How I Completely Ruined My Email List

Email marketing made me a sellout

Sarah Aboulhosn
Mar 28, 2019 · 4 min read
Photo by Gary Chan on Unsplash

I saw the numbers get higher and sold out. I craved “growth” and would do whatever it took to maintain it. Even if that meant abandoning my values.

If you are currently on or were ever previously on my email list. I am sorry.
I fell victim of the marketers biggest scam of telling everyone that if they don’t have an email list they don’t have a real business. As a marketer, I do agree. If you want to grow and nurture your audience, you need to be able to reach them on a platform that is your own and having their email address is one of the best ways to do that.

My email list started as a very honest and humble thing. I dropped a very ugly MailChimp link onto one of my first Medium posts and told people if they wanted to see more content like this, then they should subscribe. And at first, it went very well. I would write some unique content that I would only send to my list. My emails were authentic and I got very good feedback.

At the time I was still experimenting with my career and what I wanted to do with my life long term (still haven’t figured it out, btw). Eventually, I decided that as a marketer, I should give a shot at teaching people what I know about marketing.

That was mistake number one.

So my email strategy began to shift. I began writing content about content marketing and creating guides and content that people could download in exchange for an email address. I would drop those links in my posts and guilt people into giving me their email address with gems like:

In reality, that line should have read more like:

Then I started talking to other digital marketers and I learned that simply sending out emails wasn’t enough. If I really wanted to make in the ~internet marketing world~ or if I ever wanted to make money from my audience, then I HAD to build a funnel.

At this point, I had completely stopped writing anything of value, and all of my content only had the goal of growing my list.

I began to use every scammy email marketing tactic in the book. I created fake scarcity, “launched” things that didn’t even exist and made promises of things to come that I never even wanted to create, just for a few more emails.

Of course, people began unsubscribing. I definitely would have.

I went from sending out a newsletter once a week that I actually carefully crafted and put effort into, to creating an automated email sequence that was basically all of my blog posts regurgitated into worse versions of content, just to stay “top of mind” so that I could eventually sell people something.

It all felt very gross as I was doing it and I chalked it up to “doing something outside of my comfort zone.” But the truth is that it wasn’t “outside of my comfort zone.” Marketing itself is my comfort zone. I had just lost sight of myself.

All I was reading was content from other internet marketers who were teaching people how they can make money by teaching other people to become internet marketers. Say that 5 times without getting a headache.

I finally couldn’t even stand myself anymore because what I was doing genuinely didn’t align with what I wanted to be known for. And I’m kind of ashamed for falling into the typical online marketers' formula that I had seen right through for so long.

My “funnel” is still out there, and soon I will write about how creating a funnel and subsequent online course made me feel like a sell out because I absolutely sold out for the promise of making $100,000 selling my knowledge online.

I prematurely took a thing I loved (writing and content), and as soon as I saw people subscribing to it, I tried to monetize it with no end game in mind. I tried to turn my audience into customers when I had nothing to sell.

Instead of building a real audience of people who trusted me and wanted to learn from me, I took the easy way out just to be able to say I had more people on my list for a very arbitrary reason.

This story is published in The Startup, Medium’s largest entrepreneurship publication followed by +438,678 people.

Subscribe to receive our top stories here.

The Startup

Get smarter at building your thing. Join The Startup’s +725K followers.

Sarah Aboulhosn

Written by

Occasional writer, and serial project-starter/abandoner. I have a lot of feelings. I also have a newsletter: sarahaboulhosn.com/newsletter

The Startup

Get smarter at building your thing. Follow to join The Startup’s +8 million monthly readers & +725K followers.

Sarah Aboulhosn

Written by

Occasional writer, and serial project-starter/abandoner. I have a lot of feelings. I also have a newsletter: sarahaboulhosn.com/newsletter

The Startup

Get smarter at building your thing. Follow to join The Startup’s +8 million monthly readers & +725K followers.

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store