When I first started building my email list, I was working at a design agency and selling things on the side via Etsy.
In the summer of 2013, I went looking for a planner but couldn’t find anything I wanted, so I made a few of my own and listed them as items in my Etsy store, Paper And Oats. That first month I did $1,000 in revenue without any promotion.
I found out I had a baby on the way in the fall of 2013 and that lit a fire in me, because my job was the only reliable source of income I had.
I knew I wanted a business of my own, so during my pregnancy I started offering design services as a freelancer while still working full-time at the agency.
My baby was born July 2014, and by February 2015 I quit my day job at the agency. However, I didn’t exactly love freelance work because I wasn’t in creative control.
I realized that digital products were a viable business after seeing others have success with them and seeing my customers love my custom planners.
That’s when I decided to build my email list around the topic of design for digital products.
Fast-forward six months and I have been able to build an email list of 1,317 subscribers.
Since then I’ve launched my first course to those 1,317 subscribers and generated $20,034 in revenue.
How did you do it?
I got my first 100 subscribers by doing one thing: content upgrades.
One of my first content upgrades was a bonus for my blog post about why you should have a “batch day” in your business. A lot of content upgrades are PDF downloads, so I decided to make a bi-monthly event out of this that subscribers could participate in.
Here’s what the opt-in form looked like:
Currently my list is at 5,326 email subscribers.
Here’s a snapshot of my ConvertKit Dashboard:
I went from 100 to 5,326 subscribers by focusing on 2 things: 1) promoting my content upgrades, and 2) building relationships in my industry.
Content Upgrades + Promotion
Almost every single blog post on Paper & Oats has an accompanying content upgrade.
While offering content upgrades will get you email subscribers, you must get attention to them if you want them to be runaway successes.
That’s why I heavily promote my posts and content upgrades on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
Here’s what a typical Instagram post looks like when I promote a content upgrade:
Content upgrades become powerful when you use them to create segments of your email list for an upcoming product launch.
For instance, I started working on my first product, “The InDesign Field Guide,” because no one was providing help around the Adobe program InDesign. I wanted a list of HOT subscribers who were dying to learn InDesign so here’s what I did:
Step #1: Planned my launch. I chose to do a 9-day product launch with distinct open and close days to enroll.
Step #2: I created and published posts to announce my upcoming product to gain awareness and actively posted about InDesign-related topics with posts that each had a content upgrade.
Here are the posts:
These posts helped me build a segment of email subscribers from my list of 1,317 subscribers over the course of 6 months with people who were extremely interested in learning InDesign.
Step #3: Launch my product. I sent 2 emails to my “main” list and then focused on my InDesign segment of 1,317 subscribers.
You’ll find out more details on the success of my launch in a moment. 😉
I knew early on that I could help more people if I built relationships with others online who cater to a similar audience.
I decided to focus on building 10 relationships and started researching people who help teach design online with the other Adobe programs like Photoshop and Illustrator.
One thing I did specifically was send a goodie box to my list of 10 (who I call “cheerleaders”) with some fun items that represented my product.
Here’s a picture of some of the items I included:
In one instance, I teamed up with a friend who teaches Adobe Illustrator and we did a promotion by bundling our courses together.
Here’s the breakdown of my total launch:
This brought my launch revenue to $20,034!
Combining my InDesign Field Guide with my other products, printable planners, and freelance design work, I’m happy to report I’ve hit $100,504 in revenue over the last twelve months.
What has building an email list changed in your life and allowed you to do?
I can’t tell you how awesome it is to wake up on some days to hundreds of opt-ins and additional sales.
I left my day job so that I could control my time and money, and I’m excited to be living that vision now.
What’s next for you?
Moving forward I will be focused on 2 things:
1 Dog Baby + 1 Human Baby
Design For Digital Products
I'm so glad I shifted from freelance work to building my email list and creating / selling digital products, because it's lowered my stress level, allowed me to work on projects I'm truly passionate about, given me more free time to spend with my daughter, and of course – provides a better income!