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7-figure business coach & course creator helping you build a profitable online biz & become OBSESSED with your life. I'm an Enneagram 3 & love ClickUp, color coded calendars & design. I travel around the world full time and spent most my days in Thailand, Vietnam or Bali.
How many times have you been told about the importance of growing your email list? And yet so many entrepreneurs start late in the game, focusing on social media first and email second. I’m going to show you why that’s a fatal mistake.
In this post, we’re breaking down how to build an email list from scratch, including how to create an irresistible freebie that makes people opt-in faster than you can say SUBSCRIBE.
Over the past year I’ve grown my email list from 1000 to over 20,000 subscribers, and today I’m sharing all the tips and tricks I used to make it happen. The three main steps we’ll cover are:
How to create a freebie that converts
Setting up your tech
How to market your freebie
Managing and growing your list
Keep reading to learn how to build an email list from scratch or watch the video below!
Why is it important to learn how to build an email list?
Many online entrepreneurs focus on growing their social media and at the expense of email. Yes, social media is important (I get over 90% of my clients on Instagram!), but social networks are also constantly changing.
If Instagram gets shut down tomorrow, if the algorithm suddenly shifts or you get locked out of your account–then what? If you don’t have an email list, you have no way to reach your audience. And if you can’t reach your audience, you don’t make money!
Unlike social media, you own your email list. Your subscribers are also your ideal clients. When someone joins your list, they’re essentially raising their hand to say, “Hey, I’m interested in what you’re selling!”
Bottom line: If you’re not building your email list, you’re missing out on a HUGE opportunity for sales.
Starting an email list doesn’t need to be difficult or complicated. Like most things in business, the most important step is getting started!
Step #1: Creating your freebie/lead magnet.
We need a way to incentivize people to get on our list. Your freebie can be any small piece of content (a PDF, recorded mastermind class, chart, template, etc.). Your audience then gives you their email address in exchange for the freebie. If you’re planning on creating a PDF, I recommend Canva which is free and super easy to use!
Tip #1: Your freebie should be specific to your ideal client.
You don’t want just anyone signing up for your email list! You want targeted, ideal clients, who will hopefully be interested in your paid services down the line. That means your freebie should reflect whatever it is you’re selling.
Tip #2: Use freebies to build your authority and brand.
Think of your freebies as a free preview of the main event. Show people what you can offer! Share your knowledge and expertise, and provide as much value as possible without giving away your paid services.
For example, inside myInstagram followers freebie, I share three simple but effective tips to grow your Instagram. These tips WORK! I have people DM me all the time to tell me how they implemented the strategies in my freebie and gained hundreds of ideal client followers. That makes them wonder what else I have to offer.
Tip #3: Niche down your freebie.
The thing about freebies is that they’re FREE–there’s not a big investment, which makes it easy for people to download them and forget about it. If you want to avoid your content landing in the freebie graveyard, it needs to solve a specific problem.
Don’t overpromise: you can’t change their whole lives with this one freebie. Instead focus on a specific area your ideal client needs help with. For example, my Instagram Stories Calendar fills the need to come up with engaging story ideas.
Bonus Tip: Don’t forget to introduce yourself!
Start your freebie off with a short and sweet introduction to help your new subscribers get to know you (we’re more likely to buy from people we know and trust!). See below for an example from one of my freebies:
And don’t forget to lead them somewhere else at the end of your freebie! Direct them to your Instagram, Youtube, etc. or even ask them to book a discovery call, if that makes sense for your freebie.
Step #2: Set up your tech.
Choose your email marketing platform.
Once you’ve created your freebie, you need somewhere to actually host your soon-to-be-growing email list! This is where you create an opt-in form for people to download your freebie. As you grow your list, it will also be where you manage your subscribers and send emails from.
Popular options include ActiveCampaign, ConvertKit, Flodesk and MailChimp. Although MailChimp is free, I wouldn’t really recommend it; if you start with this platform just try to move to a better option as soon as possible.
Create your opt-in page.
Also called a landing page, you can create this directly in your email marketing platform, or design a page in WordPress (or whichever website host you use). I design my opt-in pages in ShowIt and then embed the email opt-in form created in Active Campaign (click here to see an example landing page).
Step #3: Market your freebie.
The easiest way to do this is through social media. It doesn’t matter which platform you use or how many followers you have, you already have people in front of you. Announce your upcoming freebie and start building the hype!
Once your freebie is live, add it to the link in your bio and remind people every week that the freebie is available. You can also promote your freebie in Facebook groups (Only if it’s relevant! Don’t send spam).
It goes without saying that your freebie should also be on your website! I got all of my first subscribers through Facebook groups and my website.
Tip: Market your freebie only when relevant. Don’t plug it into every single post, Youtube video and podcast episode, or your audience will get tired of hearing about it.
Freebies don’t have to be in PDF format. Try hosting a free Masterclass, webinar or three day challenge. This is a great way to build your email list from scratch. If you’re just starting out, a live event can help your audience familiarize themselves with you and your brand AND grow your list if they have to sign up to attend.
Jump on IGTV with a friend, share your knowledge and then mention that you have a free resource on the topic. This is a great way to expand your audience.
I don’t recommend starting with Facebook ads until you’ve tried the other methods above, but if you’ve already started marketing and have a bit of money to spend, ads can be a great way to drive cold traffic to your freebie.
Disclaimer: Facebook ads can cost a lot of money in order to be effective. They are also a quick way to lose a lot of money if you don’t know what you are doing. Also Facebook ads are not a substitute for organic marketing but rather a complementary strategy. I don’t recommend doing Facebook ads until you can afford to spend $1000-2000/month in ad spend (not including what you paid a professional to run your Facebook ads).
Step #4: Grow and Nurture Your List.
You have your opt-in and tech set up, you’ve started marketing your freebie and gained a few subscribers…Now what? Some entrepreneurs get stuck at this phase, overwhelmed with the idea of creating regular content for their email list. One of the easiest things you can do at this point is set up a welcome sequence.
Create a follow-up sequence
After opting-in, your subscribers should receive an automated email sequence welcoming them to your list. This can consist of anywhere from 3-5 emails, each a few days apart. The purpose of these emails is to welcome them into your world and help them get to know you.
At the end of the sequence, you can pitch your services or invite them to book a discovery call or purchase. The best part is, this requires almost no action on your part! Just set up the initial sequence in your email marketing platform and then let it send automatically to new subscribers.
Email your list regularly
I recommend starting with 2-4 emails a month. Each email should have a purpose and include a call to action. Invite people to hit reply, check out your Instagram or visit your website. Get creative! You’re likely already producing content for other platforms, so all you need to do is share that in an email.
Now you know how to build an email list from scratch!
Once you dive in, you’ll see what your audience likes and wants more of and can adjust as needed. For now, start with these simple steps and you’ll grow your list in no time. And don’t forget to DM on Instagram and let me know how it goes!
You can also check out my Youtube channel to watch the full video on how to build an email list from scratch. While you’re there make sure to hit subscribe for more marketing and content ideas!
Learning how to build an email list is only one part of a great content marketing strategy. For more tips, check out the posts below:
Something tells me you belong here and desire something more.
hi, i'm Amanda
Three years ago, I chose to quit my corporate 9-to-5, sold all my belongings, and booked a one-way ticket to Thailand. I had no real plan—just a burning desire to see the world and a bone-deep certainty that there was more to life than my mind-numbing day job.
Since then I have started multiple business ventures including LLCo. which has scaled to over $1 million dollars in 2 years, and has helped hundreds of women from all over the world build profitable online businesses, defy expectations, and create a freedom lifestyle on their terms—no one else’s.
Every day you get to choose again as to how you will live your life - and every defining moment will come down to just that, a choice.
Here’s the thing - your past story, knowledge, and experiences may have shaped you to be where you are now, but they don’t have to define where you go next.
Hey there, I’m Amanda Kolbye. I’m on a mission to help female entrepreneurs acquire business tools & knowledge so they can create generational wealth and a life where you never think “is this it?” In our world, women become unstoppable. In our world, limitless is the only boundary we adhere to.
7-figure international business coach, online educator, and founder of Laptop Lifestyle Co.