How I Got My First 1,000 Email Subscribers (Hint: It Was A Grind)
By Chris Orzechowski
In December of 2017, my email list had 55 subscribers.
And that really bothered me.
As an email copywriter, I specialized in helping my clients earn millions of dollars from the marketing campaigns we created.
Yet with my own list… it was one of those “the cobbler’s children have no shoes” type of scenarios.
When you have a list that small, you don’t really want to send emails.
Every unsubscribe hurts that much more.
And if you’re not doing anything to grow your list… then you really fear sending anything that’s going to push that subscriber count down.
But, I made a commitment, come hell or high water that I would grow this list.
- I wanted more leverage in my business. Up until that point, everything I’d done had been one-on-one, DFY work. And I was getting burnt out quick.
- I wanted to build that asset. When you have an email list full of people who know like and trust you… you have the foundation to build a business that can help a lot of people.
- I wanted to start creating products. But without a list… who the hell are you going to sell them to?
- I wanted to simplify my business. I wanted one ‘distribution’ system where I could communicate and sell in a leveraged fashion… so I wouldn’t have to work 10 hours a day (unless I really wanted to).
I had the motivation. You probably have similar motivations for growing your list, too.
The only thing was…
I didn’t know what list building methods would work for ME.
I mean, yeah sure.
The idea of paid traffic sounds great.
Everyone in your newsfeed has some “magic system” that’ll definitely work for you… even if you’re new… and you have no fingers… and you don’t own a computer… and you’re illiterate… and you don’t have a business… and you suck at everything and have failed at everything in life up until this point.
But back in reality… when you don’t have a lead magnet… when you don’t have a big budget… and when you’re still trying to figure out your brand, your core message, your core audience and a million other things about WHO you are and WHAT your business is meant to do… then paid ads are kind of out of the question.
So… what other options did I have?
Well, there were webinars.
And FB Lives.
And guest blogging.
And on and on and on.
I wasn’t really sure what the hell I should be doing. So I started doing everything.
Some things tended to work better than others.
And growth happened very slowly.
I think most people who promise outsized, overnight results with anything they’re selling are usually full of shit.
In my experience, success usually happens slowly. And all good things take a lot of work and sweat equity. List building – at least for me – was no different.
At the end of the day, it didn’t matter if it happened slowly.
Fact is: it HAPPENED.
That’s all that mattered to me.
So I figured I’d reflect back on my journey and share some of the things I did to get from 55 subscribers to crossing the 1,000 subscriber mark.
Let’s take a look at what it took…
1. Content Is King
If there’s one thing I could recommend that will consistently grow your list… it’s producing content. I like writing articles. But you can also do video or audio or whatever.
The thing is…
Most people create shit content.
It’s either unoriginal. Or it’s written “for Google.” Or it’s a carbon copy with slight editing of something that someone else created.
Wanna know my secret “system” for creating fresh, new content every single week?
Step #1: Do cool shit.
Step #2: write about it.
Step #3: Wash, rinse, repeat every single week until you die.
Don’t try and “create content.”
If you try and create content, it’s probably going to suck. But if you document the stuff you’ve done (or are currently doing)… you’ll have a much easier time and it’ll be a lot more effective.
Why does this work so well?
Because thought leaders create content.
Plain and simple.
People are not going to sign up to your list if you don’t have anything important to say… or if you have not demonstrated that you are someone who might have solutions to their problems.
Thought leaders are consistent.
If you’re doing something consistently… people will tune in. Your content is kind of like owning your own TV show. If people like you, they’ll keep tuning in. If the show goes off the air… they’ll find something else to do with that time.
If you want the attention, you need to be consistent with this stuff.
I have written articles two years ago that are still attracting people into the world of Chris Orzechowski.
I did not realize this would happen.
And when I was writing those articles, it kinda sucked. I’d much rather be watching reruns of The Office or taking a nap.
But I wrote the damn articles. And now they live on the internet forever and act like a magnet for people who are looking for the kind of solutions I offer.
Creating consistent content has been the biggest needle mover in terms of list building.
2. Podcasts are awesome too.
I’ve been on a guest on 8 or 9 different podcasts.
Some of them have been shows with huge audiences and have brought a lot of traffic and email subs my way.
Others have been total flops.
Ya know what?
I still hop on every single podcast I can, no matter how big the audience.
People who are small today can become huge players one day.
And here’s something else…
If someone is willing to listen to you natter on for 20-60 minutes about a topic… and they LIKED what you had to say… there’s probably a pretty good chance they’ll want to learn more from you and sign up for your email list.
So my advice: take every podcast interview you are offered.
(If you’d like to invite me onto your podcast, shoot me an email. I’m a great guest and you’ll love interviewing me.)
3. Give FREE Trainings
For years now, I’ve been giving free trainings in marketing, business and copywriting groups.
These trainings are kind of a bitch to prepare for.
First, you have to figure out a topic to present on.
Then, you have to get over your fear of presenting LIVE to a hundred or so people who have no idea who TF you are.
THEN, you have to create your presentation, which takes hours and hours and hours. And even after all that… it’s still not perfect.
Then, you gotta deliver the thing and put on a rousing performance.
And you don’t even get paid. (I’m NOT talking about giving a webinar that sells. I’m talking about a ‘no strings attached, here’s some good info to try kind of training.)
But ya know what?
Giving free trainings are some of the most valuable list building activities I’ve ever done.
It goes back to the same idea of why podcasting works so well…
If you teach your heart out and genuinely give people good information and you don’t hold anything back… people will want to learn more about you.
More often then not, they’ll reach out and want to just give you money so you can do whatever it is you just presented on, for them.
Every free training you give is a captive demonstration to an audience of people who have raised their hand and told you they are interested in your topic.
It’s another form of content.
It’s something I’m going to continue to do to grow my list.
(And if you have a group, mastermind or audience who would be interested in learning more about email copywriting… hit me up and we’ll see if we can arrange something.)
4. Help people who need it
As your list starts to grow, you’ll want to ONLY do things that are highly leveraged.
And I think this is probably a good idea.
But I still take the time to try and answer questions that I see in communities like Copy Chief (or in other groups online.
I’ve noticed that whenever I give advice to people who are struggling with an issue and are reaching out for help… those people tend to join my list and tell others about me.
It doesn’t cost me anything, other than my time.
And a lot of these people will NEVER buy from me.
But it’s not about that one person.
It’s a mentality you have to take as a thought leader/content creator.
It’s the mindset that you are a person who has answers and are going places. And if people want to enroll in that journey with you, they will seek out ways to entrench themselves in your world.
Growing Your List Is A Slow, Grinding Process. But It’s So Worth It.
Those four activities I just listed are not “do it one-time” type things.
I make it a point to book a new podcast episode with someone every single month. I produce at least one article every single week. I find at least one person I can help every single day. I bust my ass to create incredible free trainings that ACTUALLY help people… instead of hiding my the stuff behind a paywall.
Getting to 1,000 subscribers might take you over a year, like it did for me.
Hey – it might not.
Some people manage to grow a huge list very fast.
But I did it the slow way.
As a result, I’ve gotten to know hundreds of people on my list.
I’ve dialogued withed them.
They’ve replied back to my emails and have asked questions.
They’ve helped me grow by recommending my stuff to other people. And I’ve helped them with the content I create.
We both help each with the feedback loop that gets created during this process.
This is how you build your audience.
This is how you build your list.
This is how you start to travel down the path to attracting what Kevin Kelly calls… 1,000 True Fans.
It’s going to be a grind to build your list. But man… it’s worth it.
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