How to Build an Email List

In almost any article you come across about how to build your audience or up your sales (including in ones on this blog), one of the suggestions is always simply, “build an email list.” Which is understandably followed by one question: well how?! Luckily, from the recent Artist Shops update that allows you to see the email addresses of customers who have purchased from your Shop, to hosting a giveaway or contest, there are lots of ways of going about it. Here are a few tips on how to build an email list!

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First things first: the logistics

Sign up with a hosting service

Rather than just cold-sending emails from your Gmail or AOL (oh man) account, sign up for an email marketing service, or ‘email service provider (ESP). This is the best way to keep track of how your email campaigns are doing to see what’s working (or not working), to get new subscribers, to schedule your emails and use templates, to monitor open rates, etc. MailChimp is a great one to start with, but here are a few others to check out:

*Make sure you read up on these services before you sign up so you can be sure you’re getting all the features you want!

Start with Friends and Fam

Friends and family are great first additions to your email list (because they have to say yes)! If you don’t have any subscribers yet, sign up friends and family members for your email list to test out campaigns, get their feedback, and get used to putting together, scheduling, and sending emails before you start sending out to your customer base.

Start a blog

Getting email signups is another top reason to start a blog for your Shop and brand. Blogs serve as a perfect home for an email signup form or box. Plus, with a blog you have way more versatility as far as where to set up that email signup box. You can make it a pop-up box, place it strategically on your page, etc. Girrlscout has a fun email pop-up for her blog (yes, they can be fun!), and we have one too! Have ya seen it yet? 

Have an email list signup form available everywhere

Having at least a link to where your email signup is (whether it’s on your blog or on your Facebook page) on all of your social channels only increases your chances of getting email signups and expands the likelihood of people finding out where they can sign up. You can now even have a call to action button on your Facebook business page that you can have lead to an email signup page

And of course, always be transparent about 1: what the benefit is and 2: that when they give you their email, they’re signing up for email updates! 

Now the fun stuff: how do you get people to actually want to give up their email address?

We’ve all gotten suckered into giving a store our email only to have them drive us crazy with endless emails. So naturally, people have grown wary – they’re not just going to give up their email. You have to let them know what’s in it for them, what they get for signing up for email updates from you and, most importantly, you have to deliver what you promise.

Run contests and giveaways

Who doesn’t love free stuff? Running contests and giveaways is a surefire way to get people to trade their email address in return for a chance to win some free swag. Note: do beware of getting some junk email signups in here though. After all, it’s the internet: here be spam.

Exclusive deals and info

Make your customers feel special for signing up for your email list. Have special deals (like sale information, head’s up emails about new products so that your email list members find out about them first, etc.) and information that your customers can only gain access to when they join your email list (freebies, free shipping or coupon codes (look out for when Artist Shops offers these perks!), etc.)

Content marketing offers

Have you ever been reading an article on a site only to discover that in order to read the whole article, you need to sign up for their email newsletter? Much like iBooks offering a sample of a book long enough to get you hooked so you need to buy it and see what happens, this technique actually works. Try writing a few helpful blog posts (how to creatively use social media, how you make quality emails, how to create certain designs, etc.), then offer to email them the full article or further helpful tips…but only if they sign up with their email. You can even take it a creative step further by offering tutorials or even free downloadable textures, that readers can only get if they sign up with their email.  


Recently, Artist Shops added a new feature that allows you access to the email addresses of customers who have bought something from your Shop, making your customer/Shop connection that much more personal. Now automatically adding them up to your email list might be a little invasive and may turn them away. BUT, using access to this email information allows you to reach out to thank them for their purchase, and to maybe get a little meta and suggest they sign up for email updates in an email.

Social proof

Show off the customers who love your products. Search Engine Journal reported that 63% of consumers claim they’re more willing to buy from a site with product ratings or reviews – it ups your credibility (not to mention, when people see that other customers like you, they know you’re #cool). Reach out to customers who have shopped with you via email to 1: thank them for their purchase and 2: ask them if they wouldn’t mind leaving a short review on their social media or on your Facebook, blog, etc. about the product! And of course, if there are any photos of customers using your product (even if that customer is just your cousin!), repost their photo on your social media channels as ‘customer shots’ of your product in action. 

Work with influencers

Working with bloggers and influencers who have a similar audience to the kind you’d like to attract helps you expand your reach by tapping into their audience. You can offer to guest blog for them, or perhaps offer them a tutorial, free texture pack, or team up with them for a giveaway. Their audience trusts them – if they see this blogger or influencer working with you, it’s an immediate reason for them to check you out. 

Build your list IRL

Have a booth at a comic convention (or any convention)? Selling your Shop items at an art fair? If you’re participating in an event or festival or any kind, have an email signup list handy. Better yet, host a raffle or giveaway where, in order to get a ticket, all people have to do is sign up for your Shop’s email list with their email. Or if you want to take it a step further, consider hosting an event where, for more information or to RSVP, people have to signup with their email. 

One more thing before you start!

So, you’ve got your emails all set up through an email marketing service. Check. You’ve got your first campaign planned out. Check. You’ve even got your list all set up. Triple check. You’re ready to schedule that first email and hit send! BUT WAIT! Before you get started, one final thing to chew on…

How often do you actually send these emails?

Send emails too often, you’re gonna annoy people. In fact, it’s the number one reason people unsubscribe. But send them too few and far between and it might come off as your Shop being a little stagnant. Campaign Monitor found that sending emails once a month was a little too little, and sending them weekly tends to be super effective (keep in mind, this was just on average and in their findings). And Entrepreneur also reported that once a week tends to be a solid magic frequency. At Threadless, we send emails twice a week, but we’re also featuring new products, design launches, and featured artists.

So what’s the magic frequency of sending? Well, the answer is that it’s a little different for everyone and for the types of emails you’re sending. Use your email marketing service to track how many times people click on your emails, how many unsubscribes you’re getting, what campaigns work, what frequencies work, etc. And another helpful tip? Make a promotional calendar for yourself to plan campaigns around. Test it out and find out your perfect send rate!

Do you have any tips on email marketing? Did we miss something? Let us know in the comments! (And hey, if you want more…subscribe to our email list!)


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We’re an artist community built on the power of helping each other succeed — if you’re reading this and have tips of your own to share, please let us know in the comments! Thank you!

Illustrations done by the amazing Katie Lukes

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