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How to Start an Email List in 2018: Step-By-Step—UPDATED!

How to Start an Email List in 2018: Step-By-Step—UPDATED!

Learn how to start an email list with this step-by-step tutorial! I'll walk you through the basics of setting your business up for email marketing.


How to Start an Email List in 2018: Step-By-Step—UPDATED!


Don’t Do What I Did

Don't Wait to Get Started

You’re on the right page if you know you need to start an email list, and you want to get it done the right way—and fast.

After this step-by-step tutorial, you’ll have an email list up and running, an autoresponder sequence laid out and ready to go, and even learn some more advanced stuff that’ll help you stand out from your competitors, too.

Looking back at the first business I created back in 2008, not having an email list was like shooting myself in the foot. It was a huge mistake, because I sold products, but had no way of letting people—interested people —know that they existed.

Even here, on Smart Passive Income, I didn’t collect my first email address until 1.5 years after I started the blog. Big mistake—and I made it twice!

That’s exactly what I want to help you with in this tutorial, because you need an email list so that you can grow your business, or even start one if you’re right at the beginning stages of your online business journey.

Keep reading, and then get ready to take some notes, and take some action, too!

How Email Lists Have Helped Me

Email Lists Are Crucial For Your Business

Since 2010 when I first started my email list, I’ve learned so much. Here are a few fun facts about my email list, and how it has been crucial for my business—and how it can be crucial for yours too:

  • I’ve grown my email list to 200,000+ email addresses.
  • Email has helped me discover the top pains and problems of my audience, which can then be used to craft content and product ideas to help alleviate those pains and problems.
  • A single broadcast email once helped me earn over $60k in affiliate earnings.
  • More than $1,000,000 in total earnings can be directly attributed to my email list.
  • Email lists have proven to be versatile for driving new traffic to SPI by promoting new posts, and also resurfacing older posts. They also let me send out notifications when I add new information to an older post.
  • Automated follow-up sequences have allowed me to serve my audience with additional content that allows me to keep in contact with people over time so that I end up with higher open and click through rates.
  • My email segments let me send updates directly to the people on my list I know will be interested in a particular product or post, and skip notifying people who I know aren’t ready for it yet.

That One Time My Email List

Saved the Day

In March 2013 I was in San Francisco shooting promotional video for my book, Let Go, when hackers took my website down—for an entire week. I couldn’t log in to the site. Everyone who came to the site got an error screen, and the only way I could communicate with my audience was through my email list.

The email list I had built literally saved my business for a week. I was able to keep my audience up to date, I shared podcast episodes and YouTube videos that were coming, and kept my business up and running even though my blog was completely out of commission.

Your email list is a huge asset and the experience of not being able to use my main communication tool—my blog—hammered home the benefits of having a solid email list.

Don’t Forget: It’s Not About the Money.

It's About the People

Before we get into the meat of the tutorial here, a couple of things:

  1. Thanks for reading through this, because seriously—most people miss this stuff and it’s so important for your long-term success in email marketing.
  2. So many people in the online business space will tell you that “The money is in the list.” While that’s not entirely untrue, I happen to think that it’s just a small (but still important) part of the picture.

You see, I believe that the money is in the list because that’s where the people are. That may seem obvious, but let’s break it down a little bit more.

When you create an email list, you’re allowing a group of fellow human beings to come together in one place where they expect to hear from you. You have a huge opportunity—responsibility, even—to provide value to them. When someone essentially says, “Hey, I like you enough to give you my email address,” you owe it to them to offer up everything you can to ensure that they make progress, stay informed, or are entertained.

It’s not all about money and it’s not all about the numbers, either.

I have so many people reach out and tell me that they feel discouraged with their small email lists. But, since we’ve already established that these are actual human beings, I like to take a much more visual approach. When you think about the 50 or 100 people on your list, think about having that many people in a single room to hear you speak. They’ve all shown up to hear whatever it is you have to say.

It can be frightening to think about, right? But that is exactly how I think email lists should be treated. When you think about it this way, you can begin treating your email list more like people in a room who are there waiting to hear what you have to say and, ultimately, continually deciding if you and the information you provide is still worth being in the room for. This approach will help you craft effective emails, build trust, and remember to treat your list with respect.

And, if generating an income is one of your goals, you’re likely to do very well.

First Things First

Find the Best Email Service Provider

Now, you may be thinking, “Why do I even need an email service provider? I’ve got a Gmail account and can just send emails to my friends and family that way.”

Here’s the thing: don’t send bulk business emails to your list through your free email service. Not only will you be breaking email marketing opt-in laws, you’ll also have no real way to grow your list.

When considering an email service provider, you’ll want to make sure you can:

  • Build a database of subscribers
  • Send emails to several people at the same time
  • Setup automated follow-up sequences
  • Place signup forms on your website and landing pages
  • Tag or segment your users

Signing on with an email service provider (ESP) that’s built specifically to help you manage and grow your list is incredibly important and, in my opinion, ConvertKit is the way to go. I use it currently, and it’s especially friendly to those just starting out. [Full disclosure: I am a compensated advisor and affiliate for ConvertKit.]

Also, they’re offering a 30-day free trial if you get started today!

You can use the strategies and tactics you learn in this tutorial with any ESP; however I’ve personally experimented with a lot of different ESPs over the years, and I recommend ConvertKit to you because it’s the one that has everything I need to grow my business, while still being very intuitive and easy to use.

You can read more about my choice to switch over to ConvertKit (from two other providers) here in this post.

As I mentioned above, I want full disclosure here: I am a compensated advisor and an affiliate for ConvertKit, but that’s because I believe it is the best email product on the market for online businesses. Here are just a few reasons why I love it:

  • The platform is well designed and extremely easy to use. The names of the tools are clear and easy to understand: forms, automations, sequences, broadcasts, subscribers.
  • Emails are delivered reliably and as expected.
  • Their customer service team is super helpful, and they have 24 hour online chat available (a feature my team uses often when we have questions).
  • The autoresponder sequences are easy to implement.
  • It comes with powerful tagging and segmentation features.
  • Visual automations make it easy to create complex “if this, then that” rules.
  • It’s extremely easy to make changes and updates. For example, if you decide to change a tag’s name, that name automatically updates everywhere you’re using the tag.

Now, let’s get to the tutorial videos! These videos are a completely free resource for you, and they walk you through the process of setting up your list, step-by-step, right from the start.