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Chapter
7

Turn on payments on Substack

As you continue to build your presence on Substack, you may start to think about monetization. If you’re interested in monetizing your Substack, read on to learn how to integrate Stripe and turn on payments.

While many freelancers keep their Substack free to access for their audience, in this step, we’ll discuss monetization, and show you how to turn on payments within Substack. Having announced over one million paying subscribers in late 2021, the platform has become an even more enticing online publishing solution for freelance writers.

Should I be charging subscribers?

Many writers on Substack attempt to monetize their newsletters too early — unless you’re providing readers with truly exceptional content, most will not subscribe to a newsletter until they have at least sampled your back catalog of posts. Conversely, it can be hard to flip the switch and start charging readers for access to your publication. After all, you’re committing to producing up to a year of additional content for them.

Know your worth: When it comes time to launch the paid version of your newsletter, spend time looking at newsletters similar in form and topic and gauge their price. Aiming too high can put off potential readers. Going too low could risk your ability to sustain your work. I encourage writers to reevaluate pricing on an annual basis — check for any dropoff or increase in paid readership year over year, and determine through reader feedback or other methods whether your pricing makes sense. 

Once you’ve launched your paid newsletter, don’t forget about the Freemium people that got you here. Make sure you offer a small selection of your work so new people can decide whether they want to invest. Whether that means offering a Free version of your newsletter, or publishing an occasional public post for all-subscribers — your Free list is still the lowest-barrier method to grow your subscriber count.

If so, how much?

You can manually enter the amount of money you want to charge paying subscribers on Substack. Currently, $5 per month and $30 per month are the minimum payment amounts. The only way to lower this is to create a special offer to incentivize your readers. Readers can also subscribe as a Founding Member, which allows them to pay extra as a show of support.

But knowing what to charge is a tricky dance. 

Most newsletters on Substack fall into a fairly narrow price range of $5-$15 per month—use this as your rule of thumb, and remember that pricing isn’t static, so you can always adjust it. Some users charge more than that, but they’re true subject matter experts—an example of this is Petition, which is currently $49 per month (or $599 per year).

Factor in Substack’s cut of your revenue when you’re deciding on how much to charge. If you have paying subscribers, you get to keep 90% of the revenue you generate on a monthly basis – minus Stripe transaction fees. Substack takes the remaining 10%, which is how the platform makes money. Additionally, Stripe, the payment processor Substack uses, charges 2.9% + $.30 per transaction fee. 

What’s most important is that you pick a newsletter subscription price that will meet your needs net of the fees from Substack and Stripe.

After enabling payments, when you write a post, you can decide to put the content behind a paywall (only accessible to subscribers) or make it a free publication so anyone can read it.

How to enable payments

To enable payments, click the “Settings” button at the top of your account. From there, check the enable payments button and follow the steps to connect your Stripe account.

You’ll want to have your Stripe account information handy. Stripe is the payment platform used by Substack, and it allows people to easily pay for subscriptions using a credit card or other payment methods. If you haven’t set up a Stripe account, you’ll be prompted to create one. You’ll need to provide the following personal information to Stripe to create your account:

  • your legal name.

  • email address.

  • date of birth.

  • phone number.

  • the last four digits of your social security number. 

Stripe will tailor what required details they need to verify your identity and meet requirements. You’ll need to link your bank account using your bank credentials, or manually input your routing and account number for payments (what Stripe refers to as “payouts”).

You’ll want to provide customer support details that help your subscribers recognize the charges on their credit card statement when their card gets charged for your newsletter.

Tip: A statement descriptor explains charges or payments on bank statements. Make it easy for a subscriber to recognize!

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