Sari Azout, partner at Level Ventures, founder of Startupy, and author of Check Your Pulse joins Stew Fortier to discuss writing as professional networking, why consistency is overrated, and how time can turn good ideas into great ideas.
The interview summary below was prepared for Compound Writing, a paid invite-only community of online writers. Apply here
1. “The most effective form of networking is to write your thoughts online.”
Before she started writing Check Your Pulse, Sari was all too familiar with the challenge of finding the right people to support her professional endeavors.
“I remember when I was a founder in 2012 and was being connected to all these potential advisors all the time. It felt like I was begging them to join me. I feel like Check Your Pulse has given me the gift of not having to ask anymore. The people come to me. It's the serendipitous inbound that is really high quality. Good writing has a way of finding great people on the internet and it’s pretty beautiful to witness.
The most effective form of networking is to write your thoughts online. It will attract people who are like-minded, who can share ideas, and who can become collaborators.”
2. The Magic Formula for quality writing = Good Taste x Time
Sari believes that carving out sufficient time to think, write, and review is the key to producing good content consistently.
“Having time to think and reflect is really uncommon in this day and age. I genuinely think anyone that sits down and spends enough time thinking about something is going to come up with a good idea or good take. Having a newsletter forces you to find those moments of reflection.
I don't think there's anything special about me. I think if you have great taste, it’s okay if your skill level doesn't match your taste initially. I think with good taste and time, everyone is bound to create great content.”
She encourages other writers to give themselves ample time to not only write but also to edit and revisit drafts:
“There's just something about sleeping on your idea and not doing it under pressure that just allows you to adjust the bar for quality. When you look at something for several days even, it’s just so much higher. So I almost feel what some people attribute to genius, is actually just time.”
3. Citing other writers and thought leaders is one of the best ways to grow your newsletter and network.
While it might not be at the top of your marketing tactics for subscriber growth, Sari has had significant success increasing the reach of her newsletter by citing other writers and experts.
“Promoting other people's work is the most effective form of promoting your own newsletter. I don't think I've written a single newsletter where I cite someone's work where that person doesn't end up getting ahold of the issue somehow and reaching out. And so I think that if growth is important to you and if the amount of people exposed to your ideas is important, it's the easiest way to connect with those people.”
4. If you want to build loyalty with readers, respect their time.
Sari’s primary objective is to provide value for her readers, and as a busy mom and professional, she tries to do that as efficiently as possible.
“Respect for my readers’ time is my number one priority, because I want my time to be respected. I am drowning in information. I struggle with fear of missing something important, and I am sure that’s something other people struggle with too. And so I didn't just want to add to the sea of information and content and link roundups. Sharing a link isn’t interesting. Share key insights. Share your take on it.
Success is not getting people to click on links. It's providing them something they can apply to their life. I don't want to be part of the media machine that relies on time and attention, because that's not the right metric for me.”
5. Publishing on a consistent schedule is overrated.
While newsletters that send on a regular cadence get a lot of attention, Sari reminds fellow writers that you can reap all the benefits of publishing your ideas without publishing on a fixed schedule.
“More people should write great essays than should start newsletters that have a consistent cadence because the former is going to unlock a lot of opportunities. The ladder [writing newsletters] commits you to writing on a fixed schedule, which is something that I think a lot of people don't want to do.”
Ultimately, your writing will be valued by its quality -- not necessarily its cadence.
6. Good writing is supposed to feel hard.
Sari admits that she’s often intimidated by the prospect of organizing her thoughts and ideas into a compelling draft. Don’t worry, this is normal.
“Every time I look at my Google dump, I'm not necessarily excited. I'm daunted by it. It feels hard. But I think that that's what good writing is supposed to feel like. it's a messy process. And it should be because the mind is messy.”