You have an email list and want to start earning? Here’s how to go about monetizing your newsletter.
I’ve always believed it’s important for writers and freelancers to build multiple income streams. If one stream suddenly dries up, you need something to fall back upon to support yourself until you can find another gig or project to replace it.
I recently talked about the various sources that contributed to my earnings for the month of May:
- Medium partner program: 23%
- NewsBreak: 32%
- Writing for my freelance client: 32%
- Brand collaborations on my newsletter: 6%
- Coaching and consulting: 4%
- Miscellaneous (book sales, paid partnerships, Quora Spaces, etc.): 3%
I've come to realize that having your newsletter is the best way to build your personal brand and not rely on a single platform for a livelihood.
But did you know your newsletter could also be among your highest-paying streams of income?
This post discusses five ways you can make money using your newsletter. If you’re a creator, these could be your most powerful way of turning your audience into a thriving business.
1. Sell Your Ad Space
If you find brands and other creators whose mission you resonate with, you can collaborate with them to sell a small space (usually 100–200 words) on your newsletter.
This will not only introduce your subscribers to more interesting companies but will also help you earn some money from the sponsorships. Some creators like Packy McCormick also use their newsletters to do sponsored deep dives, which are posts specifically dedicated to brands the audience can find value from.
If you’re wondering if selling ads is worth it, Packy McCormick sells his Tuesday slot for $7000 and the Thursday slot for $4000. Of course, his newsletter has 56,000+ subscribers and the rates would be different for new writers, but you see how much scope this has for upscaling.
What you stand to gain
The biggest pro of selling ads is that all your posts are visible to everyone on the internet. Any user who lands up on your newsletter can read your posts and decide for themselves if they want to subscribe. Your posts can also be shared by users on other social media platforms, and your subscriber base has a huge scope for growth.
How you can do this
A platform where you can find potential brand collaborations is Swapstack. It connects you with hundreds of brands you can choose from and request an introduction with — to monetize your newsletter and nurture possibilities for potential brand collaborations.
Here’s what JR Raphael, the veteran Android journalist who writes Android Intelligence, a newsletter offering practical tips, personal recommendations, and plain-English perspective on the news that matters, has to say on sponsored brand collaborations using Swapstack:
“As a completely independent, single-person publisher, finding the right brands to partner with has been a huge step on my path to making the newsletter sustainable. It’s been absolutely awesome to see the positive feedback on both sides of the equation — from sponsors, who are finding eager new folks to try out their products and services, and from readers, who are discovering relevant and interesting new things they wouldn’t have otherwise encountered. It’s really turned out to be a win-win-win situation, with everyone involved benefitting and coming out ahead in the end.”
2. Offer Premium Content at a Subscription Fee
When you’ve built a fairly dedicated reader base, you can start charging your customers a subscription fee for premium content.
What you stand to gain
The biggest pro is that having a subscription fee means you have a steady source of monthly income, without having to look for new sponsors every month.
How you can do this
Platforms like Substack, Letterdrop, Revue, etc. let writers charge a monthly subscription fee from their readers to keep receiving emails. This can be a simple, yet, sure-shot way of earning directly from your end consumer.
But how to make sure you offer value to your readers in exchange for the subscription fee?
Lou del Bello, who runs Lights On, a newsletter covering energy and climate change with a science and business angle, advises keeping your best content free. For your paying subscribers, you can offer extra material as perks. This can include more data and research-backed articles, monthly consultations over video calls, interviews with experts, etc.
3. Sell Your Product or Service
Your newsletter subscribers are your most dedicated readers. These are the people who took out extra minutes of their lives to type in their email addresses and join your community. Don’t underestimate how powerful such loyalty can be.
What you stand to gain
When you launch a new product or service, make sure your newsletter community is the first to hear it. You can also offer the first few members to join an additional discount, which will drive more paying customers to your offering and also make your subscribers feel like they have access to something the rest of the world doesn’t.
How you can do this
If you aren’t confident about what to sell, you can run a survey or ask your subscribers to fill out a form. This will give you a good idea of where their interests lie, and you can build something that offers value to them. Most writers choose to sell an ebook, an online course, or their own coaching and consulting services.
Dipanshu Rawal, who runs #TGIF, a weekly newsletter that shares valuable bits of wisdom around emotional mastery, confidence, and growth mindset, thinks this is a powerful strategy. He uses his email list as a resource for generating clients for his coaching business. According to him, it’s important to also provide value and focus on building relationships with your subscribers instead of only asking them to buy what you’re offering. In his own words-
“Your email family (list) is so much more than a sales-message-dump zone. When you build connections with your family members (subscribers), they engage with you and build a long-term relationship with YOU. This means, instead of looking at my email list as an on-off sales channel, I treat it as my close circle for long-term relationship (and eventually revenue) activity.”
4. Become an Affiliate
Affiliate marketing is pretty straightforward: you get paid commissions on any sales you generate for a company. Platforms like Amazon and eBay have their own referral programs, as do email service providers like ConvertKit.
This is easy to implement, but there’s one thing you need to keep in mind: only work with only those brands that share your community’s values. After all, if your audience mostly consists of tech-enthusiasts, promoting fashion products to them will only lower your credibility without even generating many sales.
It’s important to keep your niche in mind while looking out for affiliate programs.
Swapstack has an interesting feature called Plug-and-Play where every creator is pre-approved to collaborate with certain brands. The brands offer a fixed rate per conversion.
If browsing through hundreds of brands, asking for an introduction, and negotiating for a sponsorship fee sounds like too much work, the Plug-and-Play could be the perfect option for you.
Brett Chang, the co-founder of The Peak, a daily newsletter covering the latest Canadian and global business, finance, and tech news, suggests treating brand collaborations like partnerships, and not ads.
“When we started The Peak, brand collaborations were going to be the core of our business. But newsletters are still a relatively new medium for advertisers so we struggled to land our first few clients. We knew we had a great and highly engaged audience but couldn’t find a brand that valued it. That’s why Swapstack’s been such an incredible resource. It’s connected us to a number of new brands and we’ve been able to close thousands of dollars worth of sales through the platform. It’s an incredible resource for publishers and I can’t recommend it enough!
When The Peak does brand collabs, we treat them far more as partnerships than ads. We work with our clients to develop content that matches the format and voice of the newsletter.”
5. Sponsorship From Readers
You can sign up, get your link, and add it to the bottom of your newsletter every once in a while so your most dedicated fans will know of a way to support you.
As a writer, your newsletter could be one of the highest-paying streams of income you have. And since you have complete control over what you publish and when, it can also be the most powerful.
Summing up, you can make money from your newsletter in five ways:
- Sell ad space by partnering with brands and companies whose vision aligns with you.
- Offer premium content for a monthly subscription fee.
- Build products and services that match your community’s interests and promote them using your newsletter.
- Do some affiliate marketing.
- Ask your readers to sponsor you.
Building an online presence is a great way to make a name for yourself. But having a newsletter makes it even better because it allows you to build deeper relationships with your readers. And if it can be monetized as well, your email list could very well be the most powerful tool in your arsenal.