Read This Before You Launch A Paid Subscription (If You Want It To Work) - Josh Spector

Read This Before You Launch A Paid Subscription (If You Want It To Work)

I want your paid subscription to succeed.

That’s why I’m sharing a few specific actions you can take to increase the chances that people subscribe to your paid newsletter, community, or other recurring product.

These are based on what’s worked for me as I’ve grown This Is How I Do It into a five-figure revenue stream.

Here are my recommendations…

1. Find out if people want it before you create it.

Assuming you’ve got an audience, talk to them.

Whether through surveys or ideally individual conversations, gauge your audience’s interest in what you plan to offer.

People who say they’re interested in your product may not ultimately buy it, but these conversations can save you from launching something no one’s interested in.

How to do it:

Don’t just pitch your product idea.

Announce you’re developing a “secret project,” seeking feedback, and invite people to connect with you if they’d like to chat about it.

Make them curious.

When someone replies, explain your product concept and/or multiple potential concepts if you’re still trying to figure out what to create.

Mention it’s a paid product, but don’t mention a specific price.

When someone likes the concept, float a price point you’re considering by them and see how they react.

If people aren’t interested in your product at all or if their interest disappears once they hear the price, you may want to reconsider moving forward with it.

2. Don’t sell “more,” sell different.

Most paid subscription products — especially newsletters — are rooted in a belief people will pay for more of what they currently enjoy for free.

This is why most paid subscriptions fail.

Even people who love your content don’t need “more” of it and are unlikely to pay for more.

A better approach is to offer something different — something related to your free content, but with a unique value.

For example, after I tried (and failed) to sell an expanded version of my free For The Interested newsletter which features the secrets of successful creators, I pivoted to the “different” approach.

That’s when I launched This Is How I Do It which features a behind-the-scenes look at how I grow my audience and business.

When I offered my audience “more” it failed, but when I offered them “different” it succeeded.

How To Do It:

I expand on this concept and how to implement it in this article.

3. Sell a one-off version first.

If someone won’t pay a one-time fee for your product, they’re not going to pay an ongoing subscription for it.

So before you launch a subscription, try to sell a mini-version of the product for a one-time fee.

This does a few things:

• It helps you gauge interest and see how willing people are to pay for what you plan to deliver.

• It creates a low-commitment way for people to sample your product and increases the chances they later buy a subscription.

• It gives you a better sense of how hard it will be to create your product on an ongoing basis, which may impact your pricing and help you decide if it’s even feasible.

How To Do It:

It’s product dependent, but here are a few examples of one-off versions you could offer:

• If you plan to offer a newsletter subscription, compile a few issues on a single topic into an ebook.

• If you plan to offer a podcast interview subscription, package up a couple interviews or even put a single one up for sale.

• If you plan to offer paid access to a community, create a mini-challenge where people pay to join a short-term community for a month where they can help each other accomplish something. 

4. Offer an introductory “founding member” price.

Sales require urgency.

And a great way to give people a reason to buy now instead of later is to incentivize them with a special introductory rate.

Make sure they know there’s a cost to waiting and they’ll be less likely to do so.

How To Do It:

People who purchase with your introductory subscription price should be able to stay at that rate for as long as they remain a subscriber.

This makes it a more compelling offer and also makes them less likely to cancel down the road because they’ll always feel like they’re getting a deal.

5. Nudge people to an annual subscription.

Most products focus on monthly subscriptions, but that’s a mistake.

Annual subscriptions are better for you AND your subscribers.

Annual subscribers allow you to worry less about churn (people unsubscribing) every month and have fewer logistics to deal with. It gives you a longer time frame within which to provide value.

When subscribers purchase an annual subscription, they only feel the “pain” of purchasing once as opposed to feeling it every month. They don’t have to constantly consider whether it’s worth it or not.

It also improves the relationship between a creator and subscribers because you both know you’re committed which creates a stronger bond.

How To Do It:

Set prices that make annual subscriptions the clear best option.

For example, I originally priced This Is How I Do It subscriptions at $20 for monthly and $120 for annual.

Since annual was 50% cheaper than monthly, people had a clear reason to choose that option and most did.

The higher monthly rate (which I didn’t want people to choose) also functioned as a price anchor — it made the annual rate seem “cheap” in comparison.

I eventually got rid of the monthly option completely and now only offer annual subscriptions. 

Because I also…

6. Offer individual products in addition to subscriptions.

Offer elements of your subscription product as standalone individual products.

For example, if you sell a paid subscription newsletter, make issues from your archives available for individual purchase.

This does a few things:

• It creates an inexpensive way for people to sample your product.

• It allows you to monetize people who can’t afford a full subscription.

• It allows you to remove the monthly subscription option completely if you want.

• It creates additional revenue streams from existing content — 30% of revenue I earn from This Is How I Do It comes from individual issue sales.

How To Do It:

To make this work you must identify which elements of your paid subscription product have standalone value.

Look for useful content that provides simple solutions to common problems.

It helps if your subscription product features evergreen content that’s as useful a year from now as it is today because that gives you a longer time frame in which to monetize it.

If your product is based on something topical like the day’s news or investment tips, this tactic may not be possible for you.

7. If your subscription product is a paid community, launch it on the back of an individual product.

I learned this from Jack Butcher and it’s brilliant.

A paid community is only valuable if it’s active, so one of the biggest challenges in launching one is getting initial members.

Here’s how Jack solved this problem:

First, he sold an inexpensive resource. Once a couple hundred people purchased it, he invited them to join a new community as a free “bonus” based on their previous purchase. 

They formed the basis of what would become his new paid community.

Once the community was up and running, he launched his paid community offer to other people, knowing purchasers would now join an already thriving community.

He even used testimonials from the existing community members to sell it to new paying customers!

How To Do It:

If you plan to sell a paid community subscription, figure out a way to ensure it launches with an existing community.

Whether you piggy back your community on to another product sale like Jack did or simply invite initial members for free, people are more likely to pay for a community that exists than one that doesn’t.

8. Make two offers to people who don’t buy your subscription.

Even if you do everything right when launching your subscription, most people still won’t buy it.

But that doesn’t mean they don’t want to spend money with you.

After your launch, reach out to people who didn’t purchase and give them two additional options:

• Offer them a lower-priced way to get value from you.

• Offer them a higher-priced way to get value from you.

Sometimes the reason people don’t buy isn’t because what you offered is too much, it’s because it’s too little.

How To Do It:

You can learn more about this concept from Marley Jaxx at the six-minutre mark of this podcast.


If you found this helpful, you’ll love my For The Interested newsletter which features secrets of successful creators.

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