You probably stumbled upon this article because you wondered whether people actually pay for newsletters. We’re here to brighten your day because the answer is YES!
Paid newsletters generate recurring revenue—meaning once a subscriber signs up, you get paid every month until they cancel! But like any successful business, it takes hard work to develop your newsletter idea and entice readers to subscribe to your service as you grow your customer base.
In this article, you’ll learn all the steps to starting your own paid newsletter subscription service. By the end, you’ll have the knowledge to start your own premium newsletter using MailerLite.
Paid newsletters are email campaigns that people pay to receive, usually on a yearly or monthly fee subscription base. They’re a great way to supplement your business and a good tool for individuals who want to make money building their personal brand.
When you use a paid newsletter subscription business model, you’ll enjoy recurring income and won’t need to worry about adding sponsorships or advertising within your email. This benefits not only you but also your readers.
You’ll love running a paid newsletter service because you get to decide 100% of the content! You don’t have to cringe every time a sponsor inserts their cheesy messaging into your newsletter.
It’s just you and your audience—no advertisers involved.
The price tag, of course! But also the perceived value of the newsletter. Now, if you’ve been reading our blogs, you know we’re huge advocates of offering value in every single email campaign. But with paid newsletters, you have to go above and beyond, over-deliver on your promise and offer truly premium newsletters.
The difference between free and paid newsletters is that paid newsletters offer expertly curated content or unique value that can’t be found for free on the web or in other free newsletters.
Examples of paid newsletter content:
Interviews or podcasts
Live updates (exclusive)
Access to video streams
Ask me anything
Slack community access
Office hours for readers
You’ll find some of these examples in free newsletters as well. What makes your newsletter valuable enough to get subscribers to pay? Let’s work on building your strategy together!
Every project starts with an idea. We’ll leave the brainstorming and creative process up to you, but we’ll share guidelines below on how to choose your purpose and audience.
For the technical part, you’ll see that the payment setup is not that hard—even if it’s your first time! We’ll talk about the tools you’ll need in Step 5.
What’s the goal of your paid newsletter subscription service? What value can you add to people’s lives that they will be willing to pay for?
You might be an expert on a certain topic, have insider knowledge through connections or master a skill. Your newsletter topics depend on your specific niche, and they can be as broad or narrow as you’d like.
Take a look at these paid newsletter examples:
Time-sensitive stock market advice (see example below)
Online flight deals
Fantasy sports tips
Expert investment analyses
Learning new skills
As a second step, think about what kind of readers would be interested in buying your newsletter service.
Defining your target audience helps you to better market your product and build a successful business. A target audience also gives direction on what newsletter content to create, where to find new subscribers and how to attract them with the right copy.
Just like any paid service, people want to know beforehand what they’re signing up for.
When monetizing your newsletter, decide on a schedule for your emails. Is it your full-time gig or a side project? This influences whether you’ll send a monthly, weekly or daily newsletter (or somewhere in between).
Having a schedule with the frequency, days and time makes it easier for your email audience to know what to expect—and it keeps you accountable.
With MailerLite’s time zone feature, you can deliver your newsletter at specific times in the time zone your readers are based in.
Your pricing depends on what you offer, to whom and how often. Most paid subscription services cost somewhere between $2—$15 a month, often with discounts for annual plans.
To decide on your price, google competitors and compare your idea to existing paid newsletters in your niche. And of course, pick a price you feel comfortable with.
Higher-end pricing means you need to make your offer very enticing and reliably deliver valuable content. Lower-priced email newsletter subscriptions equal a larger audience, but therefore potentially more customer engagement to keep up with.
In your pricing model, you can also offer discounts for certain audiences such as teams and students. Fashion, beauty and retail news service WWD.com does this, as you can see below.
We recommend adding an annual revenue subscription plan, for the simple reason that it creates a recurring annual revenue stream and reduces month-to-month unsubscribes.
However, this of course requires you to commit to your paid newsletter service for at least 12 months after each new subscriber signs up.
Here’s another paid newsletter from Fantasy Football Scout that includes a monthly and yearly subscription.
Furthermore, it’s good to set the newsletter subscription to the most favorable subscription by default, or prominently feature this preference. In most cases, that’s the annual subscription.
Let’s take Sinocism as an example—a paid newsletter membership by Bill Bishop that delivers news about China four times a week.
When people are on the newsletter’s signup landing page and fill in their email address, they get redirected to the page displayed below. The annual plan is automatically selected, though readers can also pick the free subscription or the monthly payment plan.
And as a final tip, we’d advise you to start with a free newsletter or have a free and paid newsletter version available. This makes it easier for people to get to know your brand and upgrade to the paid email newsletter version.
In your free newsletter, you can easily advertise your premium content. Add snippets of your paid content or outline the exclusive benefits that are available for paying subscribers.
Now we get to the practical part! Let’s first create the two needed accounts.
If you’re starting your paid newsletter business as an individual (not a business), you can select the sole proprietorship option when activating your Stripe account.
To use Stripe’s credit card payment system with MailerLite, you first need to connect the two services. You can do this in the Integrations part of your MailerLite dashboard. Click here for a detailed how-to article including all steps.
Once connected, you can add your newsletter subscription as a product in your Stripe dashboard. Add the name, description, a picture and choose whether the pricing is one time or recurring.
After saving your product in Stripe, you’re able to display it on the pages you build with MailerLite.
To learn more about the Stripe integration and how to sell digital products and subscriptions through MailerLite, click below.
We recommend creating a new landing page to promote your paid newsletter. With MailerLite, you can send email campaigns, build landing pages and even design entire websites (with our website builder). For the URL, you can use your own custom domain.
On your premium newsletter landing page you can introduce your digital product, convince people of its value and introduce yourself or your brand. Customer reviews can help to strengthen your pitch (a testimonial building block is available in the editor).
To integrate your digital product, drag the Stripe product block into your landing page from the sidebar. You’ll find it under the Product and subscriptions section in the Blocks tab.
To display your subscription, select the product you created in the previous step.
Each new paid subscriber will automatically receive a summary email that confirms their newsletter subscription. You can edit these emails to fit your brand style and tone of voice by clicking on the Sites section and then the Stripe tab in your MailerLite dashboard.
In your Stripe dashboard, you can edit the Billing and Payment settings—such as your branding or whether newsletter cancellations are effective immediately or at the end of the current billing period.
Click here for a step-by-step explanation on how to use Stripe product blocks in MailerLite, how to navigate the Stripe dashboard and how to analyze customer purchases.
If you want to see all the steps in action, watch the Stripe tutorial video below.
Now it’s time to start growing your email list. There are many ways to go about attracting new subscribers—actually, way too many to cover in this article.
Therefore, go ahead and bookmark these helpful guides and articles:
And for the moment supreme: you’re now ready to create the first edition of your subscription newsletter.
In the MailerLite app, you can pick from a variety of email templates or start building from scratch. Before you start building, take some time to define your email’s branding. This includes things like your logo, fonts, color scheme and other email design elements.
To get inspired, head over to our newsletter examples gallery and see the template examples for different industries.
After you’ve sent a couple of paid newsletters, a good way to promote your premium newsletter content is by showing readers examples.
To do so, you can use the newsletter archive block within the landing page and website builder. This block will either show up to four recent newsletters or editions you manually pick.
You can stack as many blocks as preferred underneath each other.
If you want to offer your full newsletter archive as an option for premium subscribers, you can build a separate landing page and lock this page with a password.
In this help article, you’ll learn how to password protect pages. The password can be shared with subscribers after they’ve signed up for your paid newsletter service, for example in an automated welcome email series.
Let's have a look at five existing, successful paid newsletter services to get you inspired!
In this interview, founder Scott and co-founder Brian tell the story of how their business grew from side hustle to a freemium newsletter subscription.
They introduced their subscription service at a $2 per month price point—with a money-back guarantee. Now their Premium newsletter subscription runs at $49 a year and their Elite subscription at $199. Both come with a free 14-day trial, and they use Stripe to process payments.
By having a free version of their newsletter available, it’s easier to convert your existing subscriber base into paid customers. Word of mouth combined with giveaways (free flights, anyone?) helped them to grow their email list.
Their paid newsletter audience receives:
Up to five times more deals, including domestic deals from selected cities
Alerts when airlines accidentally publish the wrong fares
Notifications on flights that rarely go on sale
Special deals for peak season and holiday flights
All this information, including reviews and deal teasers, is nicely displayed on their landing page for premium signups.
To motivate free subscribers to upgrade, they’ll write little FOMO hints in their newsletters that tell the audience what deals they’ve missed out on.
What better way to amp up your coding skills than by racking your brain every day? The Daily Coding Problem began as a practice among friends and grew into an entire community (you can read about it in their welcome email series).
Free newsletter subscribers have access to daily coding problems and receive the answer the day after.
Paid newsletter subscribers get the complete solution, plus tricks and guides to coding problems. By having the entire solution available, it’s easier for email subscribers to verify their work and improve their skills over time.
Their paid newsletter service runs at $9 a month or $90 a year. Check their pricing landing page here.
This is an excellent example of how to monetize your personal brand. In his Medium article, Josh Spector explains how offering more (as in, bonus material) to paid newsletter subscribers didn’t exactly work for him. Instead, he decided to create an entirely new paid newsletter service with different content.
Where his weekly newsletter “For The Interested” shares five actionable ideas, his paid newsletter This Is How I Do It includes behind-the-scenes content about how he has tackled tasks—anything from building a 4,200+ member Facebook group to creating and selling an eBook.
The signup landing page cleverly showcases Josh his portfolio and skills, branding him as the expert you want to learn from.
Josh offers two different signup services:
A single issue ($15)
Annual subscription with access to the full archive ($120)
Stratechery was created by Ben Thompson, a former employee of Apple and Microsoft. This blog focuses on analyzing the business and strategy of technology and media and is even recommended by The New York Times. It’s no surprise that subscribers pay a fee to gain access to Stratechery’s most exclusive content.
Weekly articles are free on the website, but to access an additional three daily updates a week, a subscription is available for $12 a month or $120 a year.
This is another great example of how to monetize your expertise in the form of a newsletter. Not only does Heated owner Emily Atkin have the writing chops thanks to her being a journalist, but also a strong passion for solving the climate crisis. With the two combined she’s created a winning paid newsletter subscription.
Before subscribers opt for a paid subscription, they can check out what to expect in Heated’s free blog, which is updated with fresh content and news frequently. Similar to Sinocism, when you sign up to the newsletter, you’re directed to a landing page with the most premium plan pre-selected. From there, subscribers can opt for Free, Monthly, Yearly or Founding member plans.
Definitely yes! Once you’ve got your million-dollar idea, a target audience and the self-made promise to publish your paid newsletter regularly, you’re well on your way. The more valuable or unique your newsletter content is the higher your chances to create a sustainable business.
Don’t be afraid to charge for your newsletter when you have valuable content to share! Paid newsletters are growing in popularity as readers opt for ad-free media—especially in the form of newsletters. In fact, figures from Substack show that between December 2020 and February 2021, paid subscribers on the platform doubled from 250,000+ to 500,000+.
People are happy to pay for newsletters, just like they subscribe to magazines and newspapers. Paid newsletter subscriptions are a modern take on old-school newspapers—but digital and more personal.
With access to awesome features including automation, landing pages, website builder and more.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in October 2020 and has been updated with new insights and examples for 2021.