Starting a Successful Email Newsletter: Ali Abdaal's Guide

By
Shanna Lindinger
|
April 12, 2024

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Do you want to earn at least $5,000 per email, like Ali Abdaal?

A tad on the clickbait side, but it's possible.

Ali Abdaal now earns just that per email send.

That's literally more than what he earned as a doctor.

If you don't know, Ali Abdaal, is a doctor-turned-entrepreneur, uber-popular YouTuber (with 4.5 million YouTube subs), and author, who believes that starting an email newsletter is one of the best decisions a creator can make.

As mentioned above, every time he sends an email, he makes around $5,000, which is more than he was earning in an entire month of working full-time as a doctor.

Yes, you got that right. And looking at Ali's trajectory to date, I'd say he's one person within this creator ecosystem well worth listening to.

3 Reasons Why You Should Start an Email Newsletter:

Getting started in the creator economy can be intimidating. If you're wondering why you should start an email newsletter, here are three great reasons you may want to consider starting one:

1. It's Free and Low Friction

Unlike starting a YouTube channel, an Instagram, or a TikTok account, creating an email newsletter can be completely free. You don't have to pay a cent out of pocket to get started, and it's easy to get started writing.

It doesn't have to be complicated at all.

You only need something to share, type it up, and hit send. With an email newsletter, you don't have to worry about the cost of equipment or editing software, making it one of the easiest ways to get started as a creator.

2. It's Private and a Great Way to Get Started as a Creator

An email newsletter is private in the best way because you're writing for public consumption. Still, realistically, no one will find your writing if you don't want them to. No algorithm encourages people to sign up for your email newsletter, so you can send your first several issues entirely in private.

This really helped me get over the emotional barriers that I think tends to get in everyone's way whenever thinking of starting a new creative project. By putting yourself out there in a small way and taking baby steps, like sending a weekly email update to a handful of friends or even no one, you can get your feet wet and see what it's actually like to be a creator and share ideas publicly on the internet.

3. It's All About Writing, and You Own Your Audience

At the end of the day, an email newsletter is all about writing. Any other creative platform that you create content on, like a YouTube channel or any other video format, is really also based on writing.

This is the same point made by Dan Koe when he talks about how to make money writing.

See, the problem with public platforms like Twitter, TikTok etc. is that you ultimately don't own the audience. If you're creating content on YouTube, yup, you guessed it, YouTube owns your audience. So it's akin to building a house on borrowed land.

And nobody wants to be doing that.

With an email list, you have a direct relationship with your audience. You can show up in their inbox every single week, share personal insights, and build a relationship with them. People can reply to your emails, and you can reply back.

It's like the Pen Pal days.

If you remember Pen Pals, welcome, fellow '80s kid.

3 Practical Steps to Start an Email Newsletter:

Here are three actionable and practical steps to help you get started with an email newsletter:

1. Pick a Platform

There are a few options here. Ali uses Convertkit, which I've swopped over to, is a powerful and incredible platform, but it is a paid product. Beehiiv (also paid) is another great option if you're looking at a full-fledged newsletter meets landing page operation. Still, if you want to get started completely from scratch and you want to do it without spending a cent, Ali recommends two main options: Substack and Revue (shut down effective January 18, 2023).

Email Newsletter Features/ Platform Convertkit, Beehiiv, and Substack
Made with Notion

2. Decide What to Write About

You can write about whatever you want when it comes to your email newsletter.

The great thing about an email newsletter is that it's a great practice ground for dabbling with what it's like being a creator. You can write about your interests, curate things you've read, watched, or listened to, and share them with your audience.

Tim Ferriss, who runs one of the most successful newsletters in the world, and who got me started on my own journey by reading The 4-Hour Workweek, started 5-Bullet Friday.

Every Friday, he sends out a list of five things he's enjoyed that week. It might be a blog post, a book, a documentary, or a gadget. He initially sent it to his friends but later started selling it to his audience. Now, he has over two million subscribers to this email list, and no doubt made a large sum off of it.

3. Build Your Audience

Once your email newsletter is up and running, it's time to start building your audience. Ask your friends and family to sign up, share your newsletter on social media, and offer something of value to your readers (friends and family included).

As mentioned before, starting an email newsletter is a great way to find out what it's really like to be a creator. It's free, low friction, private, and all about writing. With an email list, you own your audience and have a direct relationship with them. So, if you're new to the creator thing, an email newsletter is the ideal starting point.

Still have doubts about the potential of a newsletter? Check out this interview with Ali and Alex Lieberman, who started an email newsletter during university that turned into one of the world's fastest-growing media brands, @GoodWorkMB. He sold it for $75 million at just 28. Alex shares lessons from this journey, including the most valuable business skills, knowing when to quit, and finding purpose beyond a windfall.

If you’re wanting to start your journey to becoming a newsletter writer, do take up this advice. As was mentioned before, a newsletter is the lowest friction entry point to writing.

Start today. Even if it’s a Sunday.  

And don't forget to check out Ali's YouTube video on why everyone should start an email newsletter in his own words here.

I know I would’ve loved this advice when I was first starting out on my writing journey, so if this post helped you or you think it may help a friend, please share it with them.

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