is an email list needed to be a freelance writer?

Do You Need To Build An Email List As A Freelance Writer?

One marketing strategy for a freelance writing business is to build an email list. But do YOU need one? The answer is a solid maybe!

I remember getting caught in the vortex of decisions a few different times as I considered and reconsidered my email list situation. Should I build an email list? How? What is a lead magnet and do I need one?

I’m drawing the curtain back on how the whole shebang works, so you can make an informed decision about this particular strategy.

Things to decide before you build an email list

An email list is a marketing strategy. You are providing helpful content on a regular basis to your audience. It’s a long-term commitment that requires consistency. The benefits might show up right away, but most likely will come over time.

Your lead magnet

You have to give people a reason to sign up for your email list–not just “Join my list.” Almost everyone’s inboxes are already too full. You have to pull them in with a “lead magnet.”

A lead magnet (a magnet for leads), is basically a free thing you give people in exchange for their email address. By doing so, they grant you permission to send them more emails in the future. But you should make it clear that when they sign up to get your freebie, they’re being subscribed to your list.

Pro Tip: Be careful not to break any anti-spam laws. You have to give people a way to unsubscribe from your list, even if all they do is sign up, get your lead magnet, and then immediately unsubscribe. Bummer, I know. Most email service providers have handy little boxes with pre-set wording that you can use when you generate your emails.

Your audience

But before you can even design a lead magnet for your email strategy, you need to know who your audience is. For service providers like us, there are two basic answers to that question. Number one is fellow service providers. Number two is potential clients.

The way that you set up your lead magnet and the type of emails that you write should be geared to whoever your audience is. and what they want. You need to be able to identify a specific pain point, fear, or desire so you can provide a solution with your freebie.

A solution, ideally, that is small enough and short enough that they won’t be put off by it. Don’t offer a super long ebook, because no one has time to read the books they pay for, let alone free ones. It should be something that’s easy to take in, but also valuable.

Lead magnets that tend to do well are maybe a couple of pages. Some of the popular types are equipment lists, templates, and checklists. Or a super-basic course that comes in bite-sized chunks, delivered to their inboxes.

Your email list strategy

Know what your strategy is for deciding to build an email list. That will help you narrow down your audience, as well as topics to write about. For example, if you want to start an email list so that you can get more clients, I generally recommend that you make your target market your audience, and not your fellow freelancers.

But maybe you’re not sure you want to be a freelance writer doing client work for the rest of your life. Perhaps you want to build a list with the hope of selling your audience something down the line. Then it might make more sense for you to have fellow freelance writers, broader service providers, or moms, etc. as your audience.

It’s a strategic decision. What do you want this email list tool to do for you? What do you hope to accomplish? If you want to sell courses, gear it towards an audience receptive to the course topic. If you hope to get client work from it, make it more towards your prospects.

Benefits of an email list

  • Sets you up as an expert: This is the main benefit–it shows that you’re publicly out there as a freelance writer, in the trenches and getting work. Maybe you’re not the top dog, but it’s a real mark of credibility.
  • Long-term client nurture: You’re reminding your audience of your name, and giving a taste of what it’s like to work with you. It helps cement you as the go-to writer in their mind.
  • Inbound client leads: The type of relationship building that you do in email lends itself more to making positive inroads with prospects. You’ll get more value out of it. People write back to you–it can become a two-way conversation.
  • Excellent writing practice: You get to toy around with subject lines, formatting, types of emails that you write, whether you use pictures or not, etc. It will help you develop your voice and style. It’s good practice for finding “hooks.” (See my post “How To Improve Your Writing Skills” for tips on writing practice.)
  • Teaches you how to be a marketer: Email lists are useful for testing ideas and developing thought processes. When you have enough people on your list for responses, it can help you test out new services or packages–“Hey, do you guys want this? Or would you rather have that?”

Drawbacks of an email list

  • You must be consistent. It’s up to you how frequently to email your list, but you need to email them consistently. You shouldn’t send three emails in one week, nothing for a month, and then one email. Your list will either be annoyed or forget about you.
  • It requires time, energy, and sometimes money. You are your own digital marketing agency. You have to spend brain power and valuable time writing about and thinking up topics. If you want a fancier email service provider, you’ll need to spend money.
  • You need a lead magnet, which means tech, and is usually an expense. Perhaps you’ll want to outsource the design of the lead magnet, or run Facebook ads to your lead magnet. You’ll also need some sort of website page that people land on (a “landing page”), to view your freebie teaser copy and put in their email address. Then you need a way to capture the email address and send them their freebie.

Which email service provider should you use?

The email service provider I recommend to people just starting out with an email list is MailerLite. It’s easy to set up, easy to navigate, and easy to use. They have different pricing tiers, including free.

Of course, there’s tons of email service providers, with many different levels of pricing, including free. But I’ve used MailerLite for years and have always been happy. I’ve tried others and haven’t liked the customer service as much. Here’s a non-affiliate link if you want to check them out: MailerLite

Copy Confidential

If you’d like to learn how to write almost any kind of copy, including different kinds of marketing emails and sequences, take a look at my course Copy Confidential. After this course, you’ll be able to write anything for any client.

is an email list needed to be a freelance writer?

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Ashley (24) (1)

After working with dozens of brilliant, hard-working entrepreneurs as a freelance writer, I learned a thing or two about great content. Now I bring my years of experience, practice, and self-study to bloggers and businesses that want to nail it in the content game.


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