Leaving Work Behind

4 Ways to Kill It in Your Next Freelance Email Pitch

Written by Gina Horkey on August 11, 2015. 28 Comments

Email PitchThere is a right and a wrong way to pitch for freelance jobs (writing or otherwise).

If you’re a brand new freelancer, wouldn’t it be easier if you knew how to pitch the correct way, right off the bat? Or if you’re somewhat seasoned, but looking to take on some new clients and your current pitch isn’t converting that well, wouldn’t it be nice to know what you could do to make yours better?

We’ve talked a lot about pitching on Leaving Work Behind in the past. In fact, I’ve shared with you my first pitch along with my most recent one and broken it all down for you to learn why the latter is more effective and converts better.

And I’ve also given you the ultimate pitching blueprint to help you propose new article ideas to your current clients. But today, I want to share with you four specific ways to kill it in your next email pitch that are often overlooked by freelancers just like us.

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Email Marketing Best Practices (My 5 Step Guide to a Successful Campaign)

Written by Tom Ewer on July 15, 2013. 18 Comments
Email Me

Photo Credit: CarbonNYC

The internet marketing world is packed full of catchphrases that tend to annoy me.

One such catchphrase is, “The money is in the list!” It really bugs me; especially because I relate it to those internet marketers who create the kind of contrived email autoresponder series that I hate. When I first launched this blog back in June 2011 I made a promise to myself to not go down that road.

Which brings me to the present day and my email list. In my time I have created three different email autoresponder series (two of which I have scrapped) and ten different lists. At the time of writing I have a total of 3,668 subscribers, which may not be a lot but it is enough to make me a good income.

With that in mind, in this post I want to share with you a five step guide to email marketing best practices — the process I have followed (through trial and error) to establish what I consider to be a successful email list.

There are affiliate links in this post. If you purchase a product through one of them I will receive a commission. It will cost you nothing extra. I only ever endorse products that I have personally used and tested extensively. Thank you!

Step 1: Sign Up With AWeber

The first thing you need to do when you have decided to build an email list is to find a service that will handle the technical side of things — I’m afraid that simply sending an email to a hundred people from Gmail is not going to cut it.

And while there are plenty of options out there, I have just one recommendation: AWeber. I have been an AWeber user from the very start and have never regretted it. I have used many of the alternatives (including arguably its biggest competitor, MailChimp) and in my opinion it stands head and shoulder above them all.

You can sign up now and get your first month for just $1. After that it’s $19 per month, but in my opinion that’s a relatively paltry amount of money well spent. Along with web hosting, it’s one of the two things I do not think you should compromise on when it comes to building a successful blog.

Click here to sign up to AWeber now.

Step 2: Create Your List

Once you’re up and running with AWeber you’ll need to create a list. Lists are used to store subscribers’ details, web form designs, the emails sent to those subscribers, and plenty more. You’re going to need one for your first email marketing campaign.

Fortunately, they’re really easy to set up. In the following video I take you through the entire process, skipping all the unnecessary fluff and sticking to what you need to do.

Step 3: Create a Web Form

Once your list is up and running, people need to be able to subscribe to it! And although you can manually add subscribers on a small scale, the real key is in creating a web form that people can use to subscribe themselves.

You can either create a web form that is hosted by AWeber (and that you can link to) or embed one within your blog. In this next video I’ll show you how to create a web form that you can embed on your own blog

Easy, right? You can include the form within posts, pages, and even text widgets show you can include the form in your sidebar and/or footer — all you need to do is copy and paste!

Step 4: Create Your Autoresponder Series

Now we get down to what really matters — the content that you create. The work you do here makes all the difference between a profitable or a “dead” list.

First of all, consider what you want out of your email list. What you shouldn’t primarily be looking for is volume — you want quality. What I mean by this is that a hundred high-quality subscribers is far better than a thousand who have no interest in what you have to say.

Secondly, you need to make a decision up front about what type of email marketer you are going to be. There are (in my opinion) two broad types:

  1. Salesy
  2. Non-salesy

There’s not necessarily anything wrong with being a salesy email marketer — there are a huge number of people out there who are very successful at it. But if your blog is anything like mine (i.e. focused on a personal approach), a salesy autoresponder series will seem out of place.

I advocate a non-salesy approach. While I still make money out of my list, it is very much through a “softly softly” method that focuses on building a relationship with the subscriber first, then promoting products to them second (and when I do, it is in a very non-pushy way).

To give you an idea of what I mean, I’m going to take you through the first email in the Leaving Work Behind autoresponder series (and also show you how to create these autoresponder emails yourself).

If you subscribe to my autoresponder series you will note that I don’t try to sell anything to you for the first few emails. All I try to do is offer tremendous value. When someone subscribes, that should be your cue to build trust, not sell to them.

And when I do recommend something via my autoresponder, it is very much a softly-softly approach. It’s not until email number eight in my series (6 Books You Should Read If You Want to Leave Work Behind) that I actually try to sell anything.

The key question you should ask yourself when creating an autoresponder email in which you intend to promote something that you can make an income off is this: would you still send it if you couldn’t make money from it? The answer to that question is what you should pay attention to.

So my strategy is simple really — offer loads of value and occasionally promote products. There isn’t a great deal more to it than that! I really see my autoresponder series as an extension to the blog and I treat it as such. I’d like to think that a lot of the content I send to my email subscribers is as good as (and sometimes better) than what I publish here on the blog. After all, don’t your most loyal subscribers deserve something a little special?

To be honest, the best way you’ll get a solid idea of my email marketing strategy is to sign up to my list. You can always unsubscribe if you don’t like what I send you!

Step 5: Broadcasts

If you’re anything like me then you’ll want to keep in regular touch with your subscribers via broadcast emails. This is something that many bloggers do not do (they’ll stick solely to their autoresponder series), but I see not doing it as an opportunity lost.

For one reason, consider the opportunity cost in terms of traffic. Monday is almost always the highest traffic day for Leaving Work Behind, because that is the day I send out my weekly broadcast email. I’ll get a few hundred extra people visiting my blog just because of that broadcast email. Furthermore, when I polled my subscribers I discovered that the majority of them wanted this email. A lot of people will sign up to your email list in the expectation that they will receive blog updates, so don’t disappoint them!

In the following video I show you how I created the broadcast email for this week’s update (i.e. the one promoting this particular post).

Any Questions?

So that’s it! By now you know everything you need to know about email marketing best practices (at least, how I do it). But if you have any comments or questions please do not hesitate to leave them below — as always, I love to read and respond to what you have to say!

My Email List Disaster (and Why I’m Not Bothered)

Written by Tom Ewer on November 2, 2012. 17 Comments

My Email List Disaster (and Why I'm Not Bothered)Over the past few weeks I have been victim to a rather drastic increase in the number of unsubscribes to my email list. This probably isn’t something I should admit, but then I’m not one to hold back on stuff like this, am I?

Here’s the thing though — I’m not that bothered. Yes, it’s not exactly pleasing to see that a pretty considerable number of people are unsubscribing, but I could feel worse about it. Despite the fact that an email list is touted by the vast majority of bloggers as the most important asset you can have (and I agree), I’m not breaking a sweat.


There are affiliate links in this post. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission. It will cost you nothing extra. I only ever endorse products that I have personally used and tested extensively. Thank you!

The State of Affairs

First of all, let me fully reveal the extent of the issue:

Email List Unsubscribes

Yep — I wasn’t lying when I used the word “drastic”. Starting in September, the number of subscribes per week has increased massively.

However, this apparent mass exodus of LWB subscribers is contradicted by the spreadsheet I update on a weekly basis:


The number in the right column is the number of subscribers gained in that week across two lists — the main LWB list, and a list I created for my Smart Passive Income guest post. This number is taken directly from my AWeber homepage:


The AWeber stats seem to be contradicting themselves, which is really confusing (and frustrating). I contacted support but they were unable to figure out what the issue was.

I don’t actually know what to believe at this point. Aweber’s graph shows that unsubscribes are outnumbering subscribes by a huge margin — here’s what data from the past 30 days looks like in line chart form:

Subscriber Loss

But according to my spreadsheet, my weekly number of subscribes has been positive, with last week being particularly good. I have no idea what data to trust.

Suspected Causes

So let’s assume that I am losing more subscribers. Why?

In short — I don’t know. I can’t think of one clear reason as to why I would suddenly start dropping so many subscribers. I have a couple of ideas, but I wouldn’t typically envisage either of them having such a major impact.

First of all, I reintroduced a signup incentive — my guide to keyword research and competition analysis.  One could theorize that I am getting a lot of people subscribe just to get the guide, then immediately unsubscribing. I don’t think this is happening, because it’s not something I experienced when I previously had the guide on offer as part of subscription.

My second theory centers around my somewhat sporadic broadcast/autoresponder habits. I reintroduced autoresponder emails a few weeks back, to be sent out once every seven days. At the moment I only have three emails in the series, and most of my subscribers won’t be receiving them, as they received up to seven messages as part of a previous (and now scrapped) autoresponder series. They won’t get a new autoresponder message until I have written eight. Aside from that, I tend to write a new broadcast email every Monday, which gets send to all subscribers.

But again, I don’t see why this would provoke such a major shift in unsubscribes. Apart from those two theories, I have no idea why my unsubscribes have apparently increased so much.

Why I’m Not Worried

It would be all too easy to freak out about the kind of “leakage” I may be experiencing. And it would be fair to say that I will be more concerned if it continues in the long term. Judging by one set of data, that would result in my list eventually reducing to zero!

But at the moment I’m not too bothered for three reasons:

  1. My autoresponder messages are good — at least, I think they are. I haven’t received any complaints yet, and I have had subscribers email me just to tell me that they like them (one even wanted to know how she could share it).
  2. It’s a learning process. Even if I am leaking subscribers, I will eventually figure out why and learn from it. There’s no point crying over spilt milk — I am constantly pushing myself into new areas, and that will inevitably result in unanticipated results and mini-crises.
  3. Even if I am losing subscribers because they don’t like me, I am who I am. This blog is very personal to me, I have no plans to change it, and I would like to think that the guys and girls who do hang around like it. This blog’s for you — if someone unsubscribes because they don’t like it, I’m not going to lose sleep.

Improvement Needed?

One thing’s for sure — I definitely could be doing more to build my list. I could be optimizing the sign up forms on my blogs, split testing, and adding autoresponder messages. But you’ve got to prioritize your time, and I’d rather focus on serving existing subscribers and readers than trying to boost my subscribe rate.

Having said that, I would like to get my autoresponder series up to the magic number eight as soon as possible. I don’t want my old subscribers to be seeing nothing but my Monday broadcasts — I want to give them genuinely useful content that they won’t find elsewhere. I put a lot of time into my autoresponder messages, which is one reason why I have been so slow in creating them, but I could try harder to write more (in fact, I’m going to write one right now).

What do you think? Do you have any theories regarding my mysterious unsubscribe increase? If you’re a subscriber, do you take value from being on my list? What suggestions would you have?

Struggling With Your Autoresponder Series? Here’s The Solution

Written by Guest Author on March 16, 2012. 12 Comments

This is a guest post by Bon the Math Mom. Thank you Bon for such an awesome piece!


I couldn’t find a relevant image, so here’s a photo of a kitten on a laptop.

Getting into the groove of writing content for your blog is fairly easy. Once you’re there, you’re there.

But writing for your email list is a big challenge.

And, as Tom pointed out in a previous post, in order to make the most of your email list, you need to set up your auto responders.

But no matter how easy your email list management app is (be it Aweber, Mailchimp or any of the others), it’s still different than WordPress.

You have to do an html version and a text version. You have to make decisions about when the email will go and to whom. You have to decide if the email is shareable. If you want to “track clicks.” And if you want to personalize it or keep it generic.

Many of us jump into WordPress once a day, at least. It’s home.

Writing in Aweber feels like bathing in someone else’s shower. You’re constantly looking for the shampoo and wondering if the razor is okay to use.

But You CAN Get Your Groove On

I’ve read in a number of places that batching tasks is a very efficient way to work. I know it’s true because I’ve done it.

Indeed it’s much faster to clean the kitchen every two weeks than everyday. In spite of what Husband thinks.

So when I started doing auto responders to my email list, I decided that batching the process would be the only way to go.

“Auto Responder Retreat Weekends” Are Better Than Guns or Glue

Some women go on scrapbooking weekends. Some men go off to hunt.

When it’s my weekend to take off by myself, I pack up my computer and a few bottles of wine and head to my sister’s house to write auto responder emails.

And like any good habit, I’ve created a system.

I mean… <cue John Williams music>

I’ve created A SYSTEM.

Each Email Has The Same Basic Construction

Each auto responder email is on a specific topic. My niche is math teaching, so it isn’t difficult to select a different topic each time.

Regardless of the topic, though, each email has the following bits:

Batching Is Easy When The Pieces Are Lined Up

The logo and image placeholders along with some lorem ipsum text are all set up in a template. The template also has all the options set up for things like sharing, when to send, click tracking and lists to send to.

This is what the template looks like. Complete with www.placekitten.com placeholder.

I have a list of topics lined up for the next few months and many of them already have a post or three linked. I keep it in MindMeister (a paid mind mapping service).

The pieces are there. I’m comfortable. When I jump in to write, it’s familiar. It’s like taking my own shampoo/razor kit with me into your shower.

The Process Is Now Smooth

It goes like this:

  1. I grab the next topic on the list and open all the links in separate tabs.
  2. I read through the posts and think of an experience that I haven’t shared with the readers yet.
  3. I write the story to my best friend. This helps me ooze personality. I try to be as kitchy and fun as I am in real life – including using words like kitchy when I have no idea what they really mean.
  4. I insert each post url as a hyperlink, adjusting the text so it flows like it should. Before picking up the next url, I paste it in the plain text area. This makes it easy when I convert the html to text.
  5. I grab two pictures, almost always from the site, and replace the placeholder images. I don’t worry about resizing the photos – mostly because I’ve convinced myself that resizing them doesn’t make the email open any faster. (This may or may not be true. I’ve merely convinced myself that it is.)
  6. I copy and paste the text into the Plain Text area. I move the links to the right places, adjust for the missing images and word wrap it.
  7. I change the “send interval” from 999 days to 7 days and press “Save Message.”

I make sure everything works by sending myself a test message. But other than that, there’s no much in the way of proofing.

It’s an email after all. To a friend. Typos are normal.

And then I do it again and again.

I Set Myself Up For Success For The Next Time

Before the end of the weekend, I set up 8 to 10 more auto responder topics with a handful of links in MindMeister. This will be the start of the next Auto Responder Retreat Weekend.

I’m set up to provide great stuff for my VIP readers and free to do the other parts of the business.

No albatross of “I should be doing my auto responders” hanging around my neck!

How About You?

Do you have a system? Can my system be used or modified to make your auto responder email list work for you? Let us know in the comments section!

Bon Crowder publishes Math Is Not a Four Letter Word, a math education website for parents and teachers. Her plan to leave work behind became a reality in January 2012. She’s currently working on a family numeracy program called, That’s Math! Check her out!

Creative Commons photo courtesy of dougwoods

1 Reason You May Not Be Making The Most Of Your Email List

Written by Tom Ewer on January 23, 2012. 15 Comments

Or a clown. I could call myself a clown.

The title of this article may have a few of you confused. After all, newsletter signup forms have been up on my blog ever since it launched in June of 2011. So what’s the deal?

I am an idiot; that’s the deal. Yep – I was a fool last week, and I am an idiot today. I must learn to be less abusive to myself!

Whilst my email list is rather modest at just 393 strong (at the time of writing), it represents 393 people who want to hear what I have to say. And I have been largely ignoring them – just occasionally sending out a notification when I have published what I consider to be an interesting post. That is no way to treat people who have shown an interest in your blog, is it?

A Change In Approach

Some of you may recall that I made a rather ambitious attempt a few months back at creating a newsletter autoresponder series that offered a step by step guide to leaving work behind. Such an undertaking was ultimately doomed to failure, because there is no “one size fits all” guide to leaving work behind – it depends entirely upon your circumstances. So this time around, I have decided to relieve the pressure and produce an auto-responder series that focuses on straightforward and actionable advice relating to the topics I focus on here at Leaving Work Behind.

The material is unique to the newsletter and of a high quality (if I do say so myself). I am employing the strategy championed by Pat Flynn – a completely non-aggressive, non-salesy approach, which aligns perfectly with the reputation for honesty and transparency that I am trying to cultivate.

Invisible Man

That’s me – transparent. Get it?

So What Are You Waiting For?

If you are not yet subscribed to my newsletter, please sign up now by entering your email address into the box below! Oh, and you get a free keyword research and competition analysis guide as well – did I mention that?

I am confident that you will not regret joining my list, and besides, what do you have to lose?

Just one more thing – I would love to get your feedback on the auto-responder series. Your opinions are incredibly valuable to me and your comments and feedback would be humbly received and appreciated.

Edit: it has been brought to my attention by my good friend Bon that the content of this article didn’t make it precisely clear as to what the “1 Reason” stated in the title was. So for clarity’s sake, I am talking about your auto responder. But not just about simply having an auto responder, but about using it in a well thought-out and structured manner to create and maintain engagement readers’ with your blog. “The money is in the list”, as they say, but the value of that list is only determined by how engaged newsletter readers are with your content.

Creative Commons photos courtesy of Carlos Octavio Uranga and Diogo A. Figueira