I Earned 50K With a 6-Week-Old Email List

Here’s how I built my list to 10K Subscribers.

Shaunta Grimes
Mar 15 · 5 min read

A couple of years ago, I went to Nashville for Tim Grahl’s Bestseller Summit. I was super excited to be able to attend, because a year ago I read Tim’s book, Your First 1000 Copies, and it changed my life.

I had a couple of novels published by Penguin a couple of years before that conference, and trusting a big publisher to handle promotion and marketing was a bad idea.

When I was ready to try again, I knew I needed a plan.

So, I read Tim’s book. He said build an email list. I was all in. Mostly because I was in a horrifying day job and I was desperate to do something that would get me out of there.

Six weeks in, I launched a Novel Writing class to my list (which at that point included about 1500 people) and earned twice what I earned in a year at that awful day job and enough to let me quit.

Let me say that again: I earned two years worth of crap-job income in a couple of months.

I thought I’d share some of the things that worked.

I looked for experts + I took their advice

The first expert I found was Bryan Harris of VideoFruit. I started with his free class and reading his blog. I followed every suggestion. Every. Suggestion. Then I bought his Rapid List Builder class, which was the best money I’ve ever spent.

I also reinvested some of the money I earned from my first class launch in joining a small coaching group run by Jeff Goins. Tribe Writers taught me the basics about running a blog. The coaching group went much deeper.

Most important, though? I sought out advice from experts and then I implemented it. When Bryan Harris said ‘text your best friend and invite them to join your email list,’ I did it. When Jeff Goins taught me his three bucket system for creating content for my blog, I used it. When Tim Grahl mentioned a three-email system, I wrote it.

I figured out how to make Facebook ads pay for themselves

I have this little loop that’s the coolest thing.

Above I told you that I earned two years of my annual income with my first course launch. Everything is relative, right? I was a $9.75 an hour teacher’s assistant (loved the kids, but the teacher was an absolute nightmare. That’s a story for another time.) I worked 27 hours and forty-five minutes a week, because the school district didn’t want to give me benefits.

So, I didn’t have money to pay for traffic to my shiny new blog.

What I did have was a writing planner I’d designed for myself that I thought other writers might like. So I put it in my thank you page and sold it for $7.

Whatever I earned one day selling my planner on my thank you page, I spent on Facebook ads the next day.

So the cool little loop looked like this:

FB ad sends a visitor to my blog > Visitor subscribes to my list > Visitor gets sent to my thank you page > Maybe two or three visitors a day buy the planner for seven bucks > I use that money to pay for more FB ads.

This little loop was so cool that I got to talk about it on the stage with Tim Grahl at his conference! Here’s photo proof:

I wrote about something that a lot of people are passionate about

Unless you’re J.K. Rowling or Stephen King, literally no one cares about your personal writing process.

I know that’s harsh, but it’s the truth. If it helps, that goes for me, too. I’m a published author and literally no one wants to read a blog about me writing my books.

Instead of starting an author blog where I talked about my process, tried to drum up interest in a cover reveal, and shared pictures of myself speaking on a panel at my local comic con, I wrote about something that lots and lots of other people are passionate about.

I wrote about their writing processes.

I wrote about helping them write their own stories. I offered to help them learn to tell them well.

Jeff Goin’s Tribe Writers course involved coming up with a worldview. This was mine: I believe that a good story told well can change the world. In fact, I believe that very little else ever has.

As soon as I stopped trying to get people interested in my stories and started paying attention to theirs — they magically started caring about mine, too.

I think this is maybe the one thing I did that made the most difference. Instead of trying to sell myself, I set out to be of service to other people.

I Taught What I Knew

This one came from Nathan Barry at ConvertKit. Teach Everything You Know is the motto over there. And that’s exactly what I did.

(And ConvertKit helped me do it, because it is the most fantastic email service. Ever. If you’re a writer, you need to build an email list. I highly recommend you do it on ConvertKit. #fangirlmoment #sorrynotsorry)

I know how to build a road map through a novel, so I started there.

I’ve developed a method for writing a novel that works really well. So, I taught that, too. I launched A Novel Idea (a year-long class that teaches that method for writing a book) for the first time in March 2016. And, you know, the whole two years’ income thing happened.

I sent out an email to my baby email list about six weeks after I started building it, then went to a movie. While I was at the movie, I was pretty sure that I’d made a mistake and decided I’d just quietly shut it down.

Only, by the time the movie was over, a couple of people had bought the class.

But here’s the thing. Teaching what I know helped me earn a living wage (finally), but it is also the one thing that’s built my list more than anything. More than Facebook Ads. More than give aways or guest posts or SEO.

In fact, I don’t even run Facebook Ads anymore.

If you teach something that you’re good at and that other people want to be good at, too, you’ll find students.

I’m hosting Tim Grahl and Jeff Goins at a virtual Ninja Writer Conference this spring. How awesome is that?

Here’s my secret weapon for sticking with whatever your thing is.

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!