Newsletters are one of the best ways freelance writers can stay in touch with their clients and readers.
If you’ve got a website or blog (and if you don’t, you should – every freelance writer needs one) the newsletter is a great way to stay in touch with your audience and let them know when you post something new.
Newsletters also help you build an audience for your blog or site by giving readers a way to subscribe to yours and stay in touch.
Newsletters, also known sometimes as Ezines, like the one I send twice a week are best handled through a newsletter service.
Sure, you can begin using your email program, but if your list grows, and that’s what you want, you’ll have to move it once it reaches a decent size to get past your ISPs limits. You also risk spamming because you can’t be sure everyone on your list wants to get your newsletter. Finally, it’s almost impossible to manage a large email list with an email program.
Newsletter services offer a way to automate your list, create a template (or use a stock one) that represents you. Newsletter services also let you use an autoresponder so you can stage messages to your readers. A bit more about that later.
I use GetResponse.com (affiliate link), one of the oldest services around. The pricing there starts at $15 a month for up to 1,000 subscribers. Aweber.com (affiliate link), probably the most popular service, costs a bit more – $19 a month for unlimited emails to up to 500 subscribers at the moment – and may be easier to use. MailChimp is a newer entry in the email service business and it’s used by lots of folks. It’s totally free up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails a month. Read their info on why you should use the paid service.
Once you choose an email service you can begin to collect subscribers.
The classic way is to have a subscription form on your website – mine is over there on the right in red. All of the services mentioned here use a double opt-in, which means your subscriber has to confirm that they did indeed want to subscribe. It’s a good idea and keeps you from inadvertently spamming folks.
What should your newsletter contain?
There are two schools of thought on newsletter contents. Some, like me, send out links to articles and other information on their site. Others actually put whole articles in their newsletters, often, but not always, the articles that are also on their site or blog.
As near as I can tell there’s no solid research on which is better, so do what feels right for you.
How often should you send a newsletter?
This is another of those ‘how long is a piece of string’ questions. The answer is ‘it depends.’ It depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. Mostly we want our readers to read what we’ve written. That’s probably the biggest reason to have a newsletter. So a newsletter everything you add something significant can work.
Another reason is to remind clients that we exist. You could send the newsletter when you add something or set up a routine of touching base with them quarterly – perhaps sending a link or two of useful information.
Finally, but importantly, if we’re selling products or services online, the newsletter is a great way to drive customers.
What the heck is an autoresponder?
Each of the email services mentioned is actually an autoresponder service – when you fill out the form to subscribe to my ezine, it’s automatic. You get a link to the free ebook and you get an email asking you to confirm you wanted to subscribe. When I go to send a newsletter, your info is already there. If you unsubscribe you’re removed from the auto-list. I don’t have to try to manage that.
The autoresponder also lets me send emails to you in a staged way, as part of a sales process – truly useful if you get to the place where you’re selling your own products online.
What about RSS?
RSS, or real simple syndication, allows you to be notified of a website’s update via email or through a reader. I worte RSS For Writers which will help you understand what it is.
Yes, RSS can act as a partial substitute for an email service, and it’s free. But you can’t stage emails or send a series of them. ProBlogger has an article called Do You Really Need an Autoresponder for Your Blog? It’s more Aweber-centric than I like, but it does a much better job of contrasting RSS and autoresponders than I’m likely to come up with.
A newsletter can be important to your marketing – how important depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. I consider it essential to my business, but I know that doesn’t apply to everyone.
What’s your thinking about newsletters?