Are you looking for a second source of income? Maybe you wanna start a side-hustle that doesn't suck the life out of you?
About this time last year - around October 2020 - I decided to start a newsletter.
The reason was very selfish. It was not to give value to my subscribers. I simply want to have something where I can go to escape my 9 to 5. I read too many things and I go down weird rabbit holes. I know my boyfriend isn't interested in browsing those links. So, I started a newsletter to find people who are willing to read what I share.
I did some research before I actually came up with a name for my newsletter: The Curious Bunch. Every single one of those suggestions included "FIND A NICHE". Well, I couldn't be more frustrated. I'm a generalist and it's really hard for me to find a niche. I cannot stick with something for so long without experiencing it in the first place. Believe me, you don't need a niche to start a newsletter right away. But, that's a topic for another day.
So, yeah, that was my goal with the newsletter when I started. But eventually, I found more joy in curating links that are useful not only to myself but also to others. You know, giving back and all.
I never intended to monetize it. Heck, I didn't even know people monetize their newsletters. 😱
Last week I was updating my personal Revenue page on Notion and noticed some interesting stats:
I earned around $1400 dollars through my newsletter.
That's ~₹1,05,000 in Indian Rupees.
For less than 7 hours per week of effort on average.
That's ~1 hour per day.
Most of the time, I don't even feel like I spent 7 hours since it feels more like play than work. Isn't this the dream!?
What's inside my newsletter? I curate the most interesting and useful links to help you with your productivity, creativity, and growth. Around 12-15 links on average. I write a brief summary of these links before asking the readers to click on them and read further.
When did I start monetizing it? Since May 2021. After I reached 500 subscribers. It's been 6 months as of today and ~24 newsletter issues.
So, how did I earn just by reading random articles and curating those links? That too without having 1000 subscribers? I'll tell you how.
1. Donations or Buy Me A Coffee links
The easiest and most recommended way for free newsletters to earn money is through Donations or Buy Me A Coffee links.
When I first stumbled on this suggestion, I thought to myself, "Why would anyone pay me for a free newsletter?"
Or, you might feel you don't have the right to ask or deserve the money for the minimum efforts you're putting into your newsletter.
Well, the truth is, Donations or Buy Me A Coffee links are more like validation for the work you put out into this world. You're allowing people to acknowledge your work. You're letting the world celebrate your work through coffees. You're doing yourself and others a favour when you put a Buy Me A Coffee link inside your newsletter issue.
This is how I do it:
I place the link at the bottom of my newsletter.
Thank each and every one of my supporters before I ask others to donate.
Give them a shout-out by highlighting their work and any social profiles at the beginning of the newsletter.
How did this help me? Thanks to Jessica Williams from #Jesspicks for this amazing idea about giving shout-outs to supporters. When I started giving shout-outs, I've seen an interesting effect on my other readers. For almost 2-3 months, I have sent an issue where at least one reader bought me a coffee the previous week.
Now, I have 47 AMAZING supporters and I've earned ~$280 through Buy Me A Coffee as of October 2021. 💰
Also, my BMC link starts with only $1. So even my non-US supporters can support me without having to check their pockets twice. I highly recommend that you lower the barrier as much as possible so that others can support you and shower you with love by buying you a coffee. 🙂
2. Selling Info-Products
Are you knowledgeable in a specific niche? Do you believe people will benefit from sharing what you know? Start creating an info-product and selling it! You don't have to put a price on it if you're uncomfortable.
I made a free Newsletter Checklist for all newsletter beginners. It is a simple 1-page Notion product that makes it easy to set up your newsletter.
I earned ~$35 through these free info products. 💰
Here are some ideas to create your next info-product:
A curated directory of tools for your audience. Ex: Tools for creators, Tools for designers, Maintain a job board for Product Managers, etc.
An e-book where you teach someone about how to monetize their work in your niche.
A list of successful Tweet templates.
A list of successful LinkedIn post templates.
Let your imagination run wild!
3. Affiliate Links
Do you enjoy trying new tools and writing reviews about them? Are you always recommending new books to your friends and audience?
Then, you already know how to start affiliate marketing.
Find products or books you enjoy and those that align with your audience. Find an affiliate link for that product and paste it in your newsletter issue. Or, go to the creator of the product and politely ask them if you can do affiliate marketing for them. This only works if you actually bought the product for yourself and are using it regularly.
I used to recommend a few affiliate products and books in my newsletter but stopped because it takes a lot of work and great copywriting skills to sell them.
Sponsorships are by far the most reliable form of income for my newsletter. Before hitting the 500 subscribers milestone, I did a ton of research on how people monetize their newsletter. The #1 way is to paywall your content and enable memberships through Substack. But, mine is a free newsletter and I didn't wanna paywall any content.
So, I doubled down on the #2 way of monetizing a newsletter. Looking for sponsors.
That's how I found Swapstack - a premier newsletter advertising marketplace. You do not need an insane number of subscribers to find relevant sponsors for your newsletter. There are many brands looking to sponsor newsletters that have as few as 500 subscribers, but with a highly engaged audience.
My first sponsor came from Swapstack and they booked 7 sponsorship slots after seeing the results in the first 3 slots. 🔥
I earned ~$1100 through sponsorships and classifieds. 💰
Few suggestions about Sponsorships:
Cold-emailing sponsors is a skill. Learn it and practice it.
Find relevant sponsors for your audience. There's nothing as cringe as finding a food related advertisement in a marketing newsletter.
Start with a lower sponsorship price. I started mine with $30 and now increased it to $35.
If possible, add a personal note in your newsletter before introducing the sponsor to your readers.
Want more suggestions about how to land sponsorships? Comment under this post and let me know!
5. Other indirect ways
Everything sounds dandy so far. But, should the source of income be within the walls of your newsletter? Absolutely not.
Through my newsletter, I found many gigs.
I found clients I otherwise wouldn't have found. It provided me with unique social proof for my work. I started writing a newsletter for an amazing startup, wrote blogs for other clients, and eventually found an internship with Swapstack where I now help newsletter creators monetize their work.
One newsletter, many income streams. ❤
You can browse my freelance work to understand more about the kind of work I do for my clients.
The most important takeaway from this issue is that a newsletter opens you up to multiple income streams and helps you find clients you otherwise wouldn't have found. It's an amazing side-hustle that doesn't suck the life out of you if you do it right. It provides you with strong social proof for your future gigs.
Other points to keep in mind:
You can monetize your free newsletter without sponsorships or memberships.
Join a platform like Swapstack to find sponsors for your free newsletter.
Be consistent and play the long game if you wanna see results "fast".