How to Growth Hack Your Service Business w/ Partner Workshops

Side Hustle Nation is dedicated to improving your personal profitability. To do this, we often partner with companies that share that mission. If you sign up or make a purchase through one of our partners’ links, we may receive compensation—at no extra cost to you. Learn more.

Dustin Lien

One challenge that most new businesses face is the awareness problem – nobody knows you exist.

To help erase this problem, I’ve invited Dustin Lien from back on the show.

Dustin first appeared on episode 251 back in 2017. Back then, he was just ramping up JumpX after shutting down his own physical product business.

Since then he’s grown it into a 6-figure operation and built it in such a way that it only requires part-time attention.

What’s been his key driver?

Partner workshops, essentially virtual lunch-and-learn sessions where he can showcase his expertise and build his client roster without ads or bidding for work.

This works in just about any niche and in this episode, Dustin breaks down his exact process so you can go out and apply it in your own business.

Tune in to The Side Hustle Show interview to learn:

  • Dustin’s fast-track strategy to getting in front of the right audience
  • how he quickly built his email list
  • his top tips for creating warm outreach emails and connecting with customers

Free Bonus: Download the Partner Workshop Cheat Sheet

Grab the Partner Workshop Cheat Sheet

These are the steps to create a win / win / win workshop.

Enter your email to download the cheat sheet now:

You'll also receive my best side hustle tips and weekly-ish newsletter. Opt-out anytime.

Using Partnerships to Grow Your Brand or Business

Dustin told me he’s never had a big marketing budget, he hasn’t run ads, and he didn’t start out with any marketing experience or with any industry contacts to lean on.

He said he found himself in the same position a lot of people do when they’re starting out – with expertise in his industry but the difficulty of finding clients.

Thinking about how he could market himself and get real clients without having money to spend, Dustin came up with the strategy of getting in front of someone else’s audience.

Dustin knew that if he could find someone with an audience full of the potential clients he wanted to work with and offer them an incentive to partner with him, he’d be able to grow his business.

He does this by co-hosting webinars, or workshops as Dustin calls them as he follows a different structure, and using them to funnel people into his email drip campaign.

The Importance of Niching Down

When establishing your area of expertise, Dustin recommends niching down. This will help you not come across as someone trying to know everything and help everyone.

Don’t niche down so far as you leave yourself too small of an audience, but far enough that you can establish yourself as an expert in your specific niche.

This is exactly what Dustin did when he was starting out. After he niched down to e-commerce email marketing and SMS marketing specifically for health and wellness brands he was able to find a more targeted audience.

How to Identify Your Target Clients

“There’s an avatar that has to be established first, you have to know who you’re actually trying to target,” Dustin told me.

To know where to look, some of the questions you need to ask yourself are:

  • Where are your ideal clients already hanging out?
  • Where can you find them online?
  • Which other brands have already acquired the clients you want?

This is where niching down also comes in handy. When answering these questions, ideally you’re looking for brands that share the same audience you want but aren’t direct competitors.

The example Dustin shared is finding an agency or a blogger specializing in SEO with a huge audience.

Dustin would approach that business/blogger and propose a partnership, workshop, etc. where he could offer his expertise in email marketing for health and wellness brands.

It’s a way to cheer each other on and help each other out, without worrying about stepping on each other’s toes or competing against each other while marketing to the same audience.

If you want help identifying your client avatar, you can download an avatar worksheet and some other resources Dustin has put together here.

How to Reach Out and Form Partnerships

Once you’ve identified brands, companies, YouTubers, bloggers, or whoever you want to work with, you’re going to need to reach out to them.

In most cases, this is going to mean reaching out to someone you’ve never spoken to before.

Cold outreach is never easy. However, Dustin shared three tips he uses to make successful connections with people on this contact list:

“Warm” Up Your Emails

“One thing I believe is that there’s no such thing as a good cold email,” Dustin told me.

The only cold emails that do well are “warm” emails, Dustin explained. If you want to improve your chance of getting a response, you need to make your outreach as warm and personable as possible.

One of the best ways to do this is to make a note of the services, blogs, podcasts, etc. you have used, read, and listened to when you’re making your list of people you want to reach out to.

This way you can mention you’ve consumed their content when reaching out to someone. It’s a great way to make that cold email a little more personable and warm it up.

The more detail you can give about how much you enjoyed their work and how it helped you, the easier it is to give them a genuine and authentic complement.

This alone is going to greatly improve the likelihood that the recipient reads past the opening line. It might just stop them from binning your email along with the various other pitches and cold emails they receive.

WIIFT – What’s In It for Them?

Another outreach tip Dustin shared — crediting Noah Kagan — is WIIFT (What’s In It for Them?)

When you’re writing an outreach email, Dustin said you need to be mindful of how many times you’re using “I” and how much you’re talking about what you want.

It’s important to talk less about what you want and focus more on what’s in it for the recipient if you want to get their attention.

Make It as Easy as Possible for Them to Say ”Yes”

You want the person you’re emailing to say yes to whatever you’re proposing, so make it as easy as possible for them.

If you’re proposing a workshop, for example, break down exactly how you intend to host the workshop.

Explain that you’ll build the landing page, you will give them the email copy to send to their audience, provide graphics, use your own software, etc. all they have to do is say yes and you’ll make sure it all runs smoothly.

Dustin’s Tech Stack for Email Hosting, Webinars, and More

Dustin has a pretty lean tech stack running his business. The tools he uses are:

  • Webflow – This is a drag-and-drop website building software Dustin uses to create most of his websites.
  • ConvertKit – This is the email marketing software Dustin uses to capture emails, create call to actions, build drip campaigns, and more.
  • WebinarNinja – Dustin has been using WebinarNinja to host his webinars for a while and said he’s been really happy with the software. He said it’s great for streaming, is competitively priced, and has some good features like a landing page builder, automated email sequences for attendees, and more.
  • Google Slides/Keynote/Powerpoint – You can use whichever presentation software you’re most familiar with to create your slides.
  • – This software helps you find email addresses, titles, and contact details for people. This is an important tool as contacting the right people within a company will improve your outreach success rate.
  • TidyCal – This is a calendar scheduling tool Dustin uses to automate booking exploration calls with potential clients.

Dustin’s “Magic Sauce”

Dustin said the “magic sauce” for his business is positioning himself as the one who hosts the workshop using his software and collecting all the emails for people signing up.

It’s not always possible, as some clients — typically the larger ones — might not want you handling their customer data, Dustin explained.

Another reason some companies may not allow you to host is if they already host workshops on a regular basis. If they’ll have the tech in place to run the workshop, they’ll probably take the lead.

It’s collecting emails from potential clients that really holds value for Dustin. He said he may get sales from being in front of hundreds or thousands of people, but adding all of those emails into his drip campaign is much more valuable in the long run.

How to Best Structure Webinars/Workshops

Webinars are how Dustin attracts most of his customers and builds his email list. He has a good deal of experience hosting webinars at this point and shared what works best for him.

“What’s worked best for me is focusing on making it a workshop and not a webinar,” Dustin told me.

Essentially, a workshop and a webinar are the same thing. A key difference, however, is that a webinar is typically used as a way to pitch things to people, while a workshop is more of a learning tool.

“The goal is to make sure they can learn something that they can apply immediately after they’re done,” Dustin explained as the purpose of a workshop.

Dustin said this also works as a good filter for finding the right clients as he’s looking for people who are willing to take action.

Structure-wise, Dustin tries to not go over an hour and sticks to the rough outline of:

  • Intro – 6-7 minutes long, Dustin asks participants to take notes and prepare for a Q&A at the end.
  • Teaching – Dustin explains some of the common problems people face. He then explains how most people try to solve the problem (unsuccessfully), and how he can help them solve it.
  • Visuals and questions – Dustin uses a lot of visuals to keep people engaged and help explain things better. He also asks a lot of questions to help keep people engaged and get feedback as he’s going along.
  • Call to action– Towards the end of the workshop Dustin always gives out a link to some kind of bonus resource. This is another way to capture emails if he didn’t get them when people signed up for the workshop.
  • Emailing a replay – After the webinar is over, Dustin sends out a link to the recording and starts an onboarding sequence of emails.

Dustin doesn’t typically pitch any services during these workshops. He said if you can offer value and demonstrate expertise, you’re much more likely to land clients after the workshop.

His two main goals during a workshop are;

  • To teach something useful that the participants can use,
  • To capture as many emails and enter them into his drip sequence

Achieving this means he’s delivered value and built trust with people who are interested in his services, and added them to his email list.

When participants start receiving his drip email sequence, they already trust Dustin and know what he does.

There is a call to action in his email sequence to book an exploration call, or people can reach out and ask any questions.

Hosting Your First Webinar/Workshop

If you’re a little nervous about hosting your first webinar, it’s completely normal.

In fact, Dustin told me, “If you’re not a little bit nervous, you probably don’t care.”

To combat those nerves, Dustin’s advice is to be well prepared. The more prepared you are, the smoother the webinar is going to go.

Also, the better you know the topic you’re talking about, the better equipped you are to deal with questions that will come up.

Dustin said it’s important to remember that people are turning up to learn from you.

You don’t have to be an expert in everything, just an expert in that one thing you’ve set up the workshop to teach people.

Surprises and Problems Along the Way

You’re probably going to run into technical difficulties here and there, that’s the nature of hosting webinars. There is a lot of tech involved, and you’re talking live to hundreds, even thousands of people.

Dustin has run into a few issues before. He had one pretty big meltdown moment when his screen share software crashed his computer with around 1,200 people live on a webinar.

He rebooted his PC, which took about 7 minutes, and when he was back online about 7% of the participants had left.

That’s not a bad dropout rate, which was a testament to the value he was delivering. You just have to roll with the punches if you run into technical difficulties.

What’s Next?

Dustin is focused on growing and helping more young brands and people with side hustles grow their businesses.

Just as it’s normal now for most people to have a personal blog, Dustin said he thinks it’s going to be the norm for most people to have some kind of e-commerce store on the side in the future.

That means a lot more opportunities for Dustin. As well as for people wanting to get into e-commerce, and he’s excited about that.

Dustin’s #1 Tip for Side Hustle Nation

“Shoot your shot.”

Free Bonus: Download the Partner Workshop Cheat Sheet

Grab the Partner Workshop Cheat Sheet

These are the steps to create a win / win / win workshop.

Enter your email to download the cheat sheet now:

You'll also receive my best side hustle tips and weekly-ish newsletter. Opt-out anytime.

Links and Resources from this Episode


  • DNAcademy – Get $100 off your DNAcademy membership and learn domain investing from the best in the business.


  • Skillshare – Get a free trial of Skillshare Premium Membership, with unlimited access to 30,000+ on-demand classes!

skillshare 2021

Want More Side Hustle Show?

side hustle show cover art

The award-winning Side Hustle Show is a
Top 10 Entrepreneurship podcast
with over 1,200 5-star ratings!

5-star rating

Listen in your favorite podcast app or directly in your browser.

listen on spotify
listen on overcast listen on podbean

Like That? There's More!

Join the 100,000 Who Get My Best Stuff via Email

I'll also send you my free guide: The 5 Fastest Ways to Make More Money.

Nick Loper

About the Author

Nick Loper is a side hustle expert who loves helping people earn more money and start businesses they care about. He hosts the award-winning Side Hustle Show, where he's interviewed over 500 successful entrepreneurs, and is the bestselling author of Buy Buttons, The Side Hustle, and $1,000 100 Ways.

His work has been featured in The New York Times, Entrepreneur, Forbes, TIME, Newsweek, Business Insider, MSN, Yahoo Finance, The Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Financial Times, Bankrate, Hubspot, Ahrefs, Shopify, Investopedia, VICE, Vox, Mashable, ChooseFI, Bigger Pockets, The Penny Hoarder, GoBankingRates, and more.

Leave a Comment

Usually Hustling, Occasionally Social

plutus winner

The Company

4580 Klahanie Dr SE #155
Sammamish, WA 98029

The Fine Print
Terms of Use
How We Make Money
Do Not Sell My Personal Information
As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.