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How to Write a Newsletter

by Arianne Foulks

May 23, 2017 / Updated: May 11, 2023

Do you hate email marketing? Want to know how to write a newsletter that works? If I could convince you to do one thing to grow and strengthen your business it would be to start building a mailing list and sending email to them regularly.

I thought I was going to write one article about newsletters last week and move on, but we had such a rousing discussion about that post, and cleared up so much of the “ugh” feeling around sending newsletters that I had to share and save that great info here on the blog.

Here’s a little Q&A from business owners just like you about how to deal with their newsletters. Q’s are all from members of our business owner community, and A’s are all from me. Below, some great biz owners share what works well for them. Here we go!

Q: I do worry about annoying my subscribers, so I only send one newsletter a month.

A: I have heard over and over that once a month is not often enough, and people will forget who you are and why they subscribed. Would you try twice a month and see how it goes? You can’t really annoy your true fans if you focus on bringing value to each message you send.

This business owner responded, “I know what you mean, I think I will try more than once a month. The amount of shops and other creative outlets whose email lists I’ve signed up to definitely suggests that I’m not sending enough. I shall work on the “adding value” part though, until now my newsletters have been mostly “what’s new in store” and “have this coupon” type affairs. I’d like to deepen the relationship with my customers, ideally!”

Q: I have 170 subscribers and haven’t sent out a single thing. I’m worried about content that is interesting and “me.”

A: Email permission will “expire” on you – the longer you wait, the less people remember who you are or why they signed up. I’d break the ice soon! I’d show some lovely photos, introduce yourself, talk about upcoming events or recent news and don’t worry too much about it. Ask your subscribers in the email what they’d like to hear more about! They asked you to email them; do them a favor and go for it!

Q: I am soooooo bad about doing mine. I have almost 800 subscribers who hear from me a few times a year. I never know what to say. I think I get myself convinced it has to be so clever and so full and that’s intimidating. Looking through newsletters I get from others, they’re often super short. A single pic, link, and sentence even! I need to work on not making this such a big thing.

A: When they hear from you, do they buy? If you can see the newsletter being a tool for your business you’ll be more enthusiastic about doing it! People really seem to build these simple tasks up into gargantuan expectations. Keep it easy! No one has time to read emails anyway.

Follow up! She sent a newsletter that same day, then told us, “just wanted to let you know that my FB group membership almost doubled in size since I sent the newsletter yesterday. It’s tiny and only slightly less tiny now, but that was so effective for me! Thanks for the push!”

Q: I’m even worse, have over 2,500 subscribers so pay MailChimp monthly and STILL don’t send them regularly. Words are not my friends. Newsletter writing is probably the thing I beat myself up about the most.

A: If you don’t like writing, do the newsletter your way! Make it full of photos. Do you like posting on Instagram, for instance? Send out your most-liked Instagram photos and captions, throw in a little update about what you’re up to, and bam! You’re the boss, lady! Your newsletter can work however you want it to. There are no rules!

I’d say you need to send at least monthly, or people are going to be surprised every time they receive an email from you.

This business owner replied with, “Ayyy ay ay, I am fast running out of excuses! I love instagram!”

Q: I hate mine! I never know what to talk about and I hate the term newsletter. I have some automatic hey welcome emails set up… but aside from a sale or a new product, I don’t know what else to say! So should it be like a little mini blog post? or just, hey here’s some things from other people I dig (without selling my own stuff? is that crazy to pay to send an email that’s not selling anything?

A: That is SUCH a good point. I think we just say “newsletter” because there’s no other good name for it. I personally hate “email blast” the most. You should rename yours (like give it a name like it’s a magazine or something) and then just think about what you would talk to a customer about if they walked up to you while you were selling products. What are you most interested in right now?

It should be anything that you can repeatedly get up enthusiasm to do! Sharing links is a great way to do a newsletter. And it doesn’t have to be all or nothing: you can show other people’s stuff AND mention what you’re doing, too.

I often send emails that aren’t selling anything. You’re investing in building an engaged audience that enjoys hearing from you, which is priceless. Promote your stuff gently some of the time and just bring people something useful or delightful or funny or interesting the rest of the time, that’s all fine. You’ll find a balance that works for you.

Then when you DO really want to promote or sell something, you’ll have a big audience of loyal “money-waving” fans at the ready!

Q: This is something I need to do. But I always have the excuse that I have an order that needs to get done. So I continue to put it off! Ugh

A: Ugh indeed! It’s very easy to put off something that we don’t know how to do. Anything that’s new and not in my usual business flow tends to get shoved to the end of my list until I finally desperately start doing it… and then find out it wasn’t a big deal at all, and in fact it’s kind of fun!

The best thing you can do for something like a newsletter is set yourself an inviolable schedule (Tuesdays, for example) and allow yourself to keep it very simple at the start until you get used to the idea.

Q: I just cleaned up my newsletter subscriber list and am at about 215 subscribers. I usually send 2-3x a month. Before I started thinking about things “strategically” and trying to sell, my writing flowed much more naturally and I really enjoyed writing to my peeps. Ever since I’ve been trying to plan out blog posts… I feel unauthentic. Would love to get to a place of balance.

A: Just write your newsletter like you used to do and how you feel comfortable. Then come back to what you wrote and see if you can add in a link to your shop anywhere for any reason. Don’t let the sales interfere with the writing.

If you’re on-topic for your business, though, probably most anything you write about has something to do with what you sell (I hope!) and you can promote your products in a natural and valuable way.

And remember that EVERY newsletter doesn’t need to be about getting people to buy your stuff. Some can be just for fun, to develop a rapport with your readers.

Q: I loathe doing mine too —except that every time we do it, we get sales from it. I recently set up my email funnel through mailchimp, and I am pleasantly surprised at that, too.

A: I find that I get much more engagement from my social media posts and my newsletters when I am excited about them. I have definitely had periods when I was just doing what I had to do to get by, and it showed in my stats/likes/comments. Readers can sense when your heart is in your communication and when it isn’t. It shows through in your writing, unless you’re super skilled! So I’d urge everyone who hates the way they’re communicating with their customers to find a way to make it interesting and appealing to you. You will see the difference in the response (and sales) you get!

Some advice and encouragement from business owners:

I love doing mine! While my list is still pretty small, they are definitely engaged and I get regular feedback that they love receiving my weekly email! At first it was tough, but usually I have an event, or a new stockist, a giveaway, blog post, or new product to show! I also include links around the web on parenting and geekery, and the longer I’ve done it, the easier it gets to drum up content each week. I thought about monthly, or even every other week, but I know myself well enough to know that I’ll forget to send it on the “on” weeks and monthly ones might be too long.

I have a small email list who I’ve been emailing to once a month. I am just now starting to email once a week (starting tomorrow)! I watched Megan Auman’s Creative Live class last week and realized I don’t have to throw all my news into one long email (I was worried about more than once a month being too much) and to only focus on one idea per email. I also wasn’t really advertising my products in my emails, so I am going to start doing that too.

I only have 180 subscribers, and have been sending regularly for less than a year. Almost every newsletter sent results in a sale, and it gets easier to write every time. I created a template in MailChimp, so it’s the same format, but I type in different info. And lots of photos.

List building is important! (Still working on mine even as I am just over 6000.) And you do it through sending emails of value. Like Claire said – it’s people who WANT to hear from you! I’ve been sending a monthly email/newsletter to my list for years. Basically my meaty blog post for the month plus a quick personal note on what I’m up to. I will generally send another one in the month to highlight an online class I’m hosting or special sale.

I used to send every 1st Thursday of the month. The last few years I’ve played with that considerably by changing the day and even hour of the day I schedule it to see how my list reacts. I’d like to get to where every time I blog it goes into an email to my list.

If you can post to Instagram you have newsletter content! Most people say they don’t know what to say in an email. Most people also post to Instagram once a day at least and email maximum 1 a week. So in the course of 7 days you’ve had at least 7 things you thought were moderately interesting (interesting enough to share to Instagram) — somewhere in there there is absolutely enough to create an email with once per week!! People love to make stuff complicated; not all emails have to be sales pitches or coupons. People love just being in the loop!

We do a weekly newsletter and while it takes a ton of time (I always want to write something meaningful), it’s been HUGE for our sales. We love our MailChimp template that Aeolidia designed for us, and I also love that MailChimp gives you insight into the conversions from each campaign. It’s been so important for us!

Still working on building our list (I think we’re over 2300 now), and every day that there is an algorithm change with a social media platform I get extra insight into how valuable it is.

The beginning of our newsletter (and the main chunk of it) is always a story — some sort of personal reflection that is applicable to our brand mission and personality (promoting education, leadership, and empowering young girls to be proud of being smart). The second section usually highlights a product, blog post, or upcoming event. We then have a quote, and at the very bottom we have two products that make sense with the message of that newsletter and a “buy” button for each.

Because we put a lot of thought into writing the main portion of the newsletter (to make it of value to the reader), I get a lot of engagement with people writing back to me about it. Plus it helps people feel connected to the owner!

Thank you, Arianne, for taking the time to encourage and educate me on the importance of the newsletters! I have only sent out 3, but each one brought in customers and sales. They also have been relationship-building which is so KEY!!! I’m sending out my 4th this Friday, with an invite for 3 Morning Class/Gatherings this summer (a few customers have been asking for this) and I’m excited about it.) I would encourage ALL of you to take the baby “one-step-at-a-time” and do this.

Spurred on by this post, I sent out a quick email newsletter this morning and already got a bunch of sales! Arianne, could you stop being right all the time?

Ready to revitalize your newsletter?

Here are our best blog posts about starting and using your mailing list.

Hey, why not sign up for Klaviyo, our preferred email marketing software for Shopify?

And a few tips:

  • Set a schedule, and stick to it
  • It needs to be at least twice a month, and probably not every day
  • Subscribe to a bunch of newsletters as a customer, so you can see what you like and what you don’t like
  • Don’t overthink it! Keep it simple to start, and who knows, it may grow on you?

I love my newsletter! It’s my number one most valuable marketing asset. Want to subscribe to my newsletter? A subscriber recently told me, “I couldn’t believe that all this relevant, practical, and beautifully written content was available to me for free! Sign up to get free weekly emails with expert information from the Aeolidia team.

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