How I created a free and a paid newsletter, using ConvertKit.

First things, first… what is a ‘newsletter’? (from an email marketing perspective)

A ‘newsletter‘ being sent from an email marketing platform (like ConvertKit) is nothing more than an ’email’ being sent – it’s just how you position it that frames it as a ‘newsletter’.

And the difference between a ‘free‘ and a ‘paid‘ newsletter, as obvious as it seems, is a paywall that you place between the subscription to, and the delivery of, the newsletter.

The way we create a ‘paywall’ in ConvertKit is by limiting access to only those people who have purchased a nominated ‘Product‘ – but I’ll get to that in a moment.

Newsletter types

Most newsletters are characterised by the frequency at which they are published (e.g. ‘weekly’, ‘monthly’ etc.), and normally are given a memorable (and easily recognisable) title or branding.

In email marketing terms, there are two main types of newsletters, ‘evergreen(sometimes referred to as ‘shadow’) and ‘date-sensitive‘.

Evergreen (shadow) newsletters

As the name would suggest, the content in these emails needs to age well and not make reference to anything that is date-sensitive.

The delivery of evergreen content is normally triggered by an event or action (e.g. a new subscriber joins your email list), with each email in the sequence being drip-fed to subscribers at a predetermined frequency (e.g. 26 emails (or ‘editions’), one sent every Friday for 26 weeks).

These newsletter editions can be reused for every subscriber who joins your list.

Date-sensitive newsletters

Again, the clue’s in the name – these are normally crafted just before being sent to your subscribers, and they can (and normally do) contain ‘of the moment’ content, so making reference to topical events is encouraged.

An example of a date-sensitive newsletter would be a weekly update to your list, talking about what’s been going on in your niche/sector, perhaps a chronicle or digest of your week, and any other helpful content for your readers.

Each edition of these newsletter emails are (normally) sent just once and never reused.

Why use newsletters?

Some people are convinced that newsletters don’t work and are a waste of time, but I’m not sure. I do accept that there are more newsletters out there than you can shake the proverbial stick at, but not all are equal (IMHO) and I do think the ones that deliver content worth reading, do prevail.

I believe they’re a great way to declare your authority in your niche and keep you (and your business) top of mind with your subscribers – they can give you credibility. I also find them useful in creating engagement through the use of relevant and genuine CTAs that encourage questions or comments from subscribers.

How I created a free newsletter in ConvertKit

It all starts with an email template.

ConvertKit offers a range of starting templates that you can edit to better align with your brand/colours and able to add your preferred fonts and logos.

Once you’ve decided on which template you want to use, and made it look and feel like your brand, simply save it and give it a name that will make sense in a list of templates.

One of my ‘Evergreen’ newsletters

To create one of my evergreen newsletters (“Convert With ConvertKit“), I saved my template and then created a new ‘Sequence‘; (an evergreen newsletter is just an email sequence, drip-fed to new subscribers)

Inside ConvertKit’s sequence builder, you add as many emails (editions) as you want to have in your newsletter and then schedule them to be sent at the frequency that works best for your subscribers. In the example below, I have my emails configured to be sent out every 7 days;

Once saved and ‘published‘, this sequence of emails will be drip-fed to each subscriber who joins the list or chooses the newsletter from their subscriber preferences.

My ‘Date-sensitive’ newsletter

Creating a date-sensitive newsletter is a simpler process than the evergreen one as all you need to do is choose your email template and then sending out one email at a time – i.e. no need for a sequence to be created in Convertkit.

Once you have your template, you just need to select ‘Send‘ -> ‘Broadcasts‘ to open a blank email, and begin typing. Once you have your email ready for your subscribers, just hit the ‘Send‘ button or schedule it to be sent at a future date/time (that’s what I do, e.g. ‘send on Friday at 9am’).

Creating a paid newsletter

I created my paid newsletter simply by introducing a paywall in ConvertKit. This is done by creating a paid-for ‘Product‘ which acts as the catalyst to begin sending the newsletter editions.

Click on menu option ‘Earn‘ -> ‘Products

This will take you to this page where you can hit the ‘+ New Product’ button;

This will open up the Product editor where you can create your newsletter product.

Give it a name and choose the ‘Subscription‘ product type;

Click next, and add the price and frequency that subscribers will pay to receive your newsletter;

Click next, and select fulfilment to be ‘A Newsletter‘;

Click next, and create your desired URL for your newsletter subscribers – this is the link that you’ll share with your audience, and where they can subscribe;

When you click the ‘Create Product‘ button, ConvertKit will then go and build everything needed to create and sell your newsletter and you can edit it to make it look and feel like your branding.

Below is an example of what the ‘Product‘ looks like to potential subscribers when they land on your published URL;

Note: To create a paid product in ConvertKit, you need to connect your ConvertKit account to your bank account using the Stripe payment merchant. But no need to worry, ConvertKit makes this a very simple click-along process.

Paid newsletter subscriptions can be either ‘evergreen’ or ‘date-sensitive’ – that’s entirely your call as both work. You just need to decide what’s best for your subscribers and implement accordingly.

⚡️What to do now…

Have a think about what newsletter (or newsletters) you want to create and follow the steps above to get started. Remember, just like everything in business, you can always pivot as you go, responding to subscriber preferences and what’s working vs not working.

Summary:

  1. Come up with your newsletter idea
  2. Create your preferred email template in ConvertKit
  3. If ‘evergreen’, begin crafting your list of emails.
  4. If ‘date-sensitive’, begin crafting next week’s newsletter edition.
  5. If it’s a paid newsletter, create your ‘Product’ in ConvertKit.

If you have any problems, let me know and I’ll help you out. 👍

John Bellingham
Email marketing strategist for aspirational freelancers.

If we haven’t already done so, let’s connect on LinkedIn.

The Thursday Email Club is a free group where freelancers level up their email marketing game with weekly ‘live’ webinars, workshops, and Q&As.

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John Bellingham
John Bellingham

Starting out as a software engineer over 30 years ago, I began working for large corporates before realising solopreneurship was my 'thing'. I've had many businesses over the years, which have taught me many lessons.

I now spend my time helping other small business owners to implement the strategies and tactics that worked for me, whilst avoiding all my expensive mistakes.

If you're a small business owner who's either starting or running a business, then connect with me and let's have a chat.

I love Formula 1® so that's always a good conversation starter if you need one! 🏁 🏎

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