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EXECUTION [Progress] Paid email newsletters

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Andy Black

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[UPDATE]

We're investigating creating our own processes and tool that will connect a Paypal/Stripe recurring plan with a Mailchimp list. Initially it will probably be an SOP, then maybe an internal tool, then maybe a tool we'll use for possible clients, then maybe a SaaS offering like CampaignZee.

I still like the simplicity of Substack, even though there were a couple of show-stoppers.

I've got round the main show-stopper of forcing us to have an annual plan. Substack support told me I could delete the annual plan in Stripe then reload in Substack. I now only have a monthly plan, which is what I wanted so I could use paid newsletters as an MVP.

Unfortunately, we can only link one Substack newsletter to our Stripe account, so that's scuppered the idea of spinning out newsletters quickly to test ideas. I'll either do that with CampaignZee, or with our own processes/tool.


I'm going to create a Google Ads Newsletter.
  1. A few people have expressed an interested in regular tips and updates.
  2. I've already had over 50 people buy my course, and have about 200 people who signed up for the free trial of the course.
A few of them may well be interested in a newsletter on Google Ads, and to follow-along as I build campaigns for local service and eCom businesses.


I had the brain-wave of creating another newsletter where people can follow-along as I try to grow the Google Ads Newsletter. It remains to be seen if this was a good or bad brain-wave.

So I've changed my Substack newsletter to be a follow-along of me trying to grow my Google Ads Newsletter. It seems kind of odd, but makes sense given the only people likely to be checking out the newest public posts on Substack are ... other Substack publishers.

So this is like the progress thread for a follow-along of me trying to grow a paid email newsletter? My head hurts...

Anyway, I deleted my first two posts that were about freelancing, and here's my new (only) post:
 

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Here’s a couple of possible Substack workarounds:

1) I don’t want new subscribers to be paid newsletter getting to see all the issues they didn’t pay for.

The workaround is to send the paid email, and then immediately delete the post that gets created in my newletter archive area.


2) Apparently we can create multiple Stripe accounts under the main Stripe umbrella account?

Maybe I can do this and then spin out multiple newsletters.

Multiple Stripe Accounts


EDIT: It worked! It was easy to create additional Stripe accounts.
 
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@Andy Black, another solution I was thinking about is something that is definitely not scalable, but super simple.

Namely, set up your sales page, use a payment processor that handles recurring payments, and upon their purchase, redirect people to an opt-in page to your newsletter. Each month, if somebody cancels, delete them from your list manually. If somebody signs up who isn't in your customer database, just delete them.

Not really scalable, but good enough until you get some traction.

I'm also pretty sure you could hire somebody to set up an automation based on Zapier, a payment processor and a newsletter service (ideally something that offers more automation like ConvertKit). After a purchase, a new subscriber would be tagged with the day of the purchase. Then each month you could review who's still a paying customer and who stopped their subscription. Up to 100 people or so it shouldn't be that difficult to run it this way.
 
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@Andy Black, another solution I was thinking about is something that is definitely not scalable, but super simple.

Namely, set up your sales page, use a payment processor that handles recurring payments, and upon their purchase, redirect people to an opt-in page to your newsletter. Each month, if somebody cancels, delete them from your list manually. If somebody signs up who isn't in your customer database, just delete them.

Not really scalable, but good enough until you get some traction.

I'm also pretty sure you could hire somebody to set up an automation based on Zapier, a payment processor and a newsletter service (ideally something that offers more automation like ConvertKit). After a purchase, a new subscriber would be tagged with the day of the purchase. Then each month you could review who's still a paying customer and who stopped their subscription. Up to 100 people or so it shouldn't be that difficult to run it this way.
Thanks for this @MTF.

I’ll at least create the SOP.


I originally thought of a Mechanical Turk, then chose to check out the main technical solutions out there.

After reviewing a few and getting frustrated we’re revisiting creating our own SOP, then creating tools to speed up the process, then automating if possible.

This is the process I go through to, err, improve processes.


I saw an old video on YouTube where someone used Zapier and PayPal to update an email list.

There’s not many videos about this btw... which is an opportunity potentially. I’ll start churning out videos shortly. Those video creation skills will come in handy now!
 
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Love that you're setting up a real time info/problemsolving subscription! I'm heading over to your landing page.

Just curious, is there a reason why you're not just going for a landing page with a stripe subscription buy button + zapier?
I had a solution like this some years ago, and it was pretty straight forward to set up. Zapier lets you subscribe and unsubscribe based on stripe events.

Like this: Unsubscribe MailChimp subscribers based on Stripe events
 
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Love that you're setting up a real time info/problemsolving subscription! I'm heading over to your landing page.

Just curious, is there a reason why you're not just going for a landing page with a stripe subscription buy button + zapier?
I had a solution like this some years ago, and it was pretty straight forward to set up. Zapier lets you subscribe and unsubscribe based on stripe events.

Like this: Unsubscribe MailChimp subscribers based on Stripe events
Thanks @missNB.

I wanted to see what other solutions were out there to see if there’s anything I’d recommend to my cycling friend to get started. He’s non-technical so I’d lean towards Substack if I was to recommend anything (at the moment).

I’ll check out the Zapier based solutions too.

I’d like to have my own version of CampaignZee at this stage - to use for myself initially, and maybe to use when providing a paid email newsletter setup and grow service.
 
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[UPDATE]

We're investigating creating our own processes and tool that will connect a Paypal/Stripe recurring plan with a Mailchimp list. Initially it will probably be an SOP, then maybe an internal tool, then maybe a tool we'll use for possible clients, then maybe a SaaS offering like CampaignZee.

I still like the simplicity of Substack, even though there were a couple of show-stoppers.

I've got round the main show-stopper of forcing us to have an annual plan. Substack support told me I could delete the annual plan in Stripe then reload in Substack. I now only have a monthly plan, which is what I wanted so I could use paid newsletters as an MVP.

Unfortunately, we can only link one Substack newsletter to our Stripe account, so that's scuppered the idea of spinning out newsletters quickly to test ideas. I'll either do that with CampaignZee, or with our own processes/tool.


I'm going to create a Google Ads Newsletter.
  1. A few people have expressed an interested in regular tips and updates.
  2. I've already had over 50 people buy my course, and have about 200 people who signed up for the free trial of the course.
A few of them may well be interested in a newsletter on Google Ads, and to follow-along as I build campaigns for local service and eCom businesses.

I had the brain-wave of creating another newsletter where people can follow-along as I try to grow the Google Ads Newsletter. It remains to be seen if this was a good or bad brain-wave.

So I've changed my Substack newsletter to be a follow-along of me trying to grow my Google Ads Newsletter. It seems kind of odd, but makes sense given the only people likely to be checking out the newest public posts on Substack are ... other Substack publishers.

So this is like the progress thread for a follow-along of me trying to grow a paid email newsletter? My head hurts...

Anyway, I deleted my first two posts that were about freelancing, and here's my new (only) post:
I always find it easier to do everything manually at first. If I was looking to use this model, I’d probably have a simple lander with a subscribe button. On the following page there would be a simple form

Name
Email
Card #

[Subscribe]


Once you get the notification through PayPal or whatever you’re using...manually add it to your mail chimp account. If you’re looking for recurring built in, I’d probably look into the Shopify button/form with the recurring option.
 
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I always find it easier to do everything manually at first. If I was looking to use this model, I’d probably have a simple lander with a subscribe button. On the following page there would be a simple form

Name
Email
Card #

[Subscribe]


Once you get the notification through PayPal or whatever you’re using...manually add it to your mail chimp account. If you’re looking for recurring built in, I’d probably look into the Shopify button/form with the recurring option.
I agree. I like doing things manually first too!

In this case, I was keen to find a simple paid newsletter solution I could recommend to people - one that would allow them to "just" focus on growing their list of subscribers and delivering content to them.


Interesting Substack article (on Substack) here:
  • The footer is big, and well done.
  • I'm not sure whether the author will be able to sustain herself with her writing though, as I get the feeling she just wants to write and have Substack grow her readership?
  • The article: Why I Switched From Patreon to Substack


Here's my latest Substack article, written in the library this morning on my phone:
 

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I buy lots of books (and frequently find them extremely valuable). I've only paid for a couple of courses (and they haven't generally been a great value). I've never paid for emails.

It's interesting to write it out, but somehow email doesn't feel as "valuable" as, say, an ebook. I'm on various free email lists, and it would be hard for me to envision what sort of content could possibly be in an email that I would feel good about paying for. It would have to be immediately profitable information, like here are today's arbitrage opportunities or today's trading tips or today's insider knowledge about something I could use immediately. I just can't see how that would apply to cycling.

The app -- yes. The subscription box -- yes. Both of those resonate with me.

I'm curious what others think about this. Maybe it's just me. Maybe younger folks would have a different view?? (I'm 42.)

It depends...

If you were a real estate flipper and you were joining Andy’s paid email list providing you with weekly properties for sale that were listed at wholesale prices and ripe for rehab, isn’t that something you would pay for?

Why? It would give you an edge over other investors by saving you time looking for properties, you would get that info before other RE investors, and it would improve your overall bottom line.

I think the key with paid newsletters are people would be more willing to hand over there credit card if they feel confident enough that it’s going to make their life easier, make them money, or provide enough value that it’s just a no brainer to sign up.
 
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Woohoo! One in a row!

Someone just signed up this morning to the paid version of The Freelance And Beyond Newsletter.

This is my FIRST paid subscriber ever.

To my FIRST paid email newsletter ever.

Thank you (you know who you are).




The signup page for the free version of the newsletter is in my signature.

It’s on Substack, which I’m really liking so far.

I’ve been posting free issues daily (for all of 3 days ... lol) and plan on doing it for 30 days till I’m in the habit.


I’m figuring out how to setup a paid Google Ads email newsletter. I don’t know whether to do it on Substack. I think I prefer to use Mailchimp or ActiveCampaign as the backend email service, rather than be tied into Substack.

Although I do recommend Substack now for people who want to get started quick and focus on the writing and marketing side.


Why do I want to use Mailchimp or ActiveCampaign rather than be tied to Substack?
  1. Control. There are some workarounds I’ve applied to make Substack fit MY vision for a newsletter and not theirs. There are some I can’t quite get round, and it bugs me. I’m in email convo with the CEO, but I don’t want to bring all my thoughts to light because it’s pulling them away from their vision, and it’s educating them on my vision.
  2. Control. What if this new platform disappears? I can download all the email addresses I’ve got, and I have all my content as emails in my inbox. Still, it would be a bit of a pain to load into some new platform.
  3. Email services like MC and AC have much more functionality (autoresponders, tagging, automation, etc).
  4. Mailchimp’s userbase is MASSIVE. What if I figured out the marketing and business side of paid email newsletters using Mailchimp? Do you think any of their userbase might be wondering how to monetise the subscribers to their free Mailchimp newsletters?
  5. Why ActiveCampaign? It’s supposedly much more powerful than Mailchimp. I don’t need that power (yet?), and would prefer to use Mailchimp because of 3. above.


PS: Celebrate each of these firsts.
 

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How do you create the following for your paid newsletter?
Part 2


This isn't what I meant to post for Part 2, but what the heck. I'm moving fast and trying to leave breadcrumbs.

...

Gary Vee said once (or many times knowing him) that:

1 > 0

Link: One is greater than zero.

...

Paul Graham in one of his excellent essays said that:

"startups take off because the founders make them take off"

Link: Do things that don't scale.


...

Blaise Brosnan, one of my mentors here in Ireland, summarised it nicely when he said:​
"Spend your money on diesel and coffee"

I talked about that here:

...

Dan Norris said:

"You don't learn until you launch."

...

I even created a thread about how I do this by default anyway:

...


TL;DR?

For the love of God, please stop trying to automate and scale too soon!

Grow your paid newsletter by MAKING it grow.


An Example:

Someone signed up to the free version of my Freelance And Beyond newsletter this morning. I figured it was probably a TFLF member following this progress thread.

I did what I always do. I sent a personal email.

Here's how that email conversation started off.

See what I'm learning already?

See what content I can copy/paste into my next newsletter issue?



Here's the public issue I posted last night, that enticed him to click through, to read, and then to signup:





I’ve a good idea of who's currently checking out the Discovery page.
  • People checking out Substack so they can start their own paid newsletters.
  • People already on Substack publishing their free newsletter and wondering how to get people onto their paid newsletter.
  • People already with subscribers to their paid newsletter, who are wondering how to grow their subscribers.
  • The founders of Substack, and their investors.

Why are they checking out the Discovery page?
  • They want to see their own listing and feel proud they have a free issue listed on the Discovery page. “Look what I did mom!”
  • They want to see how their listing compares to other listings. How does my logo stand out? What type of subject lines are people using? What names have people got for their newsletter?
  • They want to check out free issues and see how people are trying to convince readers to signup to the paid newsletter (although I suspect less people are doing this than there should be).
  • They want to see if there’s anything interesting or useful for them to subscribe to.
  • They want to see who’s using the platform, what they’re using it for, and how well they’re doing.



What's your biggest takeaway?

What will you do different going forward?
 
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[UPDATE]

Importing buyers and interested folks into a Mailchimp list:
  • A couple of days ago I exported out of Thinkific the email addresses of people who bought or took the free trial of my AdWords Jumpstart course. I imported all 226 emails and first names into a Mailchimp list.

  • They're not grouped by "free trialler" or "buyer". I don't need to at the moment, and figuring that out would slow me down.

  • I then setup Thinkific to automatically add people to the Mailchimp list. Last night I spotted it had worked as I was up to 227 people on the list.


Last night I stayed up far too late doing the following:
  • Cancelled my ActiveCampaign account. I've paid $15/mth for it for 6 months but never used it. It's supposed to be amazing, but it just confused me logging in. (I've other reasons for going with Mailchimp that I’ve mentioned before and will explain in more detail another time.)

  • Setup an automated Mailchimp welcome email for people who get added to the list from now on.

  • I'm trying to write an email to all 200+ folks where they can click a link in the email to signify they're interested in finding out when my paid Google Ads newsletter is released. I've still not figured out how to add them to an "interested" group when they click the link.
 

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I'm trying to write an email to all 200+ folks where they can click a link in the email to signify they're interested in finding out when my paid Google Ads newsletter is released. I've still not figured out how to add them to an "interested" group when they click the link.
Not sure how it works in Mailchimp but in Aweber you can segment your list by people who clicked a specific link in a specific message, so maybe look into you list of subscribers and check the filters there.
 

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I'm trying to write an email to all 200+ folks where they can click a link in the email to signify they're interested in finding out when my paid Google Ads newsletter is released. I've still not figured out how to add them to an "interested" group when they click the link.
I'm not that great with MailChimp, but I think this is how I did it for a client two weeks ago:

Go to Lists
Choose list.
In the menu, go for Manage contacts -> Segments
Click "Create segment" and name it "Interested" or whatever
Set up the conditions however you want. But for this purpose, choosing "Campaign activity" in the dropdown would probably suffice. It lets you target subscribers who clicked a certain campaign you sent out.
 
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Not sure how it works in Mailchimp but in Aweber you can segment your list by people who clicked a specific link in a specific message, so maybe look into you list of subscribers and check the filters there.
I'm not that great with MailChimp, but I think this is how I did it for a client two weeks ago:

Go to Lists
Choose list.
In the menu, go for Manage contacts -> Segments
Click "Create segment" and name it "Interested" or whatever
Set up the conditions however you want. But for this purpose, choosing "Campaign activity" in the dropdown would probably suffice. It lets you target subscribers who clicked a certain campaign you sent out.
Thanks @MTF @jon.M. I'll figure it out and update this thread.


In the meantime...


I got my second paid subscriber on Substack!
  • It's a friend who's also a digital marketing agency owner.
  • We had a chat for about 2 hours about paid newsletters a week ago.
  • I showed him how my Substack newsletter was going just now and he signed up.
  • It's amazing how exciting that small $5/mth notification is.


Here's how it stands:
  • 15 free subscribers and 2 paid subscribers


And I've only just spotted the "Stats" menu item:
  • ... even though it's been staring me in the face all this time!
  • Interesting that I've had a couple of visits via my Instagram project, and 1 signed up as a free subscriber.
 

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I'll figure it out and update this thread.
Andy great to see you start a progress/execution thread. Newsletters are big business, and we're talking multi-million dollar business (I'm in touch with one group that I discuss with occasionally). I've got a fair amount of experience, so can help you save some trouble.

1. It's not really passive, unless you automate even curation/discovery (like Matt Paulson) or have a team working on it later on. But it is scalable.

2. Again, multi-million industry behind this. You need good copywriters if you want to scale this. James Altucher moved away from his normal writing to publishing - in fact if you search google hard enough, you can find a pdf of Altucher on this industry. The financial newsletter is probably the biggest, because there is no dearth of actionable stock / trading tips. Then there are what we call back offers that will boost your sign ups (i.e. the thank you page is offered as a sign up bonus - you have to share your first year revenue etc)

3. It's slightly similar to membership sites, ultimately if you're providing evergreen content - you might want to go the course/masterclass/membership route. Effectively, most email list/newsletter subscriptions are nothing but memberships that have fresh content pushed to email. Talking about email, not all email will go through - as deliverability becomes an issue, and you can have people complain that they're not getting the emails because of strong spam filters.

4. While it is an initial drip, it will take a lot of time to build up and keep people's attention. Providing useful/curated stuff on a regular basis, is more like a full time job. Unless you love doing it, I would advise against it.

5. As you scale, cost of email will go up. The guys who make the money in this business, are the ones building the software behind it - Madmimi (acquired by Godaddy), MailChimp. And new models are coming up. Check this one out by Jason C (vc investor) if you read the pitch, you'll see they burnt through $26 million (God knows how). While on this funding topic - check out The Hustle. I was really impressed by the rates they were charging for sponsorship, and boy do they have amazing open rates.

6. The question is of paid vs. sponsorship. And honestly, I think you'll have more success like The Hustle (which is a great read) if you focus on building free subscriber numbers, and focus on open/click rates. However, there are sites like https://stratechery.com/ who pretty much hit the nail on the head in terms of quality and price. You don't get to see the latest, he gives that to those who subscribe. Then its released to public, which allows for SEO to pick up the page. This is going to be important, as you are an expert in SEO, I don't need to preach to the choir. Also check out David Pell - he's a master at curation - and I honestly don't know how he does it NextDraft - and of course there's Jon Gruber of Daring Fireball fame (who relies on sponsorship via the site).

7. I was reading your justification of closing your forum - yes, they require a lot of work. Hats of to @MJ DeMarco for managing this forum for so long. Again, I understand why he's thought about this model as an income stream - but would love to get his insight on the real money behind it - sponsorships vs. memberships. If he's willing to share it ;)

I'm always reminded of The Ferrari Newsletter - which reminds me of how much he made. There are many more examples of this, being run with one or two people. But he wasn't selling just curation, he was building a hard to find database of all ferraris in the world.

People will pay a premium for the value you deliver. Today, curation is being crowdfunded, so I wouldn't just rely on that - unless you're bringing some insight to it. Yes, we have an avalanche of information - so people 'might' pay. But I think technology is already there which can sort AND even PUBLISH content that you won't recognize (i.e. its done by AI but looks like a human wrote it!).

This is not to discourage you in anyway, just saying... it's a tough thing. I don't wish to see you fail, so you have to be really committed to it.
 

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Andy great to see you start a progress/execution thread. Newsletters are big business, and we're talking multi-million dollar business (I'm in touch with one group that I discuss with occasionally). I've got a fair amount of experience, so can help you save some trouble.

1. It's not really passive, unless you automate even curation/discovery (like Matt Paulson) or have a team working on it later on. But it is scalable.

2. Again, multi-million industry behind this. You need good copywriters if you want to scale this. James Altucher moved away from his normal writing to publishing - in fact if you search google hard enough, you can find a pdf of Altucher on this industry. The financial newsletter is probably the biggest, because there is no dearth of actionable stock / trading tips. Then there are what we call back offers that will boost your sign ups (i.e. the thank you page is offered as a sign up bonus - you have to share your first year revenue etc)

3. It's slightly similar to membership sites, ultimately if you're providing evergreen content - you might want to go the course/masterclass/membership route. Effectively, most email list/newsletter subscriptions are nothing but memberships that have fresh content pushed to email. Talking about email, not all email will go through - as deliverability becomes an issue, and you can have people complain that they're not getting the emails because of strong spam filters.

4. While it is an initial drip, it will take a lot of time to build up and keep people's attention. Providing useful/curated stuff on a regular basis, is more like a full time job. Unless you love doing it, I would advise against it.

5. As you scale, cost of email will go up. The guys who make the money in this business, are the ones building the software behind it - Madmimi (acquired by Godaddy), MailChimp. And new models are coming up. Check this one out by Jason C (vc investor) if you read the pitch, you'll see they burnt through $26 million (God knows how). While on this funding topic - check out The Hustle. I was really impressed by the rates they were charging for sponsorship, and boy do they have amazing open rates.

6. The question is of paid vs. sponsorship. And honestly, I think you'll have more success like The Hustle (which is a great read) if you focus on building free subscriber numbers, and focus on open/click rates. However, there are sites like https://stratechery.com/ who pretty much hit the nail on the head in terms of quality and price. You don't get to see the latest, he gives that to those who subscribe. Then its released to public, which allows for SEO to pick up the page. This is going to be important, as you are an expert in SEO, I don't need to preach to the choir. Also check out David Pell - he's a master at curation - and I honestly don't know how he does it NextDraft - and of course there's Jon Gruber of Daring Fireball fame (who relies on sponsorship via the site).

7. I was reading your justification of closing your forum - yes, they require a lot of work. Hats of to @MJ DeMarco for managing this forum for so long. Again, I understand why he's thought about this model as an income stream - but would love to get his insight on the real money behind it - sponsorships vs. memberships. If he's willing to share it ;)

I'm always reminded of The Ferrari Newsletter - which reminds me of how much he made. There are many more examples of this, being run with one or two people. But he wasn't selling just curation, he was building a hard to find database of all ferraris in the world.

People will pay a premium for the value you deliver. Today, curation is being crowdfunded, so I wouldn't just rely on that - unless you're bringing some insight to it. Yes, we have an avalanche of information - so people 'might' pay. But I think technology is already there which can sort AND even PUBLISH content that you won't recognize (i.e. its done by AI but looks like a human wrote it!).

This is not to discourage you in anyway, just saying... it's a tough thing. I don't wish to see you fail, so you have to be really committed to it.
Lot of good points here. I love the newsletter business - email never dies, it can be tracked, and every user that signs up increases the equity value of the business through retention. BUT there are multiple business models within that business that probably should be hammered out from the start like paid vs free that run on ads.

Take for example Ben Lerer, founder of thrillist. People weren’t paying for for info on what’s happening in NYC. They just wanted something that made their life easier and did the work for them (finding what’s hot and delivering it to their inbox). From the get, he started off using the free model - they acquire a subscription and over the subscribers lifespan (say 6 months) they eventually bring in revenue through all sorts of ways. Attending events, clicking on ads, or buying product through cross promotion.


A newsletter like peterleeds ultimately helps investors bottom line so they will pay for it. It’s almost as if signing up would be a no brained for these subscribers...Aka if I sign up, I can piggy back on this guys trades and make money. It will pay for itself!

Anyway, as entrepreneurs, you know better than anyone Andy that kicking down doors through adversity is all you can do and it’s on you to make this thing successful.

Truly believe in you brother!
 

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I still believe this! Even when Slack came out, or others were saying you wouldn't be using email again - guess what, you need an email to sign up (Even Slack founder admits this). Even Reddit didn't have email address signups (I still have an account that I can't access now because I forgot the password, and they didn't have email signups in 2007). Now you see companies that are trying to do what Slack did, to internal emails. Even Spark, Newton, Superhuman are all in the game as email apps. (Ok Newton, just shut shop, but that's another topic for debate on subscription models). Then you have the mailing list providers such as Mailchimp, MailerLite, Convertkit, ActiveCampaign - it's a pick and shovel business.

Ben Lerer, founder of thrillist
Even Product Hunt (Ryan talks about this)... all started as email lists. My friend Chris manages three lists, which I've used (yes, they're good for cold emailing, but targeted). He has built databases, around which the email lists function.

A newsletter like peterleeds ultimately helps investors bottom line so they will pay for it. It’s almost as if signing up would be a no brained for these subscribers...Aka if I sign up, I can piggy back on this guys trades and make money. It will pay for itself!
The financial newsletter business is so big, they have a newsletter about the various financial newsletters - have a look at the Hulbert Digest who HAD been tracking these investment/financial newsletters Since Inception – From Mark Hulbert and Hulbert Financial Digest
 

jpmartin

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Had to re-read the thread, so if I've quoted out of context... forgive!

I want to be able to advise others on how to create paid email newsletters, so was looking for something that was simple and cheap to start with, but didn't tie us into someone else's emailing platform.
Teaching others how to make money, by selling them a book on how to make money? LOL ok.... @MJ DeMarco would die after reading this... btw, just reading UNSCRIPTED (and it's a great follow up book, though I don't agree with some parts... more after I finish reading)

consider Gumroad
I've been using Gumroad since they launched, tried the same for newsletters. While it is damn easy, and the conversion rates are good - it's probably the best, as Samcart copied their popup model.

I found their platforms frustrating
Which one gumroad or...?

call it an "eZine"
Ahh... those good old days, ok this may date me.

Revenue-wise, a course is most likely better. Value-wise, an email course is more structured so it can be more actionable, too.
True. Video -> Audio (podcasts, downloads) -> Text (email) -> Text (ebook) -> Text (blog) seems to be the value pyramid.

The (limiting?) belief I have about my paid forum is that the more successful and busy it gets then the more of my time it will take up.
If you become a successful newsletter publisher, won't you have more emails as replies? This is why many newsletter guys have a 'mailbag' or 'letter-to-editor'. Think about it! And you/staff will have to answer it. And it cannot be crowdsourced like in this forum.

The most amazing emails I get are the Paypal/Stripe notifications when someone buys my course, because I've no more work to do after they've bought!
Ah the love of that ding... you'll love this CashNotify: Stripe Payment Notification App :) - this is why I prefer the course/membership model to newsletter.

I've noticed I do better helping in other people's forums, than running my own quiet one.
We need more people like you Andy!

I also wonder what the $2m funding is being used for, or going to be used for.
I just figured out what Jason Calcanis' $26 million hole could be... borrowed money from Elon, Cuban and Sequoia - could be wrong, but think for yourself. I hope he doesn't read this and reply to me on linkedin :D Nevertheless, Jason is one person who has thought long and hard about this business model, all the way since 2008. I found substack interesting... was surprized to see Matt Tiabi on that... some big names in writing.

Here's what the Gumroad sales page looks like. I don't have an annual payment option.
Wouldn't annual payment be better. To see a small amount charged every month, will remind me that I'm being charged. I think it was proven somewhere that annual rates are better, so offer that - you can always refund later if you fold up.

set up your sales page, use a payment processor that handles recurring payments, and upon their purchase, redirect people to an opt-in page to your newsletter. Each month, if somebody cancels, delete them from your list manually. If somebody signs up who isn't in your customer database, just delete them.
Yes, basically acting like a membership website. One option Andy could look at is ConvertKit/Active Campaign + Zapier + Stripe. You will need to use tag features, to set for "Trial Period", "Paid Subscriber", "Refunded Subscriber" etc - check out Barry's course on this - I learned a lot! The Active Marketer

P.S. Also, if you're going to use revue, let me know - I will check some startup sources for a deal!
 

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Thanks @jpmartin. Rep+

Teaching others how to make money, by selling them a book on how to make money?
No.

If I can figure out how to technically put together a simple, quick, and cheap solution for clients to start a paid email newsletter, and I can help them generate free and paid subscribers (using Google Ads for instance), then I can provide it as a service to my current clients, and add it as another service we can offer clients.

... and do it for a load of different internal projects I have in mind.

In the past I've created Google Ad campaigns to generate 15k email signups a day. I wonder how many of those free subscribers would have signed up to some monthly paid newsletter/ezine/ecourse/whatever? The business never even tried. They ended up going bust.


I've been using Gumroad since they launched, tried the same for newsletters. While it is damn easy, and the conversion rates are good - it's probably the best, as Samcart copied their popup model.
I couldn't send an image in the update emails within Gumroad. That was a show-stopper for me.


Which one gumroad or...?
I find all the platforms/solutions I've looked at frustrating in one way or another. I'm super surprised there isn't something out there that just allows people to simply create a paid email newsletter. CampaignZee might actually be the simplest.

I've checked Memberful with Mailchimp, and Chargebee with Mailchimp. Both suffered from the same fault... when you setup a $X/mth recurring payment for the newsletter and a visitor gets to the checkout, the checkout cart only says it's an $X payment, not an $X/mth payment. Huh? I even emailed Memberful support and they gave me a workaround that you mention it in the sales page before they hit the checkout cart. Oh, and lots of people have asked for this to be changed, but they don't know when it will happen. Incredible really.


If you become a successful newsletter publisher, won't you have more emails as replies? This is why many newsletter guys have a 'mailbag' or 'letter-to-editor'. Think about it! And you/staff will have to answer it. And it cannot be crowdsourced like in this forum.
True. There will be more replies, but people aren't expecting you to read and reply to them, and I don't have to check they're not going to offend anyone else receiving the emails. I can of course send from no-reply@mydomain.com and discourage replies too (but wouldn't of course).


Ah the love of that ding... you'll love this CashNotify: Stripe Payment Notification App :) - this is why I prefer the course/membership model to newsletter.
I don't really see the difference between a membership model and a newsletter. They get information on a monthly basis for a monthly fee. It's just that it's delivered to their inbox instead of somewhere they log into to get.


We need more people like you Andy!
Thanks!


Wouldn't annual payment be better. To see a small amount charged every month, will remind me that I'm being charged. I think it was proven somewhere that annual rates are better, so offer that - you can always refund later if you fold up.
Yep. The Substack guys were telling me I'd be leaving money on the table if I didn't offer an annual plan at 10x the monthly plan. I explained that I'm creating the newsletter as an MVP for a subscription offering, and to see if there's anyone out there willing to pay the first month, and then who renews. Then poll those folks and find out what they want to buy that isn't a newsletter.

I don't want someone signing up for an annual plan to something that I then decide to give a bullet to after 3 months.

The Substack guys then gave me the workaround of going into Stripe and deleting the annual plan that Substack creates.


Yes, basically acting like a membership website. One option Andy could look at is ConvertKit/Active Campaign + Zapier + Stripe. You will need to use tag features, to set for "Trial Period", "Paid Subscriber", "Refunded Subscriber" etc - check out Barry's course on this - I learned a lot! The Active Marketer

P.S. Also, if you're going to use revue, let me know - I will check some startup sources for a deal!
Thanks. That link didn't work, but it's ok. I'm trying not to read too much about what others are doing. I can see something out of the corner of my eye and I'm trying to get it into focus.
 
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Andy great to see you start a progress/execution thread. Newsletters are big business, and we're talking multi-million dollar business (I'm in touch with one group that I discuss with occasionally). I've got a fair amount of experience, so can help you save some trouble.

1. It's not really passive, unless you automate even curation/discovery (like Matt Paulson) or have a team working on it later on. But it is scalable.

2. Again, multi-million industry behind this. You need good copywriters if you want to scale this. James Altucher moved away from his normal writing to publishing - in fact if you search google hard enough, you can find a pdf of Altucher on this industry. The financial newsletter is probably the biggest, because there is no dearth of actionable stock / trading tips. Then there are what we call back offers that will boost your sign ups (i.e. the thank you page is offered as a sign up bonus - you have to share your first year revenue etc)

3. It's slightly similar to membership sites, ultimately if you're providing evergreen content - you might want to go the course/masterclass/membership route. Effectively, most email list/newsletter subscriptions are nothing but memberships that have fresh content pushed to email. Talking about email, not all email will go through - as deliverability becomes an issue, and you can have people complain that they're not getting the emails because of strong spam filters.

4. While it is an initial drip, it will take a lot of time to build up and keep people's attention. Providing useful/curated stuff on a regular basis, is more like a full time job. Unless you love doing it, I would advise against it.

5. As you scale, cost of email will go up. The guys who make the money in this business, are the ones building the software behind it - Madmimi (acquired by Godaddy), MailChimp. And new models are coming up. Check this one out by Jason C (vc investor) if you read the pitch, you'll see they burnt through $26 million (God knows how). While on this funding topic - check out The Hustle. I was really impressed by the rates they were charging for sponsorship, and boy do they have amazing open rates.

6. The question is of paid vs. sponsorship. And honestly, I think you'll have more success like The Hustle (which is a great read) if you focus on building free subscriber numbers, and focus on open/click rates. However, there are sites like https://stratechery.com/ who pretty much hit the nail on the head in terms of quality and price. You don't get to see the latest, he gives that to those who subscribe. Then its released to public, which allows for SEO to pick up the page. This is going to be important, as you are an expert in SEO, I don't need to preach to the choir. Also check out David Pell - he's a master at curation - and I honestly don't know how he does it NextDraft - and of course there's Jon Gruber of Daring Fireball fame (who relies on sponsorship via the site).

7. I was reading your justification of closing your forum - yes, they require a lot of work. Hats of to @MJ DeMarco for managing this forum for so long. Again, I understand why he's thought about this model as an income stream - but would love to get his insight on the real money behind it - sponsorships vs. memberships. If he's willing to share it ;)

I'm always reminded of The Ferrari Newsletter - which reminds me of how much he made. There are many more examples of this, being run with one or two people. But he wasn't selling just curation, he was building a hard to find database of all ferraris in the world.

People will pay a premium for the value you deliver. Today, curation is being crowdfunded, so I wouldn't just rely on that - unless you're bringing some insight to it. Yes, we have an avalanche of information - so people 'might' pay. But I think technology is already there which can sort AND even PUBLISH content that you won't recognize (i.e. its done by AI but looks like a human wrote it!).

This is not to discourage you in anyway, just saying... it's a tough thing. I don't wish to see you fail, so you have to be really committed to it.
Blimey. Thanks for this @jpmartin. Rep+ too.


It's not really passive... But it is scalable.
That's ok. I churn out content daily as a byproduct of the work I do. I've been doing it for years when I was an IT dude (change logs, tracefiles, etc), for Google Ads clients, and in forums. Churning out content seems to be something I can't NOT do. I should leverage it better.



Unless you love doing it, I would advise against it.
See above. I can't help it!


3. It's slightly similar to membership sites, ultimately if you're providing evergreen content - you might want to go the course/masterclass/membership route. Effectively, most email list/newsletter subscriptions are nothing but memberships that have fresh content pushed to email. Talking about email, not all email will go through - as deliverability becomes an issue, and you can have people complain that they're not getting the emails because of strong spam filters.
Totally. When I find the evergreen stuff then it's ideal fodder for a course.

If I find a small hint, tip or anecdote in my daily travels then it's ideal fodder for a quick look-over-my-shoulder "newsletter".

(I still think "newsletter" is the wrong word for it, but I can't think what else to call it. Think of it as a "follow-along". "Follow-along as I build and manage Google Ad campaigns for myself and clients.")



As you scale, cost of email will go up.
Hence getting paid for each email sent. I'm not worried about scale at the moment. I'll cross that bridge IF I come to it.



deliverability becomes an issue, and you can have people complain that they're not getting the emails because of strong spam filters.
Yeah, I can imagine this being a problem. It may well be that (mini) courses end up on Gumroad or some other platform where people can login and also get that month's worth of issues (maybe edited and packaged up nicer?).

Again, a problem I don't have (yet?).



People will pay a premium for the value you deliver. Today, curation is being crowdfunded, so I wouldn't just rely on that - unless you're bringing some insight to it. Yes, we have an avalanche of information - so people 'might' pay. But I think technology is already there which can sort AND even PUBLISH content that you won't recognize (i.e. its done by AI but looks like a human wrote it!).
The proof to me already is that people within TFLF read my Google Ads posts, tell me that they get value from them, and a good few people bought my course at $299 a pop.

Some people have asked for additional modules/courses, or ask more questions after taking the course (which is understandable as it's "only" a jumpstart course).

My forum doesn't seem to be the right delivery mechanism (for me or for people who want to learn from me). Maybe a "Google Ads Follow-Along" might be, with little mini-courses created every now and then.


Thanks to everyone for sharing all the paid newsletters they know about. I'll come back one day to check them out - maybe! I'm keen to follow my own nose at the moment.
 
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Anyway, as entrepreneurs, you know better than anyone Andy that kicking down doors through adversity is all you can do and it’s on you to make this thing successful.

Truly believe in you brother!
Thanks.

Just realise that I'm NOT trying to build a massive paid email newsletter. I'm exploring it as a way of delivering value via a monthly recurring subscription, and as a possible MVP for subscription businesses in general.

Oh, and while I'm descending this rabbit-hole I'm finding frustrations and needs galore. Which is a good thing.
 
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[UPDATE]

So here's where my head is at currently.

Substack is interesting, but not much of a channel that will grow a newsletter at present. I'd have to do the marketing to get people to their platform, to signup to my free newsletter, and to then become a paid subscriber, so I can give them 10% for their paid newsletter functionality.

I'm keen to deep dive a bit more into Substack because I think they're onto something, but not necessarily doing a great job of it. The marketing piece is missing, where they use their funding to generate free and paid subscribers for publishers on their platform (and in turn convert that to their own monthly revenue stream ... using other people's content).

I'm uneasy putting all my content on their platform when I could just as easily put it onto my own domain. Maybe I duplicate the for a while as I get my head round Substack.



Overall, there's a serious lack of information on how to technically setup a paid email newsletter, and NO information on how to grow one. Not that I've found from doing a lot of Googling.

This could be an opportunity for later.



The search term "mailchimp" has 2.7 MILLION searches a month worldwide. Holy moly. They've wiped the floor with everyone else! It's the email service I want to get my head round because there's soooo many people using it, and they also have the most users who want to monetise their emails somehow.



The paid email newsletter I currently want to "properly" create is for Google Ads. I've a decent amount of people who've already spent money with me buying my course, and a decent amount who've signed up for a free trial with it.

I much prefer to deliver emails to paid subscribers via Mailchimp than via Substack.

I'll send an email to all those people soon (which will be amusing since most of them are probably TFLF members).
 

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Not sure which is the better route - charging for a newsletter vs making the newsletter free, but supported by Ads (like how The Hustle and TheSkimm do it). The benefit of the ad-supported model is that it's easier to also post the content online to be shareable, which can help scale your list.
 
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Not sure which is the better route - charging for a newsletter vs making the newsletter free, but supported by Ads (like how The Hustle and TheSkimm do it). The benefit of the ad-supported model is that it's easier to also post the content online to be shareable, which can help scale your list.
For me, the newsletter is a paid offering to find out who's prepared to buy from me, so I can deliver better value to them, and find out how else I can serve them. I don't want to go to the effort to do all that to make money by sending them off to someone else as a "lead".
 
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[UPDATE]

I've not done anything in the last week as I was busy with client work.

It's interesting how my Substack email list has grown slowly, but organically, to 25 free subs (with still 2 paid subs):

upload_2018-8-21_0-23-12.png
Here's the sources this month to date:
upload_2018-8-21_0-24-17.png

I've been emailing everyone by hand who signs up as a free subscriber. Not everyone replies of course, but some who do are gobsmacked that anyone would mail them. I've had some very enlightening conversations about how they found out about the newsletter, why they signed up, and what they're trying to do.

They're very similar conversations to the ones I have with people who follow me or rep me in TFLF.

I find many people are blind to the option of freelancing as a starting point to creating that business that will eventually run without them.

So I created a post tonight to try and address that:

Should that be on my blog, or on Substack? The jury's out still, but it was about time my free and paid Substack subscribers heard from me.
 

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[UPDATE]

I've not done anything in the last week as I was busy with client work.

It's interesting how my Substack email list has grown slowly, but organically, to 25 free subs (with still 2 paid subs):

Here's the sources this month to date:

I've been emailing everyone by hand who signs up as a free subscriber. Not everyone replies of course, but some who do are gobsmacked that anyone would mail them. I've had some very enlightening conversations about what they signed up, and what they're trying to do.

They're very similar conversations to the ones I have with people who follow me or rep me in TFLF.

I find many people are blind to the option of freelancing as a starting point to creating that business that will eventually run without them.

So I created a post tonight to try and address that:

Should that be on my blog, or on Substack? The jury's out still, but it was about time my free and paid Substack subscribers heard from me.
Really liked that post Andy. Hit me hard and really resonated.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

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Hi

Jtads Newsletter

For those who give a shit yes this is what I've been doing lately!

One day I may make a forum post about it. That day will not be today.

This post is meant to get you to think. So think.
 

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