One of the biggest mistakes I see writers and bloggers making nowadays is failing to start and grow an email list. EVERYONE NEEDS AN EMAIL LIST. If you’re a blogger you can use your list to promote your blog posts. If you’re an entrepreneur, you can use your list to promote the products or services that you offer. If you’re an author you can use your list to promote your books and your readings. If you’re a freelance journalist, you can use your list to promote your articles and to stay connected to your contacts, who will ultimately help you generate more story ideas and writing opportunities.

Now, this doesn’t mean you’ll only email people when you want something from them. A good rule of thumb to follow is give, give, give, ask. Be sure you’ve offered valuable content FOR FREE before you ask your list to buy from you.

Yes, growing your social media following is important, too, but you don’t own social media. Algorithm changes can and do affect if your followers actually see your content. Therefore, growing your list should be your priority.

If you want to start and grow your email list, but you’re not quite sure how to do so, keep reading!

Getting Started

First, you need to sign up for an email service such as MailChimp, Aweber, or ConvertKit.

Next, you need to create a lead magnet or opt-in incentive. Think of this as a bribe. It’s what you’re going to give people in exchange for signing up for your list. If you’re a writer, your opt-in incentive could be an excerpt of one of your books or your manifesto on writing. If you’re a blogger, create something useful and informative (such as a guide or e-course) related to your niche. To figure out what you should create survey your readers, survey Facebook groups you’re a part of and reach out to 10 of your most loyal readers and ask them what they’re struggling with most with regard to your niche. The topic that comes up most often should be the topic of your opt-in incentive.

You can create your opt-in incentive in Microsoft Word or Google Docs. Make it pretty with some images and fun fonts and convert it to a PDF. You can also use a program like Canva to dress up your e-guide, manifesto, or book excerpt. To create a free e-course, you can use a program like CourseCraft. Set up is very similar to crafting and publishing a blog post, so it will be easy to use. And since you aren’t charging for this course, you won’t have to pay any fees.

To deliver your opt-in incentive you could invest in a service like LeadPages, which will allow you to create beautiful landing pages to promote your freebie and will deliver your lead magnet to people once they sign up. But if you don’t have the money for this, there is another option. Simply edit the confirmation page and add to it a link to your opt-in freebie. (You can create a link to your PDF through Google Docs.)

Now it’s time to promote your lead magnet. You can do this through social media and by guest blogging for bigger websites and driving the readers to a page on your blog that describes your lead magnet and contains a sign-up form. Embed a sign-up form in your side bar, header, footer, and on your About page. You may even want to create a pop-up.

Pro tip: One of the fastest ways to grow your email list is to host free webinars. If you are looking for a huge increase over a short period of time, try hosting a virtual summit.

Related Reading: How to Host a Virtual Summit

Let me be honest. When I started my email list in 2011 I didn’t have a clue what I was doing and had never heard of a lead magnet or opt-in incentive.

When I came up with the idea to launch See Jane Write I reached out to any and every woman in town I thought might be interested in such a group. I compiled my list by looking for local bloggers, by checking the bylines of local news stories, and noting names on the mastheads of local magazines. I even read through the attendee lists of local events that I thought might attract female writers or bloggers. After compiling a huge list of names, I used my reporting skills to find email addresses for these women. So, yes, I was basically a stalker. But I used this list to invite people to that first event.

You can adopt my stalker habits and reach out to people you think might be interested in your lead magnet or your webinar. If they are interested, great!  They’ll sign up and be added to your official email list. If they aren’t, move on. Don’t manually add them to your list without their permission. That’s an email marketing no-no.

What to Write in Your Emails

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Javacia, what am I supposed to write in these emails?!”

Well, I have bad news and I have good news.

The bad news is the question of what you should write in your emails can’t be thoroughly answered in a single blog post. It would take an entire e-course or e-book to cover that.

The good news is Aweber is currently offering a free e-course and a free e-guide to help you craft your emails.

The e-guide includes fill-in-the-blank templates for every type of email you can imagine such as your welcome emails. blog newsletters, webinar and event invitations, and much more. It’s like Mad Libs for entrepreneurs! And the “What to Write in Your Emails” course will help you apply everything you’ll be learning so you can start getting results. (The course also comes with a free 30-day trial of Aweber.)

Sign up for “What to Write in Your Emails” course here.

And be sure to sign up for the See Jane Write mailing list so you won’t miss out on exclusive content and event announcements.