How To Monetize Your Newsletter
Finding sponsors for your newsletter does not have to be difficult and is the most straight forward way to monetize your newsletter. In this article I'll share all the info you need and some simple steps you can take to find your first sponsor. From how many subscribers you need to how to find relevant companies and reaching out by email.
Starting a newsletter is exciting. I remember my first newsletter about remote work back in 2015. It was so cool having an actual audience of people to write to every week. It was like I had my own TV show or magazine or something. I later on realized that you could actually make money from this by finding people who would pay you for sponsoring or having an ad in your newsletter. Now, I'll share that with you how.
My story (short version)
Since then I've progressed to running Pixels, a newsletter with curated designs and I'm sending it to more than 4000 people every week making money through sponsors.
Here's what I've learned.
What's the difference between a sponsor and an ad?
Good question. As I see it, a sponsor is paying you money because they like what you're doing and they want to be related to you, in some way. You can see it as a mutual agreement, which both parties enjoy, possibly for a longer period of time.
Ads are more like a transactional thing. X pay money to Y to be have something displayed in front of people.
When should you consider sponsors?
Everyone doesn't want to monetize their newsletter and that's cool. I've started a few myself just for fun and because I like writing and curating interesting content. But if you do want to earn money I think sponsors are the way to go. Read on!
How many subscribers do you need to get sponsored?
There's really no number on how many subscribers you need to be able to land your first sponsor. Personally I got my first sponsor for Pixels at about a thousand subscribers but I could probably have reached out way sooner than that. Generally speaking you need around 100 subscribers to your newsletter before you can get sponsored. Preferably you should also have an archive of past newsletter so they can see you have a sticky audience and that your newsletter won't just go away tomorrow.
If I was starting fresh today, I'd probably start to reach out when I'm around 100 subscribers and start making connections with potential sponsors.
Define your audience
One of the most important things when reaching out to potential sponsors is that you've defined your audience. Who's reading your newsletter? Are they developers? designers? photographers? yoga instructors? This will be key, so better figure this one out.
Find relevant companies
When you go out looking for potential sponsors you shouldn't just "find any company". If your sponsor is not aligned with your readers it will probably come out in a weird spammy way as those old banner ads in the 90's. This will lead to poor ad performance and unhappy subscribers and sponsors. Everybody lose.
If you however manage to find a relevant sponsors, for example a new database system as a sponsor for your newsletter about open source, your readers will probably find it interesting, and your sponsor will get great ad performance. Win-win!
Who should you email?
This depends a little bit. I've found that it's a lot easier to get a referral down rather than up. So start with the CEO if it's a relatively small company and otherwise, try the marketing manager.
If you can't find an email address to anyone, try the general info email and ask who you should contact about email sponsorships. There are services like Hunter.io that you can use to find email addresses to people given a domain name.
Found a bunch of relevant companies to reach out to? Great! Now it's time to send a few emails.
Since you've already defined your audience this will be easy. In the subject, state what the company will get out of your offering and explain this further in your email.
This is an example of a first outreach email to sponsors for a newsletter about mobile cameras:
Subject: Reach Hobby Photographers
My name is Foo from Bar. I run a weekly newsletter about the latest trends in mobile cameras.
Since you're making an app to develop photos I figured you would enjoy reaching this audience.
Are you interested in an exclusive sponsorship?
Keep it short, personal and mention your audience. If they're interested they will probably get back to you for more information.
Follow-up, Follow-up, Follow-up
Most of the time you'll probably not get a reply on the first email and that's why you have to follow-up. You might have heard this before but I can't stress this enough. It has happened so many times that I've closed a deal on the 7th or 8th email 3 months or so after I sent the first one.
Keep track of everything in a spreadsheet, one column for the email, one for the next follow-up. I usually do something like this:
- First email
- After 3 days: Second email
- Another 4 days: Third email
- Another 5 days: Fourth email
- ... At least make it here. Bonus points for continuing...
One you start doing this at scale you might want to consider a CRM system to not get completely overwhelmed by all your follow-ups. This is also the reason I started Wobaka, to make automating follow-ups and keeping track of contacts super smooth.
Make it easy for them
Once you do get a reply from someone you should make it super easy for them. Sponsoring you is probably a very small piece of their marketing budget so it's essential that the process is smooth, otherwise they could just increase their Twitter or Facebook ad budget instead, right?
Have a payment link ready that they can use, propose a date and state what you need from them. Don't bother with calendars and booking apps. Keep it simple. You can use a tool like Stripe or Paypal for the payments.
This is an example for our photographer newsletter:
Subject: Re: Reaching Hobby Photographers
Thanks for getting back to me!
There are currently 1257 people reading the newsletter every friday. Open rate is 51% and click rate is 27%. This is an example: [link]
The sponsorship is [amount] and I'd be happy have you on as early as next week. If that's interesting I need the following for the ad:
- Title: Short
- Text: Less than 300 characters
- Image: 16:9 aspect ratio, png format
You can use this link for payment: [Link]
To reserve your spot I need the payment, the rest is ok to deliver a day or two before the newsletter.
How much should you charge?
I strongly advice not getting into CPM and the likes. This is because I really don't think it's the same to appear in a generic Google or Facebook ad compared to backing a newsletter their potential customers actually enjoy reading. I would stick to fixed prices per newsletter.
About the price, I actually advice you to shoot from the hip. Try something, if it works, maybe raise it, if not, maybe lower it. Keep experimenting!
Don't listen to the negative folks
Most people will be happy that you've got sponsors. That just means that you'll be able to spend more time writing the newsletter they love. Some people may however don't like it. It has never happened to me but I've heard about it. If it happens to you, just don't bother, instead focus on all the people you can spend more time writing to!
Use a CRM to keep track of follow ups and automate outreach
Doing things manually works in the beginning but once you start to send a lot of emails you'll quickly loose your mind trying to keep track of follow ups.
This is also the reason I built Wobaka to keep track of all my customers and automate email follow ups. Make sure you find a tool that makes it super easy to:
- Follow up: You should be able to create follow up tasks on contacts to get reminded when to send the next email.
- Avoid duplicates: The CRM should inform you if a contact email is already in your system.
- Help you measure response rate: You should be able to easily see how many replies you get for each campaign.
- (Optional) Automate: You can save a lot of hours by automating your follow up emails.
If this sounds like your jam, give Wobaka a try. It's an all-in-one CRM and email automation tool that makes it easy to manage contacts, share emails and automate outreach, without losing your mind.
Other ways to monetize your newsletter
Finding and having contact with sponsors is not for everyone and there are other ways to monetize your newsletter than finding sponsors. Some alternatives to monetize your newsletter are listed below.
One recent trend in newsletter is to have a paid subscription model where subscribers need to pay for your content. This can be a great fit for some kind of content so why not try it!
One alternative to paid subscriptions is to offer some premium content. This is also a great alternative if you already have a lot of subscribers and feel uneasy about charging them money all of sudden. Why not offer additional premium content that requires a subscription or one time fee.
Promote your own product
Promoting your own product is a great way to monetize your newsletter if you have a product targeted to your newsletter subscribers. You basically sponsor your own newsletter.
This depends a lot on your specific audience and market, but affiliate links can sometimes be a great way to earn money from your newsletter while giving your subscribers exclusive deals.
Enjoy the process!
Writing a newsletter is super rewarding. I love reading comments on how people enjoy reading mine. I hope you'll be able to keep writing and maybe even make a living on your newsletter.
Best of luck!