My newsletter is profitable, without using sponsored issues / ads

I've been writing BrainPint, my weekly curated newsletter for the curious for 26 weeks now. That's more than 6 months of consistently pushing out a newsletter every week.

It has been such a rewarding journey because of the friends I've been able to meet along the way.

Let's Talk About The Money

I've made more than $350 through my newsletter (+ well, Twitter) and I haven't run a single ad or done a sponsored issue.

Caveat is that revenue is not very important to me now, so I am not optimizing. A lot of people say you should monetize as fast as possible. I'm doing it at my own pace.

How? There are two ways about it.

  1. Selling Affiliate Products
  2. Getting Coffees / subscriber support

Why did I choose to do this?

I love writing my newsletter and want to keep it as relevant for my audience as possible. I'm quite protective of what I put inside.

As I am still optimizing for growth, I don't want to spend time dealing with ads yet. I'm afraid that inbound ads might not be relevant to my audience, or that outbound ads will not be worth the time spent chasing them down.

Selling Affiliate Products

Affiliate marketing sometimes gives off icky vibes, due to people doing it wrongly, or pushing shitty products just for the sake of money. So I'm determined to do it the right way.

I'm promoting products I have personally used & love for the moment.

In the past few months, I've purchased quite a few products from Indie Hackers and learned a ton of useful things from them. So I'm sharing them with my audience.

What's good about this?
It's a quadruple win for all.

  1. I get to help other IndieHackers to get their product in front of an extended audience. That's revenue that they might not have gotten otherwise
  2. My audience finds useful resources that help them solve problems that they have, or learn about specific topics
  3. I usually get creators to give me a secret discount code for my audience, so my audience saves.
  4. I get to earn some money.

In the future, I also will promote things where I'm sure the maker has sufficient credibility to back what they sell.

How does this affiliate thing even work?

If you have purchased something from a creator, you can email them and ask if they accept affiliates.

Not all creators will have a program, but if they do, they are usually happy to share a 20-50% cut with affiliates. If they are selling on Gumroad, they can easily set this up for you as long as you have an account there. Your first payment might take 3-4 weeks to be released from Gumroad.

What products have I promoted so far?

  • Landing Page Hot Tips by @robhope - The best ebook guide to landing pages for all your side projects
  • Doing Content Right by @stephsmith - Your guide to writing a blog, newsletter and building an audience in 2020.
  • Mailbrew - Follow your favorite websites, creators and writers—and unplug from feeds. Mailbrew sends an email that aggregates everything that you want to follow so you stop your FOMO. Free 2-week trial. @linuz90
    *Better Sheets - The best Google sheets course around by @kamphey, that I use every day

(All affiliate links, of course)

I'm also keen to share two products with my audience soon:

Getting reader support via BuyMeACoffee donations

I put a link at the end of my newsletter that directs readers to my Buy Me A Coffee page, where they can support me if they'd like. Each coffee is set at $5. So far, I've received 5 coffees.

For some reason, coffees make me smile waaay bigger than making an affiliate sale. It's that little nod of appreciation and the fact that someone went out of their way to say thanks to you that makes it so special! Huge thanks to the people who've bought me coffees. It always makes my day.

If you're a creator, you can set it up to let readers show their support.

Where Else Can I Read About Monetizing Newsletters?

Read this fantastic piece by Marie Dolle: Monetizing newsletters: when creators strive with ideas.

Read how @nicwondering made The Slice Profitable

Continuing To Grow

As I shared in this post on the lessons I learned getting to 500 subscribers, growth started off slow, but now I'm getting ~50 subscribers weekly, many from this community!

Am I Going To Do Sponsored Issues / Ads?

I don't know yet, honestly. I'm seriously focused on growth. But the marketer / biz dev side of me says I might as well make use of this post to find out if there's any demand.

If there's any interest from the community, do fill up this form here and I'll let you know if I ever decide to take ads on board.

Finally, if you're a curious person who wants to join 680+ others to receive a curated newsletter with interesting reads, tools & learning resources to make you smarter, check out BrainPint.com :)

  1. 6

    Congrats Janel! Nice approach with the affiliate links

    1. 1

      Thanks Christina!

  2. 4

    🤩 This is so clear and useful!

    1. 2

      Glad you liked it, thank you!

  3. 3

    Congrats, your landing page is super slick ! Just signed in 😉

    1. 1

      Thank you for taking a chance on BrainPint, appreciate you reading

  4. 3

    Your newsletter was the real motivator for me to tap into adding affiliate books time by time.

    P. S I am stalking you on Twitter too.

    1. 1

      Thank you Falak. Love Indie Letters and happy that I showed you another way to get rewarded for your efforts curating it :)

  5. 3

    Hey Janel. Brilliant news. I've never read your newsletter, but I can feel that you poured your heart and soul into your newsletter. In regards to running ads in your newsletter, I think you should consider them. People like ads if they are done right. I have discovered new exciting products and services through ads. I do understand that you do not want every ad in the world. That means you cant do classifieds because they are cheap and you have to take every ad. But you can do something like Packy did with his newsletter sponsors. All the best!

    1. 1

      Agreed with this post. Ads aren't always a bad thing - I like relevant ads that are interesting and relevant!

    2. 1

      Thanks so much! I like how Packy does his newsletter sponsors as well, will think about it. Cheers

  6. 3

    Love it! And thanks for sharing so many details on the journey to success. I got you listed on StackdIt to help drive more traffic to you: https://www.stackdit.com/3864209/brainpint

    1. 1

      Thank you so much, I'm still learning things from the community here every day. Appreciate you listing me and all the best with StackdIt!

      1. 1

        Any time - happy to help. :) Cheers!

  7. 3

    Brilliant , I’ve always avoided affiliate marketing cos of the slimey side of it. But this is how to do it right !! Thanks for sharing !!

    1. 2

      Thanks Graeme. To prevent that icky feeling, a good rule of thumb to follow would be to think "would I promote this to a good friend face to face?" If you can't say yes to that question, then you kind of know you're in the red zone. Glad it's helpful.

  8. 3

    Well done Janel - I've been on a similar journey and dropped ads a few years ago. Been running affiliate products and creating my own ever since. Keep pushing to find products your audience will appreciate:)

    1. 1

      Thanks Rob. Love your products and my friends / subscribers / followers have also told me that they've learned a lot from your book. I'm so thrilled for everyone. I will definitely be on the hunt for great stuff for my audience.

  9. 3

    Congrats on the steady growth and sticking with the project. Your passion for it comes through. Great little summary and balance of updating us with helpful resources.

    1. 2

      Thank you Maximus! Appreciate the support.

  10. 3

    Congratulations Janel! It shows there's no one-size-fits-all model. There're always different ways to do things

    1. 3

      Thanks loads Leo, there definitely isn't, everyone should find what works best for them, while remaining open to new possibilities :)

  11. 3

    Amazing monetization tips 🔥 thank you 🙏

    1. 1

      Thank you Yaro for your constant support!

  12. 2

    Congrats Janel! Totally agree with your approach of doing things are you own pace. That way, you're able to stick to your values and focus on the long-term. Thanks for promoting Doing Content Right! You've been one of the top referrers! 😊

    1. 2

      Thanks loads Steph for the encouragement. Appreciate the opportunity and all the things I've learned from Doing Content Right, especially the SEO as a bedrock strategy which I will be using for my upcoming personal blog.

      So many people who have gotten the book have DMed me in the two weeks to say that it's so valuable and useful as well. Happy!

      1. 1

        So happy to hear that! If it's not too much trouble or a breach of privacy at all, would love to see some of those messages!

  13. 2

    Great post. I just launched a weekly newsletter myself and am looking for as much insight/advice I can find on the topic. Thanks for sharing (Also I signed right up for BrainPint, looking forward to it!)

    1. 3

      Thanks for signing up Mark!

      You can find plenty of useful content to help you on your journey on newslettercrew.com by @yaroslawbagriy, letterstack.co by @pauldmet and fortheinterested.com by @joshspector

  14. 2

    I must say @Janel, this was a completely insightful post!
    Truly appreciate your efforts of taking the time to write and give out so much value to the community.

    I do wanted to ask you one question though.
    Are you using any particular email automation software?
    I have on the search for email marketing software's for my product, ruttl.com

    I would love to know your thoughts on this.

    1. 1

      Hey Harsh, I'm using MailerLite but there's plenty of marketing software out there. What do you want to share with your audience via email, and what features are important to you?

      Let me know and I'll try my best to point you to something that might work best for you

      1. 1

        Hi Harsh, you might want to have a look at my overview of affordable email software here: https://www.emailvendorselection.com/free-cheap-email-marketing-software-comparison/

        It depends on what you want exactly - if you are looking for different types of automation, webtracking, API integrations, CRM, etc. I guide companies with selections, feel free to ask me anything!

  15. 2

    Congrats Janel! Thanks for the shoutout!
    Yes, there is definitely some $ in affiliate links. Just had another sale by one of my other affiliates. About $45 per. Another had 3 sales. It's not much, but a decent way to supplement other monetization methods.

    If anyone would like some affiliate income, reach out on Twitter and I'll give you my best guidance (even if not for my product). I was a "super affiliate" in a past life.

    1. 2

      Thanks Gene, you're on next week in BrainPint. It's really good stuff that you've put together and my friends are raving about Swipe ;)

      It's nice of you to offer your help too. Congrats on your recent success on PH!

  16. 2

    Great stuff @Janel, just subscribed! Looking forward to your contents.

    I just published my premium newsletter explodingniches.com, it's a result of my obsession with start-up niches.

    Great to hear your story.

    1. 1

      Thanks, I was about to stop subscribing to more newsletters, but you got me curious so I've subscribed!

  17. 2

    Great posts and mentioning the ebook about landing pages is very interesting. But exactly is so special about it? I checked the website. It seems it's just another page that collects landing pages and categorizes them. Unfortunately there's no preview to the book itself. What exactly did you like, where did it help you?

    1. 2

      Hey Wondarar, the ebook is not the page that collects the landing page & categorizes them. It shares 100 actionable tips that you can use to improve your landing page. Things like 1) using social proof, 2) Having a good CTA etc.

      It also shares resources that you can use.

      1. 1

        just bought it :)
        after having a quick look on it, it's very well done and can't wait to dive in.
        thanks for the recommendation!

        1. 1

          Thanks for trusting my words, and for supporting myself and Rob.

          I'm happy that you like it. Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions. I'm sure you'll find value, like I have.

  18. 1

    That was a lot of curiousness. Thanks for sharing the story so far, Keep inspiring.
    Subscribed to the newsletter. :)

  19. 1

    Thanks for sharing Janel!

  20. -13

    This comment has been voted down. Click to show.

    1. 14

      Hey @pptpedia, guess IH can't be sunshine and rainbows every day.

      This is a passion project and not intended to be a cash cow. I'm sharing my experience in an attempt to build in public, and help anyone else who is also along this path. I've learned a lot from people who have shared their small wins over here, so I'm just paying it forward :)

      Sure, my numbers aren't impressive, but I think you're missing the point, which is that everyone has their own way of doing things, and there is no one "right path"

      Newsletters are serendipity vehicles, and writing one has enabled me to get to know a lot of cool people. I've also learned a ton of things. Money is just a small part of that.

      Indie Hackers are liking / supporting because they find it useful, and want to be supportive, but I totally understand if you think it's a small achievement. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I hope you can share your own success stories too.

      1. 5

        When you take a look at his comments on other posts. You know people are really stressful. Really hard to find a positive comment.

        @Janel @TheWonderingZall

        1. 4

          I also took at a look at his comments. It’s such a shame. It’s costs nothing to be nice.

          Be proud of what to have built Jan, nobody can take that away from you 🙏🏻🔥

          1. 1

            Thanks Nic, you're such a great friend. One of the gems I've found in the newsletter journey :)

        2. 2

          Yes, in moments like these I just think some people find it hard to see the positivity in things, it's ok.

          And sometimes, I use Hanlon's Razor

      2. 1

        He/she does have a point. I have followed many Indie Hacker products here which goes down after just a few weeks or months, members who posted their small steps thought of giving up instead of seeing the bigger picture. Maybe this comment is coming from seeing all that.

        Let's just take the "expectation standards" part to our minds and leave out the rest.

    2. 5

      This negativity is detrimental to the well being of the community.

      1. 3

        I actually pondered this too. I always believe that everyone is always entitled to their opinions, but people like him might be discouraging to newer, less confident members of the community.

        It's good that there's a downvote system and such a supportive community though, I feel like Indie Hackers do rally around each other.

    3. 4

      Shameful comment. Do better.

      1. 2

        Thanks for your support Charlie!

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