Finding Hidden Profit In Your Email Newsletter — Lesson Five

Tobin Slaven
Apr 29, 2017 · 9 min read

Building Your List of Subscribers — Part I

This is part FIVE of TWELVE lessons in the Finding Hidden Profit course on Skillshare. You will also find links to each of the 12 lessons in the video notes.

Please note: If you are NOT currently a Skillshare member, here is my link [I am an affiliate partner] for a free 30-day trial (more than enough to take the full FHP course and any of the other 15,000+ courses available) on

Getting Your First Subscribers

Some of you may be tacking the newsletter opportunity onto the front end of an existing business, in which case you may already have a list of emails from your customers. If that is the case, this lesson is not for you…

This lesson is really for the folks that are starting from scratch. You have an interesting idea, but currently it is only an idea — maybe a long-time hobby or interest that you have been cultivating and you would LOVE to find a way to turn it into a job (even a part-time side hustle job).

Is there anything better than getting paid to do something you love?

There is a famous quote, that has been attributed to everyone from Confucious to Roman Emperor Marc Anthony, which I am paraphrasing here:

Do what you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life

But the key to getting to that place where you can earn income doing the stuff that you would put your time into anyways REQUIRES one key mental jump — and that is thinking about other people (your target audience) and how you can bring value to them.

Because as Zig Zigler says:

You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want

So we need to get started building our audience…

Building An Audience Of Real People

If you do a search online for topics like “how to grow my email list” there are a ton of great ideas and resources out there. But there is one piece of advice that I strongly disagree with.

Most programs (step by step teaching process) ask you to create an audience avatar or “marketing persona” so you can get laser targeted on who you want to attract into your tribe of people.

How they break down this process (demographics, psychographics, where they spend their time, wants/needs/desires) is actually pretty valuable but all these other teachers are focused on creating an imaginary person who’s profile matches what you want for your ideal audience.

I don’t get it…

Why create an imaginary person, when you can actually go out and find a person in real life, and deliver value to them?

I would take it a step further and say, that when you pick real life people (you might only know them online), but people with real names, real interests and needs — you will get much more accurate feedback on how you are doing with your newsletter. When you deliver great value (the first goal) you will hear from them and that communication will be like rocket fuel for your inspiration to do more.

With a fake “marketing persona” like “Suzy The Side Hustler” (that was an actual avatar I created previously) you are guessing at what this person thinks and feels, but you don’t really know.

Key Point: When you pick your audience avatar(s) you are not just going for “someone” you know who is willing to be in your audience. You should think about who would be an ideal person to prepare your newsletter for. What interests do you share? How are they likely to respond when you give them the good stuff? Pick that in a real person — because our focus will be on how to find more people like your ideal audience avatar.

I have found for myself, that when I shifted away from the make believe marketing personas and focused on serving real people — the value of what I was producing took a quantum leap and the feedback I was getting showed it.

So what might this look like in real life…

Once you have a person in mind, you can reach out to that person (see the example in the Lesson Five video) and just explain to them in regular, everyday language, that you are doing a new creative project — and you would really like to connect with people like them.

Think about how you might feel if you were approached that way. It is very flattering. Someone is telling you they are smart and wanted, and that you value their feedback. Most folks will at least agree to give it a try (they can always unsubscribe later if it doesn’t meet their expectations).

If they say no, or they are too busy to even give it a test of reading your newsletter, then you will want to move on anyways. They are either not your core audience or they will recognize the value later on.

Building An Audience Of Four

Then next thing we are going to do after picking one ideal person for our audience, is rinse and repeat the process three more times.

We want at least four ideal audience avatars because when you start preparing your newsletters, you are going to keep these folks in mind as if you were writing a personal email to the small group of them.

Why Four?

I have found this to be the Goldilocks number. Not too much and not too little. With four readers to focus on, you can pick a nice mix of interests to give your newsletter a lot of flavor. For example, in my own personal newsletter [Tobin Today] I often share news in several different categories that match up with my interests: entrepreneurs & side hustles; technology and futurism; funny or “must-see” stuff from the web. I even have a category about Star Wars on occasion.

Having four different avatars to think about, let’s me place different kinds of content that I know will be of interest for each of them.

Let me give you a real life example…

Catherine is one of my real life readers. She is always so supportive of my projects, and this is what she had to say about [Tobin Today]:

Fascinating — what I find so cool about your port hole to intelligent stories — it’s like there is a buffet of things to sample but everything make you want more seconds! If you can engage someone like me, who is so tech averse and feels like its a world that is inaccessible to old school folks like me, you can engage anyone!

Often this “tech world” feels like its only for those already in the know. What I love about the stories is they are inclusive and relevant so you actually feel a part of it all! you never get the feeling of “oh I don’t belong here!”

Those words were pretty flattering to me, and they make me work even harder to keep pouring myself into my newsletter each week. One thing I know about Catherine is that she has this amazing background in the fashion world — something I know very little about.

But when I was able to find a news article about how tech is changing the fashion world, but integrating virtual reality into the shopping experience, I made sure I shared that one because I knew it would pique Catherine’s interest.

In this way — the your newsletter which will one day satisfy the curiosity and entertain thousands, is written like a personal communication that creates these amazing bonds with others.

One more key point: One of the best things about knowing 4 specific people, is that you can then ask yourself this question: “My ideal reader would pay attention to [blank], but no one else would.”

If you can pick specific people and answer that question, finding more ideal audience members and growing your list is going to be SO much easier because when you try to appeal to everyone, you end up getting no one’s attention.

But if you can really zero in on a group of like-minded people, and you know exactly where (often online) to connect with them, you are going to grow and grow fast!

Growing From Four To 100

Okay. Maybe you have an idea of who your big four audience avatars will be. Or you are still working on it. But you need more than four people on your list if you are going to send out a newsletter, right?

So we need to add another circle of people to your list and they are going to come by the dozens. These people are your “circle of trust.”

It might be your mother, your brother and sister. Maybe a co-worker or the people you car pool with. The Circle of Trust people do not need to be your ideal audience. Maybe they only care about you — and not your chosen topic area.

That is okay, because as you saw in the example from the video — our goal here is just to build a starter audience of people who already know, like, and trust you, so you can get feedback as you are getting started.

Circle of Trust people subscribe to support you, not because of the content. You might win them over. They might refer others they know who would be really interested in your content. But mostly, they want to see what you are doing and cheer you on along the way.

So how do you get more Circle of Trust people?

  1. Pull out your mobile phone and text the last 20 people you texted with, and tell them about your new creative project…
  2. Go on Facebook and look down thru your list of friends, then send a message to those who have always been willing to support or stay connected to you in the past…
  3. Go on Twitter, and search for hashtags related to your interest. Connect with others in those discussions and tell them about your new newsletter. Some will sign up.
  4. Go to online forums or Facebook groups that are already talking about your topic. Join the conversation — and this is really key. If you go in and just tell others to subscribe, you are going to hear crickets for a response. You really need to genuinely connect with others.

The strategies that get you from zero to the first 100 subscribers are not scalable. You are only going to do it this way for a certain time. It would take forever to grow a big audience for your newsletter this way, but it is SO important that you seed the your fertile ground this way to get started.

One last thought: I know, because I have done these steps myself (they are part of Bryan Harris’s Get 10,000 Subscribers Training) that it can feel a bit weird to reach out to people and ask them if you can add them as a subscriber.

But this is one of those times where you have to be brave and just do it. And you will be surprised because most of the world is made up of “consumers” — which means people who are constantly buying stuff, watching Netflix, and gorging themselves on the stuff of the world.

There are very few people (hence the respect for those who do) who actually get out and PRODUCE stuff. With a budding newsletter, you will become a producer, even if you don’t think you have a creative bone in your body. You will be surprised how much respect and admiration that will inspire in others, even if they don’t tell you directly.

So don’t sell yourself short… just be willing to put yourself out there an bit and you can tell people, you are still figuring this all out. It won’t be perfect and maybe not even pretty at the start. But you are willing to dare:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. ~ President Theodore Roosevelt


Your homework for Lesson Five is to write down your four ideal readers. You can imagine them in your mind. Some people even pin a sheet with their picture and key details beside their computer — for inspiration as they produce each newsletter. And start building your Circle of Trust readers. Your first newsletter might only go to a dozen people at first, but that is how your budding media empire will start.

This was part FIVE of TWELVE lessons in the Finding Hidden Profit course on Skillshare. You will also find links to each of the 12 lessons in the video notes.

Please note: If you are not currently a Skillshare member, here is my link [I am an affiliate partner] for a free 30-day trial (more than enough to take the full Finding Hidden Profit course and any of the other 15,000+ courses available) on

And if you would like to see an example of my own, personal-branded newsletter called [Tobin Today] you can subscribe here (sent each Thursday morning):

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