@adlrocha - Should I start a newsletter or a blog?
And why I am moving the newsletter to Thursdays
The other day my colleague Henrique Dias emailed me asking for a quick chat to discuss writing and ways of building a consistent writing habit. Apart from a great professional (I highly recommend checking out some of his contributions to IPFS or Testground) he is also a lover of writing. He has his own blog and has recently started his own newsletter (Henrique’s Monday Letter).
Throughout our chat, Henrique and I shared our infinite attempts of starting blogs and trying to make writing a habit and a hobby, and how difficult this has been. Then I realized that with this newsletter, I had been able to (not without a lot of work) build a consistent habit of writing that is forcing me to sit down for a few hours every week to write about things I’ve learnt, my thoughts, random reflections, etc. In short, I managed to build a public notebook in which to write every week (or at least that is what I like to think about this newsletter).
After this reflection Henrique asked me “Are you finding that running a newsletter is more successful than a blog? If so, why? Why do you feel it’s better or easier for you? Advantages/disadvantages.”. This was such a good question that I decided to write a quick publication sharing my thoughts about this matter.
I woke up this morning planning not to write anything for the newsletter today (you’ll see why in a moment) but I’ve still ended up sitting down, at 6pm local time, to write this publication hoping for someone to find it useful or inspiring enough to push them start their own “Monday Letter”.
Building the habit and the motivation
The first publication of this newsletter was the 21 of July of 2019. More than a year ago. Since then I have been publishing a new post consistently every single Sunday for more than a year. So to Henirque’s first question about “if running a newsletter is more successful for my writing habit than a blog” my answer is “of course”. When I had my own blog, or I wrote in Medium, I ended up writing when “I felt like it”. However, when you start a newsletter you determine a day every week where you are promising your audience the release of new content, so the moment you have your first subscriber you feel every week the “pressure” to deliver for them. And if you like writing and you want to make it your hobby and your habit, it is the perfect external pressure to keep you engaged. Of course, this will never work if weekly writing isn’t something that comes from you, as it’ll be like putting yourself through homework every week, and no one likes homework.
I personally started this newsletter as an experiment to see if by building this external pressure I could force the habit, and it definitely worked. The beginning was the hardest part. It was hard to find the topics to write about, to choose the audience to share the content with, and to find the time to sit down and write. But the same way my subscribers and “loyal readers” were the perfect source of pressure I required to start consistently writing every week, they also are the motivation I need those weeks I am not in the mood of writing. So with the habit you also built a “loyal audience” that makes running the newsletter something easy and extremely rewarding.
The other day someone asked me how much time I invested every week on writing my publications, and without exaggerating it never goes below four hours throughout the week. So of course, keeping this running when I earn less than 200$ a year for all this work means that I must be getting more out of it.
And of course I am. The fact that (i) this newsletter forces me to write a new piece in english every week (which, as everyone has definitely realized by now is not my mother tongue); (ii) that I have to keep a backlog of topics to write about that I try to match with the list of things which I want to learn next; (iii) and that I have an audience and a channel to test if I’d be able to teach what I’ve managed to learn, is a powerful enough learning experience to be investing at least 4 hours every week to keep this running (it costs me nothing apart from hours of work, so in a sense with I am achieving with this newsletter is free learning ;) )
Fun Fact: the aforementioned 200$/year are thanks to the generosity of a few subscribers that have chosen to sponsor me even though they know they could still access all my content for free. Thank you my beloved paying subscribers!--.
Iterating on it
One of the things I didn’t give that much thought to when I started the newsletter is the day to share my publications. To be honest, I chose Sundays because it was the end of the week, that way I had all the weekend to plan my writing, and all the newsletters I was following were sending their emails on weekends, so there had to be a good reason for it.
Settling Sundays as my “newsletter day”, I tested sending sharing the content at different times of the day early in the morning, noon, early in the afternoon without a clear idea of when it was better, or when it had a greater impact. However, one thing I can really be sure of by now is that Sundays are not the best days to share the type of publications I write. I usually share my publications by email to subscribers, to my followers in Twitter and Linkedin, and I post some of them in Hacker News. Apart from maybe afternoons, on Sundays not many people check their mail, are connected to Twitter, or check HN, so I realized I was losing a lot of potential reach by publishing my articles on Sundays.
Sundays along with Mondays are the days par excellence for the publication of weekly newsletters, so by Sunday afternoon people end up with their inboxes full of new content to read. This newsletter started like an experiment, and it still is, so to prevent this from happening, I’ve decided to move my newsletter to Thursdays so that I am “potentially” your first newsletter email of the weekend. This will definitely increase my stress and workload throughout the week, but it will release my pressure on weekends, so tit-for-tat. Let’s see how it ends up working out (I may come back for Sundays after a few weeks), but for now, as long as no one complains about it, I am now a “Thursdays guy”.
The other day I read a Twitter thread from someone (I don’t remember who it was so that is why I can’t share it here) that said that “starting from Friday afternoon his inbox was getting overloaded by new publications from newsletters he is subscribed to”, and that “he ended up reading only the first ones to arrive!”. He then mentioned that “the one starting a newsletter that arrived on Friday mornings would potentially earn the market”. I don’t know about this, but let’s see how this change to Thursdays works for me. Of course, if any of my subscribers has something against this change, please let me know. This newsletter is not exclusively mine, but of all of its “loyal readers” (specially of the paying ones ;) ).
So this was the reason why I wasn’t planning to write a new publication today and I was going to give you a surprise sending my next publication on a Thursday, but I couldn’t resist saying goodbye to my beloved Sunday writing with one last piece. See you next Thursday!