If you have a passion for storytelling and a knack for identifying trends and niche markets, starting a magazine business could be your calling. With an initial investment ranging from $10,000 to $50,000 or more, you can cover content creation, printing, and marketing expenses to bring your vision to life. Essential skills for success include strong writing and editing abilities, graphic design knowledge, and adept business management.

The magazine industry is evolving, with a growing demand for digital formats and specialized content. Although the challenges of building a readership and adapting to digital trends can be daunting, a clear vision and solid strategy can lead to a profitable venture with average profit margins ranging from 10% to 30%. Are you ready to make your mark in the world of magazines? Follow our guide to learn how to start a magazine business.

Considerations Before Starting a Magazine

Initial InvestmentEstimated startup costs can range from $10,000 to $50,000+, mainly for content creation, printing, and marketing.
Skills RequiredStrong writing and editing skills, graphic design, marketing, and business management.
DemandConsistent demand for niche and specialized content. Digital formats are growing in popularity.
LocationCan be home-based or in an office setting. Distribution channels are crucial.
HoursTraditional office hours — may vary based on publication schedules.
Permits and LicensesDepending on your location, you may need a business license and/or distribution permit.
Profit MarginAverage profit margins range from 10% to 30%, depending on distribution and advertising strategies.
ChallengesBuilding a readership, adapting to digital trends, and managing production costs.

Benefits of Starting a Magazine

Starting a magazine will ideally allow you to profitably aggregate content around your area of interest, and it can help you create an exclusive community that, in turn, gives you a place to sell products. Further, it sets you up as an expert in your field, which can give you the opportunity for secondary revenue streams like speaking engagements and writing books.

Think of starting a magazine as the first step toward building a brand and community.  During the steps of launching a magazine, you’ll collaborate with other creatives — writers, editors, publishing managers, graphic designers, and more! 

Before you can get to all the potential benefits of starting a magazine, you’ll need to get it up and running. Here’s your checklist for doing exactly that.

How to Start a Magazine Checklist

1. Create a business plan

You may want to get to work on your new magazine immediately, but you need a business plan. Writing your small business plan helps you figure out exactly what you need to get the magazine going, the challenges you may encounter, your target audience, how much money it will cost, and more.

To craft a solid business plan for a magazine:

  • Describe your content specifically. Think beyond “magazine” to something as detailed as “a magazine with recipes for cooking with gas, celebrity chefs who cook with gas, and makers of products used for cooking with gas.” 
  • Describe your target audience. For instance, “amateur chefs who love to explore cooking with gas.” 
  • Decide whether you will run an online magazine, a print publication, or both. Remember that about one-third of magazine readers prefer digital formats.
  • Decide if you will work from home or have a physical office.
  • Identify the necessary team members. (Editorial team, publishing manager, sales manager, marketing manager, etc.) 
  • Set SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely)
  • Consider what could go wrong and how you’ll manage it.
  • Lay out your magazine business costs, issue and subscription pricing, etc.
  • Check for tax breaks and local grants.

2. Choose a business structure

The IRS requires that all incorporated businesses in the U.S. (such as LLCs and corporations) are registered. Multiple company structures are available. Choose the structure with the best legal and tax setup for your situation. Many small companies use one of the following entity types:

  • LLC (limited liability company), which offers liability protection and tax flexibility
  • Sole proprietorship, which is easier and cheaper to set up but doesn’t protect your liability

Since you’ll likely publish content about other people, places, and businesses, the liability protection of an LLC is a necessity for many magazines. This shields your personal assets from lawsuits and also lets the company avoid the double taxation of a corporate structure.

We’ll form your LLC for as little as $0 (plus state fees), making the LLC’s limited-liability protections even more accessible for small business owners.

3. Determine your business costs

Startup costs for a magazine come in three main areas.

People: Will you hire employees or use freelancers? You’ll need writers, an editor, a sales manager, a publications manager, a marketing manager, a layout director, and more. It may be tempting to fill all the roles yourself but be warned that this can quickly lead to burnout. When factoring up these costs, don’t forget legal and accounting expenses.

Place: Will you rent office space? Even if you work out of your home, the business can pay you a monthly rental for the square footage it uses.

Product: Both print and online iterations of your magazine come with costs. Paper, binding, shipping, labeling, delivery to the stores/newsstands, online hosting costs, graphics, and exclusive fonts are some of the magazine industry’s expenses. Don’t forget basic business startup costs, too, like computers, pens, paper, phones, and an internet connection. Also, find out what insurance you may need by speaking with a local agent.

If you’d like to learn more about calculating your small business startup costs, our helpful guide can assist you in outlining all of your potential expenses.

How do you fund your startup costs? 

After counting up the costs, you may get concerned about having enough startup capital. Don’t worry, because there’s help available. Consider the following.

  • Government assistance: Since it benefits the nation to have businesses operating here, there are government resources available for entrepreneurs. 
  • Business credit cards: Don’t use these frivolously or you’ll find yourself saddled with long-term debt and a dropping credit score. Still, business credit cards can be a helpful short-term option if you’ve got a solid pay-back plan. 
  • Loans: The Small Business Administration (SBA) provides loans through banks and other lending institutions. Consider talking to your bank about a personal loan as well. 
  • Friends and family: Yes, it can be tough to ask friends and family for money. But if you believe in your magazine business dream, and they have the capital to spare, you may be able to work out a plan with them. 
  • Collaboration: Are there people/businesses who may benefit from being a regular part of the magazine? If so, approach them to see if some financial support is available.

4. Name your business

You may or may not want to name your business the same as your magazine title. For instance, the Meredith Corporation is home to several magazines, including People, Martha Stewart Living, and InStyle. Check with the Secretary of State’s office in your state so you don’t use a name that’s taken.

Also, check to see if the URL and social media handles you want for your name are available. When you figure out just the right name across all platforms, register it.

Looking for more information about creating a business website? Visit our “build a website” page to see how we can help you.

5. Register your business and open financial accounts

Next, register whatever business structure you selected (i.e. LLC). You’ll also probably need an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS, as this allows you to file taxes, hire employees, open business bank accounts, and more.

You will also likely need to acquire a sales tax license (since you’re selling a product to the public) from your state’s Department of Revenue. Finally, you should open a business bank account, which is important because you want to keep your personal and business financial accounts separate.

6. Purchase equipment for your magazine business

Unless you intend to print the magazine yourself (likely not, since this can be affordably outsourced to local printers as you get started), there are very few equipment needs for starting up a magazine business. Beyond basic office supplies, you’ll need word processing, graphic design, and layout software.

Adobe offers plans that provide access to multiple design products across multiple team members, and there are other companies specifically geared toward creating a magazine as well. For instance, Issuu helps with digital magazine layout.

7. Market your magazine

There are more than 7,000 print magazines in the U.S. While that seems like a lot of competition, don’t panic. If you’ve created your business plan, then you’ve hopefully identified an underserved magazine niche or determined how your magazine will better serve its intended demographic than other publications.

Strongly consider hiring a marketing manager to handle promotion. They can use Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Snapchat, and YouTube to get the word out about your magazine. The marketing manager can also look into Google Business Profiles and local business and events directories. As a tip, consider sending free issues to influencers and businesses with waiting rooms, as well as sending a free first issue to potential subscribers.

Examples of Magazines to Start

Simply go to your local bookstore or newsstand, start browsing, and take note of what’s popular as well as which niches aren’t being served. Also, check out Monocle Magazine’s podcast, “The Stack,” which has been running for 15+ years and focuses on the world of print publications. There are also videos from “The Stack” on Vimeo.

Ready to Start Your Dream Business?

More people are reading magazines/e-zines today than ever. There’s an opportunity to make money in the magazine business (e.g. through potential advertisers) for those who clearly identify their market and build community and branding around the publication.

In addition to making money from the magazine itself through subscriptions and ad revenue, you could also parlay its success into other income streams like book deals, product offerings, and speaking engagements.

We’ve got the tools and resources to help start, run, and grow your business. From LLC formation and expense tracking to tedious legal requirements.

Starts at $0 + state fee

Starting a Magazine FAQs

  • According to ZipRecruiter, the average annual salary for a magazine publisher is just under $100K. However, it’s important to know that the salary range is pretty broad, from around $21K all the way up to $335K.

  • There are many different types of magazines that can be money-makers. What’s important is to choose topics that interest you and are within your realm of expertise. Readers can tell when material is written by someone passionate and knowledgeable, and you should be excited to share that passion and knowledge with them!

  • The cost to start a regional magazine can be $100,000, with each issue costing a minimum of $10,000, according to NPR. A national magazine can cost considerably more. Those numbers are dependent on how many issues you plan to publish, how big your team is, what you’re paying them, and more. The potential variance is part of why it’s so important to do your homework and create a strong business plan for your magazine.

Disclaimer: The content on this page is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal, tax, or accounting advice. If you have specific questions about any of these topics, seek the counsel of a licensed professional.

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Written by Team ZenBusiness

Start Your Magazine in Minutes