I make a million dollar every year by sending emails to my friends. This is how I do it

How to make a million dollar by sending emails to friends

“I wish I could make a living just doing this.”

That's what I used to mutter to myself while composing an email to a friend. (That is, back when pals communicated via email rather than texts, DMs, PMs, or any other private messaging channel prone to "sliding in" from creeps.)

Writing emails to friends gave me the same thrill as writing actual mail from sleepaway camp (remember "letters"?). I could improve my personal and communicative skills. I told some hilarious stories and made some casual observations.

"My Croque monsieur is giving me stomach aches." But it was all worthwhile." (This is a true email from 2006.)

A few years ago, I found that I could make a living by composing emails to my pals.

Instead of writing to my close, in-person pals, I now send emails to a list of subscribers whom I consider to be my friends. Occasionally, those emails will sell something—in my case, usually digital courses and mini-courses for personal brands and businesses.

And what about the revenue generated by those emails? A million dollars or more every year.

The technical word for this is email marketing. My emails have the potential to be categorized as newsletters. But, to me and my subscribers, each one is still an "email to a friend" since that's how I write and how the person receiving the email perceives it.

They get the impression that it's only for them since I keep the tone and material conversational and personal (often TMI-level personal) as if I were writing to them privately.

I've written about my: in these messages, which I normally write three times a week:

  • Business successes and failures
  • Personal flaws and difficulties
  • My pet peeves
  • Travel phobias
  • Watermelon chunks are purchased daily. (Do you believe no one cares what you ate for breakfast? Consider again!)
  • Writing Activities, tips, and much more...

I've told them about the time I illegally split a gym membership, the disastrous investment I made in a boyfriend's instructional salsa-dancing CDs, my brother-in-law returning his fish at dinner, and my college roommate and her passive-aggressive Post-It notes (Were you going to wash these dishes? Otherwise, I'll do them! (smiley face).

How do these stories generate revenue?

You've probably heard the adage that we buy from people we know, like, and trust. Writing in a style that reflects your personality and personal life—or, if that's not acceptable for your business, your worldview—gives your readers the "know, like, and trust" aspect.

Subscribers frequently tell me, "I feel like we'd be friends in real life." Some even call them "besties."

In fact, I call this style of email an EFAB: Email From A Bestie.

We all sift through our email inboxes, removing the business garbage and looking for something personal. Something from someone we know, To put it another way, an EFAB.

And that’s the email we click on…and buy from.

So how do you write an EFAB?

Here are my top tips.

No. 1: Make Certain You Have Consent

First of all, you need permission—from a list of people who’ve opted in to hear from you. They’ve submitted their email to receive one or all of the following:

  • Your newsletter
  • Free shipping or a one-time discount
  • A lead magnet, AKA “freebie” (usually a guide, checklist, free report, chapter of a book, etc.)
  • Adding people to your list without their permission and emailing them in a group is called spam. Don’t do it.

    Pro Tip

    When building an email newsletter, also collect subscribers’ first names when they sign up so you can address them by name in future communications.

    No. 2: Write as if you were speaking.

    This is a best practice for all copywriting, and it can be counterintuitive. Most of us have learned in school or a corporate job that it’s “unprofessional” to write conversationally. 

    But what human says to another human, “You are never going to believe with whom I am going on vacation”?

    You’d say, 

    “You’re never gonna believe who I’m going on vacation with.” 

    Write the way you talk, namely the way you would to a friend, and you’re in business. 

    I’m often asked, “But what if my business is B2B (business to business), and my audience is more corporate?”

    You’re never a business writing to a business. You’re always a person writing to a person. How would you speak to the client or customer if you were sitting across from them at a coffee shop? Write like that.

    No. 3: Use Informal, Inquisitive Subject Lines

    It doesn’t matter how great your email is if nobody opens it. The #1 key to getting an email opened is… the subject line. 

    Let’s start with the informal part.

    An EFAB’s subject line looks like it’s from a friend to a friend. Its formatting is casual. Don’t use title case; use sentence case instead. You might even drop punctuation for an extra casual touch. (Optional.)

    Here’s a formal-looking subject line: “3 Mistakes You Are Making That Repel Customers.”

    Here’s the EFAB version: “3 mistakes you’re making that repel customers”.

    As for the curiosity element, there are lots of ways to inject that. Some of my top-performing subject lines include:

    • The thing that might’ve almost happened to me
    • Literally the crappiest job ever
    • Can I count on you?*
    • There goes [FIRST NAME]’s weekend*

    The key is to arouse interest and imply there’s a story there.

    No. 4: Use a lot of "you," and say their name.

    Did you notice those two starred subject lines above? They both leverage everyone’s favorite topic: themselves!

    We react strongly to the word "you," and even more strongly to our own name. One of the best features of any good ESP (email service provider) is the ability to effortlessly personalize your emails, both in the subject line and the body of the email.

    Example of a personalized subject line:

    “I’m in love with [FIRST NAME]!”

    Example from the body of an email:

    “Did I tell you what [FIRST NAME] said today? Wait, lemme find the email.”

    When you weave your personality and personal stories into your emails, your subscribers find themselves thinking about you, and maybe even telling their families about you.

    No. 5: Include Storytelling

    Stories have the power to modify our thoughts and encourage us to buy in a non-sales manner. They also capture and hold our attention. Tips and information are fine, but we're far more inclined to open, read, click a link, or take action if the email incorporates some aspect of storytelling.

    You have the freedom to write in the first person and relate anecdotes about your own life if you are a solopreneur, service provider, or personal brand, in other words, the face and voice of the business.

    If you're a different type of business (eCommerce, for example), and you're writing from the firm, you can make your consumer the hero of the story instead. It's worth noting that "narrative" does not have to imply a beginning, middle, and finish.

    Here’s an example story fragment:

    Subject line: [FIRST NAME]’s favorite car EVER

    Ever wonder how some people drive cars without roofs at 40° Celsius? Me too, [FIRST NAME]. 

    Whether you're strolling around town in the hot sun or dining by the sea on a breezy night, you'll wonder how you got through a single summer without these sunroofs.

    So there you have it - simple methods to start creating profitable emails (to your friends). Of course, reaching the seven-figure level (or the six-, five-, or four-figure milestone) necessitates the sale of anything. It doesn't take a long list, but it does demand a strong relationship to the list you have. This is where the EFAB comes in.

    Give it a shot! If you have an email list, try writing them an EFAB this week. And if you have a business, focus on email. Your efforts will pay off.

    That's my recommendation from a friend to a friend.

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