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"Sign up NOW for . . . oh, never mind. Carry on."
I know, I know. Email lists are prime real estate if you're an authorpreneur looking to sell more of your books, or if you're an affiliate marketer wanting to earn some serious coin promoting other people's great stuff in your emails.
I remember all the emails I got when the Genius Blogger's Toolkit was on sale. I unsubscribed from some lists, just because they emailed me about it every freaking day!
(I'd actually bought the bundle, as an affiliate, before it went on sale -- and yeah, it's pretty awesome. It'll take me a while to get through it all).
While I'm still happy to share links to things I've bought and that I would recommend to you -- in this blog and on social media -- I don't expect affiliate marketing to be my primary source of income. I wouldn't mind if it were a significant source, though.
There are some aspects -- and types -- of affiliate marketing that I like more than others. If I can earn something by sharing things I can stand behind 100% -- great! I have no problem with that. But affiliate marketing can be overdone, whether it's by email, blog post, or social media.
There's a limit to how many sales pitches the average person can tolerate without getting queasy or annoyed. And I want to tell some of these people, "Please do NOT pester me every day about buying your (or someone else's) epic stuff, unless you want me to unsubscribe."
Ask me once or twice, and I probably won't. Ask me every day until the sales window closes (or the promotion ends), and I just might -- unless I really like the sound of what you're selling, and I'm thinking, "This could really help me in the long run with my freelance writing (or blogging or something else I'm really into)." In which case, you probably won't have to ask me more than once. Okay, maybe twice.
You get it, right?
But as much as everyone seems to be telling us that we need to have an email list -- full of interested subscribers whom we can reach any old time -- I've yet to put as much work into building my list as I'm told I should be putting into it.
And it comes down to priorities -- and to personal preferences when it comes to communicating with other humans. And to fear. More on that later.
"The money's in the list"
Just about every published author out there, now, is told they need an email list if they want to get some serious attention focused on their new books when they're getting ready to launch them. I started my first email list when I was getting ready to launch my first book, The Hypothyroid Writer.
But after I'd launched the book, I checked to see how many subscribers I had left, and I had one. And it was me.
That was back in early November of 2016 -- about a year ago. And I haven't worked too hard to build an email list since then, mostly because I only have so many hours in the day, and I didn't want to put so much energy into writing emails to a group of people, pretending to write to each of them personally, when I really wasn't.
I didn't have something useful to share with my list, so I thought, "Why write anything at all?
Which made me wonder again: "Why do I need to build an email list?"
And I came up with five reasons why I keep hitting a wall with this supposedly essential part of doing business online.
Reason #1: My focus is more on freelance writing
Though I’m a blogger, too, and I still earn royalties off my books, I'm working on making freelance writing (and my other freelance services) my primary source of income.
Freelance writers don't really need an email list (as far as I know). It's not a bad thing to have, especially if you're also a blogger or a self-publishing author. But, for me, it's not high on the priority list. Because, again, I have a limited amount of time each day to work on my writing business. And I'd rather spend that time writing (or editing, or formatting, or transcribing) for clients or for this blog.
If you communicate with me this way, I know I can truly address you personally in a response. With an email sent out to hundreds or even thousands of subscribers (that was a joke -- at my expense), it feels more like I'm trying to write a mini blog post, which doesn't really work with email. It just feels like I'm wasting your time, unless I have something useful to share.
And I'd rather share that in a blog post, unless it's really personal.
I expect a blog post to read like a blog post, and I expect an email to read more like a letter or as an advertisement for something or as part of an email course. An email sent to a crowd of people is not a mini blog post, and it's not a personal letter.
With as little time as I like to spend on email, I delete most of those that don't look useful to me (after a brief scan) or that aren't actually addressed personally to me.
Reason #2: MailerLite
My email client doesn’t allow affiliate links in my email, anyway, and since my main focus is freelance writing, I’m not going to pay for ConvertKit or AWeber. I currently pay ZERO DOLLARS for MailerLite, since I have (way) fewer than 1,000 subscribers, and since I've yet to send anything useful to my list -- and I still don't know what to send them -- I see no point in paying more than that.
Yes, I've heard great things about ConvertKit and how it's created with bloggers in mind.
But MailerLite has everything I really need in an email client (at least right now), and the fact that it's free -- for me and others with <1,000 subscribers -- is a huge help. I also love that it allows me to create landing pages, and I much prefer their opt-in forms and form-builder to AWeber's.
Reason #3: I have no idea what to send my subscribers.
This again. I keep coming back to it.
Because I've got nothing. And when I've poured so much time and energy into a blog post, the last thing I want to write is another mini blog post to send out to my email list. And I don't have the time.
If I have to choose between writing or editing something for a freelance client and getting a new blog post written, I'll choose the client's project -- every time.
And if I have to choose between writing a new blog post and writing an email to my list, I'm gonna pick the blog post.
I can create a lead magnet that people can sign up for -- but once they're signed up, . . . I don't know what to send them.
I say this not to tell any of my subscribers reading this to unsubscribe but to explain and apologize for not being the email hostess I should be. You deserve better.
Right now, I've got too many irons in the fire, and none of them carry the name "email marketing."
Reason #4: It doesn't feel personal.
Emailing a list of people doesn’t feel personal to me at all. So, when I read blog posts that tell me to “get personal” in an email, I cringe. I usually delete emails (sent to a more or less huge list) that are all about the senders and what's going on in their lives -- with maybe an affiliate link or two thrown in.
But if you email me with the same information or with a specific personal concern, I'm more than happy to carefully read your email and respond to it in kind. Because it's a real one-on-one conversation, then. It feels different, because it is.
I'm guessing you (like me) already get plenty of emails, and you probably don't take the time to carefully read through every single one of the emails you receive that are addressed to a crowd rather than to you personally.
It's not personal. It's marketing. And, for the most part, it's pretty easy to dismiss as "just another email trying to sell me something I don't need or want right now."
There are real people behind those mass-marketed emails, though, and some of them are pretty great. I find this out by replying to one of their emails and then receiving a thoughtful and caring response.
The most recent such response came from Daniel Threlfall of Your Success Rocket and of the Launch Your Copy course (which is honestly the most impressive course for freelance writers I've run across in a while, and I've checked out several).
So, I don't mean that those who use email marketing are less genuine, because many of them are as genuine as you'd want them to be.
The problem here is mainly with me: I have an internal barrier that I crash into when I'm trying to write to a group of people who've subscribed hoping to receive emails that are worth waiting for. I don't want to disappoint you or waste your time. And I'm faced with the following options:
- Email you -- using an idea from one of the blog posts I've read on "what to send your list" -- and risk disappointing you or wasting your time.
- Don't email you (leave you hanging) and risk disappointing you.
- Email you to let you know I'm struggling to know what to send you.
Honestly, I'm leaning toward the last option. Because I am struggling with this. And it may just be a confidence issue, because that has always been my personal Mt. Everest.
Reason #5: The blog posts I've read about what to send your list aren't helping.
I’ve read more than one blog post on ideas for what to send my email list, and I go through the list thinking, “Yeah, I’d just delete that,” or "Oh, hell, just . . . No! . . . don't do that!" or “If I got emails like that from someone (particularly someone unfamiliar to me), I’d probably unsubscribe.”
I won't even talk about the emails I've gotten from email marketers who seem to think using guilt to manipulate me into buying their brand new thing is bound to work . . . not even touching that (except I kind of am), because I get worked up, and nobody wants that.
And the "My <cool new thing> is better than those lattes you spend your money on throughout the year" approach is no better. I don't buy latte's. I buy breves -- which is like a latte but with half-n-half instead of milk -- and usually with an extra shot of espresso. And I probably buy them about twice a year. Rant over.
When it comes to email marketing, I'm like the nerd at a party -- not sure what to say to a new acquaintance, so I offer an appetizer. "You should try these ('cause then, we don't have to talk)."
Sometimes an appetizer can be the gateway to a great conversation; and sometimes, it's just something to keep the mouth busy. It depends on the two people involved.
And, oops, back to email.
Email marketing is (mostly) about selling things, but that doesn't mean it's impossible to make friends through email marketing, because I know from experience that it isn't -- having met some people that way, replied to their emails, and received some very impressive, heartfelt responses.
There are good people out there who also happen to rock email marketing. They make it look good. And what they're selling is usually something that gets my attention. They prove that selling doesn't have to feel icky for either the creator/seller or the potential customer.
So, . . . sour grapes, maybe?
You might be wondering if all this is because I've never actually had a huge email list -- and therefore have no idea what benefits I could derive from having one.
This is possible. If I know me -- and I'm getting pretty well-acquainted, but I still surprise (and embarrass) myself -- I wouldn't be surprised if my avoidance of email list-building had more to do with the fact that I honestly don't know what to do with myself in front of a virtual HUGE audience whose permission to enter their inbox could be withdrawn as easily as it was granted.
Actually, yeah, that's a huge part of it.
I can get weirdly comfortable performing in front of a large audience (that's how I nailed my role as Miss Hearse the Nurse in our 7th grade school play -- Yeah . . . Pretty proud of that), but give me a hundred or so (or five) real but invisible people who are waiting for an email that will somehow make their day better, . . . and (quite obviously), I choke.
So, do I have any idea what it's like to have a huge email list and how that might affect my monthly income? Nope. Not a clue.
Does that make it easier to blow off all the email list-building advice as something that has little or nothing to do with the way I want to run my writing business? I'm gonna say yes. But I'm not ruling out the possibility that I'll someday prove myself wrong.
Is ignorance bliss? It certainly can be. But my avoidance of email marketing comes down to the following three things:
- The investment of time, creative energy, and money into building an email list and maintaining it is more than I'm willing to undertake right now, since I'm focusing more on freelance writing (and other freelance services), which can take a LOT of time.
- I can more easily (and far more enjoyably) communicate with fellow readers and writers through personal email and social media. They're still invisible, but it feels more personal, because we're both voluntarily engaged in a real conversation.
- It scares me. I mean, it really does. It's like a strange package that comes in the mail with no return address, and you think it might be a bomb -- or something totally harmless (and returnable) -- but you just don't know, so you stare at it for a while and consider taking it to the post office to have it x-rayed . . . okay, so it's nothing like that, but it's still scary.
Even if you find my reasoning ridiculous, I did warn you with my title that this post is about the five reasons why this blog is a terrible place to learn about email lists.
We're on the same page about that, right? So, even if you now see me as a cautionary tale, you probably learned something by reading this post.
By the way, it's also a terrible place to learn about making thousands a month as an affiliate marketer. I'm not there, yet, either.
And please know that I'm not presenting myself as an expert on best business practices. I'm still learning, like you, and while I've been writing for many years, I'm always working to improve my writing -- as well as other things I need to do better than I do now.
I'm not an expert or an authority, and I see no point in trying to portray myself as one. I'm a fellow learner and a fellow writer. And a fellow other things, too.
If you wonder what's the point of this ranty, contrarian blog after all, this post answers that question.
Thank you for spending some of your valuable time here, and I hope to read something from you, too.