Edition #1: Making Your First Profit from Newsletters

Learn from Carl's experience with 137 newsletter editions on making profit / Hear Dru's pitch at his 11th newsletter edition and the advice he got to make a profit

Huge Thank You to First Subscribers!

Hi! I'm Gabriel and I'm a young maker. Having struggled with the plethora of advice out there, I started this newsletter. I’m running this newsletter to interview successful makers and share what I learn with you.

In this issue, we interview Carl Chenet who has ran 137 issues of newsletters to date. He has also made more than €400 from sponsorships. Contrasting with Carl, we have Dru, an aspiring maker at his 11th edition trying to make his first profit. To help Dru, we get successful makers to offer their advice.

Key Takeaways for Young Makers

  • Think of monetizing early because your costs will catch up with you

  • Turn your passion into a sustainable pursuit by monetizing early

  • Tell people you’re looking for sponsors early on to get noticed

  • Don’t be afraid to charge higher amounts for sponsorships early on

  • Stay positive and play the long game

  • Leverage platforms like Buy Me A Coffee to get donations

  • Think of sponsors as partners; talk about their products / tools you love

Making Money from a Passion-run Newsletter

Today we have Carl Chenet from France with us. He is an amazing newsletter operator with a big heart and a willingness to help new makers. I’ve read his interview and his story is incredible, filled with a lot of lessons on getting to his first profit.

What made you your first profit?

I’m the founder of the newsletter, “Le Courrier du hacker”, a newsletter with almost 3,000 users and 137 issues. It's a weekly digest of the news in the French-speaking FOSS community. (FOSS refers to Free and Open Source Software)

I was reaching the first 1000 subscribers with almost 100 issues. For different reasons, I was eager to monetize.

The first reason is my email service provider Mailchimp starts to charge when you reach 1,000 users. The second and most important reason was I was feeling quite unrewarded. I have already spent 2 years of running this newsletter already. I can work on a project for a long time, but I need some feedback after a while. It could be either earning money, or social rewards. Like becoming an influencer in my community.

Why did you make it?

In France we have a news aggregator like Hacker News. I love reading newsletters and was following The HackerNewsletter. It publishes a digest of the best news of Hacker News every week. I thought it was quite simple to do the same in France with this French news aggregator. It would allow people to have a great digest of the best IT news in French each week.

If you don’t mind sharing, how much did you make to be profitable?

I had great luck. I started by charging sponsors €100 for an issue and my first sponsor sponsored 4 issues! I could reimburse what I had invested to set up the newsletter website. And I was ready to pay the first charges of Mailchimp.

The secret about finding a sponsor is… telling people you are looking for sponsors. It seems obvious, but you should tell and remind your audience on a regular basis. Every 2 issues, I remind my audience I’m looking for sponsors. I also publish on social networks a message about sponsorship every week. It’s my main source to find sponsors.

When did you decide to monetize?

After more than one year and a half of publishing the newsletter alone, I had more than 1000 subscribers. Having proven that I was able to publish it on a regular schedule, I felt it was time to think about monetizing.

How did you decide on the business model?

The business model with the newsletter was quite straightforward. One sponsor pays the sponsorship fee for one issue or more. The only real question was: how much for the sponsorship fee? It was quite common for a newsletter to underestimate the value it provides. You should not. Your sponsors usually are companies. Do not start too low. I started charging €100 per issue. I choose to charge €100 by 1,000 subscribers. That is quite arbitrary but I feel it keeps my motivation up to charge this way.

Where is the product now?

My newsletter almost reached 3,000 subscribers. We also reached the 137th issue last week. 800 people also follow us on various social networks. 5 different companies sponsored the newsletter already. That is quite an achievement for me. When I started the project, I was not expecting anything. I was only trying to solve an unfulfilled need.

What are you working on now?

Growing beyond your own niche is quite difficult. To tackle it, I’m trying to exchange visibility with other players in the field with a win-win strategy. They introduce my newsletter to their audience. I introduce their project to my own audience. That way I was able to grow faster than expected. Of course, it is a time-consuming process but it’s free. If you choose well, you can establish long-time partnerships.

One last thing: do not take rejection personally. Your partner might think you are not mature enough for a win-win partnership. But it could be different in a few months. Stay positive.

Interview with Dru Riley

We have Dru Riley from trends.vc. Trends helps makers and investors discover new markets and ideas. We have his flash pitch here which we hope successful makers will read and reach out to provide their advice for Dru.

Profitable makers, please reply to this email with your advice if you have any. It’ll go on the next issue – help a maker out, get visibility.

What are you making?

I help founders and investors discover new markets and ideas.  15-30 hours of market research in 5-minute reports.

Why are you making it?

It's something that I wish existed. Great feedback is the cherry on top.

What are you trying now to get to profitability?

I laid my plan out in (Trends #0011) the report on paid newsletters. Reach 1,000 subscribers with at least a 50% open rate. Then create a paid plan.

How are the results so far?

My open rates float around 65%. Up to 90% with resends. And I'll hit 1,000 subs today or tomorrow.

What’s your biggest challenge right now that you need advice for?

How would you design pricing for trends.vc? — One option: Trends Pro gets you 4 reports a month. Otherwise you get 2 reports per month. Pricing starts $10/mo. How would you improve on this?

Advice from running 125 Newsletter Issues

Andrew Kamphey is a successful serial maker. He runs many profitable projects such as InfluenceWeekly, HypeLetter and BetterSheets.

InfluenceWeekly has over 6K subscribers and is at it’s 125th issue. Andrew kindly provided Dru with advice.

Advice 1: Leverage Buy Me A Coffee

Put in a Buy Me A Coffee link. Create short reports you think you could sell. Put the reports behind a coffeelink for $9 or $19 or $17 (what you think the content is worth).

Advice 2: Reach Out To Potential Sponsors

Outreach to companies you want as a sponsor. Go through the process of putting an ad in. You will be surprised at how much you get to decide is an ad or not.

Advice 3: Talk About The Products / Tools You Love

Many newsletter writers only do ads when it suits their audience and you could do that too. If you don’t like the idea of doing advertisements, talk about products or tools or software you love. Do it like how you would endorse a product you love using.

Advice 4: Think of sponsors as partners

Seek more value for your readers than they can get themselves. With many subscribers, you can ask for exclusive deals like discounts.

Get Interviewed

Are you a maker who wants to promote a new product and help young makers? Want to relive your first profitable project?

Are you a young maker that wants advice? Reach out and I'll put your pitch to mentors and readers in one of our editions.

Email me at zhchuan.2016 <at> gmail <dot> com, or reply to this email.

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I wake up on mornings and brew my coffee either using a Moka Pot or a Nespresso machine. I heat up some milk and mix them into a latte, yum. Like a sort of ritual, I look forward to moments like these every morning. Applying the advice I see in my interviews, here’s me adding a Buy Me a Coffee link 👇

Buy me a Coffee 😊