Useletter

The Useletter® (rhymes with newsletter not juiceletter) was a hand-curated weekly email with bite-sized tips for those trying to make money online. It is now retired, but my favorite tips and tools are compiled on my top picks page.

I started the Useletter in June of 2013. By the end of 2020, I had the distinct feeling it had run its course. Or maybe I did? Either way, it seemed like a good place to end.

I didn’t expect it to end there. I didn’t expect to end it so abruptly. Should I exit gently? Or is a quick bandage-rip better? So hard to know. I hope the below answers to questions I’ve already gotten, or anticipate I will get, might be helpful.

Why did you retire it?

There are many reasons. Here are some of the main ones:

My expertise has narrowed dramatically. My main niche since 2010 has been teaching beginners how to start a blog. The online landscape has expanded drastically since, with social media, podcasting, YouTube, etc. Early on, when blogging was all we had, my expertise covered a decent-sized piece of the online pie. Now it covers only a sliver. This is not bad, it’s to be expected. But trying to cover all the topics, especially ones I have little to no experience in, is probably not the best way to serve my readers.

Others can provide a lot more. In the last year, I’ve found myself recommending the same resources over and over. Why? Because others know their stuff. A lot better than me. For example, I am a broken record about Project 24. (Don’t buy it straight away. Try some of their YouTube videos here and on their YouTube channel to start.) Their philosophy mirrors mine, yes, but their experience and expertise far exceed mine. They have started multiple blogs and YouTube channels, in multiple niches. They collect and use tons of data. They constantly research, test, tweak and refine. If you want to make money blogging or on YouTube, they have systematized the process. They are your people.

Opportunity cost. Saying yes to one thing means saying no to something else. Despite its minimalist format, the Useletter® took a huge amount of time every week. I spent hours combing through blogs, videos, podcasts, courses, Facebook Groups and other content to find tips. For years this was my jam! As I look ahead, I’d like to make room for other things.

It was sorta the next step. Several months ago I started deleting things. I didn’t have a plan, just the urge to digitally declutter. By the end of 2020, I realized I had decluttered quite a bit. I deleted my 10-year-old blog, condensed it into a handful of articles and moved it to a new domain. I unpublished my Facebook Page. I took down all but a handful of my Facebook Profile posts. I deleted my Pinterest account. I made my Instagram account private. I deleted, made private or unlisted all of my YouTube videos. At each juncture, I felt lighter and more free. Even so, I never once considered ending the Useletter® (after all, email list = most valuable digital asset, right?). But then one day, the thought crossed my mind: What if I let the Useletter® go too? I immediately rejected it as preposterous. But the thought crept back in. And again. Then I began to sit with the idea. After the thought kept popping up, I figured it meant it was only a matter of time. I might as well leap.

I don’t want to do it anymore. On a morning walk recently, I was (once again) flip-flopping between Should I keep going? or Should I stop? Then it hit me plain and simple: I don’t want to do it anymore. It’s been great! I’ve really enjoyed the process. I’ve especially loved connecting with readers. My fire for it burned steadily for a lot of years, but it’s just embers now. Could I stoke it back to life? Sure, but do I want to? Not really. I’m ready to walk away with a sense of accomplishment and thankful for what it was.

Wasn’t it a hard decision though?

Absolutely. I struggled with it for weeks. I had thoughts all over the place, from the serious (What about my readers? How will this affect our family finances? Am I a fool to walk away from something that’s taken so long to build?) to the silly (Ah man, I worked so hard for that open rate! But I have the trademark!). I considered many, many things.

But seriously, what about the financial implications?

Yes, there are financial implications. My income has decreased significantly since I started deleting things. But here’s the thing: After a painful experience with business debt in 2005, I’ve done my best to run things lean. I prefer to keep a healthy cash cushion. So now, even if I generate zero income going forward, I can cover my business expenses, including my salary, for some time. It’s a relief to have ample financial wiggle room so I can make decisions based on the state of my soul rather than the state of my bank account.

What’s next?

I’m not sure. I have ideas of course, but there’s nothing on the immediate horizon. I’m not deleting my list entirely. I imagine it will be the first place I share new plans so you’re welcome to stay on it (or join?) if you want to keep up.