I’ve been running my shop, a little line of pins and other gift products called City of Industry, for five years now. And all along the way, I’ve been building my newsletter.
If it sounds like I really have my act together, let me assure you that’s not always the case. In 2017, I sent out my “monthly” newsletter only three times, completely missing the prime shopping season around the holidays. Clearly, I needed to be a lot more consistent in 2018.
I took the month of January to get organized, and I’ve been pushing that send button once a month since then. It’s too soon to say I’ve got it all figured out, but at least I’m better at setting myself up for success.
A year at a glance
The biggest change I made was spending January planning out the basic structure of my year: I designed products, started production, and then planned a release schedule. Previously I’d start producing items as soon as the idea struck, then start selling and posting photos on Instagram as soon as they were ready.
It’s a big adjustment to quietly hold on to those new ideas, but it ensures that I have something new to talk about all year long. And while it feels like I’m holding back, nobody else knows what’s waiting on the back burner. My audience will just know that they can depend on me to have a steady stream of new items.
Figuring out a plan for new products allowed me to create a marketing calendar. I have time to create seasonally appropriate items and (hopefully) photograph them in plenty of time, so that I’m ready to send out timely content to my followers.
This calendar doesn’t have to be based on new product releases, either. If I’m light on new things to share, I have time to write fun holiday-related copy and mention a relevant older product. It’s not about constantly churning out new items, it’s about being thoughtful and giving myself plenty of runway.
After looking at my 2017 newsletter track record, I recognized that I need deadlines to be successful. Internally declaring my newsletter a monthly publication simply wasn’t enough. If a newsletter is just supposed to go out any time in April, what’s to stop me from pushing it to early May when life gets busy? Thanks to my grade A procrastination, 2017 came and went with only three newsletters seeing the light of day. A specific publish date gives me better parameters.
I decided on consistent timing for the newsletter: the first Tuesday of each month. It’s pretty arbitrary, but midweek emails tend to have the best open rate, and since my Monday evenings are usually free, I have time to polish up my emails the night before. I like that it’s early in the month and so it’s at the top of my mind: the calendar page turns and it’s time to get started.
My goal dates are still flexible if life gets hectic, but narrowing the target makes it much more likely that I’ll hit send.
No more late nights
Let me paint a picture of my old newsletter process: it would start after a day at the office with me taking product photos using the last few rays of sunlight, and then end around 1:00 am when I ran out of energy and hit send. It was one long night that was short on planning. This year, the announcement schedule is paying off. Because I know that the email is supposed to go out on a specific date, I start on copywriting a week in advance, then use the evening before sending to check for typos, test links, and generally feel pretty smug about going to sleep at a reasonable hour.
Remember how I planned my products further in advance? That means I have more time for photography. I can take pictures in full, beautiful, weekend daylight! In addition to knowing what my newsletter will cover each month, my shop is looking better. And since I’m not scrambling, I can set up photos for product listings, social media, and the newsletter’s header image.
The lack of panicked rushing means I have more time to think about email formatting, and work on keeping each email focused and brief. I’m proofreading with fresher eyes, so I can edit out extra words (not to mention catch more mistakes), and make the most of my audience’s attention span.
Let the email lead the way
Keeping a newsletter calendar has streamlined my business all over the place: it helped me prioritize which products to produce, package, and photograph first. The schedule guides what I post on Instagram, and my social media has become an extension of the newsletter. Things are feeling niiiiiice and cohesive.
There are still a thousand moving pieces that go into running a shop, but I’ve taken out a little bit of the guess work, and I’m feeling a whole lot more organized.