…in a few easy steps!
First, establish your magazine online. It’s easy and it’s a great way to start with (almost) no money.
1. Just start doing it. Decide what audience you want to reach and what their interests are, and do it! Remember, a great audience for a magazine has many needs: they want to content about their interests, they want to see what businesses support their interests (advertisers), and they want to be able to get together once in a while, especially if your magazine is local. Build your magazine from those considerations.
2. Build your magazine online at first, using a blog tool but with a magazine theme. Use Canva to make a great header image for your brand, then create other images for your sidebar to promote content that lives somewhere else besides the homepage on your site. And, of course, start making that content. Go to free events. Lose your inhibitions and introduce yourself to people you want to meet. Learn, and keep an open mind. And write about it in a way that shares what you learned.
3. Make business cards and tell people what you’re doing. Write about the events. Take the photos yourself in the beginning – using your phone is fine – but stay on the lookout for talented photographers anxious to get published somewhere. There might even be some at those events you’re attending now. Start working on the content.
4. Work on more content. Keep telling yourself that it’s all going to get published in a new magazine.” (If you don’t believe it, no one else will. Working on it like it’s real is the only way you’re going to get it out the door.) In fact, starting a social media presence for your magazine is as important as the site itself. Use social media to promote your content but “curate” similar content from other sites as well. You’ll want content that serves your target audience.
Second, once you get it in the habit of creating content for your magazine, start looking for potential advertisers.
5. Realize that your magazine has multiple audiences. Readers, first and foremost, yes, but also your advertisers. Dont think of them as the necessary evil forgetting your magazine out. On the contrary, your readers want to connect with these advertisers. If they’re reading your magazine because they love hip-hop or pit bulls or organic food as much as you do, then they probably spend money on this passion and are looking for businesses that offer products and services they want.
6. Which leads me to this: Before you ask a single business to buy an ad, ask them what they need, if advertising has worked for them in the past, what does work for them. Ask them for advice, for content ideas, distribution ideas, cover lines, writers, whatever. Remember, they’re entrepreneurs just like you are. They share your passion. Make sure they know you are looking for a business relationship, not just a check.
7. Don’t overlook the power of an event. Don’t wait until you have thousands of people reading your magazine every month, all you need is about 25 followers to start planning and publicizing your event. Make it appropriate to your content –barbecue hamburger cookout at the dog run park for your pit bull magazine, plan a Meetup at a bar before a show for your hip-hop magazine…. It’s not about having some huge blow-out, rather it’s about getting like-minded people together to meet in a fun social setting. Everyone will love you for it, and they’ll talk about it with their friends.
Spec out your first print version.
8. Create a media kit, which is a document that shows what your magazine is about, what readers you’re targeting, how many you’ll distribute per issue, and where you’ll distribute them.
9. Determine your ad rates. Best way to do that is to check out what other magazines in your area are charging. Some of them will have downloadable media kits, others you’ll have to ask for. Base your rates on what they charge.
10. Determine how many ads you really think you can sell. If you think you can sell $5,000 worth of ads, then work back from there for your budget.
For examples, you might set your budget like this:
Print 1,000 copies – $2,000
Distribute them yourself – $0 (Where and how you distribute them is key! This is what advertisers want to really know.)
Content, writing and photography – $1,000
Art director to lay it all out – $1,000
Sell ads yourself so no commission to sales person – $0
11. Come up with distribution date and work backwards from there. Sell ad spaces, create content, lay it out, get it to printer, and get it to your audience (and advertisers) by a certain date.
12. Before that issue is done, start the next one!
The way to start a magazine with no money, no time, and no connections is simple…. but the work is hard. There are no shortcuts, but there are simple steps you can’t take pretty quickly. And if you’re still looking for a shortcut, here’s one: Stop researching on the Internet and just start your magazine already!
HERE ARE SOME TIPS FOR MAKING YOUR MAGAZINE GOOD:
If you want to stay relevant, make content with your core audience in mind. And them only. Trust that there are more like them out there. If you start watering your content down, you’ll lose your most loyal readers and advertisers and you’ll be left with a lot of people who really don’t care if you exist at all.
I’m using the word “you” a lot, but remember to not take your audience size personally. Your content is competing with everything from corporate content entities to the blogger out of his basement. And people are fickle. At the same time, if you work as hard as I do on my magazine, it kind of does feel personal. Stay true to what your readers like and keep doing the work.
Partner as often as you can. You can increase your audience significantly if you decide to partner with a like-minded organization on content of an event. Reach out and make a plan, then make sure each of you agrees to promote the other.
Think strategically in a way that benefits the most people. Would it benefit your advertiser to launch your magazine on the same date as they open a new store? And would it help if you decided to mail that issue to 1,000 people who live closest to that store? And would those people you mail it to want a coupon or some kind of incentive to visit that new store? There are lots of ways to make it work out for everybody. Keep looking for those – without risking your brand long-term – and you’ll make money!