Turning a hobby into a paid newsletter takes a lot more than passion and self-belief, and you need to be aware that transforming your hobby into a moneymaking enterprise may spoil some of the fun for you.
Still, Substack has become incredibly popular so if you are willing to take that risk, here are ten tips to help you set up your paid newsletter.
Set the Goals for Your Newsletter
Step one is to define your goals. Do you want your hobby to generate a full-time income for you? Or do you see your hobby as being a way to earn some extra cash?
Perhaps you even have visions of growing your hobby into a full-scale business with premises and employees? All things are possible. But it would be advisable to consider what your goals are for your new venture before you begin working on any detailed plans.
Decide How You Will Monetize Your Newsletter
The next step is to decide how you will monetize your newsletter. There are probably more ways to make money from a hobby than you had realized. If you make something, then you could, of course, sell your finished products. But you could also sell tutorials that explain how you make your products.
There are also opportunities for hobbyists to make money repurposing your newsletter content into YouTube videos or podcast content. Perhaps you have a unique product that you currently make by hand--in which case, you may even be able to license your design to a manufacturing company.
Find a Mentor
This next step is not essential, but it could be extremely advantageous if you have no prior marketing or newsletter experience. Reach out to someone you know who runs or has run a business and ask the person to be your mentor, or ask the accountant in your family, if there is one, to give you a bit of free advice.
You probably can't expect anyone to become your full-time advisor for free, but this may be helpful if you’re looking to scale beyond just a hobby. Hopefully, though, you will be able to find someone who will be prepared to give you some feedback on your ideas.
Identify Your Target Market
You will need to ascertain if there is an audience and market for what you intend to produce. So, think about who your typical readers will be. Some hobbies are very niche-orientated and may appeal to only a small audience.
You will need sufficient demand if you are going to monetize to the level that you can generate enough revenue to meet your goals.
Considering your target audience is the first stage of doing a reality check on your dreams of turning your hobby into a revenue-generating newsletter. So, be realistic when you are thinking about the likely demand for whatever you intend to sell.
Check Out Your Competition
Next, you will need to find out what competition you face, and you will need to think about your pricing or monetization strategy. In some cases, you will be competing with fellow hobbyists. But remember, you may also be competing with large businesses either producing similar newsletters or giving similar information away for free on their blog or website.
Do some online research to determine who you will be competing with and what those competitors do to monetize content similar to what you want to write. If you find that larger companies charge way less than the price you want to set, don't be disheartened just yet. You can charge a premium for uniquely written content, and, as a hobbyist, you can appeal to a niche market on a more personal level.
Think About Marketing and Delivery
Now, you can decide how you will market your newsletter. If your newsletter centers around a physical product you can sell, you might want to set up an e-commerce website or sell your products on Amazon or eBay. If your hobby appeals to a small niche market, relying on organic traffic and existing connections on social media or in your email list may be your best bet.
You will also need to consider how you are going to deliver your products to customers. Are you going to pack and ship products for your home, or do you intend to sell subscriptions to your newsletter on your website? All these points will need to be thought about before you move on to developing your plan as it will influence the software you choose to set up your newsletter.
Crunch the Numbers
Even a hobby business must be run like a commercial enterprise. So, now you are going to need to start preparing your business budget. Your budget will need to include all your direct costs, such as software subscriptions and shipping costs if you intend to monetize off of physical products. And you will need to factor in your overheads, like power, office supplies, and bookkeeping fees.
As a part of your budgeting exercise, you should calculate your gross margin, which is the profit you make from sales before overheads. Then, you will need to estimate the money you expect to make each month. The total gross margin less the overheads will give you your net profit, which is the money that you will have left to pay yourself and pay any taxes due.
Write Your Business Plan
All the above steps will go towards providing the information you need in a business plan. It may seem a bit overkill to write a full-blown business plan document for a small hobby newsletter. But the process of writing down your ideas will help to consolidate your thoughts on your new enterprise.
If you are unsure what sections you need in a business plan, a Google search on the topic will give you some ideas. Not all the standard parts of a business plan will be relevant to your hobby newsletter. Even so, looking at a business plan template will ensure that you have not missed any of the essential points you need to consider before getting started.
Test Your Assumptions
It would be advisable to do a trial run of your hobby business before you fully commit to it. A trial run will enable you to confirm there is a demand for your newsletter and that you can fulfill that demand.
If you currently have a steady job, it would not be wise to give that up until you are sure that your newsletter will provide the income you need. After the trial run, it is likely that you will need some savings to fall back on while your newsletter gets off the ground.
Be Prepared to Wave Goodbye to your Fun Hobby!
Finally, here is a word of warning. Once you have turned your hobby into a business, your hobby will cease to be a pastime. Instead, what you now choose to do for pleasure will become what you must do to pay your bills.
You will also have to deal with all the pressures that freelancers and small business owners have. You may currently love making soft toys for your kids, for example. But once you have sat up all night stitching those same toys together to meet orders sourced by your newsletter, you may never want to see a stuffed toy again!
The stress from turning your hobby into a newsletter is especially felt when trying to come up with a consistent posting schedule and content to keep up. Once you have a healthy library of content; however, it is possible to reuse newsletter content to tide your audience over during your creative lulls.
There have been lots of thriving newsletters built out of hobbies. But, for your hobby newsletter to be a success, you must start treating your pastime as a commercial venture. If you follow the above steps, it will get you on the right path. But remember that your hobby might not be so much fun when you turn it into a business.