Starting an email list and working at email marketing has been one of the most valuable things I’ve done for my business as a consultant in the last five years.
Email marketing is one of the most valuable channels for freelancers.
Imagine having a list of 100, 500, or 5,000+ subscribers who are interested in what you’re writing about and considering working with you.
You can email these people and tell them about a new service offering you have that solves a painful problem in their business or a short-term opening in your calendar that is available.
Email marketing can print money for your business. But email marketing is a long game.
You don’t start email marketing today and in two weeks have a 5,000 person list eager to hire you. You continually work at building a list, writing consistently, and getting subscribers.
You start working on email marketing today, work at it consistently, keep it up even when you feel it isn’t going anywhere, and see results over time.
“Hey, it’s like going to the gym!” you might be thinking.
It is quite like going to the gym, my friend.
- It’s one of the most valuable things you can do
- It’ll pay dividends for you over time
- In a few weeks or months, you’ll start to notice small positive changes
- In a few years, you’ll see large positive changes
I’m writing you this letter to answer the question “What do I need to focus on to get started with email marketing?”
If you’re already doing emails marketing for your business, excellent! You’ll pick up a few tips in here. Hit reply and let me know what questions you have about growing your email marketing.
“Why email marketing?”
Email marketing is great because it gives you an avenue to develop and build a trusting relationship with prospects who aren’t ready to work with you today but will be ready to work with you in a few weeks or months.
Email marketing gives another path for prospects to interact with you.
Email marketing lets people who visit your website but aren’t ready to apply to work with you or schedule an appointment to speak with you subscribe to your email list and learn more about you, the outcomes clients experience working with you, the services you offer, and how you think.
You’re giving visitors the option to sign up for more information from you before applying to work with you. A first date before marriage.
Email marketing is great for helping you:
- Exercise your writing muscle
- Exercise your critical thinking muscle
- Build up a body of work
When should I do this?
If you’re searching for your next client today and are facing a lack of high-quality clients in the short-term, then, my friend, I do not recommend email marketing for you today. There are more valuable short-term actions you should focus on:
If you have the time, the revenue, and the desire to focus on something a medium- to long-term, then email marketing is a marketing strategy you should consider.
Email marketing will pay out for your business but will take months of effort.
Not hard, backbreaking effort.
Showing up and writing and hitting that send button even when you don’t feel like it.
(Hey, like the gym again!)
It’s valuable to get started with the basics of email marketing early on and build a list over time.
It will take awhile to see results. Will email marketing immediately generate prospects, leads, projects, and cash for you by sending an email?
But it’ll move you in the direction of generating prospects, leads, projects, and cash for your business.
It takes awhile to see results. That’s why focusing on the basics and then consistently writing is important. That builds the core habit. Everything else is an optimization on top of that.
Once you have the basics set up, then you can focus on the writing.
Once you have the habit of writing developed, you can look at other parts of the system, like:
- How to get more subscribers on your email list
- How to better convert subscribers into prospects
- How to better educate, inform, and entertain over email
But for now, at the core, if you’re looking to get started with email marketing, there are only a few things you truly need to do.
What you don’t need to do
Here’s a list of things that you 100% do not need to think about for the next, say, 6 months.
- Lead magnets, creating them and optimizing them
- Free Email Courses, building them and marketing them
- Paid advertising to get people on your email list
- Segmenting, split-testing, and personalization
- Elaborate multi-part story-driven campaigns that lead buyers to purchase a product or service
A lot of the optimizations and techniques you encounter online do work — but are best for someone who already has the basics on lock:
- Their email marketing software set up
- A consistent habit of writing and sending
- A list they’re working on growing
Email marketing is valuable to start with earlier rather than later (and it’s never too late to start). Write consistently. Publish consistently.
If you do that, you’ll start to see initial results.
Then, once you have the writing and publishing habit on lock, you can start asking and answering the more advanced questions about optimization and growth.
But until you have the habit of making the clackity-clack noise and sending a letter to your subscribers with frequency, don’t think about the more advanced stuff. It’s a distraction from doing the actual work.
What you actually need to do, a list
Here’s the simple list I wish I had 5 years ago. It would have saved me a lot of time, frustration, and hassle getting started with email marketing.
Step 1: Sign up for an email marketing tool
They’re both affordable and easy to use.
Drip is more complex and a bit more powerful. MailChimp is simpler and a little easier to get started with. Both are great. You can always switch later.
Step 2: Make it easy for people to sign up for your newsletter
You’ll want to make it easy for people that find your website (prospects, clients, friends, colleagues, etc.) to sign up for your email list, so add your opt-in form to:
- Your homepage
- A standalone newsletter page (“/newsletter/“)
And, if you have the time and the know-how, the individual articles on your site.
Great! Now someone who shows up at your website can opt-in and subscribe. But what will you send your subscribers?
Step 3: Write down ten ideas for short (500-750 word) articles
- Answer a common client question
- Explain the benefits and/or outcomes of one of your services
- Promote a case study of a client that had great results with your service
- Share a contrarian opinions about your industry
That’s your ‘ideas’ list. Those are short articles you’ll write and send to your list.
Step 4: Write three practice articles.
Take one of the ideas you identified and write 500-750 words on it. Now do it again with another two articles.
You may think your first few articles are terrible. That’s okay!
You’ll get better over time.
Don’t be afraid to send the article because it isn’t perfect. Better to ship it and move onto the next thing.
Remember the directive:
The point of being done is not to finish but to get other things done
Practice writing. Get done with those first few articles so you can get onto writing other things.
Step 5: Email 10+ friends, clients, colleagues, connections, etc., and let them know that you have an email list.
You’ll want to tell them:
- You’ve starting an email newsletter
- Weekly, you’ll be sending out a short article answering a common question about your industry or specialization or teaching something new and interesting
- Link them to your newsletter page so they can sign up
Step 6: Send the first article to your subscribers.
It doesn’t matter if you have 1, 10, or 100 subscribers. What matters is developing the habit of showing up, writing, and sending something.
Step 7: Repeat writing and sending every week.
The goal is to get consistent with the writing and the sending. The goal at this point is not to break X subscribers.
Every week, write a thing. Then, send it to your subscribers.
I have a colleague who is a consultant who made $X,000/month off of a small <200 person email list.
The secret? They were people in her target market who matched her positioning and who were interested in the information she was sharing and the work she did.
When she mentioned that she had time available for a project, people replied saying “I’d love to work together. How do I get on your calendar?” and she was able to convert readers from her email list into prospects and clients.
That happened because she was consistent about writing and sending.
That built a relationship with her subscribers and kept her top of mind.
When she had an opening, or a prospect had a need, she was the person they immediately thought of.
What should I remember when I do this?
- Building an email list is a long game. The two most important things to focus on is being consistent about writing and sending.
- There are a ton of things to optimize and tweak over time but forget about all of that for now. You want to focus on the habit of writing and sending to your subscribers.
- First comes communication. Then automation. Then personalization. When you’re getting started with email marketing, focus on communication. Ignore automation and personalization until you’re ready for them.
- Develop the habit of writing and hitting send. Even if you feel like an email is below average. Even if it’s been a crappy week. It doesn’t matter. What matters is writing and hitting the send button consistently.