How to write newsletters for clients 📨
A newsletter...on newsletters.
Hi there. 👋 You’re reading Internetly, a newsletter that helps freelance creatives grow their business by honing the written craft and being creatively mindful. To join 2,247 writers, hit subscribe.
If you’re still a subscriber after my unexpected month-long hiatus, I appreciate you. I onboarded two new clients last October, and your girl got her ass kicked.
To manage the extra workload, I spent *checks calendar* four weekends on my laptop! Ugh. In short: Internetly had to go on the back burner. But with the projects finally finished, here’s a fresh newsletter for you about…newsletters.
A friend of mine (hi, Blair!) wanted to know more about the whole process. Best practices? Tips? So, today we’re covering the basics of newsletters: The structure, writing, and editing. Let’s go. 🏃♀️
1) The Two General Types of Newsletters
Newsletters follow one of two structures: “News” or “Story.”
The first is reporting on news related to your niche and target audience. For example, Entreprenista’s The Agenda reports on the latest fundraising, VC, social media updates, or brand strategy news (basically, anything relevant to its target audience of women founders). Other examples:
The story structure is personal anecdotes, tips, or essays. In Miss Excel’s The Workbook, the value proposition is extracting Kat’s hard-earned expertise. The newsletter has step-by-step breakdowns of Excel tips and how Kat grew her business. A few other examples:
No structure is “better” than the other. It’s just a question of your positioning and how to best serve your readers.*
* Note: There are other formats. These are just the two I see (and work with) most often.
2) How to Structure Your Newsletter
Great, so you’ve chosen your format. But…how exactly do you shape it?
This is my (very basic) layout for almost every newsletter I write:
Hold Up ✋: How many times have you subscribed to a newsletter only to realize it’s self-promotional marketing garbage? To avoid becoming part of the “newsletter bubble,” remember to 1) Write something excellent every time and 2) Be driven by serving (and not profiting off of) others. And if you don’t have anything of value to say that week…don’t publish.
“But Alice, if we’re in a bubble, is it too late for me to start a newsletter?” Short answer: No. Long answer: Though the newsletter industry is “saturated,” the world always has room for something better.
Lenny is one such example. He started his newsletter in 2019, writing deep dives on product and career growth – soon amassing 550K subscribers. Had no one written about product strategy before? Of course not. The internet was flush with these types of articles.
Yet Lenny, who dedicated a grueling 20 hours (or more) on each piece, stood out from the sea of mediocrity.
3) The Writing Process
There are certain writers who are motivated by deadlines. It's not until the due date looms in the horizon can they open a fresh Google Docs.
I am not one of those writers.
Every writer is different, so take this advice with a grain of salt. With that being said, I write newsletters over three days. “Three days?! That sounds long,” you might be thinking. But this timeline cuts my writing time in half. Let me explain:
Day One: Brain Dump Day
It’s time to shellac our Google Doc with ideas, quotes, articles, images, etc, to sufficiently prep the page. This prevents us from staring at a blank page — the writer’s equivalent to peering into an empty fridge and wondering what to eat.
But day one isn’t a one-person affair. Two other people are involved:
My Virtual Assistant
My VA scours the internet to find relevant news and roundup links. It’s a simple mission, but one I’m more than happy to pay someone else to do for two reasons.
First, as writers, we spend an obscene amount of time staring at a screen. I have roughly four hours of computer time in me before I’m kaput. I’d rather spend one of those precious hours writing instead of browsing the web.
Plus, rummaging through the internet is cognitively demanding. You scan images, blow through paragraphs, and filter thousands of words. It’s not long until you’re fried, wired, and just plain tired.
Next, the client will approve the links (we call them pitches). This step is critical: It prevents you from whipping up a newsletter only to have the client refuse to green-light your creation. It’s a pain in everyone’s butt — yet avoidable.
Day 2: Writing
*cracks knuckles* This is where it gets real, people. I might’ve scared you by mentioning Lenny, but don’t worry — you don’t have to spend 20 hours writing something for it to be worthwhile.
A great newsletter has these four components:
→ Be Funny. Have fun. Like a misbehaved kid at the dinner table, play with your food (in this case, words). Prod the reader. Poke fun at yourself. This isn’t AP English. You’re allowed to be creative, crude, and clever.
A subscriber responding to a previous Internetly. Trust, when you have fun writing, your readers will have a good time, too.
→ Digestible. A “digestible” newsletter is one that’s easy to read. It varies the lengths of sentences, balances both paragraphs and one-liners, uses bullet points and the occasional emoji. The writing is clear and concise, and has a high ratio of ideas to words.
Ready to sharpen your writing chops? Order these on Amazon (or listen to the audiobook on Spotify [huge game changer]):
→ Useful. Lenny taught me to always ask, “What job am I doing for my reader?” Will you entertain? Educate? Iluminate? In this case, the job I’m doing for you is teaching the basics of writing a newsletter. The clearer the job, the higher the incentive for the reader to stick around.
→ Authentic. Don’t inflate anecdotes or spread misinformation. When reporting news, report factually. When penning stories, penn truthfully. The reader will appreciate your candor — especially in a world where anyone can make up anything for views or likes.
* These are my four core components. I’m sure there are more!
Day Three: Editing and Scheduling
After writing my draft, I send it to my editor before handing a polished draft to the clients. There are times where I’ll spend 20 minutes editing; others, two hours.
Once the client approves, I upload the newsletter into Beehiiv. I’ll play around with the formatting, upload images, and write the email header.
Finally, she’s ready. I schedule the newsletter for 11 AM (a particularly busy inbox time) and we’re done.
Well, until next week…and the week after that…repeat ad nauseam.
This guide only scratches the surface of what goes into a newsletter. It doesn’t touch on how I stay organized, best practices, or resources (stay tuned!). But I hope this bird's-eye view has proved useful to you.
If there’s anything you’d like to know more about offering newsletter services to clients, hit “reply” and let me know. 💌
Pathway in Monet’s Garden at Giverny, 1900, Claude Monet
✍️ Quick Writing Tip
Use the passive voice (sparingly).
I know, this goes against everything the writing gurus teach you. But you can use it skillfully – particularly to emphasize the “victim” of the action.
✖ He slaughtered his goldfish before flushing them down the toilet.
✔ The goldfish were slaughtered before flushed down the toilet.
Subtle, yet effective.
Thanks to Writing Tools for this tip!
🥒 Content Diet
How This Freelancer Made $300K in One Year by Hailley Griffis — This profile of the Queen of Freelancing, Kat Boogaard, is an eye-opener. Kat’s financial transparency is so refreshing.
The Man Who Sold 15 Million Books by How I Write Podcast — I’ve recommended the ‘How I Write Podcast’ before, and I’ll do it again (it’s just that good). This particular episode with Mark Manson is a delight: Learn how to cultivate taste, overcome writer’s block, and more.
10 Years of Freelance Writing (And Why I Need a Break) by Kaleigh Moore — 85% of people see freelance writing as “glamorous” — a life punctuated by freedom, creativity, and tropical places. But freelance writing is still…a job. I resonated with Kaleigh’s essay on why she’s going on hiatus after a decade long sprint of freelancing.
Thanks for reading!
I’m going to Costa Rica 🇨🇷 on Monday and am p-u-m-p-e-d. I haven’t traveled since August and I’m ready to ditch my routine. Bring on the chaos.