How to start an email list in 5 easy steps

Everywhere you look, people are talking about email lists! Whether you’re a blogger or business owner, having an email list is essential. We’ve put together this 5-step guide to starting an email list to help you on the way to growing your audience - you can even do it all in a day! 

Start an email list in 5 steps

Why start an email list? 

So, before we dive into the guide, you might be wondering why you even need an email list to start with. 

There are a number of reasons but the main one is the level of control you have over it. We’ve all seen the impact algorithm changes have had on our reach and engagement on Instagram. We all witnessed the chaos when Facebook had a glitch and people couldn’t use all of its features for a few hours. And we’re all wondering what’s going to happen now that Pinterest has gone public, right? 

With your email list, there’s no algorithm to fight against and there’s less risk that someone is going to take it away from you (so long as you’re complying with GDPR and the terms of use of the email marketing service provider you choose to use!). 

It’s also more targeted and personal. It’s easy to scroll past someone’s update on Facebook or ignore their posts on Instagram. But when an email lands in your inbox, you’re much more likely to open it and devour the content. The same is true for your audience - whilst they might miss your posts on social media, they’re not going to miss your emails in showing up in their inbox. So, whether you’re sharing your latest blog post or letting them know about a new product or service you’re offering, tell them in an email to make sure they get the message! 

5 Steps to starting your email list

Now you know why you need an email, let’s get into how to start an email list. 

1. Be Serious and Hold Yourself Accountable

As business owners, we often set ourselves goals that never get achieved. 

Maybe you’ve been thinking about starting an email list for a couple of days now, or maybe you’ve been thinking about starting an email list for a couple of years! 

Either way, stop procrastinating! NOW is the time to start your list. 

If you’re serious about starting an email list, treat it like any other deadline in your business. Treat it like a client’s deadline or the deadline for your tax return. It’s non-negotiable. So, grab your calendar right now and set a date for officially launching your email list. Then block out a day or two to do the actual setting up bit sometime before your launch date. 

2. Choose an email marketing service provider

The next step is to choose an email marketing service provider and create an account with them. 

There are lots of options available out there and each email marketing service provider offers something different. Some are great for lower budgets, some have more technical features and others are designed for making beautiful newsletters. 

Whatever you want from an email marketing service provider, I would always recommend doing your research before making a decision. Take a look at the options available to you and make a list of the pros and cons of each. Consider things like:

  • cost (including future cost as your list grows - some services are cheap to start with but rapidly get very expensive)

  • design and customisation options

  • automation features

  • signup forms and landing page options

  • reporting function 

I love using Mailchimp and would always recommend it to other business owners so the rest of this guide is going to be geared towards using Mailchimp. The remaining steps I’m going to share with you, however, will be relevant to any service provider you choose to use.

3. Creating some sign up forms (and don’t forget to brand them!)

Once you’ve decided which email marketing service provider you want to use, it’s time to get into the good stuff.  

A key part to starting your email list is having a way for people to actually join your list. 

Log into the dashboard of your chosen service and create a signup form. I like to request a first name and email address from my subscribers (if you have their first name, you can include it in future emails to them and make it sound more personal).

Your signup forms are going to be shown on your website, so make sure that they match your branding. Edit the wording to sound like you and add your brand colours where possible too. 

4. Add your forms to your website

After you’ve created your signup form (or forms), it’s time to add them to your website so that people can start signing up. 

In Mailchimp you can simply copy a piece of code and paste it onto your site for your form to appear. Some other service providers have ways of integrating. For example, if you use Convertkit, you can add your forms to a WordPress site using a plugin. 

No matter what email service provider you use, there will be a way to integrate it with your website if you’re using one of the major platforms. 

So, where do you put your signup forms to encourage people to actually sign up? 

If your form is a simple “join the newsletter” form, you can add it to some key places that everyone who visits your website will see. For example, in your footer, sidebar or above the fold on your homepage. 

If your form is linked to giving your subscribers some sort of freebie, like a PDF checklist or ebook etc. add the form to relevant blog posts. For example, if you’re giving away a business plan template, add the signup form to any blog posts where you talk about business planning, starting a business or being organised in your business. 

5. Get your content seen and grow that list! 

Congratulations! You’ve technically started your email list now. 

But that was the easy part. Now you need to keep that list growing and growing. The best way to grow your list is, as with any online content, get it seen by more eyes. 

If you have signup forms embedding in specific blog posts, share those more frequently than other posts. Add them to a SmartLoop in Tailwind, share them in Facebook Groups and keep the content regularly updated. 

If you are offering a freebie as an opt-in incentive, create a landing page for that freebie and create a pin (or 4!) for that landing page. Then get pinning! Add the pin to your Tailwind Tribes and group boards. Also keep an eye out in Facebook Groups for people asking questions and seeking advice around the topic of your freebie. Where appropriate, and allowed by the group rules, share your freebie in those groups! 

And there you have your email list started in 5 simple steps!