Newsletter Experiments Going into 2023
I’ve been off for almost an entire month. I have enjoyed this break. Catching up with friends and reading.
Today’s newsletter is not a goals for 2023. Nor is it a review of last year.
It’s more of an announcement of upcoming experiments for this newsletter that I want to try until at least April 2023. And a brief explanation of these changes.
If these changes are not what you’ve signed up for, you may unsubscribe at the bottom. I turned off all unsubscribe notifications so no hard feelings.
Focus More on One Person Software Business
I’m a fan ofpiece Becoming a Full-Time Creator as a Software Engineer: Controversial Advice . In it, he explicitly says, "Instead of creator, think one-person business".
I like this phrasing of a "one person business". And given my disposition as the engineer with entrepreneurial ambitions, it makes even more sense to narrow that phrase down further as one-person software business.
What I have written so far has been wide-ranging.
From the one about learning new skills while respecting your unique disposition in that piece about playing chess with Yoda to the one about renaming the Serenity Prayer as Wisdom Protocol, I see them as all connected to my current life and goal of building a software business.
Content-wise, there’s no change.
Therefore, the change I’m making is that I’ll be making the connections between my usual content and running a one person software business more explicit going forward.
Over 36 months of a Ramen Profitable, One Person Software Business
Another reason I want to concentrate more in the One Person Software Business topic is because I have now reached 3 years of running a Ramen Profitable, One Person Software Business. I consider a business to be Ramen Profitable when monthly revenue has a minimum of 5k USD for at least 6 consecutive months. I’m currently around 7.5k for the monthly revenue.
Come April 2023, that monthly revenue will either go to zero, or above 10k.
While my memory is still fresh at this stage, I thought sharing my experience at this stage might be helpful to somebody who’s about 2 to 10 years behind me.
Newsletter != Post
The past 12 issues or so, the post and the newsletter are one and the same.
The second change I’m making is to explore a format where I will write the newsletter as a synopsis to the post of the week.
In other words, I’m decoupling the newsletter from my posts.
During the past month of hiatus, I actually haven’t stopped writing. I posted on Substack but without sending out email notifications.
Right now, on the homepage you can find pieces I have posted recently but none of them were sent out as email newsletter.
I have seen the newsletter as synopsis to the post of the week style work for Commoncog Newsletter.
It’s quite obvious that the most popular pieces have been sent as email newsletter. I have some apprehension about decoupling the posts from the newsletter.
On the other hand, newsletter encourages an aggregation of interesting links I see from elsewhere on the internet. I like that format in my newsletter, but not so much for long form posts I prefer to be standalone.
My choices boil down to:
Write long-form posts and send them out as newsletter as well as those regular newsletter with an aggregate of content from all over the internet. Con: Newsletter frequency is higher and format consistency is compromised.
Write long-form posts and include other unrelated content and send out as newsletter. This is the current approach. Con: no standalone long-form posts and the long-form cannot exceed 2,000 words due to email’s limits.
Write long-form posts. Don’t send them out as newsletter. Write newsletter that links to the post of the week. Con: the standalone long-form posts may not be as popular as regular newsletter posts.
I am choosing to go with the 3rd choice as a compromise.
I don’t like the idea of bombarding your mail inbox with a frequency higher than weekly. And I surmise not everybody finds my long-form posts equally interesting. I leave it to the individual reader’s choice to see if they want to delve deeper into the long-form posts.
Have a Writing Budget for 2023
I intend to write between 20 and 30 Post of the Week for the whole of 2023. I am still undecided whether I will allocate some of these 20 to 30 Post of the Week to a separate newsletter dedicated to my side project — GreenDeploy.io.
Writing 20 to 30 Post of the Week isn’t just a goal. It’s also a budget for allocating time and energy towards writing.
Building up a media outlet for my own career or business is important for this internet age. Which is why I’m creating a budget for this activity like a business creates budget for resources to put into its projects.
As Orosz puts it in his creator economy piece,
A much better model for the "sustainable creator" is creating on the side of the one-person business. Basically, focus most of your energy running your business which makes money, and create some related content to this business.
I don’t expect to make money from all these media related activities (I’m also exploring YouTube and Shorts) anytime soon. And I see participating in media as an important strategy in my actual one person software business.
The Writing Must Be for Its Own Sake Too
A few years ago, writing content related to the business without trying to make money on the content directly would have been called content marketing. But, the typical examples I have seen sound more like brands than actual persons.
Before ChatGPT and similar tech took off, I was already hesitant about this kind of writing. Now these AI tools are getting popular, I have even less wish to sound machine-replicable.
Despite that fear, I also want this media outlet to be good for my career/business, I don’t want my writing to be too instrumental or transactional. People can tell you’re just doing a shift, and I won’t enjoy it for long either.
On the other hand, not treating this newsletter seriously like a business is counter-productive. I have no wish to be a starving artist either.
In other words, I want to avoid the two typical failure modes:
Be too transactional and instrumental for purely business reasons → the path is too painful for me and the content becomes too artificial in tone
Be too self-centered for purely emotional reasons → the path bears no fruit and the writing is too self-indulgent in tone
Both the goal (have this help my career and business) and the path (creating this newsletter) must make sense. Both must be effective, considerate, and enjoyable.
I’m trying to figure out that right sense of balance between the two. Which is why I’m trying out these experiments from now till April 2023 at least.
You’ll get back to the regularly scheduled newsletter with these new changes on 21st January 2023 Saturday.
I’ll see you next week!
Appreciate the insight into your thought process and the transparency.
Interestingly, the posts you chose not to send out via email didn’t appear either in my Substack app.