9 min read

How to start a newsletter: a guide for individual creators

How to start a newsletter: a guide for individual creators

In this article, I'm going to help start a newsletter.

I will do my best to help you focus on essential things like picking the newsletter platform, monetization options, and how to grow the newsletter.

My name is Tiago Silva, and I am a content creator who has been sharing my experience since 2020. My goal is to give you the best info to help you pick the right tool for your newsletter while I write about something I enjoy.

Let's go!

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Affiliate Disclaimer: This page contains affiliate links. My content is supported by readers like you. So if you buy after clicking on a link, I get a commission without costing you extra. 😊

Summary

Best blog + newsletter
Ghost CMS
Best overall
beehiiv
ConvertKit
Affordable
MailerLite
Substack
Product Title
Product Title
Ghost CMS
beehiiv
ConvertKit
MailerLite
Substack
Fees
Fees
0%
0%
0.6%
0%
10%
Free plan
Free plan
No
Up to 2,500 subs
Up to 1,000 subs
Up to 1,000 subs
Free forever
Cheaper paid plan
Cheaper paid plan
$9/month
$42/month
$9/month
$9/month
$0 + 10% fees

All successful newsletters have one thing in common: a clearly defined audience. In short, this involves understanding their interests, needs, and what they seek from your content.

When you do this, you can keep the audience interested in reading about what you have to say over a longer period.

It's also crucial to maintain a regular sending frequency. Consistency helps build a routine with your readers, making your newsletter something they look forward to. Whether weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly, sticking to a schedule can increase your chances of success.

When it comes to tools, my top recommendations are:

  • Beehiiv: Great for creators prioritizing newsletters with blogging capabilities, affordable, and advanced options for professional creators.
  • ConvertKit: Ideal for those with an existing blog or no blog at all, with excellent monetization tools and beautiful templates.
  • Ghost: Best for creators who prioritize their blogs and want newsletter capabilities.
  • MailerLite: Offers great customization and integrations at lower prices, suitable for those on a tight budget.
  • Blogstatic: A minimalist and affordable option that combines blogging and newsletter capabilities, perfect for those seeking simplicity.

Most of these tools often come with a free plan, making them accessible to beginners. And to access more advanced features, paid plans usually start at around $10 per month.

There are several good reasons to start a newsletter.

One of them is the high return on investment (ROI). Unlike other marketing channels, newsletters allow for direct communication with your audience, fostering a stronger relationship and loyalty at a relatively low cost.

Additionally, newsletters reduce your reliance on social media platforms and algorithms, giving you more control over your message and how it's delivered to your audience.

Table of contents

Decide the topic of the newsletter

This might sound obvious, but unless you are writing a personal newsletter, you must decide the topic beforehand.

If you don't have a clear vision about what you will write about, how will you be able to make people subscribe and be interested in your newsletter?

Spoiler: you won't!

I have suffered from this problem for a long time because I tried different things with the newsletter without a clear vision.

So, my suggestion is to pick a topic and stick with it.

You can write about anything from sports, politics, indoor plants, etc. Just make it clear about what people are signing up for!

This will help you find your tribe and keep the focus.

Another tip I have for you is to pick something you like to write and have a lot to say.

Most newsletters are a long-term investment because they can take time to grow and also because there isn't an end to the "newsletter game".

That's why it's recommended to pick a topic you like or feel that you won't get tired of it.

Pick a newsletter platform

The next step is picking the newsletter platform you will use.

This is the part where things feel daunting, as there are many options with different prices and features.

Below are my recommendations for picking the best newsletter tool for your needs.

Beehiiv is the best overall newsletter tool. It's a great choice for creators prioritizing their newsletters while also having blogging capabilities. It's user-friendly, even for those with minimal technical skills.

Beehiiv's prices are affordable for what the platform offers, customization is good, and there are plenty of advanced options for professional creators.

My 2nd pick would be ConvertKit. This tool is best suited for creators who already have a blog using a platform like WordPress or don't want a blog at all.

ConvertKit has great monetization tools to help creators earn money from their creations and amazing templates to create pretty newsletters.

Ghost CMS is a solid option for newsletters with a twist. Ghost will be the best for creators prioritizing their blog over the newsletter.

Think of Ghost as WordPress, and Substack had a baby, with Ghost taking the strong points of each one. This means Ghost is great for blogging while being simple and solid to send a newsletter.

Speaking of Substack, this tool has 1 thing I love: a free forever plan. Substack is one of the simplest newsletter tools on the market. This means it is super easy to use but comes with some downsides for advanced users.

If you are on a tight budget, MailerLite is a great alternative to any of the previous options mentioned.

MailerLite has a lot of customization and integration options that advanced users like while keeping prices lower than some competitors like ConvertKit.

In case you want a minimalist alternative to Ghost or beehiiv, then look at blogstatic. This tool is super affordable and combines blogging with newsletter capabilities.

Or, if you just want a minimalist and still powerful newsletter tool, consider Buttondown.

There are a lot more options, but these are the best ones I recommend at this moment.

Best blog + newsletter
Ghost CMS
Best overall
beehiiv
ConvertKit
Affordable
MailerLite
Substack
Product Title
Product Title
Ghost CMS
beehiiv
ConvertKit
MailerLite
Substack
Fees
Fees
0%
0%
0.6%
0%
10%
Free plan
Free plan
No
Up to 2,500 subs
Up to 1,000 subs
Up to 1,000 subs
Free forever
Cheaper paid plan
Cheaper paid plan
$9/month
$42/month
$9/month
$9/month
$0 + 10% fees

How to start a newsletter for free

You don't need to spend a fortune to start a newsletter, especially as the most popular newsletter tools tend to have a free plan to let beginners start their newsletter.

To start a free newsletter, pick one of the following tools with a free plan:

  • Beehiiv: free plan up to 2,500 subscribers;
  • ConvertKit: free plan up to 1,000 subscribers;
  • MailerLite: free plan up to 1,000 subscribers;
  • Buttondown: free plan up to 100 subscribers.
  • Substack: free plan without limit of subscribers, but with 10% fees over revenue.

Starting a newsletter with free plans offers an easy and low-risk option for content creators to build an audience without initial investment.

This approach lets you experiment with content formats and audience segmentation to identify what resonates best with subscribers.

But what happens when you outgrow the free plan?

When you reach this point, your newsletter should already be generating revenue (through memberships, sponsored content, or product sales), making the transition to a paid plan possible.

This typically means a healthy and engaged subscriber base and that people care about what you write about.

The progression to paid plans on newsletter tools usually gives you access to more advanced tools, which could help the newsletter grow further.

But in case you aren't generating money to justify paying for a paid tool, you can export your subscriber list and move to another tool. Trust me when I say that changing tools isn't as scary as you think.

Monetize the newsletter

When starting a newsletter, you should also think about ways to monetize it. And there are a few proven strategies that you can use. Let's break them down.

First, consider incorporating ads into your newsletter. This means partnering with brands that want to reach your audience. They pay you to include their ads, which can be a steady income if your newsletter has a lot of subscribers or a targeted readership with a high CPM.

Sponsored content is another great option. Here, companies pay you to write about their products or services in your own voice. It can feel less like an ad and more like a recommendation from a friend. For example, you could make a paid review.

Paid subscriptions can also be lucrative. This option has grown in popularity in the last few years. For example, you could offer exclusive content or perks to subscribers. This not only generates revenue but also builds a community of dedicated readers.

Affiliate marketing is where you earn a commission when your subscribers buy through your affiliate links, and you get a cut of the sales. This is the easiest option to start earning money, as you can do it even with a small following.

Selling digital products, such as ebooks or online courses, is another way to monetize. These products can provide value to your readers and generate massive income.

Lastly, you have donations. If your readers find value in your content, they might be willing to support you financially through donations without expecting any perk in return. Platforms like Patreon became popular by making it easy to collect contributions from your audience.

Each of these methods has its own set of advantages and can be tailored to fit the unique needs of your newsletter and audience. Most creators use a combination of the different options mentioned above.

How to grow a newsletter

Now, I want to help you find some ways to grow your newsletter. After all, you may want as many people reading what you write.

Lead magnets are one effective strategy. This involves offering something valuable, like a free ebook or a discount code, in exchange for email sign-ups. This is a win-win: your readers get something useful, and you grow your list.

Social media can also play a big role in expanding your newsletter audience. Share snippets or highlights from your newsletter on your social media platforms and include a call to action to sign up. This leverages your existing followers and can attract new subscribers.

Collaborating with others in your field or related industries can introduce your newsletter to a different audience. Think guest writing, podcast appearances, or mutual shout-outs. This exposes your newsletter to people who trust the people you are collaborating with.

Also, consider paid advertisements or giveaways. These are not the most popular options among creators, but they can also be valid options for growth. Paid ads on platforms like Facebook or Google can target specific demographics, while giveaways can increase engagement and encourage sign-ups through the allure of winning something.

A referral program can incentivize current subscribers to bring in new ones. This works by offering rewards to subscribers who refer others, creating a network of people spreading the word about your newsletter.

Final Thoughts

As I just shown you, starting a newsletter is easy.

There are a lot of good tools available, with different strengths and prices. So, it's likely that one of them will suit your specific needs and use cases.

But the hard about starting a newsletter is not quitting. It can be hard to find the right newsletter format or topic that people are interested in.

That's why I also put some focus on ways to help you grow a newsletter to give you more ideas and chances of success.

Follow the steps mentioned, write about something that interests you, and treat your newsletter as a long-term investment.

Newsletters have been around for a long time, and they are likely to be around for longer!

Now, go ahead and kick ass by picking the right tool for you.

Best blog + newsletter
Ghost CMS
Best overall
beehiiv
ConvertKit
Affordable
MailerLite
Substack
Product Title
Product Title
Ghost CMS
beehiiv
ConvertKit
MailerLite
Substack
Fees
Fees
0%
0%
0.6%
0%
10%
Free plan
Free plan
No
Up to 2,500 subs
Up to 1,000 subs
Up to 1,000 subs
Free forever
Cheaper paid plan
Cheaper paid plan
$9/month
$42/month
$9/month
$9/month
$0 + 10% fees