What are subscriber referrals on Substack?

Turn growth on autopilot with subscriber referrals — this new tool will help you reward your paid and free subscribers for inviting their friends to sign up for your Substack.

With subscriber referrals, you can:

  • Set your own reward tiers
  • Automate fulfillment with reward emails
  • Invite your subscribers to participate
  • Celebrate your top referrers
  • Keep growing

We'll automatically handle the award distribution and all you'll need to do is customize your tiers and rewards.

We've made it simple to start: paid publications can begin with default tiers of complimentary paid subscriptions and free publications can add custom rewards to kick off the subscriber referrals program.

Once a reader reaches a tier, regardless of if they're paying or free, they'll receive the tier reward.

For Writers

How do I enable subscriber referrals?

Head to your publication's Settings page and scroll to the Referral program section.

Navigate to "Subscriber referrals" and slide the toggle to the right– this enables the subscriber referrals feature.

Your next step is to set up your referral reward tiers.


Note: Subscriber referrals are not available on private publications. 

How do I set up my referral rewards tiers?

Click "Edit" next to "Customize referral reward tiers" and on this page will be your subscriber referral dashboard. Here, you'll see how many referrals have been made so far, the number of referrers, and your reward tier levels. 


For paid publications

For paid publications, the default rewards are complimentary paid subscriptions and the default number of required referrals are two, ten, and twenty five for each respective tier.

To change the comp time period or to add your own custom reward, select the drop-down box under each tier.


For free publications

Free publications do not have paid subscriptions turned on so the default reward will be "Custom" and up to the writer on what they'd like to offer as a reward. This can range from sending your readers:

  • Special content like a video or ebook or a special shoutout in a future post
  • Discounts for paid subscriptions
  • A Zoom chat or access to community like an exclusive Discord or Slack group

Tip: Custom rewards are available for both paid and free publications. For more suggestions on what rewards to give to readers, view our guide here.

How are rewards sent?

When a reader reaches a tier milestone, we'll automatically send them a reward email. These emails are customizable by selecting "Edit" next to Reward email on your subscriber referral dashboard. Just like any Substack post, you can embed video, audio, PDFs, and more, opening up a wide range of options for custom rewards.


How do I keep track of my referrers and their progress?

  • When a referrer reaches a tier milestone, we'll send you an email notification about the referrer, the tier they've reached, and the reward they received
  • You can also access the subscriber referrals Leaderboard by clicking the three dot hamburger menu on your subscriber referrals dashboard or at this link: https://your.substack.com/leaderboard


  • On the subscriber referrals dashboard, you'll see the total amount of referrals made (new subscribers to your publication via a share link) and total number of referrers (who've introduced new subscriptions via a share link).


Note: Admin and Contributor referrals are not included in the referrals count.

How do I tell my subscribers about the subscriber referrals feature? What do they see?

When you set up subscriber referrals on your publication, you'll see the option to edit an announcement template. This template will live in your Drafts section on your Posts page until you publish or delete it. The subscriber referrals announcement post can be sent immediately to your subscribers or you can schedule to send and publish to your Substack at a future time.


You can also let your subscribers know about the feature by inserting a "Refer a friend" button in a post. Readers can also refer friends by using the share icon on your posts or if you include a "Share" button in a post.


Once you've set up your custom tier rewards and edited the reward milestone emails, head to the Referral program section on your publication's Settings page. Slide the toggle to the right next to "Leaderboard tab".


A new Leaderboard tab will appear on your publication's navigation bar and signed in subscribers can track how close they are to unlocking their next reward and access their unique referral link. This leaderboard is public and can be viewed by any visitor.


Things to note:

  • If you change the reward, the reader gets whatever the reward was when they achieved that tier
  • If you lower the referrals needed to reach a certain tier, any reader that has that many referrals will receive the reward immediately
  • At the moment, the ability to reset the referral program where all readers start back at 0 referrals is not available

For Readers

With the subscriber referrals feature, your favorite Substack's community becomes even better when shared with friends. For every person you refer to a publication and signs up as a subscriber using your unique referral link or post you've shared with them, you'll be closer to reaching exclusive rewards that's been hand-picked by a writer.

There are no limits - the more readers you refer, the more rewards you can collect!

Sign into the publication that's participating in this program and head to the Leaderboard.

https://your.substack.com/leaderboard (replace "your" with the name of the Substack)

On the leaderboard page, you'll see your unique referral link, your progress i.e. how many people you've referred and have subscribed to the publication, and your place on the leaderboard.


One you've reached a referral milestone, you'll receive an email with the reward. If you have any questions about the reward, contact the writer directly at their Substack email address by replying to the milestone email.

Note: If you're an existing paying subscriber to a Substack and a reward is a complimentary paid subscription, then the complimentary subscription will be applied at the end of your current billing period.

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