Want to make money as a newsletter writer?
If you take the right approach, it’s possible to earn big on platforms like Substack.
While some writers devote time to publishing completely free newsletters, that approach is unlikely to be worth your while unless you use the newsletter as a marketing tool for your other freelance services.
Instead, the best way to earn money from newsletter writing is to build up an audience of devoted readers – including some who are willing to pay to receive your content.
Newsletters can fall into almost any niche imaginable, and if you’re adept with social media, you can use those platforms to further grow your readership and establish a loyal base.
You don’t need to amass a huge audience to make newsletter writing worth your while, either.
Think about it: if you charge $7 per month and get 300 paying subscribers, you’ll earn $2,100 per month.
Newsletter platforms typically charge a commission (Substack takes 10% of writers’ monthly earnings), but you’ll be able to keep the rest.
And your income—but not your workload—will increase with each additional paying subscriber you attract.
Want to make money as a newsletter writer? Here’s what you need to know…
How do you become a newsletter writer?
It’s easy, from a technical perspective, to get started writing newsletters.
All of the platforms mentioned in this post make it pretty painless to get a newsletter up and running.
- Each option provides a variety of different features, and none require you to have specialized tech or design skills to get up running.
- You’ll also find it surprisingly simple to monetize your content.
Substack and its competitors have become popular for writers because they offer all-in-one publishing solutions.
- Set subscription pricing
- Accept payments all in one place
- And if you choose to move your newsletter to another platform later, you can take your subscriber list with you.
It’s also becoming easier to integrate different kinds of content into newsletters. Several of the platforms allow writers to embed video content as well as podcasts into their articles.
You should note, though, that becoming a newsletter writer usually requires quite a bit of planning.
- Planning. You’ll need to come up with a topic, which should be something you’re knowledgeable and passionate about.
- Frequency. Most paid newsletters are published one to four times per week, so you’ll want to make sure you have the capability to write regular, high-quality content about your area of focus.
- Marketing. You’ll also need to develop a plan for promoting your content, getting your first subscribers, and ultimately growing your audience base – and your earnings.
How much can you make as a newsletter writer?
Newsletter writers’ earnings vary widely, and their success is mostly dependent upon their ability to attract and retain subscribers.
Some freelance writers generate email lists and send out free newsletters as tools to promote their other products or services.
Others publish paid newsletters as a side gig, and still others earn a comfortable, full-time living solely from the newsletter they produce.
In general, newsletter earnings can vary from anywhere between nominal extra side money to six figures per year, depending on the writer’s goals, strategies, and level of dedication.
- Most writers price their newsletters in the range of $5-$15 per month, and their total earnings directly reflect the number of paid subscribers they have.
If you want to launch a newsletter and earn well from it, it’s vital to choose a topic that can attract an audience. You’ll need to be able to connect with readers who find your articles valuable and are willing to pay for them.
Some of the most popular newsletters focus on topics like technology, health, business, culture, or news. Others cover narrower, more specialized niche topics.
4 writers who earn big from newsletters
If you’re looking for some inspiration, consider the success of these four high-earning newsletter writers who currently host their platforms on Substack.
1. Journalist Edwin Dorsey started a newsletter called The Bear Cave, which exposes corporate corruption. Within a year – with no pre-existing audience on Substack – he was earning more than $300,000 annually.
2. In 2019, journalist Emily Atkin set out to start HEATED, an independent publication about the climate crisis. Within six months, she was on track to earn a six-figure yearly salary, and she’s now one of Substack’s highest-earning writers.
3. Tony Mecia, a local news reporter in North Carolina, spent a year writing a free local news publication, The Charlotte Ledger. After gaining a large audience, he transitioned into offering paid subscriptions and is now on track to earn $175,000 by the end of the year.
4. Byrne Hobart, a financial analyst who started blogging in high school, decided to launch a daily newsletter on Substack called The Diff. In a short time, he was able to amass more than 24,000 subscribers for the publication, which covers topics like finance and tech.
While these success stories may not reflect the typical newsletter writing experience, they highlight the fact that it’s definitely possible to earn well if you develop the right approach.
5 top newsletter platforms for freelance writers
Thinking about launching your own paid newsletter? Check out these top newsletter platforms for freelance writers.
Substack is one of the most well-known platforms for writers looking to earn an income from paid newsletter subscriptions. (It’s also the platform freelance writer Jane Friedman predicted would see significant growth.)
Launched in 2017, it’s currently used by thousands of writers and has over 500,000 paying subscribers. The popularity of the platform is a plus for writers because it allows readers to easily discover new publications through the site’s search tools.
Substack is also loaded with some nice features, even though it has a relatively simple interface. Writers can easily add multimedia content—like photos, videos, and even podcasts—to any article.
Cost: Free to use; takes a 10% commission on subscription earnings and charges $50 for custom domains.
Patreon’s model is similar to Substack’s in that it’s designed to allow users to pay subscription fees to support creators. Founded in 2013, it’s been around for longer than most of its competitors and currently features over 200,000 creators.
A potential drawback is that, unlike Substack, Patreon is geared toward all kinds of creators—including artists and performers—and isn’t specifically focused on writers. That said, many writers still use the platform to successfully monetize their content.
One unique feature Patreon offers is the ability to set up different levels of support, or “tiers,” that allow you a great deal of customization as far as how much you charge.
Cost: Free to use; charges variable subscription commissions based on the features used.
Revue is one of the latest newsletter platforms available to writers looking to monetize content. Its biggest benefit? Revue is affiliated with Twitter, and many freelance writers already actively use Twitter and even have a base of followers there.
Revue also charges a lower commission than most competitors: They take just 5% of all subscription revenue.
The biggest drawback is that Revue isn’t very well-known yet among writers or potential audiences. That means you may have to invest more time and effort into getting the word out about your newsletter, especially if you don’t have an existing audience on Twitter or elsewhere.
Cost: Free to use; charges 5% of subscription earnings.
Ghost is similar to Substack, but it’s an open-source platform that allows writers to have more control over the rules involving their content. Ghost can also connect to over 1,000 apps or integrations and allows writers to launch a referral program to earn even more.
If you’re trying to decide between Ghost and another option, it’s important to take pricing into account.
Rather than take a commission, Ghost charges flat monthly fees. Those fees are determined based on the number of users who need access to the newsletter creation tools as well as the number of subscribers.
Ghost does, however, provide a free custom domain name, which is a plus.
The bottom line: Ghost is a good option for writers who are drawn to a flat fee model and prefer the flexibility of an open-source platform.
Cost: Charges a flat fee monthly fee, starting at $9 per month, that goes up based on the number of newsletter subscribers.
Buttondown is a minimalist newsletter publishing platform that’s really easy to use. While it has fewer features than some of its competitors, it may be the best option for a writer who’s trying to get a new newsletter off the ground.
That’s because Buttondown is super cost-effective compared to many of the alternatives. It’s free to get started, and you won’t pay anything for the basic version until you have at least a thousand subscribers. After that, it’s only $5 per month for every thousand subscribers.
You can also start monetizing your content on Buttondown right away by offering paid subscriptions. As a result, Buttondown makes it very low risk to launch a newsletter.
Cost: Free to start, then charges $5 per month for every thousand subscribers.
Don’t want to start a newsletter of your own but want to find one (or more) to read? Check these out!
10 awesome newsletters for freelance writers
Looking for a newsletter resource that focuses on the business side of freelancing? Check out FreelanceLift.
If you sign up for the site, you’ll get access to a community forum, podcast, and twice-weekly email for free. You can also choose to opt into the pro version for additional support.
Freelancers Union is a nonprofit organization that advocates for freelance workers and offers access to resources, education, benefits, a community blog, and a political voice.
Membership is free, and all members receive a regular newsletter that features articles about a wide range of freelance-related topics, including taxes, news, legislative issues, events, and more.
If you subscribe to this free newsletter, you’ll receive a weekly roundup of around 24-30 opportunities that pay at least 10 cents per word or $200 per project. The list includes freelance and gig jobs, grants, and writing contests.
FundsforWriters is also a paying market that uses freelancers, so you can pitch them if you’re interested in contributing an article about earning a living as a writer.
If you find that reading good writing inspires you and helps you hone your craft—as many writers do—check out Memoir Monday. If you subscribe, you’ll receive a weekly newsletter and quarterly reading series showcasing some of the best writing from across the web.
The newsletter is a collaborative project by Narratively, The Rumpus, Catapult, Granta, Guernica, and Literary Hub – and the readings are selected by the editors of those publications.
Sonia is a professional writer who sends out a twice-weekly newsletter that offers a list of calls for pitches, career advice, and useful resources.
She makes an effort to flag low-paying writing gigs, but most of the opportunities included in her newsletter pay competitive rates.
For $3 a month, you can’t go wrong with this one.
The Freelance Beat is a newsletter created by Chicago-based freelance journalist Tatiana Walk-Morris.
Tatiana writes about the challenges and triumphs of freelance journalism and journalism news. She also sends out a list of gigs every week.
The Freelance Creative, by Contently, is written for all freelancers, especially writers and content creators. It features success stories, freelancing tips and resources, trend articles, and even humor.
The Freelancer Feed is a weekly newsletter that provides a list of freelance writing, content, and social media gigs for those in Australia and beyond. It also features other content about topics relating to the freelance lifestyle.
Looking for writing tips and marketing ideas? Check out Total ANNARCHY by best-selling author Ann Handley.
If you subscribe, you’ll receive an engaging newsletter every other Sunday. Ann writes as if she’s sending an actual letter to a friend, and the newsletter is also chock full of inspiring content and expert suggestions.
Where to Pitch is a unique website that allows you to type in a topic you want to write about—like health, education, or business—and then provides names of publications that might be good to pitch.
The website’s creator, Susan Shain, also publishes a monthly newsletter that offers freelance writing advice and resources.
Ready to jump into the newsletter world?
If you want to start a newsletter (or already have one that you’re looking to grow), check out the platforms on our list to see if you can find one that suits your needs.
You’ll have the greatest chance of launching a successful newsletter if you already have an existing audience or if you can position yourself as an authoritative voice on a timely topic.
It’s important to choose a newsletter topic that’s likely to attract an audience willing to pay for your content.
If you’re adept at using social media and have experience growing a following on platforms like Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook, you might be at a significant advantage when it comes to generating an email list or growing an audience.
If you don’t want to actually create a newsletter of your own, consider checking out newsletters from other fellow writers. Some are designed specifically to help freelancers succeed and are written by other writers who’ve been there. Many offer valuable tips for finding gigs, marketing your work, branding or growing your business, or improving your writing.
Have a newsletter of your own? Subscribe to a writing-related newsletter you love? Write for a paid newsletter as a freelancer? Tell us about it in the comments.
Christin Nielsen is the editor of The Triangle, a twice-weekly newsletter covering local news in Virginia’s Historic Triangle.