Paid newsletters are a great way to build a business and a personal brand around your ideas. If you want to start a personal brand and you don’t know where to get started, you should start a paid newsletter.
Newsletters are simple, effective and can be very profitable.
Best of all, they don’t require any extra work to monetize. You don’t have to worry about selling ads or following through on services. If you do it right, a paid newsletter will monetize itself. You can build a business around your ideas and your passions. What could be better than that?
So you’re in. You’ve decided you want to give it a shot. But where do you start? More importantly, how do you monetize a paid newsletter?
This article will go through all of that and more. Let’s get started!
Finding a Platform to Start a Paid Newsletter
Luckily, there are a few different platforms that make this process very easy for you. Let’s go through each one individually so you can make the best choice.
1. Substack – Paid Newsletters Made Simple
Substack is a great option. It is a clean and minimalist platform that comes completely pre-built for exactly what you need! I would give Substack my #1 recommendation.
One of the reasons why Substack works so well is because they built a merchant right into the system. You sign up for a free account and then every time you post a new piece of content, you have the choice of publishing and emailing it as a free post or emailing it only to paid subscribers.
Better yet, Substack now has a podcast platform built right in. So you can even send premium audio content to your free and paid subscribers.
However, one of the downfalls of Substack is that you can not put your brand on your own custom domain, it must live on a subdomain of Substack. So no matter what, it will always be yourbrand.substack.com as opposed to yourbrand.com.
It’s not a deal breaker, but it is definitely a thorn in the site for people who want to have their content living on a branded domain.
At the end of the day, Substack would be my #1 recommendation for anyone who wants to start a paid newsletter.
2. Revue – An Editorial Newsletter Tool for Writers and Publishers
Revue is similar to Substack, except with one huge difference.
Substack provides a free service that takes 10% of paid subscription fees. So in Substack’s model, they only make money if you make money.
For Revue, they charge you a monthly fee regardless. Before you sign up a single subscriber, you will have to pay to start a paid newsletter.
Don’t get me wrong, Revue is another great option to start a paid newsletter. The process is also very simple. You simply create an account and you can start publishing right away!
3. Memberful – Sell Memberships to Your Audience
I love Memberful. What a great idea and a great service.
Let me be clear about something. If we’re talking about best membership platforms, I would put Memberful at the top of the list. But since this article is addressing subscription-based newsletters specifically, then Memberful gets put down to number 3.
Memberful is much more than a paid newsletter service. Ideally, Memberful connects to your current website and puts specific posts of your choosing behind a paywall. In my last blog post about monetizing a personal brand, I mentioned how Matt Manson uses this technique.
Assuming you use Memberful and assuming someone signs up to be a subscriber, Memberful will also put this signup into a separate email list. This will give you the ability to have a “members only” paid newsletter.
It’s a great solution and a great monetization method. The only downside is that it is not a turnkey system for people who don’t want the hassle of creating a site, managing hosting and working with three separate platforms.
With that said, I would recommend Memberful to anyone who already has an existing website and wants to use a paid newsletter as a way to monetize their existing blog.
4. Campaignzee – Start Selling Newsletter Subscriptions in Minutes
Do you already use MailChimp?
If so, then Campaignzee is the best solution for you. Campaignzee is a MailChimp product that allows you to start a paid newsletter right from your current MailChimp account.
It’s a seamless transition and integrates directly into your current list, or you can create a new list just for your paid members. Campaignzee also offers a percentage of sales model which means you don’t need to pay a monthly fee to use the service. This means that all you have to do is create an account, integrate it to your MailChimp account, and you are good to go!
Building an Audience
Great. So you’ve decided which platform you’re going to use. You’re off to a great start. But there is a still a long road ahead of you.
What do you do next? How do you start building an audience and building a paid subscriber base?
There are many ways to build awareness around your newsletter. But no matter what tactic you use, your main priority should always be to create content that people want to read. There are some tips and guidelines to follow. Let’s dive deeper.
1. Set a Schedule
Consistency is truly the name of the game. The first step is mindset. The most important step is committing to creating a publishing schedule and sticking to it.
The most successful brands were not overnight success stories. It takes months and years to truly solidify yourself as an expert in whatever your subject matter is. You have to earn the right to be taken seriously and thus, you should go into these projects making a mental and emotional commitment to be in it for the long haul.
So what is your schedule? Are you posting once a day? Once a week? Once a month?
I recommend being as regimented as possible so it becomes a part of your habitual lifestyle. In the same way you “must” brush your teeth every morning, I “must” publish my blog post every Thursday and send it out through email every Friday!
2. Use Your Free Content as a Way to Promote Your Paid Subscription
Remember, the name of the game is paid subscribers! When you start a paid newsletter, you want to be mindful of the difference between “free” subscribers and paid subscribers.
One of the best ways to do this is to give away free content. Publish and send content as you would a blog or a free newsletter. Give it away. Use your content to build your authority in a certain subject matter.
However, within your free content, be sure to insert buttons or calls to action so that people know you also have a paid newsletter. Don’t be shy about it. Tell people all about your paid newsletter. Tell them the additional features they will get and how amazing your paid service will be.
Most importantly, put buttons or links all around your free publications to let people know where they can sign up. See below for an example.
3. Over Deliver on Your Promise
Let’s imagine you’ve been consistently sending out content for a year. You’ve built a decent paid subscriber base and are generating some great monthly revenue.
But how do you keep your subscribers so they keep paying you every month?
The answer is to over deliver on value.
It goes without saying that you want to publish a great newsletter. Of course you do. But I want you to be mindful of the value that you’re truly giving. People can get “great” content for free all over the internet. If they are going to pay for something (even if it’s just $5 a month) they expect it to add value to their lives.
So what are some of your options?
- case studies to help them build their business.
- market reports
- lessons or weekly courses to help them improve a skill
- a video series or live updates from events
But Can You Make Real Money With a Paid Newsletter?
In fact, I would argue that starting a paid newsletter is one of the most financially rewarding paths you can take when building a personal brand. The reason being (as I’ve stated before) that there are virtually zero upfront costs, no labor, and employment costs that need to be leveraged and the only true expense is the time you are willing to work on it.
With that said, you don’t have to take my word for it. There are countless examples of some extremely successful paid newsletters. Here are some of my favorites.
Sinocism – What’s happening in China
Sinocism is the legendary newsletter written by Bill Bishop. Writes a highly informative newsletter about the business, political and social relationships between China and the U.S. With over 50,000 subscribers, Bill charges $15 a month for paid subscriptions.
The Daily Line – Critical Reporting on Politics and Policies for Professionals
The daily line is a high-end newsletter written and published by Mike Fourcher. He curates and writes content about the great city of Chicago.
Off the Chain – The Best Daily Newsletter Analyzing the Crypto Markets for Investors
Every morning thousands of investment professionals at family offices, endowments, pensions, foundations, and sovereign wealth funds read the same email to better understand the crypto industry — Off The Chain by Anthony “Pomp” Pompliano. This newsletter has thousands of subscribers and charges $10 a month.
There are thousands of people building strong businesses and strong personal brands by starting a paid newsletter. If this isn’t enough proof for you, I recommend listening to my podcast interview with Hamish McKenzie, who is the founder of Substack. He and I had an amazing conversation about the strength and practicality of the paid newsletter business model! Check it out.
What Are You Waiting For?
Do I really need to give you more reasons why you should start a paid newsletter?
It’s so simple.
The best part is, you have complete control over your message, your self-expression, and your language. When your audience is your revenue stream, you don’t need to listen or take demands from anyone. No advertiser will ever be able to tell you “we don’t want to be associated with that.”
Because there is no advertiser. It’s just you and your audience. What could be better?
One of my favorite expressions is “a year from now, you will wish you started today.”
I understand that building a subscriber base is challenging and daunting, but if you never start then you will never know just how far you could go. Everyone has something to say. Everyone has a message that someone else wants to hear.
You could create a newsletter about anything. You can write about sports, cars, toys, lawn mowers, birds, Greek mythology. The options are endless. All you have to do is seek out the people that are interested in the same things you are, and your audience will grow.
Before you know it, you will have a legitimate business doing what you love. What could be better?!
So don’t wait. Start today. Start before you think you are ready. Start right this second.
Then keep going!