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#38: The ultimate guide to list-building for beginners

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As much as I love nerding out on the more advanced stuff, the thing is, you don’t get to enjoy that kind of advanced nerdiness unless you’ve got some of the basics in place. 

So, in this week’s episode of The Doing it Online Podcast, we take things back to the start and zone in on everything ‘list building.’ 

If you’re in the beginning phase or the re-starting phase or the “oh shit, I really should get around to that whole list-building caper” phase, this is for you…

The ultimate list-building guide for beginners 

Things you’ll learn in this episode of Doing It Online

  • What open rate you want to be aiming for + how to improve it
  • The difference between a quantity vs quality methods for growing your list + when to use them
  • Plus, my fave tools for list building

 (And MORE – this episode covers a lot of ground.) 

A lot of people that jump into our eCourse Empire program are right at the start of their journey, so, I’ve put together a bunch of questions I get asked on repeat. But essentially, it all comes down to one question: 

‘How do I grow my list?’ 

Think of this as an Ultimate Guide — Q + A style. 

So let’s get into our first question…

Q1: How soon should I start list-building?

Ok, so I get where this question is coming from because when you’re just starting out, you might not even know what your biz or your first offer is going to be. So it can be hard to start emailing people when *you* aren’t even sure what you’re doing… 

But I have 2 thoughts here: firstly, that you simply can’t start too early. It’s just not possible.  No one in the history of online business has said I wish I started building later. 

Secondly, you’re going to pivot in your business eventually anyway. Some people will pivot and go on the same journey with you and some won’t. But the ones that do will be attracted to you and your way of doing things even if the specifics of that does change. All three of my businesses have been so different, but I still have people from the first one who are with me now. (Thanks, guys!) 

So don’t stress, just start. 

Q2: How many people do you need on your list before you can make or sell an offer?

In eCourse Empire – we recommend you have 1000 people on your list before you make your first offer. Which is why it’s important to have your list and interact with them as soon as possible, even if it’s just your mum and your cousin and their cat, just get the list growing and warm. 

1000 can sound really high but it’s not meant to be discouraging, it’s meant to be realistic. Even without a budget, you can reach that number within 3-6 months. And having 1000 people on your list to launch to is going to make sure it’s worthwhile for you. 

I know having a small or non-existent list can be a frustrating place to be in, but even if you have the best offer in the world you can’t sell an offer if you don’t have people you can offer it…to. 


Because truth bomb: launches aren’t the fastest or easiest way to make money, despite what some people say. 

It doesn’t mean you can’t get your stuff out there or be doing 1:1 consulting or coaching. But building a course and the launch itself takes a lot of time and energy. So it’s about being smart and making sure you’ll get the sales in the end. 

It might be a good idea to go and check out last week’s episode (37) on how to go from zero to actually getting clients so you can be making money in the meantime. 

Q3: What’s the quickest way to grow your list?

You’ve got 2 strategies for this, and we take people through both of these in eCourse Empire, but you’ve got what I’d call your quantity strategies and then your quality strategies. 

Quantity strategies (e.g: any kind of JV, competitions etc) can get you subscribers really fast, but a good percentage of those could be ‘freebie seekers’ and unsub after they get their opt-in. You will still pull in some of the right people though and these strategies definitely have their place. 

Quality strategies focus on attracting your most targeted and most ideal clients, through a super high value opt-in, that’s specifically for them. 

I would recommend you sprinkle in a bit of the quantity options through your marketing plan, but keep your main focus on the quality strategies. So for this — create a killer opt-in and promote the pants off it. 

To help you promote it, here’s two quick tips:

  • If you haven’t unlocked the ‘swipe up’ option on instagram, get yourself a pretty link, so that it makes it easy to say, remember and find your opt-in. 
  • Make use of some subtle and smart pop-ups. Check out episode 19 all about how to use pop-ups that don’t suck. 

I have to say, it’s definitely worth listening to in this episode itself, just for this question alone. I go into more detail around creating an awesome opt-in and the fear of over-delivering or giving too much away for free.

Q4: What do I do about unsubscribes?

Well, nothing…

I know it can be hard not to take it personally. But unless there’s a massive disconnect between what people are opting in for and the content you give them after that, it’s ok. Try and wish them well and realise there’s more space in your universe for people who DO want what you have. 

I go into this question a little more in the episode, so go check that out if you want to get a bit more perspective on this one.  

Q5: What’s a good open rate?

A nice and easy question!

So, anything over 20% is considered good for your day to day emails. 

However – for your welcome sequence, as in those first few emails that get sent out when someone opts in,  you want to be trying to get at least a 50% open rate. Because this gives you an idea of how your email delivery is going – are they actually landing in people’s inboxes and they seeing them? If not, you’ll need to reach out to your email service provider. 

Q6: How do I improve my open rate?

2 things you can work on!

  • Consistency: people have to be expecting to hear from you – don’t’ just talk to them when you’ve got something to sell. Come up with a schedule (once, twice, three times a week — whatever works) and stick to it. 
  • Subject lines: try split testing, you should be able to do that with your email provider. We come up with 2 very different subject lines and Active Campaign lets us send out subject line A to 5% of our list and then subject line B gets sent out to 5% and then a few hours later then winning subject line gets sent out to the rest of our list.   

Q7: What are your fave tools for list-building?

Whoever asked this is a girl after my own heart.  

  • Sending emails: I heart Active Campaign. Believe me, I’ve tried them all but Active Campaign is my fave. You only need the lite plan for most things and the functionality is above and beyond. It’s the best in the biz. 
  • And for collecting emails? Thrive Leads promotes opt-ins on blog posts etc, and we also use Convert Box because it works across any platform. It’s not as clever as Thrive Leads, so if you have a WordPress site, opt for Thrive Leads. But if you aren’t using WordPress, Convert Box is great. The other little tool we love is Hello Bar, which collects emails from the top of your site. It’s got a monthly fee, super intelligent and it also works across all platforms. 

And there you have it. Your ultimate list-building guide for beginners! 

The ultimate list-building guide for beginners 

Just remember, every single person who hops onto your list is a human, so whether you have 20 or 30 or 500 — those are all people. That’s still 20 people who’ve said, “You seem cool, I want to hang out with you and learn more about what you do.” 

Focus more on that as you grow your list and your biz community. 


Know your numbers!

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