How I Got Rand Fishkin and Michael Hyatt to Shoot a Video on My Behalf (Having Never Talked to Them Before)

Note from Sean: This is a guest post from Vincent Nguyen, who has one of the coolest stories I’ve seen in the last year. Moral of the story, it’s amazing what sending a couple emails can lead to.

Just a few months ago I was trapped in the college system. My family had the traditional mindset that college degrees were magic and had the ability to bestow the gift of a financially sound career to anyone who graduated.

I argued and fought against wasting four years of my time and money with no luck because hey, they’re my family. Respect your elders and all that, right?

So I slaved away in classes that I didn’t enjoy while tossing away money I didn’t want to be spending. During lectures I would be on my laptop working on my website or talking with my classmates about nonsense.

Then something happened.

I was on Twitter one day when I saw a tweet by no one other than Sean Ogle himself. Tweet

The link led me to Empire Flippers who were looking for a Marketing Apprentice.

These guys weren’t joking around and they meant serious business. They’d be flying the new apprentice out to the Philippines to live with them for at least 6 months, teaching the lucky person all about their business and using his or her skills to help the company grow.

I knew it’d be a great opportunity to start putting my skills to good use and start a life worth writing about.

But excuses after excuses kept pouring over me.

What were the odds that some 19-year old kid can land an opportunity like this when competing against tons of other people who have decades of experience over me. I was in over my head.

So I sat around and fantasized about all the cool things I could be doing, something we’re all familiar with.

Wayne Gretzsky’s quote, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take,” kept playing in my head over and over. I like to think that’s similar to how all entrepreneurs are born.

What’s the worst that could happen? They say no and I continue on with life as I already am. That was basically the only other outcome aside from me landing this gig.

Entrepreneurs don’t just send out copies of their resume in hopes of someone grabbing that paper and screaming, “Oh my God! That’s our guy!” No, I had to do something else and not just sit around hoping luck was on my side.

I noticed that their application asked for a 5-minute video, which gave me a great idea.

I kept studying the post where they listed out what they were looking for. There had to be something there that could help me.

You’re going to be reaching out to a ton of people.” 

Boom. I found my way in.

I figured if I reached out to dozens of famous entrepreneurs in their field then they’d have to pay extra attention to me. So I sent off personal emails to both entrepreneurs who knew me along with people who had never heard of me. All with a simple ask:

Film a short video for me telling Empire Flippers that I reached out and asked for help.

About 40% of everyone I reached out to actually got back to me with the video. Some names I had on my video include Neil Patel, Rand Fishkin, John Lee Dumas, Michael Hyatt, and more.

The best part is that they helped a stranger in need without sweet talk or promise of anything in return.

How I connected with dozens of influencers (without them having heard my name before)

1) Put Together the List of People You Want to Reach Out To

Here’s the obvious first step that you have to take before you get anywhere. Compile a list of people you want to reach out to. The more the better because not everyone will say yes or even get back to you for that matter.

Some people like spreadsheets but I personally love Evernote. I created a Note called “Outreach List” where I wrote down the name of the influencer along with their contact information. Nothing fancy.

But… If you’re a spreadsheet person then I’ve got a gift for you. I’m still putting together lists today for things like guest blog and podcast targets and for those, I use Google Drive spreadsheets.

Here’s a template you can download and use for creating your own influencers list that’s very similar to mine.

2) Decide How to Reach Out

Aside from email, I also wrote their phone number down if it was available.

Getting on the phone worked great with Neil Patel. He had an entire infographic about how many emails he receives a day and outright stated he prefers phone calls (but has since removed that part of the infographic.) That phone call not only led to him helping me with my request, but we also became friends. I eventually helped him with one of his projects for a while.

It helps if the person you’re trying to reach out to recognizes your name. You don’t have to be a celebrity for this to happen. Commenting on their blogs, sharing their content on social media, and engaging them on Twitter makes it clear that you’re a fan and they will remember your name.

Getting my name in front of people like this has led to guest posts, new friendships, and a videos for my application. Although the majority those who helped me out have never heard of me, the friends I’ve made over the past year were eager to help as soon as possible.

Increase your odds whenever you can. Getting your name in front of them on a consistent basis doesn’t take much time from your end so start now.

3) Crafting the email

So let’s say you don’t call them up and they don’t recognize your name. That’s fair. Most of the people I reached out to for my video didn’t know me at all either. That leaves you with a cold email.

The first thing you have to think about is the subject line. You want to let them know that reading your email won’t take them tons of time and energy. My technique for that is using the word “Quick” whenever I can.

Don’t tell them it is quick if it isn’t really something that takes little time. Trying to mislead them will put you on their permanent hate list.

For the video, here are a few subject lines I used that got a reply and a solid Yes:

  • “Quick, Unusual Request That May Literally Change My Life :) ” That’s right, I used a smiley face.
  • “A Quick (And Unusual) Question”
  • “Unusual Question, but a Quick One”

Make your email body as short as possible and cut out the clutter. These people are busy and they receive tons of email. Don’t make them look at your email and think to themselves, “Nope, not reading that!”

Another thing to try is talk specifically about something they’ve done to show you’re a real fan. For example, Maneesh Sethi had an article go viral when he hired someone on Craigslist to slap him every time he went off task.

Here’s the full email I sent to Maneesh:

“Hey Maneesh,

I’ve got to start off by saying I really liked your slap experiment. I tried it out for myself and hired a buddy of mine for a day. It worked and I’ve been on a productivity grind for over a month in a row now (without the slap now.) Thanks for the awesomely creative idea!

Anyway, I’m currently gunning for an apprenticeship related to internet marketing and a huge part of what they’re looking for is a connector. Their exact words: “It would help if you already know others in our industry, but if you don’t, you love the thrill of cold calling/emailing and contacting folks to make some serious connections, right?”

So I’m filming a video and what better way then to show I’m a connector than to cold email influencers, such as yourself, and ask them to do a short 5-second video testimonial proving I’m unafraid of cold-emailing/calling? Something like, “Hey, Empire Flippers! I’m Maneesh Sethi, author of four books (one international best-seller,) entrepreneur, and owner of Hack the System. Vincent emailed me for help and here I am!” I’ve got several others on-board such as James Altucher, John Lee Dumas, Lori Deschene, and I’m hoping I can add you onto that list!

My fingers are crossed and I hope to hear from you soon. By the way, are you still using the slap experiment from time to time?

Thanks,

Vincent”

Do you see what I did toward the end of the email? Social proof.

As I went along my list I had more and more social proof building up as I namedropped people who I was in contact with. That’s why it’s better to have more people you want to reach out to.

4) The Result

The video caught Empire Flippers’ attention and made a great first impression. Justin Cooke, one of my bosses, told me during our first conversation that he was just listening to John Lee Dumas on the airplane and he was going crazy when he heard John Lee Dumas’ introduction in my video.

The following interviews went as smooth as butter and actually went along a lot better than I expected. Two months later, I got the final confirmation that I was the one they chose.

Now it’s been two months since I came out to the Philippines to work alongside these guys. In the past few months alone I made friends with several of the people who helped me with the video, dropped out of college, and moved to the other side of the world to do cool stuff with brilliant people.

I’m not bragging. What I’m hoping to do is inspire you and teach you how to break out of an average life to go on to something amazing.

First…

You’ve got to learn to stand out

I felt like I was going against impossible odds. I was scared as hell for a moment, I won’t deny that, but I didn’t let it stop me. I got creative and did something that no one else would when I made that video.

No longer is it okay to look good on paper because there are thousands of other people who are just as good and even better than you are. 

For example, starting a blog on business is cool and all, but there are plenty of similar sites out there. How would you expect to create a tribe and establish a name for yourself if you’re doing what everyone else is doing?

You need to go above and beyond. Sean isn’t just writing about how to live a life worth writing about while he works a desk job like everyone else. Instead, Sean moved to Thailand to build a business then started sharing his unique insights with the world. That definitely catches attention and makes you want to follow him.

Take baby steps because it’s better than taking none at all

Second, if you’re afraid to go all in with your entrepreneurial vision then take baby steps. Start something on the side so you can pick up skills and connect with cool people.

A lot of people think that entrepreneurship is about flicking on a switch that removes everything from your life so you can put it all on the line. It doesn’t have to be so drastic  - you could always do something on the side.

I started my blog back in late January of 2013 and it paid back 1000x the value I was expecting from it. It taught me about Copywriting, SEO, Conversion Rate Optimization, and how to connect with influential people.  Without that blog, I would never have gotten this apprenticeship with Empire Flippers because I wouldn’t have had the skills or the courage to reach out to influencers.

All of that came from a website that I started on the side while going to college full-time and working as an intern for three different companies.

Aren’t you tired of living a conventional life? 

Start getting noticed and stand out from the crowd. Start taking baby steps and do something with your time.

Life always has the potential to be so much more interesting. Make it one worth writing about.

Bio: Vincent Nguyen is now working with Empire Flippers, a company that teaches website builders, buyers, and sellers how to maximize their profits. They also have a Marketplace for buying and selling websites.

Vincent Nguyen February 3, 2014 at 8:53 am

Thanks for the opportunity, Sean!

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James February 3, 2014 at 11:14 am

Awesome story Vincent, I’m in a sort of similar situation as you when it comes to school. This semester is definitely my last!

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Vincent Nguyen February 3, 2014 at 10:04 pm

Glad to hear! Hope there are some great things coming your way soon. :)

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Scott Asai February 3, 2014 at 12:11 pm

Vincent, this is a great example of being creatively persistent. It is about standing out in today’s world. Even though social media is a 2.0 place, you used some great 1.0 strategies by having strong referrals. Funny how while you’re in school, it’s these internships and work experiences that will really pay off for you. I’m just wondering, will you finish school or just quit and start your own company soon?

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Vincent Nguyen February 3, 2014 at 10:06 pm

I personally don’t have any plans to resume school, but my mother’s side of the family is very traditional so they think I’m throwing my life away by not getting a degree. As of right now, I intend on sticking with Empire Flippers for as long as I can because I really believe in the company. They’re doing amazing things and I want to not only be a part of it, but a huge contributor.

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Sheralyn February 3, 2014 at 1:44 pm

Loved what you did Vincent! I can’t wait to see where life takes you – I wish I’d been as brave as you are when I was your age – but I was too chicken haha, so I kept with the status quo, got my uni. degree, went to work, etc. It’s turned out fine, but I often wonder if I could have pulled off a Sean Ogle in my twenties if only I’d TRIED!!!

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Vincent Nguyen February 3, 2014 at 10:07 pm

Hey, as long as it worked out for you, right? :)

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Sheralyn February 4, 2014 at 8:35 am

True! But luckily, it’s never to late – so we’re leaving July 1 for a minimum of 1 year of travel in SE Asia, which should give us time to pursue the goal of earning a living online – I love hearing about others like you who are also trying to do this! :)

Justin February 3, 2014 at 8:51 pm

Great post, Vincent!

And thanks for the tweet, Sean – Vincent’s been a great addition to the team and we’re really happy to have him onboard!

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Vincent Nguyen February 6, 2014 at 6:55 pm

Thanks, Justin! Always fun working with you. :)

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Joe February 4, 2014 at 11:47 pm

Vincent! GENIUS! Well done mate. The fact that you know what you wanna do with your life at that age indicates you’re gonna make big tracks.
I look forward to following your journey.

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Vincent Nguyen February 6, 2014 at 6:56 pm

Thanks, Joe! I wouldn’t go as far as to say I know exactly what I want to do with my life yet (do any of us?) but I definitely have direction and that’s an exciting thing. Going 18 years without having a clue and then finally finding a path in my 19th year isn’t something I take for granted!

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Cianna February 5, 2014 at 1:35 am

Great job Vincent! Proud to see another Vietnamese made headlines :) #vietpride

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Vincent Nguyen February 6, 2014 at 6:59 pm

Haha! Woo! Represeeeeent!

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Dustin February 20, 2014 at 6:54 pm

Seriously! I love it when I see Vietnamese people represent. It’s not a traditional path. I went through the traditional college route, and now i’m taking advice from a person that didn’t go to college at all.

It’s not about the education. It’s about the balls that you have and what you’re willing to jump into.

Chas February 6, 2014 at 9:20 pm

You were bold and took the leap. Your advice about taking ‘baby-steps’ is wisdom beyond your years. I wish you much success in PI; just don’t forget to stop and smell the Sampaguita along the way.

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Chas February 7, 2014 at 2:32 pm

Vincent, you were bold and took the leap. The advice of taking baby steps shows some wisdom beyond your years. I wish you success in PI; just remember to stop and smell the Sampaguita along your path.

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Vincent Nguyen February 7, 2014 at 7:07 pm

Haha, I’ll admit I had to ask someone what a sampaguita was. :)

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Pura Vida Nick February 8, 2014 at 11:30 am

Awesome story, Vincent. Very compelling – thanks for the great ideas! You have wisdom beyond your years. I bet you are a great fit for empire flippers.

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Mike Goncalves February 9, 2014 at 5:02 pm

Good stuff Vincent, thanks for sharing your story. Both awesome and inspiring. It’s stories like yours that inspire me, motivate, and help to reconfirm that if we continue to work hard, believe in ourselves, and stop at nothing short of what we’ve defined as success (as crazy and scary as that might be), it is just a matter of time before that success is realized. All the best to you. Cheers!

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Rakesh jain February 9, 2014 at 8:45 pm

Great story Vincent, you arr very creative. This story has giv en me idea and courage ti reach people without afraid of rejection.
All the best to Vincent and thank you Sean for emailing about this story. Love your blog and writing.

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