The most important thing you can do to start earning good money as a freelance writer is to choose your niche — to figure out what you write and who you write it for.
My niche is writing email sequences and sales pages for smart women entrepreneurs. By the way, a lovely side effect of this niche is meeting a lot of awesome women.
Anyway, let’s take a closer look at what an email sequence is, and how you can write an awesome one — and sell more of your stuff.
What Is an Email Sequence?
An email sequence is a series of email messages that you send subscribers to your email list, via an automated system such as ConvertKit (that’s an affiliate link, which means that if you click it and sign up, I might earn a commission at no cost to you).
In other words, you sit down ONCE to write these emails, and you load them into your email service provider, and you set things up so that when subscribers perform certain actions, specific emails get sent to them.
If you’re running an online business and you’re not using email sequences, you’re probably not going to be in business for long.
And that’s true even if you offer a service rather than a product.
Yep. Automated email sequences are an important tool for ALL online businesses. Let’s say that you’re a freelance writer and you write web sites for lawn care service providers.
When visitors come to your website, they can enter their email address and get a 2-page guide to using keywords effectively to boost their site rankings.
You could then:
- Never send them anything else.
- Send them your monthly newsletter filled with exciting developments in the lawn care web site world.
- Send them a series of emails over the next few days to help them gather some of the information they need to create a web site, teach them about the importance of content marketing, show them how to brainstorm blog post ideas, and then let them schedule a consult with you and make a one-time offer for site development at a slight discount.
Which option do you think helps you to create a steady stream of potential clients getting educated while getting to know, like, and trust you as an expert?
YES! It's option 3, the EMAIL SEQUENCE.
Here’s what it comes down to: if you created an online business to make money, then at some point you’re going to have to sell something. And no, it doesn’t need to feel icky or sleazy — as long as you offer a genuinely awesome product or service and you truly want to help your people.
In this post, I’ll share my process for writing a Welcome Sequence — a series of emails you send new subscribers to your list.
Got your worksheet ready? Then let's get started.
Who Is Your Email Sequence For?
The first question you need to consider is who this sequence is for: who is the ideal client, and what do you know about that person? (Yes, we never stop working on our niche. IT NEVER ENDS.)
The way you talk to auto-shop mechanics is going to be pretty different from the way you talk to homeschooling moms, for example, so you need to know who the audience for the sequence is, in as much detail as possible.
What’s the Purpose of the Email Sequence?
You absolutely need to know the end point of the sequence before you write a single word. Are you ultimately driving readers to purchase a product or service? What is it? What’s the price point? What does that include? Is it time sensitive?
Remember our lawn care service provider? Imagine that he hired you to write a welcome email sequence for his website. His clients are homeowners in his local area, so you need to know the language they use, the concerns they have, and so on. And the ultimate goal of the sequence is to get these homeowners to sign up for a monthly contract at $45/month.
You don’t want to write a sequence about flower arranging and then suddenly on the last day hit up the reader with your offer for lawn care services.
Instead, you need to create a sequence that will naturally flow to that final offer. So you might talk about homeowner’s association requirements in different neighborhoods, spotlight some yards the company has designed and maintained and how that boosts home values, discuss caring for your lawn in different seasons, and so on.
In addition, throughout the sequence, you should refer to the offer — it shouldn’t be a surprise on the last day.
How Much Information Should You Include in your Email Sequence?
A major struggle for a lot of online business owners is the free-versus-paid content dilemma. There are two main approaches:
- If I give away too much, no one will buy from me, so I will only give away tiny little pieces and charge for the rest.
- The more I give away, the more value I give people, and the more they will trust me and ultimately buy from me.
When I write email sequences — for myself and for clients — I follow the second approach. Give amazing value. Create an amazing user experience. Yes, some people will come for the free stuff and leave. Give those people your free content with love and an open heart. Plenty of others will come back for your paid offers.
It’s hard to give away too much information. Really. Let’s look at the lawn care example again. No matter how much information you give clients, the chances that they are then going to actually DO the lawn care work themselves? Pretty slim.
But what if your product or service is information or knowledge? Like, what if you’re teaching people how to write an awesome email sequence and you also write awesome email sequences for money?
Well, writing an awesome email sequence takes time and skill. Most online business owners have a LOT of work to do. Some people will read this post, download the guide that goes with it, use the information in the email sequence that follows, and write a killer sequence.
That is AWESOME, and that is the GOAL of this post and the download and the email sequence: to provide value.
Some people will read this post, download the guide, look through the email sequence that follows and say, “This is NOT my zone of genius. I want Abbi.”
And THAT is awesome, too, because it means I get to have a new relationship with another amazing business owner, that awesome woman gets a killer sequence, and everybody gets to do the work she loves.
Can We Get to the How Do I Write an Email Sequence Part?
Yes. Once you know WHO the sequence is for and WHAT the purpose is, it’s time to map out the sequence.
Write your subject lines for each email and 2-3 sentences describing what you’ll cover in the content, and note how you will ask readers to engage.
Take a look at this draft sequence map for TeamSamFitness.
Sign up email Subject: You are IN Get Fitter Faster!
- What we’ll cover over the next 5 days
- Engagement: hit reply and tell me
Day 1 Email Subject: Why You MUST Eat MORE if You Really Want to Lose Weight!
- Tear down the myth that starving yourself will help you lose weight
- Case Study: Jessica
- Engagement: download grocery list
Day 2 Email Subject: Say Goodbye to Time-Consuming Meal Prep
- Show them how meal prep can be way less complicated and time consuming than they think
- Engagement: blog posts, YouTube video
Day 3 Email Subject: What You Should Eat if You Want to Lose Weight
- Provide a list of foods they can eat freely
- Learn to enjoy food
- Engagement: YouTube video
- CTA: Fat Shredder program
Day 4 Email Subject: You Have NOT Failed at Dieting
- Case Study: Terry
- Engagement: book free 20-minute consult
- CTA: Fat Shredder program
Subject: You Can Learn to LOVE Exercise.
- Starting with small, consistent steps
- Small win: walk 10 minutes
- Engagement: blog posts with more challenging exercise, hit reply to tell me
- CTA: Fat Shredder program
Your sequence map can be more detailed if you want — the idea is that it should show you how the sequence flows. You want to know, before you write a single word, where your readers will end up so that you can get them there naturally — without crazy twists and turns.
Draft Your Email Sequence
Once you have your sequence map completed, it’s time to draft your emails — yeah, the actual writing.
Write to ONE person. Part of the reason we talk about “getting to know your ideal client” so much is so that when you write emails, you write to ONE person — not to an entire list. When you’ve taken the time to really dig in deep and learn about your ideal client, it’s a lot easier to be super specific in your messaging and communicate directly with that person.
A tiny, ridiculously obvious example:
YES: Hey [Name!] Wow, I feel like we haven’t talked in FOREVER.
NO: Hello List Members! I know I haven’t had time to give you all an update in a while.
A more subtle example:
YES: You know that thing your kids pull when it’s bedtime and they’re suddenly STARVING?
NO: Whether you have kids or you’re in the empty nest stage…
When you know your ideal client and you’ve drilled down, you don’t have to talk to the moms of young kids AND the empty nesters. You’ll either know the language that UNITES them, or you’ll only be talking to ONE of them.
If your target market is women ages 25-60 who work as low level admins in office jobs they hate then THAT’S where your personalization kicks in. You could say something like:
Nope, buying me flowers on Assistants’ Day DOESN’T make up for not knowing my name after I’ve worked here for TWO YEARS.
Follow your sequence map. The point of figuring out what information you’re sharing in each email is to give you, you know, a map to follow as you write the sequence. Smart, right?
If you know that on Day 1, you’re going to share links to two blog posts and ask readers to download a worksheet, then you have a lot of content to draw from right there.
Give your readers quick wins. How do you feel when you have to follow a 97-step process? Overwhelmed, intimidated, scared? Your readers want quick wins, so give them quick wins. Each email should have ONE task your readers can complete to get closer to a specific end goal.
Review Your Email Sequence
Once you’ve drafted your sequence, set it aside for a day or two — and get some feedback from people you trust.
People you trust = people who understand your business and your target market. If you’re writing to homeschooling moms, your corporate husband may NOT be the best reader.
When I need feedback on my work, I have a trusted network of awesome ladies who will always be honest with me. (That's an affiliate link for one of the most AWESOME paid groups on the Internet, and if you join through me, I'll earn a commission.)
When I write a sequence that is designed to SELL a product or a service, the BEST feedback is NOT, “I love it! It’s funny and quirky and it sounds JUST LIKE YOU.”
Do you know what the best feedback is?
It’s very simple. The BEST feedback — the feedback I am ALWAYS going for — is: “WHERE CAN I BUY THIS?”
And it’s even better if the person says, “OH MY GOSH, I AM TOTALLY NOT YOUR MARKET AND I STILL WANT TO BUY THIS PLEASE TAKE MY MONEY.”
When you get that response, you know you’ve got a good sequence.
Test Your Sequence
After you have your feedback and you’ve finalized your sequence, it’s time for the REAL test. Load it into your email service provider and start getting people in.
Do NOT make ANY changes to the sequence until at least 100 people have gone through it.
If you start to make tweaks based on feedback from one or two people, you will lose your mind. Wait. Let at least 100 people go through the sequence. Wait a MONTH if you have to. This is not wasted time; this is the time that is necessary for gathering data.
When at least 100 people have gone through the sequence, you can start to make some intelligent decisions.
Look at the open rates for EACH email in the sequence.
Look at the engagement on EACH email in the sequence.
Look at how many people BOUGHT the offer.
Evaluate the data carefully. If your open rates on each email are around 60 to 70%, you are ROCKING your subject lines. If people are clicking the links, hitting reply, and downloading your material, the content is GREAT. If you have a handful of sales from your 100 people, it’s time to break out the bubbly and celebrate.
On the other hand… if you see that open rates on a particular email suddenly drop to under 30%… consider the subject line of that email and the content of the previous day’s email. Change ONE THING at a time so that you can see what’s really making a difference.
If you see that your open rates and engagement are AWESOME, but NO ONE is buying your offer, there’s a disconnect. WHY? The answer to that is different in each situation, and it requires some digging to uncover.
Hint: It’s RARELY that your price is too expensive. It’s USUALLY related to how you are communicating the VALUE of the offer, and we'll cover that in a future post.
Writing an email sequence is one of those business tasks that you really don’t want to put off. Every day that you don’t have a smart sequence in place, you’re missing out on potential sales.