How to Start an Email List for Free

Do you want to start an email list? Are you confused about where to begin and by all the list-building options out there? The truth is, an email list can be one of the most valuable assets an online business owns and one of the most effective ways you can communicate with potential customers to generate sales, affiliate income and drive traffic to your website. In this guide, I’ll share with you how I started my email list for free using my favourite tool so that you can set one up totally free today.

Still need to set up your website? Read this guide where I walk you through setting up your own WordPress website.

1. Choose Your Email Marketing Platform

First thing you’ll need after you set a website is an email marketing platform. These are a third party software that integrates with your WordPress site, stores all the email address you collect and lets you create sign up boxes and automated emails.

When I first started out I signed up to Converkit, which is a really popular option in the blogging community, but it comes at quite a high cost especially as I was just starting out and was conscious of keeping my business expenses as low as I could. Then I discovered Mailerlite that was free for the first 1,000 subscribers. I opened an account, found that emails were easier to design with their templates and drag and drop builder than with Convertkit. And although others like Mailchimp have loads more functionality, Mailerlite does everything I need my email marketing – A/B split testing, automations, sign up forms and landing pages.

It’s worth noting that Mailerlite is free for the first 1,000 subscribers, $15 a month for up to 2,500 subscribers then $29 for 2,500 to 5,000 subscribers (compare this to Convertkit which is $29 per month when you exceed 1,000 subscribers).

2. Sign Up to Your Email Marketing Platform

Whichever email marketing provider you go with, you’ll need to sign up for an account. If you choose Mailerlite you’ll need to add and authenticate your domain as part of the account setup. Don’t worry if you are technical, there is plenty of support and advice available from Mailerlite to help you get this part done.

3. Create a Sign Up Form

Once you’ve verified your email address, your Mailerlite account will be ready to use. The first step in starting your email list is to create an email sign up form. This is where people will enter their details to get onto your newsletter or receive your freebie. This information is then captured in your email marketing database account on your behalf.

To create a sign up for (or opt in form, as they are also referred to) choose ‘Forms’ in the main menu at the top and then press the orange button ‘Create Embedded Form’:

You’ll be asked to give your form a name, so you can identify it in the system and given the option to add your subscribers to a group. A group is a way of tagging certain sign ups so you can target people with different emails and products depending on their interests.

There are three different types of designs you can choose from in Mailerlite:

  • Default
  • Horizontal
  • Card

The first two are simple text boxes and the final option lets you add a picture. For each though, you can change the font and colours so that you can create something that matches your branding. I took one of my social media posts to create the image for my main sign up form, How to Start a Business Checklist, which I had previously created in Canva so that saved me a lot of time.

4. Embed Your Sign Up Form

The next step to start your email list is to display it so that people can start signing up. If you have set up a website using WordPress then you can either add the Mailerlite plugin to your site or use the HTML code to embed forms. Personally, I choose to use HTML codes so that I avoid adding unnecessary plugins. You’ll find the option to ‘get the embed code’ in the forms section of your Mailerlite account.

5. Set Up An Automated Email

You’ll need to set up an automated email so that people who sign up receive your freebie if you’re offering one. To do that go to ‘Automations’ in your Mailerlite account (you’ll find it in the top menu). You can also set up an email sequence so that each person that joins your mailing list receives a set list of emails from you so you can stay in touch with them, direct them to your website or let them know about the products you have for sale.

So that’s how you can set up an email list for free and focus on tackling the world of email marketing! Question? Message me via my contact page and I’ll get back to you!


About Anita Forrest

Anita Forrest is a Chartered Accountant, spreadsheet geek and money nerd helping financial DIY-ers organise their money so they can hit their goals quicker.