How To Start an Email List In 4 Easy Steps | In Search of Sheila

How To Start an Email List In 4 Easy Steps

May 10, 2017

As a blogger, an email list is one of the most important things you need to have in order to grow your audience and if you ever plan to sell anything. In this post you will learn the exact steps to start your very own email list from scratch. If you're intimidated or think it will be too much work, don't worry! I'm breaking it all down and providing printable worksheets to help you avoid getting overwhelmed and frustrated. Hey, I work full time aside from my blog, I know how precious your time is.

Ready to learn?!


It seems like email lists are having a moment right now, as they should! A lot of bloggers are coming out of the woodwork, revealing that their biggest regret is not making an email list from the start. I'll have to hop on that train and say the same.

List building takes a lot of time, patience, and perseverance if you want to see it grow. I've been blogging for over 4 years and just started my email list three months ago. If you read this post, you learned about all my strategies to build my list to over 200 people, 101 of them signing up in 48 hours. To me, that's a huge win, but now I'm focusing on growing it even more. Basically the sooner you start one, THE BETTER.

So lets tackle all that you need to know when it comes to email list building and how to start one from scratch.

Why Do I Need an Email List?

Before we dive into how to start your list, lets cover why you need one. I never knew how vital it was to have an one in order for my blog to grow. To me, it was something I didn't need and that would be too much work. Well, let me be a little honest: it will take some work, but trust me when I tell you that it will be worth it. We already saw in last week's post that a little hustle will pay off in the end. My one piece of advice in these beginning stages is that you have to really want to build an email list: commitment is key.

You Own It

To put it simply, an email list is the only thing you have control over besides your website. Unlike all your social media accounts, you OWN your email list and no one can touch it. Ever thought about what would happen if you woke up one day and your Instagram has totally changed and all your content has vanished? Don't roll your eyes at me, this is something that can really happen. You don't own your Instagram, Instagram does. That means they can do whatever they want with it, even delete everything. All your photos, all your followers, all your hard work--gone.

Build Your Squad

Your list will cultivate strong connections with your readers who will become your loyal followers. Whoever signs up are people that genuinely love your content and want to hear what you have to say. They love what you're putting out there and they want more. They're your squad. These are the people that will always engage with and share your blog posts, show up to your webinars, and eventually purchase your first product or service. They'll always have your back.

Grow Ya Blog + Social Media

Securing an email list from the get-go WILL grow your blog and social media. How? Because the people on your list are literally your target audience and will definitely check out your new blog post or follow you on Instagram if you send out an email asking them to. Unlike unreliable platforms (cough, social media, cough) where it is so hard to get exposure, your email list will not only generate more views to your content, but it will be viewed by the right people, aka your target audience. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter if you have 1,000 subscribers or 100 subscribers. All that matters is how many people out of those numbers genuinely love your content.

Get Those Dollar, Dollar Bills Y'all

If you want to eventually start selling things on your blog such as ebooks, courses, consulting, etc., you absolutely MUST start an email list. Look at it this way: you finish your product and are ready to start promoting it. Who do you turn to first? Your email list! 

Before you can start throwing your sales pitch out there, you have to grow a strong relationship with your readers first. That's why it's critical to start your list as soon as possible. All the time spent not having a list is wasted time that you could have been using to build your trust with your readers. You gotta give, give, give before you can take.

Still with me? Good.

Before we get started, download and print this worksheet that will help you plan and implement as you follow along with this blog post.



How To Start Your Email List

Time to get down to the nitty gritty! For clarity, when I refer to an email list, I'm not talking about an "RSS Email Subscription." This is when someone subscribers to your blog and receives emails with the entire post in in it once it gets published. I'm talking about an email newsletter subscription that is created and sent to your readers entirely by you.

Now that I got that out of the way, lets get crackin'!

Step 1. Ask Yourself What You Want To Do With Your List

Now that we outlined the reasons why you should have an email list, now is the time to ask yourself what YOU want to achieve with it
  • Do you just want to send out a newsletter 1 to 2 times a week?
  • Do you want to start selling products or services?
Of course, you can send out BOTH weekly newsletters and sell products, it's your list! But it's important to have a clear purpose before diving in. This will save you from stress and keep you motivated.

TAKE ACTION: Time to grab that worksheet! Take a few moments and figure out the purpose behind your email list. Outlining your intentions and goals will make going further much easier.


Step 2. Select an Email Service Provider (ESP)

There are many different providers out there, so I suggest doing a little research before choosing the right one that works for you. Here are the top three that I recommend:

1. Mailchimp
Mailchimp is very user-friendly and perfect for newbies. It has really nice drag and drop features and makes it a breeze to put together an email. Their "Campaigns" feature is simply where you write and send regular emails, automations, and ads.



Pros
  • Free for up to 2,000 subscribers
  • VERY user-friendly
  • Easy to use template builder 
  • Support for multiple lists and segmenting
  • Can schedule emails to send at a specific time during each time zone
  • Automation capabilities (paid)
  • Great for newbies and if all you want to do is send newsletters
  • Great customer support

Cons
  • Not ideal for email marketing: no landing pages, forms, etc.
  • You get charged per person, per list. If you have one person on two lists, they count as two subscribers
  • Risk of having your account suspended or canceled due to too much unsubscribers or spam complaints

Most people end up switching from Mailchimp to ConvertKit because of Mailchimp's lack of email marketing features. Since I don't use this service, I recommend reading this blog post for a full tutorial (with video!) to get started.


2. ConvertKit
My ConvertKit links are affiliate links, so I will earn a small commission if you sign up with them :)

I personally use ConvertKit and it seems to be a favorite of many bloggers and business owners. They are known for their automation system and email sequences, which are great for email marketing. ConvertKit may seem a little confusing at first, but there are step-by-step videos that break it down. The only downside is that there is a monthly fee, but they do offer a free month trial to try it out. Plus, their customer support is A+!


Pros
  • AWESOME for email marketing
  • Great tagging and automation system (included with monthly fee)
  • Free landing pages
  • Only charges for one subscription
  • Easy segmenting features
  • Awesome customer support
  • Always offering free workshops and e-courses. Right now they have a free 4 week Product Creation Masterclass to help you create your very first online product
  • Offers a free trial for your first month!
Cons
  • Priciest: $29 a month for up to 1,000 subscribers
  • No template builder
  • Limited form customization
  • Might seem not very user-friendly to some people, especially if technology isn't your strong suit


Automations or autoresponders are pre-written and pre-scheduled emails that are automatically sent when trigger by an action. In most cases, when a user subscribers to your list. Automations are ideal for a welcome series or sales funnel, which I will get into more detail later in this series. ConvertKit's automation feature is included in the monthly fee, while Mailchimp's is a paid upgrade.

Overall I recommend ConvertKit if you're planning to sell online products as it's totally worth the investment. You can try your first month for FREE by signing up HERE

MailerLite is a budget-friendly option with a really nice interface and great customization features. Their automation system is referred to as "Automation Workflow." They also have step-by-step video tutorials to help get you started.


Pros
  • Free up to 1,000 subscribers with all features
  • Affordable monthly plans 
  • Simple to use 
  • Customization options + emojis!
  • Provides automation + tagging feature 
  • Simple list management
  • Mobile-friendly
Cons
  • No plain-text emails
  • No automation rules
  • Doesn't automatically update your segmented lists

Remember your purpose? This will help you decide which service is best for you.

TAKE ACTION: Grab your worksheet and list the pros and cons of each service provider as they relate to your purpose. By finishing step 1, you should already know what you would like to do with your email list (newsletter or sell products), so this should be easy!


Step 3. Start Collecting Email Addresses 

Once you select your service provider, it's time to start getting those subscribers! Each provider allows you to organize your subscribers into different categories. Mailchimp simply refers to these as "Lists," ConvertKit uses "Subscribers" and MailerLite uses "Groups."



Add Sign-Up Forms to Your Site

The first thing you want to do is make sure people have a place to sign up! The best places to add a subscribe button or form are:
  • Side bar
  • Top bar
  • Pop ups
  • Embedded in your blog post 
  • Footer
  • Navigation bar 

Kate of Layered Indulgence has her free email course at the top of her blog that readers are guaranteed to see.

Erin of Very Erin is using her side-bar to promote her email course.

Just Ask

When I started my list I send Facebook messages to people I knew in real life to join my list. Now, don't send a mass message to everyone saying, "join my list." Be strategic and tell them what they can get out of being on your list other than just benefiting you. You can use this same strategy by sending a professional email to people who might be interested as well. 

Most of the people I asked to join my list did, and some didn't. In retrospect, I wish I would have been even more strategic, because a lot of the people that did join don't even open my emails. They simply subscribed to "help me out." Try and avoid this!

Create Opt-In Freebies and Content Upgrades

What are these words you're throwing at me, Sheila!!! 

Opt-ins and content upgrades are bonus content that's FREE that people can get access to in exchange for their email address. Think of it as an ethical bribe: your readers want info and you want their email address. Done and shut case. Offering freebies is the easiest and most authentic way is to grow your list, in my opinion. And they are super easy and quick to make. I will be diving in deeper on how to make irresistible freebies that your readers will eat up in my upcoming posts!

TAKE ACTION: On your worksheet, list 10-15 people you know in real life that would be interested in joining your email list.


Step 4. Start Brainstorming Newsletter Ideas

Now it's time for the fun stuff! Now that you set up your email list and started to collect email addresses, you're ready to write your first email. I will get into more detail about the different kinds of newsletters, opt-ins, and content upgrades that you can create to grow your list, but for now just focus on your purpose.

TAKE ACTION: Use your worksheet to jot down ideas for emails that you can send your subscribers. If you're drawing a blank, don't worry! I got you covered.


Stumped for email newsletter ideas that your subscribers will love?

What-to-send-to-email-list-(3)
Sign up to get this list of 30 engaging ideas for emails for ANY niche to send to your subscribers that they WILL LOVE!


We hate spam just as much as you do and promise to keep your email safe. Powered by ConvertKit

Lets Review

Phew, you made it! I know that was A LOT, but hopefully the worksheet helped you organize, plan, bring you a little more clarity. Lets break the action steps down to see where you should be at this point:

1. You figured out what you want to do with your email list
2. You picked an email service provider that works best for you
3. You listed 10-15 people to ask to join your list
4. You started to jot down some ideas for newsletters

Let me know in the comments how you're feeling right now. Excited? Overwhelmed? Confused? If you have any questions don't hesitate to ask, I'm here to help!

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