In which I talk about a goal I’ve been putting off, ask for your advice, and make myself accountable by telling you about it. Oh, and invite you to do the same on our new Vibely challenge.
I’ve been toying with the idea of starting a newsletter for almost a year now.
It’s one of those goals. You know, the ones that linger in the back of your mind, go on your “someday” bullet journal list, and have no date associated with them in Todoist. (BTW, check out my Todoist workflow tips for students here.)
Basically, I’ve told myself, I’ll get to it someday soon, which is long-form for I won’t, really.
Except, I already have a newsletter. Here’s the quick low down: I run Mistral Spirit on WordPress, and have been since 2009. It’s undergone a LOT of changes since the beginning, when it was called Cre84me…
However, I’m currently only on a simple WordPress paid plan that allows for a .com domain, the ability to enable WordAds (to earn a little bit of coffee money from blog viewership ☕), and that’s about it. Readers who like the content I create and want to receive updates can either follow directly through their WordPress account or sign up with their email, but I have no control over how the emails look, or when they get sent out. That’s something readers customize in their WordPress reader subscription settings or through their email, somehow.
Obviously, this limits my ability to get creative and to share snippets of things with you via email, which is the point of this post and my lofty “start a newsletter goal”.
other blogs that are doing a good job of it
This summer, I came across some blogs hosted on platforms like Substack, and it really took me down a rabbit hole. Since then, I subscribed to some new blogs, and also gave up on ever trying to reach inbox zero (here are some of my favourites).
- Maybe Baby
- The Morning Brew (this is my referral code so I can get some … stickers? 😋)
- Maker Mind
- Anne Helen Petersen
- Austin Kleon
The thing I love about these blogs is that they’re not just websites with post feeds. They’re built around the new currency of the blogger world: email newsletters. When you visit their sites, a pop up prompts you to stay in touch via email. Then, when you receive said emails, they’re customized and fun and feel like correspondences from a friend. You never need to actually visit the site again – it visits you, right to your inbox! It’s an excellent arrangement for both parties in this new age of internet content over-saturation.
Moreover, some of them have paid subscription tiers. Which, by the way… *takes a deep breath* I spent all summer internally debating the ethics of and came to the conclusion that bypassing ad companies and charging readers directly is only justified if the content truly provides some additional value that only a dedicated audience would pay for (and I still think independent publishing should focus on offering free online information, but also allow readers to support its high quality content through payment options, but ultimately expand into paid offerings only if the quality and resources are there).
If I wanted to do this, too (i.e. be able to set up pop-ups for email newsletter sign-ups, and customize the emails readers receive), I’d have to be paying $28 a month on WordPress! That’s crazy.
taking incremental baby steps (but not really)
Aside from some basic research into Substack and Medium and options of the sort, which were effectively dead-ends, I started moving towards this lofty goal in little incremental ways without knowing exactly what the final platform would look like. I first set up Notion earlier this year primarily as a place to keep track of content I’ve consumed and therefore content I would share.
Surprisingly, I’m still saving web snippets to it daily.
We also kicked off our Mistral Spirit Book Club, which reads a book every month (recently changed to every two months) and also features brain candy I share with you directly from that Notion database! See below.
We also now have a virtual Vibely community, which is a safe space for us to inspire, motivate and support each other as we complete weekly challenges. Later on there’s the potential for virtual meet-ups, too.
I’ve also used my new Notion content workflow to stay on top of regular posting on Instagram, which is already a big accomplishment considering how busy the school year has been so far.
That being said, I haven’t made much progress on the actual goal of starting a newsletter. Until yesterday.
I came across a third platform, called Ghost. It seems to have the things that I need, but I went back and forth with my research a few times before recognizing my own cycle of confirmation bias in action:
>> Forget it, I’ll stick to WordPress and integrate with Mailchimp.
>> WordPress seems good. But it won’t give me pop-ups unless I pay for the Business plan.
>> Ok nevermind. I’ll go with Ghost.
>> Ghost is great, except this person says that it doesn’t have as much customization potential.
>> Okay, cancel that. WordPress it is.
>> Nope… Back to Ghost.
Then, I remembered what lists are for and decided to make one in my bullet journal to organize my decision process.
features I’m looking for
- Good price
- Data and analytics on top posts and link clicks
- Simple capability to send a weekly email newsletter to subscribers
- Pop up prompt on main website to subscribe to newsletter
- Ability to enable ads to support website (WordAds)
- Search engine optimization (creates an automatic site schema)
- Potential to create paid tiers or paid digital content for subscribers down the line
- Ability to create email automations, like a welcome email to new subscribers
- Digital downloads and email-subscribers-only content
- Referral program capability or plugin (not sure how this would work yet)
- Search feature through previous posts (and a good one, please, because my blog is as much an archive for readers as it is for me)
- Beautiful and custom landing page
- Custom fonts and branding
- Not too much time spent customizing/setting up (this one is funny, because I’ve done lots of HTML/CSS customizations for clients before… for some reason it’s not my priority to do for my own blog. Go figure.)
my overarching blogging goal
This goal falls under my umbrella goal of expanding and improving upon the content I create on Mistral Spirit. I’m entering some pretty neat phases of life (hello, adult life and goodbye, university) and want to consistently document and share my journey.
Watching back some of my old videos made me realize what I’m missing out on every day I neglect to take steps towards this goal:
The best teacher of something is the person who just learned it.
The more I put this goal off, the more I’m distancing myself from these experiences and the less I’ll be able to authentically share about them later.
All of this requires some solid systems to be able to continue creating through busy periods of life. It also requires a shift in focus away from only making small incremental steps (like low-value transient Instagram posts), and towards a commitment to longer-form content (like blog posts and YouTube videos, where I can more thoroughly communicate ideas).
my plan of action
So here’s my plan of action for my goal, by this week, month, and rest of the year:
This week: I’m going to set up this newsletter and migrate everything and get it ready!
This month: I’m going to send out my first newsletter, and commit to doing this every month (or every 2 weeks, I haven’t decided yet).
This year: I’m going to get back to YouTube with at least 1 new video before the year is up! This is the umbrella goal – once the newsletter is in place, and I’m consistently managing the book club and Vibely (which I consider akin to “habits”), I’ll commit to YouTube again.
i’m asking for some advice
As I mentioned, my two options right now to make this happen are:
A) Stick with WordPress, and integrate MailChimp for newsletters. Limited options because enabling plugins (which are what allow pop-ups) would require $28/month.
B) Migrate to Ghost, and use it as a blog platform AND newsletter distributor.
I’m still trying to decide, and will be rolling out both at the same time until I encounter hiccups with one that tip me over to the other. This approach can probably be found the first lesson of Indecisive Decision Making 101. Or, you can label it the detail-oriented approach of the Deliberate Decision Maker and call it a day. You choose (I prefer the latter).
In effect, I’d love to know what you think.
Do you know anything about newsletters? Blogging platforms? Reach out via email, or DM me on Instagram or Facebook – I’ll see it, appreciate it, and reply! Thank you.
join me and share your goal
Now that I’m accountable to these three new milestones in my blog vision, I invite you to do the same! We can help each other make our goals happen. Today’s new Vibely challenge is as follows:
Here’s how we’re going to manifest our goals into reality. Choose your goal. It can be an area of your life, or a personal check-point for health, self-care, social life, self-care, personal growth, or ambitions for the future.
Then fill in your three milestones and share it with us to keep accountable!
(THE REST OF) THIS YEAR:
In this blog post I asked for advice, too. Share your advice with a Vibely journaler whose goal you can help with, or recently tackled in your own life.
what is vibely, again?
Have you heard of our Vibely community yet?
If not, Vibely is our very first Mistral Spirit virtual space, complete with a Virtual Café for us to chat and weekly Challenges that we complete together. It has three purposes:
- As a space to connect, share perspectives, and learn from each other.
- An inspiration hub. Through the challenges, we’ll curate some of the best advice, inspiration, and creativity from all the assorted thinkers & curious minds who also love the essence behind Mistral Spirit.
- A source of action. With a community of like-minded individuals, we can stay accountable to our goals and grounded with our expectations.
It’s also a platform that is focused on positivity and is accessible to everyone! If you don’t have access to Facebook, or Instagram, you can join our community and take part in building relationships and working towards your goals with us.