Student success story
Mike Rohde landed several speaking gigs after redesigning his newsletter
Change always requires a catalyst – something that shifts how you think and delivers a gentle kick in the ass. For designer and illustrator Mike Rohde, Chimp Essentials was the spark he needed to get serious about his email newsletter and revamp some core elements of his creative business.
As a full-time interface and experience designer by day, acclaimed author, illustrator, and sketchnoter by night (Mike illustrated REWORK, REMOTE and The $100 Startup), and a 24/7 father of three, Mike doesn’t have time to procrastinate. But, he had been slow to change his clunky, RSS-driven email system, which automatically scraped new blog posts for newsletter content. A full redesign felt overwhelming and he was murky on the details. “I had this intention to make my newsletter much richer and more valuable for people,” says Mike. “Then Paul came in with the course and gave me the tools I needed to make it better.”
“Within two weeks, I probably had five or six inquiries. It’s a small sample size, but for something I do part-time, that’s a pretty big deal.”
Once he committed to the process, Mike went all-in. He verified his domain and completed the Google authentication. “I feel so much more secure about how things are set up,” says Mike. “With the two-factor authentication, I’m confident that no one’s going to spoof my account.” Mike also became an affiliate and used the promotional link to get three free months of MailChimp service, “which basically paid for the course.”
It was time to tackle the dreaded redesign (which wasn’t so bad after all). Mike also re-wrote the signup and onboarding copy to feel human, not corporate – or primate. He overhauled his list automation and segmentation features, and added free PDF chapters from his two books, The Sketchnote Workbook and The Sketchnote Handbook, as a bonus for new subscribers. Now people have a better sense of why they should join the list. “Instead of saying ‘sign up for my nebulous newsletter,’” says Mike, “there are clear benefits that I can actually deliver on.’”
His audience quickly noticed the changes. People wrote to say they liked the extra white space and clear links. Mike’s open rate now hovers around 50%, with click rates that average 10-15%. That’s a major improvement from the RSS-scraping days. He’s also started filtering out inactive subscribers – a step that felt daunting at first, but actually reactivated some professional connections and strengthened the one-to-one engagement of his list.
Most importantly, creating a lighter, brighter, more efficient newsletter has produced a tangible return on his Chimp investment. “The opportunities are definitely increasing,” says Mike. More people are asking about his illustration and sketchnote workshops and how to hire him for contract work. “Within two weeks, I probably had five or six inquiries. It’s a small sample size, but for something I do part-time, that’s a pretty big deal.”
Call it a catalyst or a well-timed kick-start, but Mike’s email overhaul also reflects a renewed commitment to his creative work. After all, a newsletter is just a digital tool for communicating with people who like what you do and want to know more. It’s that simple. So what do you want to share? Where is your work heading? “Taking this course will challenge you to think more deeply about what you’re doing,” says Mike, “and then give you the technical steps to make it happen. Chimp Essentials may change your newsletter for the better – in ways you can’t imagine before you hit the ‘buy’ button.”