Guide To Building An Email List (Step By Step)

If you’re serious about growing your business, building a healthy email list should be one of your top priorities. When it comes down to it, your list is one of the only online assets that you have 100% control over. Having a solid social media presence is absolutely essential, but you’ll always be at the mercy of new and changing algorithms. And achieving high search engine rankings is great too, but again, you’re at the mercy of changing algorithms and updates.

Your email list, on the other hand, is yours, free and clear. Using your website and social media to attract visitors and followers, and then encouraging them to sign up for your email list gives you the opportunity to contact your prospects at any point in the future, with any kind of message you want; and you’re not bound by search engine rankings or social media algorithms.


Since 2010 when I first started my email list, I’ve learned so much. Here are a few fun facts about my email list, and how it has been crucial for my business—and how it can be crucial for yours too:

  • I’ve grown my email list to 100,000+ email addresses.
  • Email has helped me discover the top pains and problems of my audience, which can then be used to craft content and product ideas to help alleviate those pains and problems.
  • A single broadcast email once helped me earn over $30k in affiliate earnings.
  • More than $500,000 in total earnings can be directly attributed to my email list.
  • Email lists have proven to be versatile for driving new traffic to website by promoting new posts and also resurfacing older posts.
  • Automated follow-up sequences have allowed me to serve my audience with additional content that allows me to keep in contact with people over time so that I end up with higher open and click-through rates.


In March 2013 I was in San Francisco shooting a promotional video for my book, Let Go, when my website went down—for an entire week. I couldn’t log in to the site. Everyone who came to the site got an error screen, and the only way I could communicate with my audience was through my email list.

The email list I had built literally saved my business for a week. I was able to keep my audience up to date, I shared podcast episodes and YouTube videos that were coming, and kept my business up and running even though my blog was completely out of commission.

Your email list is a huge asset and the experience of not being able to use my main communication tool—my blog—hammered home the benefits of having a solid email list.


Before we get into the meat of the tutorial here, a couple of things:

  1. Thanks for reading through this, because seriously – most people miss this stuff and it’s so important for your long-term success in email marketing.
  2. So many people in the online business space will tell you that “The money is in the list.” While that’s not entirely untrue, I happen to think that it’s just a small (but still important) part of the picture.

You see, I believe that the money is in the list because that’s where the people are. That may seem obvious, but let’s break it down a little bit more.

When you create an email list, you’re allowing a group of fellow human beings to come together in one place where they expect to hear from you. You have a huge opportunity—responsibility, even—to provide value to them. When someone essentially says, “Hey, I like you enough to give you my email address,” you owe it to them to offer up everything you can to ensure that they make progress, stay informed, or are entertained.


To begin creating a newsletter, we need a piece of software that will manage our email list, allow us to build newsletters, and provide us with the insights to see what is or isn’t working.

I recommend using GetResponse.

I’ve played around with dozens of email marketing services, from Aweber to Infusionsoft and GetResponse. Out of all them, GetResponse is my overall favorite. Why?

It’s extremely affordable (starting at FREE /1 month), while incredibly powerful and easy to use. I also find that GetResponse has some of the best newsletter template designs around. Aweber is another good call, but I find their user interface a bit outdated and clunky (plus, their pricing starts at $19/month – not a big deal, but considering they’re not quite as good as GetResponse IMO this pushes the needle in favor of GetResponse even more).


If you’re using GetResponse, the first step is to add any contacts you already have to your default list. Don’t worry if you don’t have anyone to add yet (you can just skip this step), but if you have a database of customers or readers, this is where you can add them.

From the main dashboard, click the big button that says ‘add contacts’ and you’ll be forwarded to a page that looks like this. You can then either add your existing contacts by importing them from a CSV file or copying and pasting their email addresses into the import box.

This will automatically start building your default list.


The next step is to begin building our web form, which will likely be our main method of collecting new mailing list subscribers.

To do this, click the large red button that says ‘create web form’ and choose a template to begin editing from the row of default web forms.

You can then customize the web form so that it fits your website’s color scheme and layout. Here you can also add images and extra text. Also, if you know a bit of HTML and CSS, you can hack around with the code to change how the form is displayed. However, this is not entirely necessary, as their drag and drop editor is pretty decent.

Once you’re happy with your web form, it’s time to create your thank you page. This is the page that your subscribers will see once they’ve entered your email in your web form and confirmed their email address.


While GetResponse does have a default thank you page that’s absolutely fine to use, I would recommend creating your own customized thank you page, either now or in the future.

Why? Well, this is a great opportunity to promote an offer to your customers or direct them to something that may be of interest on your website. It also looks a little bit unprofessional leaving it as a blank page with the standard GetResponse branding.

To create your own customized thank you page, you’ll need to create a page on your website with the information that you want.


Once you’re happy with the way your web form and thank you page looks, it’s time to install your web form on your website.

The easiest way to do this is to just copy and paste the HTML embed code that’s provided under the ‘publish’ tab into where you want your web form to appear on your website. However, if you’re not comfortable doing this, you can always click the option ‘my web designer will install this form’, which will allow you to email a link to your code to your web designer.

Once this is done you should be able to test your web form live on your website to make sure that it’s working as it should.

And that’s all there is to it. You have the foundations of a newsletter all up and running. All that’s left to do is start building your list and begin building your newsletters.


When it comes to creating a newsletter, getting set up is the easy bit. The real challenge is building up your mailing list of engaged recipients. So, how can we do this in a way that ensures we get the right people on our mailing list?

The first thing to realize is that people don’t sign up to mailing lists for no reason. In fact, most people actively do the opposite, which means we need to think about the following question from your audience’s perspective:

What’s in it for me?

We all visit hundreds of websites every day, and there are very few sites that don’t want us to hand over our personal information, so how can you stand out from the crowd?

By offering more value than everyone else.

That may mean writing incredible content so that people want to be updated as soon as you write a new post. It may mean having to create something like an eBook or free guide to give away in return for their email address.

There are hundreds of great blog posts written about building your mailing list, so I won’t cover this in too much depth here, but I will share a few good examples from mailing lists that I’ve subscribed to.


Hellobar is a powerful free widget that appears at the top of every page on your website once installed. You can customize the message and call to action, as well as A/B testing different messages to optimize your conversion rate.

For driving mailing list subscribers this is a great opportunity to attract attention with an incentive such as a free eBook or entry to win a prize in return for an email address.



Pop ups are a controversial tactic for driving subscribers, as many people find them extremely annoying. Despite this, many marketers have found that they’re extremely effective at driving newsletter subscriptions.

If you plan to go down this route, I’d recommend using something like BounceExchange, which only triggers a pop up when a user is about to leave your website.


One of the most common methods of building a mailing list is through blogging. Here’s a great example of it being used in action on the KISSmetrics blog.


At the end of every post on KISSmetrics’ blog, they link to a white paper or free eBook, in which a reader must offer their email address for to download.


To begin building our first newsletter we’ll need to go back into GetResponse and click the green ‘create a newsletter’ button on the dashboard. That should bring you to a page that looks something like this:


From here, click on the left ‘new email creator’ button and then follow through the step-by-step editor. One of the first things you’ll need to do is decide on your subject.


Many of your recipients will receive tens or perhaps even hundreds of emails every day. Your subject line has to catch their attention and convince them that reading your email will be valuable to them. Here are a few pointers to consider:

  • Keep it short – while most email clients display up to 60 characters in the subject line, many mobile browsers only show 25-30 characters. Make sure to convey what your email’s about in the first 30 characters.
  • Don’t use filler words – with so few characters available, don’t waste them on words like ‘hi’, ‘hello’, or ‘thanks’.
  • Be clear about the contents of the email – before trying to maximise interest and appeal, your subject line must be specific about the contents of your email. Remember, a high open rate is pointless if it annoys recipients and leads to a low engagement rate.
  • Use urgency and scarcity – where relevant, it pays to use urgency and scarcity in your subject lines. For example, you might start the subject line with [Urgent] or ‘3 Days Remaining’. This conveys that they must not procrastinate on opening your email.
  • Personalise it – this is the oldest trick in the book with email marketing. A subject line that includes the recipient’s name is virtually guaranteed to have a higher open rate than one that doesn’t.
  • A/B Test – One of the benefits of using GetResponse is that you can split test your subject lines i.e. send 25% of your mailing list a version of your newsletter with one subject line and 25% a version with another subject line. You can then compare which subject line is more effective and send the remaining 50% of your list the best performing version.

When you’ve written a subject line that you’re happy with, you can then click next and begin choosing your newsletter template. After choosing one that you like the look of you’ll end up in the newsletter designer window, which looks something like this.


Using the drag and drop editor, you should be able to easily customize your newsletter so that it fits with the branding and design of your business. Once you’ve designed your first newsletter and have written what you want to say, it’s time to send it out to your list!

And that’s all there is to it! From here, you should find time every month or perhaps every two weeks to create a newsletter to send out to your followers. Each time, you will hopefully have more subscribers to send your newsletter out to.


Starting a newsletter and building up your mailing list can be incredibly rewarding when done right, so stick with it. As with many great things, it will take time.

However, to maximize your chances of seeing great results, constantly experiment with what works and keep improving all aspects of your email marketing.

I hope the recommendations in this post have been useful. I’m aware that we’ve tried to cover a huge range of things in one post, so don’t be discouraged if it seems overwhelming! At the end of the day, it all comes down to building your list and writing a newsletter that your audience enjoys.