5 things you need to know before starting a newsletter

Sally Fox

Lumen & Fox | Brand copy for big-hearted businesses | Messaging, tone of voice, web copywriting

I think we’ve all felt it. Social media has become more and more noisy, more and more divisive, and more and more just meh. It’s hard to find your people amongst all the bros and the six-figure-salary-boasters.

Meanwhile, newsletters are brilliant because you’re only speaking to the people who are already keen to listen. And you’re doing so directly to their inbox.

It’s been just over a year since my newsletter, The Right Place, first sidled into inboxes. Since then, she (the newsletter) has been featured in Freelancer Magazine, gone spy pixel free and is on the verge of switching hosts.

Whilst I’m not claiming to be a newsletter oracle, here are some things you should know before starting an email newsletter of your own.

What should I think about before starting a newsletter?

There are three important things to think about before starting a newsletter. Firstly, what outcome are you hoping for? Maybe you’re looking to build your reputation, help people overcome a specific challenge or simply brighten up their inboxes.

Next, think about your target audience. Get really clear on who your newsletter is for and how this relates to the outcome you want.

Finally, decide what your newsletter is about. The answer to the first two questions should influence your answer to the third. For example, if you run a business selling doggie dental snacks to vets, a newsletter for vets full of helpful tips for canine tooth care would be a great shout.

Whatever you choose, make sure you have something to say that will enrich your reader’s life. It could be useful information, humour, tips, inspiration or just something that makes them happy.

What do I need to start a newsletter?

First, you’ll need your idea. Test it out by trying to plan enough content for a few issues. If you’re already struggling, you might need to go back to the drawing board. If you’re overwhelmed with ideas and keep having to interrupt your dog’s walk/dinner/TV binge to tap notes into your phone, you’re good to go.

The second thing you’ll need is the time to write this content. Block it out in your schedule now.

Next, set yourself up with a newsletter platform. Mailchimp, MailerLite and Substack are popular choices. Buttondown offers the best privacy for you and your subscribers.

Finally, it’s not essential, but it’s helpful to have an existing network of people who might be interested in signing up.

How can I grow my subscriber list?

So, you’ve launched your newsletter. Now you just need a few subscribers. Here are some things to try:

  1. Promote your newsletter regularly on your social channels. Remember, your reader is busy and probably already subscribes to a ton of newsletters. Focus on what they’ll gain if they sign up to yours.

  2. Encourage your reader to share your newsletter if it resonates with them. You can add sharing buttons and a message to the bottom of your email template, so you do this every issue without thinking about it.

  3. This one is the most important. No one is going to subscribe or share if your content isn’t useful, relevant and well-written. So keep up those scheduled content creation slots.

How do I know if my newsletter is working?

That’s up to you, my friend. Some people value metrics like open rates and click-through rates. But imagine someone opens your email to find the unsubscribe link – your statistics count that as a win. Equally, unless you’re selling products directly from your email or your newsletter is sponsored, clicks aren’t going to give you much information either.

This year, I turned off tracking on my newsletter to give my reader the privacy they deserve. You can read more about that decision here.

Remember that goal you set when you started your newsletter? Well, the only thing that will tell you if your newsletter is working is if you’re getting closer to that outcome.

What are some mistakes and pitfalls to look out for?

The very best newsletters are respectful of their reader’s time. That means choosing content that matters, editing ruthlessly and dedicating time to your newsletter. Stay totally focused on your reader. Ask yourself before you hit send: is this going to make their day better?

Don’t fear the unsubscribes. If you’re trying to build your audience, it can feel like a massive fail every time that little notification pops up. But you’re just cultivating your ideal audience.

The ones who love your stuff and can’t wait to see your name pop into their inbox. So, wave your unsubscribers a cheery bye-bye and make space for a new friendly face.

What are the benefits of starting a newsletter?

A newsletter is a great place to develop your brand voice. Do you want to be professional and authoritative? Chummy and relatable? What works best with your reader?

Writing a newsletter is a way to start a conversation with your reader. Ask them what they think, involve them in your content. You’ll learn about your chosen topic, get insight into different points of view, and make some interesting and meaningful connections.

Ready to go? Share your first issue with me on Twitter, I’d love to have a read! Still holding back? Let me help.

What do you think?

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