How to Create an Email List for Your Business

June 9, 2021

Did you know that in terms of ROI (return on investment), email marketing can yield the highest payoff? According to DMA, that return was about $40 per $1 spent in 2019. It’s a no brainer. Imagine there was a machine at your local grocery store that spit out a $10 bill for every quarter you […]


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Did you know that in terms of ROI (return on investment), email marketing can yield the highest payoff? According to DMA, that return was about $40 per $1 spent in 2019. It’s a no brainer. Imagine there was a machine at your local grocery store that spit out a $10 bill for every quarter you inserted… I’d be flipping over every couch cushion in my house looking for more quarters to exchange.

But here’s the deal, you’re probably here because you know how powerful a strong email marketing strategy can be. You already know that social media marketing is wonderful and all, but it’s not a space you own. At any moment, that Instagram business account could just *poof* disappear. But rather than renting, building your email list is like building a house on a strong soil… it sets your business up for long term security.

While this is is really a guide to email marketing for beginners, by the time you reach the end, you’ll feel anything but! We’ll discuss four tangible steps to get you on your way to that dream house (erm… email list). Ready? Let’s break ground. I’m going to show you exactly how to create an email list.

What is an email list?

Skip this section if you’re already savvy. In short, an email list is a compilation of email addresses collected from prospective customers and community members. It allows you to communicate to all who are interested in what you offer or what you do at once.

To legally communicate with the people on this list, they will have to agree to receive emails from you. So, if you think you can just pull all the emails from past clients and add them to your list, you’re mistaken. There is a difference between transactional emails (that you’d use to provide a service / product) and marketing emails. If you want past clients to join your email list, they’ll have to agree to it. If you don’t take this step, you could be in violation of GDPR laws.

So, how do we ensure we cover our bases from a legal perspective without making it awkward for new email signups? The easiest way is to select an email marketing software!

how to create an email list

Step 1: Select Your Email Marketing Software

Which one is best? This is totally up for debate and depends on your goals. There are dozens of options out there. I’m going to break down two options I think are great for beginners. I mean, what good is the perfect email marketing software if you’re too intimidated to use it? Let’s take a look at Flodesk vs Mailchimp…


By far, the biggest perk of Mailchimp vs Flodesk is that Mailchimp is free up to 2000 subscribers (members of your email list). To unlock features or house more subscribers, you will have to pay more. Prices increase based on how many subscribers you have – getting more expensive the more you add. Because it’s free to start, it’s a great option for someone who just wants to explore the idea of an email list. In fact, it’s the first email marketing software I started with.

While it did it’s job (sending emails, legally collecting subscriber information, etc.), it was not super user friendly. Every time I scheduled an email or created an automated sequence, I stressed about whether or not I made mistakes that would make me look dumb. Full disclosure, they have cleaned up their user experience a bit. That said, I still prefer Flodesk.


I transferred all of my subscribers over to Flodesk in 2020. During my free trial, a few things completely stood out to me about this software:

  • I was much more confident in sending emails and setting up automated campaigns / funnels. Their backend is so visual, I could literally see the process that would unfold when someone signed up. As a creative, this helped tremendously.
  • Writing and scheduling emails took me a fraction of the time it used to on Mailchimp. In order to make my emails look nice before, I’d spend time creating graphics in Canva and then inserting them into the email. With Flodesk, I just grab one of their pre-made layouts, plug, and play. They even make it easier with the option to save your brand elements (such as colors and logos) for quick access and recognizability.
  • I also noticed my subscriptions grew because my landing pages looked much more legit.

The only downfall to Flodesk is that the pages where someone can opt into your email list don’t have a customizable URL option. It’s pretty easy to work around that by embedding the form into your website, but I enjoyed having that feature built in on Mailchimp.

If you want to try Flodesk for free for a month, click here to use my code. If you decide it’s a good fit for you, you’ll get 50% off forever and I’ll receive a small commission. I only share products I use myself and truly love. The nice thing about Flodesk is that as you grow, the price remains the same (unlike most other email marketing software options).

Step 2: Create Your Email Opt-In

We get a lot of emails in a day. So many, in fact, that I literally have an email address dedicated to junk emails. That said, when I get an email from a company I love, I’m excited to be in the inside scoop / get discounts. The number one key to building your email list is having an offer worth trading an email address for.

Almost no one is going around just giving their email out for fun, so having something of value they can get in return for their email address is vital. If you’re getting a little intimidated, stick with me. This doesn’t have to be anything massive. It just has to feel valuable to them.

Think of something you’re naturally phenomenal at as it relates to your business. Maybe it’s choosing colors, picking outfits for a photoshoot, meal planning, getting organized, or something else that’s just as simple… Whatever it is, you’ll want to create a free resource around that topic that will help get your ideal client a quick win.

Here are a few opt-in (AKA freebie or lead magnet) ideas:

  • Checklists
  • E-Book
  • Online Training or Webinar
  • Printable PDF
  • Quiz
  • Small Samples from a Paid Digital Product
  • Free Sample of a Paid Physical Product
  • Giveaway Entry
  • Exclusive Discounts
  • First Dibs / Access to an Upcoming Offer

How to Create an Opt-In Freebie in Canva

Not all of these ideas will even require you to make something, but for those that do (such as the checklist), a great place to start is on Canva. You don’t have to be a designer to make it look good because there are so many FREE templates that will allow you to plug and play!

If you don’t find any you like, you can also visit Creative Market for templates created by designers. Just be mindful that you’ll have to pay for those. Lastly, if you’re new to Canva, you may want to watch this video about how to create an email opt-in in Canva.

Again, don’t stress about it being perfect from an aesthetic standpoint. People will value the information and quick win way more than your color choices!

Step 3: Create Your Opt-In Page & Automations

Once you have your freebie exported, you can go back to whatever email marketing software you signed up for and create an opt-in page. Your opt-in page will be a designated URL that people can visit to sign up for your email list in exchange for your freebie.

Depending on the software you’re using, this opt-in page may be referred to as a landing page. In Flodesk, it’s referred to as a form and they’re super easy to make because there’s only one template to fill in. Again, if you’re hoping to make it more branded, you could create a landing page with an embedded code on your site down the road. For now, let’s stick with done being better than perfect. A cottage on solid ground you own is better than a penthouse that you can be evicted from at any point.

To set up your first opt-in form on Flodesk, you can follow these steps.

Once you have your opt-in form created, you can work on setting up the backend automation. It sounds a lot more intimidating than it is. Basically, you want to set up a workflow that automatically sends the freebie to each person who signs up. Unless you want to waste your time sending them each one by one and make people wait so long they forget about you by the time they receive your email, this is necessary.

If you need help setting up your first workflow and want to feel confident it’s done correctly, head here.

Step 4: Promote Your Opt-In

You’ve set up your email list software. You created your freebie. And you even set your automations so you don’t have to stress about it. Now, it’s time to tell the world about your amazing free resource and get that house (email list) built brick by brick (subscriber by subscriber).


I’m very passionate about the power of blogging over here. Not only from an SEO standpoint, but also because blogs can be an incredible way to point people to your email opt-ins. Consider writing a couple of blog posts that are related to your opt-in and encourage people to snag your freebie (via a provided link) if they want to take their knowledge further / put it into action.


I also HIGHLY recommend using Pinterest to promote your freebie. Because Pinterest is a search engine (yep, you read that correctly), people can search for what they need. If your freebie ISN’T on there, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Help the people who need you FIND your resources. One pin can perform well for months or years rather than just the few minutes we see from social media. If you’re sold and want to learn more about Pinterest marketing / promoting your opt-in on that app, read this past blog about getting started.


As a creative, you likely already have an Instagram account for your business, so why not use it! Share your opt-in page in the link in your bio OR better yet, make it so easy to sign up, it’s a no brainer. Talk about your freebie in stories and a post or two and ask people to drop an emoji if they want the link to sign up! You can DM each person the link and watch the subscriber count on your email list climb!

Final Tips

Creating an email list can feel daunting, but it’s so worth it once it’s set up. Try not to get intimidated. Truly, take this one step at a time… even if it means working on one step each day until it’s done. Again, if you had to hike a mile to get a 40x return dollar for dollar, I bet you’d do it. Your email list is no different. And remember, done is better than perfect.

If you want more help with how to create an email list, don’t hesitate to shoot me a DM on IG or sign up for a strategy session. I’m here to help you shine!

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From an awkward teen with a camera in hand to a data-driven, family-first, mocktail-loving creative business coach... I've learned a lot in my 14 years of entrepreneurship & I can't wait to help you thrive!

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