Substack Payments: Everything You Need to Know Before You Go Paid

Karen Cherry
10 min readAug 19, 2023

Substack’s built-in payment feature is one of the top reasons you should be using Substack for your newsletter. Their payments system is simple, even for non-techy writers.

But there are a few things you need to know upfront to get the best out of Substack payments.

In this post I’m going to cover:

  • When to turn on payments
  • Who shouldn’t use payments (and who can’t use payments on Substack)
  • What you need to know about Stripe
  • Whether you should use the local currency feature
  • What to offer paying subscribers
  • How to tell your subscribers
  • Pitfalls to avoid

When to turn on payments

In the early days of Substack, their advice was to wait until you have 1000 subscribers before you start accepting payments.

This has changed. Many Substack writers now recommend that you turn on payments BEFORE you get 1000 subscribers, perhaps even from day one.

The most compelling reason to turn on payments from the beginning is that every day you don’t have a paid option you are potentially leaving money on the table. You can’t know who would be willing and ready to pay straight away, so it’s smart to give them the option.

Terry Freedman of Eclecticism: Reflections on literature and life agrees. He turned on payments just a few weeks after starting his Substack and does not regret it.

Screenshot from Substack Notes

Another good reason to turn on payments early is that your first few paying subscribers will act as a strong motivator to keep going. Consistency is important for success, and motivation is needed to stay consistent. Your first paying subscribers will help.

Zane Dickens, of The Reader Experience said his new publication had attracted paying subscribers early and he found that to be a source of motivation, despite not having fully ‘locked’ down his format and frequency.

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Karen Cherry

Substack writer. Secret tree hugger. Aussie business owner with >$13K revenue on Substack. Refusing to dumb it down.