sponsors will pay you $1,000 to $5,000 for an ad.”

How to Win: Curiosity & Copywriting

Zain shared how curiosity was a driving factor to his success early on. When combined with consistent writing practice day after day, he was able to become a leading writer in the AI space.

“It's not like I started writing on Twitter the day I launched the newsletter. I had been honing my writing skills for a year and a half before that. I'd been on Twitter for a year and a half by the time that I started the newsletter.”

“At that point, I had over 250,000 followers on Twitter. I had a pretty good idea of how to write well, especially how to write good copy. That's the skill side.”

“The second thing is that I genuinely was interested in this. It wasn't just an opportunist thing of, ‘Oh, it looks like we can make a couple of quick bucks here.’ I was genuinely interested. I had been reading about this for a few years now. I even explored building something in the space myself. That's what led me to build this.”

Superhuman by Zain Kahn: 135,000 Readers in 3 Months on beehiiv

“The interest part is really important because then you're genuinely gonna go that extra step and scratch your own itch. A lot of folks are in a bunch of different niches. We saw a lot of that with crypto. And frankly speaking, a lot of the folks who were in the crypto side of things have now switched over to the AI side and they’re trying to build an audience there.”

Zain believes what separated him from others in the AI space early on is that he was actually interested in the subject himself. Many people say you don’t need to be passionate about something to run a successful business. But, for Zain, his passion is what drove him to succeed in the niche.

Superhuman by Zain Kahn: 135,000 Readers in 3 Months on beehiiv

“My two cents is, the reason why I'm doing better than them is that I was just trying to solve a problem for myself. I was like, ‘All these AI tools are coming out. Which ones are the right ones? There's all this news coming out. Which one's the best one? ChatGPT’s really good, but how the hell do you even use this thing?’”

"Then, I wrote a few guides and shared those online. I literally was just scratching my own itch, and I had a deep, genuine interest in the topic and in the subject, and that probably led me to create better content.”

“To sum it up, I honed my copywriting skills, I was building my audience for quite some time, and I had that skill in place. And the second part was a genuinely deep interest and curiosity in the subject. Both of those meshed to help me create better content, get more traction, and then get more subscribers than anyone else that early on.”

The 3 Steps to Success: Growth, Content, Monetization

Zain believes that every newsletter can be successful if it understands when to prioritize different aspects of the business. By following a simple process, you can build the right foundation that leads to long-term success.

He shared, “There are three key parts of creating a newsletter business: growth, content, and monetization, in that specific order.”

“If you don't have growth—if you can’t find a way to get subscribers onto your newsletter, no one's going to be there to read your newsletter. It doesn't matter how many ads you're selling or how good your newsletter is. If you can’t get people to sign up, it's not going to work.”

Superhuman by Zain Kahn: 135,000 Readers in 3 Months on beehiiv

“Number two is the newsletter content. If your newsletter content isn't any good, people aren't going to open the newsletter, and people aren't gonna click on the newsletter, and then people are going to start unsubscribing from the newsletter. If that's happening, you can't monetize that audience, whether you want to do a premium newsletter, whether you want to do sponsorships, or something else.”

“The final part is sponsorships. Monetization becomes a little bit easier if you've executed the first two parts pretty well.”

For Zain, he found that focusing primarily on growth over content and monetization is what allowed him to grow to 135,000 readers in three months on beehiiv.

“Early on I was pretty brutally focused on growth. In the beginning, I wouldn't say the newsletter was below average or bad. The newsletter still was pretty good, and I put a lot of effort into that newsletter. But I was like, ‘If I can’t get people to sign up for this, it just doesn't matter how good the newsletter is.’”

“I had a full-time job,” he adds. “I can only allocate so much time. In my ideal world, I would be doing this 40, 50, 60 hours a week, and I'd be allocating all my time towards these three things…

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