🎉 We just announced our $6.5M Seed led by Spark Capital. Read the news on TechCrunch.

Rach Idowu Substack Newsletter Creator on ADHD

I’m also super vulnerable and honest about having bad days, being ignorant about a topic, and airing out my dirty laundry. People want authenticity and not a “picture perfect” person to connect with. Especially during this pandemic.

- Rach Idowu, Adulting with ADHD

Rach’s backstory

Rach Idowu was diagnosed with ADHD combined type in January 2020. 

She had 2 monthly appointments with a psychiatrist to discuss how her medication was making her feel and coping with ADHD in general. 

Then the pandemic happened and her appointments were cancelled.

With no one to talk to about her recent ADHD diagnosis, she quickly looked for a community to tap into and online resources. But, she struggled to find written content that was personable and informal. 

She decided to start her Adulting with ADHD Substack newsletter as a form a diary, and hoped to be an online friend to readers with ADHD - something that she too needed during that moment.

Initially fearful that no one would read it, people gravitated towards her writing about her personal experience. As of August 24th, 2021 Adulting with ADHD has more than 4,000 subscribers. 

Here’s Rach’s advice for creating content and building online communities of their own:

Question/Answers

How have you learned to manage ADHD with work?

Many people with ADHD quickly lose interest/will get bored in general. For me, this is applicable to work. The plus side is that my day job is interesting and quite fast paced with  which works well for me.

The downsides is that I struggle to say “no” to people, struggle to stay organised, and I get burnt out quite quickly. I’ve learned to set boundaries by pushing back on deadlines if i don’t think they’re feasible.

I’ve also leaned on my manager who is super organised because I miss things quite easily. My manager is quite good at pulling together work plans to map out our priorities for the week. I think I’d struggle in an environment that’s monotonous.

I also ask people to sense check a long document I’ve written because I’m bound to make careless mistakes. I’ve lucked out with the team I’m in.

How do you grow your newsletter subscriber base?

This is going to sound weird but I don’t really put much effort into growing my newsletter. I started with 0 subscribers in May 2020 and I now have just over 4000 subscribers.

I try to make sure my newsletters are short, personable, witty, and has at least one takeaway for my audience. I think my newsletter has grown due to people sharing what they’re read as I rarely promote it to my Twitter followers, which is at 37k. I definitely want to reach more people so I’m going to post old content across social platforms to hopefully reach more people and attract new subscribers.

Rach’s writing routine

So I have a list of ADHD related topics in my draft that I’d like to write about. I start with jotting down ideas of what I’d like to cover in bullet point format, and what I want the “key takeaway” to be. So this could be a coping strategy, a shared experience, or something for the audience to think about.

I’ll usually try to draw from my experience by using a relevant example so it’s a bit more personable. I do some research around the topic to give it some credibility and I might include a link to a study or a well written article so readers can do some further research. I prefer to write in the evenings, in one sitting.

In terms of the days I choose to publish, I like Sundays or sometime during the week when people are likely to be inside

The most rewarding part for you about contributing to the discussion around ADHD

For me, it’s having around 50+ people who have personally contacted me to say that thanks to me, they were able to get an ADHD diagnosis or that they realised that they might have ADHD. It’s amazing being able to make a positive impact on people’s loved during their journey.

I also like that I’m in a position to tell people how to prepare for the initial conversation with a Dr when asking for an ADHD assessment referral. It’s an uphill battle and Dr’s are usually quick to refuse people, without a valid reason.

I’ve also loved that more ethnic minority men and women are reaching out to tell me that they want to seek an ADHD diagnosis.

There’s a lot of stigma in our communities about Neurodivergence, partly because the world treats us harshly because of the colour of our skin. Having to work “twice as hard” but then also having a disability can be seen to set you back a lot further. Being visible and showing other ethnic minorities that an ADHD diagnosis isn’t a set back in life is something I’m really proud of.

Her goals for your Adulting with ADHD

My goal is to spread awareness about ADHD so I ultimately want to reach as many people as possible.

In terms of numbers, my goal at the start of the year has been 5k subscribers by December this year. I think that’s doable with minimal/no effort but I have reconsidered this target. I want to be intentional about impacting people’s lives so I want to up that target to about 7k.

I also want to cross collaborate with other newsletter writers in this space. On topics like finance, as many of us ADHD’ers are pretty bad at money management. Also on topics to do with productivity/time management tools, balance and mental health in general. So I’m hoping to build a network and connect with others in those spaces.

How has the pandemic affected you, particularly as an ADHD person? Have you had to come up with new strategies?

Yes! The pandemic has been a bit of a rollercoaster for me. Two of the closest people in my life passed away so it’s been rough.

I’ve struggled with finding the “willpower” to just do things. Whether it’s chores, writing, drawing or coding.

Working in “sprints” has helped me. I set aside a few mins to be super focused on the one thing I need to do. And then I take a break and reward myself with an episode of Bridgerton or something on Netflix.

Gamification works for me sometimes. I give myself rewards for completing things and I pit two tasks against each other. For example, I need to write a paragraph for the newsletter. I’ll give myself 10mins and then I time it. I then switch to another task, let’s say writing a few lines of code for a web page and I give myself 10mins too and then I compare which one I’ve done the fastest.

But most importantly, I’ve learned to be flexible. Some coping strategies won’t work all of the time and I’m perfectly ok with it.

Strategies for creating such an engaged following on twitter

When I first started tweeting in like May 2020, I had about 200 non ADHD related followers. It still blows my mind that I’m at like 37k+.

In the beginning I asked lots of ADHD related questions that I genuinely needed the answer to. People were keen to help and often connected with each other in the tweet thread.

On social media there’s a lot of people talking at you and kind of telling you what you should do to accomplish “XYZ”. There’s a lack of people trying to generate discussions and share knowledge which a lot of people seem to appreciate more.

I think people started to follow me in droves because they knew there would be something to discuss because I seemed to ask thought provoking questions.

I’m also super vulnerable and honest about having bad days, being ignorant about a topic, and airing out my dirty laundry. People want authenticity and not a “picture perfect” person to connect with. Especially during this pandemic.

I also share what i’ve learned on my ADHD journey. I pair this with an open ended question to invite people to share their experiences. I think people want to feel seen and many people say they feel seen when I tweet

Plans to make money from her content

I get asked this question a lot. My newsletter is free and will be free for the foreseeable future. I do want to release an ebook sometime this or next year. I’m currently working on releasing some physical content in a few months which will focus on ADHD traits in adults.

I do panel talks which I charge a speaker fee for - so far large companies have been in contact which is great. This is something I’ll continue to do for a while.

I’ve also been contacted by publishers who are really keen for me to write a book. I don’t have much capacity for this right now but maybe I will in a year or so.

Helpful resources and other people have been most helpful to you throughout your journey?

So I always signpost people to the YouTube channel ‘How To ADHD’. They’re really short, digestible and relatable. There’s always a video for whatever you’re struggling with.

I also visit the website ADDitude to research whether something I’m dealing with is an “ADHD thing”. I wouldn’t take everything on there as gospel, but it has helped me to understand a lot about my ADHD brain