Worried that you have to wait until you have to hit that magical number in order to monetize your email newsletter?
It’s a myth among newsletter writers that you need to have a certain number of subscribers to start earning from email newsletters.
I started monetizing my newsletter “The Curious Bunch” when I had only 480 subscribers. So far, I’ve earned $3,500 through my newsletter alone within a year of starting it. Another surprising fact is that, as of now, I only have 1,200 subscribers.
In this article, I cover 7 ways you can monetize your newsletter with as low as 500 subscribers.
1. Donations Through Swapstack’s Tip Jar
The easiest and most recommended way for free newsletters to earn money is through donations.
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, that donations 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 Tip Jar 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 tip me.
- Give them a shout-out by highlighting their work and any social profiles at the beginning of the newsletter.
Helpful Hint: Use Swapstack’s Tip Jar link to ask for coffees or donations from your readers and followers.
Here’s a live example of Swapstack’s Tip Jar page:
2. Run Affiliate Deals Using Swapstack’s Plug and Play Program
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 you enjoy and those that align with your audience. Find an affiliate link for that product and paste it into 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.
To make this process easier for you, Swapstack’s in-house affiliate program called “Plug & Play” provides you with a list of highly curated pre-approved affiliate deals that you can run…immediately, anytime.
Once you feature a Plug & Play sponsor on your newsletter, you get paid for any conversions you drive.
If you’re a newsletter writer, you can run these ads anytime you’d like, meaning you never have to send a newsletter issue without a sponsor.
Read How To Monetize Your Newsletter Through Swapstack Plug and Play Deals for a complete guide.
Instead of a constant back and forth between you and an advertiser, it lets you run advertisements that you’re pre-approved for, and get paid based on how your ad performs. Perfectly aligned incentives, minimum work.
— Louis Pereira, Founder of Read Something Great.
3. Newsletter Sponsorships Through Swapstack’s Marketplace
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 or a similar platform. But, mine is a free newsletter and I didn’t want to 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. 🔥
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 to understand how the advertisers are reacting to your price structure.
- Run only relevant sponsored content for your audience
- Do not come off as a salesperson when you’re featuring an advertiser. Use your natural conversational tone when you want them to take an action.
4. Selling Info-Products On Your Newsletter
Are you knowledgeable in a specific niche? Do you believe people will benefit from sharing what you know? Start creating an info-product and sell 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.
Other info-product examples:
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, Maintaining 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!
5. Subscriptions For Your Newsletter Audience
Subscriptions are easily one of the #1 ways to monetize your newsletter.
If you have a small group of audience interested in reading your content daily or on a regular schedule, then put that premium content behind a paywall.
Subscriptions work really well for those newsletters that have a perfectly defined niche.
Here’s an example of a subscription-based newsletter: “Every”
Every offers a subscription for all its newsletters for curious business people.
This is the closest you can get to earning a stable revenue from your newsletter.
You can charge as low as $1/mo and increase the price with additional features or exclusive content you’re offering to your readers.
Tips to earn more through subscription-based newsletters:
- Offer a monthly article for free to those who have subscribed but haven’t converted to a paying user.
- Make sure you offer discounts on special occasions.
- You can also sell each individual issue for a price on platforms like Gumroad or Flurly so your readers don’t have to pay for an entire month or year.
6. Membership Access To Exclusive Content
Newsletter readers are one of the most loyal audience you can get on online.
They’re literally allowing you to be present in their inbox and asking you to send meaningful and useful articles their way. They’re looking forward to receive your emails.
One of the best ways to reward these members is by offering them exclusive content through memberships for as low as $2/mo or $10/mo.
What you can offer to a member:
- Community access where you can facilitate conversations between your readers and contribute to their networking.
- Heavy discounts for products and tools that are exclusive and not available to free subscribers.
- Access to browse all your past issues
- 1-hour free consultation call when they join as a member.
Any other ideas?
7. Other Indirect Ways
Everything sounds great 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 ended up working as Growth Marketer for Swapstack where I now help newsletter creators monetize their work.
One newsletter, many income streams. ❤
The most important takeaway from this blog post is that a newsletter opens you up to multiple income streams and helps you find clients and income sources 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 also monetize your free newsletter without sponsorships or memberships. Use Swapstack’s Tip Jar and Plug and Play deals.
- Join a platform like Swapstack to find relevant sponsors for your free newsletter.
- Be consistent and play the long game if you wanna see results “fast”.
This is an updated version of the blog post: How to monetize your newsletter with less than 1000 subscribers?