Is there a life after a daily newsletter?
Hey guys! Yes, it’s been a while. We were absent for a lot of days, and it won’t happen again (we’ll do our best). The most important thing is, we are back, with a pile of insights.
Today we’ll tell you about our journey to a daily newsletter. Why journey? Because having a daily newsletter turned out not to be as easy task as we had hoped. What could be difficult about it? You just open a blank page, start filling in with words, and send it to awesome readers. Easy, right? At least that’s what we thought.
Turned out, having a daily newsletter is quite a challenge. And here we are, breaking it all down: what was difficult, what was rewarding, what are our achievements (if you can call that like this) and future plan. If you think about starting a newsletter or have your own, buckle up and get ready to relate.
How it all started?
We are big fans of Hustle. On our publication on Medium, we mentioned them as an example of awesome writing, and they really are awesome. If you don’t know what these guys do, here is a brief overview: Hustle is a daily newsletter about latest tech news written in an engaging conversational way as if the news is sent by ‘a smart, good-looking friend’.
The form of a daily newsletter is very inspiring. It allows you to connect with readers every day, say more and communicate more. The main and only reason to start it all was to communicate with readers, feel the impact. The sitch is, at the moment we have 35 000 followers. But do we really know all of you? It looked like the time has come to change it and finally talk to people who follow us and make it all possible. What to do? That’s right, a daily newsletter.
The idea behind the newsletter
The decision was made, trombones played in our heads as we imagined ourselves famous and influential. Now some actions were to be taken. When you start a newsletter, you have a few things to determine. Our list looked like this:
- What is the newsletter about?
- Where to find readers?
- What are the goals?
- What are the unique insights we can give?
So, we rolled sleeves up and got to work.
What will the newsletter be about?
Here the real challenge started. The gist is, we have all kinds of audience, starting from businessmen who want to write great copy for their already existing successful companies to school students who’d like to improve their writing. Quite diverse, right? How to interest all these people or at least, the major part of them?
Initially, we planned to do a newsletter about copywriting and marketing. There we'll discuss the peculiarities of SEO, SMM, analytics, content marketing and so on. However, as we talked to our followers, it became apparent, that a huge chunk of our audience is not as interested in the business side of writing but rather in creative writing. Therefore, they were interested in style tips, general advice on English writing, examples, and ready-to-use tricks.
Also, can we take a moment how geographically diverse our community is? We have readers from the US, India, Africa, Europe. For some of them, English is a native language, others are on a learning stage yet. Obviously, they all would like to read different materials.
How to find a common denominator?
We thought about it a lot, brainstorming what all these people have in common and why they found our page interesting. At the end, the decision was made: we’ll talk about writing. That’s what all these people have in common. No matter whether you write a business proposal or a lab report, you’ll be interested in writing motivation, inspiration, creativity, time-management for writers. Also, for any kind of writing, it’ crucial to know how to get and hold on to reader’s attention, hence, that is also something we could discuss.
Now that we could more or less imagine what could our newsletter be about, there was another question. What would its form? Hustle, for instance, does news reviews. Brian Dean writes letters connected to his blog post guides. What could we do?
Here the answer found us. All the time we get asked: ‘How can I improve my writing?’ ‘Where do you take ideas for blog posts?’ ‘Can you give me an advice on how to write this or that?’. We understood that it’s actually our chance to answer all this question and receive feedback. The final decision was to make a free creative writing course where we’ll target all that universally-needed topics.
The size of the letter
Since letters are daily, there is no reason to make them long. We didn’t set some requirements. If we have something else to add, we add it, if we are done, we are done.
We do coffeewriting. People traditionally drink coffee early in the morning, so that was our answer. When you drink a cup of morning coffee, you open your phone or laptop and enjoy our letter as well.
That’s how it was supposed to be. However, occasionally we blew up the morning deadline and send it in the evening, to the ‘evening cup of coffee’. It cheating though, so we tried to avoid such fuckups.
The example of the letter
Letters look pretty much like little blog posts, on 400-700 words. Here you can take a look at the example of one of the letters.
Oh, what do I spy with my little eye? That’s right, challenges and fuckups. And that would be something we had all the time. You see, when you start such an important thing as a daily newsletter, it becomes much more than that. It’s a commitment. And the thing is, we don’t do well with commitments on regular basis, especially the ones where you have no deadlines and no punishments. If we forget to write a newsletter, nothing happens, because it’s our own thing. No one controls it, except for us, which makes it so much easier to forget.
Here is just a little list of challenges we faced (but it could go on and on):
- Regular writing is difficult.
- Sending takes a lot of time. You know how people automate the process of sending? We did things manually, and it was difficult. However, automation is not much easier, and we’ll explain why it later blog posts.
- Looking for ideas for posts. We didn’t want to write something everyone is writing about. It should be something from our experience, something unique and insightful, with examples and real-world reference. Hence, it’s not about writing only but also about research.
- Sometimes it feels like it brings no result. Since we don’t have any clear marketing goals and outcomes, it’s easy to doubt yourself every step of the way. Why am I doing it? Is someone even remotely interested?
- It’s about responsibility. When you start the course, any course, you try on the role of a teacher, a person who knows stuff and also can give it away. Therefore, you have to lead by example. If you write about following deadlines, follow them yourselves.
- Maintain all the emails. Some emails are invalid, some were sent earlier, some later, some received a letter, some didn’t. It all has to be documented and taken seriously.
- Repeating yourself is damned. When you write a daily newsletter, it’s easy to drain all the creativity up and eventually, write same things all over again. Therefore, it’s good to have a good perspective. It’s easy for us because there are two of us, but for one person might be quite challenging.
- It’s impossible to do everything right. Whenever you start a commitment, there is a goal to do it all by the book. You want a daily newsletter to be really daily, you want to answer all the letters right away and provide most insightful perspective possible. Embrace the reality right away, it won’t be always the case. And it’s okay because you are not a robot.
Thanks and rewards
As we said, this is not even remotely every challenge we faced. Doing a daily (or wannabe-daily) newsletter takes up a lot of time and efforts. Firstly you are enthusiastic about it but then you want to quit. All the time. Doubts come to you, you get bit by lazy and no one wants to write anything anymore. Who would be crazy enough to start something like this and why? We almost don’t get traffic from the newsletter not talking about money. However, we receive something else. Something more important than numbers in analytics or paychecks. We feel an impact, we feel that we matter.
Because of words like this.
We wiped our tears as well. That made not only our day but an entire week.
Few words matter. This comment meant a lot to us.
We received an entire story about how our work mattered to readers. It was awesome.
Another great story.
Just to sum it up
We plan to continue with our newsletter and make it not just wannabe-daily but really regular and much more professional. If you had doubts whether to start a newsletter or put it very far away on the agenda, it’s just about time to dust these thoughts off.
A newsletter is tough. But it pays off.