So you're writing a newsletter. But how can you turn your writing into rent money? Let's go through nine options.
1. Classified Ads
Classified ads 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. You can offer to promote other newsletters here, or small businesses. Here's the classified section image from the DenseDiscovery newsletter:
2. Sponsor Ads
Sponsor ads allow advertisers to add an image, multiple links, and lengthy ad-copy. It can be 300 characters like Dense Discovery, or over 700 characters, like the ads in Morning Brew. Here's an example from Morning Brew. Find more tips for how to price sponsorships here.
3. Ask For Donations
Donations are one way fans can support your journey. Many platforms allow you to collect donations. Here's a few:
- 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.
- 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.
To make a donation-based newsletter generate real revenue, you'll need to be clever about how you promote it. Letting readers know what their donations are directly supporting, with specifics, numbers and examples, is a great place to start.
4. Create a Community
For niche newsletters, consider creating a community for your audience to interact with one another. For a members of a paid community, you can offer virtual meetups, special deals, extra content, and a members-only newsletter. As long as you maintain active engagement with your community and continue adding value, this model is a sustainable way for writers to monetize their work.
For tools, I recommend 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. Trends.co and NessLabs are great examples of paid communities where the value isn't just vertical from author to reader, but horizontal, from reader to reader.
5. Sell Digital Goods
If an audience is interested in your writing, they may also be interested in a deeper dive into your area of expertise. If so, that's an opportunity to launch a digital product. Some of the digital products you can create and sell are:
- Online courses
- Professional Services
- Planners & Printables
6. Start Selling Merch
Offer merchandise to your most supportive fans. Companies like TeeSpring, and Printful make it easy to create branded merch in a few minutes. Merch can be a valuable tool for brand building (and a fun way to make a little cash.)
7. Join Affiliate Programs
If your newsletter is too small to attract sponsors, you can start monetizing with affiliate programs. I like affiliate programs because they are usually quite easy to use and operate perfectly even if you’re just a beginner.
8. Offer Professional Services
Many newsletter writers make more money by offering consulting services. They use their free newsletter to attract an audience, but monetize through their expertise as a consultant. For example, Nic Wondering from The Slice offers copywriting services. He shares a quick note to subscribers about his availability in every post. You can also publish a landing page along with your newsletter that explains the services you offer.
9. Make a Premium Version of Your Newsletter
Charge a subscription. This is pretty straightforward. On platforms like Substack and Revue, it's easy to turn your free writing into paid. Test publishing some posts as paid, and see how you fare. For lessons on running a paid newsletter, check out this post from Dan Frommer.
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