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Building Your Email List with Jeff Goins


If there’s one thing most of our successful creators have in common - from writers to filmmakers - it’s that they have built a direct and personal line to their audience through an email list. And not necessarily huge lists, mind you. Author Nathan Barry had a very successful launch for his App Design Handbook with only 795 subscribers.

Needless to say, we think email is really important to building a relationship with your audience, and so we set out to get the best information on how to do it well. This brought us to visit writer Jeff Goins in Nashville. Jeff has built an email list of over 100,000 subscribers, and also helps others creatives build their audiences authentically. In this video series, he dishes on everything from opt-ins to making sales.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

  1. Creating your email plan
  2. Getting subscribers
  3. Crafting engaging content
  4. Tips for building your list and keeping it healthy
  5. Scaling, selling, and closing thoughts

1. Creating your email plan

A good plan starts with a clear purpose. In this video, Jeff walks you through how to create your email plan by honing in on your mission, who your audience is, and how you can make it worth their time and attention.

Ready to dive in and create your plan? Here are the six questions to ask yourself (the sixth is discussed in the next video, Getting Subscribers). We’ve put together a handy downloadable worksheet for you to record your answers. It contains more detail on each question and several examples to help you along.

the plan

Six steps to creating your email plan:

  1. Why are you writing a newsletter?
  2. Who is it for?
  3. How will you delight them?
  4. What will your format be?
  5. When will you send it?
  6. Where can people sign up?

Download the email plan template

2. Getting subscribers

In this video, Jeff walks us through everything you need to implement your plan, from the tools he uses to where to put your signup forms, to the types of things you can offer readers as a bonus for signing up.

You’re now ready to set up your list. We recommend using Mailchimp, Convertkit, or Gumroad - all three are simple to use and quick to get started. When creating your opt-in form, make sure you have the following elements:

getting subscribers

Anatomy of a great opt-in form:

  • Headline: Grab the attention of your target audience with a statement that addresses their specific problems, wants, or needs.
  • Description: Elaborate on your benefit here. What’s in it for your reader? Also let them know how often to expect your emails.
  • Image: Capture attention by including a picture of yourself or something relevant to your business.
  • Opt-in form: Less is more. Just ask for email address to get the highest conversions.
  • (Optional) Proof: Include your number of subscribers, testimonials, press mentions, etc. to convince people to join.
  • (Optional) Reward: Deliver an immediate reward for signing up, such as a free ebook, report, or song. The ideal reward is something small that only takes about 15-30 minutes to consume.

3. Crafting engaging content

Here we talk about the type of content Jeff sends out and how he formats it. He then dives into drip campaigns and how he started his extremely successful 31 day writing challenge, called My 500 Words. If you’re just getting started, issuing a challenge of some kind is a great way to get your list off the ground.

Above all, remember when creating your content that there are humans on the other end. Use email to initiate a conversation and not just broadcast yourself. When you ask for replies, you get to know what resonates with your audience and are better able to craft content that’s relevant to them.

ask listen learn

4. Tips for growing your list and keeping it healthy

In this video, Jeff talks about how to welcome people to your list, some tips for optimizing your subject lines, and how to handle unsubscribes. We also chat about what metrics you should be paying attention to.

Jeff suggests that you welcome your new subscribers, you should orient them and immediately begin a connection. We couldn’t agree more. Here’s an example of what a welcome sequence could look like, inspired by Jeff’s own newsletter:

  • (Day 1) Welcome them. Share your bonus and/or best articles, and let people know what to expect from your list. Paul Jarvis’ welcome email is a great example of this.
  • (Day 2) Tell your story and ask people to reply to share theirs.
  • (Day 7) Share your resources page if you have one. Here’s Jeff’s as an example.
  • (Day 21) Send another bonus, and ask how they liked the last one.


5. Scaling, selling, and closing thoughts

In this final video, Jeff talks about what he's changed as his list has grown. Then, at 7:10, we get into the tough question of how to sell a product to your list, and Jeff shares his strategy for launching his upcoming book to his own list. Finally, we leave off with Jeff's words of wisdom for someone who is just getting started.

For more information on how to approach selling to your audience via email, check out this fantastic post by Nathan Barry, particularly the section on “The Launch Sequence.”

Jeff leaves us with some thoughts on paying attention to what others are doing and experimenting for yourself. In the spirit of his suggestion, we put together a list of lists that inspired this guide. We hope they inspire you too:

Happy emailing! If you found this helpful, please share it with a friend who wants to start their email list too. We also would love to hear from you. Send us your thoughts to

Oh, and before you go, don't forget to download your email plan template.

email plan template

Download the email plan template

Jeff Goins is a writer who lives in Nashville with his family. He is the author of The In-Between, a short memoir about the importance that waiting plays in our lives. You can find him online at his award-winning blog, Goins, Writer or on Twitter @JeffGoins.