When I was first getting into writing back in June 2020, I read one crucial piece of advice from Tom Kuegler— start collecting email addresses from the very start. I wasn’t sure if I would ever create a newsletter, but I took his advice and began including a call to action at the bottom of my articles.
A month or two later, I logged on to my email software account and saw that I had gained 3 subscribers. This might not sound like a lot, but it was proof that I could actually build a following without spending a single penny. These were 3 people who were interested enough in my work to actually give me their email address so they could stay up to date with my articles — that’s amazing!
However, the real work had to start now, as I began my journey of growing my list to my first 100 subscribers. I’m glad to report that, recently, I hit that milestone. Here’s exactly how I did it:
1. Reach out to people directly
When I was conducting my research, I saw plenty of articles which offered the same advice: ‘Reach out to your family and friends to get them to sign up!’ Unfortunately, this wasn’t an option for me. I like to keep my writing life separate from my family life and feel like I can be myself a lot more when I don’t have the pressure of knowing my family are reading my work.
So I came up with my own twist on this advice; I started reaching out to people in my writing family and asked them if they would like to sign up. I went on Twitter first and started DM’ing people who I was a fan of, letting them know I had started an email list and offering them the chance to subscribe. I never pushed them into it and simply told them it would mean a lot to me if they did.
On top of this, I responded to a lot more articles, letting people know that I had started my newsletter and they could sign up by visiting the link in my bio. I was never pushy and always gave them the choice as to whether they wanted to sign up or not.
2. Get other people to do the work for you
When I hit the 40 subs mark, I was beginning to get a bit tired of constantly finding new people to DM and I knew that it wasn’t a sustainable way to collect emails. Then, I realised I already had a group of people who could essentially do the same thing for me: my subscribers.
I ran a competition where I told them,
“For your chance to win $20, simply get three people to sign up to my email list and send me a screenshot with proof!”
It was a pretty simple idea; if they could get three of their family or friends to give me their email address, they have a good chance of winning a nice $20. It’s not a lot, but it was enough of an incentive to get people involved.
Even with a following as small as 40 people, I was still able to get 24 of them involved. They completed their end of the deal and attracted me 72 brand new subscribers. This was an amazing feat and once again showed me that it was possible to build a following. Along with my previous 40 subs, I now had a grand total of 112 subscribers. $20 was a small price to pay for that kind of following.
3. Quit offering free email courses
From my experience of seeing CTA after CTA of, ‘Subscribe to my email list to get my free 30 day marketing course’ or, ‘Click here to get my brand new e-book that will teach you everything you need to know about finance’, I have realised that people are sick of seeing those.
Personally, I rarely subscribe to people who write those kinds of CTAs and prefer straight-talking, simple calls to action that will actually benefit my inbox.
For example, I saw one which said, ‘Every week I send you advice on how to realistically double your income’. Not only was this simple to understand, it didn’t sound like an empty promise; the article it was attached to was on the same topic and the advice it gave me was worthwhile and interesting.
Straight-talking CTAs are the way forward. I picked up on this belief and used it in my own call to action:
“For all things travel, business and self-development (as well as lots of freebies), sign up to my fortnightly newsletter — click here!”
Initially, people may think that it’s a bit ‘click-baity’ to say something like, ‘as well as lots of freebies’, but in my case it’s actually true — I do include links and voucher codes at the bottom of my emails to get my subscribers free products, discounts, and money off at a variety of businesses. It’s my little way of saying thank you to the people who subscribe to me.
How to maintain your subscribers
Growing your email list is just the first step, after that, it’s now your mission to keep them engaged and interested in what you’re sending. After all, the unsubscribe button is right there at the bottom of the email.
First, you need to take a look at why they voluntarily gave up their email address to you; they liked your article. Therefore, they’re likely going to want to read a lot more of your articles. Email newsletters are a great way to increase traffic to your work as they almost guarantee clicks and views.
It’s also important to never spam your followers; we all get enough junk mail and don’t need to start flooding their inboxes with obvious affiliate links and adverts for companies no-one’s ever heard of. People like Tim Denning recommend the 90/10 method where 90% of your emails are your own content and the other 10% are adverts — a way to make some money yourself. I personally don’t follow this rule yet and 100% of my newsletters are my own content, partly because I’m not big enough to get brand deals yet, but mainly because that’s not why I wanted to start an email list in the first place. I simply wanted to create a community where we can share each other’s work and support one another.
How to get started
There are plenty of websites out there offering you the chance to start your own email list, but from my research, I found that ConvertKit was the best one to get started with.
It is completely free for your first 1,000 subscribers and is one of the more easy to use options available. It has many useful features like, statistics to show where your subscribers came from, how many of them actually opened and read your emails, and software to give your newsletter the best chance of avoiding the spam folder.
ConvertKit allows you to write and layout your emails all from its website, meaning you can conduct all of your work in one place and don’t have to switch between different platforms. It’s quick, simple, and efficient.
Building an email list is one of the most valuable things a writer can do. Think about it, when social media crashes and goes down, or lets its algorithm choose whose content should get shown to who, most businesses are stuck and can’t get their message across to customers. Writers with email lists on the other hand, are able to directly connect with their audience and let them know exactly what they want them to know.
As I mentioned before, I have my very own fortnightly newsletter. It starts with a piece of positivity that I feel we need to share (especially at the minute!), before highlighting three of my best articles of the past two weeks. Then, I give you the chance to share your own work and I select one or two of my favourite pieces to share in my newsletters. Finally, as a thank you for subscribing, I include a couple of offers and links for you to get free products (like a free Starbucks coffee or a free Tim Horton’s donut, for example) as well as money off sites such as AirBnb and airlines.
It would really mean the world to me if you wanted to join my newsletter family and subscribe to my email list! You can do so here:
For all things travel, business and self-development (as well as lots of freebies), sign up to my fortnightly newsletter — click here!