Two years ago, I did the smartest thing I’ve done since becoming a full-time freelance writer nearly five years ago: I launched an e-newsletter. Given that I’m a professional writer and have written hundreds of newsletters over the past 25+ years, I’m ashamed to admit that it took me that long to launch. But better late than never!
To commemorate two years of publishing The Writer’s Block, I’m devoting this issue to sharing some e-newsletter best practices from three of the best publishers I know: solo professional marketing consultant Michael Katz, freelance writing consultant Peter Bowerman and SEO expert and consultant Jenny Munn. When I receive their e-newsletters, I almost always stop what I’m doing and read them. To me, that’s the mark of a quality e-newsletter.
I got so much good feedback from Michael, Peter and Jenny that this will be a two-part article, with the remaining Q&As next month. Enjoy!
Q: How long have you been publishing your e-newsletter, and at what frequency?
Katz: Since 1999. I published twice a month for about 11 years and then increased the frequency to weekly.
Bowerman: I launched in May 2002 and have published every month since, usually on the first Tuesday of the month, without interruption.
Munn: I started my e-newsletter in February 2012 and haven’t looked back. I publish monthly and sometimes send out one-off emails with a business announcement or breaking SEO news article.
Q: Why did you start publishing your e-newsletter?
Bowerman: I wanted to create a resource for commercial freelancers that would become the “go-to” publication for serious practitioners. After being on the mailing lists of other ezines and seeing all the mistakes they made, I had an idea about how to do it better. Of course, it wasn’t a completely altruistic undertaking: I hoped to be able to earn the right to market new books, ebooks and services to my subscriber base.
Katz: The Internet was still in its infancy in 1999 and I was captivated by it. I still had a job at the time and was simply sharing things I came across and learned with about 30 of my coworkers in a bulk email.
Munn: I wanted to start building my database, stay in touch with contacts, and be top-of-mind for anyone needing SEO services.
Q: Talk about the importance of consistency when it comes to e-newsletter publishing.
Katz: For businesses that aren’t in a “click to buy” world – professional service providers, for example – you need a vehicle for staying in front of people for a long, long time. Consistency is how you get that done. Like exercise, it’s only effective (and a lot easier) if you do it all the time.
Bowerman: If you want to be taken seriously by readers and your industry in general, you must publish consistently. And “some” consistency is NOT better than nothing: I say you’re better off not publishing at all than publishing sporadically. Your e-newsletter should be something people expect to show up in their inbox with near-tedious consistency.
Q: What is the most important piece of advice you have for anyone publishing (or considering publishing) an e-newsletter?
Munn: As Nike says, just do it! Even if you only have five people on your list, go ahead and get started. You can learn as you go. You DO NOT have to have everything perfect before you get started.
Katz: Keep doing it! Most newsletters fail to produce results because people give up too soon! If you publish a quality newsletter issue after issue, consistently over a long period of time, you will eventually see results.
Bowerman: Remember that the operative question you should always ask with an e-newsletter is, “How can I make this publication optimally valuable and useful for my readers so they’ll become loyal, long-term subscribers?” NOT, “How can I make a bunch of money with this thing?”