How to Grow An Email List: My Journey From 0-20k Subscribers in Less Than a Year | how to grow email list

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What a wild and crazy year it’s been! I just completed my first full year of blogging. And I am pleased, and rather amazed, that in less than one year I created a mailing list that is more than 20,000 subscribers strong. And I want to show you how to grow email lists, too.

My mailing list growth over the past year during which I really learned how to grow email list

How to Grow An Email List: My Journey From 0-20k Subscribers in Less Than a Year | how to grow email list

A year ago I started to think about how to create and grow a mailing list, because as a newbie blogger I’d read that I should have one for my blog. And I knew from experience with my travel publishing site that it was useful. But little did I know I would go on to learn SO MUCH about how to grow email lists and find so many wonderful people who wanted to hear from me.

I know many people struggle with growing a mailing list, and this post is not meant to brag or boost. Instead, I want to share what I’ve learned and pass it on to help others. Having a strong email list is way more than a vanity metric—a good mailing list is one of the best ways to grow your blog and monetize it. Back in September I launched my first product, a design course, and promoted it solely to my mailing list. I didn’t breathe a word of it outside of the list. And did it work? Totally! If you’re curious, you can read about how I monetized my mailing lists and earned $30,000.

How I Monetized My Mailing Lists and Made $30,000 | blogging resources | list building | how to create mailing list

This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience (which means if you make a purchase after clicking a link I will earn a small commission but it won’t cost you a penny more)! Read my full disclosure policy.

My Top Five Tips on How to Create and Grow Email Lists

So here are the top five things I did that I think really made a difference in growing my mailing list:

1. Make Your Mailing List Growth a Top Priority Early On

I learned about the necessity of having a mailing list sometime in December 2016, two months into my blogging journey. I made a resolution that beginning in January, I would focus on creating my mailing list. That meant mailing list growth came before everything else. Before revenue, before promotion, before content creation. For real! Yet in order to grow my list, some of these things had to happen alongside it, like content creation and promotion. But I did all of my content creation and promotion with subscriber growth in mind—everything was focused on that one objective.

Are you wondering why I was okay hyper-focusing on growing my mailing list instead of something else? It’s because it just seemed like the best use of my time as a new blogger. Chasing pageviews for measly ad revenue, trying to get a few affiliate sales for pennies, or selling a product to a handful of people was really a waste of my time at this point. So I put my head down and focused on growing my audience.

I believe this focus made a huge difference. After all, the thing we focus on is the thing we move toward.

How I Monetized My Mailing Lists and Made $30,000 | blogging resources | list building | how to grow email list

Are you making your mailing list your priority?

2. Learn How to Grow Mailing Lists

I used to think I knew how to grow and manage a mailing list because my traveling publishing site had a big list accumulated over nearly two decades. But it turns out I really didn’t know as much as I thought. I discovered this early on in my blogging, thankfully. And then I set out to learning everything I could about how to grow email list.

Learning about Elite Blog Academy was the break I needed. Even though I didn’t begin the course until enrollment opened in March, it still lit a fire under me and I began stalking all of the other bloggers who had taken the course, reading their posts. Constant learning from a variety of sources has helped me tremendously.

It’s great that you’re reading this post because it means you’re open to learning! What else can you do to expand your knowledge on creating and growing mailing lists?

3. Give Them a Reason to Subscribe

I discovered, by happy accident, that providing good reasons to subscribe makes a world of difference. Two things happened early on that drove this point home for me.

First, I had a popular post on my blog from before I refocused—it was about my Minecraft birthday party post. In the post, I shared a zip file of all the printables I’d made for the party. So, when I began to focus on mailing list growth I learned that I should be asking my readers to subscribe in exchange for my freebie. And as the Minecraft party printables were the only freebie I had, naturally I tried it with that. And, wow, it worked. My readers wanted those printables and were willing to join my mailing list to get them. I could see the connection clearly.

Second, I bought a Cricut cutting machine in February on a whim. At this point, I’d refocused my blog into the DIY & craft niche. So I shared a craft I made on my Cricut which required using a downloadable file I created. (This file was not happenstance—I created it with the hope it might interest someone enough to download.) It turns out, people love free Cricut designs and were more than happy to sign up to get it. When I discovered this, I could again see the connection—only this time, it was reproducible. I could keep creating files that people liked.

So, little by little, I kept creating opt-ins my audience loved. Because, really, that’s why I’m doing all this anyway. Some didn’t convert well, and I didn’t do them again. But some converted well, and I kept doing ones like it. In other words, I kept giving my people what they wanted. Little by little, I was able to refine and improve my opt-ins.

Learning to get great conversion rate on an opt-ins helped me in my quest for how to grow email lists

Do you know what your readers want, and can you give it to them as an opt-in?

4. Focus Content on Conversions

Nearly all of the blog content I posted last year was created AFTER I had made my opt-in. Thus, you could say my posts were really just super beefy funnels to the opt-ins. So in the case of my DIY & craft blog, that means the post was the pretty pictures and the steps, and the opt-in was the thing my readers needed to make the project.

Another way of thinking about this is your post is the WHY and the opt-in is the HOW (I heard this from a student in my List Love course).

By making the opt-ins the first step in my content creation, and not an afterthought, I was able to get more signups.

Here are just a few examples of popular posts where I created my opt-in downloadable file before I ever made my post:

Giant Flower Spellbound Rose | Papercraft | Cricut | Tutorial | Free Files DIY 12x12 Vertical Scrapbook Paper Storage Organizer Tower | IKEA Hack Organized Craft Room Challenge - 30 Day Plan

Do you create your opt-ins before your post or afterward?

5. Use Strong Platforms for Strong Growth

I initially began my mailing list with MailChimp. Why? Because it was free and I was broke. However, I quickly realized I couldn’t accomplish the things I really wanted to do on the backend. I had ideas for tagging and segmenting people, multiple opt-ins, and multiple sequences. So I bit the bullet and signed up for ConvertKit, which came highly recommended. I had a 30-day free trial, but that still meant I was going to fork over money afterward. This turned out to be a plus, because I was more motivated to make the most of the account. And I was now equipped with all of the tools I needed for all of my crazy email ideas.

ConvertKit made it really easy to have unique opt-in forms for individual pages, which I found converted much better than generic opt-in forms. All I had to do was duplicate and customize a bit, and I was good to go. And having each page have its own opt-in form acted as a built-in tagging tool so I could see which projects converted best at a glance. For these reasons, I owe some of my success to ConvertKit itself, and I highly recommend it to others who want to grow email lists.

My ConvertKit stats showing my mailing list growth

Is your mail platform giving you the tools you need or is it holding you back?

How Will You Grow Your Email List This Year?

Are you setting goals for your email list this year? It’s the perfect time!

I am setting a goal of growing my list to 50k by the end of this new year. And I’m pleased to say that I already have as many new subscribers for the first week of this month than I had all of January 2017. If I try hard, I am hoping I can achieve this goal! (Edited to add: I am nearly at 50k and it’s only June 2018. So I’ve set a new goal of 100k!)

I will also keep learning how to grow email lists. I never stop learning. Besides, things change and evolve, and I want to be right there with those changes.

And, of course, I will continue striving to give my mailing list what they love and yearn for. That’s a topic for an entirely different post, however!

One other goal I have for 2018 is to release my List Love list-building course. I began a closed beta test of it in September and it seems to be really helping those who are using my system. I get so many questions now about list building and having a step-by-step course to offer them would be really wonderful. I love helping other people realize their dreams, too. If you are interested, make sure you are on my blogger mailing list (sign up at the opt-in form below). (Update: I successfully launched List Love in February 2018!)

I hope this has been helpful! If you’re building a blog or have blogging questions, please visit our Facebook Page and join other bloggers in our Facebook group.


P.S. If you are interested in learning more about my blogging method and techniques, and my personal story of how I created a full-income blog within one year, please subscribe to my blogger mailing list below.

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How to Grow An Email List: My Journey From 0-20k Subscribers in Less Than a Year | how to grow email list | #blogging #subscribers

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  1. Jennifer, I just love how you create your opt-in prior to your post. What a unique and seriously killer way to do it. This has really opened my eyes to a better way to get subscribers! Thank you for sharing and I can’t to see how this helps my email growth in 2018!

  2. Hi Jennifer,

    Awesome job on getting so many subscribers in less than a year. I too started on MailChimp and then switched to GetResponse.

    I’ve heard a lot of great things about ConvertKit but for some reason just haven’t made the change. I guess I just don’t really want to mess with moving my list over to ConvertKit.

    I have no doubt that your new email list course will be a huge hit.

    Thanks for sharing these tips with us and I am going to implement some of them to see if I can get my email subscriber numbers to increase this year.

    Have a great day 🙂


  3. Jennifer-Thank you so much for this post! Your approach and advice is practical and realistic to implement. Very refreshing ideas for a brand new blogger like myself!!! Can’t wait to grow my email list using your method of creating the opt-in FIRST!
    Thanks again!

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