Here’s How to Build a 6-Figure Online Business One Email at a Time
Spring cleaning, cleaning the bathroom, filing your taxes—there are some things that people just prefer to put off until the last minute.
Figuring out how to create a newsletter from scratch is right up there on the list. And understandably so. After all the effort and creative energy put into crafting one, what if no one reads the newsletter you poured your sweat and tears into?
Some business owners leave email marketing to “another day.”
But imagine generating $1,000 after sending just one email.
Email newsletters have never gone out of fashion. As of 2019, there are reportedly 3.9 billion email users in the world. And 46% of marketers still find that email marketing serves as an important traffic channel for their business.
We always recommend that people leverage a monetized email list to diversify traffic and revenue. Aside from just increasing your traffic and revenue, what if you could create a business around a newsletter?
We’ve seen entrepreneurs find success in creating a business from scratch from a weekly newsletter, thanks to the powerful influence of email marketing. You, too, could also create a digital asset that’s worth 6-figures using this method.
The Power of the Humble Newsletter
It’s easy to be skeptical about how effective emails are in general (who hasn’t had an inbox filled with hundreds or thousands of unread emails at one point in their life?). But our experience of helping entrepreneurs buy and sell profitable businesses helped us understand just how powerful email newsletters can be.
What many entrepreneurs misunderstand about email marketing in general and email newsletters in particular is where the value of the newsletter comes from.
While email marketing can drive your traffic and revenue to higher levels, these outcomes are a consequence of nurturing an audience. The real value in an email list lies in developing this audience.
Subscribers have agreed to opt in to receive curated content that’s delivered through your newsletter. This indicates that the people on your subscriber list have a higher buy-in compared to readers who are casually browsing your site.
By growing an email list, you can increase your authority in a niche market by showcasing your expertise while building relationships with your subscribers.
Small businesses and larger brands can take advantage of this digital marketing channel at any point in time, although it does take a while to start seeing results. So, let’s explore how to create a newsletter if you’ve never created one from scratch.
How to Create a Newsletter
If you don’t have much experience creating a newsletter, don’t fret. You can choose from a number of tools with a large archive of templates to get started.
Once you’ve created a template or decided on your general approach, remember to continually test and refine your newsletter in order to generate the desired responses from your target audience.
Your focus should be on developing a loyal audience with the newsletter since your email list won’t be as valuable and won’t be able to grow without a solid audience base.
So, how do we start this journey of growth? As with all projects, the starting point boils down to your “why?”
Figure out its Purpose
You’ll have a much better chance of creating a knockout email newsletter if you identify what you want to achieve through it.
Applying some SMART goals here will go a long way. If you’ve never heard of this acronym, it refers to goals that are:
Let’s consider an example. The term “goal” gets thrown around a lot at the beginning of each new year when countless people make resolutions. Everyone has likely set a goal of wanting to lose weight at least once in their lifetime, but starting off with just this broad goal in mind usually sets one up for costly failure (I’m looking at you, gym which I paid months of subscription fees for but attended for only a couple of weeks).
Setting a SMART goal means being as specific as possible so that your goal becomes tangible, realistic, and achievable. Returning to the context of the newsletter, the more granular and specific you are with your expectations for your newsletter, the easier it becomes to start one.
To begin, ask yourself the following questions:
- What is the aim of your newsletter?
- What KPIs will you use to measure your success?
- How will the newsletter achieve the company’s goal(s)?
- What’s the USP that the other marketing channels don’t currently achieve?
For example, your company might be aiming to increase revenue by 10% this quarter. Your newsletter’s goal could be to increase sales by $1,000 dollars each week as a result of promoting new or featured products.
The step of goal setting can be the most time consuming step of all, but it’s important for establishing a good foundation so you can start building your newsletter correctly.
Once you have a goal for your newsletter, the next step is to figure out what you’re going to write about.
Thankfully, you don’t have to start from scratch. Doing some competitor research is a great place to start.
By subscribing to newsletters of similar companies in your niche, you’ll get a flavor of what type of content they produce. While you won’t know what their company aims are, you’ll be able to see how they hope to achieve the bigger goals with content they make.
For example, a curated newsletter with product reviews and offers for featured products may indicate that the company wants to increase its revenue through higher sales. You don’t have to follow their approach, but it gives you an idea of what content you could experiment with. Furthermore, it strengthens your brand when you create original content that aligns with your brand’s values instead of following what your competitors are doing.
Figure Out Your Marketing Strategy
Having a solid strategy takes the guesswork out of the marketing equation. When you’ve collected enough resources for content ideas, you can plan your strategy ahead of time by creating a content calendar.
You can schedule email campaigns to promote certain types of content that will perform better at certain times of the year (e.g., Black Friday, Amazon Prime Day). You can fill the majority of your calendar with proposed email newsletters and leave some room to adapt where necessary.
A bit of work up front to figure out when you’re going to send out certain emails will save you a lot of time and headaches in the long run.
Choose an Email Newsletter Platform
Not a developer? That’s fine. There are plenty of out-of-the-box solutions to help you create your newsletter.
These marketing tools let you customize the newsletter depending on your brand’s style and intended audience without needing any developer experience. If you do have some coding and technical knowledge, some tools allow further flexibility through HTML editing.
Mailchimp is one of the most popular platforms used by entrepreneurs. The simple drag and drop editor combined with a wide selection of email templates makes it easy to get started pretty quickly.
While Mailchimp is the choice for many, ecommerce businesses prefer Klaviyo due to its ability to integrate with Shopify. Also, Klaviyo has more sophisticated audience segmentation options based on customers’ behaviors compared to Mailchimp.
If you need an all-in-one CRM solution, Hubspot keeps all of your customer’s information in one dashboard, making it easier to create and schedule newsletters.
There isn’t a correct option, only what works best for your business. We recommend trying the free trial these tools offer so you can get a better feel for their functionalities. Then, if you’re comfortable using a certain one, you can commit to a paid plan.
Determine Newsletter dimensions
According to Google, over 71% of users view emails on their mobile device.
Setting a template with newsletter dimensions you’ll use every time is important for mobile optimization and increases the likelihood of users opening the email.
Technically, you could choose any width and height. Many marketers tend to pick 550 x 600 pixels as a best practice. You want to avoid any horizontal scroll bars so your content can be viewed on one screen while scrolling up and down.
Choose Your Layout
As you’d expect, newsletter design is important for CRO and higher click-through rates (CTR) of promoted links.
Generally, the important information should be placed first so subscribers can easily understand what’s in store for them. After that, you’ll want to experiment with the placement of various elements depending on the types of actions you want a subscriber to take.
Placing CTAs strategically will increase the chance of someone purchasing a product.
For example, after you’ve given some practical advice on what types of beauty products work best in the morning, you might include a CTA directing subscribers to your best-selling related beauty products or a blog post that contains more information.
Monitor the performance of your newsletters so you can tweak the placements of any icons that lead a subscriber away from the email.
Incorporate Graphics and Design
Your copy will keep subscribers reading and drive them to action, but your email design and embedded images play a large role in branding as well. While you’ll want your brand logo to be visible, consider a tactful approach by not making it the center of attention.
After all, a subscriber wants value from the newsletter, and a large logo can drown out the copy that you want someone to read.
Avoid overcrowding the newsletter with too many images or promotional offers, as this can distract a reader in unintended ways. Furthermore, make sure the images fit with your message.
For example, the featured image of your newsletter could be of a woman applying a face mask if the email’s focus was around beauty products. Settling on a design format and deciding on the types of creative assets you’ll include is a balancing act and will take time to perfect.
Writing Killer Copy
Newsletters follow the same rules of engagement as modern-day copy. No one will read your email if the headline doesn’t grab their attention.
The email subject lines need to be concise but catchy at the same time. The subject line is what subscribers will see in their inboxes and serves as a teaser of what your email contains—it’s what entices a reader to read further.
You might consider highlighting an offer that expires in a few days or providing breaking news about the industry.
The headline, which shows once someone has opened the email, can have the same attention-grabbing effect if used correctly.
Getting someone to open the email is half the battle. Encouraging them to read what’s on offer is just as important. To make sure readers leave with valuable information, make sure to put the most important points at the beginning of the email.
Employing the journalistic approach of the inverted pyramid helps structure your email content. Attention spans are short, so the aim of the inverted pyramid is to give the reader the most important information at the beginning of their content. If it’s engaging, the reader will find more important information that provides context to the situation. The closer towards the end of the article, the more general the content will be.
If a reader only manages to read the first paragraph, at least you’ve got a chance of imparting some nugget of information with them.
If you’re talking about different topics within the email, it helps to separate them with headers. Consider embedding social media widgets to reflect customers’ engagement on different social media platforms or to backup a point you’re trying to make where appropriate.
Check You’re Playing by the Rules
After all your hard work, your email campaigns and newsletter could be at risk if you’re found to be in breach of data protection regulations as outlined by the GDPR. While these laws may appear to only concern Europeans, the truth is that they concern anyone who can access the internet.
The laws outlined in the GDPR also apply to companies that provide services to or track data of EU residents.
An unethical tactic is to offer exclusive deals or content to customers who subscribe using their email address, only to then sign them up to a weekly email newsletter. Not only can this lead to your brand losing trust among its customers and suffering from reputational damage, it can also put your newsletter at risk of getting suspended or being banned from SaaS tools for emails.
It’s just not worth it for the small growth you’ll experience using these types of blackhat tactics. Instead, it’s better to follow guidelines to be legally compliant, as described above.
Create a Landing Page
By this point, you’ve got almost all the elements you need to launch your email newsletter. Now, you just need a way for interested readers to subscribe.
Creating a landing page, also known as a “squeeze page”, allows potential customers to opt in to receive regular newsletters. It could be a dedicated page on your website, or it might even be the only page on the site.
Some marketers choose to present their opt in page as a popup that comes up after a reader has been on the site for a predetermined length of time or has viewed a certain number of pages.
Once you’ve got a landing page or some form of email capture, remember to embed it in your articles or promote the newsletter on your other marketing channels to start building your email list.
Test, then Test Again
“The path to our destination is not always a straight one. We go down the wrong road, we get lost, we turn back. Maybe it doesn’t matter which road we embark on. Maybe what matters is that we embark.”
This great quote from TV director and producer Barbara Hall aptly applies to your email. There isn’t a guaranteed formula for a successful newsletter or email campaign, since the goal of the newsletter varies from business to business.
To achieve your goals, employ A/B testing by sending out different variants of an email. You might explore injecting some more personality in your email copy, or test subject lines to see what gets higher open rates.
Compare the open rates and CTR to get an indication of which approach will work best for your brand, then amend your templates accordingly.
How to Create a Business Around a Newsletter
Take a deep breath!
Creating a newsletter from scratch is a lot to take in. Thankfully, it gets easier after you’ve launched and figured out what works for your brand.
You can create email funnels that send predetermined emails based on certain responses or desired results depending on the landing page a subscriber opted in from. These automations mean you can nurture potential customers or leads without needing to actively respond to each email sign up individually.
Once you’ve found product-market fit, your main responsibilities will be researching and delivering great content through newsletters that are sent regularly and refining your email funnels to improve open rates and CTRs.
It’s a great way to develop another marketing channel for your existing business.
It’s also an opportunity to build an online business.
There has been a recent surge of businesses using a newsletter as their primary medium to generate revenue or offer a service. Businesses that successfully leverage the email newsletter deliver a solution to an audience that needs help with a problem.
The emails are monetized in a variety of ways, ranging from subscription-based models where email subscribers pay each month to gain access to the newsletter to info products that deliver gated content after subscribers clicked on a link within the email.
To illustrate that it’s possible to build an online business entirely around a newsletter, we’ll look at a few case studies.
One of the most famous recent examples of an email newsletter-based business is Morning Brew. Email subscribers receive a newsletter each morning that’s filled with the latest finance and technology news from the past 24 hours in bite-sized chunks.
It’s akin to reading the newspaper while having your morning cup of coffee, and the company has over 2 million subscribers. The business was bought by Business Insider for around $75 million in Q3 2020.
The exact valuation hasn’t been revealed but there’s no doubt that it made the founders, Alex Lieber and Austin Rief, millionaires. That’s pretty impressive given that the idea was started from a dorm when the founders were still in college only five years ago.
Lieber and Rief realized that tech newsletters at the time were written for a much older demographic and didn’t resonate with a younger generation. After honing their voice and the type of content that readers wanted in their inboxes, their email list grew rapidly.
All the profits were reinvested back into the business to continually scale and improve the quality of the newsletter. The emails deliver the most viral news from the previous day and maintain a business-casual tone while being entertaining.
It’s free to sign up with no strings attached. Morning Brew earns money primarily from paid sponsorships and advertising within the email.
By identifying their target audience, the founders found product-market fit in their newsletter through the type of content they produced each day.
Scott’s Cheap Flights
Originally known as “How to Fly for Free” and rebranded to Scott’s Cheap Flights, this newsletter provides its readers with details on the cheapest flights to their destinations. The inspiration to start this business was born from a combination of wanderlust and the desire to help others scratch that travel bug itch.
As the founder revealed in his interview with Nomadic Matt, he stumbled on a great deal to a destination that he’d never intended to visit but ended up fully enjoying. After that, his friends and family who loved to travel wanted to hear if and when he came across similar deals in the future.
Thankfully for them, Scott learned how to spot a great flight deal by studying flight pricing economics. He started an email list as an efficient way to tell people about these deals.
More and more people subscribed to the email in the hopes of scoring cheap flights to exotic destinations.
Scott would team up with Brian Kidwell as interest in the email list grew, as Kidwell had experience in building online businesses and saw an opportunity to monetize Scott’s service. The business’s growth trajectory was so rapid that it was featured on Business Insider in 2015.
Now, the email list has grown to over a million subscribers, and Scott has a team helping him find great flight deals by hand (that’s right, no automations involved!).
The business operates on a “freemium” model, where premium membership gives subscribers a wider range of deals, deals for preferred airports, and text message notifications earlier than subscribers on the free plan. By leveraging Scott’s knowledge of how to find great deals for flights, Scott and Brian turned a simple email list into an online business that generates over $3 million in annual revenue.
Founded by Jessica Lessin, The Information is a subscription-based newsletter business that delivers tech news on a daily basis. You can receive a daily summary of their newsletter for free, but you must pay for their in-depth coverage of the latest trends and breaking news.
Rather than target a wider audience like Morning Brew, The Information’s demographic appears to be composed of individuals with a deeper understanding of and interest in technology. The pricing tiers reflect the quality of content on offer, starting from $39.99 each month.
It’s unclear what The Information’s net worth is, but it must be sizable enough for the founder to have quit her job as a Wall Street journalist and hired a team of 38 people to maintain the business.
This is a great example of building an online business in a niche that seems oversaturated at first glance. There are many news aggregator sites that pull tech news and deliver it to subscribers, but very few will match the quality and depth of insight offered by The Information.
Finding Subscription Models for Recurring Revenue
Email marketing is still a powerful marketing tool if you learn how to deliver great content that matches what an audience is looking for.
Learning how to create a newsletter is useful if you want to expand your business. It may take time and a lot of experimentation before you start reaping the benefits, but it can grow to produce a sizable revenue stream for your business.
An email newsletter can also be the product itself. Starting an email newsletter subscription business is a great way to create regular income as a side hustle.
But as the case studies indicated, it takes time to nurture an audience and grow an email list while refining the product to exceed subscribers’ expectations.
If you want to get involved in an email business but are not prepared for the commitment of building one from scratch, consider buying one instead. Our marketplace has many options for subscription-based businesses that suit a variety of budgets.
Thanks to our extensive vetting procedure, you can rest assured that these businesses generate legitimate recurring revenue. You can start today for free by registering on our marketplace.
After speaking with our team, we’ll notify you of any businesses that match your criteria.
After that, who knows? Maybe, in your near future, earning $1,000 from a single email will be an everyday occurrence.