Unconventional way to make money from your email list

Bryan Harris —  Bryan Harris - October 17th, 2015

How do you make money from your email list? For most people it means creating a product.

A physical product like a journal or guitar.

Or a digital product like an app or a course.

Products aren’t easy though. They take months to create and years to perfect. What if there was an easier way?

What if there was a way to quickly grow your list to 1,000 subscribers and then immediately start generating $200 to $800 per month in recurring revenue? And what if it involved you creating NO product at all?

Is it possible? Well…check this out.

A few weeks back I ran across buymyfuture.com. (Go catch up real quick if you haven’t seen it already.)

After digging a little further, I discovered that the guy, Jason, behind the site was also the guy behind iwillwearyourshirt.com. He generated over a million dollars in revenue from that project by selling sponsorships to businesses where he put their logo on a t-shirt and wore the shirt for the day.

*mind blown*

Jason is the KING of sponsorships.

He also wrote a book about his experience with both projects called Selling Creativity.

And of course, like all of his previous projects, he sold sponsorships to his book as well. Those sponsorships (which were sold before he wrote a single page of the book) generated $80,000 in revenue.

The crazy part of Jason’s entire story is he’s done all this with a small email list.

The brilliant idea you need to copy (like right now)

As I read Jason’s story I had an idea!

What if I sold sponsorships to my weekly newsletter like Jason sold sponsorships to his book?

If it generated enough money, I could use the revenue to write more blog posts and create more tools and products (like 10ksubs) for y’all.

It also might be a cool way to regularly introduce you to new products and services that otherwise I might not talk about because I’m not writing full-fledged blog posts about them.

Even better, if I could perfect the process for getting sponsorships for small email lists, this could be a brilliant way for newbies to quickly monetize their lists!

It would look something like this:

Step 1: Get to 1,000 subs (in 90 days).

Step 2: Find a sponsor to pay you $200 to $800 per month to put a little blurb and link at the bottom of your weekly emails.

So I did it!

I tested to see:

1. Could I could get a sponsor to pay $500 for a small ad in one email to my list?

2. Would it feel weird to have a sponsorship message in my newsletter?

Here is what I did next:

First, I made a quick list of 3 different companies I thought might be a good fit. I started with the low-hanging fruit (no sense in making it harder on myself than needed). The three companies I listed were companies I had some sort of pre-existing relationship with. Which means I had either actively used their product or had some sort of relationship with the owner.

Second, I wrote a quick little note to each company and pitched them the idea.

Here is exactly what I sent them.

A software company

A service company

Jason Zook (the sponsorship guy) himself…

The results?

Just 3 hours after pitching the three companies, one of them paid over $500 for the sponsorship! Woot!

This is what that ad in the email to my list looked like:

The cool part was the person who bought the sponsorship was Jason Zook (the sponsorship guy)!

And that small $500 sponsorship resulted in 3 sales of his Buy My Future product @ $1,000 each.

= Win/Win.

How can you do the same thing?

First off, I’m not an expert on sponsorships. My experience is limited. My sample size is small.

But here are three practical steps you can follow to do the same thing I did.

Step #1: Build your list to 1,000 subscribers before trying to get a sponsor.

If you need help with that, join 10ksubs when enrollment opens in a few weeks. I’ll show you how to do it in 90 days or less.

Step #2: Make a list of 3 companies that already advertise in your industry.

One easy way to find people already advertising in your industry is to Google keywords around your topic and take note of the companies buying Google Adwords already.

Step #3: Pitch them on advertising to your list.

It’s easy to over-complicate this step. Don’t. Use the three different scripts pictured above as a template to pitch your potential sponsors.

Also watch this video for a little inspiration.

What’s next for sponsorships at Videofruit?

My goal is to get to $10,000 per month in sponsorships by the end of January.

The #1 reason I want to do this is so we can up the quality of everything around here. I’d love to hire a full-time writer and programmer with that revenue. That would give you better quality content and allow us to keep building out Plinko and 10ksubs.

So this is what I did.

First, I needed to find someone to help me. Between a new baby, writing on the blog and managing a few different products, I personally don’t have the bandwidth to learn all the ins and outs of sponsorships.

So I talked to a few friends and found Sachit Gupta.

He helps people like Andrew Warner and other top podcasters and websites get sponsorships.

Second, I hired him.

Sachit isn’t cheap (I’m paying $2,000 per month for his help), but if you’re just starting out and can’t afford him, no worries. You can learn from my experiment.

Here is the plan:

Step 1: Sachit helps Bryan get to $10,000 per month in revenue from sponsorships.

Step 2: Bryan brings Sachit to the Videofruit audience to teach y’all how to do the same thing.

Step 3: We’ll give you a framework and easy-to-follow steps to start monetizing your list without a product.

How would $200 to $500 per month change the way you run your business? What would it allow you to do?

Let me know in the comments below. Also, let me know if you have any specific questions on the experiment or the overall sponsorship approach.

  • Love this! I’m an independent singer songwriter who writes all my songs on road trips in and around the heart of the American west.

    I’m in the midst of rebranding myself as essentially “that road trip/outdoor adventure singer-songwriter guy”, and I already have more than 1000 people on my list.

    After a few graphical tweaks to my site, I could see approaching companies like REI or similar but smaller businesses and asking if they want to advertise to an audience of Music-loving outdoors people. Let you know how it goes…

    • Hi Mike, I would be interested in advertising to an audience of people who like music =)

      • Hi Mike – thx so much for replying! I checked out your site & music – love the Round Midnight version! Here’s the thing, though, my audience is almost exclusively rock & singer/songwriter music fans, and I’d be concerned that not enough of them would click through on your sponsored ad for it to be worth your time & money. I’m just thinking that it might not be the most targeted use of your resources. That said, I certainly don’t know your music, business or goals anywhere near as well as you do, so shoot me an email at mike@radionowhere.net if you’d like to talk further. And srsly, thx again!

        • Well, I run a marketing agency for musicians and I think some clients would probably benefit from this.. let’s see what we can do =)

          • OK, thx Mike! Why don’t you zap me at the email address I sent when you have a minute & we’ll go from there…

    • “after a few graphical tweaks” = the death of all progress 🙂

      Do it now.

      • Ha – good point, Bryan. Scratch that!

  • Love this Bryan. You should mention you sent those emails on a Sunday and still managed to get sponsorship within 3 hours (I remember this from twitter). Good luck with the 10K goal.

    • Totally! Speed of execution is such a big deal. One of the most underrated parts of what we do.

  • Bryan, your list has 26k subscribers and you charged $500 for a sponsored email. So, a list with 1k subscribers would be able to charge $19.23 if I am not mistaken.

    • Valid question… I have a list of little over 1,200 people (in my country). I thought maybe I could charge around $100 per month…. I know that price is relative thing, and depends on the niche, quality of the list, etc. But still, if Brian charges $500 for 26k, how can I charge similar price?

    • Yup, valid question.

      A few things:

      1) I just made up the $500 price and ran with it.

      2) when optimized I think we can 2-3x that number.

      3) once we get a system down we’ll run a few case studies in smaller lists
      4) quit making excuses about how this won’t work for you and go try it.
      🙂

      • Niceeeeee. 🙂

      • Melanie Downey

        and, don’t forget — the ‘test’ sponsorship of $500 resulted in $3K of revenue for the sponsor, and that result could become part of the next (or future) pitches. So, if someone with a list of 1,200 does start selling at around $20, you could probably ramp that up if you can prove results. Guess what I’m saying is that just because you start small, doesn’t mean you have to stay small.

  • Phillip Swindall

    This is a GREAT idea! When I get my list up to 1k, I’m gonna do this!
    By the way, I bet you could afford a writer I know. He’s been hired to write some by some IM folks, and writes show notes for a major podcasters new show. Let me know if you’re interested

  • Hi Bryan, this is a great idea.

    In the internet marketing industry, we call this buying a solo-advertisement. We pay someone with an existing list to promote our offers. It is a great way of monetizing a list and there are people in my network that make a full time income from selling solo-advertisements! One recently bought his first Mercedes Benz within a year of selling solo-advertisements.

    A package may look like this: Delivery of 100 clicks at $x, the price per click delivered is determined by the niche of the list. There are many click tracking services to ensure that the right number of clicks are delivered. I personally use the tool :Click magick. (https://clickmagick.com/go/postaldemo)

    It has so many functions such as link rotators and it can tell you where your traffic is coming from (which countries) and is so worth the price. I can’t operate my business without it.

    I share about Internet marketing tips at,

    https://www.facebook.com/taviawong

    Would love to get connected Bryan, I love your blog!

    • Not really Tavia, as far as I know, solo ads are entire emails used as an advertisement. What Brian talks about is just a small part of the email he sends to his subscribers, which is occupied with advertisement.

      • Ah, I see what you mean Drazen, thanks for pointing it out!

        The main purpose is the same, to direct traffic to the payer’s offer.

        But the tactic is different. One is a small section ad, the other is an entire email ad.

        The small section ad idea is better imho, because the content Bryan writes is incredible. No one wants spam.

    • Tavia, do solo ads work? Seems like those lists are constantly sold to and generally they’re being sold scammy “internet marketing” products.

      • Hey Kevin,

        I’ve had some sales from solo ads, just did USD$680-ish over the weekend (not to brag, just to prove it works). I think the key is to differentiate and to nurture your own list. If you are constantly blasting emails of promo offers to your list, they will naturally think that you are an annoying marketer. But if you provide value to your list and nurture it, solo ads can be a great source of traffic.

        TL:DR, Yes, it works. The way to be treated different is to be different. Instead of take, take, take, focus on give, give, give, take.

        taviawong.com

  • Pretty awesome idea and way to make things happen. I have had something of the same idea before, but this kicked in as something to must-do. Thanks for sharing Bryan, you wizzard.

  • Chad R. Allen

    You’re killing it, Bryan! Or at least . . . you’re planning to kill it, Bryan! And I’m grateful. Thank you!

  • Great read Bryan. This is encouraging for me to hear as I’ve built up a very niche RVing list to 939 subscribers over the past few months (actually 700+ since I started using List Goal & joined you & Grant for a webinar a couple months back).

    Last year I snagged a major sponsor (with no list) that paid out $1,000/month x 7 months + $5,000 to use for a trip to Hawaii & Alaska. I considered myself pretty lucky and didn’t think I would go down another sponsorship route, but literally just secured another one with Winnebago RV’s to get a brand new 2016 RV, plus $500/month x 1-3 years in exchange for 2 monthly blogs & Instagram postings.

    This blog has me thinking how I can leverage that list even more in recommending sponsor-related services.

    Thanks again Bryan! You’ve been a huge help man,

    Heath

    • Heath! Dude, that’s nuts! A brand new RV with 700 subs!?!?!?

      • Well, 950 :). But we are still paying for the RV. The sponsorship gets us the rig at a $30k discount + covers our monthly payment for 1-3 years. It’s nice for us as we get to continue traveling with a newer, more dependable RV but don’t have to pay for the monthly payment on one. It’s really unheard of to get a $100k RV for 100% free. Maybe one day I’ll do something cool enough to earn that, but it’s hard to provide a clear ROI for a $100k sponsorship, just doesn’t happen often (if much at all).

  • Marsha Stopa

    Intriguing. I’m creating a hyperlocal travel magazine and directory and have been thinking of selling email advertising to local businesses once I build up the list. I’m wondering about the value and benefit of segmenting the list to target, let’s say, mountain bikers, craft-beer lovers, music lovers and house hunters with different emails for different sponsors. Like to hear your thoughts on that. Thanks Bryan for sharing your experiment!

    Marsha

    • This sounds really cool, Marsha. Mind my asking what your location is? 3 out of your 4 segments are exactly the people I’d love to get my music in front of ;)…

      • Marsha Stopa

        The Western North Carolina mountains — home of bluegrass! 🙂

  • Excited to see where you are going with this Bryan.

    Good luck with the 10k goal.

    Sachit is the real deal. I’m sure – you will do more than 10k with your hustle and his insights 🙂

  • Love it. Can you also touch on sponsored blog posts? Thanks!

  • I would reinvest it!

    • In what?

      • In the biz, e.g. Longtailpro, leadpages etc. Right now all of those bells and whistles sound really good, but they add up!

  • Rebecca Maher

    sounds awesome Brian, thanks again for your practical, useful and actionable advice!

  • Danie Botha

    Thanks, Bryan!
    I’m filing this one.
    As soon as I pass the 1000 subs, I’ll take another look at it! Sounds great.

    • Great! Focus on getting to 1k then rock it out.

  • This is golden. Would love more on this. Let us know when the case studies are coming with people who have pitched cold to advertisers in their niche.

    Thanks and keep up the great work Bryan!

  • Just emailed my first prospective sponsor now! Only one way to find out if I can make it work and that’s going for it!

    • This is my favorite comment ever. Love the action taking! (everyone else, take note)

  • hannah edia

    Hi Bryan, Love the post. And it looks so easy to do.

    I love the way you have integrated sponsorship with your email list. It integrates seamlessly into the post, and is almost like “here is more if you want it.” Value driven rather than pure advertisement.

    Thanks for sharing and I am trying this out for sure.

  • You’ve just given me a goal to shoot for! Getting my teeny tiny list to 1000 as fast as I can. My plan is to pick one thing from the List Building Strategy Guide to implement each month. Hold me to it!

  • How tiny do you consider to be tiny? (When you mentioned that Jason Zook had a tiny list).

    • Setting yourself a “realistic” goal of 100 signups for starters. Even if you had a goals of 50 signups would be better than not having any or getting started building a list.

      Set yourself a simple goal to start off. Then increase your goal until you’ve reached the desired number of sign-ups.

      Just a suggestion to consider. Hope this helps!

  • Hey Bryan …

    I’m Kevin, and just getting started. And what a great article too.

    I discovered a lot of valueable insight from what you shared. But, do you have any tips or suggestions for those who are just getting started and don’t have a list to work with?

    I find more people talking about using a pre-existing list they already have more then anything else. And nobody appear to want to share on “how to start building a list.”

    Well … Anyway. Thanks for an informative and AWESOME read.

    PS: Congrats on your testing project: Pitching for sponsorship.

    • Yup –> videofruit.com/class

      • Appreciate the tip Bryan. I’m excited to get started.

        Thanks a lot.

  • Emily Anderson

    A great idea! And an extra $500 would make a huge difference for my hubby & I & our 3 kids!

  • Very interesting! Just wondering … in how many emails does one advertiser see his/her ads? In one? In every message for a week? In every message for one month?

  • What a great idea! My list is much smaller than 1,000 but when I get there this idea will be put into practice. I can’t wait. It would help me help others more.

  • Dominik All-in Harman

    Hey Bryan, happy Easter!

    Have you made any progress with this?

    Thanks,

  • Love this post, I will trying these couple week, but my subscriber only around 300 people, do you think it will work for $10 dollars? (haha)