As long-time listeners/readers of mine know, I love sharing the stuff from my inbox. (You must listen to this!) I do it because it’s instructive — we can see what works and what really doesn’t. Usually I share the worst emails, with the names blocked out, because they’re so fun. But people often ask for examples of good emails too — so that’s what this week is all about.
An email that made me want to give someone more work.
An email that made me say yes to a request.
Here we go!
1. The email that books more business
Back in 2021, I assigned an Entrepreneur story to a writer named Kim Kavin. She’d come recommended, and I was happy with the results — she delivered on the assignment, and she did it on time. Can’t ask for more! So I assigned her another story.
Two years later, she’s become one of Entrepreneur magazine’s go-to writers. She’s in nearly every issue. Just recently, I assigned her something and asked her to deliver the story a week later. The next day, totally unprompted, she sent me this:
Confirmation! On track for deadline! Which means I don’t have to worry.
You would be shocked how few writers do something like this. I’ve worked with many accomplished writers who miss deadlines, take days to respond to questions, and are persnickety during editing. I never give them a second assignment.
The way I see it, talent is secondary to ease. Whenever we do work for someone, we should think: How can working with me make their lives easier? Because that’s what they’ll notice and remember. And that’s what’ll keep them coming back for more.
I asked Kim if I could share her note, and she said sure, and added this: “For busy freelancers like me, I always look first for repeat clients that I know will not be weirdos during editing, and that I won’t have to chase to get paid. If everyone just acts like a pro, it eliminates so many problems and we can all just focus on making interesting words for readers.”
Couldn’t agree more.
Act like a pro. Eliminate problems. Then everyone can do good work.
That’s the formula for success.
2. The email that got me to yes
I’m busy. You’re busy. We’re all busy. I don’t mean to sound like a Big Fancy Guy, but just so you can appreciate the setup to this next email: I get a lot of requests for my time, and in order to preserve my sanity, I must say no to most of them.
However, I also ask a lot of busy people for their time — for interviews, for meetings, to have me on their podcasts. That’s why I’m always alert to what drives me to “yes,” because it’s a good insight into what moves other people as well.
This week, I got an email I had to say yes to. It came from Sonal Bahl, and, with her permission, I’m pasting it here in full. Give it a read, and then I’ll explain why it worked so well.
Not sure this will reach you, but here goes.
TL;DR: I’ve been following you for a while on LinkedIn as well as listening to you regularly on the BFT podcast and about to finish BFT the book (came in the mail a few days ago and I haven’t been able to put it down!). Suffice to say, I’m a fan, and would love to have you on my career based podcast How I Got Hired.
Why Jason: Jason, I have a plethora of reasons why I think you would make an amazing guest. Firstly, it’s not just because you’re a great writer and speaker, but also because your entire career has been about embracing change, right from working at the local community paper, staying within traditional publishing, and then adapting to digital media with Fast Company and Entrepreneur.com. Whether it was while living next to a depressing cemetery in Massachusetts or much later, a leafy neighbourhood in Brooklyn. I think your work, your book, your podcast all have plenty of career lessons that you have experienced first hand that would be very valuable to the HIGH (How I Got Hired) audience.
Secondly, I love how you come across so WYSIWYG publicly, especially on LinkedIn. My favourite posts are two kinds: when you vlog your day and when you share examples of terrible cold emails. I especially enjoyed that ‘What If’ podcast episode you did with two profs on how to get over your perceived mess-ups.
Lastly, I appreciate how even though the book is called ‘Build for Tomorrow’, you take a 360 degree view and pay close attention to how yesterday can teach us precious lessons of where we’ve been. I listened to your conversation on the a16z podcast today and it really complemented lessons from the book seamlessly. Listening about automobiles and how they threatened the old way (horses) I now understand why we say horsepower for engine power 🙂
About the podcast: ‘How I Got Hired’ started in Oct 2020 and is 105 episodes in, with a new episode out every 7-10 days. The audience comprises ambitious professionals and job seekers around the world whose career has been impacted by pandemic, recessions,layoffs. It’s a personality driven show with an informal, story-telling type conversation where we deep dive into how the guest secured a coveted position(s) that changed their career trajectory. And if they have their own firm/services, we talk about how they got hired by their very first paying client. The overarching theme is ‘how I got hired’. Some of my past guests that you may know of include LinkedIn News Editor-in-Chief Daniel Roth, Sadhguru, HR Head of Gary Vee’s company Claude Silver, Dean at INSEAD Business School Peter Zemsky, etc. This is the link to the podcast. Happy to share that in spite of being just 2 years old, the podcast has been rated in the top 50 career podcasts in 22 countries and is in the top 5% of all career/business podcasts worldwide. The primary audience is based in North America (34%) with 31% in Asia and 29% in Europe.
About me: I am a Career Strategist, Digital Course Creator, Podcaster, Youtuber and Founder of Supercharge, a Career Advisory firm with clients in Europe, Middle East, Africa, North America and Asia. As a former HR Director, I have served for two decades in HR leadership roles in leading firms like GE, PricewaterhouseCoopers on 3 continents. I have an MBA from INSEAD and this is my LinkedIn profile.
Audience & Admin: We would need a maximum of an hour, and the conversation will be over video. I’m in Belgium and 6 hours ahead of EST, and I’d send some talking points a few days before the recording.
Because my audience on social media is quite diverse (LinkedIn ~38k followers, Youtube ~133k subscribers), my guests reflect that diversity too, and come from a range of backgrounds: entrepreneurs, artists, architects, authors, cowboys (!), teachers, theater actors, consultants, sales leaders, pilots etc. as well as employed with a company, in different parts of the world.
Before I sign off: I really hope you say yes Jason. And hey if it’s a no, that’s ok too. Thank you for taking the time to read this far, and I wish you continued success with Entrepreneur Magazine, the Build for Tomorrow podcast, future books and your career beyond.
NOW, BACK TO THE NEWSLETTER!
That email was very unusual. Many times, when someone asks me to be on their podcast, the entire request goes like this: “Hi, I host a podcast called My Podcast. Will you be a guest?” They don’t explain themselves, their show, its reach, or why they want me on it.
Sonal, however, communicated the following:
1. Investment. Before Sonal asked me for my time, she invested her time in me. A lot of it! Look how much she knew about me and my work, because she’s clearly read and listened to a lot of it! And that matters.
It’s not about flattery — it’s about signaling care and value. If someone has done their research on me, I can assume that they’ll also invest a lot of time in making our time together useful and successful.
But also, let’s be honest — it kinda is about flattery. Because if you flatter someone, their basic human nature kicks in. They want to be nice. They want to say yes. If someone invests a lot of time in me, I feel like a jerk saying no!
Most people do not take this approach. They demand other people’s time, without ever investing their own. One time, a guy asked to be on my podcast and even admitted he hasn’t listened to it! (Again, you can hear all about that here.)
2. Clarity of purpose. Sonal gave me tons of relevant information. She explained who she is, what the show is, and how my being on the show will create value for her audience. Again, this is much rarer than you’d think.
3. Trust. Sonal built trust — by sharing the careful, relevant details that make me think, “My time with this person will be well spent.”
So I said yes. Gladly. We’ll be recording soon.
In both of these emails, you see the same guiding principle: Be mindful of what the other person needs, and answer people’s questions before they even ask them.
How do you get someone to yes? How do you book more business? It’s simple: You do someone’s work for them. You make life easy.
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