Running Smalltopia: Micropatronage with letter.ly

by Tammy Strobel on February 21, 2011

letters

Over the last few months I’ve been focusing on one big project, my book proposal. Big projects are wonderful at completion but they are also risky.

Like looking for a flashlight in the dark, I was feeling a little stumped trying to find new income ideas. I considered writing another ebook this year, but I wanted to do something different. I didn’t want the product to cost a lot of money, but certainly needed to find a way to sustain my creativity.

A tweet from Crystal Silver describing letter.ly ignited my interest. Her tweet prompted me to subscribe to her newsletter and I realized that letter.ly was the wonderful new medium I was looking for.

Through letter.ly I can share ideas about happiness, simple living, culture, and updates on my print book without having to charge a big up front cost like an ebook.

I love writing on RowdyKittens. I get a lot of emails and lovely comments from readers, but amazingly I only hear back from 5 percent of the total subscribers. In a lot of ways, I’ve been searching for deeper connections with readers. The letter.ly service has given me that and more. I’ve been surprised by the open and honest responses I’ve received from readers.

Thoughts on Pricing . . .

Whether you are running your own business or looking for a traditional job pricing is something you have to consider. If you love what you do, you have to find a way to sustain your efforts. My colleagues argue that $2.00 a month for my letter.ly subscription is too low and that I’m undervaluing my written content. They may be right but I would rather open my work up to more folks with a smaller price point than write to only a few readers with a greater subscription price. Also, I reserve the right to increase the price at anytime.

Pricing products can be difficult. If you’re anything like me and struggle with this topic, consider incorporating some of the following tips into your overall strategy.

1. Develop a survey.

Survey’s are a fantastic way to get feedback, especially if you already have a blog or an email subscription list. It’s cheap and easy because you can send it electronically. For example, late last year I surveyed readers about the type of content they wanted to see on RowdyKittens. In the survey, readers were interested in supporting this site through some kind of subscription service.

2. Ask yourself: How much I would pay?

I thought long and hard about how much I would pay for this type of service. My answer: between $2 and $10 a month. As a consumer, I’m more than happy to pay for subscription services that are inspirational, educational, or a benefit to my professional goals. I’m especially apt to pay if the cost is non-prohibitive.

3. Income Goals?

Do you have income goals? Every year, I write down my income goal. For example, in 2010 I wanted to make $25,000 from my creative work and I did! My 2011 income goal is the same. Freelance writing, ebook sales, affiliate sales, and the letter.ly subscription will help me get there.

If you’ve been thinking about different income generation ideas, letter.ly might be for you. Especially if you’re a writer. Sign up and give it a try!

Thank you to all who have subscribed and sent me notes! I sincerely appreciate it. Your investment in my art keeps me working. :)

***

My Posting Schedule

I’ve decided to change my posting schedule. Taking a step back is healthy and it’s really important to know your limits. I’d rather post less frequently and share high quality content.

Here’s the new schedule . . .

  • Every Monday I’ll post an article.
  • I’ll run occasional interviews on Wednesdays.
  • And Friday’s will be dedicated to the Simple Living News Update and reader questions.
1 untroubled mind February 21, 2011

i’m not yet sure about this letter.ly thing, but i’d really like if letter.ly subscriptions could be sent to my kindle… for now i’ve to transfer manually. :-)

(additionally it’s not possible to pay for a subscription with an german amazon-account – i hope there will be a solution soon…)

2 Tammy February 21, 2011

@untroubled mind – Sorry to hear about that. I’ll have to look into the payment options. Have a great day.

3 Rachel February 21, 2011

I have to say, not only is this a great idea because it benefits you, who provides us with such great content, but it can also be in very close alignment with a minimalist viewpoint. How? Because it requires a tangible investment on our part as well, an investment that can so often be set aside with the pricepoint ‘free’. There is such an investment of time, energy, thought, etcetera that goes into reading blogs that often we set aside because we’re getting something for free. With a tangible cost, the reader is required to evaluate the value they get, and declutter the landscape from things they don’t truly value.

4 Kristy Powell February 21, 2011

I’m both a blogger and blog-follower (of yours) that deeply desires conversation with the author/readers. Also, I think your new schedule sounds great. I look forward to the weekly Monday post.

Can you share what topics you’ll be focusing on in your letter.ly? And I realize $2 isn’t much but it’s low enough that I think my family will be able to justify adding it to our budget (exclusive content isn’t much fun when the people who most want to read your content can’t gain access…). So, thank you.

5 Tammy February 21, 2011

@Kristy – Sure. I’ll be focusing on a wide variety of topics like simplicity, happiness, relationships, and creativity. In addition, I’ll be sharing some of the content from the print book I’m working on. I’d be happy to send you a few of the past letters as a sample. And remember you can unsubscribe from the service at anytime. Thanks for your consideration and support. :)

6 James February 21, 2011

Tammy,

Less frequently with more content is good. Isn’t this what you’ve been doing lately? It seems to work, emits a good vibe, and seems to work for you. Besides, I’m guess that a lot of the readers (well…me anyway) would want a well-brewed thought rather than a more frequent schedule. Though few of your posts are not well thought-out…

You need to do what’s best for you, in addition to us, the readers. There! That’s summed up. (smiles)

James

7 Tammy February 21, 2011

@James – Yes, it has been.

But I discovered that posting 2 really good articles a week + a news update, plus letter.ly, my book project, and volunteering regularly was too much! Something had to give. So I decided to cut back on my RK posts. Thanks for being understanding and your support! :)

Have a great week!

8 James February 21, 2011

Tammy, how do we (or can we) access previous letters if we’ve just subscribed?

Warmly, James

9 Tammy February 21, 2011

@James – Once you subscribe you get letters from that point forward. Since this letter.ly is via email they don’t store past letters on their site. I hope that makes sense.

However, I’d be happy to forward you letters I’ve already sent out. Titles of past letters should be listed here: http://letter.ly/tammystrobel Just let me know what you’d like to read. Thanks for subscribing! :)

10 et February 21, 2011

Are uncomfortable questions not allowed here?

11 Tammy February 22, 2011

@ET – Yes, uncomfortable questions are allowed. I’m a little confused by your comment.

Also, I do have a comment policy. If a comment contains any kind of hate speech or if it is a personal attack against me, it will not be approved. I’ve been moderating all comments recently, because of a huge influx of trolls. I’m happy to engage in debate, but will not tolerate any kind of hateful comments on the blog.

So if you tried to leave a comment, it could have been caught in spam or I may have missed it. Please be patient.

12 Gena S February 21, 2011

Tammy,
My husband and I have been weighing the pros and cons of a letter.ly set up; we wonder if we’re a little conflicted if even more of our readers will be. That being said, I haven’t seen a single letter.ly out there save yours that I’d be willing to subscribe to; maybe its that we just simplified everything in our lives including every print subcription that we are slow to adopt the thought behind it. Your content is another story; your blog inspired us to start blogging in the first place and we’re already building such a wonderful community that I can see where there could be a plus to it, I will be taking your advice and polling our readers. Also , your comment that something had to give really stood out to me, by the way, because we just wrote a three part essay on the need to apply minimalist principles to our schedules. We simplified in part so that we would free time up for what mattered to us, as I know you did, but it is just as much an area to guard against (filling up schedule with things) as the physical aspect of filling our homes up again with the unnecessary. Glad you are taking care of yourself and your schedule as well as taking care of your readers. You and your family definitely come first!

13 Tammy February 22, 2011

@Gena – Like you said, you have to do what’s best for you. Running a poll is a great place to start. Also, if you’re feeling conflicted about offering letter.ly as a service, listen to your gut! That is so important. Most of us ignore those feelings. For me, I wanted to give the subscription service a shot. If it totally fails, at least I know I tried. :)

Thanks for considering a subscription. Also, keep in mind this isn’t a print service. I send out an essay to subscribers every Wednesday, via email, and you can unsubscribe at anytime.

Thanks Gena! Have a beautiful week.

14 susanna eve February 22, 2011

Hi Tammy,
I know it’s possible to set up a paypal option for letterly subscriptions, that would allow people without a credit card to subscribe.

15 Tammy February 22, 2011

@Susanna – I’ll look into the paypal option. I didn’t realize that was an option for letter.ly. Have a good day.

16 Tracy February 22, 2011

Not specific to letter.ly, but a while ago I read a book called “Secrets of Six Figure Women,” which talked about how women tend to underestimate their monetary value. It wasn’t the greatest book in the world, but it does give some good insight into how to think about yourself and your worth.

17 Tammy February 22, 2011

@Tracy – Sounds like a great book! Thanks for passing along the information.

18 Jean February 22, 2011

Tammy,

I admire your business strategies and how you demonstrate the simple living concepts. In my opinion, as a writer, spelling is critical to ensure the integrity and cred of our products. Upon reading this (otherwise) good article, “my collages” (colleagues?) tripped me up.

Jean

19 Tammy February 22, 2011

@Jean – Mistakes happen. Thanks for pointing out the error. :)

20 robyn February 24, 2011

wanted to say thank you for keeping your subscription service price so low, thus keeping your newsletter from becoming something designated for the elite only. While your colleagues are charging $20 a month for this type of service, they are also alienating A LOT of their readers {myself included} with the price. $2 a month is something many more people can afford, and I’d bet in the long-run your newsletter outlasts many of the more expensive ones!

signing up for your newsletter right now, bot because I love how you write, and to support your price point decision!

21 Tammy February 24, 2011

@Robyn – Thank you! I appreciate the kind words. I have to agree about the price point. Personally, I wouldn’t pay that much for a letter.ly subscription. With that being said, it would also be dependent on the type of content offered. For example, I’m a member of the A-List Blogging Club and I think the fee is about $20 a month. For me that is well worth the price because you get personal help, a lot of content, and access to past material. In the end, it’s all about what you’re offering. :)

Thanks so much for the support!

22 Ginger March 2, 2011

Your move to use letter.ly forced me to recognize a bias I had against bloggers. I’ve read, “I want to connect personally with my readers,” so many times, and I subconsciously always took that to mean, “I am a writer, and I enjoy the glory of hearing people stroke my ego through positive feedback, so keep the comments flowing!” By setting your price point at $2/month I was actually startled – by the price, yes, but more importantly, by how it made me feel; it was like the equivalent of you giving me a big virtual hug and saying (with an optimistic, encouraging tone, of course!) “Hey, You! I care enough about you that I want to engage you in this. This is my step. Now how about you take yours?” So thank you, Tammy, for the paradigm shift and helping me get past the skepticism I was unknowingly buying into.

On a side note, have you ever considered posting an income meter somewhere on your website with an opportunity to give? It would be fun as a reader to be able to contribute toward your annual goal. Perhaps you could even set up excess goals, where anything beyond the annual goal would be donated to charity or extra pursuits you would love to tackle if the funding were available, e.g. scholarships, travel, or education. If this is a little closer than you want your readership involved, I get it. Just throwing out ideas for consideration. :)

23 Tammy March 2, 2011

@Ginger – Thanks for the feedback and suggestion about the income meter. I’ll think about that option. :) I appreciate your honestly. Have a beautiful day.

24 Mo.C May 31, 2011

Quick question…

I noticed you switched from letter.ly to Mail Chimp. Could you briefly comment on why you decided to make that transition, and how you like the difference?

BTW – I randomly stumbled onto this site as I was researching paid newsletters, but I intend to keep following your thoughts as I really enjoy your positivity :)
Cheers!

25 Tammy June 1, 2011

@Mo.C – The letterly interface is really simple to use. Unfortunately about half my subscribers were seeing odd symbols and had missing apostrophes and commas in their letters. Plus all the folks with comcast emails were not getting their weekly email. Hence, the switch to MailChimp. Letterly has a lot of bugs to work out on the back-end.

26 Sandra Pawula /Always Well Within August 22, 2011

Tammy,

I looked at letter.ly and at Mail Chimp. Mail Chimp looks complicated to me. Can you tell us if it was easy for you to use or not and what the learning curve is like? Thanks so much!

27 Tammy August 22, 2011

@Sandra – Mail Chimp is more complicated. But it’s easy to get a hang of! Plus they have awesome educational materials. I think you could easily figure it out. I’d be happy to set up a skype call with you to chat about this. :)

28 Sandra / Always Well Within September 13, 2011

Tammy,

Sorry I didn’t get back to you sooner. Life has been a little crazy lately. I want to really, really thank you for your advice and encouragement. I’m going at this slowly, so I will experiment with Mail Chimp to see if I can suss it out. If I need any support via a skype call with you, I’ll let you know. Thanks so much for your kindness! All my love to you.

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