Designing & Writing

How to Write a Newsletter: 13 Tips to Captivate and Convert Readers

Lizzie DaveyInka Wibowo

By Lizzie & Inka

how to write a newsletter

Starting a newsletter was one of the best things I did for my business—no exaggerations.

Let’s rewind back to 2015, long before the newsletter craze hit the internet.

I simply wanted a way to share my latest blog posts with readers of my then-travel blog, Wanderful World (since rebranded to Freelance Magic).

I’d already added it to RSS feeds and aggregate sites like Blog Lovin (blast from the past!), but I wanted to make sure readers got my updates straight to their inboxes.

So I set up a free Mailchimp account (I now use ConvertKit) and diligently released new reading fodder every week for my subscribers.

Fast forward eight years and my weekly newsletter, Freelance Friday Tips, has almost 4,000 subscribers and is often listed among the top newsletters in the freelancing world. It’s my favorite way to share content with my audience and I look forward to writing a new edition every week.

But it didn’t start this way.

It’s been a long old process of experimenting, bleak periods of tumbleweed, and many hours of frustration. I’ve distilled my learnings into this blog post and gathered together my best tips for how to write a newsletter.

What is a newsletter?

Okay, back to basics.

A newsletter (or a marketing newsletter, to be more specific) is a regular email sent to a list of subscribers. It can take many forms—sometimes it’s a curated list of top blog posts, sometimes it includes a personal story, and sometimes it’s just a quick “check-in”.

My newsletter has evolved dramatically over the years. It began life as an amalgamation of my latest blog posts but quickly turned into something more when I realized how many opportunities there were when I had direct access to people’s inboxes.

Today, Friday Freelance Tips includes three main sections:

  1. An intro that highlights my biggest frustration or wins that week
  2. A list of everything I’ve worked on that week, my total revenue, and the hours I worked
  3. An actionable tip from a lesson learned that week

Here’s an example of a recent intro:

newsletter intro example

Here’s an example of the listicle section that breaks down my week:

newsletter listicle

Here’s an example of the intro to a weekly tip:

newsletter tip example

Having a template helps me stay on track and ensures I never run out of ideas.

I can’t be the only one who finds it incredibly hard to sit down and write something from scratch, right?

Why write a newsletter (a.k.a. what it’s done for me)

When I started my newsletter back in 2015 I had no big plans, no goals, and certainly no strategy mapped out. But the more my subscriber base grows, the more I realize just how valuable it is to have a cozy slice of the internet reserved for me and my musings.

I’ve made sales through my newsletter, landed clients, and helped people change their lives.

Here’s a brief snapshot of the doors my newsletter has opened for me:

  • Sell products: I’ve created a library of workshops, courses, and downloads for freelancers over the past 8 years which have earned me a steady side income. I only really promote them through my newsletter and get a consistent number of sales each month.
  • Increase credibility: Sharing the vulnerable side of freelancing and being open about my wins and losses has gone a long way in boosting my credibility in the industry. It shows I don’t just talk the talk!
  • Grow expert status: I regularly get invited to talk on podcasts, run workshops, and partner with brands through my newsletter.
  • Get my name out there: The bigger my subscriber base grows, the more people know who I am. Not only does this translate to more readers, but it also helps me promote my writing business.
  • Create a loyal community: My favorite part of running a newsletter is helping other freelancers grow and seeing the community I’ve built around my brand. It’s both humbling and terrifying at the same time.

There are so many benefits to writing a newsletter. Maybe you want to differentiate yourself from your competitors, maybe you want to build something bigger than your brand, or maybe you just want to foster a deeper connection with existing customers.

All of this (and more!) is possible with a newsletter.

newsletter feedback

Readers regularly recommend my newsletter on Twitter threads and share their positive feedback on social media. It makes all the hard work worth it.

How to write a newsletter to be different

Newsletters have really taken off in the past year or so.

This has been fueled by social media uncertainty (hello Twitter almost closing last year) and the desire to form deeper connections with customers.

Brands want to own their content, and that’s incredibly difficult when you’re relying on the whims of Instagram algorithm changes or Elon Musk’s latest plaything.

So, yes, there are a lot of newsletters—which means it’s important to stand out.

When my newsletter was simply a roundup of my latest blog posts, it was admittedly a bit “meh”. There was nothing that made it stand out and, if people really wanted to, they could just go to my blog and get the same information.

As more and more newsletters appeared in the market, I knew things had to change.

I had to offer something different, something that would make people anticipate my emails above all others.

There were four things I did to do that:

1. Listened to reader questions: My welcome email invites subscribers to share their biggest freelancing challenge. I use these responses to make sure I’m answering real-life concerns and not just assuming I know what my target audience wants.

newsletter questions

2. Experimented with different formats: I tried one-paragraph tips, I tried incorporating images, I tried linking out to other content. I tried everything. It was only when I started sharing the reality of freelancing through cold hard numbers and lessons learned that things really started to take off. I knew I was onto a winner.

3. Analyzed stats: The more newsletters I sent, the more data I had that told me what type of content my readers enjoyed. I specifically looked at open rates and click-through rates, but you can also monitor unsubscribes.

4. Asked readers what they wanted: So simple! I try and send out a survey on a semi-regular basis to find out what information my target audience wants to know and what they want to see more of.

newsletter surveys

Reader surveys are a chance for me to get to know my email subscribers and understand more about their problems and goals.

It took a while to get to the point where I had a solid structure for my newsletter that was a hit every time. But that’s the beauty of it all.

Newsletter tools make it easy to track what works and what doesn’t—use this valuable information along with firsthand knowledge to build email campaigns your subscribers can’t wait to read.

How to write a newsletter: Crafting your content

Let’s get into the meat of writing newsletters.

There are two main parts to a newsletter:

  1. The subject line
  2. The body text

I’ve broken this section down into two parts as they are equally as important as each other. After all, if your subject line isn’t good, nobody’s going to see the body text.

How to write a great newsletter subject line

35% of newsletter subscribers open an email based on the subject line alone. For many others, the subject line plays a huge part in whether they open the email or leave it to gather dust in their inbox.

I’ve published over 100 newsletters, so I’m starting to get a feel for what subject lines work best.

For example, including numbers in this subject line upped the open rate to almost 40% (not bad when you consider the average open rate across all industries is around 20%).

newsletter subject line example

Similarly, this listicle newsletter with the promise of replicable templates was also a hit:

newsletter listicle subject line

And this subject line that teased a first-person real-life story also did well:

newsletter subject line story

So, how can you make sure your subject lines stand out and get the opens they deserve?

Here are some best practices I’ve learned over the years.

1. Don’t be afraid of using emojis

The proof is in the pudding: According to research, emails with emojis in the subject line have 56% higher open rates than those without.

Why? Because emojis stand out against a sea of plain text in people’s inboxes and add a dose of human-ness to subject lines.

Just remember to use them sparingly. Too many can start to feel childish. I’d recommend A/B testing subject lines with and without emojis to see if they’re a hit (or a miss) with your audience.

emoji subject lines

The subject lines with emojis always stand out in my inbox.

2. Keep it clear and concise

Not everyone will open your newsletter on a desktop, which means you’re limited with the characters they’ll be able to see in their inbox.

Make sure your subject line is readable on mobile devices and makes sense if subscribers can only see a snippet of it. I recommend keeping it short, clear, and concise.

short subject line

This subject line is just five words long and gets straight to the point. Subscribers will want to know why they’re wasting their ad spend.

3. Include your subscriber’s name

Everyone likes to feel special, and personalization is a great way to talk directly to subscribers without having to send an individual newsletter to each of them.

Most email marketing tools let you plug a snippet of code into the subject line that changes to the subscriber’s name when the email is sent. It looks something like this:

{{ subscriber.first_name }}

Which translates to this when your newsletter is sent:

personalized subject line

Oh look, it’s Netflix, the queen of personalization, using my name in a subject line.

4. Avoid cringey clickbait

Clickbait should stay in the late 00s. Not only does it kill your credibility, but it’ll make subscribers roll their eyes and breeze right past your email.

It can be tempting to create an outrageous subject line for a quick dopamine rush but think about how that will look to your subscribers. Besides, you don’t want to promise something you can’t deliver in the body of your newsletter.

5. Pique curiosity without giving it all away

The subject line should offer a tantalizing sneak peek into the body of your newsletter—without giving too much away.

This is easy to do if you know the biggest pain points your readers have, but be wary of going down the clickbait route. There’s a fine line between piquing curiosity and overpromising just to get more clicks.

curiosity subject lines

This subject line does a good job of piquing curiosity—readers who do hate the thought of marketing themselves will want to click through and find out what the solution is.

6. Make sure it works on mobile

1.7 billion people read their emails from their mobile devices. Your subject line should be long enough to convey your message but short enough to show up in a preview on a small screen.

Use our email subject lines tester to see what your subject lines will look like.

subject line previewer

How to write engaging newsletters

If the subject line is the appetizer, the body of your newsletter is the main course.

This is where you’ll deliver on any promises you made in the subject line, engage your subscribers, and ultimately make your newsletter a go-to.

I’ve experimented with various different newsletter body formats, so it’s worth testing a few variations until you find one that works for your audience (and your interests—remember, it’s really difficult to stay consistent with a newsletter you don’t enjoy writing!).

Here are some best practices to bear in mind when you start writing.

1. Personalize your newsletter content

While you can take or leave personalizing the subject line, I’d urge you to personalize the body content of your newsletters. It feels more personal and establishes a connection with the reader from the get-go.

This can simply mean adding a “Hi {{subscriber_name}}” code at the start of your newsletter, but you can take it one step further too, and drop subscriber names throughout the newsletter.

dynamo ultima newsletter

The Dynamo Ultima newsletter greets me by name every time.

2. Be human

The beauty of a newsletter is you get to land in subscribers’ sacred inboxes.

Think about the other messages they’re getting there—perhaps an email from their aunt in Australia, a reminder for an upcoming restaurant reservation, or a meme thread from their close group of friends. All things that relate to their very human, very real personal life.

The last thing you want to do is slide into their inbox with a robotic message that could have been written by anyone.

Besides, I’ve had the best results from emails where I’ve been overtly human; where I’ve shared a vulnerable moment or told a personal story.

Don’t just follow the usual advice of “writing like you talk”, treat your newsletter like you’re talking to a trusted friend. Mention anecdotes, share jokes, and showcase your personality—that’s what people are subscribing for.

3. Share stories—they’re incredibly powerful

Stories are a great way to connect with your readership and foster deeper relationships. It also shows you’re human and helps you become relatable rather than being a faceless entity at the end of an email.

The newsletters I send that include a personal story get the most responses. People reach out to congratulate me, commiserate with me, or tell me they can relate in some way. This not only builds trust and connection but also gives me valuable feedback I can use in future newsletters.

Top tip: Try and share stories that can’t be found anywhere else.

My newsletter subscribers get exclusive content and insights that they can’t get from my Twitter feed, LinkedIn, or blog.

storytelling in newsletters

I often use storytelling to breathe life into the tips I’m sharing.

4. Consider your unique selling point

Your newsletter might be one in a million, but do your subscribers know that?

I could’ve given up when I realized there are a ton of other freelance newsletters doing the rounds—some by huge names in the industry. But instead, I tried to find a formula that hadn’t been done yet to make my own stamp in the market.

This meant doing something a bit different to give my newsletter a unique selling point (USP). There’s no other freelancing newsletter out there that transparently shares revenue, the number of hours worked, and the specific projects a freelancer has worked on.

It’s simple, but having something that sets your newsletter apart makes all the difference.

For example, you could:

  • Share a picture of your dog in every edition
  • Showcase some memes at the end of your newsletter
  • Stick to a specific format every time
  • Include a challenge that subscribers can get involved in
  • Collect trending social media posts from your industry
  • Showcase user generated content

memes in newsletters

Rachael Pilsner includes a “memes of the week” section in her weekly newsletter, Mighty Freelancer.

Take some inspiration from these excellent newsletter examples.

5. Encourage action

There’s a good chance you’ll want subscribers to do something when they’ve finished reading your newsletter. Maybe you want them to reply to a question, click a link, or buy your latest product.

This action goal should be the driving force behind your newsletter with all roads (read: words) leading to that end result. Lots of newsletter writers make the mistake of creating “busy” content. They link out to all sorts of places which leaves readers confused and paralyzed by the number of options on offer.

To drive real action, keep your purpose in mind and include a call to action (CTA) that promotes what you want readers to do next.

newsletter cta

Maggie Giele uses a clear CTA to promote an upcoming workshop.

6. Keep an eye on the length

My newsletters aren’t always the same length, but they tend to run between 500-700 words. This is quite long for a newsletter, but the three-section structure means it doesn’t feel like it’s one long rambly text.

Research by Constant Contact found that 20 lines of text (or around 200 words) is the sweet spot, resulting in the highest email click-through rate.

It’s worth experimenting with the length of your newsletters to see what your subscribers like best. Some prefer a longer, pithier read they can get their teeth into, while others will want short, snappy content.

7. Outsource the tedious tasks

My favorite part of running a newsletter is writing the actual content—I’m a writer, after all! But there are parts that I’m not such a fan of that can end up being a huge time-suck.

This is where ChatGPT can help write a newsletter. I’m not saying you should give your newsletter over to AI, but it can be a massive help in generating ideas, coming up with engaging subject lines, and proofreading your copy.

I try and create 10-20 potential subject lines for each email which, as you can imagine, takes a ton of time. ChatGPT can help me ideate in seconds, which removes one of my least favorite parts of writing a newsletter from my plate.

Coming up with newsletter ideas: What should you write about?

If you’re anything like me, the thought of sitting down to a blank page and a blinking cursor fills you with dread. My creative juices do not floweth in this situation.

This is why I rely heavily on a handful of content ideation methods to help me come up with relevant content each week.

The best newsletters are a healthy mix of what your readers want and what you enjoy writing about. It’s important that your content aligns with subscriber needs, but it’s also important to have fun—otherwise, your newsletter will barely make it to the tenth edition before you hit burnout.

Here are the tactics I use to come up with engaging newsletter content every single week:

  • Answer reader questions: I’ve got a swipe file of questions I get from loyal readers that I can pull from if I’m all out of ideas. Not only does this resource give me plenty of inspo, but it also ensures I’m writing content that people actually want to read.
  • Analyze social media content: Each week, I post a couple of threads on Twitter and a few posts on LinkedIn. I use the response to these posts to gauge topics that my readership might be interested in. Often, I’ll repurpose a LinkedIn post in my newsletter and dive into more detail to provide an exclusive experience.
  • Scour forums: If you don’t have a huge readership or social following, you can use relevant forums to find trending questions and topics. Reddit and Quora are great resources to start with.

I use Trello to outline my ideas for each newsletter edition.

newsletter idea outlines

These are the methods I use, but you can also take ideas from customer support tickets, fellow industry experts’ content, your surroundings, and other literature like popular books, essays, and research.

How to write a newsletter: Best practices

Writing a newsletter is incredibly rewarding, but it’s also a lot of work.

The early days are a whirlwind of testing and tweaking until you find a formula that works for you and your audience. But, once you’ve found the winning format, you’re on the fast track to more sales, loyalty, and credibility.

I’ve covered how to write email subject lines and body content in detail, but let’s quickly go over some general best practices for writing a newsletter.

Include an opt-out

It’s important to stay compliant when running a newsletter. Apart from getting permission to send newsletters, it’s mandatory to give subscribers an option to opt out—most email marketing software automatically adds this to your emails.

Use a sender name

Using your name in the sender field instead of your company name instinctively creates a human connection with readers. They want to receive emails from people, not brands, and this is a simple way to foster deeper relationships.

Follow through on your subject line promises

Make your email subject line as creative as you like (without stepping into cringey clickbait territory), but make sure you deliver on your promise in the body of your newsletter.

Create a template

If, like me, you never want to see a blinking cursor on a blank page again, I urge you to create a newsletter template—either visually or in a text structure. This makes it easy for me to write and drop fresh content into the relevant sections.

Consistency is key

My newsletter goes out every Friday at 6 am Eastern Time. Subscribers have come to expect it in their inboxes when they have their morning coffee.

Consistency is hard, especially when you’re starting out and not seeing much traction, but it’s the only way to build cumulative success.

It helps if you commit to what you can do, not what you think you should do. For example, if you only have time to send a monthly newsletter, do that instead of scrambling to send one every week.

newsletter subscriber growth

This is a snapshot of my newsletter’s growth over the years.

You can see the uptick in subscribers when I started to focus on consistently sending out one newsletter a week in November 2022.

Let subscribers know what to expect

When you land a new subscriber, send them a short welcome email reminding them who you are and what they can expect from your newsletter.

This lays the groundwork early and keeps you front of mind.

Your goal is to keep people reading

Your subject line should encourage people to open your newsletter, the first line should encourage them to read the second, and so on.

Use your words wisely and ensure that every sentence builds anticipation for the next.

Include a CTA

Let readers know what you want them to do next with a CTA.

Give them instructions—do you want them to read a blog post? Sign up for your latest download? Buy a product? Use a CTA button or text link to guide them to take this next step.

Find the best time

Most studies show that the best time to send an email newsletter is between 9 am and 11 am. However, it’s worth testing out different days and times to see what works best for your target audience—for example, if you’re targeting working professionals, you’ll have better results send your newsletter during work hours.

Use short sentences and lots of white space

Nobody likes to be bombarded with a wall of text.

Even newsletters on the lengthier side can be broken up into short sentences and paragraphs. This leaves much-needed white space to give readers the chance to breathe and actually take in what you’re saying to them—especially if they’re reading on mobile devices.

Newsletters: The secret to success

Writing a newsletter is a powerful addition to your email marketing strategy. It provides a private space for you to share insights with your target audience, build relationships, and boost your credibility without relying on the changing algorithms of social media.

Make sure your email campaigns have powerful subject lines, stand out from others in your industry, and, most importantly, provide something valuable for your readers.

For me, Friday Freelance Tips isn’t “just a newsletter”. It’s a place for me to engage with my audience, build my authority, and make a side income doing what I love. And, for many of my readers, it’s their favorite time of the week.

Now you’ve got the writing part down, read our guide on how to design a newsletter.

The authors

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Lizzie Davey

Lizzie is a freelance writer and strategist for forward-thinking SaaS brands in the ecommerce and marketing sectors. She loves creating long-form, customer-centric content that makes a difference as well as helping fellow freelancers build lasting businesses with handy courses and resources. When she's not tapping away at her keyboard, you can find her exploring new places, paddleboarding at sea, bouldering, or hanging upside down on aerial silks.

Inka Wibowo

Senior Content Manager

Hi, I'm Inka! I spent the earlier part of my career in agency land, helping businesses of all sizes get their email marketing campaigns up and running. Now, at EmailTooltester, I'm using my experience to help businesses like yours find the best email marketing services for your needs.

Learn more about us

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This article has been written and researched following our EmailTooltester methodology.

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