One of the mistakes that I didn't do early on in my freelance career was to build an email list. Not having a list, or rather not spending some amount of effort into building one with high-quality emails, put me in a bad spot because I didn’t have any way to reach out to folks for referrals, outreach, overflow work, announce new services and solutions, and most importantly have a pipeline of leads.
So, in turn, I don't want you to make the same mistakes I did. So I'm going to tell you how I was able to get over 160 high-quality email addresses within 2.5 hours of work.
The reason why I don't want you to repeat the same mistakes I did is because when you have an email list there are folks that are interested in what you and what you have to offer. For example, when a new iPhone comes out this huge line outside of just about every single Apple Store. That's your email list.
The line of people waiting outside your door for what you have to give them.
Not every single person on this list will be who you want to sell to. Some of these people on your list are people that you want a network with and want to know about your services.
If you have been freelancing for some time and still don't have a growing list outside of your clients then you'll want to do this so that you can get the word out about you and your services.
Trust me, you may think that folks know what you do, even folks that you talk with regularly.
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Before I get into exactly what to do I want to share a story on why this works. This was something that I got inspired from by Bryan Harris of Videofruit.
When I did this I did this almost as an experiment. This was an experiment to see if instead of doing what everyone else does and broadcast out a landing page with some lead magnet to the world, I wanted to pick and choose select people that I network with normally through social media, engage with them just a little deeper than that and hope to see if they understand exactly what I do.
Oftentimes folks follow what you do because you do something similar to what they do. And while they may like you, they like what your posting, they like that you're sharing other people's content and it resonates with them in some way.
Hopefully, though they are following you because you might have something that they need some day.
1. Choose your “home” platform
Your social media platform of choice maybe Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn, but for the sake of this post, Twitter is mine so we’ll go with that. Take those folks that are colleagues, maybe mentors, or influencers and reach out and start a conversation with them.
2. Reach out to people you look up to or do similar work
See how their weekend was or what they've been up to or congratulate them on a new product launch. It’s time to extend the social media reach to a personal level. Be sincere, otherwise, it will show through that you are not.
Since they are colleagues and not family, steer the conversation to learn more about what they were doing in their business and what they were providing to their clients. Maybe even some side projects they are working on.
Really get to know who they are a little bit more than a few Facebook posts or Tweets. Social media is about being social, it’s about having conversations with people so engage with them at a personal level then they might be interested in what you have to offer as well.
The conversation itself doesn’t have to be an hour at length. In fact, it should flow naturally. If it doesn’t then you know that they aren’t right for including them on your list.
Spend 5-10 minutes getting a bit deeper into the conversation.
Build that circle of trust
The thing is that if you started to reach out to these folks and engage with them then you can send them referrals because you understand their solution better.
If you could engage in a conversation with them then you know that you can get along with them. Knowing that, you can look at them as more than a colleague, they would be apart of your tribe.
Having a circle of people that you can trust that you can work with is critical in building a business that is successful and sustainable. Without that then you are just really a one-trick pony. You can't offer any other value by way of services to your clients, to your leads or to your prospects.
So as you are engaged in the conversation talking about business, talking about their personal growth, talking about things that interest them, there should be a natural point in the conversation to share what you are up to.
3. Dropping the Hammer
This is where you share what you are working on. Your email list.
Now, if the person hasn't said anything that is somewhat related to what your newsletter is going to be about or what you're building your email list for then you just tell them that you're working on it and that's it.
But if they really hit on exactly why you are building your list, whether it's providing a service or talking about a specific kind of topic for your blog, simply ask “Want in?”
As soon as they say “yes” and they will. You ask them what their best email address is.
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Why this works
Remember in the beginning we are targeting specific folks that we want on our list to be a part of our tribe and network more with.
Because you came to them and started a sincere conversation for a few minutes about what they are working on, it is going to come off very genuine.
Since the conversation was engaging and didn’t seem forced or sales-y in any way when you get to the “ask” it will make sense for them to say “yes.”
There’s a little bit of psychology in here though.
When you say “want in?” you are positioning your list as exclusive. Us humans want to feel included. So just by using those 2 words, you are framing your list as something that they want to be included on.
Since these are folks that do similar work as you or they are folks that you look up to in the industry, they may be a bit busy and not respond right away. That’s ok, pick up the conversation when you are both available.
I tried this exact process over a year ago, with three platforms. My number 1 is Twitter, 2 was Snapchat and 3 was Facebook.
For Twitter, because I had been there for a long time and I was engaging with my followers, talking with folks that I look up on a regular basis, and sharing other content regularly, about 95% of the people gave me their email address within 5 minutes of chatting.
Snapchat was surprisingly quick as well. I think it was because of the way that Snapchat is a one to one chat. Snapchat is so personal, especially in regards to seeing and hearing the person, it becomes even more genuine.
Facebook on the other hand because I haven't haven't really put too much effort into Facebook it took a lot longer and have that conversation to have that genuine feel to the natural course of that conversation to bring up the newsletter. By longer, I mean that it was 10-15 minutes.
In about 2.5 hours of work, I was able to get 160 folks on my email list. Close to 100 were that same day and the rest trickled in over the course of the next few weeks.
These are folks that gave up their email address for the promise that you gave them. They are also very busy like yourself. So if you don’t deliver on that promise, they will eventually unsubscribe.
Don’t chase the unsubscribes.
I did this experiment a year ago and out of the 160, I still have 94 on my list.
The good part is that 3 of these folks have referred me work that’s turned into recurring projects.
The best part is that I have built great friendships from this experiment!
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