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A Once in a Lifetime Opportunity for Writers Exists Right Now: Recommendations

by | Jun 19, 2023 | Writing

I’m so hyped about writing right now.

Let me tell you why. For years social media platforms have held creators hostage and treated us like slaves.

They’ve spoken down to us, told us what to write, cut our pay in half, reduced how many readers we can reach, moderated our work (even edited or removed it), and refused to give us the email addresses of the audiences we’ve built.

Everything just changed.

You no longer need social media to build an audience anymore. Read that again. Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use it though. But it just means you don’t have to. Let me explain.

Recommendations are the new and best way to grow as a writer

A writer starves without readers.

And we need a steady stream of new readers to keep seeing our work so we can continue to earn a living.

You’ve all heard the cliche advice “build your email list.”

Easier said than done, pal. To grow an email list you previously had to write great content and become a quasi-internet marketer sleazebag to get readers to click a CTA to get a lead magnet from a landing page.

This is a lot of work and the average writer struggles with it.

About 6 months ago I stumbled across a new movement. It’s called newsletter recommendations. It’s where writers recommend each others’ newsletters so they can grow their email lists on auto-pilot.

It’s kind of like the co-op model retailers used back in the day to bulk-buy stock or occupy shopping malls. Or the commune model the hippies used to make the cost of living cheaper and share resources.

The recommendation model lets us pool our resources.

Here’s how the recommendation model works (it’s a piece of piss)

The old fashion way to recommend newsletters is to simply ask another writer to promote your newsletter at the bottom of theirs.

It looks like this:

“Read this week’s edition of Tim Denning’s Unfiltered Publication. He wrote a great article about the dark side of productivity.”

That’s it. Short and sweet. The challenge with this model is it requires a bit of manual work.

There’s one other issue…

The conversion rate on the original recommendation model isn’t that high. Breakthrough — the best place to get a person to sign up for a newsletter is while they’re already signing up for a new newsletter.

Three newsletter platforms fixed the problem with a recommendation feature:

  1. Beehiiv
  2. ConvertKit
  3. Sub$tack

Now all you do is use one of these platforms. In-built is a discover section where you can find other writers in a similar topic to you and recommend them. If they’re smart they’ll recommend you back.

To guarantee a mutual newsletter recommendation, I email or DM the creator. I use this script:

Hey Chief, are you down to do a ConvertKit Creator Network newsletter recommendation swap? I’ve got 73K on my ConvertKit list. Mostly entrepreneurs and creators. It’ll help explode both our growth.

ConvertKit is the latest platform to add this feature. It’s the most powerful version of it I’ve seen. The reason is the analytics they give you are awesome and it’s easy to find other creators.

About an hour ago I started adding recommendations.

Here are my results so far:

Screenshot of my ConvertKit

20 new email subscribers in 60 minutes from 6 writers.

Holy crap! Can you see why I’m excited now?

The way it works is when a reader puts their email address into the field on your landing page to join YOUR email list, once the flow is finished and you’ve got the reader onboard, another screen shows up (like this).

Screenshot of my recommendation page on Substack

The feature auto-selects all your recommendations by default. This makes it easy for a reader to bulk join email lists rather than have to manually join them one by one.

And what’s the hardest job for a reader? Finding stuff to read.

Without features like this they have to let trash algorithms manipulate their brain and drown it in news and politics.

It’s so much easier to go “Hey reader, you like reading Ryan Holiday? Great. Here are three more writers Ryan recommends you read.”

The chance of those recommendations being good for the reader’s content diet is 10x higher than a stupid algorithm’s biased recommendations.

And Ryan likely did his due diligence on those recommendations because:

  1. He wants his email list to grow from the mutual recommendation
  2. His reputation as a writer is on the line.

So Ryan is a good little choir boy and carefully selects newsletters to recommend. That’s a win-win.

How this all makes you 6-figures in a year

I made a promise and it’s time to deliver.

The easiest way to make money online is with an email list. Once you have a direct connection with readers you don’t need to buy ads from Mark Suckerburger to speak with them and pitch them offers.

This is where the creativity comes in. What will you sell? That depends. Maybe you’ll be a traditional writer and sell a book via Amazon. Or maybe you’ll sell a paid newsletter subscription to your best writing.

Or you could charge for 1–1 coaching, consulting, courses, checklists, templates, podcasts, videos, etc. Shoot for Mars and you’ll probably at least land on the moon.

The hard part is getting the audience. The easy part is selling something valuable.

The best signal there is for making money: What’s your most popular piece of content on the internet? Build a product or service around it.

One of my most popular writing topics is flow states. I could build a flow state product or offer coaching on how to master flow states. The same opportunity exists for you.

Final Thought

Can you see why social media isn’t necessarily the main jam anymore?

Sure it helps but it’s optional. And some of you hate marketing yourself on social media. Now you don’t have to.

Put your audience growth on auto-pilot. Partner with other creators through a recommendation swap. Then earn a living from it.

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