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17,000 subscribers. 450 hours. 150 issues of GoSquared Weekly.

What we’ve learned from sending our email newsletter every week for 150 weeks.

150 Weekly Newsletters

“The show doesn’t go on because it’s ready; it goes on because it’s 11:30.” – Lorne Michaels, creator and producer of Saturday Night Live

This week we’re sending out our 150th issue of the GoSquared Weekly newsletter.

Like many things at GoSquared, we discussed the idea of doing a newsletter for months before finally deciding “screw it, let’s just do it”.

It can be pretty hard to start something, but it’s even harder to keep doing it, week-in, week-out, for years.

For something we started in 2015, it’s not the longest running project at GoSquared, but it’s certainly on the leaderboard.

We’ve learnt a lot from sending 150 newsletters, so let’s dive right in and share the good, the bad, and the ugly of 150 issues of GoSquared Weekly.

What is the GoSquared Weekly newsletter?

GoSquared Weekly is an email newsletter we send out every week (usually on a Friday) to over 17,000 people.

As a team we read a lot of stuff every week – we share it internally, and often discuss it at length. GoSquared Weekly is our way of boiling down all our internal discussion and best links into a short, snappy email that delivers a selection of the best content on all things growth – from marketing, to sales techniques, to making smart product decisions.

Aside from the core focus of business growth, we also throw in a link here and there that might help you grow as an individual – by broadening your horizons, or making you think about a topic that isn’t on your usual daily agenda.

All in all, GoSquared Weekly is about educating, inspiring, and entertaining as many people as we can. We know that if we do this consistently, over a long period of time, a small percentage of the people that like us for GoSquared Weekly might some day check us out for the products we build.

Why do we send out a weekly newsletter?

We started GoSquared Weekly back in 2015 as a way to share the articles and discussions we were already having internally.

Rather than confining our chatter to the lunch table, or a Slack channel, we felt we’d have no trouble delivering these same conversations to anyone else who’d want to read them.

We were also incredibly inspired by others who consistently deliver great content via email on a predictable schedule. A few of our sources of inspiration:

  • Mattermark (later acquired by FullContact) who managed to send out a daily(!) newsletter with the latest and greatest from the San Francisco tech scene.
  • ProductHunt with their commentary on the state of latest software products.
  • Hiten Shah who brings so much product insight into our inboxes every week, it’s incredible to think he’s not got an army of writers under him.
  • Benedict Evans who always has an interesting take on the latest tech news every week.
  • Kevan Lee of Buffer’s “10 things” newsletter.

Why a weekly schedule?

When we started producing GoSquared Weekly, we were extremely unsure if we’d be able to keep up a schedule.

While we would love to do a “GoSquared Daily” we simply didn’t (and still don’t) have the bandwidth to put together a high quality publication every 24 hours.

We felt a weekly cadence would be sensible to engage people regularly with the latest and greatest growth insights and inspiration, but we weren’t sure if we’d even be able to stick to that.

We contemplated calling it “The GoSquared Newsletter” just in case we couldn’t keep to a schedule, and would need to scale back a monthly cadence.

In the end though, we decided to roll with “GoSquared Weekly” for the following reasons:

  • The “GoSquared Weekly” name instantly tells the reader / subscriber how often to expect an email from us. “The GoSquared Newsletter” is ambiguous in this regard.
  • “GoSquared Weekly” was a forcing a function – to force us to deliver the newsletter every week. The theory was always that we’d be too embarrassed to miss a week. This may sound silly, but it’s true, and has genuinely worked for us.

How do we put together a newsletter each week?

Making time

An obvious concern for anyone committing to something new is how they will make the time for that new activity – especially an activity on a weekly recurring schedule.

From the very start, the newsletter has always been written, designed, and produced by James Gill (hello, that’s me the writer of this article too). There are a lot of tasks on everyone’s plates, so the first thing we did was ensure we had time for it.

After a few weeks of being a little haphazard, we settled on Friday mornings as the time where James could find time to spend on Weekly. So a weekly recurring event was created – for 2 hours every Friday morning at 10am, James has had “Product GoSquared Weekly” in his calendar.

This time every Friday morning is sacred – it can’t be booked over, it can’t be interrupted, and it certainly can’t be bumped into the next week.

A neat learning from this – often calendars are only used for booking out time for meetings – whether with team members, customers, or investors – but calendars can be used to book out time for you – for yourself. This is a powerful way to ensure you genuinely set time aside each week to guarantee focused work.

Design of Weekly

We’ve always enjoyed making things look good at GoSquared, and our newsletter is no exception. If you’ve ever tried designing an HTML email you’ll know how fun it can be.

It feels like you’re stepping back into the nineties whenever you have to attempt to make an email look great across the wide array of email clients out there.

From the start, we’ve focused on making Weekly something you’ll look forward to receiving – with a colourful header image, and as many images as possible from the great content behind the links we share.

Fully responsive emails

Fully responsive email newsletter design

Designing emails is hard – ensuring they work in as many email clients as possible.

Designing emails that are responsive and actually look good at all sizes is really hard.

The design of GoSquared Weekly is always evolving, but we’re thrilled to have a design that works on both phone and desktop email clients given how many people increasingly choose to read Weekly on their phones.

Header images and evolution

Each issue of Weekly features a unique header – some more distinctive than others. Here are a few of our favourites.

The first issue

GoSquared Weekly newsletter header image

Getting spooky in issue two

GoSquared Weekly newsletter header image

Feeling festive in issue nine

GoSquared Weekly newsletter header image

Introducing Live Cat on April Fools Day

GoSquared Weekly newsletter header image

Getting colourful in issue 54

GoSquared Weekly newsletter header image

Making the most of our trip to Las Vegas in issue 58

GoSquared Weekly newsletter header image

Feeling patriotic in issue 73

GoSquared Weekly newsletter header image

Flags at half mast after sad events in London in issue 83

GoSquared Weekly newsletter header image

A rainbow of colours for issue 84

GoSquared Weekly newsletter header image

Serious shapes on issue 95

GoSquared Weekly newsletter header image

100 issues and counting

GoSquared Weekly newsletter header image

Squares and data on issue 106

GoSquared Weekly newsletter header image

Tron-like shapes on issue 116

GoSquared Weekly newsletter header image

Issue 123 – lots of floating numbers

GoSquared Weekly newsletter header image

Crazy letters for issue 149

GoSquared Weekly newsletter header image

Growth of GoSquared Weekly

Best and worst performing newsletters

Over time, email open rates have seemingly dropped across the industry. We’re grateful they haven’t dropped through the floor to zero – we still see a healthy number of people opening and clicking through on our content each week, and very much inline with industry averages. But still – it’s worth noting how open rates have dropped from the ~30% to ~20% since we started Weekly.

Top performers

Cut churn and improve onboarding – GoSquared Weekly #6

  • Delivered: Wed, 25 Nov 2015 12:30 pm.
  • Open rate: 30.0%.
  • Click-through rate: 3.5%.

📚 The complete guide to Call-to-Action buttons – #95 of GoSquared Weekly

  • Delivered: Fri, 25 Aug 2017 12:11 pm.
  • Open rate: 20.1% open rate.
  • Click-through rate: 4.1%.

Worst performers

Onboarding without overwhelming – #40 of GoSquared Weekly

  • Delivered: Fri, 29 Jul 2016 12:04 pm.
  • Open rate: 19.5%.
  • Click-through rate: 2.4%.

📋 Have you defined your ideal customer? – #125 of GoSquared Weekly

  • Delivered: Fri, 30 Mar 2018 10:15 am.
  • Open rate: 10.9%.
  • Click-through rate: 1.1%.

Fun facts from 150 issues

What % of James’s life that have been doing weekly newsletter?

  • 2 hours production each week.
  • An extra hour for collecting content each week.
  • 450 hours.
  • James’s age in hours: 240,776 hours.
  • 450 / 240,776 = 0.001868957039.
  • 0.2% of James’s life.

Most interesting places it’s been written

  • On a train to Edinburgh.
  • On a plane to Oslo.
  • In Stansted airport.
  • In a Cornish fishing village with no wifi.

First quote from the newsletter

“The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it.” – J.M. Barrie (Scottish novelist and playwright, and creator of Peter Pan)

Favourite quotes from the newsletter

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” – Albert Einstein

“You know long it takes to do simple? About ten times longer than fast and dirty.” – Paul Giambarba

“Put one dumb foot in front of the other and course-correct as you go.” – Barry Diller

“The details are not the details. They make the design.” – Charles Eames

Has the newsletter really written by James all this time?

Weekly has been written by James every issue, but we’re taking this momentous occassion to transition Weekly into the incredibly capable hands of Beth Carter for the foreseeable future.

Often when you receive a newsletter, or even a company update, it has the CEO’s name scribed at the bottom and most of us think something along the lines of “🤔 right. They probably didn’t even see it”.

Although we’ll never truly know, it’s likely that this assumption would be fair in many cases.

But here, James (me again – hello, thank you for reading this far) CEO of GoSquared, really has been writing this all along. James started writing the weekly 150 weeks ago for a few reasons:

  1. The GoSquared team is small, we didn’t have a designated content writer or marketing team, so it was picked up by the existing team.
  2. James really enjoys writing. A significant portion of the articles featured come from his own reading list, and it just seemed to make sense.
  3. When a decision is made to do something, especially when it is adding work, it often feels easier in some ways to put that on your own plate, not load up someone else’s.

So, why would this change?

As GoSquared is growing, so are everyone’s roles and lists of things to do.

We want to make sure the newsletter doesn’t just “keep going”, but instead gets better and better – we want to deliver higher quality, more interesting, and better researched content every week.

We’ve reached the point where James’ time is too restricted to dedicate the time each week to maintain, let alone dramatically improve the newsletter.

But this isn’t to say it’s not important. We feel it’s so important to us that we’ve brought in someone new to help manage our content production – the newsletter being a big part of that, but also our blog, and our social media accounts.

Beth will be curating and writing the GoSquared Weekly newsletter from here on out, while James will still be on hand to source great pieces, and contribute more time to writing original posts.

Best of luck, Beth!

10 key takeaways for anyone starting a newsletter of their own

ten learnings from 150 issues of the GoSquared Weekly newsletter

Thinking about starting a newsletter? Here’s 10 tips from what we’ve learnt over the years.

  1. Keep it regular – whether it’s daily, weekly, fortnightly, or monthly – set a schedule and stick to it.
  2. Be a curator of other people’s content – share the work of others if you have nothing of your own.
  3. Allow people to reply to your email – start conversations, don’t send from “no-reply@” email addresses!
  4. Put time in your calendar – block out time to create your newsletter and you’ll have fewer excuses to miss an issue.
  5. Make it visual – a picture speaks a thousand words and all that.
  6. Tweet people who are featured in your newsletter – otherwise they may never know they’ve been featured by you. It’s a great way to start conversations and get to know your heroes.
  7. Ask people to subscribe to your newsletter – if you think they could genuinely benefit from reading it. You don’t have to keep the asking purely to online – many of our newsletter subscribers have come from face-to-face discussions and events.
  8. Feature older content – if you have lots of “evergreen” content, don’t be afraid to share it to your readers. Chances are most of them won’t have seen it before, and could still benefit from it.
  9. Run it by someone else – everyone makes mistakes, so send a draft to a friend (or your mum) before sending out to catch any silly mistakes.
  10. Have patience – growing a loyal readership takes far longer than many people think it does. You likely won’t see success on day one!

One more quote

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. – Aristotle

Written by
James is CEO and one of the co-founders of GoSquared. He also likes to talk about design.

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