I Make A Million Dollars a Year Writing Emails To My Friends. Here’s How I Do It

We want to help you make more informed decisions. Some links on this page — clearly marked — may take you to a partner website and may result in us earning a referral commission. For more information, see How We Make Money.

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

That’s what I used to sigh to myself when I was writing an email to a friend. (That is, back when friends are actually connected by email rather than texts, DMs, PMs, and any other private messaging platform prone to “sliding in” from creeps.)

Writing emails to friends provided the same joy as writing actual mail-mail—remember “letters”?—from sleepaway camp. I could be personal, conversational, myself. I told funny stories and made casual observations.

“My croque monsieur is giving me the rumbles. But it was worth it.” (From an actual 2006 email.)

A few years ago, I discovered I could make a living writing emails to my friends

Well, with a twist.

Now, instead of to my close, IRL friends, I write emails to a list of subscribers I think of as my friends. Sometimes, those emails sell things—in my case, mostly digital courses and mini-courses for personal brands and entrepreneurs.

And the resulting revenue from those emails? Upwards of one million dollars per year.

This is technically called email marketing. The emails I send might be called newsletters. But to me, and to my subscribers, each one is still an “email to a friend”—because that’s the style I write it in, and how the person receiving the email experiences it.

They feel like it’s just to them, because I keep the style and content as conversational and personal (sometimes TMI-level personal) as if I were writing them privately.

In these messages, which I usually send three times a week, I’ve written about my:

  • Triumphs and struggles in business
  • Personal failings and challenges
  • Pet peeves
  • Travel nightmares
  • Daily purchase of watermelon chunks. (Think no one cares what you had for breakfast? Think again!)
  • Writing practice and tips

…and much more.

I’ve told them about the time I illegally split a gym membership, the bad investment I made in a boyfriend’s instructional salsa-dancing tapes, my brother-in-law sending back his fish at dinner, my college roommate and her passive-aggressive Post-Its (Were you planning to wash these dishes? If not, I’ll do them! {smiley face} ).

How do these stories make money?

You may have heard the wisdom that we buy from people we know, like, and trust. Writing in a style that reveals your personality and personal life—or, if that’s not appropriate for your business, your worldview—creates that “know, like, and trust” factor for your readers.

Over and over, subscribers tell me, “I feel like we’d be friends in real life.” Some even say “besties.”

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

We all scan through our email inbox deleting the business-y junk and looking for something that feels like it’s just to us. Something from a person we know. In other words, 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 Sure 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

Consider also collecting email subscribers’ first names when they sign up for your list so you can address them by name in future communications.

No. 2: Write Like You Talk

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, Curiosity-Driven 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 Plenty of “You”—and Say Their Name

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

We respond to the word “you,” and even more to our own name. One of the great things about any decent ESP (email service provider) is that it lets you easily personalize your emails—both in the subject line and the body of the email.

Example of a personal 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: Incorporate Storytelling

Stories can change our controls and persuade us to buy in a non-salesy way. They also grab and keep our attention. Tips and information are fine, but we’re way more likely to open, keep reading, and click a link or follow a call to action if the email contains some element of a story.

If you’re a solopreneur, service provider, or personal brand—in other words, the face and voice of the business—you have the liberty to write in the first person and tell stories about your own life.

If you’re another kind of business (ecommerce, for instance), and writing from the company, you can make your customer the hero of the story instead. Note that “story” doesn’t have to mean a beginning, middle, and end.

Here’s an example story fragment:

Subject line: [FIRST NAME]’s favorite summer pants EVER

Ever wonder how some people wear jeans in 90-degree heat? Us too, [FIRST NAME].

Whether you’re walking through town in the blazing sun or dining by the ocean on a breezy night, you’re going to wonder how you got through a single summer before these linen pants sauntered into your life.

So there you have it – easy steps to get you started writing profitable emails (to your friends). Of course, getting to the 7-figure mark (or 6-, 5-, or 4-figure) requires selling something. It doesn’t require a huge list, but it does take a strong connection with the list you have. And that’s 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 advice—from a friend to a friend.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *