by Robyn Roste
If you spend any time studying online marketing you’ve come across advice to start an email list. And if you’re a typical freelancer who gets most of your work from referrals you may think you don’t need one.
I get it. On the surface it doesn’t make sense. Why would you collect random subscribers when your work comes through different channels? And why would you spend time sending emails when you don’t need many clients to run your business?
Email lists can be good for your freelance business. If you can create an environment where your email subscribers enjoy hearing from you and find your content relevant and applicable, you position yourself to be the first person they think of when they’re looking for a freelancer.
Here are six reasons why having an email list makes sense for freelancers.
1. An email list nurtures potential clients who aren’t ready to hire you…yet
Let’s say someone hears about you on social media and checks out your website. While they like what they see they don’t need your services quite yet, but they will in a few months. An easy way for this potential client to keep you in mind is by joining your email list. If you don’t have an email list you’re depending on them to remember who you are when the time comes to hire a freelancer. And while they might, the odds are they won’t.
2. An email list helps people who are on the fence about hiring you
When you keep showing up in someone’s inbox with compelling content, you build a relationship with your subscribers and they begin to know, like, and trust you. Maybe you have someone on your list who needs a freelancer but isn’t sure you’re the right fit and isn’t ready to reach out. Nurturing this person through regular emails is an effective way to build trust and demonstrate your expertise. And it may convince them to give you a call.
3. An email list is a great way to stay in touch with previous clients
Even if you had the best working relationship, after a few years clients forget who their freelancers were. Or they lose your email address. Or they forget your website URL. By keeping in touch with past clients through an email list you save yourself the trouble of sending one-to-one emails and instead communicate through your regular newsletter, keeping yourself top-of-mind should the opportunity arise to hire you again.
4. An email list helps you build authority in your niche
When you’re considered an expert you can charge more and, in general, choose your clients. When you send regular emails filled with advice and helpful information this builds you up as an expert in your subscriber’s minds. This has to be done with care since you need to come at it from your client’s point of view—what would they find useful and informative? What type of advice do they need? What problems are they desperate to solve?
5. An email list helps you avoid the freelancer feast or famine cycle
Many freelancers approach marketing as something you do when you need clients. But this approach leads to getting a lot of gigs at once followed by an overflowing schedule only to have the projects finish and have no new work. Mentioning you have room for one or two new projects to your email list is a great way to keep consistent work coming in so you maintain an easy-to-manage schedule. By limiting the amount of work you’re looking for it also creates a sense of scarcity and urgency, which helps motivate people to reach out. This is also a great place to mention if your rates are rising so people can hire you before the increase.
6. You own your email list
Perhaps you get a lot of leads from social media and you figure you don’t need an email list because you have enough work. But what if those networks disappear? What if there’s an algorithm change and you stop getting leads? You don’t own your social media profiles but your email list is yours forever.
When you’re getting started, sending snippets of your latest blog posts, articles, podcasts, or videos is an easy way to get in the habit of sending email and get your audience used to hearing from you. After time you’ll also be able to figure out what your audience responds to and what type of help they need to move their business forward. While best practice recommends sending weekly newsletters you can send more or less if it suits your business better—just make sure it’s consistent.
Now how do you get people to sign up for your email list? You give them a reason to! What’s something you are asked for advice on all the time? Create a short e-book or checklist with your advice and give it away for free in exchange for someone signing up for your email list. Or, you can do what I’ve done below and offer a free tip sheet in exchange for your email address.
Having an email list can be useful for your freelance business, if you can figure out why you’re doing it. Determining a goal for your newsletter comes down to deciding what’s most important to your business and focusing on that, whether it’s increasing awareness for you and your work, generating leads, or staying in touch with clients.
Robyn Roste is passionate about helping freelance writers market themselves online. She has created a free tip sheet with five easy ways freelancers can optimize their social media profiles.
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