The Truth About Building Your Email List (& Why Bigger Isn’t Always Better)

Pin this & discover why building an email list may NOT need to be at the top of your goals, especially if you work with clients. Having a huge email list is often touted as the be-all, end-all for entrepreneurs, but for some of us, it’s just a time waster. Find out if you REALLY need to be focusing on growing your email list or if your time is best spent elsewhere (like with your clients!).

Building your email list  – this is the stuff the legends and heartbreak are made of in the online world.

Take, for example, a conversation I had with one of the students in our Double It program (which is opening again in August – yay!).

She asked, “Do I really need an email list?”  

She’s a successful creative entrepreneur who gets paid by working with a handful of clients each year. Her clients tend to come her way by referrals, and she wasn’t convinced she needed an email list.

My answer to her went a little something like this: “It depends.”

Heresy from someone who’s bread and butter is built on email marketing, I know. But it’s the honest truth.

Not everyone needs a massive email list, and some people won’t ever need an email list….ever.

There’s no denying that email marketing is incredibly powerful, but for many business owners it’s a distraction from tasks that can help them build their business right now. For others, it slows their growth as they get so obsessed with the vanity metric of list size when they could be getting paid by clients who’ve got money to spend today.

The real line in the sand about if you need an email list or not comes down to this – what’s the goal of building your list in the first place? And what kind of business are you running anyhow?

Service-Based Business Owners, This One’s For You

When you’re working as a service-based business owner (especially online) you take in a lot of messages about how you MUST have a list or you’re eternally doomed.

You’re not. If you’re planning to keep offering services and you’ve always got a steady stream of clients coming your way, you very well may not need an email list.

I’m the first to admit that my email list at the end of 2015 was only a few hundred people. But my list size was in no way a reflection of my bank account as I brought in over $200k that year.

Not convinced? Maggie will tell you straight up that she didn’t have an email list (or website or blog) for the first 8 years of her consulting business. And her annual revenue was more than $100k every. single. year.

You CAN build a healthy, thriving business without an email list.

I’m not saying you never, ever need an email list. There are certainly some instances where the time and energy of building your list makes perfect sense.

Here are a few scenarios:

You’re Struggling to Get Booked Out

If you’re really struggling with booking clients, having a targeted list of people that are interested in your services can be a game changer. That way you have people to reach out to when things get a little lean or you need to fill an opening in your calendar.

In this case, it’s important to note that this is going to be a longer-term build as the goal is to get the right people on your list. If you really and truly need to hustle to get clients, nothing ever beats one-to-one outreach to past clients, your supporters and other key stakeholders.

You’re Kind of Done With Client Work

You’ve been working with clients for eons and you’re over it. You spend your days dreaming of when you can leverage your expertise through product/course creation and teaching.

No more trading time for dollars for you!

If you’ve got “passive” income in your sights, you need to build your email list starting last week. When you consider that that average conversion rate when selling by email is about 1%, you need a list that’s big enough to sustain your revenue goals.

Too many times, I see business owners launch to a teeny tiny list and have unrealistic expectations about how many people will buy their course or product. Start now and plan for steady growth as you work your way out of providing services.

You’ve Got a Plan that Includes Products/Courses

Maybe your end game isn’t working with clients, and that’s totally okay. You are definitely going to need an email list to make it happen.

Starting early will help you avoid falling into obsessing about building your list to the point of distraction from what’s bringing in cash today.

As you focus on building your list, get okay with the idea of quality over quantity. Yes, you’re going to need a certain number of subscribers to make the math of selling your $297 e-course work, but there’s no point in building a list of people that are wrong for you.

Or acquiring those subscribers at an astronomical cost per lead that cannibalizes your profitability. (File that one under “Facebook ads without a real strategy or the know-how to not set fire to your money”.)

Getting real about building your email list (and if you even need to at all) will save your time and sanity. Take some time now to get crystal clear on WHY you’re building your list before you get carried away with vanity metrics or “shoulds” that don’t really matter to your business.