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How to Monetize Your Newsletter

Yaro Bagriy
Yaro Bagriy

We all love making money on the internet, right? Well, if you have a newsletter (or two!) you can make a living from them. And who doesn't want to do that?

I'm sure you can recall several newsletters you've been subscribed to in the past, that asked for donations in exchange for regular content updates and other valuable information. If you think about it, this is more or less how the Internet works: we deliver content to readers and in return, we ask them to pay us with their subscriptions and/or donations.

I am pretty sure, you know that newsletters aren’t ‘get rich quick’ schemes. It takes patience and consistency to grow a newsletter. After you reach at least 500 subscribers, you can start monetizing it. There are various ways to monetize, such as booking sponsors, classified ads or making a paid version, etc. Let’s go through all of them step by step.

1. Classified Ads

One of the tiny little things you could do is to have a classified ads section in your newsletter. Classified ads are the digital version of old school ads that ran in newspapers. These are affordable plain-text ads with up to 180 characters usually shown at the bottom of the newsletter. Advertisers can only add one link in the classified ads. This is the best place for small companies, other newsletters to advertise themselves. Here is the classified section image from the DenseDiscovery newsletter:


2. Sponsor Ads

Sponsor ads are the backbone for monetizing a free newsletter. They are equally beneficial for publishers and advertisers. Advertisers can promote themselves to a highly targeted audience and publishers earn a living from it.

Every newsletter has different sponsor ad templates and requirements. Some allow advertisers to add images whereas others only allow text. Usually sponsored ads are sand-witched between regular newsletter content.

Bigger newsletters get sponsors easily whereas small newsletters struggle finding sponsors. On top of it, these creators are a one-man army, so, most of the time gets spent finding sponsors (which they often fail at).

Most of the time gets wasted finding & pitching sponsors. Plus back & forth emails to sponsors robs much-needed time to work on the next newsletter issue.

Fortunately, this isn’t a problem anymore. You can 100% automate the whole sponsor booking process by self-serve Ad booking sheet. It lets your sponsors pay & instantly lock the chosen date for their ad. This way, the advertiser’s chosen sponsor date is no longer available for new bookings. And the sponsor gets an auto-responder email where he can add his sponsor details.

A prominent example using a self-serve ad-booking sheet is Dense Discovery. It’s sponsor & classified ads are already booked for the next two months i.e. February and March.

EmailOctopus - Email marketing made easy
"EmailOctopus has the flexibility to design great-looking newsletters that stand out. The best part is it's free until 2,500 subscribers."

3. Ask For Donations

Donations are another way for making money as well as allowing your fans to support your journey. This way you can create more amazing content without worrying about monetization etc. You won’t earn as much from these services as you would from selling ads, but it can keep you charged with coffee - non-stop.

Many platforms allow you to collect donations. Best of them are,

  • Patreon – it takes 10% transaction fees. Mostly used for recurring payments, memberships etc. You can also distribute your premium content to your fans.
  • Buymeacoffee – it charges 5% transaction fees. It’s best for accepting one-time donations as well as recurring donations.
  • Ko-fi.com – 0% transaction fees. You can only accept one-time donations on the free plan.
  • You can also use PayPal to establish a digital tip jar to earn from your work.

Some creators put Buymeacoffee link in the footer and forgot it - then badly fail in getting any donations. You can overcome it by changing the donation link place. I recommend adding it on top once every month.

If you don’t have asked your readers for a donation, launch it now. Create a separate campaign asking for donations. Here is the good motivating text you can use for it:

Would you consider making a donation to support my work building and growing this newsletter? This newsletter is supported by its readers. If you spend time reading the newsletter, you are part of my community, so I figure it's my right to ask for your help. Plus, donations go directly to keeping this newsletter running which is what I care about the most.

4. Create a Community

Besides selling ads in your newsletter, creating a community for your newsletter audience is a great way to offer more value and charge them as well. It works best for niche newsletters.

Community is a paid thing. So you have to add some perks to get maximum members. Virtual meetups, special deals, extra content, and members-only newsletter are some perks you can add to increase the value of the community. At the start, you can offer lifetime memberships to get maximum people in the community.

Another good thing about building a community is its sustainability. At the start, you have to put much effort into creating an engaged community. Later on, it gets sustainable as it grows.

So far the best combination I found for running a paid community is Circle.so and Memberful. Circle.so offers community features whereas Memberful handles payments and memberships. If you are looking for free community software, check out Discourse.org. Use its open-source version and host it on Digital Ocean droplet for $5/mo.

The finest communities that grew on top of the newsletter are Trends.co and NessLabs community. And I am pretty sure, the next one will be yours, if you dare!

5. Sell Digital Goods

Creating a newsletter involves a lot of reading. This reading broadens your mind - making you a thought leader in that niche. Now you can use this knowledge to make digital products. Whereas this thought leader status will help you sell them. And sending a newsletter consistently helps you build and nurture relationships with your subscribers, and eventually, inspiring them to buy your digital products.

Some of the digital products you can create and sell are,

  • Online courses
  • Ebooks
  • Templates
  • Softwares
  • Professional Services
  • Planners & Printables

You can use Gumroad, Teachable, or Sendowl to sell your digital products with ease. Gumroad is free (although it takes 8.5% transaction fees), so start with it.

6. Start Selling Merch

Are you selling merch to your hardcore fans? If not, you're leaving money on the table.

You may have considered selling your merch online but the process looked too complicated. Don’t worry, you don’t have to handle anything from manufacturing to delivering the merch as merchandise companies like TeeSpring, Printful etc handles everything. You get a fixed profit on each sale based on your t-shirt price.

To make your own merch, create some designs or hire a designer from Fiverr. Then upload these designs on TeeSpring and share the link in the newsletter.

To add a branded look, set up a shop section on your website and Integrate Printful to your website.

7. Join Affiliate Programs

Too small to get sponsors or can’t find sponsors. Then start monetizing your newsletter with affiliate programs. Affiliate marketing is the process of earning a commission by promoting other’s products.

I like affiliate programs because they are usually quite easy to use and operate perfectly even if you’re just a beginner. Generally, you get 30% commission for digital items whereas physical items offer up to 10% commission.

Find a product to promote > create some interesting content around it > send it > earn a commission for each sale you generate.

Tip: Promote deals that are highly relevant to your target audience otherwise you will spam only without making any money.

8. Offer Professional Services

Many newsletter creators make more money by offering consulting services than their newsletters. And they are leveraging their newsletter for it. So start offering consultation services and pitch them into your newsletter subtly.

Nic Wondering from The Slice offers copywriting services, so he adds it into the welcome email to get writing gigs.

P.S Create a landing page that showcases your services. And add it to the menu of your website. This way, you can get more clients.

9. Make a Premium Version of Your Newsletter

Yes, it's time to ask for money. A free newsletter is nice, but if you want to be taken seriously, demand a yearly fee. Yes, that's right – demand. Be upfront and quick about your expectations. Tell them they're going to get more info than they ever dreamed of and that their lives will never be the same again. Or… try this: Remember when you first joined? You were just waiting hungrily — craving more information each day and always wanting to know what’s coming next… In the beginning, this was a free newsletter because I wanted my subscribers to give me a chance. Now, after hundreds of free newsletter issues, it’s the perfect time to launch a premium version.

Add some already like section of your newsletter behind a paywall. Plus, provide more value to paying subscribers with exclusive content that they can’t get for free elsewhere, like extended articles, exclusive educational modules, or meetups.

There are many platforms to build a paid newsletter on such as Substack and Revue. There isn't a best option only the right option for you and your newsletter. Below is our blog on Substack vs. Revue if you're looking into this.

Substack vs. Revue
Twitter recently dropped the biggest news so far in 2021. That news was that Revue has been acquired by Twitter and it's a free service now with no monthly charges. Well, that's the exact same service which Substack has been offering for years. Plus Revue offers some amazing (and important) features which Substack lacks.

Substack takes a 10% free of all of the revue you generate, which is a lot. At the start, it doesn’t feel this way until you get big and start losing a few thousand dollars per month. Another great alternative is EmailOctopus's paid newsletters.

If you're interested in starting a premium version of your newsletter, then checkout our blog on how to start a paid newsletter.

Start a Paid Newsletter
One of the most interesting trends I’ve seen over the past few years is the rise of paid newsletters. Not nearly a week goes by that I don’t run across a new paid newsletter that people seem to be excited about and are keen to join.

Conclusion

  • If you are running a free newsletter > start collecting donations and start looking for sponsors.
  • Not making enough money / failing to find sponsors > launch a paid newsletter. But keep in mind, paid newsletters work best in the learning niche.
  • Pick 3 or 4 methods to monetize, and use them effectively.
Monetization

Yaro Bagriy

Podcast host & community manager