In my last article I talked about why you should have a WordPress – powered website and blog, on your own URL property, if you want to have a homestead business. You might think that blogs and websites are only for bloggers who are making a living by selling ad space on their blogs. Or you might have read a few articles online or even the Problogger book by Darryl R. and thought that you could become rich and live off the land just by blogging. It aint so. However, having a website and blogging are essential ingredients if you want to have the freedom to build your entrepreneurial business, pursuing your dreams, and living where you want to live.
Your website is like an online resume that tells people who you are and what you are passionate about, while the blog allows you to get your unique message out there, and to build a flock of people who care about the same things that you care about. If you are an artisan with unique work to sell, your website gives you a platform to build a store and get your work out to a larger audience. None of us can make a living from our art if we are stuck selling only locally. That’s why artisans traditionally have taken their art to trade shows and wholesale shows to sell. With a website and blog, that places well in the search engines, you can expand the audience for your work, globally. But for this to happen you have to build a relationship with a large group of people who share your passions and love what you are doing.
When I first built our website at www.fiberarts.ca — 8 years ago. I read the advise to begin immediately to build an email list. But I didn’t because I didn’t know how. I did collect emails and mailing addresses from our customers through Paypal. I also had local draws and put people’s addresses into a file on my computer. But the problem was, these people had not given me explicit permission to contact them via their email address, and I didn’t feel it was right to send them an email, just because they had bought wool or soap from me. Its not right, by the way. Don’t do it.
So for 7 years I lost the asset of permission that I could have had by building my list sooner.
1. Building an email list is a permission asset.
Many online businesses will tell you that, “The Money is in the List”. By building a list of people that have given you permission to contact them via email, you also have permission to tell them about your latest blog post, course offering, hand made art, body of work, or even an e-book that you are working on. It becomes an asset in your business. While not everyone on your list will buy from you, a percentage will. So the more names that you have, the more likely you will make a sale. And you need sales in order to do what you love, where you want to live.
2. A list helps you build a community around your passion.
The people that come to your website will be of three types. The first type share your values and are excited about what you are doing. They are doing it, too, and they are inspired by your success. The second type of person wandered onto your page through a search of a key word or phrase that you ranked well for. If your S.E.O. is done properly they will become part of your flock because your blog will inspire them. If your SEO is careless, they will wander away. The third type of person will love what you are doing, but decide its not for them right now. They might checkout your Facebook page, but they don’t want to make a commitment. They might wander back, dating your website and facebook page for a while, and at some point this person might become the first type, or they may become distracted with other passions and move on. You want to build your list with the first type of person, the one who is passionate about what you are doing, and inspired by your work.
People who share your passions are the ones who will feel excited when they receive your weekly or bi-weekly emails. They will open them and read them. They will be excited about your work and share it with their friends. They will be amazed that you are giving this valuable information away for free, and they will feel grateful and want to help you be successful, by sharing it, too.
3. An email list gives you a resource to ask questions.
If like most artists, you do your work in relative isolation, more so if you live rural, you need to ask questions to get fresh inspiration. Questions like: “What problem does my audience have that I can solve with my work?” or “How can I better design this work, so that it will be more useful, beautiful, or efficient?” Having a community built around the same passion that inspires you, gives you an advisory board, qualified to answer your questions, to help you create better work.
People who share your passions will also be the people that you want to help you become better at what you are doing. You can ask them questions, maybe create a survey and ask them to fill it out. This will help you become better at what you do.
4. An email list is a continual source of inspiration to you.
While as bloggers and artisans we hope that our work will inspire others, you also receive inspiration from those who are part of your flock, as they comment on your posts, or send feedback for the newsletter. I’ve been talking about the list as an organism in its own right. But that is figurative. In reality the list is made up of numerous individuals. As you interact with these individuals on a daily basis through email comments, comments on your blog articles, your Facebook wall or even Pinterest or Twitter, you get to know them, what their problems are, what inspires them. Pretty soon, as you write your articles or design new work, you begin to think of these friends and community members, and work toward helping them more. You begin to really know your audience. For me this is a constant source of inspiration, as I write for Quinn, Nichole, Traci, Trina, Sara, Jaime, Andrea, Liz, Beatrice, Pat, Drisana, Alan, and many, many others. This article was born through an email conversation with Nichole. You, people, inspire me!!! (Thank you for being you!)
5. Its easy to build an email list using an online newletter service
Creating a permission asset like an email list has never been easier. There are several email services available that give potential subscribers a form to add their email address and then each one follows up with a second email for them to confirm their permission. This is by far the best way to go, to build your list. Using the email services web templates lets you create a branded newsletter, that is coded to get past the spam filters of most email programs, as it should if you have received permission to contact every member of your community. Using a newsletter service also ensures that the privacy laws are being followed so that you don’t get into trouble with spamming. Every email has an unsubscribe option, to ensure your compliance with privacy laws. In another article I’ll discuss the various newsletter services and help you understand the relative strengths and weaknesses of each service. For now, I’ll say that I use Mail Chimp. You can find out more about them by 1. signing up for my email newsletter using the box in the right hand column, near the top of this page. 2. There’s a link in that box that you can follow to sign up for Mail Chimp yourself.
I hope that I’ve convinced you to begin building your own email list for your homestead business, this week. Don’t wait 7 years, like I did, to build a community or flock of like minded people, passionate about the things that you are passionate about and excited about your work. If you are waiting to join my flock, hesitate no longer. Use the “Join my flock” box in the right hand column and sign up for the Joybilee Farm newsletter. There is fresh content to help you do what you love, where you want to live, every week. This week’s newsletter is published tomorrow, so sign up today and don’t miss it.
Have you started to build your email list and gather a flock of like-passionate people? What hindrances do you have to getting this done? What strategy has been your biggest success? Leave a comment and lets talk about it.