How To Grow Your Mailing List By Over 100% in Two Weeks

If we all squint really hard, this will start to look like me. Right?

I happened into entrepreneurship without anything resembling a business background. What I had instead was a B.A. in Writing, Literature, and Publishing, a good chunk of publishing industry experience, boxes full of how-to books, and a love of the written word. But my abilities as a writer didn’t translate into business success, and so I created my own continuing education.

I read books on freelancing, entrepreneurship, and how to make money as a writer. I read blogs about the business of writing. I even took several online workshops put together by Launch Coach Dave Navarro.

What I learned from most of these resources is that, when building a business, your mailing list is key. That built-in, loyal readership will help you market your products and services more easily than if you were cold-pitching your business every damn day.

I’ve been writing Word Nerd News for over a year now but, two weeks ago, I made my very first attempt to deliberately grow my mailing list and build up the word nerd community. In that space of time, my mailing list grew by over 100 percent. It’s still growing. How’d I do it?

I send out Word Nerd News once a month and, in each issue, I try to deliver something of value to my readers. I write up unique how-to content that has not previously appeared on this blog. I share the stories of seasoned freelance writers and fellow word nerds. I provide additional resources from around the web, and I share content from other writers that I think you’ll find interesting.

Still, many of us are already experiencing inbox overwhelm, and are loath to sign up for yet another newsletter. What’s in it for us? What will we get out of it aside from another email in our inbox?

This is where the “cookie” comes in.

I learned about the cookie through a fantastic video series — How to Failproof Your Business — put together by Dave Navarro and Naomi Dunford. Basically, the cookie is something of value you offer people (aside from just your brilliant newsletter). Something with practical application for them, that also showcases your abilities as an expert in your field. It can be an ebook. An industry report. A case study. The most amazing info product ever.

Despite how amazing your info product will inevitably be, after developing it, you don’t charge for it. No. You give it away. Well actually, no. That’s not true. Instead of giving you sweet, sweet money, all the reader has to do in order to receive this fantastic freebie is sign up for your mailing list.

It’s like the gateway drug to future awesomeness, and it’s a win-win for the both of you. You build up a mailing list filled with loyal and devoted readers who inspire you on a day-to-day basis. They receive — and continue to receive, if they stick around — content that improves their lives.

Which is where Freelance Awesome: A Starter Kit came from. I developed an info product based upon processes I myself found helpful in my own business, and then I offered it to my subscribers, urging them to tell their friends about it if they found it helpful, too.

Then — because I didn’t want to rely upon subscriber word-of-mouth alone — I went on a magical mystery blog tour, drawing up guest posts for a slew of bloggers I had long admired… some of whom had been instrumental in my own self-education as a beginning freelancer. I knew our readerships would overlap, and I hoped that creating content for these other readers would eventually lead them to hop on over to my site, sign up for my mailing list, and someday exchange friendship bracelets.

As each new guest post went up, I saw my subscriber base grow.

Do you have a mailing list already? You should get on that if you don’t. (I use MailChimp for mine, and I love it.) If you do have a mailing list, ask yourself: What can I offer to subscribers that will really get them fired up?

But before you go and do all that, take a trip up on my magical mystery blog tour. Here are all the places I was at when I wasn’t here:

I did up a post for Michelle Rafter’s WordCount blog on the 5 Steps to Freelance Awesomeness.

I told Brazen Careerist readers how they, too, could become freelance hardasses and get paid what they’re worth.

I came up with some creative ways to pay the bills over at Thursday Bram’s blog.

I shared tips on building an author platform with the readers of Lisa Romeo Writes.

I told Susan Johnston’s readers how they could create eight story ideas in one sitting, over at the Urban Muse.

And because I apparently like the number 8, I gave Linda Formichelli’s readers eight different ways to find accountability as a freelance writer, over at the Renegade Writer blog.

I did a podcast on putting together a freelance startup plan, over at Carol Tice’s Freelance Writers Den. You can access a recording of the podcast by registering for Carol’s online community.

And finally — in a bit of fortuitous timing, and having nothing to do with my blog tour — I gave advice on how to choose a writing coach (again at Susan’s blog), I showed Kristin Offiler’s readers my super-exciting home office, I gave networking advice to the introverts who read DMAG (check out page 16) and, in a happy surprise, I realized that Stephanie Dickison had highlighted me and my blog on page 23 of The Writer‘s March 2012 issue, as one of the blogs that are “worth a writer’s time.” (!)

Whew! That was exhausting. Enjoy your tour. Me? I need more coffee.

Related: How To Get Rid of Query Fear Once and For All, 12 Ways to Market an Ebook, Guest Posting: Pitch Like It’s the Glossiest Glossy Mag Out There