5 Lessons from Creating A Newsletter
Updated: Mar 25, 2022
Six months ago I created my own newsletter, initially called Kelly Adams's Newsletter (I know creative right?). Which has turned into Kelly's Bytes. I send out a weekly email on Friday's with: 1 new blog post from me, 2 things I learned that week, and 3 links about self-improvement, mental health, or content creation. I wanted to experiment with "building an audience". To be able to connect directly with my followers without relying on a public platform (e.g. Twitter). You can read more about this here.
Goal and Plan
My initial goal was: To have 15 new subscribers to my newsletter in the next 6 months.
Did I succeed? I did. I currently have over 20 subscribers. It may not seem like a lot to those who have 10,000 subscribers or 100,000 subscribers. But with the small amount of subscribers that 15 subscriber increase has been a +200% increase.
My initial plan to achieve this goal:
Discovering my niche;
Promoting my work and networking with others on social media, mainly Twitter and LinkedIn;
Continue writing weekly blog articles; and
Sending out a newsletter every week (format may change).
Overall I stuck to my plan. I discovered my niche (read more about that here). I continued to write weekly blog posts and sent out a newsletter every week except for the two weeks when I took a break. The only thing I didn't stick to was promoting my newsletter on social media.
5 Lesson from Building a Newsletter
The 5 lessons below will be closely tied to my initial plan and advice I'd give to those who are interested in creating their own newsletter.
Lesson 1 - Experiment with your content
I began writing as a way to improve my writing ability. I wrote about anything that interested me, usually self-development and productivity advice. But as I was getting advice from other content creators I realized I needed a niche. I had no idea what I wanted it to be. I was interested in a variety of topics like data science all the way to history. I didn't want to become tied to one type of content only but it looked like the way to go. Instead what I did was experiment with my writing. I wrote about other topics including data analytics, and my journey with learning new skills.
I did find my niche with my journey towards becoming a t-shaped person. This is a person with a deep level of knowledge in data analytics/data science and a wide range of knowledge in other skills. I wanted to be able to move between multiple disciplines. If you're starting out don't be afraid to experiment with your content, especially those who don't know what they want their niche to be. This will let you discover it on your own, and see how your audience responds.
Lesson 2 - Promote your newsletter
I didn't promote my newsletter much, if at all. I did put my newsletter on my Featured Section in my LinkedIn Profile and on my Twitter profile. I didn't promote it in every post. I personally find it annoying when someone is constantly and promoting their product. So I decided not to do it. There was a flaw to my thinking, if you don't promote your newsletter, no one will find it. Because I didn't promote my newsletter I wasn't able to gain a significant amount of subscribers.
If your goal is to build a biggest audience then using a social media platform (like Twitter or Youtube) is the best way to reach people since there's an audience on these sites already. Then you can transition your following from your public platform to a private platform like a newsletter.
Lesson 3 - Collect content for your newsletter consistently
Besides my weekly blog post I also include two things I learned that week and three resources on topics like self-development, content creation and data analytics. When I read books and articles, listened to podcasts and watched Youtube videos throughout the week and if something caught my attention I would save it. I saved my links in a note in Evernote that I would later add commentary to. This gave me more chances to organically find resources for my articles.
If you have a newsletter that's focused on curation make sure you're consistently collecting content. You can either do this through a dedicated time block where you set aside a period of time to consume content. Or you can do what I did and consume content without a set schedule throughout the week and collect links to use in your newsletter then. Whatever it is find a method that allows you to consistently curate content.
Lesson 4 - Don't be afraid to change the format
My initial newsletter shared my latest blog post and the three resources I found interesting or insightful (similar to 5 Bullet Fridays from Tim Ferris). I felt like it was choppy and disjointed. I decided to change my format. A format that was sustainable but also worked on my "personal brand". I modeled it after James' Clear's newsletter called 3-2-1 where he shares 3 ideas from him, 2 quotes from others and 1 thought-provoking question at the end. My new format was: 1 new blog post from me, two things I learned that week (showcasing myself as a lifelong learner) and 3 resources from others that are on topics I write about on LinkedIn like self-development or data science.
When you're starting out with a newsletter don't be locked into that format. Don't be afraid to change your newsletter. Focus on what is sustainable for you and what sets you apart from others. You can be the complete opposite of me and write your newsletter like a mini blog post similar to the Curiosity Chronicle.
Lesson 5 - Take breaks when needed
I'm proud to say I've been consistently sending out a newsletter almost every week for the past 6 months with over 20 editions. I did take one break near the end of December I was feeling burnt out, not only from writing my newsletter but also from posting my on blog. Instead of trying to "push through" I decided to take a two week break at the end of the year. It gave me the necessary time to recharge and catch up on future newsletter editions.
If you're like me, a single content creator, where you do all of the writing, editing, and promotion by yourself, it's important not to overwork yourself. Take breaks when necessary. It's better to take a 2 week break from content creation than to burn yourself out and be out for a month.
I never thought I'd be a content creator or send out my own newsletter. It's let me express myself creatively and improved my writing ability. I'm going to continue sending out a weekly newsletter for the time being, and work on my "marketing"/promoting skills. If you're thinking about creating a newsletter I encourage you to do so. It doesn't have to be every week like mine. It could be monthly, or even quarterly. Pick a sustainable schedule and adjust accordingly.