Why All Side-Hustles Need an Email List
You’ve got a great gig going. Your side-hustle hums-along like a cold kitten on a warm lap. Maybe you make a fantastic income working a few hours at night, or on weekends.
Your growing income makes your day job look like a thing of the past. You can almost taste the freedom by the end of the year. You check the days in your bullet journal. You watch your income graph trend upwards, to the right.
The gig-economy has brought with it a host of side-hustles that didn’t exist a couple years ago. Entire cottage industries have been born on the back of support for new platforms and ideas.
There’s a hustle for everyone.
Whether you want to help pay your rent, buy dinner, or earn a little more for entertainment–the hustle has you covered.
…but there’s a dark side too.
If we’re not careful we can work ourselves into a hamster wheel of endless, one-time gigs. If we don’t work we don’t get paid. While this might feel like progress while we’re doing the work, it doesn’t help our cash-flow when we aren’t.
Tomorrow we’ve got to find the next gig. If we don’t find our own work, we don’t earn money.
In walks email–the old, dusty man of communication.
If email were a phone, she’d have a dial and a cord.
However, there’s a secret to this 40+ year-old technology. We still use it every day. Email is the most-lucrative app in your pocket.
Although Facebook has something like three billion users, there are six billion people with email (and their easier to contact). But most side-hustlers ignore this battle-tested classic for the dopamine hits of social media.
With email, you control the message, the rate of delivery, and the order in which the message is received. Short of giving a speech in-person, no other marketing tool can do this.
You can’t control the social media delivery process. It’s an educated guess at best. Even when you pay to play, you never know when your audience will see your message.
Nor will you know the other distractions around your message (cat videos and weird pics from coworkers you don’t like).
Social media is riddled with distraction.
Email is the opposite. We’ve got the reader’s full attention. If the person opens our email, it’s likely she’ll read it.
When you use email, you’ve got just as much right to your customer’s in-box as the biggest companies in the world. The in-box is the great equalizer. You can earn a higher return for your email than the corporations.
We send an email from a person, not a business. This is how we build rapport and connection. No one wants an email from McDonald’s, but they’d love to hear what Jane Doe is up to this morning.
Basic components required to set-up email for your side-hustle:
- You need a free offer (I call this an Easy Invite) that’s so compelling and valuable your customer would be a total fool not to participate. This means you don’t write “join my email list.” That weak phrase won’t cut it. I like mini-courses. These work very well for engagement. The subscriber gets a 5-7 day course, delivered daily. This keeps your readers coming back for more tomorrow. Plus, they’ll save your emails for years. I have readers who open the same email dozens of times, for reference.
- You need a landing page. This is the compelling spot where you send traffic and people join your list. There’s nothing else to do on your landing page, but sign-up for your email list. No menus. No bells. No whistles. You want to make the decision binary–yes or no.
- You need an email service provider. Nope, you can’t run a decent email list from your Google account. You need to pay a professional service to host and deliver your emails. There are plenty of reputable places available. For every budget. From free to Ferrari.
- You need an automated, welcome sequence. Your welcome sequence is a series of emails, delivered automatically, which help form a relationship between you and the reader. You can make your sequence as long as you wish, from a single email to years-worth of content. 10 emails is a good starting sequence. This helps teach your readers to open your work.
- You need to drive a bunch of traffic to your landing page. I prefer using content marketing to earn this traffic. You can also pay for leads, but they won’t get the SEO juice of content. Don’t try to be everywhere. Choose your favorite content platform and own it. It’s better to dominate your niche on one platform that to try and sprinkle 100 articles across 100 platforms. We want our readers to recognize our expertise and refer to us often when they need help.
This is all great and everything, but how do I earn money with email?
Here’s where the magic happens. Email will take your side-hustle from only-get-paid-while-working, to get-paid-in-your-sleep.
Every morning I wake-up and check my phone. I’ve got customers in 80 countries. I’ve never met a single one. Not one. Yet, I have a few small offers in my email sequence. I drive traffic with hundreds of articles written and published. My side-hustle is open 24/7/365.
I earn money while I sleep.
This isn’t some fake, slimy guru’s speech. I don’t earn millions of dollars while I sleep. But, my little side-hustle pays all my business expenses for the entire year with only a month’s-worth of automated sales.
My hustle pays for itself, funds its own growth, and allows me time to do the work I love–writing and creating. I have an international publishing business that runs almost completely on autopilot, with only occasional intervention on my part.
You can do this too.
Instead of trading your time for money, begin growing your email list to help offset your physical efforts with some semi-passive income. Every client you earn through your side-hustle gets an invite to your email list.
The sooner you start list-building the more passive-income you can grow. Only a small percentage of your readers will purchase anything from your offers, so we want to start our lists early. We need enough people on the list, so we’ll get a decent percentage of buyers (2-10% per offer).
You can offer your subscribers products and services related to the work you do in real-time.
Example email offers:
- Affiliate offers–you don’t have to create the product yourself
- Product reviews with Amazon links
- Courses, workshops, and how-to videos
- Audio recordings
- Group coaching
- Print on demand merchandise
If you can sell it online, you can sell it with email.
As you grow your side-hustle, you’ll grow your tribe. Which, in turn, will grow your automated income stream. You don’t have to stop your side-hustle. The automated email income will add to it. This added income stream will also help boost your bank account in any downturn to your work-for-hire projects.
The gig economy is unpredictable. What might feel like a steady-stream of work this week can be yanked from us next week. When you don’t control your job flow you don’t control your income.
Email is the great equalizer. When we use email we control more of our financial destiny. If you need to buy something, you can literally write an email to your responsive list. Send them an offer they can’t refuse and you’ll have more money by tomorrow morning.
Of course you need an offer your subscribers want to buy. But the offer isn’t as difficult as you might think. Through a careful survey process, you ask readers what they want and you sell it to them.
There’s no more build-it-first-and-hope-someone-buys-it.
The wants and needs of your readers will dictate the direction of your work. If you do a good job of attracting only the readers you serve, you’ll build a responsive list of people, excited to hear from you, willing to purchase your offers.
When we build a list of the people we serve, our side-hustle works in tandem with the work we love most. Not only can we share an evergreen, automated email sequence, but we can also email our readers live.
Our tribes desire human connection. If we provide them with content that helps them feel the connection, they’ll come back for more. When readers feel like they know and understand the person behind the offer, they’re more-likely to buy from us.
- We keep them involved in the process
- We share our daily lives
- We send conversational emails that read as if a friend sent them
We don’t have to be clever or gimmicky. Send your emails like you’d speak to a friend over coffee. You don’t need a bunch of images or silly gifs. Text-only is a great way to help keep yourself out of the spam box.
We all start with zero subscribers.
The question is will you still have zero subscribers next year? The best time to build an email list was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.
Email doesn’t take a lot of daily maintenance.
You’ll have a steady-stream of replies you should tend to, but that’s what phones are for. You can send a periodic, valuable, conversational, and entertaining (infotainment) email on a regular basis.
August Birch is an author, email expert, and entrepreneur from Michigan, USA. As a self-appointed guardian of writers and creators, August teaches indies how to make more work that sells and sell more work once it’s made. When he’s not writing or teaching, August carries a pocket knife and shaves his head with a safety razor.