Learn why every freelancer should build an email list and how to use an email newsletter to connect with subscribers and generate leads.
An email newsletter is one of the best tools you can use to warm-up leads, gain new clients, and make sales. The best part is that it’s not hard to build a high-quality email list full of people who want to hear from you, want to know what you’re up to, and want to buy from you.
Like everyone else, my email list started with less than five people — and even though those five people were friends and family, I was still nervous to send my first official newsletter. But then I hit send and within 30 minutes, I had two new referrals that turned into paying clients.
It was awesome!
After that, I wanted to do it all the time! It was proof that email marketing works.
Today, every client I work with uses email marketing to connect with their communities and prospective clients and customers. And every client wants to grow an email list with more loyal, engaged subscribers because effective email marketing generates leads, referrals, and sales by keeping you top-of-mind with people who are already interested in what you do.
An email newsletter, the most popular form of email marketing, is a must for every freelancer seeking to establish a steady stream of new clients and sales — and if you can write an email to a friend about a cool product, you can publish an email newsletter that brings home the bacon.
The most successful email newsletters focus on forming real, meaningful connections with the real people who subscribe. This means the foundation of successful email marketing is based on the best practices of basic human communication:
- Operate with high integrity and care and deliver what you promise.
- Respect your subscribers and list members and their inboxes.
- Be upfront about your communication and set clear expectations.
- Provide valuable, helpful, high-quality content and insights.
- Help subscribers get to know you better and connect with you.
- Share resources that help subscribers improve or achieve their goals.
- Make it easy for subscribers to unsubscribe at any time with ease.
Email Marketing For Freelancers
As a freelance business owner, you often wear all the hats and shoulder all of the responsibilities in your business, which include generating leads and finding clients. Adding marketing activities to everything else you’re juggling can be overwhelming and exhausting.
The good news is that you don’t have to employ every marketing tactic under the sun. Start with one tactic and make it an email newsletter.
Starting an email newsletter can significantly impact the sales pipeline for a freelance business because it puts you, your expertise, and your services in the inboxes of people who want to hear from you about your business. And there is far less competition for attention in an inbox than there is on social media.
Other ways email marketing benefits you as a freelance business owner include:
- Save money and time with an email newsletter.
Print newsletters and traditional print marketing costs are high when you factor in design, printing, proofing, mail handling, and postage. Going digital with an email newsletter is cost-effective, environmentally friendly, competitive, and fast. Freelancers now have access to the same tools giant brands use, and while direct mail takes days to arrive, email newsletters can be sent almost immediately.
- Increase brand recognition with your target market.
Including your name, business name, and logo, tagline, color palette, brand graphics, and photo in your email newsletter can help build brand awareness and speed up brand recognition. Plus, staying in touch with subscribers regularly ensures they remember you when they need your services.
- Increase credibility by your sharing knowledge.
When you’re a freelancer, you are your brand, which means you are the expert spokesperson for your services. People subscribe to your newsletter because they want to learn from YOU. When you consistently provide helpful and relevant information, insights, tips, tricks, commentary, and lessons in your newsletter, you build trust, strengthen relationships, and increase loyalty — and when that happens, sharing your products, programs, and services is easier and more effective.
- Educate your audience about your services.
Your email newsletter is a place to keep your freelance clients up to date on all of your services. You can share new packages, make special offers, provide subscriber-only deals, and let people know when you have space for new projects in your schedule. This ensures subscribers never forget the different ways you can help them.
- Test and gauge interest in your new ideas.
Freelancers have little to no spare time, which means if you’re going to create something new, like a course or opt-in incentive, you need to know it’s going to work. You need to know it will resonate with your audience and inspire them to act. The easiest way to figure this out is to test the waters first by introducing a topic or new idea to your subscribers and see what kind of response you get.
- Hone your craft and practice your messaging.
Every time you write and send an email to your subscriber community, it’s an opportunity to communicate what you do and what you know in a way that helps others, and every time you do that, you get better at explaining, teaching, and sharing what you do and what you know. This leads to more clarity and confidence.
- Create a new revenue stream for your freelance business.
You can use email marketing to earn revenue that is not tied to your services by selling ad space in your newsletter, selling newsletter recommendations, and even using your email newsletter for affiliate marketing and to recommend and refer products, programs, or services that earn you a commission. Just be sure to confirm your email marketing provider allows affiliate marketing on its platform.
- Attract new freelance opportunities.
Publishing an email newsletter can help you generate new opportunities like strategic partnerships, joint ventures, media interviews, speaking engagements, and more. All it takes is the right person to see your message at the right time. The opportunity may not even come from a subscriber but someone your email newsletter was forwarded to.
Build An Email List For Your Freelance Business
To grow an email list full of subscribers who open your emails because they want to learn from you, see what you’re up to, and gain access to exclusive opportunities — people who could be your clients in the future — you must set up your email marketing foundation and invite people to subscribe.
Get started by following these seven steps:
1. Decide On A Publishing Schedule
Your email newsletter will be an integral part of your marketing calendar, which means it needs to both stand on its own as a valuable asset, and also support other marketing efforts across your business. Consider whether you’ll create and send your newsletter daily, weekly, monthly, or only when you have something important to say.
- Most freelancers start with a weekly newsletter, which allows you to connect with your subscribers on a regular basis without being in their inbox too much. Newsletters typically have multiple sections, a set design, and a call to action. They take more work to create, so sending once a week is more manageable if you have a lot on your plate.
- Recently, a significant number of freelancers have increased their email cadence and moved to a daily email. While your gut instinct may tell you it feels like too much, reports have shown that open rates actually go up when you send daily emails. Daily emails are also less structured and more organic than email newsletters. They typically center around one story or one key thought and are much shorter.
- Monthly newsletters are risky if it’s the only marketing you’re doing because it leaves a big gap between subscriber touchpoints and isn’t as effective at keeping your services top of mind. Monthly newsletters are great if you’re sending other emails and leveraging social media platforms in between sends, and your newsletter is more of a wrap-up of the past month and a look ahead at the coming month.
- Emailing subscribers only when you have news is also risky because the gaps between your communications will be inconsistent and if you go too long without emailing your list, they may forget they subscribed and mark your message as spam. It’s also much harder to build trust, credibility, and loyalty if your email marketing is inconsistent.
2. Choose An Email Marketing Platform
Legitimate businesses don’t send email marketing from their personal email tools.
The from address might be their email address, but the email is sent through an email marketing service provider, not their Gmail, Outlook, or MacMail inbox. Sending email marketing messages to lists of people without using an email marketing service provider is a recipe for disaster and for getting your main email address blacklisted for sending spam. And no freelancer has time to deal with undoing that!
Don’t make this email marketing mistake! It signals to prospective clients that:
- You’re too cheap to spend money on your business or you’re not as successful as you claim to be.
- You’re not confident in your abilities and afraid to invest in your business because your business might not make it.
- You’re out of touch with current laws and regulations, or worse, you know the rules and are choosing to ignore them.
- You don’t respect your subscribers enough to provide them the tools to easily join or leave your email list.
The good news is that email marketing platforms are available at all investment levels, and some even have free tiers to help you get started. With that said, changing email marketing providers is not easy. It can be painful.
Do your due diligence upfront and choose an email marketing platform that has the features you need right now and the features you’ll want in the future. Find a platform that can grow with you as your freelance business and email list grow.
A few things to pay attention to when choosing a platform include:
- Email list management. Make sure the subscribes and unsubscribes are handled for you automatically.
- List segmentation. Look at how lists and tags are used. Do you need multiple lists or will one list segmented with tags work for your business?
- Personalization. How do tags work in terms of personalizing emails? Do you have the ability to create custom fields to gather, store, and use subscriber data to create email messages tailored to the subscriber?
- Fees. Do you pay every month or only when you send an email? Is there a flat monthly cost? Will you be charged overages for growing your list too fast? Is your subscriber count limited by your monthly fee? What about how many emails you’re allowed to send per month? What is counted toward your subscriber count and fees?
- Autoresponders. What level of access do you have to email autoresponders? Are you limited to a certain number of evergreen sequences and follow-up sequences, or can you create as many as you want?
- Reporting. What level of reporting do you get? Will you have access to email analytics and subscriber engagement data?
- Integrations. Review the other services and tools you can integrate your emails and list with, like a plugin for your website or a connection to your CRM.
If you haven’t chosen your email marketing platform yet, you’ve got your work cut out for you because there are many options! There is a multitude of email marketing providers available, all with different features, different terms, and different benefits.
Again, the provider you choose will depend on your short-term business needs, long-term business goals, budget, and technical savvy, as well as what you intend to do with your email list, list size, broadcast frequency, and how you plan to use your list over time.
3. Create And Design Your Email Template
Many email marketing providers have free email templates designed by professional designers preloaded and ready for you to use. To stand apart from your competition and rise above the sea of sameness, customize your template to reflect your brand.
- If you have built your freelance business around your name, lead with your personal brand and include your name or photo at the top of your emails.
- If your freelance business has a name, lead with your business name to build recognition and awareness for your business.
- You can also give your email newsletter a name and brand your newsletter — just be sure you’re not naming so many different things in your business that it’s making it harder for people to remember your name or your brand name.
When creating your email marketing templates, consider creating more than one.
Yes, you’ll need a template for your email newsletter but depending on the type of business you’re in, you may also want templates for solo blasts, more casual emails, partnership emails, media releases, and special announcements — and these templates will likely be simpler and more focused than your newsletter template.
When designing and customizing newsletter templates for my clients, I focus on:
- The email “page” or background design.
- The header or newsletter cover image.
- The footer elements.
- The primary call to action.
- The typography, link, and button styles.
- The section dividers and visual elements that distinguish specific sections.
Once the branded email templates are in place, all you have to worry about is creating the email content and adding and formatting it in the template — and quality content formatting increases content consumption, click-throughs, and forwards.
When formatting content in your email marketing messages and email newsletter, follow these design best practices:
- Newspaper layout rules apply.
To make it easier for readers to absorb your information and perceive your email as a faster read, break content up into 1-3 sentence paragraphs.
- Use bullet or number lists.
If your readers are in a hurry, they will scan your newsletter first to see if anything looks interesting. In many cases, they will stop to read bulleted lists. Get them hooked with an interesting list.
- Keep content away from the edges.
Content touching the border of your email template is hard to read because the text running into the border lines or edges will be visually distracting. It also screams, “I don’t know what I’m doing!”
- Make the content easy to read.
Every computer is different and has slightly different system fonts available. Use standard fonts that are available on all machines or set standard fonts as a fallback for times when your preferred font is unavailable. And when styling your type, size is critical. Don’t make subscribers squint to read your emails! Make the text big and keep the contrast high.
- Add ALT text to images.
Alt tags are pieces of HTML attached to an image that describes what the image is. When images are turned off in email clients like Microsoft Outlook, the ALT text will be displayed in place of the image. This is critical especially if your newsletter or email blast uses an image header.
- Beware of the “images not loaded” warning.
Make sure you know what your email looks like when images are turned off. Is important content missing? Can subscribers still tell that it is from you or your company?
- Understand your text-to-image ratio.
Reduce chances of getting caught in spam filters by making sure you have more text than images in your newsletter or broadcast. Strive for at least a 70/30 split, with 70% (or more) of the content as text, and 30% (or less) of the content as images.
- Always include your contact information.
It’s the law that your complete contact information, including your mailing address, be visible in all your email marketing communications — especially in email messages that sell products, programs, events, or services. Plus, it’s smart to make it easy for your subscribers to be able to contact you.
While a super-cool custom template is awesome, the content of your newsletter and the formatting of that content is far more important.
The best thing you can do it keep your email templates simple and keep the focus on what you have to say. The more complicated your email newsletter design is, the more work it will be to produce and the higher the margin of error will be.
4. Create And Design Your Opt-In Opportunities
Between the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and other regulations, adhering to subscriber management best practices is more important than ever. You must be able to prove when, where, and how a subscriber gave you specific permission to market to them by email.
The easiest way to do that is to use email subscription forms, also called email opt-in forms and email sign-up forms, to add new subscribers to your email list.
Email opt-in forms allow you to:
- Automate the email subscription process.
- Track when and where a person signs up for your email newsletter.
- Store their permission data within their profile in your email marketing account.
- Trigger automated actions like starting a welcome sequence.
I work with clients to build stunning, powerhouse brands and a huge part of digital brands are the strategic websites that support them. And yes, every single one of those websites include email opt-in forms for email newsletters.
When integrating opt-in forms with websites, I focus on creating three types of new subscriber opt-in opportunities:
- A next step opportunity: This approach places an email opt-in within an existing web page. The opt-in call to action is directly relevant to the content on the page and leads to the next logical step. This is most often seen as content upgrade offers embedded in the content of a page, or subscription boxes placed in a sidebar, at the end of blog posts, or on podcast episode pages.
- A focused all-in opportunity: This approach uses a dedicated landing place to market the email newsletter. The branding, design, content, testimonials, and benefit statements listed on the page are all specific to the newsletter, and the only call to action on the page is to subscribe.
- A just-in-case opportunity: This approach uses a pop-up — either displayed after a set amount of time or upon exit — to make sure the email opt-in offer wasn’t forgotten or overlooked. The trick is making sure the pop-up never interrupts the buyer’s journey by making sure it’s never shown on pages that are part of the website sales funnel.
5. Set Up A Welcome Sequence
It’s not enough to have an email newsletter. You also must consider what happens after someone subscribes and after someone leaves your Thank You page.
- Are new subscribers ignored until you send your next newsletter? If you send daily emails, this might not be a big deal. If you send a weekly newsletter, it’s definitely not the best look.
- Are new subscribers dropped into the middle of a multi-issue newsletter campaign? If so, will they be able to get up to speed right away or will they feel like they missed something?
The best approach is to set up a new subscriber welcome sequence.
A welcome sequence is a set of emails that help new subscribers get to know you better and ensure they feel welcomed, appreciated, and valued. A welcome sequence can also be used to share important information, provide links to helpful resources, and gather more information about the subscriber so you can personalize the messages you send to them.
While a subscriber is enrolled in a welcome sequence, all other email marketing communications with that subscriber are paused or frozen. They don’t slide into your regularly scheduled email programming until the welcome sequence is complete.
6. Invite People To Join Your Email List
Once your email newsletter sign-up forms are working on your website and your welcome sequence is set up, you can feel confident promoting your new email newsletter and inviting people in your network and community to subscribe.
Again, you can’t add someone to your email list without their direct permission. Everyone must be given a choice, so pitch your newsletter to everyone you know and provide the link to your dedicated newsletter landing page so they can sign up if it’s a fit.
Here’s how to get started:
- Invite people who have interacted with your freelance business in the past year. This includes clients, vendors, partners, and even leads that didn’t convert. Send them a personal email, tell them about your newsletter, share why you think they’d benefit, and invite them to subscribe.
- Share your email newsletter pitch and landing page link with business friends, industry peers, and potential referral partners by email or through social media messaging.
- Mention your email newsletter in your elevator pitch and share it with people at networking events and conferences.
- Advertise your email newsletter in another email newsletter that’s popular with your target market or niche.
- Add a promo for your email newsletter along with the landing page URL to the back of your business card.
- Use the link in bio for your social media profiles to link to your newsletter sign-up page.
- Preview the topic of your upcoming newsletter in your email signature.
- Partner with another freelancer who wants to grow their email list and swap promos or feature each other in your newsletters. This works great when you offer different services to the same niche.
- Post about your email newsletter and tease topics for upcoming issues on social media, and use stories and reels to mix things up and increase visibility.
Then, take it a step further and use lead magnets — webinars, masterclasses, ebooks, checklists, email courses, and free challenges — to grow your email list even faster.
A lead magnet is a high-value resource that attracts the attention of a potential lead and is most often provided for free as a bonus or incentive for subscribing to your email newsletter.
Lead magnets that give prospective clients tips, tools, resources, and information that helps them accomplish a task and moves them closer to their goals work like a charm.
But signing up for a free masterclass, registering for a free webinar, or opting in for a free ebook does NOT equal permission to be added to your email newsletter list. To use lead magnets to fuel email list growth, you must include a separate checkbox in the subscription form or gain separate permission through the click of a confirmation link in a follow-up email.
7. Send Your Newsletter And Connect With Subscribers
With your platform setup and configured, your opt-ins working, and your templates designed and ready to go, it’s time to create and send your email newsletter.
And yeah, you might be wondering: What should I put in a freelance business email newsletter? How do I write an email newsletter?
You can find inspiration and fodder for your email newsletter in all sorts of places, and everything is fair game as long as you can explain these things:
- Why you’re sharing the information.
- Where the information came from (always cite the source).
- How the information is relevant to subscribers.
- What subscribers can do with the information you’re sharing.
- How you can help them take the step.
When you come up with a newsletter idea, start by asking: “Is This Valuable? If I got this in my inbox today, would I be glad I opened it and read it?” If you can’t honestly answer yes, rethink your approach.
If you get stuck and can’t think of anything else, browse the following list of email newsletter content ideas and see what feels like a fit:
- Stand on your soapbox and discuss on changes happening in your industry.
- Offer commentary on current events related to your industry.
- Review a book you recently read.
- Tell subscribers about new services or packages and offer a subscriber-only deal.
- Share tips or insights to help subscribers accomplish something.
- Update subscribers about what’s going on with you.
- Provide your opinions about a mind-blowing statistic relevant to your subscribers.
- Share a case study about a client project or share a success story.
- Announce new resources, tools, programs, or products.
- Teach something step-by-step.
- Review a product that you have recently purchased or an event you attended.
- Share a list of resources or tools that you use.
- Summarize and comment on an article or another piece of content you came across.
- Answer a frequently asked question.
- Offer commentary on new research discovered or a new study that was released.
- Tell a story with an important and relevant lesson.
- Share the tips, insights, and lessons learned from a webinar or conference session.
- Pull back the curtain and share a specific detail of your business.
When your newsletter topic is locked in, focus on writing great content.
Email copywriting is personal. You’re not writing to your whole email list or a big group, you’re writing to one subscriber just as if you were writing an email to your best friend. The goal is for subscribers to read your email and feel like you wrote it to them alone.
Email copywriting is also conversational. By making the subscriber the center of attention, email can spark interest, start conversations, and invite responses in the form of replies or actions.
Just as the goal is the subject line is to get a subscriber to open an email, the goal of the introduction is to get them to read the email content. And the goal of the email content is to get them to take some sort of action, whether it’s to click a link, hit reply, comment on a social post, watch a video, listen to a podcast, read an article, or make a purchase.
Get More Freelance Leads With An Email Newsletter
Getting consumers on your email list is only the first step. Your email opt-in and list-building efforts focus on getting people to subscribe to your email list so you can continue to market to them by email. After that, your goal is to engage subscribers so they open and read your emails, and keep them as subscribers for as long as possible.
Your focus must shift from subscriber acquisition to subscriber retention and client acquisition.
For email marketing to generate quality leads and big paydays, you need an engaged, loyal, responsive community of subscribers who are trained to take action when you make an offer — and that takes time and effort. It won’t happen overnight but it will happen if you always put subscribers first, ensure every entry into their inbox is worth it, and connect with them in a personal and meaningful way.