I sent the 200th issue of my weekly newsletter, Learn Test Optimize, this month. Since March 2016, every Friday morning I’ve emailed subscribers a list of articles (partial archive here) with key excerpts about the intersection of politics, marketing, and technology.
Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned:
Have a side project.
Experimentation is key to unlocking insights and learning new skills. It’s safer to take risks with your own project. Growing an email list and more broadly, a community, has taught me a lot about what strategies and tactics work and what doesn’t.
I’ve tried a few things over the years as part of this project, including a jobs board, discussion forum, and meetup. While none of those were as successful as I’d hoped, I gained important insights. Knowing what doesn’t work is the first step in finding out what does.
Curation is valuable.
The majority of the articles I include in the newsletter are written by others and published in other outlets. I’m collecting the things that I read throughout the week (and some that readers share with me) that I think the audience will find relevant.
Of course anyone could find these stories elsewhere, but the value I bring for subscribers is in remixing it into something relevant.
Create the content you wished existed.
Along the way, I noticed there weren’t articles about topics I cared about and knew the audience would find helpful as well. So I started writing them myself. I learned that writing about the topics I’m interested in because it helps me order my thoughts. By making them public it attracts like-minded individuals.
Serendipity is the best way to expand your network.
With the newsletter, I show up in hundreds of inboxes every week of people I don’t know yet. This has led to opportunities around the world and meaningful friendships. Research shows that “weak connections” often provide the best outcomes from networking.
With a few exceptions (honeymoon, GOTV time, holidays) I’ve written the LTO newsletter every week. It’s a good discipline but it’s also the only way to build something people will miss if it’s gone.
It’s OK not to have a business model.
Business models weren’t even something I thought about when I began the newsletter. I just started a project I enjoyed doing. The time I’ve invested has been valuable, personally and professionally.
Your side project doesn’t have to make money to be worth your time. It’s about the value, knowledge, and experience you derive from the project.
If you’re thinking about starting something new, now is the time to do it. Don’t spend all of your time building a website or designing a logo – just create content. Don’t worry that there are too many newsletters, blogs, and podcasts already – your perspective is unique.