An email list is a powerful way to build your blog and your creative business. As a friend told me recently, "My list is golden." With so many social media options, it might seem that email is old school. But think about it: from the early days of home access to the internet to the present moment, email is the one channel that is still alive and well. Here’s why email endures, and why an email list is one of your most powerful tools as a creative business owner.
First, everyone has an email address. My 12-year-old neighbor has one, and my 86-year-old father-in-law does, too. Most people check their email first thing in the morning and then several times throughout the day, especially if they have a smartphone. People have varying levels of familiarity and engagement with Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and RSS, but nothing is as familiar, universal, and immediate as email.
And second, email is private. When you check your email you’re opening your personal inbox. If you respond to an email, nobody sees your response but the recipient. Email is direct. It’s not inter-mediated by a third party that’s determining what you see and what you don’t. And email is under your control. To subscribe to a list, you have to double opt-in (fill out a sign up form, and then confirm) and you can unsubscribe at any time.
The power and reach of email are enough that you should be taking it seriously. It’s not too late to start building an email list. I started mine a year ago, after I’d already been blogging for seven years. It’s too complex to manage the list yourself. Instead, use a service. I recommend MailChimp (that’s what I use) or MadMimi (which I’ve heard is also great). Tiny Letter is affiliate with MailChimp and is pared down to make newsletter writing even simpler.
How Do you Get People to Join?
Remember that you want your list to grow organically so that the people who sign up really want to read your newsletter. That being said, there are some concrete steps you can take to increase their awareness that you have a newsletter you’re your visitors might enjoy.
1. Put the opt-in form in a prominent place on your blog. Up high, near your profile photo, might be a good spot.
2. Ask people to sign up.
- Put a link to the sign-up form in your email signature.
- Email your customers after they make a purchase and invite them to sign up. -If you guest post on a bigger blog, include a link to your sign-up form in your bio.
- If you post a free pattern or tutorial on your blog, ask readers to sign-up for your newsletter at the end of the post. This is especially useful if your free tutorial gets picked up by an aggregator site or goes wild on Pinterest.
- Put your free pattern up on Craftsy. When someone downloads it there, you get access to their email address. Email them, inviting them to sign up for your newsletter!
- If you’ve been blogging for a while you’ve probably got some old posts that are evergreen. Go back and edit them, adding a newsletter sign up form at the bottom.
When you ask, be direct! Instead of saying, “Why not sign up for my newsletter?” say “Enter your email and get started today.” Authority makes us feel secure in our decision to hand over our email addresses.
3. Succinctly describe the benefits of receiving your newsletter.
- Consider showing a testimonial near the sign up form, and perhaps a preview of what to expect from the newsletter on the opt-in page.
- If you’ve already got a large list, provide subscriber numbers (join the 2,000 people who’ve already signed up!).
- Describe your newsletter subscribers as a community. Everyone wants to be members of a special group.
4. Offer an incentive. Once you’re using the paid version of MailChimp you can set up an autoresponder that will give new subscribers something for free immediately, like an ebook, a pattern, or a coupon.
Now, email your list!
A list gets stale after a while if you ignore it so don’t be afraid! Several times a month send out a friendly, well-edited email. You might want to develop a schedule so that people know when to expect your email. Colette Snippets, one of my favorite newsletters, comes out every Monday morning at 8:30 am. I look forward to it!
An email newsletter is a huge opportunity and equally weighty responsibility. What will you do once you’ve got all these email addresses? If you’re not sure what to include, go subscribe to the email lists of five bloggers you admire and see what appeals to you in their newsletters. Jot down some ideas and then experiment.
I think a good way to think about a newsletter is as an exchange of ideas. Write as if you’re talking to a friend you haven’t seen in a few weeks. Give them something interesting to think about. Invite them to join you in your creative explorations. It’s okay to experiment! This week for the first time I asked my readers to hit “reply” and tell me about what they’re working on right now. That was a big success! I heard from tons of people and had some great exchanges.
Try new ideas and see how it goes. And like anything in business, it helps to have a thick skin. Every single time you send out an email a certain number of people will unsubscribe. Don’t worry! Keep working to build your list. The people who open, read, and respond to your newsletter are your devoted fans and they are truly golden.