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
- Mailcoach ( self-hosted )
- 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.
Now there are many options available for email hosting too:
- Google Workspace
- 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
zubair.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.zubair.dev was born.
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 🙏🏼
I hope you find this blogpost useful. You can subscribe to the newsletter at letter.zubair.dev for more interesting content.