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Strike “Newsletter” From Your Vocabulary: What To Say (Instead) to Entice, Compel + Get People To Opt-In

In: Writing,

I’m not a badgerer—except when I am.

Like when the light is left on in the bathroom, for instance. Or those people who leave hunks of bread on their plate and then PUT IT INTO THE SINK. Or those other prodigies who insist on driving in the left lane while PEOPLE ARE ACTIVELY PASSING THEM ON THE RIGHT.

In sum, you don’t want to marry me.

And while there’s a plethora (you use that word way more as an adult than you ever thought, right?) of things I badger the poor souls stuck at my house for dinner with, there’s really only one thing I (strongly) badger about when it comes to business.


If you’ve hung out here at TMF for any length of time (even 5 minutes), you’ve probably seen me rant about this word more than once. It’s ugly, offensive, lazy, useless, trite and downright irresponsible of any business owner who’s using it.

Because if you, as a business owner, tell me, as a potential customer, that I can have the luxury of receiving your oh-so-titillating newsletter if I give you my email address, you’re playing me for a fool.

The word “newsletter” tells me that:

  • You think I’m ignorant (because I’ve never used the internet if I find the promise of a “newsletter” exciting)
  • You don’t really care about me (because if you did, you’d put a little more thought into your message)
  • You don’t really care about your business (because if you did, you’d have more strategy than that)
  • And you probably don’t have anything interesting to offer (because if you did, you’d tempt me with that, instead)

Because, here’s the thing.

You wouldn’t put a book up for sale with no title, no description, and no way for them to know what it was about—and then expect people to buy it. And you can’t do that when you’re selling a relationship with you, either.

Because at the heart of it, that’s what an opt-in is truly selling: A relationship with you. Not a newsletter.

So what’s the alternative? Well, many things. But for now, try the following framework out for size.

Sit down and answer the following four questions:

  1. What do people get from having a relationship with me?
  2. How do they benefit from the relationship?
  3. What two things will they be able to do/achieve/have/accomplish from that benefit? (The more concrete the better.)
  4. What’s one negative/annoying/sucky thing that doing/achieving/having/accomplishing will prevent them from ever having to do again?
  5. Optional: A light-hearted, fun, humorous negative/annoying/sucky thing that doing/achieve/having/accomplishing will prevent them from ever having to do again.-

Then, take your answers and plug-n-play them into the following sentence:

Enter your email below and grab my ___________________________(#1)
designed to help you _______________________________(#2)
and __________________________(#3)
—and never have to ____________________(#4) again.
(Or ______________________________(#5).)

So as an example, let’s say you’re in the DIY community, and your answers look something like:

  1. What do people actually get? Three free DIY design templates
  2. How do they benefit? They look (way) more pro
  3. When they look like a pro, they’ll be able to: Get more inquiries and convert more clients
  4. So they’ll: Never have to grovel for business again
  5. Or: Borrow money from their mother-in-law

Plug ’em into the framework above, and you’ll end up with the following:

Enter your email below and grab my three free DIY design templates, designed to help you look (way) more pro, get more inquiries, and convert more clients—and never have to grovel for business again.
(Or borrow money from your mother-in-law.) 

And voilá. You’ve got yourself a much more compelling call-to-action than:

“Enter your email for my free newsletter.”

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HI!!! It’s Me! I’m Breathless! The BIG Announcement Is Finally Here: WE DID A BOOK DEAL WITH PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE!

Remember that one time I wrote and said that I’d soon be sending you an email full of exclamation points as our bat signal when I had THE BIG NEWS to share? Well, here we go, team. Here it is! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! […]

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Agency. It was one of the first things my book editor said to me. “These parts need more agency.” And I obviously said: Like the CIA? And she said: Shoot me. And I said: Is that a CIA joke? So while furiously drinking wine and researching this new writing foe—agency—I had been delighted to discover […]

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72 thoughts on "Strike “Newsletter” From Your Vocabulary: What To Say (Instead) to Entice, Compel + Get People To Opt-In"

  1. carien.w says:

    What a great post…I really enjoyed this and needed to hear it. Sometimes I’m scared people won’t understand sarcasm or my humor…recently it’s backfired on me a lot! I guess I just need to find the right people to listen ^_^

  2. Cahlean Klenke says:

    I took your advise and revamped the static, boring, stoic word newsletter. The formula works well for people with physical products, but I struggled slightly as I am a dog photographer. The only thing a person gets is to see pictures of dogs, upcoming sales/specials, things I’ve done and things I’m going to be doing. Basically a monthly this is the workings of my business. So I modified the formula to fit me better. No idea if its going to work but at least its more engaging than newsletter.

    Here it goes:

    Want to keep in touch? Want to gawk at awesome and adorable dogs?

    Subscribe. Because you’re awesome. And your dog is awesome.

    (And it will give Axle something to smile about)

    The last line is in reference to a picture of my boxer mix about the sign up form. He sports a fabulous underbite and big boxer lips so he’s akin to looking like grumpy cat’s cousin. Which means he pouts. A lot.

    Check it out, the picture of Axle is worth it!

    1. Ash Ambirge says:

      I actually think that’s quite wonderful @cahleanklenke:disqus. And here’s my advice: Think about the purpose of a “newsletter.” It’s not to send news. It’s to build up a community full of dog lovin’ prospects who will think of YOU first any time they think about doing something special for their pup. That said, the content you provide to encourage this community doesn’t have to be pictures of dogs, or directly related – but what would this group of folks in general be fascinated by? Could you do short n sweet fun tips / anecdotes about the doggies you meet / photograph around the world and what fun things their owners did with their dogs to celebrate them? That would be a great way to indirectly advertise your services while simultaneously giving that community something fun & insightful they’d want to open and read. 🙂

  3. Julie Clarke-Bush says:

    This perspective changes everything for me. It makes perfect sense and I would have never thought of it. You’ve hooked me, Ash.

    1. Ash Ambirge says:

      I’m SO glad @julieclarkebush:disqus – what do you do?