How to start a magazine with no money, no connections, and no time

Work Harter by Jordan Whitfield from Unsplash

…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!


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!

Good luck!

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22 Comments on How to start a magazine with no money, no connections, and no time

  1. Hi Monica,

    Thank you so much for the wonderful and very informative presentation you and Torquil gave. I really enjoyed it and the fact that you listed the “Content, Production, Readership, or Advertising” as distinct places to start after developing one’s magazine idea. And some of the ideas for print publications that y’all gave are equally applicable for online.

    It’s always great to meet someone so passionate about what they want to do in life! Good luck collecting additional magazine “first editions”. :)

    Walt Esquivel

  2. How do you prevent someone else taking your idea and making it happen before you can? I have a amazing idea for a new womens magazine, but i also know that it will take alot of time to make this happen, Im scared that if I advertise to much what Im trying to do that someone else will come along and have the funds and connections to creat it themselves. Any advice?


  3. Yeah, that worried me, too. Still does. I definitely hid my idea for a magazine from most people in the beginning. But as soon as I told people about it, it made creating that magazine so much easier.

    The thing is there are lots of people out there with the means to be publishers = tons of money. And they might even have an idea very similar to yours. But chances are, they’re not going to execute on it as well as you do because there’s will be driven by money rather than a love and knowledge of magazines. They might launch it, might sell ads in it, might even put out a decent-looking first few issues. But that’s usually when greed sets in and they decide to go cheap on everything – content, paper, delivery – and readers and advertisers notice.

    The other thing about those millionaire publishers is that they usually have such big egos, they wouldn’t dream of stealing someone else’s idea – because it couldn’t possibly be as good as theirs. (Even when it probably is.) When someone with the means launches their own publication without having to start from the ground up, they usually focus on salaries and paper choices rather than community building with readers and advertisers. They may start out further along, but it won’t take you long to catch up.

    So the best thing you can do, I think, is continually research your idea and the market for it. Then if you don’t have the means to launch a national magazine, start small and build it one supporter at a time. National mags are extraordinarily tough to sell right now, but if you can connect with local/regional advertisers AND readers, you’ll have a successful magazine.

    Take a look at the magazines you’d compete with and do better than they do. It won’t be hard. It’ll cost some money to make a quality magazine that connects with your audience, but it won’t be hard to beat the ones that don’t.

  4. Hi. Thanks for the tips! I believe there’s always room for another magazine if it fits an unfulfilled niche so it’s great to get some advice on how to start one, since I happen to have one such great idea :) I can’t get the ppt download of your full presentation to work. Is there any other place I can access it from?

  5. Thanks for all the positive feedback! Please remember – and here’s where I get self-promotional – my company, OCTOBER CUSTOM PUBLISHING, can help you plan, launch, design, or even execute soup-to-nuts a digital or print magazine of your own. Please feel free to contact me with any questions.

    UDATE: you can also view or download the PowerPoint presentation from SlideShare. Here’s where to get it:

  6. Hi my name is Star and I’m only 11 yrs. old! I’m trying so hard to start a magazine but I don’t know how. help!!!!

  7. My magazine is going to tell everyone that there are far more interesting things going on in the lives of the not so rich and already famous people in the words from John Legends song (ordinary people).

  8. Hi my name is chris mcdonald. My hole life i didnt want to be lawyer or a doctor. My uncle had about 7 pitbulls they were the badest dogs. What i wanted to be when i grow up is a dog breeder and have the badest dogs in california. Im pore my hole family his pore, but my dad. I knew i would never be sucessful. Im 23 years old i had idea but no money to start my pitbull magazine. I would really need you suport. When you walk to any store u dont see pitbull mags. All you see car mag, famous mags, motoecycle mags but you never see pitbull mags. I think this will change my life. Help me publish my magazine and get it started and i will bust my ass to get this done. Email at calipit23@

  9. My name is Patricia Noto i would love to keep intouch with you that js wanna start my own hiphop magizine based @ my region.

  10. Hi, my name is Fredrick Mims i live in Augusta,Ga . I’m trying hard to start a local magazine in my area. Such articles are about local music artist that are trying to have their voices heard as far as hip hop and r&b. It will also have articles about what’s going on in the local community that know one pay attention to,as far as the crime and the poverty levels. I will have articles on the hottest spots and also the upcoming local events in are area. It will have the most eligible single men and women and numerous of other exciting articles. The problem is that I have very little money to start this magazine,but one thing I do have is ambition. I need any kind of advice on what I need to do to get this started,any help will be well appreciated.

  11. Frederick, the biggest expense for magazines is the printing. So think small print run at first.

    The second biggest expense is the design – the look and feel, the photos, the layout. I pay whatever it costs in this area because ugly magazines have no place in this world. That being said, magazines don’t have to be beautiful, they just have to make a statement, have a voice, be unique.

    What all magazines are going for is this and only this: Surpise and delight. You want your reader to grab it, flip though it, sit down on the floor with it and not get up until theyve read every page. You want to take them on a journey where they meet new people and learn something new.

    And that doesnt have to cost a lot. You could start, for example, with a design of your own. If you don’t own or don’t know how to use InDesign (the magazine layout software you must use if you want to work with a real printer, just use Word or PowerPoint or something and make a simple photo-left, copy-right layout. I mean get a nice high-res photo on the left side of the spread, then run the story on the right, Keep it clean, classy. No crazee fonts, no “creative” bubbles or starbursts or drawings. Just simple. Go for descriptions like striking, clean and modern.

    Then make a PDf out of it, take it to Kinkos and tell them you want a booklet made. Word might even have a booklet template to use. Don’t worry if it doesn’t look high end yet. Know ahead of time where you want to hand it out. Offer ads for free to the places where you want to hand it out. Be audacious!

    A nice 32-page booklet in full color may not look like a magazine right away, but unless your magazine is about high-end lifestyle, don’t worry. Just make the first one then make another. Each one will be better than the previous one. It won’t take long for people to reach out to you, trust me.

    And don’t forget to use to set up a free blog/website. Give people somewhere to go to connect!

  12. hey
    i want to start a magazine for those students, ex-students who are in search of jobs.. i mean i want to start job portal in magazine format. as here in my city this idea is new and every one is in search of jobs, majority of them have less connection to internet. i need some guidance please..

  13. Hi – I own a health and wellness magazine called Living Wellness Kansas City magazine. It launched last September and I have enjoyed reading all the advice and posts of wisdom. Some are very true. Check us out online – subscribe and we will send it to you!

  14. This is a great article. I started a non-profit organization in San Antonio, TX named TeamUp 4 Kids San Antonio. I wanted to get our name out there by starting a magazine focused on what kids are doing in San Antonio, and surrounding areas. I wanted the content to cover issues about education, social issues, special needs kids, health facts. Just a small newsletter/magazine, then I am expecting growth. I need more guidance in securing business to help advertisement.

  15. Hi i want to start an entertainment magazine before this year ends and i have every piece of this article thanx

  16. Monica, I love your concept (Starting a Magazine with no money)I am doing just that. About 8 months ago, I started a group with 1 member and now I have almost 400 members in the health industry, A short time after starting the group on Linkedin I created a newsletter, I just published Issue # 6 this evening, My intention is to publish a hard copy (somewhat differently) in my community then franchise the concept national. Any advice? Check out my issue # 6. Let me know what you think, PLEASE!

  17. When choosing a name of magazine do you have to register it with the state like you do with a business name

  18. Hi I am excited I want to start a magazine for schools what teens up to sports,social,gossip best student.

  19. Thanks for this amazing article. Starting with no money I would imagine takes guts and a whole lot passion about the system at hand. I wish the best to everyone with a dream. Keep dreaming and God will provide all the answers to our questions. How about just publishing online first?

  20. Hi I would like to start a magazine for South African men (politics, fashion,culture and challenging daily issues such as women and children abuse being addressed by SA men) can I be helped please.

4 Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Starting a Magazine with no money – Starting a Magazine | Magazines » Blog Archive
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