The Creatives Guide to Starting a Newsletter and Email List
At the beginning of the year (2009), I started a newsletter on my personal website – ClarkeScott.org. At the time I was doing a PhD in philosophy and living a very different life than the one I am today.
For the longest time I used this to broadcast messages out to a small yet engaged audience. Since then I’ve continued to use email in a similar way and have only recently (within the last year or so) begun to really explore the email list as a genuine business tool for my creative career.
This article is part of a series on email marketing for creatives I am writing. I will share my findings as I go so make certain you subscribe to my email list.
Here are the other articles I will be writing.
- A Beginner’s Guide to Email List Segmentation for Creatives
- The Dos and Don’ts of Email Marketing
- A Video Guide to ConvertKit for Creative
Thank you for trusting me with your time!
Ok. Now to the article.
So What is an Email List and Why Do You Need One?
Before I get deep into the how-to of creating an email list I’d first like to address what a email list is, and why you want to think about offering one for your creative business.
When you set up an email list you’re offering your clients and potential clients a way to get emails that contain your work and/or broadcasts more generally. These emails is in addition to the content you produce on your business website – but there may well be some cross-over.
Now, you might be wondering: “What’s the point of offering a newsletter for my clients if they can already see my work on social-media or my website?
Well, by offering a subscription to a newsletter you’re giving yourself the ability to capture email addresses (which is something that you cannot do with social-media) and is far more valuable to you and your business than you might first imagine.
“But all those slimy internet marketers are doing it. I’m not like them.”
I hear you but who said you have to follow the way they write content?
I believe creatives are missing out by leveraging email in their businesses. You do not need to be spammy.
Here are some reasons why I believe you need an email list:
- It’s a great way to communicate with your current clients on a more personal level without having to sit down and write a ton of emails to every single one of them.
- An email list will never die. If you have an email list, you will always have a way to communicate with your current and future clients. Social-media platforms come and go. Blogs and websites can die. RSS readers and feed subscription services could vanish. But, those email addresses almost never change and therefore you can always keep your audience informed of what you’re up to, even if you go completely off the radar shooting in deep deep Africa at some point.
- It’s the most personal way to get your work in front of as many people as possible in a timely way.
- And here’s the kicker! You can track all this information in order to see who EXACTLY is engaging with your work and who is not!
Now I am NOT saying that you should dump social-media. Nope. Instagram (atm) is dope. But it cannot do the above.
Now if you are NOT convinced by now that you need an email list then I will go hee. Seriously. Go now. Get Convertkit. It will change the way you do business.
Does it Have to Be a Broadcast Newsletter?
In a word…no.
You can set up an opt-in form to capture email addresses and only email your subscribers when you have work that is relevant to them or good enough to send it out more broadly. Indeed, you can send different kinds of photography to different people, for instance.
But be careful about NOT sending out broadcast emails for the following reasons:
- They forget who I was and think my email is spam.
- Unsubscribe from the list because they see no value in it.
- All of the above.
With regards to the first one. I’ve actually done this myself. Just this morning I got an email. Opened it. Clearly this is a newsletter but who is this person? Oh It’s Steven Soderbergh. Gosh it’s been a hell of a long time since I heard from you. I had so much hope in you the first time I subscribed but then you never
Number one from the above list is vital to a good engagement.
What you write in your emails doesn’t have to be “news”—it can be about anything really. But, it’s important that you consistently contact your subscribers and provide them with some kind of useful information in order to keep them around.
Perhaps a combination of broadcast and more targeted emails is the best solution? This is something that only you will be able to judge for it’s dependent to some degree on the style of your work and how much you produce.
How To Start Your Own Newsletter Subscription
Step 1: Sign Up For a ConvertKit Account
You have many options when it comes to signing up with an email marketing service, but ConvertKit is by far the best in my opinion. I personally use it, and have been very impressed with the ease of use.
ConvertKit is definitely the best on the market for creative right now.
You not only have the ability to set up email automation sequences (or Courses, as ConvertKit calls them), but you can divide your list into categories according to user preferences. This alone is worth the monthly subscription. It is that powerful.
Step 2: Set Up Your First Email List
After you register for your account and sign in you’ll be taken to your control panel. Now, we need to set up your list!
First, click on “Create Form” button
Select a style of form (I mainly use the naked form)
From there you are greeted with this:
You will need to click save for the form to be saved. Obviously. Doh!
Step 3: Main Settings & Your Confirmed Opt-In Email
A confirmed opt-in email is an email that gets sent to people immediately after they subscribe to your newsletter. This email contains a link that is used to confirm that the person is indeed a human and is someone who is interested in joining your list.
It helps to make sure that the email address that they entered is valid, and not a fake one that they used just to grab a hold of whatever freebie you might have to offer. You are given the option to turn this feature off, but it is not recommended for the reasons mentioned above.
Step 4: Set Up Your Success Page
Setting up a “thank you” page is totally up to you. Right now, I do not have one set up as I personally think it wastes the users time. Just send them back to your website home page and let them decide what to do from there.
We must remember that people are busy. Do not over load them with too much “look how much of a nice person I am.” If you are, and I am sure you are, this will come across anyway.
But I do have one for HackTheCreative.com but I give away stuff with it. It’s not really a”thank you” email as much as it is meant to deliver to you something useful.
“Follow Up” Messages
Same goes for emails that tell the people they are now subscribed.
A followup message is a pre-written email that gets sent out to your subscribers. The first one is often a welcome email that is sent out immediately after they click the confirmation link in the first email that they receive.
An unlimited amount of additional followup messages can be pre-written and setup to be sent out in intervals. This is where the term “autoresponder” comes from, because after new subscribers sign up for your list, they are automatically sent the series of followup emails that you create in the time interval that you set.
Be warned though…These types of emails almost always feel like marketing emails used by online marketers. So be careful with these. The last thing you want to do is push too many unnecessary emails into someones inbox.
Step 5: Writing Your Welcome Message
But if you do have a “thank you” message make it:
- A formal thank you for signing up for your newsletter.
- Any links to any freebies that you might be giving away.
- What to expect in the newsletter (i.e, what your subscribers have to look forward to).
- Asking your subscribers to “white list” your email address.
- Give them a way to contact you.
Remember this is your first contact with this person on their terms. You are in their inbox. Be respectful and open with your intensions.
Step 7: Embedding Your Opt-In Form
The opt-in form is the form that you will place on your blog or website to collect email addresses. The one you see here on Hack The Creative is the naked form, mostly. I just like the way it looks.
If you use WordPress:
1. Copy and Paste the Code into the HTML Editor for a Post or Page: If you want your form to show up within a blog post, or within a page that you create, you’ll have to copy and paste the code into the html editor, which can be found next to the “Visual Tab” in the upper right hand of where you write your posts/pages:
2. Copy and Paste the Code Into a “Text Widget” for Your Sidebar: If you want your form to show up in the sidebar, probably the easiest thing to do is go into your WordPress account, and under Appearance > Widgets, create a new “Text Widget” for your sidebar and copy the snippet into there, as shown below:
And that’s it! After you place the opt-in form onto your website, you’ll then have the ability to begin growing your email list!
What is a Broadcast?
A broadcast is a message that you send out to your subscribers that is not involved in the autoresponder series. What you include in it is up to you, but note that your list will get this email in addition to whatever emails they may be getting from you from your followups.
Many people use broadcasts to talk about “one-time” events etc. And you can write a broadcast email with the ability to schedule it’s delivery – just make sure you use broadcasts wisely because they are not targeted as much as the other type discussed above.
The great thing about Convertkit is that you can send these broadcast emails out to only a sub-section of the people on your list. You can for instance, “tag” a user and only send it to users with this “tag.” But more on that in the next article on email marketing for creatives.
I know this post was long but I wanted to create a one-stop resource for any creatives looking to build a business asset that will live longer than the next social-media platform and I believe will have a DIRECT benefit to your business and your career.
If you read this far, thank you — I really appreciate it.
Clarke Scott – director | photographer.
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