On a podcast recently, the host asked me an often-overlooked question about newsletters:
What are some of the basic strategic errors that newsletter writers commit at early stages?
I came up with a few mistakes I’ve made — and a few I’ve seen others make:
Your newsletter is too hard to find
Trying to be active on every platform
Having an ineffective Welcome Email
Forgetting about a monetization strategy
Writing a newsletter for everyone
Expecting big bucks & quick results
Not promoting your newsletter enough — or at all
Now we have our diagnosis, let’s prescribe some fixes.
🚫 MISTAKE: Your newsletter is hard to find
✅ FIX: Put the link every-damn-where
Your newsletter should be front-&-frickin’ center.
It should be in your social bio(s), unmissable on your website, and printed on a bumper sticker slapped to the back of your car (well maybe not that last one…)
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve struggled to find a link to a sign-up page. If you have a newsletter, make it OBVIOUS.
Ways to Fix it:
Put it in your social bio(s). For social platforms with only one link, use a “link-in-bio” SaaS tool like LinkTree or SleekBio.
Add it to your website’s nav menu or create a pop-up. But consider the experience if you do both. It might be a bit much for visitors. Do one of these exceptionally well.
Add a sign-up CTA to each article. Instead of (or in addition to) a pop-up or a nav menu button, you can add a small form in your website posts (when it makes sense) so people come to sign-up naturally.
🚫 MISTAKE: Being active on every platform
✅ FIX: Master one — ignore the others (for now)
You don’t need to be everywhere. It’s detrimental to growth and sustainability.
One platform is enough to begin with. Don’t dilute your attention and focus. There’s an old proverb about chasing two rabbits and catching neither. It’s the perfect metaphor here.
Ways To Fix It:
Find the most optimal platform. Newsletters are written content, so start with written platforms like LinkedIn or Twitter. BUT consider where your audience/ideal readers hang out online and focus there. Your content may be better suited for visual or video content on IG or TikTok, but just stick with one — for now.
Republish. If you can’t ignore the other platforms, you can always republish your content from your main platform to others. The challenge here is more platforms bring on more distraction with likes, comments, notifications, and reformatting requirements. So if you’re creating written posts on Twitter, republishing on LinkedIn is relatively streamlined — whereas posting on Instagram would require an image/video etc.
Make a 6-month plan. Master one platform, and while you’re building there, create a swipe file or strategy for how you might tackle another platform when you’re ready to add more to your plate.
🚫 MISTAKE: Sending an ineffective Welcome Email
✅ FIX: Include these 3 things in your Welcome Email
You need a Welcome Email. But don’t let the ESP send out its default version. Gross.
Even more, don’t simply send a “Hello!” email thanking your new subscriber for handing you the keys to their inbox. That’s kind but oh-so dull.
Be different. Be you. Be thoughtful: what would get your attention from a welcome email?
How To Fix It:
Ann Handley recommends including at least 3 aspects in your Welcome Email:
A subject line that establishes your tone
A brief paragraph that sets the expectation of what to expect
An ‘easy ask’ in the form of a simple question about yourself.
🚫 MISTAKE: Ignoring a revenue strategy
✅ FIX: Thinking about revenue from the start
The whole point of a newsletter is to eventually make money with it.
So start thinking about the various ways you could start monetizing your newsletter in the future, now.
You might find yourself a year into your newsletter — without any idea of how to monetize it. Or worse, realizing the niche you’re focusing on has no money to spend on the service you’re selling.
Keep monetization in mind to help guide your content and growth.
Ways To Fix It:
Review various newsletter monetization strategies. I’ve written a lot about newsletter monetization, but the main ways to monetize your newsletter are: to charge for it (subscription), include paid ads & sponsors, sell affiliate products & services, or sell your own products/services. Brainstorm ways your newsletter could make money for each of these strategies.
Consider the overlap of what you're most comfortable with and what makes the most sense for your content & audience. You may not be as comfortable charging a subscription for your newsletter — but if your content is in high demand and you maintain a high quality standard, test the subscription waters. You won’t know until you try. And you can always pivot.
Research what others are doing & steal like an artist. I was 6 months into writing my newsletter when I first saw a sponsor spot in a “smaller” newsletter. It was inspiring and I had never even considered ads until I saw it. Now, ads & sponsors are 90% of my newsletter revenue. Figure out what others are doing to monetize and swipe some examples for inspiration and ideas.
🚫 MISTAKE: Writing a newsletter for “everyone”
✅ FIX: Niche down a few different ways
As the saying goes, “You can’t be everything to everyone.” And you shouldn’t try.
Take it from me…
When I started my newsletter, I tried to be a “newsletter for creators”. Way too vague and broad. And despite the creator economy “booming”, it didn’t take long for growth to plateau. I needed a change.
So I narrowed my focus to “helping creators start, grow, and monetize their newsletters.” A smaller niche and smaller TAM (total addressable market), but I had a clearer value proposition and a target audience.
My audience grew faster AND my content creation process was simpler! I had one general topic to write about (newsletters) instead of a general “creator economy” topic.
Ways To Fix It:
Find an obsession. A niche is helpful. An obsession is better. Justin Welsh recommends thinking of a niche more like an obsession. Are you ‘obsessed’ with your newsletter topic/content? If not, could you be more obsessed with how you create or deliver the content? Or maybe you could combine your professional knowledge with a passionate hobby.
Become a “Niche of One”. Justin also writes about the Niche Of One, where you take a specific skill — say, financial analysis — and combine it with your hobby — say, high-end wine. More on this concept here.
Toss your topic & newsletter format in a blender. Your newsletter topic may still be broad, but try blending it into a different format. In this article, I wrote about 6 different newsletters formats: (1) Opinion-based editorial; (2) Curated; (3) Review-based; (4)Case study or report-based; (5) News-based; (6) Seasonal or “pop-up” style. If your topic is too broad, try a less common format.
Jay Clouse recently published an thorough dive into niches—which I highly recommend reading:
The newsletter game is not a get-rich-quick scheme. It’s more like the ultimate get-rich-slow scheme.
But most quit before experiencing the fruits (ie. that sweet, sweet revenue) of their labor. They start the journey with unrealistic expectations, quickly becoming dismayed by the slow growth that plagues 99% of new newsletters.
Cultivate a long-term mindset. Picture yourself one year from now, having published 52 weekly editions. Soak in the feeling of accomplishment, what you’ll have learned, and the opportunities you’ll have created for yourself — all because you didn’t quit. Now picture yourself in 3 years. All those feelings will be that much more intense — and there’s bound to be some revenue coming in. Keep going.
Write about something you’re interested in. This I can’t stress enough. It was the #1 reason I kept publishing week after week despite slow growth. I loved the process and what I was reading & writing about.
🚫MISTAKE: Hardly promoting your newsletter
✅ FIX: Talk about your newsletter — a lot!
Self-promotion is a four-letter word to many. It feels icky and sleazy — like Clyde, that used car salesman with the bad comb-over who swears that 1999 Buick is “a bargain!”
But promotion is absolutely 100% necessary to grow your newsletter. Share & promote it!
But how do you do it without coming off as “spammy” and feeling like another Clyde?
Ways To Fix It:
Change your promotion mindset. Get over your imposter syndrome and consider your newsletter is most likely valuable, helpful, and informative to the right group of people. There’s a more-than-zero chance people will enjoy reading your content and learn something. When you stop thinking about your newsletter as a used 1999 Buick and more like a helpful, informative guide, it makes it a lot easier to share.
Leverage social media. Use your bio and your audience to promote your newsletter. Share it in the DMs. Talk about it. Often! Use Twitter tools like Hypefury or TweetHunter (affiliate) to “auto-plug”a sign-up link to your most popular tweets/threads. Remember, if it feels like you’re promoting too much, you’re probably just barely doing enough.
Give people a REASON to subscribe. Share what they’ll learn (the feature), why they need to learn it (the benefit), and how they’ll learn it. Then, share a teaser about what your upcoming edition will include — along with a link — tempting people to subscribe. Like this:
That's all for now!
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