My newsletter list is getting smaller, just as I intended.

August 12, 2023 in Consulting

A couple of months ago, I decided to give more attention to my blogging and newsletter. As I've often argued, writing is a crucial skill for designers to master, but I've been doing less and less of it in recent years. Instead, I've been focusing more on visual design, which is something I hadn't done for years.

I moved my newsletter back to Convertkit after seeing more and more designers make the switch. I'm not a fan of Substack and their endless requests for growth at all costs. While Convertkit does heavily promote ways to grow your mailing list, ironically, I've actually been watching the opposite happen since moving to Convertkit. With every newsletter I send, I get more unsubscribes than signups, so my newsletter is actually shrinking rather than growing. Here's a graph of subscribers from the last month:

True fans or followers?

I don’t mind this at all though, in fact, it’s almost the opposite. You see, I was reminded by something I wrote all the way back in 2017.

I strongly believe that if you want to please everyone, you end up pleasing nobody – not even yourself.Everyone is a UX-designer and why I hate the term

I have always been skeptical of growth for the sake of growth. Years ago, Rand Fishkin posed an interesting question: would you rather have 1,000 fans who read 100% of what you publish, or 100,000 people in your audience who only read about 10% of your content? The results were an extremely close call, with just 50.4% of respondents in favor of having 1,000 readers who read everything.

Approaching it from a personal perspective, what I truly enjoy is a personalized approach and experience, whether it's staying at a hotel, subscribing to a newsletter, or engaging with a brand. I've always felt that larger entities like Hilton or newsletters with 100,000+ subscribers never quite provide that level of personalization. Rather than trying to please everyone, I aim to make my newsletter even more personal. Even if it means a decline in subscribers, I believe the people who stay on will love it even more.

This is what Kevin Kelly describes as “true fans” in Tools of Titans.

The core of Kevin’s idea is that to be successful, you don’t need millions of customers, millions of dollars, or even millions of clients. To make a living as a craftsperson – photographer, musician, designer, author, app maker – you only need thousands of true fans.

A true fan, according to Kelly, is someone who will buy anything you produce. If you publish a book, they’ll purchase the hardback, paperback, and e-book. They will drive 200 miles to see you sing. They’ll buy your “best-of” DVD with your YouTube outtakes. 1,000 fans like this is all you needed to make a living.

I’ll leave you with one of my favourite quotes about growth in our industry, taken from the Growth Handbook by Intercom:

“There’s a silly old business expression that says: “We’re going to lose a dollar on every deal, but we’ll make it up in volume.” It is also an extremely common way that venture-funded businesses think about how to grow.”The Growth Handbook

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