“How do I start a mailing list?”
It’s a question that I’ve been asked numerous times in the past few weeks. Hmmm … Where to begin?
One thing is for certain. “Start an Email List” is an overwhelming project that might stop you before you’ve even begun. Instead of looking at it as a whole, break it down into steps to make faster progress.
Here are the steps to take. They aren’t numbered because you can skip around until you get to the “Finally” section.
(If you have a mature mailing list and you don’t need these steps, please don't go anywhere. Jump straight to the end and share your experience with others. Your insights and encouragement are sure to be valuable to someone else.)
Start With Who You Know
Make a list of everyone you know who might want to hear about you and your art:
- Colleagues at a day job
- Other artists
Don’t discount anyone because you believe they’ll never buy your art. You never know how they can support you until you bring them into your art life.
Save the following information for each person:
- First and last name
- Email address
- City, State/Province, Zip/Postal Code
- Phone number
Yes, we’re talking about email lists here. But as long as you're collecting the first two pieces of information, you might as well record the rest.
You are not adding these people to a bulk email list. You are saving their names to invite them at a later date.
You don’t want to run afoul of anti-spam laws.
Register for an Email Service
Open an email account with a platform like MailChimp or Constant Contact. See this review of options.
You don't have to anything with it yet. Just get an account. Remember: Baby steps.
You will use this to email your growing list, which you cannot do from a regular email account without triggering the suspicion of your Internet Service Provider.
Join Other Artists’ Lists
Sign up for other artists' email lists for ideas on what to do and what not to do.
When you sign up, pay close attention to the experience:
- Is the form easy to use?
- Is there a thank-you page that looks like it's personally from the artist? Or does it appear to be cold and from the email company?
- Did you receive an immediate thank-you?
- What happens next?
- What's the frequency of the emails?
You can model what you like and improve what you don’t like about the experience.
Map Out Your Communication
These three things can happen in any order:
- Decide on the cadence of your email. I suggest once a month to create a habit.
When you invite people to your list, you want to tell them what they’ll be receiving and at what frequency.
2. Begin gathering ideas for six months of emails. This is what we do in Creative Content Camp – develop ideas for email, blog posts, and social media – but you can do it on your own.
You can’t use the excuse that you don’t have anything to say when you keep a stash of content ideas handy.
3. Create an email template on the email service you have selected. This will be ready to go when you’re ready to send.
Ask those whose names you’ve collected if they would like to hear about your art on a regular basis via email. This can be done through personal emails or in conversation.
Plan to send an email within 1 week to anyone who asks to be on your list. This is when they are most interested in hearing from you, so you don’t want to blow the opportunity.
These people have trusted you with their email addresses. You should be full of gratitude in your opening missives to them.
Oh, and finally finally … Don't make the mistake of waiting until you have more people on your list to begin sending email updates. Your list won't grow until you start using it.