Is done better than perfect?
And our first reader survey
I started Val Thinks on a whim. I’d been blogging for eight years, and for eight years I’d failed to maintain a consistent schedule or find a broad audience. But I never questioned blogging as an outlet choice. I never thought to try a different medium, least of all a newsletter. Newsletters were for established writers with a following. I was an amateur with friends who occasionally read what I wrote.
On May 8th, 2021, The Economist published an article called “The new rules of the ‘creator economy’”. A few days after, the article surfaced in my inbox as part of the daily digest I subscribe to. Fancying myself a creator, I eagerly scanned the piece for useful information, any advice I might glean to salvage the wreck that was my eight-year online writing career.
The Economist didn’t disappoint. The article featured several creator platforms, and none more prominently than Substack: “Substack gives writers 90% of the subscription fees they charge for newsletters; together its top ten authors earn more than $15m a year.”
A paid newsletter, I thought, now that’s an idea. Do I dare?
Done is better than perfect
The idea that I might be paid for my writing—however small the probability—galvanised me into action. I spent a couple of hours familiarising myself with the Substack website, came up with my newsletter title, decided on a weekly schedule, and—still not really knowing what to write about in the weeks to come—sent out my first newsletter.
For much of Val Thinks’ first year, I let my thoughts spill freely into the inbox of the few readers who had subscribed at my behest—friends and family and business acquaintances I had felt brave enough to reach out to. I had no format, no principles, no idea what I was supposed to write, what my readers enjoyed, what the value of my newsletter was. I simply sat down each week, did what I thought was my best writing,clicked “send” and hoped for the best.
“Done is better than perfect,” a writer friend I made on Medium once wrote in reply to a newsletter I’d reposted there. I found myself agreeing wholeheartedly. I’m by all accounts a perfectionist, but I’ve never let my perfectionism stop me from putting something imperfect out into the world, this newsletter included.
Instead of perfecting a strategy for Val Thinks before sending my first newsletter, I chose send first, strategy later. For 40 newsletters, I opted for done rather than perfect. Then, finally, in February 2022, I decided the time for strategy had come. I took a newsletter break and emailed a survey to my most engaged readers, hoping to learn who were reading me and, more importantly, why.
Two weeks later, I had a new tagline, a new design, a new format, and a freshly-conceived value for my readers: the newsletter that makes you stop and think.
I want to hear from you
That first reader survey went out to a handful of people, most of whom I knew in real life. And their thoughtful responses were crucial in formulating the strategy that finally found me the broad audience I never had through my blogs.
But in the year since, Val Thinks’ readership has evolved. I’ve been fortunate to acquire many new subscribers, the overwhelming majority of whom come from outside my social circle, people who are likely reading me for different reasons. So it’s time to ask those questions again and see if I get different responses.
If you’re reading these words and have 10 minutes to spare, I’d appreciate you filling in this survey to tell me why you read Val Thinks and what more you’d like to see.
Your feedback is invaluable, and I’ll be eternally grateful for your time. I’m leaving the survey open for a week, until Friday 17th February, so get your response in before then.
What do you think?
You probably wouldn’t be reading this newsletter if I didn’t think “Done is better than perfect.” Now it’s your turn to tell me:
Is done better than perfect?
Is it a folly to present something imperfect to the world? Are you crippled by perfection paralysis? Send a reply, leave a comment, share this with someone who never lets perfectionism stop them.
And if you have 10 minutes, I’d really appreciate you filling in this survey to tell me why you read Val Thinks and what more you’d like to see. The survey will be open for a week (until Friday 17th February).
Until next Friday… Stay thoughtful,
Photo by Martin Sanchez on Unsplash
My “best writing” of a year ago now makes me cringe—meandering, inconsistent, imprecise… lazy. A lot more thinking goes into my writing today. I spend far longer organising ideas, choosing words, rewriting—to the point where each newsletter takes three times as long to write. And I’m very curious to know if it’s made a difference. If you’ve noticed an improvement, do tell me in a reply or comment.
Is it a folly to present something imperfect to the world? - No, it's not. I state it as a brave. What's the standard of a perfection? I think the perfection is based on each point of view. For me, I feel and see people around me have done something perfect. But when I tell them, they say this is not perfect they can do it better, can be more perfect. I think, sometimes it's not perfect for you but for others it is perfect. So, just do even you think it is imperfect, you will have a chance to learn from others or others can learn from what you think it's imperfect. At least, something happens already.