Zubair Mohsin

How I messed up my Newsletter

Out of nowhere I decided to create a newsletter for my blog. I thought I would share my blogposts in newsletters, some people might find it easier to read my blog in their email inbox.

What went wrong?

Many things. Mostly on my behalf. I didn’t do proper research and just jumped right into it. I had an interaction with Substack few days ago and I had seen that it offers functionality to send newsletters. I just signed up and created my publication and shared all over the social media. And to my surprise, I got 20 subscribers within 1-2 hours.

I thought lets send a Hello World newsletter to my subscribers. And then I had moment of realisations about Substack.

  • Substack is a complete writing solution for Writers. Which means, it gives you a website and a newsletter.
  • You can only send content via newsletter which you also post on Substack.
  • I thought, okay, maybe I can set canonical urls of my own blog. Turns out, Substack doesn’t offer that
  • In that weak moment, I thought, okay, lets move my blog to Substack with custom domain. Guess what, custom domain is a paid feature which costs 50$ ( one-time fee )

Then I realised I should finally do some research 😅 and also define my requirements.

Options for sending newsletters other than Substack

  • Mailchimp
  • Mailcoach ( self-hosted )
  • Buttondown
  • ConvertKit
  • Drip
  • Gumroad
  • and more…

I also discussed this with Tom Witkowski and he said “ConvertKit is the default choice of Laravel Community ^^” .

What I needed

A platform which:

  • Lets me own my content
  • Helps my audience to subscribe/unsubscribe easily
  • is GDPR compliant
  • A form widget to put on my blog
  • Supports markdown in the editor
  • Allows me to use my custom domain without any additional cost

ConvertKit was fulfilling all of these requirements. ( If you are reading this in your inbox, it came via ConvertKit )

Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with ConvertKit and I am not trying to promote in this post. Also, not trying to defame Substack.

What changes I needed to make it work with ConvertKit

First of all, I had to export my precious subscribers from Substack to ConvertKit. It was easy via CSV file.

After that I had to setup my email address. ConvertKit suggests not to use free email addresses like @gmail.com as it affects deliverability. Instead use an email address of your own domain, e.g. info@zubairmohsin.dev

Now there are many options available for email hosting too:

  • Google Workspace
  • Outlook
  • Zoho
  • Your own DNS provider might have it

I chose Zoho because it felt cheap at $1.25 / user / month and charged annually ( $15 ).

Time to setup Zoho

It’s a five step process.

  • Domain verification via TXT record
  • MX records setup
  • SPF records setup
  • DKIM records setup
  • DMARC records setup

I setup these records on my primary domain zubairmohsin.dev and I was happy to move on and send the newsletter. But then I recalled Tom Witkowki’s words to use a subdomain for newsletter. And I also read it somewhere ( possibly ConvertKit docs ) that its recommended to use subdomain for newsletter and newsletter’s email address.

Great, now I had to above 5 steps all-over again for a subdomain. But most importantly, where do I point this subdomain?

ConvertKit to the rescue again! They offer landing pages with many ready-to-go templates available. Also, you can use custom domains on these landing pages. That solved my subdomain problem and letter.zubairmohsin.dev was born.

Conclusion

It’s okay to make mistakes, but I would also say that take some time do even a little of bit research. It pays off by saving you time and not getting frustrated by unexpected things. I hope you enjoy this post ( and future ones too).

Massive thanks to my subscribers 🙏🏼


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