How to Start and Run a Paid Newsletter
The easiest method of all to earn recurring payments is by promoting affiliate products that charge the customer month after month, and pay you a percentage of that fee.
But there are several drawbacks to going the affiliate route:
You’re not building a name of your own
You share in profits of your own sales
You can’t get affiliates – or if you can, you only earn about 5%
You have no control – the owner of the affiliate product you’re promoting can close the program, change the program, change the commission structure, eliminate the affiliate program altogether, etc.
Generally these things don’t happen if the program is doing well. But they have happened in the past, much to the surprise of the affiliates who worked so hard to promote the program and bring in the customers.
(Hint: While you can never know for sure what’s going on with a particular product, it’s always best to promote established programs that at least appear rock solid.)
The solution, of course, is to start your own recurring payment product.
And one of the easiest and perhaps most fun ways of doing this is to start a paid newsletter.
“Will people really PAY for a newsletter when they can get information for free online?”
There are factors to consider, of course, like choosing the right niche, and we’ll cover that in a moment.
Assuming you have a great niche and you’re targeting the right people, here are several reasons why subscribers are happy to pay you for your newsletter:
You’re saving them time. It could take them hours or days to gather the information you can give them in your newsletter.
You’re giving them information they otherwise would never find. People don’t always know where to look to find what they need. And in fact they don’t always know what’s available to them unless there is an expert to guide them.
You’re saving them money. If your newsletter can save them money and let them keep more of their hard earned cash, you’ve got a winner. For example, teaching people how to save on utilities, home improvements, car buying and so forth. Bottom Line has sold millions of books in this exact niche.
You’re making them money. Newsletters on the hottest stock tips, Forex tips and commodity tips consistently do very well.
You’re giving them insider’s info
You’re giving them the latest news in their industry.
You’re giving them a benefit they dearly want
Your newsletter doesn’t have to provide all of these benefits to be successful. But the more you can touch on, the better.
“How do I choose a niche?”
As Gary Halbert once said, look for the starving crowd. You want a niche where people are eager for information – so eager, they’ll gladly pay for it.
Here is a short list of examples – there are hundreds more but this should get you started in the right direction:
Investments – this can be stocks, Forex, commodities and so forth
Property investing – how to make money buying and flipping properties
Make money online and internet marketing – best to choose a powerful sub-niche here, like traffic generation, SEO, etc.
Coding – for example, Ruby related training, etc.
Professional – geared towards one type of professionals – accountants, chiropractors, dentists, speakers, etc. Would cover the latest in the industry.
Writers – niche this down to fiction, copywriting and sales, technical, etc.
Travel – niche this down to types of travel, traveling cheap or free, destinations, etc.
Health – choose a sub-niche, perhaps a chronic problem such as diabetes.
Exercise – choose only a niche in which people are super-fanatical, such as weight lifting.
Hobbies – choose one in which people spend a lot of money, such as golf.
The best indicator that you’ve chosen a good niche? Research if there are already paid newsletters in the niche you’re considering. If there are, odds are you have a winner.
“How do I get new subscribers to my paid newsletter?”
There is of course the traditional route – set up an affiliate program and then work on bringing in affiliates. This can be quite effective. The only downside is you’re splitting your profits with the affiliates. But the upside is you can make far more than if you try to get all of your subscribers on your own.
There is another method, and you can do this alone or with affiliates. It’s called the “freemium” method, and it works like this:
Initially you don’t offer prospects your paid newsletter. Instead, you offer a free version of your newsletter. This version still has great content and it’s still valuable. But it doesn’t have all the whistles and bells of the paid version.
For example, if you’re offering daily stock tips, you might only give half of your tips away in your free version. And you might not send that version until after the markets open.
But your paid version has all of your tips, including your very best ones. And it’s sent an hour before the market opens.
If you take this route, remember that your free version has to offer good value. This way your free subscribers will think, “If what he’s giving away is this good, just imagine what’s in the paid version!”
Offering a free version is a tremendous way to build credibility with your readers. Plus if gives you the chance to offer your paid version each time you send out the free version.
And it also builds your list – big time. Perhaps some of your subscribers to your free version never sign up to your paid version – they can still purchase the other offers you might make to them.
HINT: Place a value on your free version. For example, if your paid version is $15 a month, your free version might be worth $7 a month, or $84 annually. This can help to convince people to grab the free version (while it is still free).
Also, do not tell prospects and visitors they are signing up for the ‘free’ version. Give your free newsletter a power name, and give your paid version an even more important sounding name.
Which leads us to…
“How do I name my newsletter?”
That will depend of course on our niche. But see if you can put the main benefit in the title. For example, “Europe on $30 a Day” and “Stock Investing for New Investors” both tell you exactly what the newsletter is offering.
Your paid version should have practically the same name with one addition – add a power word such as “insiders” or “top secret” or “platinum” or “elite.”
So you could have “Commodity Investing 101” as your free newsletter, and “Commodity Investing 101 Insider’s Edition” as your paid version.
“What tools do I need to do this?”
Of course you’ll need a payment system. You can take payments yourself with PayPal, or use a service such as ClickBank.
If you want affiliates, you’ll need an affiliate system. JVZoo and ClickBank are perhaps your best options, but there are many others to consider as well.
You’ll need an autoresponder for capturing email addresses and sending out emails. Aweber and GetResponse are the old standbys and highly regarded. MailChimp has a free option. And the new kid on the block – ConvertKit – has great features that let you easily segment your lists and a whole lot more.
And you’ll need a way to deliver your newsletter. You can of course simply attach it to your email, but these sometimes get eaten by spam filters.
It’s generally better to host your newsletter somewhere and let readers download it. ConvertKit will host it for you, or you can store it with Amazon’s Simple Storage Service (S3) Or store it on your website.
And if you want to get fancy, set up a member’s area on your site for your paid subscribers.
The options are nearly endless – it’s just a matter of how complicated you want to make it. In the beginning I would recommend keeping it as simple as possible, and getting fancy later.
“How do I advertise the paid version?”
You can send out emails to your list if you like. And you especially want to advertise the paid version in the free version of your newsletter.
Don’t get obnoxious about it – simply place a banner at the top of the first page and again at the bottom of the last page that encourages readers to sign up.
It might say something like, “Subscribe to Your-Newsletter-Name Premium and get (insert several benefits).”
When they click that link, it takes them to a landing page that covers why they should subscribe. This doesn’t need to be a long form sales letter. Remember, they already know you and like your stuff or they wouldn’t have clicked the link.
So simply talk about all the things in the paid version that they’re missing out on. You can do this written or video. But if you choose video, offer a written version below for those who don’t like videos.
“When they sign up for the paid version, do I still send the free version too?”
No, because your paid version will include all of the content of the free version PLUS the premium, paid content.
So while your free version might be, say, 6 pages, your paid version will likely be twice that, or more.
Some Autoresponders, like Aweber and ConvertKit, will let you set it up so that subscribers are automatically removed from the free list and added to the paid list when they buy a subscription.
“Beyond affiliates, how do I get subscribers to my free newsletter?”
If you already have a list then of course you’ll want to start there.
Social media is a great place to offer your free newsletter, both with paid advertising and through the contacts you make. This works especially well if your newsletter comes out frequently – write teasers for each article with a link to the newsletter sign-up.
Having a blog with relevant articles is an excellent idea. Optimize each post to get found in Google to get free traffic. Advertise your free newsletter heavily on your blog.
Guest post on relevant blogs, and offer their readers your free subscription.
Depending on your niche, find the best places to advertise your newsletter.
This will get easier as you discover how much each new subscriber is worth.
For example, if each subscriber to your free version is worth $5 on average over their lifetime, then you know what you can afford to pay to bring each one in.
“Should I offer incentives to join the paid version?”
Incentives work great, especially when combined with a deadline. For example, you might have a special report or a book that you’re giving away for free to current and new subscribers. But there’s a deadline, and if they don’t join the paid version by that deadline, they lose out.
Then a few months later you might offer that same book plus a new book to new subscribers, again with a deadline.
And of course anything you give to new subscribers, you should also give to your current paid subscribers.
Another incentive that works like magic is giving them the first month for just $1 trial. This converts amazingly well, especially if it’s combined with the free incentives.
Then a couple of times a year you might run a special where they can pay for an entire year at a discount. This will give you a big influx of cash.
And again, make this offer to existing subscribers as well because it’s only fair.
If you do run a sale, be sure to have the usual price on the page, cross it out and put in the new price in red. This simple trick alone can increase your conversion rates by several percentage points.
“How do I keep people from canceling?”
There will always be some who cancel, it’s the nature of subscriptions. But there are definitely things you can do to lower your attrition rate.
The first thing of course is to always give great content.
Next, give them surprises. For example, giving them the book you’re giving away to new subscribers.
Third, keep them anticipating what’s coming. So if you do a monthly issue, devote one section to teasers of what’s coming next month. This is really important because it keeps them engaged and looking forward to the next issue.
Lastly, stay abreast of what’s happening in your niche, so you always know what the latest news is and what your readers need and want. If you can become so vital in their lives that they can’t imagine NOT being subscribed, you are doing great.
“How often should I publish?”
This is going to depend on what makes sense for your niche.
If you’re publishing a financial newsletter with specific buying and selling tips, you might want to publish daily, 5 days a week.
If you’re publishing something less time-sensitive, you can publish weekly or even monthly.
“How much should I charge?”
Find the other paid newsletters in your niche and see what they’re charging. Subscribe and see how much value they’re delivering for that price. Then price yours accordingly.
The sweet spot is to charge the same or less, yet deliver more value.
Of course, if you’re delivering tremendous value compared to the other paid newsletters, then by all means charge more.
And in your sales copy, tell your prospects that you charge more because you deliver all these things the other newsletters don’t deliver. This sets you apart and positions your newsletter as the leader in your niche.
The main things is, test. Test different price points and see which one makes more money.
For example, test $9.99 against $14.97 and see which one brings in the most revenue.
Sometimes you’ll be surprised – it can happen that you will actually get MORE subscribers at the higher price. But you won’t know until you test.
Another technique is to increase your price with each sale until you hit a preset target. For example, you might start at $9 a month and increase by a penny or two with each sale until you hit $14.97, and then hold the price there.
One last note on price – if you hold it under $10, you’ll have a psychological advantage in the marketplace.
First, in most (not all) niches, people are generally more likely to subscribe to a lower cost newsletter.
Second, if it’s less than 10 bucks, they’re less likely to sweat it.
Think about this – a subscriber is short on cash this month, and he’s thinking he needs to cut something out.
He has two monthly subscriptions – one is $97, one is $9.
Which one does he take the time to cancel?
I know people who are paying less than 10 bucks a month for things they don’t even use or read.
And they’ve been doing it for YEARS. They’re just too lazy to figure out how to cancel. After all, it’s only 9 bucks (or whatever) so why bother? At least that’s how they think, and it’s a real advantage when you’re selling a subscription type of product.
“Should I just go for a really low price so I can get as many subscribers as possible?”
Generally, no, but again it will depend on your niche.
If you’re giving away your newsletter too cheaply, people won’t value it. First, they may not buy because they think, “If it’s this cheap, it can’t be very good.”
And if they do buy, they don’t pay much attention to it because they don’t have much of an investment in it.
Another thing – it can sometimes take the same amount of effort to sell a high priced newsletter as a low priced newsletter.
And you have to ask yourself – who is your target market? Is it value shoppers who want the cheapest price? Or is it people who want the information you can provide, and are willing to pay for it?
People are willing to pay a premium if they see the value.
As you can see, the answer to “how should I price my newsletter?” isn’t an easy one. See what’s available in your market, compare what you’re offering to what’s already out there, position yourself differently from the rest and then decide on price.
And lastly, test, test and test some more.
“How do I increase my revenue?”
Promote appropriate affiliate products to your paid and free subscribers. One note here – only promote that small handful of products that you really, truly believe in.
Your main goal is to build and keep the trust of your readers, not make a quick buck and lose all credibility.
Create your own products. Whatever niche you choose, assuming you chose carefully, there is room for new products. Find out what people want, what their problems are, what their goals are. Then create products accordingly.
Put offers on the thank you page. Once someone buys the subscription, they’re obviously already in a buying mood. Why not offer them something else to purchase?
Sell advertising inside your newsletter. You can do this once you have a good number of subscribers. Just make sure you’re delivering as much content as ever – ads don’t count as content.
And also be sure you only take advertising from products and businesses you trust. After all, you’re giving them access to your customers – if they don’t treat your subscribers right, you’re going to hear about it from irate readers.
“Other than the usual ways, how do I find affiliates?”
Your best affiliates will often start out as subscribers. Let them know that you do have an affiliate program, and give them all the tools they need to promote your newsletter.
You can also approach blog owners in your niche – if they’ve been building and nurturing their list, they can be a tremendous source of new subscribers. And many of them are happy for the monthly money they’ll make as your affiliate, too.
Depending on your niche, you can sometimes approach product owners, too. This is really common in the make money niche, but let’s look at another niche – golf.
Let’s say someone invents this handy little golf gizmo and sells a ton of them. But then what? If you approach this person and ask if they’d like to offer your golf newsletter to their list, they’ll probably be thrilled.
Your free subscription can work as a bonus to other people’s products. They give away your free newsletter to their buyers.
Then when those readers sign up for the paid version, the person who referred them gets a monthly commission.
“How much commission should I pay?”
At least 50%. 60% or more is better.
I know some people will balk at this, but consider… most of the subscribers affiliates bring to you are people you likely would never reach otherwise.
Also, they are helping you build your list of both free newsletter readers and paid newsletter subscribers. And you can market other products to both of those lists.
In fact, you could give away nearly all of the subscription fee to affiliates and still make very good money simply by promoting your own products and select affiliate products to your readers.
“Where do I get the content for my newsletter?”
You can write it yourself, of course.
You can also record it if you prefer. Yes, you can do video newsletters and audio newsletters.
You can hire ghostwriters.
You can get guest writers, which are like guest posters on blogs.
And you can ask to use other people’s articles, republishing them in your newsletter. Make sure you get full permission and give them an author’s box with their short bio and URL.
One of the easiest ways to get great, new, fresh content is to interview experts. You can do this via phone, Skype or email.
There are added benefits to interviewing experts besides getting great content.
You’re also meeting the movers and shakers in your niche, who might tell their own list about your newsletter.
You’re building relationships with these movers and shakers, opening up opportunities down the road.
And you’re becoming known as an expert by association. When people see your name next to experts they know, they assume you are an expert as well.
“What’s the most terrific thing about running your own paid newsletter?”
For one thing, you can call yourself a publisher, which sounds awesome at cocktail parties.
For another thing, you control your destiny. You control what goes into your newsletter (aka: how GOOD it is). You control how aggressively you market it. And you control your income.
Want to give yourself a raise? Go get more subscribers. It’s that easy.
And it’s great knowing that what you do today will result in you making money not just today, but for months to come as those subscribers continue their subscriptions with you.
Plus, through your newsletter you’ll become a known authority in your niche. Other marketers will be contacting YOU, asking to do deals with you, promote you and so forth.
There are a lot of benefits, and it all begins with getting that first paid subscriber.