Mistakes New Freelancers Must Avoid When Building An Email Marketing List

Avoid these email marketing mistakes to maintain good list etiquette, build better relationships with your email subscribers, and avoid spam complaints.

There is a huge problem with business owners and email marketing that absolutely drives me crazy. Frankly, it’s a problem that should have gone away years ago, but as new people decide to start a business, they also want to start building an email list, and they either aren’t aware of the big no-nos or they just don’t care. I like to think it’s the first reason.

What am I talking about?

Adding people to your email list without first gaining permission!

I am appalled at how many email lists I get added to after attending networking events and conferences. I am also disgusted at the number of people who think that a connection on LinkedIn means I also want an email newsletter. I didn’t opt-in on their website, I didn’t ask to be added to their list, and I didn’t purchase anything. Yet suddenly I’m subscribed to their email newsletter.

This has happened so many times that I changed my entire approach to business cards and live events:

  • If I bring my business cards, I only give them to people I really want to stay in touch with. When someone asks me for my business card and we haven’t made a great connection or even had a great conversation, I simply tell them I didn’t bring any.
  • Often, I leave my business cards at home. This way, if I make a solid connection with someone, I can ask them for their business card or contact information and follow up with them after the event — for everyone else, if they really want to follow up, I’m easy to find online and all of my contact information is on my website.

This has made an enormous difference in the amount of spam I get after live events with the added bonus of slowing down how fast I go through each order of business cards.

Second, when the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) became the thing everyone was most concerned about in spring of 2018, some business owners and consumers thought it would help reduce spam and unsolicited email sales promotions. But let’s face it, GDPR has only made things worse by clarifying exactly what types of emails businesses can send without consent. Now spam is being justified by its “legitimate business interest” and I’m getting more spam and email newsletters I didn’t sign up for than ever.

Email Marketing Mistakes To Avoid

Here are basic email marketing mistakes you need to ditch to maintain good email marketing list etiquette, build better relationships with your email subscribers, and avoid spam complaints:

  1. Collecting a business card at an event doesn’t give you permission to add someone to your email marketing list.
  2. Subscribing to someone else’s list doesn’t mean you get to add them to your list. It was your choice to subscribe, give the other person the same option.
  3. Do not automatically add everyone you know to your email newsletter list. Respect overcrowded inboxes and give people a choice of how to receive your information.
  4. Not including an unsubscribe link in your email messages or hiding the unsubscribe link makes people despise you. Do not make it hard for people to unsubscribe.
  5. Never share your email list with any other person or business unless those opting in are told in a very prominent and clear manner that they will be added to multiple lists.
  6. Do not email your list every day unless the expectations are set clearly upfront that they are subscribing to daily messages.
  7. Connecting with a person through social media doesn’t mean you can spam them with your email marketing promotions.
  8. Don’t fly by the seat of your pants. Plan out a content calendar for your email newsletter and keep the content focused, on brand, and in alignment with the expectations set in your opt-in offer.
  9. Be careful when using images in your email newsletter because your images may not display. Think about what a subscriber will experience if the images aren’t visible.
  10. Do not stuff your newsletter with a slew of products you’re promoting for an affiliate commission. Subscribers don’t mind a joint venture promotion every once in a while, but if you do it too much, you’ll lose subscribers.
  11. Manually managing unsubscribes dramatically increases the chances that you’ll accidentally email someone who no longer wants to hear from you. Make sure you use an email marketing service that process unsubscribe requests immediately.
  12. Respect your email list. Do not waste subscribers’ time with filler, glossy content, hype-filled sales pitches, and slick sales messages. Provide relevant, timely, and valuable information they can use right away.
  13. Don’t email your list whenever you feel like it. Create a publishing schedule and stick to it. For example, my email newsletter goes out once a week on Saturdays.
  14. Always have a purpose for emailing your list. Never just send an email to send an email. Make every email you send to subscribers worth their time and effort to open it and always include a call to action.
  15. Don’t take unsubscribes personally. It’s okay if your content isn’t a fit for everyone. It’s actually better to have a smaller list of people who really love what you’re doing than a bigger list of people who aren’t really paying attention. Also, don’t take it personally if your friends don’t subscribe. They may just prefer to follow what you’re up to in another way, like through social media.

Treat Others How You Want To Be Treated

When it comes to your freelance business and email marketing, follow that rule your mom taught you: Treat others how you want to be treated. That means skipping the smarmy, spammy tactics marketers use to trick people and sticking to professional tactics that put the subscriber first.

Some links used on this site are “affiliate links.” If you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

About Jennifer Bourn

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Bourn is founding partner at Bourn Creative, a full service design and development company specializing in WordPress. With twenty years in the industry under her belt, she is an award-winning designer who consults on branding, website strategy, and content strategy. Jennifer speaks often, delivering workshops and keynote presentations, blogs about food and travel at Inspired Imperfection, co-organizes the Sacramento WordPress Meetup and WordCamp Sacramento, and writes often for other websites on freelancing, client services, blogging, marketing, websites, and branding.

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