“Getting an audience is hard. Sustaining an audience is hard. It demands a consistency of thought, of purpose, and of action over a long period of time.” — Bruce Springsteen
I couldn’t believe what I heard.
The creator of an excellent newsletter I recently discovered reached out to me for some advice and when I asked how often she publishes it, she said some version of the following:
“Well, I do it when I can. It always seems to fall to the bottom of the to-do list which is one of the things I’m trying to avoid happening.”
What a shame.
Because in the course of growing my For The Interested newsletter to 23,000 subscribers and launching a Newsletter Creators Facebook group, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to produce a successful newsletter and this may be the most important lesson:
You won’t have a successful newsletter unless you have a consistent one.
Here’s why consistency is so crucial to a newsletter’s success…
Consistency Makes It Easier To Get People To Care About Your Newsletter
Nobody will care about your newsletter until you prove that you do.
If you don’t commit to a publishing schedule, you signal your newsletter isn’t a priority. And if it’s not a priority to you, how can you expect it to become one for readers?
It’s important to choose a publishing frequency— and declare it on your subscription page — in order to set expectations for potential subscribers and make it clear this creation matters to you.
If your goal is to capture ongoing attention from an audience, it will be infinitely more difficult if you publish on a sporadic basis.
There’s a reason TV series stick to a schedule and don’t randomly broadcast episodes.
News outlets don’t randomly publish on some days and not others.
And the most successful podcasts don’t get that way by not telling their audience when to expect another episode.
The same goes for newsletters.
If you can’t publicly commit to a publication schedule, you can’t expect an audience to commit to you.
Consistency Matters More Than Frequency
One of the reasons people hesitate to commit to a consistent publishing schedule is because they worry about taking on more than they can deliver.
That’s understandable and a legitimate concern, but it’s not an either/or — you can be consistent without becoming overwhelmed.
Pick a conservative initial publishing schedule that you know you’ll be able to meet.
I find weekly or bi-weekly to be the optimal schedule for most newsletters, but it’s different for every niche and there’s nothing wrong with publishing monthly or even quarterly if you want.
You can always increase your frequency as you go and it’s not the end of the world if you send out the occasional bonus issue — but pick a schedule you can live up to and stick with it.
There’s no valid excuse not to and plenty of upside from doing so.
Consistency Enables Your Newsletter To Become A Habit For Readers
People can’t develop habits without consistency.
The ultimate key to growing your newsletter audience comes when you can turn its consumption into a habit for readers.
It’s no easy feat, but if you can habitize a reader’s process of opening, reading, and sharing your newsletter, you’ll become part of their routines and lives.
Because once you establish that level of connection, readers will stick with you for a LONG time and spread the word about your newsletter which helps it grow.
It’s hard to develop habits and even harder to incorporate your work into the habits of others, but you can only do so by consistently showing up in their lives.
When you send your newsletter out consistently, you show up in people’s lives at the same time over and over again which gives you the best shot to become incorporated into their routine.
I’ve seen this happen first hand with my For The Interested newsletter. I send it to readers every Sunday at 6 a.m. and have for 114 of the last 115 weeks (I only missed my wedding weekend —some things are more important than consistency!).
By doing so, my readers have gradually incorporated it into their routines — some read it with their Sunday morning coffee, some read it at work on Mondays, and I’ve even had some tell me they replaced their Sunday paper reading with my newsletter!
(Note how that’s one habit based on a consistent publishing schedule being replaced with another.)
Those habits would not be formed if my newsletter came out at different days and times — they’re made possible by its consistency.
Consistency Makes Your Newsletter Easier To Produce
Your audience aren’t the only ones who benefit from a commitment to being consistent with your newsletter.
A consistent publishing schedule will also help you create a better newsletter with less struggle and stress than it takes to create without one.
Circling back to my initial conversation with that newsletter creator, one of her concerns was finding time to create the newsletter and how it was always fell to the bottom of her to-do list.
Anything you don’t commit to doing at a specific time will ALWAYS fall to the bottom of your to-do list because you haven’t made it a priority and it has no deadline.
By not committing to a publishing schedule for her newsletter — even an infrequent one — she’s given herself permission to never do it.
No wonder it doesn’t get done.
Even worse, she carries the daily stress, worry, guilt and frustration that comes with not publishing it.
She feels like a failure, but only because she set herself up to fail.
By contrast, if she committed to a conservative publishing schedule — maybe monthly — she wouldn’t feel bad every day that she doesn’t publish a newsletter because she would know exactly when she had to get it done by and could feel good about being “on schedule.”
Plus, if she committed to a publishing schedule she’d actually get it published!
At that point she’ll discover the other secret of consistency — when you do something regularly it becomes habitized and easier for you!
In our conversation she asked me how I manage to publish For The Interested every week. I was taken aback because I don’t even think of it as hard to do at this point.
I’ve done it consistently for so long that it’s become part of my routine. I don’t question whether I’m going to get it done, worry about it, or struggle with it each week.
I just go through the process I’ve developed to produce it and do it again the next week.
It’s become a habit.
It can become one for you too — but only after you commit to consistency.
I highly recommend you do.