Email Lists for Online Businesses: the why, how and what

Question: if you’re in business online (whether you’re an artist, Etsy shop owner, blogger, coach, creative, etc.) what is the ONE thing you must have to connect with your customers and succeed long term?

You might be thinking a website (which is a great answer!) or a large social media following (cool, but not it)… But the answer is an email list.

What is an email list? Well, if you have any email in your inbox, you probably already know. 😉 But for those who don’t: it’s a list of your customers who have told you they want to hear from you via email. They do this by “opting in” via a landing page or form – either on your website or blog, or, in the case of Etsy sellers without a site, via a link in your bio, header, profile, etc. that leads to a landing page.

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Email Lists for Online Businesses: the why, how and what


Why do I think every online business owner should have an email list? Well…

1. You own your list and have complete control.

Social media is great… until it isn’t. I know bloggers who were getting ten’s of thousands of website visitors every day from Facebook, and then they changed their algorithm and poof! The traffic was gone. A similar thing happened with me and Instagram: I have over 100k followers, but after some algorithm changes, only a tiny percentage of them ever see my posts.

It’s so disheartening!

If your favorite social media site changed or disappeared tomorrow, how would you connect with your customers? Hopefully your answer is: Your email list.

Because unlike your social media followers, if you don’t like your email provider or prefer a different one, you can simply move your entire list to the email provider of your choice.

Even if your website crashed, you can still email the people who have opted in!

So having an email list is the surest way to be able to contact and connect with your customers.


2. It’s the best way to truly connect with your audience.

Even though I know that they are sending the same email to hundreds, if not thousands of people, when I get an email from some of my favorite online entrepreneurs, I feel like they’re writing just to me.

And I know that my own readers feel the same way, because some will literally write back to me, as if I wrote directly to them!

How cool is that?

I also know that I look forward to seeing email from certain entrepreneurs, because what they share is so helpful, so meaningful, that I can’t wait to receive their email!

You can have that same power with your own audience when you have your own email list.


3. People on your email list are more likely to hire you and/or buy from you.

While I don’t think every single email should be a sales pitch, the people who have subscribed to your list did so because they want to know more about you, and possibly even hire you, buy from you, or buy something based on your recommendation.

The truth is, most people aren’t going to buy from you the first time they land on your website or in your shop. Some experts say someone must see you/your product seven times before they’ll buy from you. For others it’s that “know, like and trust” factor: they’ll need to get to know you, like you, and trust you before they buy from you. And what better way to do that than via email? Because it feels more one-to-one than one-to-many, as I mentioned before.


The fact is, if you don’t get potentially interested people onto your list, they might just leave your website or shop and never return. So getting them onto your list and being able to stay in touch via email is vital.

4. It will generate traffic to your website, blog and/or shop.

Every time I send out an email (even when I first started my list with just 9 people!) I see a bump in traffic to my site, and sales in my shop (if I’m linking to something I sell.) It’s almost like magic!

I personally use ConvertKit to send my emails (and I’ll get to that more in a bit) and I can actually go in and see how many people clicked through to my site, which links they clicked, and even if they purchased something via my Shopify store! It’s really amazing – and insightful. Because I can use that information to better serve my audience: both as a whole, and on an individual level by using the tagging feature in ConvertKit.


Email Lists for Online Businesses: the why, how and what

Starting Your Own Email List

Starting your own email list is really quite easy. There are tons of email service providers out there, but I personally use and recommend ConvertKit. I feel like, based on features and price, they offer the most email list power for the lowest buck.

Not only do they make creating opt-in forms super easy, they also can host a landing page for you. Who might need that feature? Well, Etsy sellers without a website, for one! If you only have an Etsy shop (no blog or website) you can use ConvertKit’s hosted landing pages (score!)

But if you do have a website, you can set up a variety of subscription forms, like slide-ins (where forms literally slide onto the page from a corner to catch your reader’s eye), or inline like this:

Or this:

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Email Lists for Online Businesses: the why, how and what


What should you send to your email list?

I know that many online business owners hesitate to start an email list because they just don’t know what to write. Obviously, this is going to be different for, say, an artist vs. a blogger vs. a virtual assistant.

But what I like to do is think of the emails as blog posts. And there are endless lists of blog post ideas (you can check out my post: 52 Blog Post Ideas for Artists). Take a look around Pinterest if you need some more inspiration, but here are a few general ideas:

  • A welcome email
  • An “about you” email
  • Any sales you might have
  • A Studio or home office tour
  • A personal story
  • News about you, your business, etc.
  • A “tools of the trade” email
  • An email with customer testimonials
  • Freebies, worksheets, downloads, etc.
  • Product reviews

Hopefully this gives you some ideas. And while most online business experts will say you should email your list at least once a week (and I would agree) I think it’s more important that you set an email schedule you can live with. So if that’s every week, every two weeks, or once a month, at least your readers will know what to expect.


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  1. Reply

    Jennifer Sims

    November 21, 2017

    Thanks for sharing such informative information. I’ve been handmaking art for years just for fun; and recently started marketing my work. I never imagined it would be so difficult to break into the industry especially because I’m doing something that I love and enjoy. Attempting to make money off my craft is actually taking the fulfillment away. What once was therapeutic has turned into a load of stress because I am now being judged for my work.

    • Reply

      Jules Tillman

      February 9, 2018

      That can be hard, Jennifer! But if you love what you do and you believe in your talents, keep going/learning/growing! I promise it’s worth it!

      With gratitude,