7 Vital ingredients to get your email marketing off to a flying start {+ FREE checklist}

12 min |

Back in the day, during business #1, all my email marketing was done via Gmail – from press releases to newsletters to exclusive event invites. Nowadays, we’ve got so many fantastic tools at our disposal, that there’s really no excuse to not getting the core elements set up, so you can grow your audience and make more sales.

But, I have a confession to make…

Although I help my clients with their email marketing and it may look like I’ve got a well-oiled machine in place, you’ll soon see that {like all small biz owners} I have most of the nuts & bolts screwed in, but not all of them. And, that’s okay!

I’m not an email marketing guru by any means, but I do know this subject and I know it well.

This is a huge topic and each sub-topic warrants whole posts to themselves, so I’ll make sure to cover them soon. But, if you’ve never tried email marketing before, or you’ve dabbled but not got everything in place, this post is a detailed overview and great introduction to get you started with email marketing.


My top 7 email marketing ingredients for writers, artists, creative solopreneurs and small business owners {+ FREE checklist}


1. A way to safely and legally store contact details and email people – enter the ESP – email {marketing} service provider

Remember that EU GDPR tidal wave? Well using an ESP means you’ll have anti-spam & data protection built in and can sleep easy as your contacts are held on secure servers.

Not only that, ESPs offer other benefits, such as being able to set up email sequences that are sent automatically {auto-responders} and segment your list into different groups, so you can create more nuanced marketing campaigns, such as not selling a product people who already have it, or promoting a new service to the warmest leads.

There are lots of great ESPs out there, but few of them are free. I initially used Get Response, as they had a great offer that included landing pages and their design abilities were pretty flexible. However, I realised I wasn’t making enough use of the platform and decided to ‘downgrade’ to a free service – I chose MailChimp.

Not only is MailChimp free up to 2,000 contacts, it’s really easy to use. Plus, they recently introduced landing pages which are also free, so the switch was a no-brainer. Their design capabilities aren’t very flexible, but I already use Beaver Builder to design gorgeous web pages, I can create my own landing pages if I want {more on those in a coming up}.

It really depends on your business needs, but my top 3 recommendations for writers, artists, creative solopreneurs and small business owners are:

  • MailChimp: free up to 2,000 contacts {$10pm+ thereafter}, easy to use, landing pages included
  • GetResponse: From £10/$15pm basic package, but expect to pay £32/$49pm to get all the features, including advanced landing pages and webinars
  • ConvertKit: From $29pm – I’ve heard people rave about ConvertKit, especially their segmenting and tagging

As standard, all three include drag & drop design, auto-responders, segmenting, opt-in forms, integrations with major platforms and stats.

Email service providers like @MailChimp help you easily automate your email #marketing with #email sequences, #autoresponders, #segmenting your list into different groups and opt-in forms. #emailmarketing #getsubscribers Click To Tweet 

Rookie tip: While most ESPs are simple to use, you still need to make time for the learning curve that comes with any new platform or program.


2. An incentive to sign up {aka freebie or lead magnet} because ‘Subscribe for updates’ just doesn’t cut it these days

‘Sign up for my newsletter’, ‘Get updates here’, ‘Subscribe for updates’ – unless you’re JK Rowling or the equivalent in your niche, these are just not tempting enough to encourage subscribers.

If I give you my email address, I expect to hear from you in a news-y-letter-type message now and again, but everyone and his dog want my email these days and my inbox is overflowing, so why should I bother with you?

Thinking that people will automatically want to subscribe just because they like what you’re saying is presumptuous and centres yourself. While this style of following is more natural on social media, it doesn’t transpose over to email marketing at all.

When it comes to certain portions of your content, you need to centre your ideal reader or potential dream client – put their needs before yours. This is especially true for email marketing. From your ‘Subscribe here’ message to your email footer, it’s ALL about the reader. So, my question to you is:

  • How can you offer the value they’ll get as a subscriber in an irresistible way?

Enter: the lead magnet {aka freebie}.

Don’t presume dream customers will subscribe with no incentive – give them tasty wee morsel in return for their {much coveted} email address. #leadmagnet #freebie #subscribers Click To Tweet 


What kinds of things count as a freebie? Lead magnet ideas for writers, artists, creative solopreneurs and small business owners

Oh, anything really, as long as it satisfies a pressing need/issue/problem/desire. Whether you’re gifting a short story, graphics bundle or photography challenge, you can deliver your content in any way you fancy:

  • Email sequence
  • PDF handout, eg:
    • Checklist
    • Guide
    • Handbook
    • Report
  • Short consultation
  • Recorded video series
  • Demo
  • Audio links
  • Quiz
  • Starter kit
  • eBook
  • Voucher
  • Live digital event, eg and Facebook live or webinar

I decided to collate all my freebies inside The Vault – my members’ only library, but you can use apps, like LeadPages {paid} to manage multiple lead magnets.


Rookie tip: Protect your IP by exporting or converting documents into PDFs, so that no nasty copycats can edit them.



Lead Magnets 101

My client, Danielle Ziegler, is a digital marketing strategist and SEO expert and she’s put together a fantastic resource, Lead Magnets 101 to help you through the whole process of setting up your freebie offers, from logistics to 25+ magnetic freebie ideas and how to create the perfect lead magnet for your audience – it’s a steal!
Get all the deets here >>>


3. Essential content for your end pages &/or footers – forget these at your peril!

Many lead magnets involve handouts of some kind – these are your ‘end pages’ – and, for most emails, you’ll have a footer {which also falls under this category}.

End pages help your reader, listener or participant onto their next step. So, when they come to the end of your event, series or document, what do you want them to do next?

Some activities you may consider:

  • Meet & greet – introduce yourself
  • How & where to find you
  • Following you on social media
  • Sharing the awesome freebie {more on that in a sec}
  • Any licences &/or T&Cs

And there’s another reason to include these things, especially in documents… In case your freebie accidentally or intentionally gets shared, people discovering you for the first time can learn more about you and where to find you.

To reduce the chances of non-subscribers getting their hands on your lead magnets, share the landing page or opt-in link, not the freebie itself. Click To Tweet  

What you need for your end pages:

  • A portrait photo of you {or you could use a sketch if you’re an artist}
  • Your bio
  • Links:
    • Website/blog link
    • Social media profile links
    • Social media sharing options/links
    • Sharing licence – I generally use an Attribution-NoDerivatives License
    • Terms & Conditions

On most of my freebie handouts across the blog and in The Vault, I add all this to one page – as you can see below, when space is an issue, I choose social sharing links, over social media profile links. Whereas, on some of my longer freebies, like my Storytelling Sirens one, I spread my end page content over two pages {though I’ve missed out my social media profiles – whoops!}:


MailChimp footer I’m using now {left} vs old GetResponse footer {right}:


Rookie tip: Use an app like Share Link Generator to get link codes for the major platforms which you can use.


4. Find multiple places where people can subscribe to your freebie

I started off with one lead magnet, tried another and {because I love writing} I found I was writing rather long, in-depth blog posts and wanted to give people easy reference tools and resources. Browser bookmarks are all well and good, but I decided that a library would be the best place to store my freebies.

But you don’t have to create lots of freebies, one value-packed lead magnet is all you need or, should I say, the minimum you need!

But, how can you help people access them and add them to your mailing list?

Enter: The Landing Page!

A landing page is simply a web page without a site navigation menu or footer or any external links except to your privacy policy. Sometimes it’s called a squeeze page, it means people who ‘land’ there either opt-in because it’s right up their street, or they leave – you don’t want those folks on your mailing list anyway. They’ll just make it bloated.


What to include on your landing page

  • Persuasive headline
  • Ultra-short description with benefits
  • Image of the freebie &/or photo of you
  • Form fields:
    • Name
    • Email
    • GDPR checkbox
  • CTA {Call-To-Action} button in you brand’s colour – the one you use for links.
  • Your bio
  • Privacy Policy (including Cookies) link

But a landing page is not the only place you can encourage new subscribers, you can also place sign-up forms around your website:

  • Header
  • Footer
  • Sidebar
  • Top-bar
  • Pop-up
  • Within or at the end of a blog post

Get inspiration on Danielle Zeigler’s blog: 7 Best Locations to Find + Convert More Subscribers on Your Blog


Rookie tip: Try one freebie on your header and a different one on your footer or sidebar.



5. A way to welcome your new subscribers after they sign up

Rather than just send the freebie, it’s a good idea to write at least one welcome email and, even better, you could write a whole sequence of 5 – 7 linked emails. But before we get to that, you need to say thanks.

Most ESPs will enable you to create a thank you page or link to one you’ve created on your website.

I highly recommend you turn on the double opt-in capability in your ESP to ensure people, which means you’ll need two pages – the process looks like this:

Landing page/Form >> Check & Confirm Your Email page >> Subscriber confirms >> Thank you page >> Welcome Email

It’s entirely possible to automate this whole process – once it’s set up, it can run on auto-pilot.


What to include in your welcome sequence auto-responder

If you’re not delivering all your freebie content within the body of the emails, you can still write a welcome sequence that onboard new subscribers. A simple example would be:

  1. Welcome greeting + download the freebie
  2. Reminder to download the freebie
  3. Tell me about yourself
  4. What’s your most pressing issue? /What else could help you?
  5. Here are some extra resources, eg related blog posts or bonus handout

Did you notice that it’s all about the subscriber?

You can sell to subscribers, but not right away – let them browse first and enjoy the experience of being part of your community before you try to sell to them. Click To Tweet


Rookie tip: Try to relate the email sequence auto-responder to the freebie topic.


6. Ways to stand out inside their overcrowded inbox

Quality vs frequency

Some folk will press upon you that, if you don’t email your list regularly – as in every single week – your email marketing won’t be successful. I don’t believe this to be true.

I know and admire several creative business owners who don’t email regularly at all and it’s not done their business any harm.

Like blogging, new and regular content is important, but the quality of your email content matters much more than shoving out last-minute messages.

This is one place where I’m all over it for my clients and completely neglecting my own mailing list! You know how it is… father time – that old, elusive will o’ the wisp 😉


Get over the first hurdle: the subject line

The subject line is arguably the most important part of your email. A great subject line piques your subscribers’ interest and persuades people to click open. And, when industry open rates however around the 15-20% mark, you may wonder why bother with even starting on this journey?

That 15-20% is across all sectors and can vary widely into much higher numbers, like 40-60%, so don’t despair!

7 Vital ingredients to get your email marketing off to a flying start {+ FREE checklist} Click To Tweet

Developing your email list is a vital part of growing an audience or readership which, when don’t right, is full of ideal customers. And, when you have a larger audience, you can achieve greater success, not just in sales, but in gaining representation, such as with an agency, publisher or curator.

So, how do you write great subject lines?

Give just a hint of what’s contained within – here are some examples of subject lines I’ve written for one of my clients:

What you MUST avoid at all costs is not being able to back up, or answer, your subject line inside the email, otherwise it’s clickbait. So I recommend writing the subject line last.


Don’t get stuck on monologue broadcast!

Yes, your subscribers think you’re great, but if there’s one thing that turns people off, it’s a never-ending monologue where you’re talking about yourself. Even if you’re not doing any bragging, if you’re only sharing your news and updates, after a while it can come across like you’re a bit of a narcissist and not really that interested in how you can help your subscribers!

Imagine you’re writing to one potential ideal reader/customer/client – they’re interested in you but don’t know very much about you and they’ve got some pretty pressing desires/problems/pain-points/concerns. Here are some Qs to consider:

  • How can you help them along the journey before they buy from you {and after}?
  • What lessons, epiphanies, advice or tips can you share?
  • Who in your industry do you admire or is someone in another industry doing exciting work?
  • What’s on your mind?
  • How can you help them right now – any simple tools or actions or ideas you can share?

When you mix some of the above into what you’re doing, your process, news and updates, you’ll deliver much higher value content and they’ll look forward to hearing from you.


Rookie tip: Think about the whole journey of your ideal subscriber – the effort you put in now will pay off later.


7. Don’t rely only on email marketing and nothing else!

Some folk bash on and on and on about how important it is to ‘build your list’ and it IS. But, as my client Danielle Zeigler loves to say: SEO is essential, but it’s only ONE part of your marketing puzzle. And it’s the same for email marketing.

I like to refer to your business as a river:

{Table from Review & ReClaim Your Biz Communications}


Building and maintaining your email list is a vital part of any contemporary business, especially if you’re a writer, artist, creative solopreneur or small business owner.

But it’s not the be all and end all.

As referenced above, your publishing and marketing are comprised of many moving parts. For example, certain social media platforms can offer greater success, ie:

  • Instagram for illustrators
  • Twitter for writers
  • Pinterest for bloggers

But there are people who buck this trend – poets like Nikita Gill and Rupi Kaur and have used Instagram to build huge audiences of 416,000+ and 2.3million respectively!

I like to view email as an important conversation you have with your audience community. It’s a fantastic way you can nourish your audience, deepen your connection through intimate letters and give you another way to sell your wares.


Rookie tip: Consider how email can fit into your marketing and audience relationships and use it strategically.



What was your favourite tip?

Any email marketing lessons you’d like to share?

Tell us in the comments below…