A Day in the Life of a Newsletter Writer, with Morning Brew’s Neal Freyman

I sat down with one of our head writers, Neal Freyman, to pick his brain and describe a day in his life.

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One of the reasons Morning Brew has become so successful is because of the team I get to work with. Morning Brew would not be where it is today without the incredible writers that come to work, excited to create a new newsletter every single day.

I sat down with one of our head writers, Neal Freyman, to pick his brain and describe a day in his life.

First, can you tell us what your position is and when you started at Morning Brew?

I started back in June 2017, almost exactly two years ago when I responded to your LinkedIn job post for a writer. Morning Brew had about three people on the team at that time – it was just you (Alex), Austin and another writer. I sent in my application and the rest was history. For the past two years, this has been my life seven days a week. Now that we’ve hired more writers, I’ve taken on the role of an editor. My role has evolved and become more managerial, but there’s only three of us for the daily newsletters so I still write daily.

The Morning Brew newsletters go out pretty early (even on Saturdays). What time do you normally wake up?

This may be a disappointment, but we don’t wake up at 3:00 a.m. We produce most of the newsletter content the evening before and queue it up at 8:00 or 9:00 p.m. Of course, we monitor the news into the night in case anything breaking happens, but for the most part, we view Morning Brew as a newspaper – we consolidate the news and don’t think having a bit of a time lapse is a huge deal.

How many cups of coffee do you have a day?

I think it’s been going down because there’s enough adrenaline here as it is. I’ll probably have around two cups per day. We have a cold brew machine that I use, but sometimes I just forget to drink coffee due to the high energy at the office. I feel like I spend more time drinking coffee on the weekends when I need a little pick me up.

What is the first thing you do when you’re beginning a new newsletter? What’s the process?

There’s a couple of different components when it comes to the process. There’s the news section, which contains a bunch of stories that happen the previous day, and then there’s a component that basically consists of cool things we see on the internet, things we recommend, or fun questions or puzzles. I do those first in small blurbs at the top and bottom of the newsletter. As the afternoon gets going, myself and the other writers start reading everything in the news from every major outlet. We are all big on Twitter, so we use it to pick up on the most important news stories of the day. Then, we talk amongst ourselves about who will handle which story and plan out our angles. Finally, we put our headphones in and write.

What news do you read when you’re compiling the top financial stories? What’s your go-to outlet?

A lot of things. Twitter, Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Associated Press, Reuters, The New York Times, BBC and all the big ones. We allot five stories each day for the Brew, and each day is different so we try to pick the two or three most important stories. Then, we add more niche stories that we think are interesting. Those stories won’t get picked up by every outlet, but they’re the ones we think our readers will enjoy. We think of it like a newspaper, with the top stories on the front page and additional interesting stories throughout.

How long does it typically take you to write your post for the newsletter?

We start the process at about 1:00 p.m. for the next day and finish the writing by 4:30 p.m. Then there’s a decent amount of editing, and more editing. We leave the office around 7:00-7:30 p.m., so the process is around six hours in total.

What is the most important skill to possess in order to be a content creator?

Love of news – our job is to read every single thing and condense it. The point of the Brew is so people don’t have to read everything, which means we have to read everything to discern what’s most important and interesting. If you don’t like knowing what’s going on in the world, you would fail at this job very quickly. I think that’s number one – you have to find most things interesting, otherwise you can’t really communicate with your audience. If you’re not excited about something, then how can the reader be?

The goal of Morning Brew is to make business news exciting – how do you do that?

There’s tools you can use to make it fun. Pop culture references are a great way to draw people in. Any way to hook readers by talking about what goes on in their daily lives is a great tool. We definitely try to be funny, but we don’t want any jokes or cuteness to get in the way of delivering the news in a clear manner.

What time is lunch normally? What’s your go to lunch spot?

I get yelled at for not eating lunch. Sometimes I’ll make a classic tuna sandwich circa sixth grade. Ideally, I would do that every day. When I go out, I like Chinese food or Asian soups. The area our office is located has a lot of options so I’m known to lead people on adventures to get something a little more interesting. On Wednesdays, we have lunch as a team and everyone here likes Sweetgreen.

What’s something readers might not expect about the newsletter-writing process?

We don’t know what the Morning Brew will look like until very late. There is strategic, long-term planning but you can’t write a newsletter until the news happens. So, going into 1:00 p.m. yesterday, for example, there could’ve been anything in today’s newsletter. There’s very little planning ahead because the nature of news involves staying up to date.

What is your favorite social media site?

I spend most of my time on Twitter. I find it to be the best way of getting lot of news and information. Additionally, I’m interested in sports and politics, and using Twitter is the best way to follow what’s going on in those spaces.

What’s your favorite meme?

Homer backing into tree. We always use this when we say something in our group chat and no one responds.

What keeps you motivated to work every day?

I never thought I was going to get to do anything like this. News and writing were always two things that I loved, but never something I actually pursued. The fact that I’m doing it every day is really cool and unexpected, and I’ll work hard to make sure that remains the case. I feel like I’m doing exactly what I’m meant to do.

What’s the biggest challenge about your job?

Producing something you feel is a really high-quality piece of content every day is challenging. How many newsletters are out there trying to make the same thing? Making your product stand out is the biggest challenge. It’s hard work. There’s a number of ways you can stand out – whether it be reliability, timeliness, humor or relevance to your audience. I think you have to touch on all of those because the inbox is a very crowded place these days.

What is your favorite thing about working at Morning Brew?

I would say the youth. I’m 27 and I’m the second oldest person here. Everyone is really young. It’s fun and it’s scary, because there’s not a lot of people with a ton of experience showing you a roadmap. Everything is learned but everyone is energized and excited to come in every day.

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