How to Start an Email List if You Don’t Have a Business

Jenna Kutcher 

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August 27, 2020


You’ve heard there’s power in the list. You know there are PROFITS in the list. But… you’re still in the starting stages. Meaning: You have ideas and hopes for a business, but you’re just not there yet. You’ll get to launching a website and full branding one day, but for now, you just want to start speaking to your ideal audience. Sound about right?

Guess what?! You actually CAN start an email list… even if you don’t have a business or a website, yet! And, yup: you can even get people to sign up for it so you can start communicating with them regularly. You don’t need to have your business plan totally solidified; you don’t need thousands and thousands of followers or fans. And I want to walk you through just how to get started!

Why you might want an email list without having a business

First, though, let’s talk about why an email list might even be on your radar of significance so early in the game. You may be thinking that if you don’t have a business, then what’s the point of an email list?! I hear ya, but I’d urge that focusing on starting and growing a list is THE most important part of launching any kind of business. Like, more important than growing your social media, launching your website, or even firming up your product or service to offer.

Why? Well, there’s a few reasons!

  • Email lists are a DIRECT way to speak to your audience. Rather than shouting into the vacuum of social media hoping to be heard, your email list is a captive audience who chose to sign up for what you have to say. They’re more inclined to WANT to listen to what you have to say than users on any other communication platform.
  • Email lists allow you to TEST ideas. Want feedback on your biz concept or ideas for how you can best serve people? Take it to your list! Ask for people to reply with personal feedback, or send out a survey to gather group feedback. Again, because you’re showing up directly inside someone’s inbox, they’ll be a lot more inclined to participate and respond than speaking into the void of social media.
  • Email lists are the FASTEST way to build a foundation of trust. Would you rather read your favorite influencer’s caption written to thousands of people, or read an email from them that shows up personalized to you in your inbox? Probably the latter, correct? Email is such an intimate way to communicate with your people. You can speak to them by name, you can ask questions, you can share more vulnerable details (if you want) because it’s so much more direct than social media. Think of your list as your most committed fans — these are your go-to and most-trusted voices.

3 simple steps to start your email list

Let’s get to the good stuff: getting started! Can you believe you can get all set up with growing your list in just 3 steps? Promise it’s that simple. Here’s how!

01. Pick your provider.

There are a lot of email providers out there, so don’t let yourself get caught up in analyzing them all! I recommend researching 2 to 3 options and picking the one that seems easiest for you to set up.

I’ve got to give my girls over at Flodesk a shoutout because they truly make email list maintenance & growth SO easy. And they have some of the most beautiful emails and customizable templates. Plus, they make it so easy to set up landing pages to host your email opt-in even if you don’t have a website yet! (BTW! You can get 50% off your subscription using this link!)

Even if you don’t go with Flodesk, there are a lot of great starter options out there: Mailchimp, ConvertKit, and so many more. Take your pick and don’t look back (and remember, you can always switch providers down the road if you need to).

02. Create your opt-in (or freebie).

A freebie or opt-in is just some sort of resource you can give people in exchange for them signing up for your email list! Again, don’t get hung up on this because I promise you it’s easier than you may imagine. If you don’t have a biz yet, you may not have a tangible offer (like free shipping or discount codes). But that’s okay!

You can create some sort of downloadable or printable resource instead. Think: templates, e-books, how-to guides, planners, free checklists, or little known tips or tricks. Consider what YOU would find juicy enough or exciting enough to hand over your email address for. This doesn’t need to be anything fancy or complicated either; it can literally be a 2-page PDF download.

03. Share your offer everywhere and make it easy for folks to sign up.

Your email provider likely will have a way for you to “host” your opt-in. Like I was saying, I know Flodesk has easy tutorials for how to set up a landing page with them to host your opt-in, even if you don’t have a website. You can create a link to your opt-in and then share it on all your socials, put it in all your bios, and pin it to an appropriate image on Pinterest to begin getting people to sign up for your list!

Don’t just share it once and call it a day, either. Get creative in how and where you share it, and push it out there repeatedly! Only about 6% of our social media audiences see what we post, so even if you think you’ve shared your opt-in or freebie a bunch, it’s very likely that a lot of people haven’t seen it!

Eventually, you’ll see how your opt-in is performing AND get feedback from your list on what they want to see. Then, you can begin creating more opt-in offers and sharing those, too, to get more of a widespread audience to sign up for your email list. Before you know it, you’ll have a booming, healthy list full of eager fans ready for you to launch your dream biz! It’s THAT easy. You just gotta go for it!

Want EVEN more info for starting an email list?

Join this FREE 0-250 email list-building challenge that’ll walk you through growing your list from nada!

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A small town Minnesota photographer, podcaster, educator and puppy rescuer, my happiest days are spent behind my computer screen sharing my secrets with the world. I'm glad you're here.

I’m an expert at online marketing, a nerd when it comes to the numbers, and my obsession is teaching others how to make a living doing what they love (without it taking over their life). 

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