Tell me if this sounds familiar...
It's approaching the end of the month and you really should send that newsletter you threatened to do last month. In fact, you're painfully aware that you don't communicate with your mailing list nearly as often as you should and the whole subject has become a frustrating source of guilt.
Sending out a newsletter is hard work. It's hard work even if you have a team of people creating graphics, copy and strategy; but if you're on your own, it can be a continuous battle - generating content ideas, executing them, maintaining the email list (or several), getting your communications out on time. It's exhausting.
But why is it so hard? And why do so many freelancers find it a struggle?
For me, part of the problem is trying to muster up the enthusiasm to use my email marketing software. I'm not an illustrator, I'm not a graphic designer, I want to be known for my writing. What I need to get across most is the thoughts and ideas that entertain and engage my readers.
In the early days, getting people to read my emails (even open them) seemed totally dependent on first impressions, at the mercy of therefore, of visuals. It didn't matter how interesting or well written the text, if the email looked awful, it probably was awful....
I would work really hard trying to arrange everything into something new and original but no matter how long I spent tweaking, all the templates seemed the same - rigid and overused. I tried virtually every software out there but the results were the same.
Open rates stayed low and gradually fell...
Now, deep down we all know that open rates depend on creating truly engaging content that is relevant to the audience. If open rates are continuously low then the the chances are that the content isn't very good, or indeed not relevant. Or both. The market doesn't lie.
But when starting out, a writer or a blogger doesn't have a solid audience to solicit feedback from. Instead they must build and foster momentum. They must find consistency and routine. Anything that dilutes that must be avoided.
I often felt like my momentum was continually interrupted by hurdles put up by my email software. The success and failure felt too dependent on my ability to drag and drop boxes into a nice order.
Over the years I've used many different email marketing providers. Some are better than others, but none of them really offered everything I wanted.
The common theme though is always the drag and drop functionality that allows you to customise the way your content appears.
I recently stumbled across Convert Kit, a fairly new startup that strips away all the editor tool stuff and focusses on written content and building mailing lists.
As you might expect, Convert Kit doesn't do everything I want it to. But I suppose no software ever will. There are however two things that have kept me paying the $30 a month (not a small fee in today's world of free packages).
Firstly, it's for writers and writing. If you want to sell physical products with lots of exommerce pictures this isn't for you. But if you want to build a following using words and a few links to blog posts and simple products, it's perfect. In essence Convert Kit provides a simple text editor. You can insert images if you want to but there is little scope for fiddling around. It may not make you a better a writer, but it will force you to work harder on your words and on your message.
Secondly, subscribers (people with an email address) are all on one list. Segmentation takes place using tags. This concept is great for freelancers who wear different hats and often contact the same people about completely different projects. There are clear advantages of developing the proposition this way. Your subscribers only count once, regardless of how many different tags they have or how many different lists you consider them to be a part of. It's important when you are charged according to the number of subscribers.
The disadvantage here though is that if someone unsubscribes from one project you can lose them from everything. There are manual workarounds but. . .
So, give it a try. It's great if you are a writer or are trying to grow a personal brand. Convert Kit
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