Why I’m Restarting my Substack (And, for Now, Removing All Paid Options)

Oct 20, 2022 | Blog

In December of 2020, I decided to start this free newsletter with a paid option as well. It was a quick decision, but I genuinely loved the idea of it.

A few very loyal supporters signed up right away, even paying money to be able to access additional resources, take part in conversation threads, and even take part in helping shape the content for future books.

It was a huge validation of the work I’d been doing to build the ministry since 2017, and with plans to leave my full-time job and be self-employed in the middle of January, I thought for sure I was going to have even more time to devote to ministry work.

And I was very, very wrong.

I did go full-time, on January 15th, 2021. Literally from that moment on, I’ve barely been able to come up for air. The work quickly grew to a point I could not do it myself anymore.

And just like that, coming up on two whole years later, we now have a team of six regularly fulfilling on the web design and marketing work we do.

It’s been a blessing, a whirlwind, with a lot of ups and downs. Ultimately, I must praise and thank the Lord for his provision for my family! It’s an amazing experience.

But there was a very unfortunate consequence, which I did NOT handle well at all.

Why I went AWOL

While there a period of time the Bible Nerd Podcast was on hiatus, this newsletter—which some people paid to be a part of—virtually came to a screeching halt.

By the time I could get my head up for air, it was months since I had done anything, and I could not bring myself to address the elephant in the room.

So I didn’t.

And with the exception of a conversation with one long-time listener and subscriber who emailed me around the beginning of this year, I have not addressed it all until now.

I feel terrible about it, and it’s one of the biggest mistakes I’ve ever made.

Sure, the resources I made available represent hundreds of hours of work and well exceed in value what I asked for a paid subscription.

But still, I did not fulfill on the whole of my promise, and for that I feel absolutely terrible.

Please, if you read this, accept my deepest apologies for abandoning this project.

Ok so, why now?

It’s a great question with a few answers that I hope you’ll permit me the space to flesh out.

1. There is No End Date to Ministry

It would be a lie to say that things are less busy now than they were in the past. They are more busy, since now there is a full-fledged business to run with contractors, etc.

I also have a second business in the music industry and a side project (tied to another newsletter) that is an offshoot of my core business. And, to top it off, a coaching element to my main business where I’m working with others to teach them how to build the kind of business that I did.

Even with all of that in mind, though, I have spent the last few months returning to a passion that never goes away: Writing.

I’m doing a great deal of business writing these days; again, the Lord has blessed me to be in a position of primarily running my businesses instead of them running me, which means that despite the “busyness” of it all, my time is more discretionary.

The reality is, it was never in the plans to stop the newsletter, or to stop blogging on my main ministry website, steveschramm.com.

I debated on whether to even write this post or pretend like nothing happened, since I think most people understand that life has seasons.

But you needed to read this. Or maybe I needed to write it. Either way, I needed it to be made known how sorry I was for this happening before I could resume writing here with a clear conscience.

2. Focus and Simplicity

My primary website, steveschramm.com, still gets lots of blog traffic every month, despite the fact that I barely ever post there anymore.

I have been active again with the Bible Nerd Podcast for quite a while now, but the episodes do not originate from my website, so it’s not been used for that.

The honest truth is, when I started the ministry, I had in mind that God would have my family traveling full-time on the road in apologetics/creation ministry.

In that sense, my main blog is “too big for its breeches.” The Lord has led us to become what we thought we’d be in churches across the country to, instead, being that in our local church.

And by the way, I am FAR from sad about that! Our church is absolutely fantastic, and one of the great joys of my life has been to help my brothers and sisters whom I do life with to have a more rational faith.

Given that—and take it from a guy who manages websites for a living!—a full-scale WordPress website is far more difficult to maintain and work with than this wonderful Substack platform.

I love how simple it is, how focused it is, and frankly I love the limitations it has. That may sound weird, but it allows for the focus to be on what it should be: The content.

Speaking of which…

3. The Paid Newsletter Model Honors the Content

In the future, I would like to reintroduce paid subscriptions to the newsletter.

But effective immediately and for the foreseeable future, I will be removing all paid options and building up a reputation as someone who provides quality biblical content.

In the point above, I mentioned the simplicity of the platform. The fact that it so elegantly blends email and the blog is primarily what I’m referring to. But that’s true whether the content is paid or free.

Specifically, though, I am still very much attracted to the paid newsletter model.


Simple: It honors the content itself. The content IS the product—which is exactly how it should be anytime someone is working hard to create quality materials.

Today, most ministries are forced to take one of three options:

  1. Ask for donations, build relationships with potential donors, and cut corners everywhere possible.
  2. Sell products.

  3. Some combination of the two.

Now, there is nothing unethical with any of these things, in my opinion. I believe in tax-deductible contributions and I’m also an unashamed capitalist.

But in both scenarios, the research-driven CONTENT is a means to an end.

Scenario 1 becomes, “Look at all this content! Wouldn’t you like to support us so we can keep making all of this free content available?”

Scenario 2 becomes, “I am going to send you a bunch of marketing emails so you’ll pay for premium content.”

And scenario 3 becomes, “I am going to send you a bunch of marketing emails so you’ll pay for premium content. But also, if you can spare it, we accept donations too!”

Again—I am fine with people taking any of those approaches, but I am not sure it is the right way for this ministry.

The paid newsletter model is unique. Instead of the content becoming marketing or a bargaining chip, the researcher can simply focus on making great content worth paying for.

Imagine it—a writer being paid to WRITE. A podcaster or video creator being paid to EDUCATE.

Sure, the newsletter will have tons of free content and paid content. But there’s no incessant marketing. Instead of the content being used to market other content, the content itself is good enough to be worthy of a paid relationship.

This model is brilliant because it honors the real work, and I think more content creators who’ve devoted a part of their lives to studying and educating others should be paid for doing that instead of needing marketing experience to get people on board.

What will the future look like?

As I am resuming this venture, there is much that will be figured out as I go. Eventually people will find this newsletter for the content and this post will be buried in a long list.

And that’s fine, because they don’t necessarily require the context that you—my current subscribers—do.

But for you, if you’re still reading, it might be helpful to know where my mindset is.

Content Calendar

For the first time since I started publishing on the Internet at all, I finally have a content calendar. I used a great tool called Airtable to set it up.

Thus, what used to be nothing more than huge lists of content ideas and publishing schedules lost in the recesses of my mind, is now a real system with ideas lined up for the future, tied to specific dates, platforms, etc.

I am finally organized in a way that I’ve needed to be for seven years.

I do not yet know the frequency I plan to post on this platform. I want to post once weekly, but the simple reality is that monthly or bi-weekly may be more realistic.

If you choose to stay subscribed and read these emails, just know that while I’m figuring that out, they may come in a fashion more sporadic than I’d like.

Once I nail down a free publishing schedule and have proven to myself and to you that I can keep up that work, I will consider reintroducing the paid options.

Going Paid

When I do decide to introduce a paid tier, it will look different than before. Here are a few reasons why:

  1. The paid content was not tied to the newsletter. It was just additional resources I had created. This is no better than than the “Sell product” option above, where the newsletter content had to become marketing to promote a paid subscription.
  2. It was also tied to the creation of discussion threads, which meant coming up with and managing a list of interesting questions to propose to the group. This is all well and good, but I’d prefer that to be more genuine and unplanned rather than systematic.
  3. The expectation before was that much of the content I would produce here would be content from future books. This will likely still have a place in the future, but will look a bit different.

So with that said, what is my plan for paid content in the future?

I don’t know exactly.

But my current thinking is that going paid will simply be defined as full access to all content.

Much content will be free, some will be paid. Anyone and everyone can read the free stuff, and if the paid subject matter is of interest to my subscribers, they can choose to also read that additional content. Simple.

I do think much—though not all—of that paid content would be tied to the subject matter for future books. But of course, that remains to be decided.

Wrapping Up

So, why I am telling you all of this?

Again—I feel as though I owed you an explanation.

And I feel as though this model is a fantastic model for the future of ministry and business content production!

But broken trust is not easy to earn back, and I pray you will forgive how ill-executed my prior attempt was.

I also pray that you will ask God to help me this time around, to be consistent, and help this ministry help people fall in love with the Bible.

Thanks for your constant support, and God bless you!

Meet Steve

Meet Steve

Hi, I’m Steve, an author, speaker, and Bible teacher with a heart for exploring God’s Word and God’s world.

I’m interested in the surprising connection between creation, theology, business, and storytelling. We explore those themes and more on this blog.

Be sure to browse the site for faith-affirming articles, book reviews, and podcasts!

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