When I started my first blog in 2010, I made a stupid mistake. To be fair, I didn’t know at the time that the blog would catapult me into the world of online audience-based business, but it was a stupid mistake nonetheless: I didn’t start an email list. I sold that blog in January to focus on Unsettle, but while I ran it, it was a fairly lucrative gig. It paid for my wedding, my honeymoon, extensive travel and even my down payment on my house. But if I had built an email list over the course of that four years? I’d have been able to quadruple that income – and probably pay for my entire house.

Are You Making the Same Mistake?

Sometimes I see conversations going on in the Unsettle Facebook group or during a Power Session and hear people say: “An email list isn’t right for my industry” or “Do I really need a list? I don’t think there’s anything to send people who subscribe”. It’s a common misconception that if you have an eCommerce store instead of a blog, or a food blog rather than a parenting blog, or if you’re not selling anything, you don’t need an email list. But if you think email lists are necessary only for bloggers (or certain types of bloggers) you’re making the same fatal mistake that I did. This is such a mistake because… The people on your email list – no matter which industry you’re in – make up your audience. Facebook likes are fine. Traffic is dandy. But none of that means anything if you’re not converting your followers to email subscribers. You probably know this. So…

What’s Holding You Back from Creating One?

When I finally came to terms that I needed an email list, I didn’t create one. There were a few things holding me back, and I suspect that the same things are holding you back, too.

  • Fear: What if you start a list and nobody signs up?
  • Confusion: What would you send your list, anyway?
  • Misconception: You’re not selling anything. Why would you need an email list? Isn’t it just for people who are trying to find new customers?
  • Past experiences: You don’t want to spam your readers/customers. You’ve been on some email lists that seem to only send junk and won’t let you unsubscribe, and you don’t want to be like that.

Let’s say you’re one of those people who think one – or more – of these things about email lists. I’m going to break down those objections and set the record straight, so you can start building the lifestyle you always dreamed of.

What an Email List is NOT

An email list is not a means of spamming your audience. An email list is not an RSS feed. An email list is not a journal. An email list is not a sales pitch.

Why You MUST Have an Email List and Focus All Your Energy on Growing It

Have you ever worked in a day job? If you’re reading this, chances are you have. And you probably recognize the term “strategic objectives”. The company you worked for likely had a list of goals your team was supposed to be working on. Well, prepare to have your mind blown: They’re doing goals wrong. Companies and individuals alike need to have only one goal. 

Yes, only one.

There never should be more than one priority, because if you have more than one priority, nothing is a priority.

“The word priority came into the English language in the 1400s. It was singular. It meant the very first or prior thing. It stayed singular for the next five hundred years. Only in the 1900s did we pluralize the term and start talking about priorities.” – Greg McKeown, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

When you’re building a lifestyle business of any sort, your one priority absolutely needs to be growing your email list.

Why? Well, simply put, your list is your audience. And lifestyle businesses are built almost 100% from your audience. Without a list, you don’t have an audience. It doesn’t matter if you have 100,000 visitors a week if those visitors just leave never to return. Here’s why:

1. You Own Your List

You’re a squatter on social media. If you have 10,000 Twitter followers and Twitter shuts down tomorrow, they’re all gone. If you have 600 likes on your Facebook page and Facebook changes it’s algorithms (again) so only 30 people see what you post, that’s just tough luck. But your list is yours. You’re not renting the platform. You own the platform. Think of it like a place you hold meetings. You could rent a hall (social media platforms) to have important meetings, but the owners of the hall can do whatever they want with it. They can paint it a horrible color, host another meeting at the same time as yours, or shut down any and all entrances to the hall as they please. Or, you could own the hall. Nobody can take it away from you. Nobody can shut it down at their whim. You don’t have to share it with anybody. As you build an email list, you own that list. You can take emails with you if you rebrand your website. If your website is attacked by a spammer and crashes, you can move your list to another. Google changes their search engine algorithms and your search traffic dive-bombs? No problem. You’ve got your list.

2. Email Builds a Deeper Connection

I am a member of a select few newsletters, and I always read the emails. Because they go straight to my inbox, it feels like they are especially for me. Remember, I’m a blogger, so I know they’re probably part of an auto-responder sequence, but my inbox is sacred. It’s a place only for family, friends, and readers. The people who run the newsletters I subscribe to make it into my trust circle. Think of it like this: When you visit somebody’s blog, and you see a personal story about them, they’re telling everybody that story. It’s like being in a lecture hall. But when you get an email with a personal story, it’s like the person is talking directly to you. It’s private, engaging, and builds a far deeper connection, because your email list is all about building relationships. And remember – people do business with people they know, like, and trust.

3. Email Helps You Have a More Meaningful Impact

Even if you don’t have an email list, you may have some readers. They come by, check your blog here and there for updates, read the blog posts and then leave. But things get busy. Your readers go on their merry way, live their lives, get caught up with their families and jobs and forget for awhile. And that’s a shame. You’re trying to make the world a better place, somebody’s life just a little easier, and you work your butt off to do that. Your email list allows you to make an impact on people’s lives on a regular basis, without waiting for them to come to you. Readers might not check your site every day, but how often do you check your email? I know I check mine multiple times each day.

When people give you their email, they’re giving you permission to be part of their daily life.

4. Your Email List and Sales Will Go Hand in Hand

There comes a time when you decide to start offering a product or service on your website to further help people and to put the “business” portion into the term “lifestyle business”. And if you have a list, you’re going to be able to launch with a bang. Because you’ve spent the past several weeks building a relationship with your list, fostering that trust and providing them value, when you do offer a product or service, those fans who give you their email address are the ones who will buy your product or service. When I launched The 30-Day Unsettle Challenge, at least 90% of the people who bought the Challenged were subscribed to my email updates. This isn’t rare.

5. Emails Generate Traffic on Demand

When you’re blogging or producing any sort of content, it’s easy to feel as if nobody pays attention. You hit the publish button and no flood of traffic comes to your website. Nobody shares your article, and the only person who listens to your podcast episode is your mom. But if you have a list, this is a totally different story. When I publish a new article, service, or podcast episode, I send an email to the people on my list. Thousands of eyes land on whatever it is I want eyes on with the push of a button.

6. Emails Help You Resonate With Your Audience

Your email list is the easiest, best way to do “market research”.

If you want to know everything about your audience, including exactly what they want to read, what they need help with and therefore what type of products to develop to serve them, the easiest way to find out these things is to ask. And who are you going to ask if you don’t have an email list? Sure, you could write a blog post, but the people who answer might not be part of your audience – they could just be people passing by. To make sure I’m meeting you where you’re at, and helping you on what you need right now, I go through the hundreds of emails I have from Unsettlers – almost all of them subscribers – telling me what they need help with right now. This also helps me make the biggest impact possible. As Derek Halpern says, “If you’re not building an email list, you’re an idiot”.

No More Procrastinating

Hopefully I’ve helped you come around to the idea that you absolutely need to start an email list. And luckily, it’s super simple to do:

  1. Choose an email service provider. I recommend Aweber. (That’s an affiliate link. I will get a small commission if you use it, at no extra cost to you =) ). I use Aweber and it’s simple, easy to use, and cheap. Plus, you get a month for free.
  2. Create an email list.
  3. Create an opt-in form (super simple if you use Aweber – they have many free templates that you can customize) and place it on your website.
  4. Start collecting emails!

Here’s a quick tutorial: The Non-Techie’s Guide to Starting an Email List   There are many things you can do to speed up the audience building process, but don’t get ahead of yourself. Start where you are. Start by doing the four steps above. There’s a community out there waiting for you to impact their lives, to make a difference, and to build connections with them. And you do this with an email list.

9 thoughts on “No Matter What Type of Business You're Starting You NEED to Do This

  1. Steven says:

    Hi Sarah. Thanks — interesting read :-). Just a tip: it takes a bit more technical skill but Email Octopus is super cheap I’m not affiliated with them in any way. The pricing just makes sense, especially when cost is a factor, which is pretty much always :-).

    • Sarah says:

      Hey Steven – thanks for sharing 🙂 I can’t endorse it since I’ve never used it but it does look super cheap!

  2. Blair says:

    Great advice! I use Aweber too (used your link a few weeks ago for set up), but I find some of the opt-in forms and templates difficult to use. Could you do an in depth how-to for opt in forms on Aweber?

    • Sarah says:

      Great idea, Blair. I’ll do that for sure. Just so you know, though, I never use the Aweber opt-in forms. I integrate my Aweber lists to LeadPages which acts as an opt-in form to collect emails.

  3. Keith says:

    I’ve heard about email lists, and read your post above, but I haven’t figured out how an email list might help me, and I don’t have anything to sell. I might in the future, though. How does one get an email list?

  4. Theodore Nwangene says:

    An email list is always the backbone of every successful internet marketer.
    Check out all the popular and successful internet marketers out there and you will notice that they all have one thing in common…… They have a huge email list.
    The benefits of building an email list cannot be overstated yet, we often ignore it.

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