How To Start and Grow a Newsletter | Lenny Rachitsky and Nadia Eghbal on Venture Stories

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Key Takeaways

  • Any newsletter should accomplish one of the following for its audience while the best do all:
    1. Entertain
    2. Increase income
    3. Educate
    4. Keep them updated
    5. Feel part of something bigger
  • Anyone can write one well-written piece. Consistently providing value consistently is what’s truly hard about writing a newsletter.
    • High-quality content, while seemingly abstract, is the foundation of any successful newsletter
  • The more value your writing provides for your audience the more you can charge
  • There’s no reason why you should limit your creativity to just one medium; go ahead and explore different avenues of creation
  • Write guest posts for other writers that may be in a similar niche
    • This is how Lenny gained his first 500 subscribers 
  • Switching from free to paid decelerates your growth dramatically so it’s good to already have a solid following first
  • “If it’s interesting to you, it’s probably going to be interesting to other people”Lenny Rachitsky

Intro

Five Jobs of a Newsletter

  • Any newsletter should accomplish one of the following for its audience while the best do all:
    1. Entertain
    2. Increase income
    3. Educate
    4. Keep them updated
    5. Feel part of something bigger

Pitfalls

  • Lack of time and dedication
    • It will show in your writing if you’re not putting enough into it
  • No matter how well written a piece is you always have to move onto the next one
    • You’re not always going to be inspired so self-discipline is key
  • Anyone can write one well-written piece. Consistently providing value consistently is what’s truly hard about writing a newsletter.

Writing Well

  • High-quality content, while seemingly abstract, is the foundation of any successful newsletter
    • Your writing, like any creative process, will get better as you write more and more
  • You should be constantly exposing yourself to good writing by reading well-written books
    • The more studious types can also study books on writing effectively
  • Joining a community of writers is also very beneficial in pushing each other to be better
  • “I feel it or I don’t feel it” – Nadia Eghbal
    • “It just needs to smash me in the face with some sort of inspiration”
  • “I write notes obsessively to myself on my phone and some of those notes start turning into blog posts or into newsletters” – Nadia Eghbal

Books vs. Posts

  • Writing books requires the same process as writing posts for Nadia as they’re just different in scope
    • A book is a microcosm of a topic just like a post, but the amount of information within is far larger
    • And with a book, you can create more complex relationships between ideas compared to a post
  • The feeling of reading a book with your own hands is an experience that no technology can replicate
    • “It has this permanence that is still unrivaled by any other content form” – Nadia Eghbal
  • There’s no reason why you should limit your creativity to just one medium; go ahead and explore different avenues of creation
  • If you’re looking to make money don’t write a book

Growing an Audience

  • Most of Lenny’s growth comes from word of mouth from providing value in his writing
    • This will happen organically once you reach a certain size following
  • Write guest posts for other writers that may be in a similar niche
    • This is how Lenny gained his first 500 subscribers 
  • Leverage social media, particularly Twitter, to create a positive feedback loop of followers
    • You can tweet the juiciest bits of a newsletter and link the full post to bring your Twitter followers over
    • People on Twitter are already looking to read something interesting and you just have to entice them to read more

Pricing

  • The more value your writing provides for your audience, the more you can charge
    • Financial newsletters are relatively price inflated compared to other newsletters since their purpose is to turn a profit for its audience 
  • “You should only go paid if you want that to be your main source of income” – Lenny Rachitsky
    • “Otherwise you should use your newsletter to drive something else you’re doing”
  • Switching from free to paid decelerates your growth dramatically so it’s good to already have a solid following first
    • “I went to paid when I had about 8,000 subscribers” – Lenny Rachitsky
  • “Everyone always wants to price lower than they should just because no one values their own stuff” – Lenny Rachitsky

Miscellaneous Tips

  • Don’t overthink about what to write when you’re getting started
    • Just start writing with an experimental spirit to get your feet wet 
  • Remember that the legal and financial processes for those who are self-employed are different than when you’re an employee
    • For one, you need several years of tax returns if you want to get a mortgage when self-employed
  • Don’t censor yourself by thinking your thoughts will be off-putting 
    • “If it’s interesting to you, it’s probably going to be interesting to other people”Lenny Rachitsky
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Notes By TD

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