In a certain time, in a certain land, I once worked with a client who was liable to land herself (and me) in "internet jail".
And truth be told, I only have myself to blame.
As will become clear.
Now when I say internet jail, I really mean getting shut down and being served with a hefty fine. I do not think what she was doing would land her in actual jail (maybe debtor's prison). Either way, it was a big lesson for me.
Here's the scoop:
My criminally negligent client contacted me to write a series of emails to her list selling a very high-ticket offer that required lots of trust to buy (which my conversational style of writing was well suited for).
So I asked her some of my normal client questions. Questions like "how have you built your list?"
"Linkedin and networking events mostly."
"Cool", I thought. "Opt-ins from Linkedin and events are likely some high-quality leads." And that is where I made my mistake.
Because I didn't ask enough follow-up questions (which is why I now make clients brave the interview gauntlet, where I pepper them with questions so I never make this mistake again).
Because what happened next is extremely laughable (at least it is now that I'm on the other side).
I gave her the promised emails. She sends them out. And almost immediately she emails me about "unsubscribes and spam complaints".
Which, because she had oft-ignored her list, I had told her to expect (well at least the opt-outs... the spam complaints were a little weird).
So I dive deeper:
"So tell me more about your leads and how you build your list."
"Like I said I get them mostly from Linkedin and networking events." And then she dropped the bomb, "Like whenever I make a new connection or collect someone's business card, I take their email and upload it into Mailchimp."
And that's when it hit me. Homegirl is a straight up thug.
Because -- in case you didn't know -- that is wholly illegal.
To make matters worse, a portion of her list wasn't even uploaded to Mailchimp where they could at least opt-out easily. A few thousand people on her "list" were simply people she would BCC. And so she had people emailing her in a complete huff asking her to "please remove me from this list!!"
But it's not just illegal. It's straight annoying. And a sure way to ruin your reputation and squash all chances of getting clients or referrals.
Again, I take full responsibility for not asking enough questions.
And even though I cringe when I think of it, I am grateful.
One that she didn't get a fat fine (she sorta deserved it, because I told her multiple times that what she was doing was illegal and even told her exactly what laws to look up, and yet she rebuked me by saying "it wasn't illegal" and kept doing it as far as I know). Two, I am grateful because it sharpened my shady client senses. And now, I heavily vet each prospect before taking them on as a client (like stalking someone on social media when you get set up on a blind date).
The moral of the story?
Build your list right. Be smart. Don't trust just anyone.
You will be much better off in the long term.
And, for the non-thugs on my list looking to hire me to write their copy, saddle up and sally forth down yonder:
P.S. When I was looking up the laws so I could prove to my ex-client that she was wrong and illegal, I found an article sharing a similar story. The author of the article had met someone at a conference and was added to her list without being asked.
People like that give email marketing a bad name. If that is something you do, stoppit.