Take the leap, and trust your followers to jump with you.
This past week, I took the unprecedented step of asking my email subscribers for money. I battled guilt, disappointment, anxiety, nerves, and hope before sending that email.
I expected people to unsubscribe from my mailing list. I expected people to be angry that I’d dared ask them for money. I expected nobody, not a single soul, to actually think my pitch worth taking seriously. The only reason I’d even sent the email was because I’d seen blog after article after webinar that said people will not simply find me and give me money. I’d learned I had to ask, and trust that the people who truly enjoy my content and support me wouldn’t mind. So even though I was dubious, I worked up the nerve to ask people for their cold hard cash and braced myself for the negative impact.
And there wasn’t one. Not only that, some of them actually jumped at the chance to get to support me. I couldn’t believe it.
You Will Never Be Discovered By Chance
My secret daydream, like many other folks, is to be discovered. I love the idea of waking up one day to an email that says, “Hey! I love your work! I want to give you $500 per month to keep it up!” I dream of receiving a note on one of my posts saying, “We’d love you to turn this into a book! Here’s a $50k paycheck to get you started.”
What I don’t love is the idea of having to pitch: to other people, to publications, to editors.
It’s because, like most other people, I hate to market and sell myself. I’m bad at it. It doesn’t come naturally. After a lifetime of being told not to brag or be arrogant, it’s just as hard to write a personal essay applying to college as it is to ask people to support my work by giving me money. I feel unworthy.
I know some people are discovered — models are discovered, actors are discovered, some people are asked to write for magazines, blogs, they’re asked to speak or write books.
But most likely, you won’t be. You’ll need to put yourself out there, explaining to people why you’re worth it. It’s hard. It won’t come easily. But it’s worth it.
This is the Right Way to Ask Followers for Money
I knew right away how I didn’t want to do it.
I didn’t want to trick people. I have opened many an email promising valuable content only to find it full of misleading links and half-assed entreaties.
I didn’t want to deluge people. I know it might take more than one ask, but I also know how many damn sales funnels I’ve dropped right out of because of the constant near-harassment levels of emails.
I didn’t want to sneak it in. I try to send out a relevant, honest, helpful newsletter every week. I didn’t want to just poke a link in there — I wanted to have it separate.
Maybe these tactics work, but I don’t want my money to come at that cost.
Honestly, I don’t know if my way is the only right way, but it worked for me. Here’s what I did:
- Hook in my email title: “Want to send me one of your story drafts for review?” As one of the perks, anyone who contributed to my Patreon would get me to review and edit a story or blog post of theirs.
- Upfront opening paragraph: “Full disclosure: this email is me talking about my new Patreon page, and the benefits you’d get which include submitting a story draft to me for editing and review.” I let people know right away what this was, and that if they weren’t interested, that was OK.
- Clear benefits for me and them: I discussed what they would get, what I would get, and why they might want to support me.
- What would happen if they didn’t support me: “Not feeling it? Not a problem. I’m going to continue my weekly newsletter, my blog posts, my videos and every other free resource I have. This is just the chance to go a little further.” I wanted to be clear that I’d continue creating good, valuable free content because I loved doing it, and that they didn’t have to give me money unless they wanted to.
The results? Ten folks headed over to my Patreon page and signed up to give me money, to the tune of $42 per month. Over a year, that will amount to $504 which is more money I ever thought I’d earn from my mailing list. But more than that, people were so lovely and supportive of me.
“Keep doing what you’re doing, you’re a natural teacher and encourager. You’ve helped me already and I’ve got a section set aside in my journal where I keep notes of things I learn from you.” — one of my new patrons.
What I Learned From Asking My Supporters for Money
I learned that it’s hard. It’s so difficult to put yourself out there and trust that people will not only not resent you for it, they appreciate it! They like the chance to show you they enjoy what you do. You have real fans, people who really support you and love what you provide for them
I learned that if you’re confident in the value you’re providing, you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for what it’s worth. This was what finally tipped me over the edge to pressing send on that email: I knew that what I do is good, and useful, and that people find it valuable. And I knew the folks who found it most valuable would let me know. Those who didn’t? They could unsubscribe and I wouldn’t miss them.
Finally, I learned that it’s worth it. Five hundred bucks per year, all from one email. It’s not mass riches, no, but I do believe it’s the start of something I’ve been too scared to dream about for a long time: the chance to earn a living fully by doing what I love.
If you’ve been putting off asking your supporters for money, whether it’s because you don’t believe in yourself, or you’re waiting to be discovered, or you’re afraid people will call you out for it, don’t hesitate any longer. People want to support you — you owe it to them and to yourself to give them the chance.
Hey! I earn over $1500 every month by writing about what I love, on Medium. If you’re keen to get started, I have a week-long email starter kit that will walk you through the first steps. Here’s the link.