Hiring a 100-person team and running a startup is overrated.
The tech bros have been peddling this dream for ages, although only now have people woken up to the downsides — venture capital vultures, long hours, tech boy privilege, a lack of profitability.
One-person newsletters are a different business idea altogether. And what you’re about to learn hasn’t been possible for long. I realize the headline and subtitle make some big claims but hear me out.
Let’s move fast so we break things (especially fixed mindsets).
Why one-person newsletters are booming
Newsletters are nothing new.
But there’s a boom right now for one big reason: we’re sick of social media algorithms that are clearly manipulated (not on every platform, but on most). So the masses are upgrading their content diet.
They’re going from doomerism Big Macs to delicious berry-mango smoothies that nourish their sexy brains.
The software for newsletters used to be complicated too.
Now any monkey like me can figure it out. And it’s not just boring old words on a page anymore. Modern newsletters can have rich imagery, audio narration, podcast episodes, 4K video, etc.
So it makes sense that everyone who has specific knowledge should have a newsletter. Hint: that’s every one of us.
What you learned in life or at work has enormous value if packaged correctly with gorgeous wrapping paper such as a newsletter.
Here’s all you need to do to build a 6 figure newsletter in 12 months (no BS).
1. Select a wide enough topic
Not freaking sushi recipes for hungry Iowa farmers.
No. A topic that starts off broader. Food, health, money, psychology, culture, movies, books, etc.
Once you have your one topic then select a newsletter name that tells simpletons like me what the hell you do without making us guess.
2. Choose newsletter software (and don’t overthink it)
I get a consistent tweet reply all the time: “But what newsletter platform should I use?”
Shut the hell up right now. The software doesn’t matter. There are a few options like $ubstack, Beehiiv, ConvertKit, etc. They all do basically the same thing. Don’t get hung up on this decision.
It’s not the life or death of your one-person newsletter career. You can always change software later. The switching cost is low. Heck, I started with the chimps at MailChimp, then they banned me for life without a reason.
I then went to ConvertKit, and later, $ubstack.
3. Get a quick and dirty logo
I’m such a lazy ass, I got my newsletter logo from a guy on LinkedIn who did a pathetic drawing of me using a photo of me from my early banking days.
Again, don’t get caught up on design.
No one is going to get off on logos. What they care about is the content of your newsletter and, most importantly, whether it helps them in life.
If you don’t know a logo designer then just go to a plain Jane marketplace such as 99 Designs.
(This is the part where it gets interesting…)
4. Use this new feature to grow without social media
You used to have to prostitute yourself on social media to get subscribers for your one-person newsletter business. I did it for 8 years.
Now the cool kids at the newsletter software companies have accidentally found another way: recommendations.
When you sign up for a newsletter on any of the main platforms, you automatically get recommended other newsletters from the author.
What’s cool is this isn’t a tech bro company telling you what to read or how to think. No. It’s an author you’ve made a decision to read consistently, telling you what newsletters they read in their spare time.
It’s clever when you think about it.
For the last five or so years, readers have always been obsessed with my influences that bleed into my writing. They had no real way to discover them. Now they can. It’s such an organic way to find new creators.
As a creator you have to get smart about newsletter swaps.
Obviously you don’t recommend every man, woman, and donkey. You have to be strategic. I found writers I loved and then sent them emails saying:
“Hey, would you consider recommending me if I recommend you? Only if you like my writing and it fits your audience though.”
Now I have 253 publications recommending my newsletter. I sourced perhaps six of those and the rest are organic.
Lesson: use other creators’ audiences to build yours. Then social media isn’t as important.
5. Add rewards to get readers to do the dirty work for you ya little hustler
Readers can help you build your audience without social media for free, too. I’m sure you’ve seen creators offering rewards.
Tools like Sparkloop made it piss-easy.
All you need is a reward for readers. It could be an eBook, checklist, book reviews, access to a community, or some swag merchandise such as a t-shirt. Then you set a threshold to get the reward. Typically most creators use three referrals from one person to unlock them.
Then all a reader has to do is click their unique referral link in your newsletter and share it via email or social media.
Once three people subscribe to your newsletter a tool like Sparkloop will automatically email them and fulfill their reward.
You get new readers at zero cost. The reader gets a high-value freebie.
6. Legitimately buy newsletter recommendations via this new tool
To grow anything online, there’s always a choice to buy ads.
If you want to grow a newsletter faster and have the cash then there’s always the option of buying Facebook/Instaglam ads. I haven’t personally done this but I know many who have.
The challenge with traditional ads is it’s a rent model. You often never own the attention that you bought. So you have to keep coming back and buying more ads to keep your one-person business alive and fed.
That was until ConvertKit created the Creator Network.
This is another form of trade system — but it cuts out the pain-in-the-ass middlemen who want to get their paws all over your stash of cash.
Soon you’ll be able to buy recommendation spots in other people’s newsletters.
So even if you have zero email subscribers you can get other newsletters to quickly give you a boost and get started.
The beauty is the audiences you’re buying are people who already subscribe to and enjoy consuming newsletters. That’s who you want, and that’s how you’ll make 6-figures.
7. Start to make cash
If you’ve invested time or money to make this newsletter real then you’ll want to get paid at some point.
My formula is to make $0 from a newsletter for as long as possible.
Why? Free is more sharable than a paid newsletter or one jammed full of annoying ads.
But everyone’s got to eat, right?
So when you’re ready, add a paid tier to your free tier. Give more features and benefits to the paid tier to make the free tier less desirable.
Then deliver on all your promises to build loyalty and skyrocket a one-person newsletter all the way to 6 figures.
You can also add ads whenever you like.
Newsletter platforms such as Beehiiv even automate this for you now, too, the same way Google Adsense did back in the early 2000s.
Or you can sell services or digital products to make money off your newsletter. All you do is add this exact text at the end of a newsletter edition:
When you’re ready here are three ways I can help you further:
Bringing it all together
Follow the method above for a year or two and you’ll easily have a 6-figure, one-person newsletter business.
It’s really child’s play when you think about it. Only now is this dream possible thanks to the slow demise of social media algorithms that nearly started a revolution in the West.
Launch your newsletter asap and stop being a ghost full of enormous value.