How to Grow Your Email List (How I Grew Mine to 20K+)

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I'm a designer, DIYer, and online entrepreneur who's been earning a living from my blogs and websites for over a decade! I've got templates, tips, and tools to help you thrive online too.

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Want to know how to grow your email list? I'm sharing the steps I took that led me to accidentally grow my email list to 20,000+ subscribers. But first! Here's how it happened for me:

I didn't strategically set out to grow my list back in 2016, it just kind of happened! I fell in love with planning, yet couldn't find a planner that suited my exact needs. So I designed one myself. It helped me massively. My productivity, organization, mindfulness, creativity–it all improved. I was beyond excited, and when I get excited about something that helps, you know what I do. I SHARE IT. I wrote a blog post about how this planner had changed my life and offered it as a free printable at the end of the post.

Turns out the internet loves high-value freebies.

I published the planner on January 21st, 2017. And by April 2017, I quadrupled my website traffic and had thousands of people subscribing to my email list each month.

Here are the steps I took, and how you can grow your email list too:

Offer Something Valuable For Free

Design something awesome. I mean it. It's got to be awesome. It's got to make people think, I can't believe I'm getting this for FREE! Use Photoshop, InDesign, your Apple pencil. Or hire a designer to bring a napkin sketch of yours to life. Get it done however it makes sense for you. Just make sure it is *awesome*!

Give it a Home On Your Website & Automate It

Here's how I'd recommend you set up the freebie on your website:

  1. Create a landing page or blog post where you will direct people to grab your freebie.
  2. Use Flodesk (the greatest email service provider, IMO! Get it for 50% off here.) and create a freebie-specific segment and an opt-in form.
  3. Create a workflow that automatically sends all new subscribers an email with the freebie attached.

Create an Upsell

If your freebie authentically offers true value you WILL get more traffic and subscribers. I will put money on that. I want you to have the mindset going into this: your traffic will quadruple (like mine did) and you'll have thousands of new subscribers each month. That mindset will help pump you up for your upsell.

What's an upsell? When your user has a positive experience with your business after receiving your freebie, it very well might be the perfect time to upsell them and make a profit by offering even more value.

It's beneficial to consider what you wish to upsell before creating your freebie–it can very well help you decide what kind of freebie to offer.

For example, if your freebie is a guide on how to best chop tomatoes, your upsell might be an ebook of tomato-based recipes, or the perfect knife to chop vegetables. Ya dig?

Your upsell should be pretty obvious--it's likely a main product or service of your business! Be sure to add a follow-up email in your freebie's automated workflow that offers your upsell. I would schedule it to send *within* 24 hours from when the user receives your freebie. They very well might feel warm and fuzzy from the freebie experience–and be ready to purchase!

Take Beautiful Photos of Your Freebie

My favorite step! You must must must create beautiful photographs of your freebie. I am 1000% confident it's what helped me quadruple my traffic and convert 20,000+ subscribers. If you include a boring screenshot of your freebie you are missing out on a LARGE percentage of visual users that are easily attracted to quality, styled photography.

Set up a flat lay scene near a window. I swear by my Replica Surfaces backdrops. (They are lightweight, stain-resistant, rigid, and available in so many options!) Use 3-5 props (candles, clipboards, a device, decorative paper, pencils, markers, fabric, plants) to add some interest to the scene. Snap a few shots from different angles, boost them in any editing software. And you're ready to go add them to your freebie landing page or post!

Promote it On Website, Your Email List & Social Media

Once your freebie and upsell are in place be sure to test the email workflow to ensure it's working properly. Once you've assured it's working, get ready to generously share your freebie link with your current visitors, subscribers, and followers.

Consider updating your homepage hero banner or announcement bar with the link to your freebie. Send out several emails over the next week to let your current subscribers know they can benefit from your free offer. (It's OK if they subscribe to your list again, it won't hurt anything, plus you'll gain an opportunity to get your upsell in front of them.) And be sure to let those beautiful photographs of your freebie shine on social media.

Pin it to Pinterest (Group Boards & Tailwind Help!)

Pinterest! I get giddy about Pinterest because it has been my greatest tool in growing online. It works. I consistently put in the work, and now my account boasts over 8 million monthly viewers. It's not a social platform (some consider it to be), it's truly a search engine. I am always dumbfounded when I come upon an online business or blog that doesn't Pin! But that's a whole other blog post...

My top three Pinterest suggestions to grow your email list with your freebie:

1) Pin that freebie to Pinterest! Pin it once a month with a new image and new description (Pinterest will consider it spam if you pin the same pin every single day and it can hurt your account.)

2) Find some appropriate Pinterest group boards and add your freebie to them (same rules, once a month with a new image and description).

3) Join Tailwind (my other top business tool) and add your freebie to all appropriate communities you can join!

(BTW, If I ever write a business book it might be on the power of Pinterest. It is the one free tool that has created the biggest impact for me. Between my free planner's exposure, and the consistent traffic and subscribers it continues to send me every day–I vow to love you for life, Pinterest.)

Be Patient

Freebies don't work overnight! I've had some "kick in" within a month or two, and others take 6 months, and still, others be a total flop. View them as a way to keep traffic and subscribers automated, while you're steadily building other areas of your online business. And my best bit of advice that proves time and time again: the effort and hard work I put into each of my freebies typically dictates how effective a marketing tool it becomes. Good luck!

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