How to price your subscriptions

A three step framework for pricing your subscriptions. This is Part 3 of our Pricing Paid Subscriptions series.

This is Part 3 of our Pricing Paid Subscriptions series. Part 1 was on what worker-led outlets charge and Part 2 was about framing your pricing.

I’ll never forget the name of the first person who paid to subscribe to my former political newsletter.


As soon as I turned on paid subscriptions, Shelby subscribed. It was a $35 annual subscription that felt like a giant step forward.

Shelby’s support was my first taste of what it’s like to be audience-funded and since then, I’ve launched several other digital brands, including a membership which I currently run. Every paying subscriber is a vote that fuels me to keep going.

Whether you’re thinking about turning on paid subscriptions for the first time or you’re wondering whether your subscriptions are right priced, this issue is for you.

I give you the JPT Mutual Pricing Framework.

Step 1: Start with your reader’s expectation

Media subscriptions are now fairly common now so your readers have an expectation of what yours will cost. You can use that as your baseline.

For reference, we established in Part 1 of this series that most of the worker-led outlets price their starter tier between $5-8/mo.

Step 2: Add points based on the value you bring

Is your beat super unique? Add $1
Are your perks really cool and coveted? Add $1
Are readers using your work to make or save money or time? Add $1

You can add all kinds of questions here, but the gist is if what you’re doing is MORE desirable to access, you’re going to go towards the higher end.

You can even go much, much higher if your readers are budgeting to pay for the kind of intel you share (as we saw with some of the most expensive, specialized Substacks).

Step 3: Adjust based on frequency

If you’re publishing daily or weekly, you’ll move towards the higher end of the outlet pricing spectrum.

If you’re publishing less frequently or more unpredictably, you’ll start towards the lower end.

Bonus points: Use pricing persuasion

Optional add-ons to your pricing model include:

Our takeaway

Pricing is a persuasion and perception game. The framework I presented above is just one way to do it and ultimately, you have to decide what feels “right priced” for your outlet and your readers.

I didn’t factor in your operational costs which you’ll see in most pricing frameworks. If you’re growing and people are subscribing, I’m not sure why you’d factor operations cost into what a single subscriber is paying. You can always add more subscribers to account for costs. Maybe I’m wrong here though. Challenge me!

📣 Coming soon: Want to grow your free and paid subscribers? We’re starting up a free monthly mind meld just for solo journalists writing their own publications. Answer two questions here and I’ll be in touch to schedule our first session.

Welcome to this new venture called Journalists Pay Themselves. I’m Lex Roman, an indie marketer whose spent her career growing and monetizing audiences for tech companies.

With the rapid decline of journalism jobs, I’m looking into how I can be useful to journalists navigating the business side of going independent. As I examine what worker-owned outlets and indie journalists are doing, I’m sharing my findings here with you and I stash them in this archive.

Next week, we’ll look at WHERE you can plug those paid subscriptions.

—Lex (@betonlex)

🛠️ Try out this pricing calculator

Indiebrands made this pricing calculator so you can forecast your monthly recurring revenue with different scenarios of price and subscribers. Ignore the fact that it was made for SaaS companies, it’s useful in our context too.

You can add different scenarios of plans and subscribers. It calculates common churn and platform fees for you: Try the calculator (it’s free)