Hey 👋 this is Luca! Welcome to a ✨ monthly free edition✨ of Refactoring.
Every week I write advice on how to become a better engineering leader, backed by my own experience, research and case studies.
You can learn more about Refactoring here.
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As a creator, I believe in building in public. I like to share not only my Refactoring articles, but also my working process and everything that is behind the emails I send out every Thursday.
I believe it's a win-win:
It helps me to reflect — on how I work (writing is thinking) and to get feedback from readers.
It helps other people — who want to start something similar.
In the past I published How I Write Refactoring, which describes my writing process in detail, and it turned out to be one of my most popular articles ever.
Recently Refactoring got to 10K subscribers 🎉 and many people reached out to ask how I make it grow. I thought it would be useful to share this process too, for anyone who is going to write a business blog / newsletter, for their company or for themselves.
So let's dive in 👇
🔢 The Refactoring Flywheel
When it comes to growth, I have been doing basically the same things for the past 6+ months.
I am happy they stayed the same, because I wanted to find a process that would scale nicely with subscribers. It did so far.
Also, what I do is pretty generic and can be applied to basically any domain, not just Engineering. The only caveat is the assumption that articles are essays, or they are about ideas anyway. They are not, say, collections of links. But even in that case, you can probably adapt it to that use.
My process is based on four parts:
📑 Notes — about readings and ideas.
🐦 Twitter — for sharing my ideas.
💼 Linkedin — for connecting with readers.
🤗 Communities — for connecting with peers and more potential readers.
Let’s see them one by one.
Note-taking is at the foundation of everything I do, from thinking to writing to growing the newsletter.
I keep notes in a Notion database, and I have two kinds of notes:
👓 Reading notes
🌱 Evergreen Notes
👓 Reading Notes
Reading notes are about — you guessed it — what I read.
I have a process for reading online and I read nearly everything on Instapaper. For each article I highlight the most relevant passages and these are sent to my Notion automatically by an app called Readwise.
Readwise creates a note for each article I have read and highlighted, and each note only contains my highlights. This is all done automatically.
When I have to decide what to write next, most of the times I just go through my notes and get inspiration from there.
When I think I am going to use a note, I read it again and highlight it for further compression. I took this approach from Tiago Forte.
All the highlighting and summarization require more effort than regular reading, but they improve reuse and retention, which is what I need to write articles.
🌱 Evergreen Notes
The most important notes I have are the Evergreen Notes. These are notes about individual ideas and insights.
These ideas need to be:
Short — ideally the size of a couple of tweets.
Independent — they need to make sense in isolation, without much context.
Eternal — they should stay relevant indefinitely.
Sometimes I create them straight from reading notes, but mostly they come from the articles I write. I am usually able to create 3-4 of them for each article.
These notes are related and linked to each other and they build up a network of knowledge that I can refer to whenever I need.
This is a lightweight version of the Zettelkasten method explained in the How to Take Smart Notes book, which is probably the book I recommended the most in Refactoring articles!
Twitter is the social network I use the most to spread my ideas. I do basically two things on it:
💡 Tweets — I tweet about articles and ideas.
📈 Ads — I run some Twitter Ads.
Every week I write a long thread where I re-write most of the latest article. These threads end up being my most successful tweets.
I also tweet 🌱 evergreen notes separately, as they fit very well with the twitter format.
All in all I write about 5-6 tweets per week + the main thread, and I plan most of this work in advance on Hypefury, usually in around half a day.
Hypefury also has this concept of evergreen posts and allows me to retweet them automatically every once in a while. I use this with tweets coming from my evergreen notes, and it seems to work well so far!
📈 Twitter Ads
I have been running twitter ads for several months now. I keep a budget of €10 / day and I usually bring in new subscribers at ~€0.25-€0.40 / subscriber.
Ads are relatively cheap and allow you to target your audience very precisely so I definitely recommend them, whatever your domain is.
Although there isn't a visible difference in engagement between organic subscribers and those coming from ads, I try to keep a balance and make sure at least 50% of growth comes from organic subscribers.
I use Linkedin to connect with subscribers. I add them as contacts there — every single one.
This is not an automatic trick, it is literally me taking the list of the latest subscribers every once in a while, and adding them one by one (if I haven't connected with you yet, feel free).
And I engage with everyone who writes me: I ask for feedback, give advice if anyone asks, make intros, and so on. Basically, I try to behave like a human being 😄
People often ask me if I am worried that adding subscribers as contacts makes my feed worse, or that then I can't separate real-life connections from newsletter ones.
I don't see it like that.
Readers of Refactoring know an awful lot about me, my beliefs, and my experience, because I write everything in my articles. I know much less about most of my coworkers than my readers usually know about me.
Connecting with readers creates genuine opportunities for everyone: work opportunities, advice opportunities, or just friendships.
Being able to connect and make friends with like-minded people is one of the internet superpowers — let's use it!
Finally, I am member of a few communities where I know I can find peers and other people interested in what I write. I try to engage there and participate in other discussions whenever I can, and I also post my articles from time to time (I don't want to be spammy).
Here are the communities I like the most: The Generalist, Lenny's Newsletter, Dev Interrupted, Blogging for Devs.
📑 Progressive summarization — by Tiago Forte. One of the articles that influenced me the most about note-taking. Once you start writing this way, there is no going back.
🌀 How to Read Online — my process for reading online in an effective way. It is basically everything that comes before note-taking.
🌀 How I Write Refactoring — my process for writing new articles. I do the same things every week. Together with how to read online and this very article, they make an exhaustive picture of my whole Refactoring work!
📣 INTERACT Conference
I am happy to promote the INTERACT event that will take place next week on September 30th.
INTERACT is a free, community-driven conference, built by engineering leaders for engineering leaders. It will include interactive sessions and stellar speakers, such as Twitter’s VP of Engineering Maria Gutierrez.
I will also join as a speaker, so stay tuned for a funny — and hopefully insightful! — engineering story.
If you are interested in learning how other leaders are scaling, improving, and solving problems, you can reserve your free spot to the virtual event below 👇
⭐ Weekly Featured Jobs
Here are the remote engineering jobs featured this week! They are all from great companies and I personally review them one by one.
🆕 Thyme Care — Fullstack Engineer — a better cancer journey for all.
Haven — Founding Engineer — platform to enable users to engage with health and wellness providers.
Commit — Tech Lead / Senior Engineer Fellowship — the remote-first community for software engineers.
Coinbase — Senior Software Engineer, Enterprise Integrations — the easiest place to buy and sell cryptocurrency.
Browse many more open roles (or add your own) on the full board 👇
Hey, I am Luca 👋 thank you for reading this far!
Every week I read tens of articles and draw from my own experience to create a 10-minutes advice about some engineering leadership topic.
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I am curious how do you do the automated import of your highlights from Instapaper to Notion?