Building an Email List is Not for the Faint of Heart

List building takes work. But it's worth it.

Building an email list is a critical part of building an online presence. It doesn’t matter if you’re a blogger or starting a small mom and pop store. You need an email list. Absolutely NEED an email list.

But I don’t want you to have the idea that it’s all sunshine and roses. Growing a list of subscribers isn’t for the faint of heart. I would dare say it’s one of the easiest and most difficult things you will ever do online.

Wipe that confused look off your face.

I’m serious.

Stop laughing.

As a young marketer, I had this idea that building an email list was a path to instant success, and that there’s really not much to learn.


Today I know that’s a bunch of crap.

Young me didn’t do well. I didn’t realize just how demanding this game is. Even so, it’s one I wholeheartedly recommend. There really is no better business plan on the Internet than building a list of your own email subscribers.

Just make sure you know what you’re getting into.

Building a List Takes Time and Effort

The actual steps required for building a list aren’t difficult. All told, you could get the building blocks in place in an afternoon pretty easily. But that’s not the end of the story.

What most people will teach as “list building” is only a microscopic piece of the puzzle.

I’ll be real with you, ladies and gentlemen. If you want to do this thing right, expect to put in no small amount of time and effort.

You’ve got to be willing to work. You have to be willing to put in the time. Go grab a mirror and look in it. The person you see staring back is the one who’s going to build your business.

No one is going to do this for you.

It Takes Patience

I wish I could tell you that building a list happens overnight. But, that’s not realistic.

Sure, you can easily add subscribers quickly once you have your landing page and funnel in place. No doubt. But there is much more to do.

The real action is slow.

You still have to

  • Introduce yourself
  • Gain trust
  • Get to know your subscribers
  • Provide insane value
  • Get feedback
  • Continue building the relationship

And all this takes time and careful attention to detail. I wish it were instant. I so wish it were instant.

I’m what some people call a stat watcher. I’m obsessed with analytics and statistics. Almost immediately after I hit publish on a new post or email campaign, my eyes are glued to my Google Analytics or campaign statistics. I want real results really fast. I’m not a patient person, I guess.

I have to remind myself, “This stuff takes time” and be patient. As they say, “a watched pot never boils.”

Building an email list is a long game. If you understand nothing else in this post, I want you to understand this point.

If you rush any part of the process, you’ll be disappointed with the results. Take your time and be patient.

It Takes Guts

I used to have the worst stage fright. The idea of getting up on stage and performing for people was terrifying.

“What if they don’t like me?”

“What if I mess up?”

“What if….”

The Internet is bigger. So much bigger.

The first time I got on camera to record a video for a landing page, I choked. “Am I even cut out for this?”

Crap. I can’t even get my words straight.

“Deep breath,” I told myself. “I can do this.”

That video converted crazy well. But man that was hard for me. Maybe you’re naturally gifted in that area. I’m not.

Whether you get on camera or not, putting yourself out there to create content for people can be terrifying. That crowd of 100 friends and family members is tiny compared to the potentially millions of people who could find what you hav to offer. It takes guts to get on that massive stage, putting yourself in front of thousands – or even millions.

But you know what? It’s a lot of fun once you get the hang of it.

It Takes Thick Skin

You’re taking a risk. Some people aren’t going to like your work. They’ll hate your videos. Find your content irrelevant. Not want what you have offer.

After you’ve put hours and hours of work into a lead magnet and trying to provide value, not everyone’s gonna love it.

Sorry if that’s a shock to your system.

The sooner you prepare for that reality, the better off you’ll be.

I’ve been at this game for a bit, so I’ve had my share of rejection. It really stung at first. I’ve always been sensitive to criticism, so it hurt. But that’s the nature of the game.

Really that’s the nature of life. You can’t please everybody. No matter what you do, no matter how well you do it, someone somewhere won’t be happy.

And that’s okay. Just do the best you can do.

It Takes Persistence

As the famous saying goes, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

Yep. It starts with one, but it doesn’t stop with one. Building a list is a journey, one with many steps and many pieces.

If you’re going to build a list, be prepared to take step after step after step. You’ll have days when you don’t feel like going any further. Push on anyway.

Understand that getting subscribers is only the beginning of the list building process. That’s the first step. No doubt, an important step, but only one of many.

You still have miles to go before you rest.

If you stop, you lose.

It Takes Trial and Error

What I teach you on this site isn’t theory. It’s real, actionable material. I can tell you how to build a landing page or how to create an awesome opt-in, but only you know your target audience. You know their thoughts and desires. You know what they want. No one else can answer that for you.

Will your landing page convert better if it’s red or magenta? Split test. Try both and see which does better.

Do your subscribers prefer longer emails or shorter emails? Try a few of each and see.

While much of email marketing is a science, much is art. My subscribers are not your subscribers. What gets a warm reception from my subscribers may be met less favorably by yours – and vice versa.

As you grow your list, you’re going to have to do a bit of testing. Good ol’ trial and error. In order to get optimal results, tweak this and that and see what works best for you.

Often, this means having to think outside the box. “I wonder… if I move this to the other side of the page, would it help or hurt?” “What if I make this headline bigger?” Etc.

I think this trial and error stuff is fun. I love being creative. But a lot of people hate it because they’re afraid of breaking things.

Get In the Right Headspace

As I’ve said before – and will continue to say – building an email list is a lot of fun. I highly recommend it for anyone and everyone who wants to build an online presence. Doesn’t matter if you’re a solopreneur or a business. Without a list, you’re crippling your effectiveness. Don’t do that to yourself.

I think list building is some of the most fun you can have online.

But you have to understand what is required of you. Understand that you need to be patient and work hard. You’re going to have to split test and figure out what works best for your subscribers. And ultimately, you have to stick with it. This is a long game – not a sprint. You’ll have some days that seem to be nothing but obsessively clicking refresh, waiting for results. Other days will feel like juggling 3 balls and a zoo.

I know that’s a lot to take in. But don’t let it stop you from kicking butt and taking names. Literally.