Business & Writing

Should I start a newsletter? Do I need an email list?

Are you wondering, should I start a newsletter? Managing an email list can be intimidating in both technical and social ways. For some entrepreneurs, their email list is the best way to reach their biggest fans and repeat buyers of their products and services.

In this post, we’ll discuss: email lists vs. social media marketing, whether it’s worth the hassle to set up an email list, and how to get your first subscribers if you do choose to start a newsletter.

This post is all about, should I start a newsletter?

Should I start a newsletter? Do I need an email list?

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Email lists vs. social media marketing

Social media is an inherently unreliable way of building an audience. What if the company goes under, or gets banned in your country, or your account gets banned or hacked? By comparison, you have full control over your email newsletter. You can still reach out to people’s email addresses even if your Facebook or Instagram or Tiktok account goes down.

Especially for LGBTQ entrepreneurs, we have to deal with potential censorship from the social media platform even for harmless content talking about our lives. Harassment and incorrect reporting of accounts, or not allowing name changes, all can lead to an unpleasant experience on social media.

The most compelling argument for setting up an email list is that when you send a newsletter, it goes into everyone’s inbox on your list. Now, you can’t control whether or not they delete it immediately (or unsubscribe), but at least they get to see that subject line come in. On social media, the company filters and selects the posts that everyone sees. Your followers may only see 5% of your social media posts. You can make up for this by posting A LOT on social media, but, it turns into a lot of work. An email newsletter may make it easier to reach people.

Is setting up an email list worth the hassle?

If you’re starting a newsletter for your business, whether your business is selling a homemade product, your book, or your virtual assistant services, it’s important to consider the outcome you want. Some businesses don’t lend themselves well to a newsletter. If I was marketing specialized consultant services (in software engineering for healthcare, for example), I know I would get better results from personally reaching out to my contacts in the industry. For a high ticket, personalized service, the email newsletter is likely not the best use of your time. Or if you provide a service such as babysitting or home organizing and you are already all booked up, no need to market yourself further through a newsletter.

But if you have a product or service that will appeal to a large audience and is scalable, an email newsletter is one of the most reliable ways to reach potential customers regularly so they get to know you and your offerings.

How to actually get started?

Okay, if this is something you’re absolutely dreading, I give you permission to just walk away. An email newsletter is not required! Perhaps you know your time would be better spent working on a new book, for example, than sending an email newsletter every week or month. That’s cool!

But if you don’t hate the idea overall, you’re just dreading getting started, you can take small steps towards that big hurdle of getting subscribers and sending out the first email. You can add a form to collect email addresses on your website. You don’t need to send out any emails until you have a minimum number of subscribers, perhaps 20, or 50.

I was so scared to send that first email out to my first 15 subscribers! I agonized over it. I know it doesn’t have to be a big deal, but I had never sent out a newsletter before. It takes me a while to get comfortable with doing new tasks or working in new media.

This was one of those times doing something even if you’re scared was the right thing to do. I finally sent out the email, and I’ve been emailing out a newsletter about every week since. I’ve become so much more comfortable sending conversational emails out to my list of subscribers.

Getting started with your email list is something you can hire someone to help you with. If you are struggling with the technical side of sign-up forms, WordPress plugins, and using a service like MailerLite, a web developer or some virtual assistants can help you get set up. If you find sending out that first email challenging, a session with a marketing or social media coach could help.

How to get your first subscribers (if you do start a newsletter)

For your first 5-10 subscribers, ask people you know personally if they’d like to join your list. You can also post on social media asking people to sign up for your new newsletter and place a sign up form on your website. It’s fine to delay sending out your first newsletter until you have whatever you consider the minimum number of subscribers should be.

Your first email can be simple, if you like. I recommend thanking the people who have signed up, and sharing a bit of ambition for your newsletter: “I will keep you up to date with my latest published work/products/service offerings”.

I like sharing a screenshot from each of my newsletters on social media along with the link to subscribe. I get a few new subscribers from this.

The tried and true method to get new email subscribers from your website is to offer a freebie or lead magnet. People get access to your free downloadable if they give their email address. The freebie has to offer some real value. Consider sharing something you would otherwise charge money for. Receiving the email address of someone interested in what you do has real value also.

If you do decide to start an email newsletter, good luck!

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