Starting an email list is the best piece of advice I got
I started writing consistently in August 2022 and one of the first things I did is to create an email list for loyal readers. It’s one of the first pieces of advice I got reading about writing online.
I can proudly say that I have 20 email subscribers now. I’m really proud of each one of them, and only 1/4 of them are friends I know.
But it was a bumpy start.
Starting to find a tool and zero readers
I tried out a few things for creating an email list and there are good and complicated tools out there.
I started with the simplest one: a WordPress plugin. That doesn’t sound simple but for me it was because I already had my website (I knew how to make WordPress websites before) and there I just added a contact form for my email list.
The result: zero subscribers.
The reason: zero readers on my website
Most of my readers were (and still are) on Medium, and bringing them first to my website and then subscribing to my newsletter was basically impossible.
A WordPress plugin is not a good tool to start your email list, especially if your readers are not on your website. To start writing on Medium is easy because the readers are already and the SEO is done.
Starting a website from scratch is not easy because you have to get your readers to you.
What I learned: start on a platform that already has an audience (like Medium).
Starting with Twitter and using their tool Revue
The next tool I tried out was Revue, a newsletter tool from Twitter. It was the only way to have the link to your email list directly on your profile on Twitter. That was the reason I tried it out.
It is already history because they canceled the tool in January 2023. But it was easy to use and you could implement a lot through Twitter.
The newsletter articles looked pretty and there was an archive where people can read all of them.
The result: 4 subscribers
It was the first time I also promoted my newsletter on Twitter and LinkedIn, and some interested friends signed up.
It was huge for me.
But nevertheless, I soon switched to another tool: Substack. I read great things about it (from famous Medium writers like Tim Denning).
Found THE One: Substack
I was not 100% satisfied with Revue, and I heard that Substack was also in itself a network where other people can find you.
But before I switched to Substack I tried out MailChimp too. At my student organization, we started a pre-registration for our career fair and I just tried out the tool.
I was disappointed. It’s too complicated for beginners to just write newsletter emails. There are a lot of possibilities and tools you can use (like filters for subscribers, templates,…) but it is too much for “just writing a newsletter”.
For a few months now I’m writing my newsletter on Substack and I’m really satisfied with it.
- Easy to use
- Really fast to write a newsletter
- Prefabricated buttons to use
- Embedding is also easy
- People can find you through Substack
- For free
- The possibility to make a paid newsletter in the future
There are still some restrictions:
- The welcome page can not be edited 100%
- The embedded subscription link for websites cannot be changed
But I found ways around that.
The result: 20 subscribers
With a little help of:
Adding a freebie for success
In January I finally published my first digital asset as a freebie for signing up for my newsletter.
- I made a landing page on my website
- I embedded a Substack subscription button
- And my new readers get the freebie with their welcome email
At first, I thought it was a total failure because nobody signed up the first days but it’s out there now and I will put it at the end of every article and I’m sure I will see more success.
Start as soon as possible to collect emails because it’s the list that will make you the money, not the likes and not the followers. Your subscribers are your possible customers.
I’m not there yet to make money with my newsletter and I don’t have to be for the next months or year. The key is to grow the list, and give the readers as much free value as possible and then I’m sure the list will grow.
The advice you hear the most is to start with an email list as soon as possible and I can totally recommend that.
You build your loyal list of readers, you will get into the habit of writing newsletters hence getting better at it, and you also have a reason to not give up writing: you have some loyal readers who signed up to hear from you regularly.
Your first newsletter doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s about learning, failing, improving, and growing together with your audience.
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