Launching a weekly newsletter

Back in January, I had a thought: what if I make 2017 the Year of the product? Side projects have a special calling: they always seem fun and present fresh challenges. Not to mention the chase for passive income — exciting!

There’s always one problem though: it takes just a spur-of-the-moment push to start, and a lot of hard work to finish. I wanted to develop the skills needed to create shippable projects. So I said: I’ll work on as many projects as I can within the year, and develop the skills I need along the way. Fast-forward to March, and things haven’t progressed much.

It takes just a spur-of -the-moment push to start, and a lot of hard work to finish.

So, I decided to shift gears and refocus by using a few tricks: start very small, allow it to take time, and use the term product instead of side project.

Side projects have a few big advantages. They:

  • engage your creativity — explore new ideas and novel techniques, apply yourself in new ways
  • teach you new things — a side project is the perfect chance to focus on learning a new skill or try out a new tool or technology
  • allow you to start fresh — a clean slate is often very rewarding in itself; remove constraints and you can do anything
  • break that routine — you have an exciting reason to pause your normal working habits and dive right into a fresh new world
Allure of the sea —

Often times, you can take this burst of creativity and transfer it into other parts of your life. This is why the allure of the side project has always stayed with me — I take a lot of energy from trying new things.

You can take this burst of creativity and transfer it into other parts of your life

Still, there’s one tiny little problem: I never complete anything. I start a lot of things due to varying reasons. They all have one thing in common: a super-inspired but short-lived burst of motivation, followed by a hard stop (meaning whine + complain, then quit!)

A product requires a launch

This is why I’m picking a few of my side projects and calling them products. A product is more tangible, and requires certain aspects:

  • purpose/reason for doing it
  • a target audience
  • a well-defined scope
  • a launch!

I chose what to work on based on purpose, audience and scope:

  • My purpose: do I want to do it? why?
  • Audience: is there someone who would want it?
  • Scope: what is the minimum thing I need to make?

My concept of a launch is just a date. On this date, I show it to the world. I work my way backwards from there, and figure out what I need to build so I can show it. Everything else goes into a post-launch todo list.

I launched my first product 3 weeks ago. It’s called We Fight With Cards — a weekly newsletter of curated news & content about digital card games. The launch consisted of:

  • a page with a subscribe form, tied to a MailChimp account
  • a few reddit & twitter posts
The first version

I wanted to figure out if there’s any interest in this sort of thing, so I promoted the link a bit. I ran a short $5 ad campaign on reddit, and started a Twitter account. Once I hit 25 subscribers, I started working on the first issue.

There’s still a lot to do! But this is very different than any one of my other projects:

  • I started very small — a weekly newsletter may not sound like much, but it’s a lot of work to build and grow a list; so I did the minimum amount of work needed to validate, and started talking to people.
  • I gave it time — I continued only after I got some validation. The 25 subscriber goal took 2 weeks to complete, with a minimum effort in promotion.
  • I called it a product — I set a minimum scope, a launch date, and started interaction with my audience right away

This little project is much more satisfying to me, than all the others that I started and never finished. That’s because I actually launched something! Small steps, right?