When it comes to building your email list, it can seem a bit tricky from a freelancing perspective… Like, how do you use your email list to find more clients? Won’t it seem spammy to chuck them into an autoresponder series? What about lead magnets?!
Yeah, the line is pretty fuzzy when it comes to building an email list for your service-based business, but I’m going to share with you how I did this when I started out as a freelance writer way back in 2011 plus some other strategies you can also use right now.
Before we get stuck into strategies for building your email list, there are a couple of things you’ll need in your little email building toolkit.
These are important to make any of the strategies below work, so consider the options below and choose the ones that will work best for you and are easiest to implement right now. No point making things harder on yourself by having to learn or implement something new, right?!
#1: Lead Magnet
No matter how you build your email list, there has to be some type of incentive involved for people to join your email list. This typically means giving something of value away for free.
When I started out as a freelance writer, I used to provide new subscribers with a list of 100 blog post ideas. This was extremely valuable to potential clients and it also showed them that I knew what I was talking about.
So for your business, think about what would make sense.
Another option, when it comes to lead magnets, is to provide new subscribers with access to a resource library. If you’re implementing content upgrades on your blog, then these can go straight into your resource library as well. It will continue to build over time, and provides subscribers with a gift that keeps on giving…
Here’s a great example of a resource library you should check out: melyssagriffin.com <– sign up to get access to the library and you’ll see what I mean, amazing!
#2: Email Signup/Landing Page
You’ll need a way to capture email addresses, which means you’ll need an email signup form or a landing page with email signup integration.
I use the OptimizePress2 theme on my blog and it has both of these integrations. I use ConvertKit as my email service provider.
If you want to keep things simple and low-fuss, stick with using an email signup. ConvertKit does that pretty well and will host your ‘landing page’ from their site. You can also install the CK WP plugin on your site as well, to make things a little easier.
Depending on the email list building strategy you decide to utilise — you will either choose to just have an email signup box within a blog post or on your blog’s sidebar, or you’ll use a dedicated landing page. I use a combination of both, depending on what it is I’m promoting 🙂
#3: Email Service Provider
Yep, you need a way to hold all those emails which means you’ll need an email service provider. As I’ve mentioned, I used to use Mailchimp, but am using ConvertKit, but you could also look at ActiveCampaign, GetResponse or Aweber.
Personally, I’d steer clear of Aweber, their user interface is very clunky and while they offer a ton of functionality, you have to dig really deep to find it! Not easy to use at all.
Mailchimp is the easiest to use, but lacks functionality when it comes to creating multiple giveaways, which is why I moved to ConvertKit.
Mailchimp is the only one that offers a free version though, so if funds are a concern, stick with Mailchimp for now. You can upgrade when you need.
Ok, those are the bare minimums you’ll need to make any of the strategies below work. So if you don’t have a version of these three, stop right here and go and get that sorted. I’ll wait…
Ok, now that you've got that all set up, let's start building your client email list!
10 Email List Building Strategies for Freelancers
#1: Add a sign-up link to your author byline!
I'm talking about when you write a blog post on your own website... often at the very top of your article, just underneath the heading, you'll see something along the lines of "Author: Lise Cartwright" - warning to be able to do this, you'll need to pay a coder to do this for you.
Here's a quick screenshot of what it looks like:
#2: Make your stuff shareable
In the first initial email that you send out to your new subscribers, make it easy for them to share with their friends about you! Noah Kagan from AppSumo provides a really great example of how you can do this. Simply, you just add a hyperlink to an area within your email that allows your new subscriber to click, which then pops open another email that is pre-populated with all the information they need to share your stuff with their friend... all they have to do is fill in the email address.
These are really powerful and if you've already created a free resource library, you can house these content upgrades there, so you're not having to create pages and pages of opt-ins, which can be a major nightmare.
Melyssa Griffin from The Nectar Collective provides a great blog post on how to create your resource library, all that you have to do is link to it from within your blog post or send people to a landing page specifically to grab their content upgrades. You could also add this link to your email signature as well, encouraging people to grab the free resource library!
#4: Add a signup bar to your homepage and blog page
Use it to encourage people to sign up to your newsletter by getting access to your free resource library, free course or other freebie lead magnet.
The idea is to have this sitting above the fold, ie, it's literally one of the first things people see when they land on your site. I have played around with this a number of times on my site and what seems to work best is something that is unobtrusive but eye-catching... Melyssa Griffin does this really well on The Nectar Collective (image below).
Another option is to make your home page just an opt-in, so that it is the first thing people do when they land on your site from a direct URL. A great example of this is Noah Kagan's blog, OkDork. The top half of the page is all about the opt-in...
I've removed mine while I'm going through the rebrand, but I'm going to implement something similar to what Melyssa has, because my home page is the blog. Figure out what works best for you.
#5: Utilise Facebook's lead ads
If you really want to kick-start your side hustle business, consider setting up a lead capture campaign on Facebook. They now provide you with a really simple way to do this and if you set your budget to just $5 per day, this can send qualified, targeted leads to your business every, single day!
You'll need to make sure that your targeting is strong, so that you're not paying for your ad to be shown to people who aren't interested at all in your service, so spend a bit of time on getting this right.
Check out the video below to figure out how to do this:
Once you've got your targeting down, set up your lead ad. Follow this tutorial on how to do this. I used this ad to send traffic to my 7-Day Side Hustle Challenge course, and I was getting approx. 5 new subscribers per day. I'm about to do this again and it is definitely a great way to grow your list without spending tons of cash!
I'm setting up an ever-green campaign for this and setting my budget to as low as Facebook will allow me, which I believe is approx. $3 per day!
This is definitely worth a try!
#6: Hold a contest or giveaway
The basic idea is to run a contest or giveaway and have each person who joins the giveaway share it with others via social media. It's a powerful way to increase your list.
The key is to ensure that the prize you're giving away is relevant to your target audience. If it's not, you could end up with a ton of tyre kickers on your email list aka the freebie hunters!
EVERYONE is giving away Amazon gift cards, so don't do that. Think about what your potential client or customer would find valuable and then make that your prize. This way, you're ensuring that only those that find the prize of value will join your list.
Get your prize right and make sure you implement a good autoresponder series to engage those that sign up. At the end of this series, give them the option to move to your regular newsletter list or to unsubscribe. I know that sounds scary, but it will keep your email service provide fees low and your open rates high.
#7: Implement Sumo
If you're running a WordPress site (and actually, a number other platforms work, such as Shopify) you should definitely grab the sumo plugin. They have a free and pro version, but the free will work for most of you.
I used to use it on this site and it is a great all-in-one option. I particularly like the scroll opt-in and the opt-in bar that appears at the top of the site. Both of these bring in subscribers at about 2-3 per day.
You can check out how it works below:
It's really easy to set up, so definitely consider installing this on your site.
#8: Guest blog posts
This is probably one of the best strategies you can implement for your business. If you've never done a guest blog post before, basically all that you're doing is writing a blog post like you would normally, but it's being published on another site.
Of course, a little more thought goes into it, you should be writing specifically for the audience on the blog your guest post is going to be published on, otherwise it's not going to be that useful.
The power in these is that you're reaching a new audience and all it's costing you is some of your time. Make sure you include a few links back to your own blog as well as your social media accounts in your author bio.
The more value you can provide in these types of posts, the more likely you are to get people clicking back to your own website.
The best way to find blogs to guest post on is to join some blogging groups on Facebook, where they allow you to collaborate with other bloggers.
You could also search for relevant sites where you might be a good fit and also look at getting yourself publishing on some of the more newsworthy sites, like Huffington Post.
I've implemented this strategy a number of times over the past 5 years and map them into my content plan just like I do with my own blog posts.
You can see a couple of examples here:
Hodge Podge Moments: http://www.hodgepodgemoments.com/2016/03/how-to-exercise-for-less-than-30.html
Allebasie Designs: http://www.allebasidesign.co.za/blog/creating-autoresponder-emails
Not only are these great for getting your name out there, they are also great for getting some backlinks to your site! Win:Win 🙂
#9: Call-to-action button on Facebook page
If you've got a business page for your side hustle, this is a great way to also drive people to join your email list. You can now add a sign up button to your Facebook page, and it's really simple to implement.
It makes sense to do this, particularly if you're engaging with potential customers on your Facebook page often. You can even make your Facebook header highlight the sign up button by adding an arrow into it — clever!
Use a site like www.canva.com to create your header image and you're away laughing!
#10: Share your lead generation on LinkedIn
If you're using your LinkedIn profile as part of your side hustle, then consider sharing your lead generation links on here as well. Take it a step further and set up your own company LinkedIn page and share your opt-ins here too. Better yet, share your blog posts here as well and join some relevant groups where you can connect with your potential clients.
Another option with LinkedIn is to use their publishing platform to share your blog posts on and then link back to a lead page or opt-in, particularly if you're doing a free resource library.
Phew, this turned into a long blog post, sorry about that. But this is something that is really important to the success of your business... the money is in the list, yes, but it's also about cultivating long-term relationships and connecting with the right people.
Which is why, every 6 months, I go through my email list and delete people who haven't opened the last 5 email campaigns I've sent out. I'll often send out an email to those people first, giving them the option to stay on the list. By doing this one thing, you'll increase your open rates and reduce your fees.