/ Essays

Why I Write a Newsletter

I've been sending a weekly email newsletter for nearly two years. I pay Mailchimp $67.50 out of my own pocket every month to do that and sometimes wonder if it's worth it when my credit card gets dinged.

A two year anniversary seems like the right time for a little reflection. Plus, the only way I know to clarify my thoughts is to write them down. So here you go.

I write it for me

I've spent the last six years working in content marketing, so there's a lot of work out on the internet with my name on it. That's a satisfying feeling, but the output of a project is only a tiny bit of the work and learning that goes into making it.

My work has byproducts that go to waste if I don't collect, organize and archive them. This newsletter is how I ensure I never forget about all the things I've learned along the way. Swipe File is essentially a weekly journal of the lessons I've learned for the last two years. It's a database of verified ideas that I pull from often. It ensures that everything I read and love is put on a shelf to be referenced later.

I could record all of this in Evernote or Google Docs and keep it to myself. But since that doesn't cost anything, I know I wouldn't stick to it. I pay Mailchimp every month whether I send the newsletter or not—so I never miss a week. (Okay I did miss one week because I was sick. Still 103/104 weeks isn't bad.) I have promised my subscribers—nearly 7,000 of them now—that they will get a newsletter. So they get a newsletter.

It's also presented a small-but-interesting business opportunity. Can I get sponsors to help me support this? Is an investment worth their while? How do I solicit sponsors? What kind of copy drives people to their websites? Navigating a problem like this—even on such a small scale—ensures I have empathy for the businesses I work with that do this on a larger scale.

I write it for you

I write this newsletter for almost entirely selfish reasons. It's a letter to myself—but that seems to be a formula that works. I get emails from people all the time telling me how much they enjoyed a link or tool I shared, or even just that they like the little boost of inspiration it delivers.

This thing isn't contrived. I'm not trying to sell you anything. I don't really even care if you subscribe or read. (Although, c'mon, opens and clicks do feel nice.)

There's a common thread in the lessons I'm learning that others can benefit from. Careers are strange. You have anxiety about your work? Yea, me too. All of us do.

As I like to say, I'm exploring this awkward time between college and retirement. There are a lot of ups and downs, lots of unforeseen challenges. There are also a lot of amazing people to meet and lessons to be learned. Only when we accept the idea that there is no destination, only a journey, can we begin to enjoy it.

So yea, sending a newsletter is worth both the time and the money. Swipe File may never be a cash cow or huge traffic driver, but it's helped me to enjoy this odyssey we call work. And I think my future self will appreciate the investment.