The 20-Minute Weekly Project That's Turbo-Charging My Career
About six weeks ago, I started my own weekly newsletter. To be honest, it felt like a crazy move—on top of two jobs, freelance writing, and school, I was going to start another project?
Yup—and not only has it been worth every second of my time, but it’ll be worth every second of yours, too. Newsletters can have a tremendous impact on anyone’s career. And the best part is, they’ve become super easy to set up and maintain.
So, what might you have to share in a newsletter? Once you start thinking about it—a lot! Here are just a few of the different themes you might choose to write about:
- Project Promotion: “Check out this cool article I wrote,” or “Here’s a site I designed.”
- Career Updates: “In the past month, I’ve taken on some new roles at the company and even got an inside look at our sales process,” “I got the chance to speak at this conference last week about improving internal accountability,” or “You should come to this free workshop I’m hosting downtown in July.”
- Internal Updates: “Greetings from the Project Dev team! Here’s what we’ve been up to lately.” (Make sure you get permission from your employer for this one.)
- Thought Leadership: “Take a look at these great articles about B2B marketing,” or “Here’s my take on the latest industry news.”
- A Hybrid: Project promotion, career updates, and thought leadership? Why not?
You’ll see that no matter which theme you pick, you’ll be moving your career forward by developing your personal brand and establishing yourself as a trustworthy, reliable source of info. It doesn’t matter whether you’re highlighting other people’s accomplishments or your own. Also, it helps you explore your interests in a productive way, makes and strengthens connections, and shows people in your network that you take initiative and think creatively.
As if those reasons weren't enough, newsletters are also rapidly becoming more popular—so if you start one now, you’ll establish yourself as a trendsetter.
The When and Who
Once you’ve picked your theme, choose your audience and your frequency. Different themes obviously lend themselves to different audiences. My newsletter rounds up all the articles I’ve published in the past seven days, so my audience includes, well, anyone who’s interested in keeping up with my work—from my parents to marketers in Australia.
In general, if you’re promoting your projects, your audience includes anyone who cares about what you’re doing both in your personal and professional life. If you’re giving career updates, your audience is probably slightly smaller—think of those 15 to 20 people in your immediate circle who will immediately want to know if you’ve been promoted or expanded your responsibilities. This list may also include some key players at your office, like your colleagues and boss. If you’re sending out a newsletter for your department or team, your audience ranges from two or three departments to the whole company. (Side note: Newsletters can also be a great way to keep offices in separate cities united or bring together remote teams.)
If you’re establishing yourself as a thought leader by sharing relevant, thought-provoking, and engaging content, your audience is huge—think anyone in your industry. And if you’re doing a hybrid of your own content, others’ articles, and career updates, your audience is even bigger: anyone in your industry, plus anyone who likes you, such as your best friend or that guy you met at the conference last week.
In terms of frequency, start with less than you think you can handle. It’s better to increase how often you’re sending your newsletter than decrease it. I’m on a once-a-week schedule, but I’d suggest starting with an every-other-week or even a once-a-month content rollout.
When picking an actual day, choose one on which you’ll have 20 minutes of free time every week to put your newsletter together. Mine comes out on Sunday afternoons—that gives me Sunday morning to write it. Bonus: People say they like getting it on a day when they’re relaxed and actually have the free time to read it.
The Nuts and Bolts
There are lots of free newsletter services out there, but I wholeheartedly recommend MailChimp’s version, Tinyletter.
Your username will also be your URL (where people can go to sign up for your newsletter or read your archives), so pick something short, sweet, and descriptive. My username is “ajafrost,” so my URL is “tinyletter.com/ajafrost.” If you’re writing about the marketing department, a good choice could be “[your company]marketing,” or if you’re writing about your industry, “[your industry]news” would work.
Once you’ve gotten your account set up, it’s time to write your first post. Tinyletter’s interface is insanely easy to use, but I do have two notes:
Before you send off your email, use the “send preview” option. This will let you see exactly how your newsletter will look once it lands in your recipients’ inboxes (and will help you catch any formatting or spelling errors). If you have the time, check it out on your computer and your phone. It doesn’t always translate the way you think it will.
If you’re writing a “private” newsletter, like one about your company’s internal affairs, uncheck the “make letter public” box in the right-hand corner above your draft.
You’re probably wondering to whom exactly this newsletter is going. I actually recommend writing it before promoting it. That way, people actually have a reason to sign up. “Sign up for my newsletter before it comes out this weekend” sounds a lot more appealing than, “Sign up for a newsletter I’m thinking of launching soon.”
Here are some ideas for building your audience:
Send an email to your relevant contacts with an explanation of your newsletter and your link.
Make a LinkedIn status update about your newsletter that includes the link.
Post the link on your Facebook and Twitter pages.
Share the link in a relevant LinkedIn group.
Put the newsletter link in your social media bios.
Ask your boss if you could post your newsletter on the company blog with a link to subscribe at the bottom.
One of the best ways, however, to attract new readers is simply to put out good content on a consistent basis. The better the content, the more likely it is that people will recommend it to their network.
If you start a newsletter, let me know! I’ll sign up for each and every one.