The Definitive Guide to Starting a Profitable Email Newsletter (Updated)

This guide was last updated and revised in 2013.

If you want to build a profitable online business, you need an email newsletter. It’s that simple.

Create Your First Email NewsletterAnd in this article you’ll learn exactly how to start one.

Here’s what you’ll discover:

  • The email service provider I recommend and use
  • How to create your first email list
  • How to design a beautiful web form
  • How to put that form on your WordPress blog

Simple, and extremely step-by-step.

Whatever you do, do NOT put off starting an email newsletter, because while you may save a few bucks now, it will end up costing you thousands down the road in lost opportunities.

What is an Email Newsletter Anyway?

An email newsletter is a way for you to stay in touch with your readers via one of the most powerful mediums online: email.

In order to start one, you need an email service provider. You can’t really send out emails manually, because there will be deliverability issues.

In other words, your emails won’t reach people’s inboxes.

Companies like Aweber (aff link), which I use, have deals with internet service providers (ISP’s) that help them with deliverability and make sure your emails reach their target.

Not all emails will reach every one of your subscribers, of course, but it’s going to be much, much higher than if you did it yourself.

Why Do You Need an Email List?

You might wonder why you can’t just use a free option, like RSS. RSS being short for Really Simple Syndication, which is a way to subscribe to a blog and get updates via a feed reader or via email.

The reason is because you will be able to build deeper relationships with an email list. They will open your emails and actually read what you have to say.

And that is what you want to do if you want to start a real online business. You want your audience to see that you’re a human being that wants to help them.

You do this best with an email newsletter. You want your audience to invite you into their inbox. And with an email newsletter, you can send out an email whenever you want to. You don’t have to write a blog post or publish something on your blog, like you do with RSS.

In the end, if you’re serious about building a thriving lifestyle business around your passion, you need an email list.

If you want to know more about this, I suggest you read my post on what email marketing is.

What’s the Best Email Marketing Service Provider?

Again, I’ve written about the best email marketing service provider that I recommend and use, and that is Aweber.

There are alternatives out there, such as MailChimp, which has a free plan, but I can’t recommend them, because I’ve heard some horror stories of people getting their accounts banned.

They do not allow affiliate marketing, nor are they really happy about you selling anything via your email newsletter it seems. Some people are doing fine with them, but it’s not something I’ve used, so I cannot recommend them.

It’s better to make the right choice right away, even if it costs a bit extra.

How to Start Your Email Newsletter

With all of that out of the way, let’s get down to the nitty gritty of getting your email newsletter started so you can begin building your list and attracting an audience of raving fans.

This is going to be a really simple process.

And if you prefer watching video, I’ve put a screencast together for you so you can see exactly what it looks like when I go through and create an email newsletter list.

The Video

So, if you want to sit back with a cup of green tea and relax, below is the video version of this article.

Just click play and enjoy. And remember to subscribe to my YouTube channel. There are more goodies coming.

Note: This video was done before Aweber updated its interface. I will make a new video soon, but this video will still guide you through the process. The only changes Aweber made to the interface were cosmetic.

1. Sign-Up to Aweber

The absolute first step is to sign-up for an account over at Aweber. If you use my link, I’ll get a small commission, so you will be supporting the work I do (thank you in advance!)

Now, I wouldn’t recommend Aweber unless I thought they were fantastic. I’ve been using them since 2007, and they’re used by some of the biggest bloggers and marketers online.

And one of the things I think is super important with any service is customer support, and Aweber’s customer support is fast and friendly. I’ve been bugging them for the last few weeks, and they’ve gotten back to me very fast and with great answers.

They have phone support, live chat, and email. They even answered me on a Saturday, which surprised me, so I love Aweber, and I’m sure you will, too.

They also have a trial thing going on, where you can test things out for cheap for the first 30-days, and if you don’t like it, you can cancel.

2. Create a New Email List

After you’ve signed up, log-in to your Aweber account. What you’ll see is your Aweber dashboard, which should be completely empty at this point, since you haven’t created any lists.

So the first thing we’ll do is create a new newsletter list. And to do that, all you have to do is click in the upper left corner where it says (Create and Manage Lists).

Once you’ve clicked on that, you’ll be nicely shuffled to another page, where you’ll click on a green button that says “Create a List.”

3. Fill in Basic Information

Next, fill in basic information about your list. Here’s a screenshot of what that looks like for my email newsletter.

Newsletter Basic Information

Here’s how you fill these in:

  • List Name: This has to be unique because it’s in Aweber’s database, so use the name of your blog, or if you have a name for your newsletter, put that in. If it’s in use, throw in a few extra letters and you should be fine.
  • List Description: Look at my screenshot above. Describe what your list is about. Is it tips for moms, special offers, or something else?
  • From Name: This is important, because this is the name people will see when they get your newsletter. I highly recommend you use your full name.
  • Address: This is the email address that your newsletter will appear to be coming from. In reality, Aweber sends out the email, but if people reply to your newsletter, the email goes to the email you fill in here, so put in something you use on a daily basis. You want to be able to interact with your subscribers.
  • Contact Address: This one doesn’t show on the screenshot, but this should either be your home address, business address or even a P.O Box. This address will show up at the bottom of the emails you send out (this is prevents SPAM).

4. Set Your Notifications

One thing you can do is set up notifications for your list. And this is just for this list, so if you create another list in the future, you can decide whether or not you want to get notifications.

So what do I mean by notifications? I’m talking about getting an email each time someone subscribes to your list. I personally don’t have it on because I’d get overwhelmed, but it’s always an option.

Here’s what the notifications look like. So if you want to get notified each time someone subscribes, fill in your name and email here.

Set Up Your Newsletter Notifications

We’ve now filled in the first part, so click the green button at the bottom of the page that says “Save Settings.”

4. Personalize Your List

Once it has saved your settings, Aweber should automatically take you to the next page. If it doesn’t, go to the top and click on “Personalize Your List.”

Personalize Your Email List

This one’s really simple. Just type in your name (or company name) with your URL and a signature.

I personally don’t know where this information pops up, because I’ve never seen it anywhere, but fill it in anyway, just in case.

Name, Signature & Stuff

Ignore the rest of this page. Go to the bottom and hit Save Settings.

5. Personalize Your Confirmed Opt-In Message

You should now be sent to the next page. If that doesn’t happen, again, go to the top and click on confirmed optin (furthest to the right).

The confirmed opt-in message is the first message your subscribers will get from you.

They have to open it, confirm by clicking the link in that email and once they’ve done that, they’re on your newsletter. This is also called double opt-in in marketing circles.

You can turn this off, but I recommend you keep it on, because you’ll have a higher quality email list with people that actually want to hear from you.

Here’s what this looks like in my account (click on the image to enlarge):

Newsletter Confirmation

There are three areas you have to customize:

  1. Subject: This is the subject line of your email. You can choose a pre-approved subject line or you can create your own. If you create your own, the folks at Aweber will need to approve it first. If you’re just starting out, going with a pre-approved subject line is just fine.
  2. Intro: This is where you tell people why they should confirm. Remind them that this is your newsletter and tell them what they’ll get, just like I’ve done above.
  3. Signature: The signature is at the bottom of your email. Just put in whatever suits your personality there.

Then you can fill in the success page URL, which is where your subscriber ends up when they’ve clicked the confirmation link.

If you’re just starting out, I recommend you leave this blank. You can always come back and tweak it later, but for now, we’re focused on getting this thing up and running.

So what happens when you leave it blank? People will see a standard Aweber page that says they’re subscribed.

So hit Save Settings and let’s move on.

6. Write Your Welcome Email

The next step is to write your welcome email. This is the email people get after they’ve confirmed.

This is where you give people your free ebook or gift if you have that in place. You should also tell people what to expect from your newsletter.

Aweber should prompt you to create your welcome message (you’ll see a thing pop up at the bottom of your screen that guides you through this process), but if that doesn’t happen, go to the top navigation and then to Messages > Follow Up.

Follow Up

If you haven’t created a follow-up/welcome email, you should see a big green button that says “Create Your First Follow Up.”

Create New Email Follow-Up Message

If you clicked on the Aweber prompt on the bottom, it’ll take you directly into the Aweber HTML editor.

The next five steps you need to take are:

  1. Write Your Subject Line
  2. Choose a Template for Your Email
  3. Write Your Welcome Email
  4. Test & Preview
  5. Save

Let’s go through those step-by-step.

6.1. Your Subject Line

The subject lines in the emails you send out are what will make or break the success of your email marketing campaign.

They are like headlines on articles. They determine if people will open your emails or not. However, the subject line is not as important in your first email, so just putting something like “Welcome to the Wake Up Cloud Newsletter,” is fine.

Let’s move onto choosing a template.

6.2. Choosing a Template for Your Emails

I recommend choosing the plain template, because it looks like a regular email you would receive from a friend.

When you get emails from your friends, they don’t look fancy, and they don’t have to be. You could spend hours playing around with the design of your newsletter, so let’s just skip the agony.

I’ve been there, done that, and it’s not worth the effort. To choose the plain template, click on it with your mouse and then click the Apply button at the end of the template column. Here’s what it should look like:

Choose a Newsletter Template

6.3. Write Your Welcome Email

Then just click on the email itself and you should be able to start writing.

It’s a bit finicky, so you may have to play with it for a while until you get the hang of it.

If you have trouble coming up with a welcome email, I’ve created a template for you. It’s an example of what my welcome email looks like, so feel free to use it as a springboard when you write yours.

To download the template, right-click here and choose save file as. If you’re on a mac, I believe it’s ctrl-click and download linked file.

6.4. Test & Preview

Whenever you write an email, make sure you test it first by sending it to yourself.

You’ll find the test button at the top right of the column where you write your emails. It’s right below the subject line, and it looks like this:

Test & Preview

When you click that, you will instantly be able to see what your email looks like, but you can also send a test message to any email address, so I suggest you send it to your own email and make sure everything looks good.

6.5. Save & Click Next

This one is pretty simple.

Once you’ve written your email, and tested it, it’s time to move on.

You don’t have to hit save if you don’t want to. Just hit the next button at the bottom and you’re good to go.

Click Next When You're Done

On the next page it will ask you about click tracking, just hit Save & Exit and you’re done.

Click tracking just means that you will see how many people click on any links you put in your emails. If you want that data, then leave click tracking on.

7. Create a Web Form

With that out of the way, we’re almost done. Next, we’ll create a sign up form that you can put on your website or blog.

You do that by clicking on the Sign Up Forms button in the top navigation.

Create a Web Form

Then hit the big green button that says “Create Your First Sign Up Form.”

This will land you in the Web Form Generator, where you can search for a template you like. Another thing I like to do is remove some of the clutter from my web form, such as the privacy policy and the Aweber link, like this:

Simplify Your Web Form

It gives the form a much cleaner look. Another tip if you want a higher conversion rate on your form is to remove the name field. If it’s not important to collect names, then you might as well remove it to make it simpler for your subscribers.

Once you’ve done that, hit the green button on the bottom that says Save Web Form, and then hit the blue one next to it that says Go To Step 2.

8. Fill in Your Form Settings

Next up, we’ll fill in your form settings, which is extremely easy. Here’s what your page should look like:

Your Web Form Settings

So let’s break it down.

  • Form Name: You can name this whatever you want. No one will see the name of your form. If you’re testing your forms, you may want to use different names for different forms, such as sidebar, footer, and so on.
  • Facebook Integration: I would leave this unchecked. It basically allows people to sign-up to your list through Facebook.
  • Thank You Page: You can create a custom thank you page on your blog, or you can just use an Aweber version. If you’re just starting out, I recommend using one of the pre-made ones.
  • Already Subscribed: This is the page people see if they try to sign-up to your email list twice. I send them to a page where they can download my report. Again, to keep things simple, you can just use a pre-made page.

I never touch the advanced settings, so you can ignore those. Once you’re done, hit the green Save Web Form button and then the blue Go To Step 3 button.

9. Get Your Form Code

Phew. Almost there. Once you’ve hit that Go To Step 3 button above, you should see the publish page, which gives you three options. Click on the option that says “I Will Install My Form.” It should look like this:

You Will Be Installing Your Form

Then you’ll see two options, Javascript Snippet and Raw HTML Version. We’re going to use the Javascript Snippet, so if that isn’t already up on your screen, click on it to get the Javascript code.

What’s cool about the Javascript version is that if you change your web form design in Aweber, it will automatically update on your blog.

So to grab the code, highlight it and right-click and choose copy, like this:

Newsletter Code

10. Put Your Form in Your Blog Sidebar

You’ve now got the code in your pocket.

The next step is to login to your WordPress blog and go to Appearance > Widgets.

WordPress Widgets

Then look for the Text widget. It’s usually somewhere on the bottom and looks like this:

Text Widget

Pull that into your sidebar, which should be on the right, so it’s going to look like this:

Put Your Email Newsletter Web Form in the Sidebar of Your Blog

And then we have one final step, which is to paste the javascript code into the text widget. And then hit save. Once you’ve done that, check out your blog and make sure it’s showing up where you want it to.

Here’s what the final step looks like:

Paste Your Web Form Code

Now, I also recommend you create a dedicated landing page for your newsletter, which is a page made just to tell people about your newsletter.

But that’s a whole other article.

I actually have one more tip for you before I wrap up this article.

11. Get People to Sign-Up

The final step is to tell people about your email newsletter.

You can’t just ask them to join a newsletter, although that works. It doesn’t work as well as giving people a compelling reason to subscribe, which often is a free ebook, podcast, or even a video.

Email marketing took me a long time to learn, and I’m still learning. It’s a fascinating beast, but what I can say is that my email newsletter is what allows me to make a living from home.

It’s the most important asset most people neglect, so make sure you have one, and make sure you use a reputable service email provider.

What Now?

All of this can seem overwhelming at first, but that’s because you’re taking in a lot of new information, so just let it sink in and keep taking one step at a time.

And if you enjoyed this article, please share it with your friends via Twitter, Facebook and email.

If you have any questions at all, drop a comment below.

Get the FREE Ebook and Discover:

  • How to turn your passion into a lifestyle business
  • The two ways to find your profitable passion
  • The biggest mistake you can make (and how to avoid it)
  • And so much more!

Comments

  1. Epic as always Henri.

    I do have one question though. I’m not sure if this applies to aweber, because I use mail chimp, but I’m askin’ anyway.

    For your list, do you send out an email automatically when your site has new posts or content, or do you do that manually?

    I did it the first way for a while, but then I felt lazy so now I’m going the other route. Any recommendations?

    Also, if you get too overwhelmed with subscribers, I have room on my list for them ;).

    • Thank you ever so much, Liz.

      I would think about it like this: what’s the end result for your subscribers?

      I’ve done it half and half in Aweber. I have Aweber pull my RSS feed into an email. I then go in and do some edits and then send it off to my list.

      You could also go the route where you write a brief snippet of text and then provide a link to your post. I think both are absolutely fine.

      And if I get too many subscribers, you’ll be the first person I send them to ;)

  2. Awesome guide! I’m a huge fan of Aweber – a client tried to get me to switch recently as part of my contract to work with them, so I gave their platform a shot but eventually turned down the client just to stay with Aweber.

    • Thanks Kristi!

      I agree. Aweber is excellent in every way, especially their support. It’s tough to find support that can put up with me so I’m always happy when I do ;)

  3. Good post but Id love to read a bit more on how to get more subscribers for my email list, this was quite basic and good for beginners, but Id like to see a second or third post to this series, thanks, Dom

  4. Henri, kudos! It’s comprehensive. But I’ve got some queries. First, are your new blog subscribers automatically added to the Aweber list? If not, does that mean two sign-up forms — one for blog posts and the other for the newsletter — would be on your blog?
    I would like a sort of integration where blog subscribers automatically get subscribed to the newsletter OR vice versa. That way, one can place a single subscription form to cater for both blog updates and the newsletter. Is that possible?
    Any help would be appreciated.

    • Heya,

      1. I don’t offer a way to sign-up just to my blog updates via email. If people want the RSS, they can get that, but I try to nudge people to my Aweber email list, because it’s so much better for me and my readers.

      2. You can blend together you newsletter and blog updates. Aweber has this capability. I think it’s called blog broadcast, where they automatically pull your posts from your RSS feed and put it into a newsletter format for you. You can then send that to your list. An alternative (less techy) way is to simply send out an email to your newsletter subscribers whenever you publish a new post.

      Hope this helps :)

  5. Thanks Henri!

  6. Hi Henri, just followed these steps, thank you so much for your help!

    love Anabrese
    x

Here's How You Can Turn Your Passion into a Thriving Business

Sign-up to the FREE Wake Up Cloud newsletter, and grab my special report (MP3 audio included), where you'll learn:

  • How to discover your passion in 10 minutes or less, even if you haven't had any luck in the past
  • Why just "following your passion doesn't work (and what does)
  • How your fears trick you into submission, which keeps you stuck, frustrated and unhappy (and a simple mindset tweak that will set you free)
  • How to figure out exactly what people want (so you can make a living doing what you love)

Simply put in your email below, and we'll get started.