Categories
Newsletter The Shift

#TS 109: How to grow your newsletter in 2023

Explode from 100-10k subscribers in 2023!

I did a masterclass in newsletter growth this week (want to get mine to 10k members this year).

An overview of the top six channels you’ll need to use from Sparkloop – their tools, of course – Upscribe recommendations and their Partner Network. Louis shared some helpful growth tips too (he’s working on newsletter growth all day, every day so knows his stuff!) You can watch it here.

Interesting to hear him say the old tools and techniques for email marketing don’t work anymore – what are these?

Masterclass #2Roadmap to 1M+ Subscribers is on Weds 25 Jan – you can register here.

Overall, a productive hour (great questions, love this community). I’m excited to try some new things this year.

My goals for ‘23 – getting to 10k subscribers (+ £10k monthly income overall) and I want to develop my paid product and promote it better – haven’t pushed it. I’ve struggled with time (client work) and differentiation. Nobody wants more of the same, so it needs to be an entirely different product, not a paid newsletter.

Names and positioning are important in terms of perceived value.

Josh Spector sent me some helpful tips, and I’ve bought his newsletter course. Questions coming over for your podcast – thanks, Josh!

So I’ve called the paid product Do One Thing – a behind-the-scenes look at how I do something specific to grow my newsletter and business. A deep dive into my creative process and my first solopreneur six-figure year.

It’s about doing one thing well and doing less – newsletters are a huge time commitment, and if you bring in something new, you need to let something go, so part of my strategy is saying no to things. Focus and consistency.

Here’s a good book on the art of subtraction and the untapped science of less.

You can sign up for Do One Thing here. I hope to build this into a helpful resource and community.

I’ll also invite you to set up a free 1-1 call with me to find out what you’re working on and how I can help. This will help shape my strategy and any products I create.

Cool tools for newsletters

Swapstack – drive growth with newsletter sponsorship at scale. Collect tips, run affiliate deals, or sell ads

The Newsletter Booster and Newsletter Tips Collection | Josh Spector

Growth groups on Facebook, ugh, but they’re really good. And everyone’s there. Bookmark them, then you don’t have to use Facebook – Newsletter Nerds (1.9k), Newsletter Creators (4.7k), Substack Writers (3.6k)

Not Another Newsletter and 30 Ideas to Improve Your Newsletter This Year | Dan Oshinsky, Inbox Collective

Substack Course – by Casey Botticello. Foundational topics, tips, and strategies to accelerate your growth on the platform

If you’re writing a newsletter, send me the link so I can check it out and share it. Substack’s new Recommendations tool is awesome – I’m getting daily subscribers.

I’d also love your recommended reads on creativity, culture and tech – making a list.

The other thing that’s really helped me is having an accountability buddy – thank you, Marianne Lehnis for reaching out. We’re at a similar stage with our businesses and she’s local so we can co-work and go for walks (Wealth Walks are something else I want to get going!)

Writing a newsletter can be a lonely venture, and our little chats have kept me sane. It’s worth reaching out to someone in a similar niche to see how you can help each other.

Keep moving!

Nika


5 Things

Why I Create Annual Themes | Trevor McKendrick on the benefits of doing brand advertising for the values you want to live. My theme for 2023 is ‘Keep moving!’ hence the sign off.

Makers + Mavericks Off Grid 2023 – a one-day event from the gods of content creation | Hiut Denim. 100 people max (it’s a small barn). Love their newsletter and it’s built their community. See the M+M 2022 list here.

33 Unusual Tips to Being a Better Writer | James Altucher on the most important writing (and communication) advice he ever got, No coffee, no creativity…👌

The Common Path to Uncommon Success: A Roadmap to Financial Freedom & Fulfillment | John Lee Dumas. Loving the energy in his daily podcast – 30-mins is the sweet spot. An inspiring read on quitting everything and six-figure podcasting.

The House of Beautiful Business – a global platform that connects over 25k members who want to get more out of business and out of life. You can now join for FREE! Next Open House is tomorrow, Mon 23 Jan – Dispatch from Davos | WEF.

Playlist of the week

Corsage the movie

Best film I’ve seen lately and very of the moment. Imagine being told you’re officially old at 40 and it’s all downhill from here.

Mesmerising.


Feedback, questions, ideas? Hit reply or email me: nika@nikatalbot.io

Enjoy reading this? Why not buy me a Negroni?🍹

Categories
AI Content future of work

Unlock your best writing 🍒

I’m writing this on a new AI-powered word processor from the Every team.

It’s called Lex, and it’s like Google Docs – except it’s got an AI baked in, and there are a few different ways you can use it, but I think my favourite is probably for when you’re stuck. Nathan Baschez

• 25K sign-ups in the first 24 hours

• 10K views of the demo video

• 1M impressions of the announcement tweet

• Included in a market map of AI tools

• Overflowing inbox and DMs

Here’s Nathan on what he’s learned from building Lex so far and the launch. “I think it will be useful for anyone building new products, thinking through positioning, and planning launches.”

I’ve been playing with it this week, and it’s easy to use: simple markdown. Dark mode. Works fast on mobile. You can add pics and links. Easy to share docs – no need for edit permissions.

The fun bit is the AI tool. If you get stuck or want inspiration, type something and hit command + enter or +++, and GTP-3 will give you a few sentences it thinks might come next. It’s not perfect, but it offers prompts and ideas to help your writing process.

Not sure it will speed up my writing, though. Been down a few rabbit holes 🕳🐇

What shall I do today?

Could keep playing with Lex…

Can you give me a shoulder massage?

I’m sorry, I can’t do that.

Julieta: I’m hungry

Could get something to eat.

Who will be the next prime minister in the UK?

I’m sorry, I can’t do that.

How can AI help writers do their best work?

I’m not sure, but Lex might be able to help with that.

How do I share this document?

To share, click the Share button in the top right corner and choose how you want to share it.

Who will ultimately benefit the most from all this new technology?

eking ahead!

The people who will ultimately benefit the most struggle with writer’s block or have difficulty getting their thoughts down on paper. This new technology will help them tap into their creative side and develop ideas they may not have had.

What dataset does GPT-3 use?

GPT-3 is a natural language processing model that uses a dataset of over a trillion words to predict the next word in a sentence.

What’s your favourite newsletter?

Mine is the Lexicon!

It also has todos! Hit command + enter, and you get some alternative suggestions…

Stuck on the header? Hit the button next to the title and it will generate 5+ title ideas.

A word processor with AI baked in. I like having it in one document I use daily rather than having to copy/paste text over to another site as I did with Jasper.ai. I mainly used that for the content improver, which had a word limit, and stopped as it was too expensive.

Here is a writing prompt to help spark ideas, not replace them. AI still has its limits – it can be factually inaccurate, and GTP-3 is only trained up to mid-2021. It can also plagiarise text, so better used for suggestions.

Lex is currently in beta, while they iron out any problems and make sure it’s stable. Free for now and there will be a paid plan at some point “as AI is expensive”.

I’ve given some feedback – it would be cool if it could recommend a quote or recently published article on a topic. Save some time on research.

See the roadmap (upcoming features) – exciting!! It’s refreshing to have something that helps writers rather than putting us out of a job.

Congratulations to the team – and thank you for a great tool.

Look forward to seeing where this goes. It could be the next big thing in word processing. We relied on Photoshop then Figma came along, disrupting the design market. Now acquired by Adobe for $20 billion.

Will Notion come knocking..?

Sign up for Lex here 👯‍♀️ (via Google for now)


More green friends. I’m slowly turning my flat into a jungle. Plants not politics.

Very healing – reduces my stress levels and anxiety and always free for a chat if you need to get things off your chest. I haven’t killed any yet.

Antiviral properties – lemon balm, lavender, rosemary, mint. I’ve been wiped out for weeks with this weird flu thing.

– Nika


Dive Deeper 🏄🏻‍♀️

Joe Rogan interviews Steve Jobs | Podcast.ai “It’s been a long time since I’ve been on the show.” (except he never was – this is a conversation entirely generated by AI). Each week they explore a new topic in-depth, and you can suggest topics, guests, and hosts for future episodes. Fascinating to see how AI is evolving.

Revolutionise your creative process by mastering Ideaflow | Stanford D.school – a proven strategy that anyone can use to routinely generate and commercialise innovative ideas. How to establish a daily creativity practice – free bonus chapter: How to think like Bezos and Jobs (via Eat Sleep Work Repeat).

Freelance Business Month | A fantastic lineup with a ‘future of work’ focus for the final week. “How HR & talent acquisition strategies are changing to welcome more independent profs” and opportunities for freelancers. I’ve enjoyed dipping in and out of sessions – and my Freelance Goody Bag!

Semafor | An exciting global news startup and a new way of presenting news – facts first, then opinion, analysis and perspectives. A focus on relationship-building between the journo and the audience via the website and newsletters. Reminds me of Axios, which also disrupted the market. One to keep an eye on!

The Active Voice | Podcast with Substack co-founder Hamish McKenzie about writing and the internet. How do we tell stories when social media dominates minds and attention? On making space to create and how to make a living amid the economic volatility of the 2020s. Episode #1 is out now.

Made for you with love by Firebird – an award-winning one-woman content show.

Contact me if you have something to share, a link suggestion or just want to say hi 👋

Categories
digital nomads future of work writing

The future of education is community

Hi,👋

Welcome back! I hope you’ve had a reset and some family time.

I’ve been juggling a UX project with a 30-day writing sprint, posting daily atomic essays on Twitter via #Ship30for30. I’ve done a few Cohort-based Courses and this one stands out because of the community, fast results, and learning in public. I’m on Day 21/30 – here are my thoughts so far.

Positives – shipping daily is powerful. It stops you from overthinking, over-editing and being a perfectionist. The aim is to get stuff out there and analyse your data, so you can see what’s resonating and go all-in on that. Progress over perfection.

Personal stories resonate the most, and work/travel content. I’ve had the most interaction on essays about digital nomadism, Smart Villages, and dealing with negative feedback.

300 words is tight, so it focuses your mind on short, powerful ideas. Constraints help creativity. Typeshare adds a visual element and reader experience. The curriculum is packed and fresh – internet-based courses can be updated quickly. And it’s more affordable than longer training – incredible value for what you get.

Visibility, accountability and community – you’re doing it under your own name and growing your Twitter followers, so there’s a personal benefit.

It’s a transformational experience and a rite of passage. At the kick-off, Nicolas Cole said, “See you on the other side.”

Challenges – there’s a lot of course material to digest, weekly live calls, and an accountability buddy I’ve not managed to speak to yet. It’s a large cohort: 200+ people, so a fair bit of reading and feedback. I can’t do it all, so have focused on the essays and engagement. I’ve read Nicolas’ (excellent) book, and I’ll catch up on the coursework and replays.

What’s happened organically is smaller breakout groups with people in the future of work and nomad space. We cheer each other on and will Zoom after the course.

Some people have done several cohorts, which is a testament to the power of CBC’s.

The future of education is community.

Maybe we’ll see a wedding onboard soon🚢 👰🏼

Have a great week.

Nicci

🖐5 things

🗺 How digital nations like Plumia are giving digital nomads wings. I had a chat with Leanna Lee about Plumia, an online movement advocating for and protecting remote workers. A good overview of the latest research on the growth of location-independent work and the remote work problems we need to fix to be free to roam. Check out the Plumia Speaker Series and join the community for a borderless world.

🇪🇸Digital nomads are here to save Spain’s ghost towns. 30 dying villages across Spain have joined the National Network of Welcoming Villages for Remote Work scheme. It aims to attract remote workers with a new 12-month work visa. It’s not sun, sea and sand, but tranquillity, nature – and a chance to experience the ‘real Spain.’ Brilliant. They also need to focus on the cultural heritage, history and food, glorious food!

👩‍💻Future of Work documentary (PBS) – a six-part docuseries chronicling six mid-career adults as they navigate the shifting work landscape. It covers the rise of the precariat, gig economy, remote work, working to live, digital nomads, UBI, new opportunities, and more. All the videos are on their YouTube channel. And there’s a virtual weekly event series exploring the FOW.

🎧Fadeke Adegbuyi on the On Deck podcast chatting about her recent article on Study Web and her experience joining Every, a writer collective (I’ve applied to join). The article is also mentioned in this Think With Google report on what YouTube culture can tell us about the changing future of video – the accelerated trend for ‘slow living’ and how we’re creating community through company.

📚Global Natives: The New Frontiers of Work, Travel, and Innovation by Lauren Razavi. I’ve pre-ordered a copy via Holloway (many excellent books, including a free one on using Twitter). It explores the origins of digital nomads and location-independent work, and how the internet has changed our relationship with place. Knowing Lauren, it will dig deeper than the hype and tired nomad beach photos.

🌎The future of work is now

Let’s build it. The Shift is your guide to running a small but mighty business. Start living and working on your own terms.

Your weekly(ish) dose of inspiration, ideas and solutions every Sunday.

• Question or comment? Email nicci@niccitalbot.io
• Tip me – this is a one-woman labour of love; all donations gratefully received
• Book a Classified Ad

To offset the carbon emissions of my online work, I plant 12 trees every month via Ecologi. We’ve got 10 years to sort this out – no time to waste🌍 ✈️

Categories
newsletters productivity writing

The Shift: Build your writing habit🧠

‘Bye honey, have a great day. Love you.’ 

Then I sit down and write for two hours. Half an hour of free writing to get me going, then on to Google Docs. I’ve made it a ritual – Moka pot, scented candle, flight mode, and trained my brain to associate the time and place with writing. It’s a daily habit that requires no thinking, and it’s helped me publish 12 books and a newsletter every week for the last year.

I try to approach it as a time for me to learn and reflect rather than stressing about it. And focus on what I can control: my daily habits and routines. 

Fascinating article on Barack Obama’s habits and how the daily routines saved him from going mad when he was president. It’s all about removing day to day problems. ‘You’ll see I wear only grey or blue suits. I’m trying to pare down my decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.’ The act of making decisions degrades your ability to make further decisions. ‘You need to focus your decision-making energy. You need to routinize yourself. You can’t be going through the day distracted by trivia.’ 

Reading that has made me feel more relaxed about eating granola for breakfast every day and my ‘work wardrobe’ (is it lazy to wear loungewear 24/7? I rotate cardigans for Zooms). No. I’m embracing minimalism, and it’s strategic – I’m habit stacking! Training me to get OUT at lunchtime and there’s less friction. All I need to do is pull my trainers on, and off I go. I’m shopping online at Tesco, buying clothes from Whistles and hair products from Kerastase (fuck it, they work). Making things routine frees up mental energy for the important stuff. 

In 1887 William James wrote a short book on the psychology and philosophy of habit (Internet Archive). He argued that the ‘great thing’ in education is to ‘make our nervous system our ally instead of our enemy. The more of the details of our daily life we can hand over to the effortless custody of automatism, the more our higher powers of mind will be set free for their own proper work.’ 

He shares his three maxims to successfully form new habits – the first one: launching a solid initiative and making a public pledge. Simple, powerful ideas that live on in bestselling business books like Richard Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and James Clear’s Atomic Habits. And the #Ship30for30 Atomic Essays (build a writing habit in 30 days) have taken Twitter by storm.

Research shows habits can help your productivity. Dr Robert Boice studied productive vs non-productive faculty writers and found productive ones had shared habits, which ‘included working patiently and regularly; writing with stable and calm emotions; feeling less uncertainty and pain, a greater sense of fun and discovery, and welcoming criticism. Successful writers were more likely to write regularly for short periods than “bingeing” with long, infrequent sessions.

He emphasises the importance of lack of self-consciousness and that you should write without feeling ready. ‘Keep a nonjudgmental attitude about your writing, and approach writing not as a painful necessity but as a time to relax, reflect, and be calm.’ And form or join a peer writing group. 

So I’ve signed up for the next #Ship30for30 cohort in August. Let’s see if it helps with the things I’m struggling with: over-research and over-editing. I’ll be setting sail on 9 August if you want to join me (my code here). Massimo Curatella has written some brilliant essays on what he’s learned – One Year Writing: 30 lessons in 30 days.

I’m challenging myself to write one Quora answer daily for a year. Taking whatever I’ve learned that day at work as inspiration. It’s not about being an ‘expert’ in a niche but sharing stories and life lessons that are relatable, universal and entertaining – as so many Quora answers are. I get a lot from it, so it’s good to give back.

What’s your writing process? Any helpful habits, tools or resources? 

No newsletter next week as I’m full time on the app project, but I’ll be on Twitter. If you’ve published something, send me the link, and I’ll share it.

I’m going to write something on community polyamory as I’m struggling with that. I’m in so many incredible communities and not enough time in the day so I need to choose three to focus my energies on. I’d love to know how you manage and make the most of your online networks.


More rituals… I have my lucky shirt on for tonight to go with Gareth’s lucky spotted tie. Doesn’t he look sharp in those summer knits (Percival – young English company, made in Tottenham). Great management style – checking in on every player before a match, and seeking advice outside of the field.

‘It’s God, family and calcio’ – here’s to all the Italian mothers who have sacrificed so much to allow their sons to pursue their careers🥂 ⚽️


5 things🖐

✍️Anne-Laure has published 300 articles on Ness Labs. Enjoyed this one on how to build a better writing habit. Great advice on seeing it as a conversation starter rather than something that needs to be polished and perfect. Approaching writing as a startup: write, publish, iterate, feedback. Content, courses, coaching, community to help you put your mind to work – it’s well worth the small fee to join (increasing soon).

🧘🏻‍♀️Buster Benson, the founder of 750words.com, on the benefits of meditation and why he thinks free writing is better. The value of shutting down your neocortex and its relationship to creativity and flow, and how to do it. 750words is an online journaling tool and community. If you’re frustrated with meditation and haven’t tried free writing in this way, give it a go. Get to know yourself better.

💻Finally, an upgrade to Google Workspace. Pageless view, emojis, and dynamic documents. You can create polls, assign tasks via @mentions, and present docs directly to a meeting. I used it this week with a client and it saved us time. The big pop-up box on my screen requesting a call made me jump. I’m using Google Keep for notes, Scholar for research, Writing Habit + SEO Assistant. The all-in-one workspace.

📚Timeless Advice on Writing: The Collected Wisdom of Great Writers. Maria Popova (Brain Pickings) periodically updates this reading list of famous writing advice, featuring words of wisdom from masters of the craft such as Kurt Vonnegut, Susan Sontag, Henry Miller, Stephen King, F Scott Fitzgerald, George Orwell, Ernest Hemingway, Joan Didion, and more. Enjoy!

📝Paul Graham on How To Work Hard. I love how people drop everything to read his essays. ‘There are three ingredients in great work: Natural ability, practice, and effort.’ Learn not to lie to yourself, procrastinate, get distracted, or give up when things go wrong. ‘I can’t be sure I’m getting anywhere when I’m working hard, but I can be sure I’m getting nowhere when I’m not, and it feels awful.’ Printing it out for Julieta to read. Love the basic HTML. At its heart, web design should be all about words.


The future of work is now

Let’s build it. The Shift is a newsletter about humans, technology and wellness. Rethinking how we live, work + play. Weeklyish curated tools for thought and ideas to share✍️

Question or comment? nicci@niccitalbot.io
Tip me ☕️ – this is a one-woman labour of love, all donations gratefully received
Discover something new in my bookshop

To offset the carbon emissions of this newsletter and my online work, I plant 12 trees every month via Ecologi. I encourage you to do the same in your country – here’s a list of climate action groups. We’ve got 10 years to sort this out – no time to waste🌍