A Creative Business Owner’s Guide
If you’ve been in business for any time at all, you’ve heard at least one, if not five other business gurus talking about the importance of having an email list. You’ve probably heard phrases like ‘Your email list is your most valuable business asset!” Or “Double your list, double your income”. Or “If I could do one thing over, my email list is the thing I would have started years earlier!” Yes, building and nurturing an email list can be a game-changer – but when you’re first starting out, it’s easy to wonder, why and how?? Can an email list really make that kind of impact? How? How in the world do I start, and what in the world do I share in an email newsletter to a list of people? In this blog post, I’ll share my insights on why an email list is essential and provide you with a step-by-step guide on how to get started!
The Power of an Email List
Before we get into the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ of the email list, let’s talk about the ‘why’. Why is it so important to have an email list as an artist and creative business owner?
If your goal is to license your work to a company (or several) and your focus is on reaching out to art directors, why is an email list important? So to cover the ‘why’, we should also talk about the ‘who’. Knowing who you want to have on your email list will help understand the ‘why’ you need to have a list of people to connect with you. Which brings me to reason #1:
Direct Connection with Your Audience
How many times have you found yourself checking your email in bed in the morning after your alarm has gone off and you’re avoiding the moment when you leave the warmth of your down comforter? (Just me?) There’s a good chance your audience does the same. Unlike social media, where your posts can easily get lost in the shuffle (which artist just shared that super cute fabric pattern I said I would remember when I refreshed the app??), an email lands directly in your subscriber’s inbox. This one-on-one connection allows you to share your latest creations, updates, personal stories, and VIP access to you – making your subscribers feel valued and supported.
Ownership and Control
I’m sure you’ve heard this analogy, but if you build a following on social media, you’re essentially building on rented land. As frustrating as it can be, Instagram is a business with an agenda and an algorithm designed to support its platform and millions of other creators creating to get in on the action. If you work with it, it can be an amazing boost to your business, but if anything goes wrong: your account gets hacked, the software glitches – you’d better have a backup plan. With an email list, you have ownership and control over your contact list and direct communication with your audience. No one can take that away from you.
Increased Sales and Engagement
Studies have consistently shown that email marketing generates a higher ROI compared to other digital marketing channels. When you have a dedicated group of subscribers who are genuinely interested in your work, they are more likely to convert into paying customers. Plus, emails offer more room for storytelling and product showcasing, increasing your chances of building a deeper connection and boosting sales. Studies and statistics are great, but seeing the difference between putting out a post on social media that resulted in a few hearts and…nothing more compared to sending out one email and making sales was what clued me into the value of an email list.
Access to Customer Data and Input
This is more advanced, and not something to worry about right away, but your email list is a treasure trove of valuable customer data. It can help you understand your audience better, from their preferences and purchasing behavior to the types of content they engage with the most. This data is gold when it comes to tailoring your products, services, and marketing strategies to your audience’s needs and desires.
Sounds Great, but Who Should be on My List?
The most common question I hear from artists, and specifically from Surface Pattern Designers is this: I want to license my work, why do I need an email list if my goal is to reach art directors? And here’s your answer: Picture this, you reach an art director, agree to license your work on their product and arrive at your launch date, imagine that you have an email list full of people who love your artwork and your story and they are ready and waiting to purchase your new collaboration with company X. Fantastic! Your launch is a success!
Your email list is also a great resource to turn to in order to ask questions about which products your audience is most likely to purchase, where they would love to see your work represented, and more.
What Should I Share?
The second most common question I hear is what do I talk about in my newsletter? What do people want to hear from me? You might be surprised, but people do love to hear about the things you are working on. We often are so close to our own work that we forget how unusual the life of a creative entrepreneur is to the majority of the population! In our circles on social media, it may appear that everyone around us knows what we do all day and how to run a creative business, but it’s actually not the case. There are so many people who really don’t know what it takes to take a concept for fabric through the process of design to print – so share it! Share your story, even if it is a quiet store. It is unique and there are people who want to hear it.
I’ve found that the best way to know what to share is to simply start sharing. Having a schedule to share weekly or monthly will force you to think ahead and plan consistent, original content you will share with your audience. Action creates clarity and clarity builds confidence, so the best way to get started is to start.
Getting Started with Your Email List
Now that you understand the significance of having an email list, let’s talk about how to get started. It may seem complicated at first, but if you break it down into several small steps, it’s quite manageable and even fun!
Choose an Email Marketing Service
The first step in building an email list is selecting an email service provider that suits your needs. Some popular options include FloDesk, ConvertKit, and Mailchimp. These platforms provide user-friendly interfaces, automation features, and tools to help you design captivating emails. Some of them offer free plans for beginners, so you can start without a significant financial commitment. But my current favorite is FloDesk – it’s easy to use, easy to customize, and simple to get set up quickly. It’s not free, but if you’re ready to dive in there, you can use this link to get 50% off your first year. (Note: this is an affiliate link, so I may receive compensation if you sign up, at no extra cost to you.)
Create an Irresistible Opt-In Offer
Why would people join my newsletter? Here’s your answer: give them something they want! To entice people to join your email list, you need an irresistible opt-in offer. Think of it as a valuable gift you give away in exchange for something of value to you – an invitation into their inbox. This could be a free workbook, exclusive access to behind-the-scenes content, a discount code, or a beautifully designed digital download. The key is to make it something your target audience really wants. Your gift isn’t necessarily something you think they need – they just might not know they need it, so your gift, something they want can help make them aware of their need for your services. It should probably sting just a little to give it away for free – that’s how you know it is truly valuable.
Make sure your opt-in offer aligns with your niche and your goals and showcases your creative expertise. This gift is the first step in your audience’s journey with you, so think through their progression and let your opt-in guide them to learn more about you and what you offer in your business. If you need ideas, I’ve created a list of 40 opt-ins you can create to welcome people to join your list. Get it here!
Design an Eye-Catching Signup Form
Once you have your opt-in offer, it’s time to create a signup form. Your email marketing service will guide you through this process – check out their help documents if you need an extra hand with this. Pay special attention to the design of your form; it should be visually appealing and match your brand’s aesthetic. Clearly explain what is included and why they should want it, or how it will fix a problem they currently have, or will make their life better. Include a clear Call to Action: Sign up here! Snag the Freebie! Etc. Consider where you’ll place it on your website, and use compelling copy to explain the value of subscribing to your list.
Promote Your Email List
Having an email list won’t do you any good if no one knows about it. Promote it across all your digital platforms – your website, social media profiles, and even in your physical art and craft shows if that’s your thing. Encourage your existing audience to sign up by explaining the benefits of being a subscriber, such as early access to new collections, exclusive discounts, or access to your free opt-in. Share about your email list or opt-in every week!
Automate Welcome Emails
Once someone lands on your list, you want to welcome them right away with a warm and engaging welcome email! This is your chance to introduce yourself, thank them for joining your community, and remind them of the value they’ll receive from being on your list. These emails are some of the most important you will send because they tend to be the most frequently opened! So take some time to think through what you want to share here. In these first welcome emails, it’s also a great time to encourage your audience to click on the information you share – offering valuable information here will let them know that your emails are worthwhile and that they should continue to open them and click on your CTAs in the future.
Setting up an automated welcome sequence can help you nurture your subscribers over time, guiding them from the initial connection to becoming loyal customers. It also allows you to batch work – sit down and create a valuable sequence once and let it go to work for you. Just be sure to check back often to make sure it’s still fresh and relevant content.
Consistent and Engaging Content
The heart of your email list is the content you share. Make sure your emails are consistent, well-designed, and engaging. Share sneak peeks of your latest creations, stories from your creative journey, and helpful tips related to your niche. Remember, the goal is to provide value and build a deeper connection with your audience. You want to show up regularly in their inbox with value, so when the time comes to share your offer and sell, you have built a relationship and they won’t think of you as someone who only shows up with a sales offer. The best way to consistently offer value is to create consistent, original content. This could be content on a blog, podcast, new work or art collections to share, new collaborations. Creating new, valuable content to share makes your regular newsletter much easier to write and share.
When I started my email list, I created each new email from scratch – imagine how much time that required! Very quickly I realized that my method was not sustainable and my emails did not look consistent. Creating templates solved both problems. You can create a template for your weekly newsletter so each week your email looks very similar, which will build your brand awareness. You can also create templates for your opt-in form, your opt-in delivery email, your social media posts to share your opt-in, and anything you find yourself creating or sharing more than twice. This was a game changer to me, and the thing that led to sending out a weekly newsletter, because it became easy.
Segment Your List
As your list grows, consider segmenting your subscribers based on their interests or behaviors. For example, you could have segments for fabric enthusiasts, other artists, or those interested in specific design themes. This allows you to send more targeted content and offers, increasing the likelihood of engagement and sales.
What about Unsubscribes?
It’s worth mentioning that unsubscribes will happen and is a natural part of email list building. There will always be people who sign up for your free offer, download it, and disappear. Don’t worry! It happens, and the reality is, if they are only there for the freebies, they likely aren’t the people who will truly support you in the future. So don’t take it personally, and keep sharing your value with the people who need what you have to offer.
Your creative journey is something worth sharing with the world. An email list for a creative business is like your digital canvas for those connections and conversations. It allows you to connect directly with your audience, showcase your work, and build a loyal community of art enthusiasts and customers. With some effort and planning upfront, and a commitment to nurturing your list, you can watch your creative business flourish. So, pick up your digital paintbrush and start building that list today. Your art and your audience will thank you for it. If you need a little help getting started, be sure to check out the opt-in list I put together for you! Also, check out the other artist resources available here!