By making the decision to jump into the world of online freelancing, you’ve made an incredible and potentially life-changing choice to take control of your destiny and freedom. It’s an exhilarating and liberating place to be, and calling on the momentum and energy behind this decision will move you through those more challenging tasks involved with building your business.
Making a decision is one thing; however, dreams without action remain just that- dreams. Once you’ve committed to taking the plunge into online freelancing, figured out what services you’ll offer the marketplace, and created some goals for your business you are now ready to dig into the business of building your business, otherwise known as marketing.
While ‘marketing’ may feel like an overwhelming or scary term for some, it’s a reality and necessity for any thriving business, and as an online freelancer your business is you. In creating your business plan you’ll need to come up with an actionable plan for achieving those wonderful goals you’ve created, and, once again, that plan mostly equals marketing.
As a freelancer you’ll find that there are a variety of marketing strategies available to you. Which strategies you choose (ideally you’ll choose more than one) really depends on what suits your style and personality and where your ideal client is.
Some examples of marketing strategies for online freelancers include: Social media, in-person networking, research and cold pitching, and blogging (hint: this one involves building a subscriber list!). While I won’t go into the details of each of these strategies in this post, I will point out that what they all have in common is taking action, putting yourself out there, and finding/attracting those “ideal” clients.
Building an email subscriber list isn’t typically one of the first methods that comes up when online freelancers explore their marketing options, but there’s no reason it shouldn’t be.
Because this strategy involves more front-end cultivation and effort but can ultimately reap a more fruitful harvest in the long run when it comes to qualified and quality clients for your online freelancing business.
To explore this concept more closely, let’s take a look at what building a subscriber list actually means, how to do it, and of course, whether it’s a worthwhile endeavor for an online freelancer or not.
What is a subscriber list?
A “subscriber list” is a term that describes a group of people who have willingly given you their email, usually in exchange for something. This process is also called “opting in”.
Think about how many places you provide your email address- when you’re cruising around online and “want to know more,” when you sign up for pretty much anything these days, and even in the offline world with many retailers at checkout. You have voluntarily opted in to receive emails and information from these entities and are a part of their subscriber list.
No matter what the context, an email subscriber list is essentially a group of qualified leads- people who at some point have shown enough interest in something that they were willing to exchange their email address for information and who want to hear what you have to say or have to offer.
How to build a subscriber list
So how does this apply to marketing and building your online freelancing business?
Great question. If an email subscriber list is comprised of people who have provided their email addresses in exchange for something they deemed worthwhile, valuable, and/or interesting, then as an online freelancer you’d want to give thought to what you could provide that could achieve this.
There are many ways you can build an email subscriber list, however typically it’s by creating and offering some kind of content that your target market finds valuable. Often this is achieved through offering some type of free, valuable material such as “X Ways to Build Your Business”, for example.
A couple of primary ways that email subscriber lists are built are:
- An opt-in box on your website and or blog where people can provide their email address in exchange for more information, a freebie, etc.
- Paid advertising like Facebook ads in which some kind of content is offered in exchange for opting in
There are a multitude of ways that you can get people to your opt-in box (a place to provide an email address) which are beyond the scope of this post, however the main take-away in “how to build a subscriber list” is to provide something truly valuable that people will want to provide their email address in exchange for.
What do you do with a subscriber list?
It’s one thing to build a subscriber list, and quite another to make the most of it. In order to understand how to do so, let’s take a step back and look at what the value of an email subscriber list is.
Recall that these are individuals who have expressed enough interest in your valuable, relevant content to give you their information and “stay tuned” for potentially more. Again, these are what we’d consider “qualified leads” (provided your content is relevant to the services you’re providing) and therefore given the right motivation and opportunity will hopefully engage with you more directly to benefit from your services.
The right “motivation and opportunity” would come through what we’d call nurturing your subscriber list with a steady flow of interesting, valuable, and definitely not spammy content delivered to their inboxes. In this process you are building an audience- people who are virtually “listening” to what you have to say. Your relationship with your list shouldn’t be exploitive or “overly-salesy” but rather authentic and, again, valuable.
While you want to provide valuable content, most commonly through your relevant blog posts, free reports, and possibly videos, you’d also want to include some type of call to action. What do you want your audience to do? Engage with your services. Therefore, you’d want to include some opportunity for them to do so such as a link to your “Hire Me” or contact page on your website.
This process is referred to as a “sales funnel”. As I mentioned earlier, as an online freelancer your business is you, and you are selling your valuable services. While the inner workings of a sales funnel are also beyond the scope of this post, this is a broad overview of this process- taking people from interested, to engaged, to directly interacting with you to employ your services.
Is it worthwhile to build an subscriber list as an online freelancer?
While it is an optimal, and really incredible, time to be an online freelancer with so much opportunity to be had, it can also be a competitive marketplace. One of your goals as an online freelancer, as any kind of business owner really, should be to stand out above the crowd. One remarkable way to do this is to authentically build an audience of people who will feel like they know, trust and like you and who will therefore respond to what you have to offer.
Again- this point is so important when it comes to examining whether it’s worth building a subscriber list as an online freelancer- remember that these are individuals who have actively searched out or have willingly engaged with what you’ve created. When it comes to building a client roster of quality, and qualified, individuals that will be worth doing business with that process can ultimately be priceless.
Aside from providing you with a pool of potentially great clients to work with, building an email subscriber list can also open doors for you as an online freelancer and provide you with some options later in your career.
While both endeavors involve being a business owner, being a freelancer means exchanging your time and services for money and therefore ultimately comes with some eventual limitations. Being an entrepreneur has bigger implications when it comes to opportunities for your business, and your income.
One of the best ways to break in to the world of online entrepreneurialism is through freelancing. Building an email subscriber list can mean creating a foundation for other endeavors down the road, as you now have a group of individuals who are interested in what you are offering.
To summarize, you may eventually decide to make the leap into the world of online entrepreneurship. While having an email subscriber list can be of awesome value for your online freelancing business alone, it can also open doors to opportunity further down the road in your career. Whichever route you choose- remaining with your online freelancing business or making the leap into providing products and goods (versus time and services)- it’s a win.
Lastly, building an audience establishes you as an authority in your chosen niche. It builds your and your business’ credibility. Aside from the potential value of clients that may result from your list, it’s a powerful tool to have in your pocket when sourcing clients elsewhere.
Here are some thoughts to consider when deciding whether to build an email subscriber list:
- Do you have a website for people to “land” on and engage with you?
- Are you capable of and comfortable with providing valuable content on a consistent basis?
- Are you clear on who your target market is, what their pain points are, and what kind of content they’d be interested in engaging with?
- Are you rock-solid on what you want your potential audience to do and what you have to offer them?
- Are you willing to stick with this strategy for at least a few months to truly uncover its potential?
Building an email subscriber list is like establishing a productive garden. It likely will not show results overnight, but if tended to and cultivated properly can yield a very fruitful harvest for your business. It can take several months of showing up in someone’s inbox for them to finally engage and take action with your emails.
One last important thing to keep in mind: Building a subscriber list is worthwhile and effective when your intentions and motives are to truly provide value and serve. When you keep these ideals foremost in your efforts, versus trying to “capture leads” and get people to give you their money, you will find that while this method can be a slower build when it comes to your business, it is by far a more quality build.
To summarize and circle back to our original question: Is it worthwhile to build a subscriber list as an online freelancer? If you’re serious about your business and looking to build something long-term, sustainable, and potentially scalable then absolutely.
While again, this can be a more labor-intensive marketing strategy (and again, shouldn’t be the only one), it can be an incredibly powerful way to create a foundation for your business.
There’s also something very rewarding about building a tribe of people who are interested in what you have to say, not only in the context of building your business but also in the context of who you are and how you’re putting yourself out there to the marketplace. It’s definitely an endeavor for those who are in it for the long-term with their businesses, and so worth the effort- as are you and your future.