Target Persona for The Email Course Playbook

Hey friend,

Welcome to this draft describing the target persona of The Email Course Playbook.

The goal of this page is to get a clear picture for myself who I’m writing for. And I’m giving you access to it all so we can learn together.

You’ll notice that I write in the “we” form. That’s because I’m using a writing exercise called the “Two-Year Test.” This is a way to help you discover what useful things you’ve learned in the recent past, or what you’re learning for the near future that’s worth sharing.

The writing prompts are from the Empathy Map Canvas:

Empathy Map Canvas by David Gray (Gamestorming)

And here are my answers to these prompts. If you relate to the person I describe here, please let me know.

WHO are we empathizing with?

Let’s get started with a general overview of our persona (us).

Who are we?

We are working professionals between 30 and 50, living mostly in North America or Europe.

We went to college, have a bachelor’s degree (or thinking level) and make a living as knowledge workers.

But even when we’re not working, we like to learn and read nonfiction for fun, always looking to improve ourselves.

And to keep learning, we’re active online to meet like-minded people like ourselves.

What is the situation we are in?

We are online a lot because we have so many interests and hobbies but don’t have people around who share those interests.

But life is also getting more expensive, and we feel that it should be possible to make a least a bit more money by sharing our deep knowledge with others online. Though when thinking about what to share exactly, we get overwhelmed because there are so many topics to choose from.

And then there’s the problem of how to teach something. Maybe we already have an idea for some kind of product or service, but we’re stuck in the ideation phase and don’t know how to take action and start helping people in exchange for some monetary reward.

What is our role in the situation?

Our biggest saboteur is us. We’re perfectionists, so we think we have to launch something polished and tested before we can ask anything in return.

But this is where we make a thinking error. And by not realizing that we can start charging for our knowledge, we’re missing out on a big motivator for both both ourselves and our audience.

What do we need to DO?

Luckily, we’re aware enough to have some sense of what we should do next.

What do we need to do differently?

To get ourselves unstuck, we need to start publishing our work—even if it’s not polished in the way we want.

Only by publishing and attracting people like ourselves to our content, can we know if what we have to say is useful.

What job(s) do we want or need to get done?

Attracting an audience isn’t easy. First we have to decide who to write for (though writing for yourself like I’m doing here is a great start).

Once we know what things our potential audience is struggling with, we can start thinking about what we know that could help them.

Once we have a hunch of how to help, then we actually have to create content and test our hypothesis.

We test through feedback, for which we’ll have to set up a system/process that helps us get and review that feedback.

And for all of this, marketing ourself and our knowledge is crucial.

What decision(s) do we need to make?

It’s impossible to say what decisions we have to make upfront, because we’re stumbling our way to an online business. But some of the decisions that are certain are what skill to teach, how to teach it, how much to charge.

We also have a ton of technical decisions we’ll have to make, like what online tools and platform to use to publish.

What do we SEE?

Here’s what we see in our physical and digital environment.

What do we see in the marketplace?

We believe that email is a great medium to teach skills and help people build new habits. But we also see lots of junk mail getting labeled as “email courses.”

There are some great teachers online who can help us learn how to write amazing email courses/sequences. But most, if not all, are marketers and look at email from this perspective.

What we’re missing are people who can help us become better at writing great educational content, that happens to be delivered via email.

What do we see in our immediate environment?

As we’re online a lot, much of our environment is digital.

But because we have so many interests, our environment is constantly changing. We might spend several weeks very active in one community, only to abandon it when our interests or needs shift.

And because we’re online so much, there is always something new. This makes it so difficult to choose what to go all-in on and teach.

What do we see others saying and doing?

We see many online friends launch courses, communities, and coaching programs. Sometimes we’re jealous, other times we’re disgusted because we see someone ask top dollar for mediocre content.

We could do better than that! Yet, we don’t.

We talk a lot with others about our ideas, but executing them is a whole other thing. Following through on our ideas is not our strength.

What are we watching and reading?

There are some creators we look up to and admire for their output. We buy their products and join their memberships.

These are some people we try to emulate in some way:

  • Tiago Forte of Building a Second Brain.
  • David Perell of Write of Passage.
  • Dickie Bush and Nicolas Cole of Ship 30 for 30.
  • Anne-Laure Le Cunff of Ness Labs.
  • Nick Milo of Linking Your Thinking.

We wish we could build a smaller version of their business (in our own niche), so that we meet cool people while gaining more financial security.

What do we SAY?

Here’s a collection of quotes I’ve collected in the past months from comments and email. They’re in no particular order, and I’ll reflect on them in a later version of this draft.

What have I heard us say?

“I want to create an email newsletter, but I don't know about what topic."
"I want to build a newsletter and connect with fellow newsletter writers."
"I need to know more before I can teach other people (let alone charge them for it!). On the other hand, I also know I need to keep the scope small to make it valuable enough."
"I don't know how to stand out from the crowd and am afraid my content will just be more noise that gets ignored."
"I think I've pinpointed my target audience/persona, but I'm having trouble getting their attention."
"I want to co-write a course with a creator with a larger audience."
"I don't like fluffy talking head videos. I want educational content to be to the point."
"Want to see great email sequences? Look at SaaS onboarding flows."
"I've experienced a great email course that made me feel like I was part of a community, even though I wasn't interacting with them. The worst are email courses that only send a link to a video."
"I don't know what platform to use to send my email newsletter (and possibly my course)."

What can I imagine us saying?

“I don't have an audience."

We have a few hundred followers on social media at best, but no website, email list, or other web presence.

“I don't know what to write about."

We have too many interests and don't know which one to pick.

“I want to earn money online, but I have no valuable skill to teach."

We think your interests or knowledge aren't interesting to others.

“I can't spend money upfront to teach online."

We would want to, but we just can't afford it.

“I don't want to spend money upfront to teach online."

We could afford it, but we don't see the value of spending money to teach online (aren't we already giving away our knowledge?).

"I don't know what tool stack to use to send emails and sell my products."
"I don't have the time to build an online presence to sell my knowledge."

What do we currently DO?

Even though we are stuck in our content creation process, there are things we are doing.

Procrastination can take many forms, and not taking action is an action in itself.

What do we do today?

We consume lots of information about different topics we’re interested in. Hanging out in online communities, we see many different recommendations and are always adding new pieces to our reading queue.

Because we want to benefit from the content we’re consuming, we also have fancy systems to remember what we think, see, and hear.

We get stuck in consumption mode, so we join courses and coaching programs to force ourself to take action. However, this is not always a success and we’ve wasted lots of money on educational content that we never ended up using.

What behavior have I observed?

The above is what we’re quite open about. What we’re less open about (or conscious of) is that we make big plans but struggle to deliver.

A common ADHD trait, we take on too much. We find it difficult to judge how much we can do in a given timeframe, and we don’t like giving up, so we end up burning out.

What can I imagine us doing?

Because have such high standards for ourselves, it’s possible that we’re too afraid to ask money for our knowledge.

This result in two outcomes:

We spend all time planning and writing, but never actually launching our online business.

Or we do stick to what we set out to do, but it’s doesn’t live up to the impossible standard we set for ourself, so we just give everything away for free (and then burn out).

What do we HEAR?

Much of what I’ve written about so far is about the self-talk we have. But there are also other people who have an influence on us (whether we realize it or not).

What are we hearing others say?

“You have super useful knowledge, just ship and I'd gladly pay for it!"

When we do decide to ship, our perfectionism leads to quality content that blows most related content out of the water. So we hear from a few people that they love what we have to say, and would gladly pay for it. Yet, we’re skeptical of this…

What are we hearing from friends and family?

“We believe in you, you're great, I'm sure many people will want to work with you because you're amazing."

We know that our friends and family love and support us. But we’re also online because we don’t feel completely understood by them. So whatever they’re saying, our negative self-talk is stronger than most of their encouragements.

What are we hearing from colleagues?

“Why would you spend your free time doing more work?”

We work with intelligent people in our day job, people who could be excellent teachers themselves. But they don’t get why we’d spend to much time teaching strangers on the web our craft, and they’re not afraid to make fun of us for this.

What are we hearing second-hand?

“I made six figures after writing a course in a week and shipping it with Loom and Notion!”

We see lots of “growth bros” and other shady internet marketers brag about their success on social media. But hearing experiences from the people who bought their programs, we feel icky and are afraid we get compared to these types of online creators.

What are our PAINS?

So far, I’ve described lots of things that are already hurting us. But let’s see what emotions this could trigger in us.

What are our fears/anxieties?

While financially we’re pretty secure, there’s always that lingering fear that if we lost our job we’d soon be in trouble. Having just one stream of income doesn’t seem sensible anymore.

We also have some hopes and dreams that we fear never fulfilling. While we need money for some of these dreams, we also want to leave some mark on this world and make it a bit better by helping others. But to be able to spend time and energy on this, we need to have a way to work less hours in our day job.

Speaking of our day job, we’re afraid we’ll always be stuck in the corporate hamster wheel and never gain true intellectual and financial freedom.

What are our frustrations?

While we believe that it’s possible to earn online in an ethical way, we feel we have no clue what we’re doing. Our ideas don’t get the traction we hope, and spending too much time on social media makes us feel deflated.

There has to be a better way to finally “make it” online, but after years of trying we’re still not much further. We don’t want any fame or fortune, just to make a positive impact on our life and that of others.

What are our wanted GAINS?

Our pains automatically lead us to what we hope to gain.

What are our wants and needs?

We want to spend more time with the people and topics we love while gaining financial independence. For this, we want to earn another income will working less hours in our day job.

But replacing one job for another isn’t an option. We want and need a scalable way to do things, so we can work during the hours that work for us—not when someone else tells us to work.

What are our hopes and dreams?

Once we have figured out how to create once scalable income stream online, we might want to push further and create multiple stream.

But we don’t have to; maybe we love our day job and just want some more financial security while teaching what we love the most.

In either case, having more financial and time freedom affords us a few things. Personally, this is what I’m working towards:

  • Live wherever we want.
  • Work whenever we want.
  • Work with whoever we want.

Does this resonate with you? Please let me know. Feel free to share your fears, frustrations, but also your hopes and dreams.

I hope to read from you!


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