Building an email list is important to your success as a creator. Important is probably an understatement, it’s paramount to your success. It’s crucial work, where progress is measured by the number of email subscribers you collect. The only problem is, that number starts off incredibly small.
When you first launch your blog, you might only have one or two email subscribers (besides the four different email addresses you used to sign up yourself). This makes it difficult to get traction, but on a deeper level, it’s also incredibly disheartening. Every time you write a piece of content, you know that very few people are going to read it—so subconsciously you may be holding back and not creating your best work. Consider this: if you knew that your next blog post would be read by ten thousand people, would you put any extra effort into your writing process this week?
Literally, Pick Up The Phone
When you’re just getting started, momentum is critical. You need to collect a group of highly engaged email subscribers and get your first 100 subscribers right away. 100 isn’t a magic number, but it is a good one. You could tell a group of ten people the same things you’d write in a blog post, but it’s rare you get an audience of 100 or more. Yes, you need some kind of optin form on your website but your first 100 subscribers can come quickly if you get right to the work by picking up the phone to contact people the old-fashioned way.
Paul Graham, one of the most accomplished venture capitalists today, advises new startup companies to do things that don’t scale and that philosophy applies perfectly here. With each conversation, you get a chance to refine your purpose and learn what resonates with real people live (whether you’re talking in-person, on the phone, or via text).
Reach Beyond Your Niche
While your focus should always be on the real people that your business is designed for, your initial email subscribers don’t have to be your target customers at all. When you’re building momentum, you should start by getting close friends or family to join your email list. These subscribers are low-hanging fruit. Even if they’re not your target customers, they likely know people who would benefit from your content and because they know, like, and trust you they’ll share your content when they get the chance.
Bryan Harris calls this group of initial subscribers your "eager sneezers" because they are people who want to see you succeed and will consistently cheer you on (or hit share). After that, you should be reaching out to people in your industry directly.
If you’re entrenched in your industry, you may have a list of clients, colleagues, or other contacts who would be interested in your content. If not, there are plenty of people out there—you just have to find them and reach out to them, where they already live online.
Here’s how to try this yourself:
- Make a list of 10 people who you know would be interested in what you’re writing, no matter what niche you wrote about.
- Add to that list 10 people who you know are working in the same industry or following the topic you cover.
- Text, call, or email each of those people individually. Let them know what you’re creating, and ask if they would like you to follow along with email updates.
- Once you’ve finished that list, repeat steps 1 - 3.