How to Start and Monetize a Community Newsletter

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Are you seeking to build a community newsletter? So you’ve come to the right place. In this post, we’ll try to help community builders who want to create and monetize their newsletter, sharing ideas and data about the platform that’s on-trend right now: Substack.

Plenty of communities started this way, as a paid newsletter community. That’s why we want to share with you the basic steps in the process of designing and creating an email list online group, and discuss how it can be monetized. Let’s get right into it!

Steps to Start a Community Newsletter

  1. Build an audience
  2. Identify your audience’s pain points and create content around them
  3. Plan your community newsletter schedule
  4. Offer unique content

1. Build an Audience

If you’re thriving to build an online community, newsletters will help you reach different kinds of Internet users. But to provide quality content to your subscribers, it’s essential to know who you’re talking to. That means, defining your target audience. This includes knowing how frequently they get in their email accounts, what are their interests, and how they communicate. However, what’s most important is to decipher what their need or pain point is.

💪 It’s also important to define your goals. That is, what do you want to achieve with the community. These are some ideas of questions you can ask yourself when defining your objectives, the metrics to measure them, and building your audience:

What’s the purpose behind the community?

What are you doing for your community members to stay engaged?

How and with which metrics are you measuring the success of your brand community?

2. Identify Your Audience’s Pain Points and Create Content Around Them

Knowing your audience’s pain points, needs and desires is a fundamental step in the process of building your newsletter community. Therefore, here are some tips that can help you identify your audience’s pain points to create content around them 👇

📲 Research their social media accounts. What they share, what they comment and what they recommend.

👩‍💻 Interview and interact with your audience. What did they find or called their attention when they first subscribed to your email list? What were they looking for when they decided to subscribe? Did they find it?

🙌 Find early adopters. These are the users that are conscious about their pain points, and are actively seeking a solution! Therefore, you can ask them to subscribe to your newsletter and give you detailed and sincere feedback.

🤝 Search, connect, engage. To build an engaged community, you have to listen to your audience. To do that, you have to facilitate channels for them to express their thoughts and read their reviews, comments, and experiences. It’s important to know that creating or managing a group is not enough to build an engaged community. Also, you have to show active participation and interaction with other community members.

😌 Don’t expect loads of sales and impressions instantly! Be patient.

3. Plan Your Community Newsletter Schedule

In order to keep your audience engaged, it’s important to be consistent with your newsletter and respect the established mailing days. To help you with consistency, planning will be essential. It will help you save time, organize yourself, and have foresight.

#1 Save time. Dedicate some days of the month to think and create next month’s content! That will save you time that you’ll have to use for other tasks. It’s also great to have a bank of ideas for when you run out of them and take notes of the stuff related to your niche. That will help you at the time of actually creating the content for your newsletter.

#2 Organization. If you plan your content in advance, you’ll be able to organize yourself better and you won’t be up to the last minute deciding what to include in your newsletter.

#3 Foresight. Planning allows you to have foresight. In other words, planning will assure that you don’t miss out on special promotions or important dates you want to be part of.

4. Offer Unique Content

To offer unique content, you have to ask yourself first:

What’s the theme of my newsletter

What content will I be sharing regularly?

You also have to decide if you’ll be creating exclusive content for your community newsletter, or promote content that’s already been published in another network, such as a blog or your social media.

If you choose the first option, some great ideas are to interview creators, both to get inspired with their ideas or include their interviews in your newsletter and have systems for content. But if you choose the second road, you can use your email platform to promote discussions, upcoming events, and other stuff that’s going on in your community.

Community Newsletter Samples & Ideas

Perfect a Day and Time to Send Your Newsletter

There’s plenty of information on the Internet about what time and what day of the week are better to send your newsletters or emails. And while it actually depends on the behavior of your users and community members, there’s general consensus about some good practices. It’s always better to send your newsletter during the daytime. And you shouldn’t be sending your email on Mondays, as they’re generally the most complicated day of the week for (almost) everyone.

Open Rates Don’t Depend on the Send Times!

If you’re not satisfied with your newsletter’s open rates, or you want to reach a bigger audience, you should check out your subject lines. The subject line is the first thing a person sees when they receive an email. And Internet users receive plenty of emails a day. So it’s important that the subject line is engaging, fun, and efficient.

Some tips are to address the user personally, keep the subject short, or ask a question. Also, you can always use a call to action, check out your own inbox, and get inspired by those subject lines that called your attention. Other things you should take into account in order to achieve higher open rates are the frequency with which you’re sending your newsletter, and if your emails are mobile-friendly.

How to Write a Community Newsletter?

If you want to build a community newsletter, you should focus not only on how to catch your users’ attention but also on how to maintain it! A great way to learn more about how to write a community newsletter is by joining online groups for writers, such as Newsletter Crew.

However, when writing your newsletter you could use some apps or platforms to help you do it. Some of them are The Most Dangerous Writing App (powered by Squibler), where you have to write continuously or your words disappear, Draft, to keep track of word count, and Cold Turkey, which blocks distractions during writing time.

And while writing is basic, editing is essential. For instance, some apps that can help you with editing your newsletter are Grammarly, which corrects and edits grammar mistakes, and MailTester, which checks your writing for spammy language.

According to Newsletter Crew, there are three formats you can apply when beginning to write your newsletter. These are:

#1 The Blog Post. Newsletters written like blogs are often personality-driven, but can also be shaped around current events, news, or interviews. This sort of newsletter looks just like a blog, but it’s delivered via email. It’s a popular format for non-fiction writers of all sorts, from journalists to essayists and op-ed writers. An example of this kind of newsletter is Popular Information, by Judd Legum.

#2 The Curated Roundup. There are so many great articles, but so little time! Therefore, these type of newsletters saves community members precious reading time by curating the best articles of the day or week and delivering them to their inbox. The Hustle and The Skimm have newsletters of this kind.

#3 The Product. High-quality and useful information for a niche audience. These are the recommended kind of newsletters to send out if you’re an artist, podcaster, or multi-media creator with an existing audience base.

Monetizing Your Community: Paid Substack Newsletters

Currently, Substack is one of the most popular platforms community builders and creators use to produce and monetize their newsletters. This paid email newsletter platform provides you the possibility to customize, engage in discussions with the audience through threads, and grow a community that can be easily monetized.

Customize Your Newsletter ✨

Substack allows you to customize their newsletters. This can be done through different themes, sections, homepage links, and custom domains. Also, Substack gives you the possibility to change your newsletter’s welcome page, post, and colors. And it allows you to create and manage multiple newsletters via sections, and add homepage links. Last but not least, it allows you to build a homepage for their newsletters!

How to Monetize Your Email List 💸

According to Bailey Richardson, Head of Community at Substack, and Katie O’Connell, Community Manager at the platform, prior to monetizing your newsletter, you’ll have to measure your relationship with your readers. This can be measured by your reach (the size of your audience) and your engagement (how much they interact with your content). Also, you’ll need to figure out your financial goals.

“We typically see conversion rates of 5-10% for writers who are going paid,” the Substack members explain, “You can use your email open rates to help approximate whether to use a high or low conversion rate.” So, if your email open rates are less than 30%, use a 3% conversion rate. If they go from 30 to 50%, use a 5% conversion rate. And if your email open rates are greater than 50%, use a 10% conversion rate.

Discussion Threads 📣

A great feature Substack has are community threads. With this new tool, you can create public or subscriber-only threads where members can engage in discussions and conversations. There are some successful examples, such as this public thread surrounding the Game of Thrones finale. This is also a good feature that promotes the easy monetization of your community because private threads might be only for those members who pay a subscription to your email list!

We hope this article helped you and provided you with some ideas about how to build and monetize a newsletter community. And learn more about Substack, the trending app among builders!

Victoria Mortimer

Victoria Mortimer

I'm a journalist with a Social Communication degree, community manager, and content creator with over five years of experience. Now, I'm working as an independent writer passionate about community building, entrepreneurship, and social media.