Newsletters have been around for hundreds of years. The first newsletter that we know about was written in 1704. Back then, they had to use paper, but nowadays, we can send promotional and educational material directly to another person’s inbox.
While newsletters are great for generating leads and landing new clients and have been for decades, monetizing newsletters themselves through a subscription service is a reasonably recent phenomenon, but it’s growing in popularity.
Let’s see what these paid newsletters are all about and how to implement that business model into another income stream.
What Is a Paid Newsletter?
A paid or premium newsletter is a subscription-based service where you send your readers emails on a set basis for a monthly or yearly fee. For example, your readers could pay you monthly to send them four exclusive emails a month or one email a week.
If you want to make money building your brand and help supplement your income, then paid emails are a great start to another revenue stream.
It also helps as you won’t need to hunt down a sponsorship or put advertisements in your emails, allowing your readers the chance to take in the knowledge your words provide.
Paid newsletters are direct connections between you and your target audience. You are in complete control of your content at all times. With the average click-through rate on emails being 2.65%, having a paid newsletter is a great way to boost your revenue without needing any additional clicks.
Your paid newsletters can get sent in different forms, including:
- Snail mail or through the post office
- Email that delivers a PDF file
- A long-form email without the downloadable
- A Members-Only area of your website that they can pay to check out
Since snail mail has extra costs and takes longer to receive online is the way to go and what will get focused on.
Should I Start a Paid Newsletter?
If you’re looking for a way to add an extra stream of income, you have your niche selected, and you can write in a conversational tone of voice, then yes, you can start a paid newsletter. However, here are a few other things to consider when deciding to create a premium newsletter.
- They’re great for beginners
- They help grow your brand
- Newsletters are simple and effective
- They don’t require extra work to monetize
- Effectively paid newsletters require quite a bit of content
- Readers have higher expectations for paid newsletters
Free vs. Paid Newsletters
Other than the price, the main difference between free and premium newsletters is the quality of the content.
Paid newsletters are specially curated pieces sent directly to a reader’s inbox that they can’t find anywhere else on the web or in other free newsletters. That being said, it means you need to over-deliver on your newsletter’s promised, perceived value.
Then there’s the fluff. These are the bits of your newsletter that don’t impact your audience and don’t provide any extra information. Flowery words, the writer’s opinion, even something like a life update. While it’s interesting, it doesn’t help your reader.
For a free newsletter, a bit of fluff isn’t a bad thing, but for a paid subscription, you don’t want any fluff. Your paid newsletter should have practical, actionable information from start to finish.
Another main point between a free and paid newsletter is that a free newsletter is part of your business, where a paid newsletter is your business. Free newsletters enhance your business and can bring in new customers and connect with your readers. Premium newsletters by themselves can make you rich.
You build your newsletters around your business with free newsletters, while paid newsletters build the business around the newsletter.
Why You Need a Paid Newsletter
If you go for a paid newsletter you know it’s going to be the best ROI you can get with a $42 return on every $1 you spend, which is amazing since you can get a steady stream of income without much expense.
With such a high ROI rate, it’s no wonder that emails are the preferred method of communicating good, quality information. People like getting and reading emails, and they aren’t too hard to put together.
And newsletters are for everyone. There are some misconceptions about only marketing being a good shot for paid newsletters, but it doesn’t matter what you do. You can set up a profitable newsletter if you cook, bake, write, draw, or whatever you do.
- It’s profitable
- It’s affordable
- You can demonstrate your expertise
- It’s not time-consuming
- It sparks creativity
- There’s plenty of tools to make writing your newsletter a piece of cake
Examples Of Successful Paid Newsletters
Here are a couple of successful paid newsletters just to give you a taste of the success you can achieve with paid newsletters. These are some of the most successful newsletters that people happily pay for. Spoiler alert, they’re not marketing agencies.
Scott’s Cheap Flights
- Topic: Getting cheap flights
- Price: $49 per year for the Premium Plan
Scott Keys and co-founder Brian grew their business from something they did on the side into a multi-million dollar freemium newsletter. They’re able to do this with a 15 fully remote person team, and most have never met face-to-face.
You get a free 14-day subscription before being charged the $49 for the year or switch back to a free account. This free account is great since it allows them to sell their premium service through giveaways and word of mouth. They also give teasers and use little Fear Of Missing Out, FOMO, hints in their newsletters to promote the higher tiers.
Scott’s Cheap Flights is one of the most successful paid newsletter writers out there. He makes over $300,000 a month. That’s right, a month.
What readers get with the premium version of Scott’s Cheap Flights:
- Up to five times more flight deals, including certain domestic cities
- Get first alerts when airlines publish the wrong fairs
- Alerted if a flight that rarely gets discounted goes on sale
- Holiday flights and peak season deals and steals
This Is How I Do It
- Topic: Actionable ideas to jumpstart creativity and quit procrastinating
- Price: $10-$1,000
Whether you want just a single issue or the complete premium annual package with four one-on-one consulting calls, Josh Spector’s newsletter helps people with actionable ideas and behind-the-scenes looks that help people do the things he’s done. Anything from growing a 2,600+ Facebook group to creating, marketing, and selling an eBook.
If you sign up and aren’t happy with the newsletter’s value, you can get a full refund from Josh, but with over 25,000 subscribers, I don’t think you have to worry about that too much.
There are four price tiers for this newsletter:
- Single Issue: $10
- Monthly Subscription: $20
- Yearly Subscription with full archive access: $120
- Annual Premium Subscription with full archive access and four consulting calls: $1,000
- Topic: Interesting stories from the web
- Price: $5 for a monthly and $48 for yearly
The Browser curates five interesting stories from across the web and delivers them to your inbox every day. Feed your curiosity and have something interesting to tell your coworkers or family.
With over 70,000 readers currently subscribed to The Browser, the social proof is in the pudding that many people find their work interesting and the stories they share insightful. They source the finest stories from the web rather than what’s currently trending.
Ideas for Paid Newsletters
If you’re looking for ideas of what should go into a paid newsletter, here are some ways to get the creativity flowing again.
- Create an evergreen newsletter: This is a newsletter that won’t go out of style and will still be informative years from now.
- Host QA’s: Your newsletter’s exclusive question and answer segment will help you grow closer to your readers and vice versa.
- Case studies: Release case studies just for your paid subscribers
- Live video: Give your readers access to a live video stream just for them.
- Downloadables: Allow people access to your content by downloading PDFs, recipes, patterns, white papers, and case studies. Downloading important information allows them peace of mind that they have your content stored on their device.
How Do You Create a Profitable Paid Newsletter: A Step-by-Step Guide
Before you start marketing your premium newsletter first, you need to set it up. This guide shows you how to create a profitable paid newsletter from the beginning to get the revenue stream you want.
Decide on the Topic
Deciding what you want to send to your readers is the most defining step you must take when setting up a premium newsletter. So take the time and think about what it is you’d like to say. Then, if you’re having trouble, ask yourself these questions and write down the answers.
- Why do you want a newsletter?
- What value do you want to bring to your audience?
- How do you plan to deliver on that value?
- What are you really good at?
If you still aren’t sure what topic you want to pursue or if it’s a profitable subject to discuss, then you need to look into finding your niche for your newsletter.
Also, remember that this isn’t permanent. You aren’t locked into a topic once you decide. You can always rebrand it later if you get called in a different direction.
How to Find a Niche for Your Paid Newsletter
Finding your niche is both more straightforward and more complex than it seems. You may think a topic is profitable, but it will never be as in-depth as you need for your premium emails if you don’t enjoy writing about it.
Finding the correct niche is a cross between what you’re passionate about, your knowledge on that subject, and how profitable that subject is.
Out of the three sections, the one you need the least is knowledge, as you can gain information quickly through reading, videos, and writing your emails. You don’t have to know everything there is to be able to write about it. All you need to know is slightly more than the average person.
Follow the three-book rule. If you read three books on a topic, you are an expert because you know more than 99% of the general population.
- Passion: Do you enjoy the subject you’re talking about? Can you talk about it for hours? Have your friends told you that you talk about this subject too much?
- Knowledge: How much do you know about a topic? Can you quickly find information to fill in the gaps in your knowledge?
- Profitability: Can you make money from this niche? Check out job boards and LinkedIn to see if there’s a market for your niche.
Figure Out the Format
Next is to figure out the format and what’s most helpful is deciding on a template that you will use for all your newsletters. Not only does this give you a plug-and-play option for your newsletters, cutting down on the time it takes to format, but your newsletters will be consistent, allowing your audience to identify your emails quickly.
For email newsletter templates, it’s best to:
- Keep it clean and simple
- Remember those reading on mobile by keeping your paragraphs short
- Give a summary of the essential points for those in a rush
- Don’t be afraid to have a couple of pops of color
- Start with a fixed width
- Create a header to identify yourself immediately
- Add social links
Identify Who You Want to Speak To
Now that you have your topic and how you want your subscription newsletter to look now it’s time to decide who you plan to speak to. Is there a segment of the population out there that would find your newsletter more valuable than others?
If the answer is no, then it’s time to go back and narrow down what you want to say. Everyone has an ideal reader they’re trying to draw in. Remember, if you market for everyone, you’ll get no one.
Your content needs to be speaking to one person, and that person is your ideal customer. Sit down and write out an ideal customer profile, and don’t be afraid of getting too specific. The more specific you are, the better your marketing and newsletter will attract that type of reader. Ask yourself these questions:
- What is their gender?
- What is their age?
- What is their income level?
- What is their name?
- Where do they live?
- Are they married?
- Do they have kids?
- Do they have pets?
- What are their hobbies?
- What pain points do they have that your newsletter can fix?
Then, get out into the real world and add any extra details you missed through market research. Have people take surveys or interviews. Listen to their answers and continue building the profile of your ideal reader.
Then you can focus on your newsletter and tweak it to speak to that person, whatever their name is. It’s easier to write as if you’re talking to someone when you have a name, so pick something that works for you.
Create a Consistent Posting Schedule
Another thing that’s important to the premium newsletter process is consistency. Your readers need to know when you’re posting.
Decide now how often you want to post. Do you want to write one post a month? Once a week? Two to four times a week? Whatever it is you decide, stick with it.
While many consider the maximum you should send out newsletters is twice a week, you have to ensure that your paying subscribers get enough value for the price they’re paying.
Decide on the Price and Payment System
While all the data out there shows that the ideal length for emails is about 200 words, you have to decide if that’s the correct length for your premium newsletter. In addition, you need to make sure the value you’re giving them is worth the price of their subscription.
But, what price should you choose? It’s hard to turn a nebulous idea into a concrete plan with pricing options and everything. Do you plan on doing just a single premium newsletter, or are you tiering the prices to get the most out of your readers?
If you’re unsure, you can start with early adoption pricing. That’s where you give your first X amount of subscribers a discount for joining your premium newsletter. After that, consider it the testing phase of your newsletter to see if anyone is interested.
Start with just a couple of dollars a month and see how many people sign up, then slowly scale your prices as time goes on. Or, after a month or two, put out a survey asking about what your current readers would value your subscription and use that as a baseline for future customers.
Also, figure out how you want to process payments. Again, there are plenty of options out there like Square and Stripe.
- How many pricing tiers do you want?
- What’s the minimum acceptable monthly rate?
- Do you plan on doing the subscription monthly, annually, or both?
- Are you willing to lock in early adopters at a lower price?
- Is the pricing system easy to follow for your readers?
Build a Website or Landing Page
If you don’t have a website, you need one, and if you do have a website, you need to build a landing page for your premium newsletter.
It’s easier to create a website and a webpage than it ever was before. There’s no need to get a Master’s in coding to create a visually stunning and interactive site. Go ahead and research what type of website you want, whether Wix, Squarespace, or WordPress.
Then comes the fun part, creating your landing page. You can go with something standard with basic pricing info, or you can jazz it up with bold colors as well as a sneak peek at what’s in store for your readers.
Decide on the Newsletter Platform You Want to Use
Now we’re down to the home stretch to get your newsletter off the ground and running. Newsletter platforms are tricky things since there’s no one-and-done platform. Instead, you’ll need to go through the top ten or so and find one that works for you.
- Mailchimp: A bit bloated and outdated, but perfectly fine for the beginner.
- Aweber: Solid email platform, but no A/B testing, which is important
- Substack: User friendly with plenty of payment options, but there are a lot of fees.
- Buy Me a Coffee: Easy to use with the ability to create monthly and annual subscriptions, but you have to pull supporters from other platforms to earn money.
- Upscribe: A no-bloat email marketing software that focuses on privacy, but a little light on customization options
You should then put the newsletter template you created into your preferred newsletter platform and see how well it fits within the platform’s parameters. Then, once you have it as you want it to, go ahead and fill it out with what you want your first newsletter to say.
Once that’s done, you have officially set up your newsletter, and the bulk of the setup is over. Now all there is to do is iron out the kinks and get people signing up.
First, you should do a test run of your first newsletter to make sure everything looks good. Ensure there are no issues with the images you use or the weird cutoff of the words you write.
After that’s all good, you’ll want to implement A/B testing as you gain subscribers. This helps you analyze your work and gets you better results. A/B testing is where you take part in your subscriber list and change one thing from the original email to see if that helps your analytics.
Analyze what you can be doing better. Then, adjust so your newsletters are more optimized. Repeat that pattern until you have your analytics where you want them. Here are some questions to get you started:
- What are your current open rates, and how can you improve them?
- Do you have links inside your newsletter? How often are they getting clicked, and what can you do to improve them?
- Do your subject lines grab your reader’s attention?
- What call-to-actions are you putting in your newsletter? Can you improve them?
How to Market Your Paid Newsletter and Get More Subscribers
Now that you know why a paid newsletter is such a good thing, here are a couple of tips on getting it out to other people so you can start getting the money rolling in and expanding your operation.
Pulling From Your Current Pool
If you have a free newsletter that already has readers, the best thing you can do is to entice them to sign up for your paid newsletter or turn your current newsletter into a tiered system with extra goodies for paying readers.
This is the easiest way of marketing your paid newsletter by having a fanbase that reads your content and wants more. Pulling from your current pool also helps get more subscribers through word of mouth and social proof.
Make Sure Your Content is Unique
If you want more subscribers, then you have to offer them something no one else has. Whatever you’re writing about needs to come from you and no one else.
For example, if you have a cooking paid newsletter, and you started pulling recipes off the web, someone is bound to notice and call you out on it. That would make current and potential readers start doubting if your content is worth it.
Turn Your Website into A Selling Point
If you don’t already have a ready fanbase to pool from, then you’ll need to work just a bit harder to get off the ground. The first way to do that is to make sure people know about the paid newsletter when they visit your site.
We’ll get into the steps of exactly how to set it up in just a moment, but if you don’t have a website, then it’s time to get one.
Here are some things you can do to turn your website into a selling point:
- Promote your paid newsletter on your homepage
- Create a landing page for your newsletter
- Have pop-ups for your paid newsletter
- Promote your newsletter at the end of every page and post
You obviously don’t want to be so obnoxious about it that it turns people off, but let people know you have something new and want to share it with them. Also, discounts for the first little while after starting your newsletter are a great thing.
Don’t get discouraged if it’s a slow uptake. Instead, keep producing content as if someone were reading, so you have a nice backlog of pieces ready to send to your readers when they bite.
Promote Your Newsletter Via Social Media
Once you have your website taken care of, it’s time to start pulling people into your website. If your site is relatively new, then Google won’t trust it since you don’t have enough traffic or content on there to warrant ranking.
No need to get discouraged. Just go over to whichever social media site you have a following on and promote your new premium newsletter.
You also reach new people by promoting your content and getting people interested in your brand through social media. If you don’t have a big social media presence, go where the people you want to attract are and get to it.
Once they have liked or interacted with your posts, don’t be afraid to reach out and highlight the benefits of your paid newsletter and welcome them to join that newsletter or follow your blog if you have one.
Run Contests and Giveaways to Generate Buzz
People hear about giveaways and see dollar signs, but it doesn’t have to be expensive for you. It could be as simple as the first month of their subscription free. After all, who would say no to free stuff?
The best way to do this is to have a free newsletter that they sign up for to get entered into the contest. Not only do you have the opportunity of people getting that contest prize of a free subscription, but you also get a pool of readers that you can market your premium newsletter to.
Consistency is Everything
If you want a thriving newsletter that brings in the big bucks, you need to stay consistent. Like with SEO and Google rankings, the more consistent you are about posting blogs on your site, the better your ranking is. With your newsletter, your ranking is the amount of paid subscribers you have.
Sporadic content means the perceived value of your newsletter goes down, and your subscribers start wondering if the monthly cost is worth it. So keep creating, and when you get the cash flow really rolling in, keep delegating and adding to your team so that consistency can continue without you burning out.
When it comes to paid newsletters, they can be a great source of income when done right. A paid newsletter is the perfect opportunity to show off your knowledge and creativity and earn some extra money no matter which niche you’re in.
Starting a paid newsletter isn’t that much more difficult than creating a free newsletter, so if you have experience with those, a paid newsletter should be a breeze. However, this is the perfect opportunity to learn something new and hone your writing skills if you don’t.
Your new premium newsletter will turn into a profitable side hustle and then morph into a full-fledged business with time, effort, and patience. Whether video, visuals, or words, a paid newsletter is a great opportunity to expand and grow, no matter which medium you choose.
For a quick recap, here are the steps to set up a paid newsletter:
- Find your niche
- Figure out your format
- Find your audience
- Create a consistent posting schedule
- Decide on the price and payment system
- Build a website and landing page
- Pick a newsletter platform
- Conduct testing
- Market your newsletter
- Be consistent
If you follow this guide, know you are well on your way to a profitable business and get paid for writing emails.