How to launch a newsletter and get your first 100 subs

Should I or Shouldn’t I?

First things first, you need to genuinely ask yourself:

  • Do I want to do this?

  • Will I enjoy creating content frequently for this?

  • Will I be providing more than just coupon codes?

  • Is this something I could do every day for 1 year?

If you aren’t scared away after honestly answering those questions, then starting a newsletter will probably work out just fine for you over time.

If you found yourself not being confident in any of the above, I wouldn’t start a newsletter just yet.

I know that goes against all the advice you get on the internet nowadays, but I believe in it strongly.

The best work you can do is consistent work that isn’t a burden to you.

If writing a newsletter is a burden to you, it will be a burden to consume for your readers.

Find the Audience that Will Vouch for you

If you’re still reading at this point, I can only assume that you are totally committed to building a great newsletter.

Before we dive into your ideas for content and formatting of your newsletter, we have to answer the following:

Who on earth is this thing for?

Your audience should come before your idea.

And the priority should stay that way forever.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself to assist in the tall task of identifying your core group of readers:

  • Who already follows you?

  • What do they follow you for? What do they expect to hear from you?

  • What are the 20 most common questions you get asked about your work and skillset?

  • Who were you 1, 5, or 10 years ago? (This is a great indicator of what you can teach based on your unique path)

  • What communities do you hang out in? (Indie Hackers, Twitter, Reddit, etc.)

There are many more questions you can ask yourself, but that should give you a jumpstart.

Focus first on helping the right PEOPLE, and then the right idea will make itself apparent fairly quickly.

And remember: we don’t write at people. We write for them.

Coming Up with a Noteworthy Idea

Ok, so you are committed to writing on a regular basis AND you have the perfect audience to start writing for.

Here are some questions to ask yourself that may help find the right idea based on your target audience:

  • What basic skills do you have that you could help others level up in?

  • What advanced skills or ideas are you comfortable with that you can simplify for others?

  • What do you NOT have in common with your peers? How could you close that gap?

  • What are you personally interested in learning more about that is adjacent to your specific knowledge?

  • What are you currently bad at, but on a journey to improve? How can you document this process?

  • What is the one Call-to-Action (CTA) you are hoping to push with this newsletter?

  • What else already exists in writing for the specific topic you may be considering? Is there an opportunity to do something wildly different with the same information?

I highly recommend coming up with a scoring model in a Google Sheet that allows you to list out all your ideas, and add scores for categories like:

  • Uniqueness

  • Ease of creation

  • Enjoyability for Writer

  • Correlation to CTA

Add a 1-10 rating for each category you list, and aggregate a score for each.

This can be a great first round of elimination for your newsletter idea.

Ultimately, shoot to pick the idea that will be most helpful to your audience.

Technical and Tools

Setup

It’s never been easier to start a newsletter.

Setup is pretty minimal, especially with easier platforms like Substack.

Here are some common elements you’ll want to have set up before even creating an account with your newsletter host:

  • Unique name for newsletter

  • Profile pic or avatar or logo

  • Custom domain (if needed)

  • Banner image

  • Social sharing image

  • Description of newsletter

  • Checklist of benefits to subscriber

  • Written out Welcome Email

  • List of primary assets for subs to “Check Out First”

Then: pick a provider, create an account, and follow their onboarding.

Tools

I’m not going to tell you what to use for your newsletter.

I host mine on Substack, but not because of the overwhelming functionality or beautiful design.

Simply put, the reason I use Substack (or any tool) is because it fits this sole requirement:

It makes it easy for me to be consistent.

That’s it.

I recommend you follow the same standard.

If you are more technically inclined, you may want to use Ghost for your newsletter.

If you want minimal setup, Substack is a good option.

If you want tons of segmentation capability, ConvertKit or Mailchimp may be better.

The tool doesn’t matter, the wielder does.

Content Creation

This is where your money (or attention) is made.

Your setup, design, and idea may all be super on point.

But if the content inside the newsletter doesn’t live up to the promise, you will lose.

You may get a good amount of subs upfront, but you risk losing them all.

One way to ensure that you always have something worthwhile to send is by establishing some kind of content calendar.

It doesn’t have to be anything bigger than a simple Google Sheet.

Just make sure you are writing your ideas down and scoring them by what should be written and what should not.

Your best shot at creating content that will resonate is by trying to answer specific questions in your content.

For example, this blast you’re reading right now answers the question:

How do I launch my newsletter?

Once again, I can’t tell you what to write.

But —

I can give you a list of what to consider in your content:

  1. Be helpful

  2. Be unique

  3. Be consistent

  4. Be afraid of missing a post

  5. Be responsive to comments

  6. Be adaptable when something doesn’t work

  7. Be valuable by giving away crazy amounts of info

Build Hype Before You’re Ready

This is when things start getting really exciting (and a little scary).

Before you feel comfortable showing or mentioning your newsletter to your audience, start bringing it up.

Use engines like Twitter, Reddit, LinkedIn, Messenger, Texting, or even your current blog to drop hints at the upcoming launch.

Even if no one seems to engage or respond, that’s OK.

You will get a small amount of attention that goes unnoticed in the vanity metrics.

This step is a lot more about helping you commit to a launch date than it is to get pre-subs.

That said, set up a simple form where people can pre-subscribe to your newsletter and promote that form.

You can use a simple Google Form or even Airtable.

This doesn’t have to be fancy.

Start collecting emails (using a clear opt-in and following GDPR rules).

Get Your First Evangelist

It is crazy how having one true fan on the internet can lead to huge momentum.

You absolutely do NOT need 1000s of followers to see success for your newsletter.

Focus on getting your first evangelist, or true fan.

Someone who will hype you up.

Someone who will vouch for you.

Someone who will upvote, retweet, comment, and share your newsletter with their audience.

This person may already be in your contacts.

They may be a family member, friend, co-worker, etc.

Or they may be a stranger to you — for now.

If no one clearly comes to mind as being a good evangelist for your newsletter, start engaging with likeminded people in the forums and apps you spend time on.

Engage with people of a similar account size to you.

Over time, your group of trusted online friends will become clear.

Provide value to similar people, and they will flock to you over time.

Launch and Grow

Launch

You should have already set a date for the official launch of your newsletter.

Stick to it.

When the day comes, you’ll want to make sure you have unique announcement content built in the following formats:

  • Long-form text (for your blog)

  • Short-form text (for Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook Groups, Slack Groups)

  • Video (for YouTube and Instagram)

  • Audio (for your podcast if you have one)

Again, no need to get fancy.

Describe the value that the newsletter will bring, and you’ll do fine.

I highly recommend putting together a content engine for launches.

You can find my in-depth example at:
https://swipefile.me/engine

Grow

You will inherently get a couple of sign ups if you put a newsletter out into the world that is interesting.

You’ll have to fight for the rest.

And it will take time.

I would highly recommend growing your list not so much by pushing links, but rather by providing value.

Please take 25 minutes of your time to check out this video I made that goes over how I launched my first newsletter and grew it 10x in a matter of hours.

How to 10x Your Email List — Watch Video

Maintain Consistency

Not much else to say beyond the headline here.

Stick to it.

Send out your emails every day, week, or month (what cadence you decide on).

Don’t miss.

Don’t get discouraged by low stats upfront.

Don’t get distracted by other shiny objects.

Just put out a quality email at the agreed upon time.

That’s all for now, folks!

Thanks so much for joining on this journey.

What did you learn?

What will you try first?

What would you add on?

Reply to this email and let me know!

— Blake


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