The 148-word email that sold out 100 spots in 99 minutes

A year ago today I wrote the perfect email to launch AwesomeWeb. It was smart, well-written, talked about benefits before features, and nobody ever read it.

6am rolled around on launch day and I jumped on a call with our team. It was set to go out at 7am.

“This doesn’t make sense.”
“What do you mean it doesn’t make sense?”
“It’s too complicated. Needs to be re-written.”

Rather than arguing, we scratched my email, re-wrote line-by-line, edited, edited, and edited again until we were happy.

Because of that email, we sold out the first 100 spots in 99 minutes.

Here it is:

The final launch email

We sent this email to launch our freelance marketplace.

The email I originally wrote was twice as long, had big blocky paragraphs, and would’ve been deleted before most people had a chance to read it.

The email above was much, much better. Let’s pick it apart to see why it worked.

1. Provide context from our launch competition.

This was the third email in a three-part launch series.

For the month leading up to that email we ran a launch competition where we gave away 24, one-hour consultations with some of the Internet’s most accomplished people.

Entry into the competition started the sequence of emails.

The first two emails talked about why the web design industry sucks and hinted at what we were building to fix it.

Everyone who received that email expected to receive it and was familiar with the problem we were solving.

Let’s dig in.

2. Start with an open-worthy subject line.

“Launched … Only 98 Spots Left!”

What is launched? Why is there limited availability? Why 98? What am I missing out on if I don’t get one of those spots?

The purpose of a subject line is to convince someone to open the email. Numbers build curiosity. Scarcity leads to action.

We originally opened 100 spots, but before we could hit send, two people somehow found the form and signed up. The only link to that page was in the footer of a site we had never shared. We still don’t know how they found it.

The more questions your subject line raises, the more reasons someone has to open it.

It worked. That email had a 55% open rate.

3. The first five sentences averaged 3.4 words per sentence.

“We have officially launched!”

Ooh, it’s official! That’s exciting.

“It’s here.”

What’s here?

“You’ve been waiting for it…”

Have I? Maybe I have? And again, what’s “it”?

“AwesomeWeb is now live.”

I gotta check this out.

Sign up today!


The purpose of the first sentence is to get them to read the second sentence. The second? To read the third. So on and so forth until they get to the end.

How do you get someone to keep reading?

One, short sentences. Two, build excitement. Three, open information gaps.

If your copy answers all of your reader’s questions, they’ll have no reason to click.

4. The next seven paragraphs give more reasons to click.

“And here’s why…”

This starts the objection-raising-and-answering portion of the email.

“To start with, we’re only opening it to 100 people. This way we won’t be overwhelmed and we can give each of you the care and attention you deserve.”

Once we sold the 100 spots, we closed registration for the day. This built real scarcity into our offer. 100 new customers is a lot to support and we wanted to make sure the site could handle it.

“That’s not the only benefit!”

Our take on Billy Mays’, “Wait, that’s not all!”

“AwesomeWeb is brand new, there aren’t many people listed, and just our early-bird entrepreneurs expect to spend $6.4 million on their websites in the next 12 months.”

Our only members at that point were 20–30 beta testers. The entrepreneurs from our competition, which was only a small percentage of our partner list, said that they expected to spend $6.4 million on their websites within the next year.

“It’s only $17 per month. No hidden fees. No percentage of project cuts.”

We rewarded our first 500 members with a discounted $17 per month subscription. Even now, it’s only $27 and we expect to keep raising it as the site becomes more valuable. No hidden fees or percentage of project cuts are still two of our top differentiators.

“Lock in this great price today! One new client will cover the cost for a year.”

People like to be locked in. Since launching, we’ve found that the actual average client budget is almost $3K, which means one new client covered the cost for 14 years.

Here we included a link rather than linked text in case links didn’t work.

5. Conclude with social proof.

“Before we sent this email, two go-getters already found the form and signed up.”

At the beginning of our call we opened registration to check out the signup page. Before we were finished re-writing the email, two people had signed up. It was weird and unplanned but made it even more exciting.

“98 spots left.”

The signup page had a counter with the number of spots left. Within five minutes of getting the email, that number was already in the 80’s.

“Have a question? Reply and I’ll get back to you shortly.”

Once the email went out, everything was a blur. Our whole team was on live chat and I replied to the emails as quickly as I could.

Nicholas Tart”

Our developer would always say “cheers”. Perhaps out of tradition or maybe just because I like it, we’ve ended almost every AwesomeWeb email since with the friendly salutation.

6. The original signup page.

The original registration form in all its humility.

When a reader clicked the link, this was the page they saw. It’s embarrassing now but this registration form got us through.

The copy was bad. The design was bad. Over 50% of the people who tried to sign up received an error that sent them to a page that didn’t exist.

The only thing we had going for us was the “spots left” counter. Every time you’d refresh, it’d go down 1, 2, 5 spots.

It was thrilling and people were frantically trying to be a part of it.

7. The real reason it worked.

You can orchestrate a clever launch sequence, write the perfect launch email, send people to a form that works 100% of the time, and it still might not work.

The real reason AwesomeWeb works is because we’re solving a huge problem.

The life of a freelancer or online business owner should be the best life ever, but that’s not always the case … at least not yet.

As someone who’s been on both sides, freelancers struggle to find good clients and clients struggle to find quality freelancers.

Working with someone should be a warm, human experience. In an industry that’s trying to automate design and development, we’re placing our bets on quality people.

I’ve talked with dozens of our members over the last few weeks and everyone says the same thing:

  1. I tried the other sites. Couldn’t compete. Seemed cold. Low-quality, checkbox clients.
  2. I had been looking for site like this for a long time. Clearly focuses on quality. So I signed up.

After one year in business, we’ve made a small dent but I know we still have a lot of work to do.

Looking forward

We have a big update coming out early next week:

  1. Client accounts — Clients can create free accounts which makes it easier to contact freelancers while improving the quality of the client pool.
  2. New messaging system — You’ll be able to communicate and track your messages entirely within your account. We still encourage open communication and the message view will make it even easier to do so.
  3. Favorites — You’ll be able to interact with and track your favorite freelancers and projects. This is the first step in creating a more engaging experience.

We have an exciting year ahead! Lots more planned and I look forward to getting to know you.

If you’re a freelancer who isn’t yet a member, sign up here.

If you’re looking to hire a freelance designer or developer, start searching for the perfect person here.


This post originally appeared on the AwesomeBlog.