How to grow a $1M business with just a newsletter and blog
In fact, you don't even have to be all that good at writing.
What is Nano Flips?
Nano Flips started out as a newsletter (well, technically as Twitter threads, but more on that later). It has evolved into a more comprehensive educational resource. It’s geared towards flipping “digital real estate” for profit. Think of it like flipping a house, except with a website or business. You buy something you think you can improve, make the improvements, and then either sell it for more money or milk it for profit.
One of his recent examples is someone who flipped an auto parts site.
Nano Flips is run by James Camp, someone who works on so many different projects, it’s difficult to know what to call him. He’s part creator, part marketer, part mentor and part writer (although he insists he is not a very good writer). James claims that to turn a newsletter + blog into a million dollar business, you don’t really have to be a good writer. At least if you understand the mechanics.
💰 How is it going for James?
I should note that James started Nano Flips in October 2020 with ~800 Twitter followers. While he now has 73k, he gained those during the process. This is important to note, because he didn’t have an existing “distribution channel”.
His $ stats:
- ~$1M in total (90% from Twitter)
- $700k gross revenue this year with a 70% margin
- Expects to double next year!
✍️ How to get started yourself?
Put words on the internet every week for 2 years straight
It’s a simple method, but a lot goes into it.
And there is something you should know beforehand…
You have to be willing to do it for the 2 years without making any money.
That means you will have to decide what you’re willing to write about constantly without a return for a long while. Do not pick the most “lucrative” niche. You won’t last.
Deciding on your content
Again, don’t think about what the “most effective” thing to do in a vacuum is. The average person is not niche agnostic. Most human success comes from goal setting and reward systems. So you should at least be MILDLY interested in it. You likely won’t follow through for long if you’re not.
So instead ask,
“What’s the most impactful thing I could solve for a specific group of people?”
There are many people out there with problems you can adequately solve. You may not be an “expert” yet, but even your journey of becoming an expert can be valuable (ever heard of “Building in Public”?). Chances are, anything you’re truly interested in could likely work. Treat it like a pyramid. Find a small, very targeted problem, and them work your way down with similar problems getting more and more broad covering more areas.
People often have imposter syndrome about things they are interested in or passionate about because they aren’t the most knowledgeable person on the planet. This doesn’t mean you can’t find a new angle! In fact often times, the experts aren’t very good at teaching.
So be a teacher! Be a problem solver!
💡 Some Tips:
- Be prepared to write about this topic (or work on it) for 1-2 hours a day – again, with no results
- Find evergreen topics that will be relevant year round and for a long time to come
- Find things with lots of data points. Equity markets and sports are good examples because you have an endless amount of data to build stories and content around
- You are rewarded for saying things clearly and concisely, NOT length. Forget everything you were taught in school about writing. Write like you actually speak, be conversational!
- This is a big reason TikTok is becoming a search engine. If you want a solution for organizing your closet, you don’t need a 3k word article.
- More and more, Google is focusing on who is solving problems the best. If you focus on this and do it well, Google will reward you
- If you are looking for the lowest hanging fruit, start with a newsletter first, then turn those posts into blog posts
🎃 The Pumpkin Hack – find niche communities that already exist. Your audience that you want already exists and is gathered somewhere on the internet. Figure out where that is and become part of it. Start writing about it!
- Look on Subreddits, Facebook groups, Discord servers or forums
- Become an actual member of these communities, don’t just post your subscribe link all the time
- Twitter has communities, but they are less differentiated vs. a platform like Reddit. So you’ll have to work harder, but it can definitely work!
- James got 90% of his subscribers from Twitter. You just have to give 95%, and ask 5% for it to work
- There is a huge advantage if you are already an expert before you start writing
🛠 What tools to use?
Really anything, but here are a couple James recommends:
📧 For your newsletter…
James is a huge Converkit fan. It’s pricey but good.
Substack is a free newsletter tool (that I use for Heads of Growth of course). You can also charge through the platform. There are now competitors like Beehive that are similar.
💻 For your website…
WordPress is still seen as one of the best options out there. It’s harder to use, but still classifies as no-code and is wildly customizable. It also has good and low effort SEO integrations.
📈 Growing your subscribers
🗝 The Key to Subscriber Growth: pick a channel and master it
As I mentioned above, 90% of his subs come from just Twitter. So you can definitely build a $1M newsletter off of one organic channel. Nano Flips newsletter was a side hustle and accidentally became his most profitable business through Twitter.
That doesn’t mean Twitter is necessarily the channel for you. Throw some spaghetti at the wall to find something that works and is enjoyable for you. James has always loved organic social media because of the energizing dopamine hit. So Twitter made since for him. If it works at least a little and you enjoy it, you can master and scale it. All channels can work, but find what will work for you.
NOTE: Some tools like Substack have recommendation engines that can give you some growth.
Still, how did James grow through Twitter?
He mainly writes threads. They get a bad wrap from people writing useless or spammy ones. But if you still focus on adding something genuinely valuable, it will go well for you. Be tight with your messaging and clearly put solutions out there for your niche.
Initially James didn’t have a strategy. But now he tries to repurpose newsletter content into threads. Initially he was writing threads for fun, then was like “oh I should turn this into a newsletter”, so it actually went in the reverse direction. When his Twitter threads started to go viral, it was a good indicator that was his channel. It also make him addicted to it!
💰 How to Monetize Your Newsletter
When it comes to something like a newsletter, you’re going to have a very hard time monetizing early. With something like a blog, you can throw ads on it whenever you want and a network like AdSense will sell traffic to you.
But for a newsletter, you have to find sponsorships and affiliate programs to start. Usually around 1k subscribers is a good time to start finding sponsors. For a specific niche, 1k can actually be quite a lot of people that someone will pay to reach. If you have a more general topic like sports, you’ll need to zoom out.
Sponsorships vs affiliates
Sponsors don’t want to touch you early on. They have a lot of operation expenditure. Advertisers want big hits and the spend is higher risk for them. Affiliates are more micro because they sell better and there is little risk.
Check out sites like offervault.com (recommended) or clickbank.com to see if there is an offer in your niche.
The main thing you want to wait for is to have fully honed your craft before you monetize. If you do this well, you can make a lot of money off of a small group of people.
You might also charge a monthly subscription for your newsletter. James had one himself, but has had better luck with sponsorships. You have to provide something insanely valuable in a high earning space like VC investing.
James proves you don’t need a lot of followers to sell something new (although her certainly has a lot now!). If you are really an expert, go high cost high value with a low number of purchases. Sell a course for thousands!
You will make the most money selling your own products (courses or whatever). no one making money but you. If you are selling a sponsorship, you are getting a small cut of their sale. Same with affiliates, lots need a cut.
Other ways to monetize:
- Sell a course
- Write a book
- Create mentorship programs
- Speak at events (once you have some clout)