How to Get Your First 100,000 Fans (Redux)

Slowly. Organically.

Shaunta Grimes
May 23 · 4 min read

I was looking through some old posts today and I came across this one.

I’d forgotten about it. I had this big fat goal of building up to 100,000 email subscribers in a year. That was in spring 2017 — so exactly two years ago.

Yeah. That didn’t happen. Instead, right around that time I started an MFA program. And I sold a book. And my focus shifted.

Which is pretty clear when you look at this.

My email list numbers, April 2017

And compare it to this.

My email list numbers, May 2019

So. I have 200 fewer email subscribers.

Le sigh.

There are a few reasons for that. Two are big ones.

Big One One

I’ve cleaned my email list twice since April 2017. That means I sent an email out to cold subscribers (that’s people who haven’t opened an email for at least 90 days) and when they didn’t respond, I deleted them from my list.

I’ve deleted roughly 10,000 email addresses from my list in the last two years. About 5,000 each time. The last time was just about a year ago. That reduced my email list to about 8,000 people. So in the last year, I’ve added in the neighborhood of 6,000 subscribers or 500 a month.

Big One Two

Around the time I wrote the post I linked to above, I cut my Facebook ad spend from about $600 a month to about $300 a month. By the end of 2017, I cut it to $0 + the occasional boosted post. Maybe $250 a year.

Part of the reason for that was because while Facebook ads were building up my email list quickly and that was exciting, they weren’t giving me a very health list, as evidenced by the fact that I was able to delete more than 40 percent of it as ‘cold subscribers’ over the last two years.

Just having a big email list isn’t enough. It has to be full of people who don’t only want your one free thingie. You want fans, right? Mine live on my list, but they were getting buried under people who use a special email address to sign up for freebies and don’t really want to read what I write.

So, It Makes Sense

But it also means that overall, my email list building mojo has gone stale.

I think that having a goal of building a giant list in a very short amount of time was probably never a great idea. I mean, it would be awesome if something happened and suddenly a gazillion people were leap frogging onto my email list — but trying to force that didn’t work out very well for me.

Not really, anyway.

Because my email list is awesome. My followers are the bomb. I have the best followers in the whole world.

I’d rather not pay for the people who are on my list, but aren’t really following me. They’re welcome to my freebie. But I’m okay with saying goodbye if I’m not their cup of tea.

Lately my email list kind of churns.

People come — mostly via my blog posts here. Some from Google sending people to my website. Some organically via Facebook.

People leave — maybe they don’t like how may emails I send out (a lot), maybe they just wanted my free thing (like I said), maybe they just aren’t into writing right now.

It seems healthy to me. The people in are coming to my list organically, because they’ve read something of mine all the way to the bottom, to my email form. The people are leaving make me grateful.

I’m Ready for Growth, Though

No crazy 100,000 followers in a year goals.

It’s pretty clear how that worked.

Photo by Dušan Smetana on Unsplash

That, my friends, is a sad panda.

I feel like just paying attention will help. It’s been a while since I did that.

I don’t plan to run ads, at least not specifically for list building.

Here are a couple of things I do plan on trying this week.

  • I created a new free mini-course about starting a Creativity Practice.
  • I’m working on making some connections with people who have followers who are in my space.

I’ll keep you posted. I like my original every two weeks plan. (Just two years late!)


Sign up for my free mini-course on building a creativity practice.

Shaunta Grimes is a writer and teacher. She is an out-of-place Nevadan living in Northwestern PA with her husband, three superstar kids, two dementia patients, a good friend, Alfred the cat, and a yellow rescue dog named Maybelline Scout. She’s on Twitter @shauntagrimes and is the original Ninja Writer.

The Write Brain

Posts about productivity, business, and systems for right-brained creatives. Ideas aren’t enough. We actually have to do the things!

Shaunta Grimes

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Learn. Write. Repeat. Visit me at ninjawriters.org (My posts may contain affiliate links!)

The Write Brain

Posts about productivity, business, and systems for right-brained creatives. Ideas aren’t enough. We actually have to do the things!