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Episode #009

Why Building an Email List is Important for Your Photography (Plus a Step-By-Step Guide For How To Start One)


UPDATED: May 20, 2023


Why is having a continuously growing email list so important to both your business and your impact as a conservation visual storyteller?

This is a really, really important question to be asking.


An email list makes you a more effective conservation photographer

Imagine that you're documenting a conservation issue that's near and dear to your heart. And a really time-sensitive problem pops up.

Maybe there's a legal decision that's about to take place, or a critically important nonprofit is losing funding.

And you know that if you could get 500 signatures on a petition, or 200 people to call their state representatives, or 100 people to donate $5 so that you can get out into the field with your camera to document what's happening …

that it would make a huge difference in turning the tide on your conservation issue.

You might have tried putting call-outs like this on social media and gotten nothing but crickets back.

Imagine if, instead, you could put a call out and people actually saw the message and took action.

That's the power of a well-nurtured email list.

And that's why I spend an entire episode walking you through step-by-step how to create, grow, and consistently connect with your email list.

Even if you are an amateur photographer or you’re barely getting started. Even if you’re a pro who primarily does assignment photography. Even if you don’t yet know why on earth you’d use a list or what on earth you’d email about…

You absolutely need to be building an email list right now.

I've talked about how too many conservation photographers lack a marketing game, and that affects how impactful your work can ever be. If you’re going to implement one single strategy that all marketers know is critical to business success, I hope you implement a mailing list.

It will make a difference in your reach, your efficacy, and even your income.

By the end of this episode you'll know exactly what makes an email list can be so valuable, and you'll know exactly how to get yours up and running with gusto.

Inside of this episode is the foundational information you need on starting and growing a thriving list of people who are willing to listen, engage, and financially support your work.


You'll Learn

  • How you can use an email list to make a bigger impact with your work
  • The 6 simple yet essential steps for starting, launching and growing your email list
  • Tools for attracting new people to your email list
  • The secret to batching your planning, writing and scheduling so you never feel like your list is a burden
  • Tips for an engaging welcome email
  • A bunch of ideas and inspiration for what to write to your subscribers


Resources Mentioned

Episode 009: Why Building an Email List is Important for Your Photography (Plus a Step-By-Step Guide For How To Start One)

Shownotes: ConservationVisuals.com/9

(Digitally transcribed, please forgive any typos)


Jaymi Heimbuch:

As part of this episode, I'm giving you a free downloadable starter kit for creating your mailing list. So this kit is going to walk you through all the steps that I cover in this episode, and it is your key to a clear, actionable path for launching your ever so critical email list. It is seriously good stuff, so head over to JaymiH.com/9 The number nine for this episode, and you can grab your free downloadable starter kit for your mailing list and that link. It's in the show notes as well.

Now I am really excited to nerd out on the power of your mailing list. If you don't have one yet, you're gonna be inspired to get one up off the ground. And if you do already have a mailing list, then you're gonna learn the number one trick to grow your list. You ready? Because here we go.

Welcome to Impact the conservation photography podcast. I'm your host, Jaymi Heimbuch, and if you are a visual storyteller with a love for all things wild, then you're in the right place. From conservation to creativity, from business to marketing and everything in between, this podcast is for you, conservation visual storyteller who is ready to make an impact. Let's dive in.

Why is having a continuously growing email list so important both to your business and to your impact as a conservation visual storyteller? This is a really, really important question to be asking right now, even if you're an amateur photographer or you are barely getting started, even if you're a pro who primarily does assignment photography, even if you don't yet know why on Earth you would use a list for what on earth you'd email about, I hope that you are asking the question. Why is having a continuously growing email list so important to me?

So in Episode six, I talked about how too many conservation photographers lack a marketing game, and that affects how impactful your work can ever be. Well, if you are going to implement one single strategy that all marketers know is critical to business success, I hope that you implement an email list because it's going to make a big difference in your reach in your efficacy and even in your income. I'm hoping that by the end of this episode, you are thinking “Okay, how quickly can I get on my computer and started on this?”

And by the end of this episode, you will know exactly what "get started" looks like. You're going to get step by step instruction on starting and growing a thriving list of people who are willing to listen, to engage and to financially support your work.

So let's start out with what is a mailing list. Well, a mailing list is just a list of people who have signed up for wanting to hear from you on an ongoing basis. So what makes it so valuable? Well, first and foremost, engagement. This is how we truly can connect with our followers in a way that is much more powerful than social media in social media. We get caught up in the churn of it in worrying about the number of followers on Instagram and Facebook on how to keep those numbers on the rise. But have you ever checked out the engagement levels? Because on Instagram, 10% engagement is a really good rate. That means that if you have 100 followers, only 10 are going to see your post. And that's only if you're doing everything right. And on Facebook, that engagement rate, that average engagement rate, is more like 3%. It makes you a slave to those follower counts.

And here's the salt in the wound. You have no control over the algorithms that can dramatically alter how or if you can reach those followers that you have worked so hard to gain.

The second reason an email list is so much more powerful than social media is ownership of information on social. You do not own your audience. The platform owns your audience, and the platform can decide at any moment to change the rules to change the settings. They can't even decide to boot you off the platform completely, but an email list... You own that and you own it forever, and your engagement, if you do it right, can be profound.

And the third reason that an email list is so important, so powerful is that if you take the time to build your relationship with your subscribers, then you have something really special. And you can do this in a setting that feels like one on one communication. You aren't competing for attention on a platform with a 1,000,000 photos streaming in and all these notifications popping up, you're connecting with people who already want to connect with you, and you're doing so in a deeper way.

So when it comes to conservation stories and efforts, having actual access to your supporters and being able to know that you can reach them has massive value. There's the value of promoting your work, like when you have a photo that is published or you have a new tour or you are screening a conservation film or you know something along those lines. But the value really comes when your engaged audience can be put into action, for instance, when you need them to call their representatives on an issue or two. Go vote on an issue if you need them to donate money to a really important initiative. If you need them to show up to a meeting and give commentary or to come to an exhibit or a talk where you know that you need support in the room. I mean, imagine being able to reach out to hundreds or thousands of people and to know that 20% 40% 60% of them will respond and act compared to the maybe 3% on Facebook or the maybe 10% on Instagram. If you're lucky, you can get people who don't even care about an issue to act on it because they care about you, because you spent the time to build out a relationship.

It's powerful stuff, right? So are you ready to get started on your mailing list? Because we are going to walk through how to create an email list; how to grow it; and, best of all, what to send out to your subscribers to build your relationship with them because it's that relationship that really matters.

I'm gonna be throwing around a few words that might seem a little tech heavy at first, But please don't let the tack overwhelm you. It's all a lot easier than it seems, I promise.

So, step one. Step One is to create an account with an email service provider. So an email service provider is just a platform that collects those emails, and you can send out your newsletter from it. Common ones are mailchimp and ConvertKit. Those are two that I can recommend. I currently use ConvertKit, and I actually think that it's more user friendly and more scalable than mailchimp or Aweber, some of the others now. Because convertkit is the platform that I recommend, in the show notes you're going to find a link to convertkit that allows you to get started with 100 free subscribers. This is an affiliate link. So if you use it to get 100 free subscribers, I also get 100 subscribers added to my list. Works out as a win-win. But I would never recommend something unless I truly, truly believe in it and convertkit, it's awesome. I love it. So both mailchimp and Convertkit also have the ability to create landing pages where you can collect subscribers so you don't even need to have a website up and running to start building your list. Pretty good stuff.

Step Number two is to create a subscription form and you'll do this inside of your email service provider. They all have a way that you can go ahead and build these forms inside them all. A subscription form is, is a way for someone who's interested in being on your list to enter in their information, hit “yes, include me” or whatever it is, and then, boom, they're on your email list.

Step number three. If you have a website, then you'll connect your email service provider to your website. You can do this with a plugin or an embed code that that service email service provider generates for you.

I'm not going to get into the details of that because it's really specific to if you have a website set up, how you want to include this. But there are really easy ways and the email service providers, they give great step by step instructions for accomplishing this. So you can add your subscription form to the sidebar or the footer of your website, and we'll talk about other ways that you can incorporate forms in just a moment.

But for now, if you have a website then your step number three is to connect your email service provider to your website with that subscription form.

If you don't have a website, then what you'll do is instead of creating a subscription form, you'll create a subscription landing page inside your email service provider. So instead of being a form that you would add into your website, this is a page that your email service provider hosts for you, where people can go and enter in their information and you can again brand it. You can decorate it with your images. You can add in text, whatever it is that you want to do to encourage people to subscribe to your newsletter. But it's a really great way that if you don't have a website set up, you can still start that email list with this landing page.

So step number four and this is for everybody. Whether you have a website or not, step Number four is to create a welcome email, and this is typically the confirmation email that a subscriber gets when they join. So inside of this welcome email. You're basically introducing yourself, kind of helping your subscriber to get settled in and excited about what else you'll be sending so inside of your welcome email. You'll include a little bit about who you are. You'll include the type of content that you send out, some kind of what they can expect from your email. So do you usually send how-to advice or strategies for shooting certain things or whatever it may be? Provide them a little bit of insight about the type of content that they can expect to get excited about it.

Also include how frequently you'll be in touch. So are you going to send a weekly email? Are you going to send two emails a month? You know, kind of give them an idea about how often they'll hear from you.

And finally, if you really want a wow your new subscribers, you can offer them something cool like a quick win or maybe a downloadable freebie, like a tips sheet or, uh, step by step advice on getting a certain shot. You know something that's just really needed, kind of above and beyond.

Now, one tip that I have for you, for your welcome email, is to really put yourself into it. Use your natural voice as if you are talking to a friend. A lot of times we can end up writing in a more formal tone than we usually speak with. And if you really want to connect with your subscribers, it's great to go ahead and write in the same kind of voice that usually speak in its more relatable. It's more fun. And remember, this really is a conversation. It's not an interview or something very formal. This is a conversation that you are starting up between you and your subscribers.

Step number five. After you have done all the work of creating your account, you set up your subscription form. You've created your welcome email. You've connected it to your website or you have that really awesome landing page. Well, step number five is you got to grow that list so there's a few easy strategies that you can do in order to grow your list.

From day one, you can announce it to your friends and your family, and you can encourage them to forward it to whomever they think might also enjoy being on your list. You can also announce it on social media, so all of your followers on Facebook or Instagram or Twitter you can invite them to your new email list and give them a little taste of what it is that you're gonna be sending out why it's so awesome to be on your mailing list. You can also add a link to subscribe into all of your bios. So your social media bios your bio on your website on LinkedIn on whatever it may be, and you can also add it to the signature of your emails. So whatever email accounts you usually use if you have, like, I use Gmail. And so the signature line of my Gmail accounts, I include how people can get a hold of me. You can also add a PS at the end of your welcome email that your new subscribers invited to forward that email on to their friends if they have any friends who they think would be really interested in your list. So, for instance, you can say PS if you are excited about being on this list and all the great information that you'll get every week, I invite you to forward this email off to your friends and anyone who you think would be interested in getting this awesome information as well, whatever it might be.

Now, another strategy that you can use to grow your list is to create a lead magnet. So if you already have a list in place and you don't have a lead magnet, you're gonna want to create one.

So what's a lead magnet? A lead magnet is a great piece of content that people would love to provide their contact information in order to receive it. So, for instance, on my website I have an Ebook that is the six must have shots for a photo essay, and this is a lead magnet. People are really excited to get this information, and so they enter their name and their email, and I email them that ebook and then in return they’re now on my email list, and I get to engage with them every week. It's really awesome.

But you don't have to create an e book in order to create a lead magnet that will help you get new subscribers. You could do something much more simple, like a quick win resource. So what I mean by this is a checklist. You could do a tips sheet, you could do a quick how to like a quick start guide for something you could do a packing list. So let's say you are a bird photographer who goes out into the field a lot and your audience that you really want to connect with our other bird photographers. You could do a packing list on your best kit or your preferred kit for going out into the field and doing bird photography. There's a ton of things that you could provide as a quick wind resource for new subscribers who are like Whoa, That sounds great. I definitely wanna have that checklist. I really want to know how your your top tips for X Y Z and they'll enter their name and email in order to receive that from you.

Now, I want to put in a quick caveat. There is something called GDPR And this is the General Data Protection Regulation and GDPR has regulations that you need to follow, especially when it comes to providing free content. So I really encourage you to do a search of GDPR and kind of get familiar with what it is and the requirements for making sure that you're following GDPR before you implement this lead magnet. And I also want to say, a lot of the email service providers like mailchimp and convertkit, they have built in tools that help you to be GDPR compliant, so don't let this scare you at all. You definitely have help at your side to understand GDPR to make sure that your email, subscription forms and all that are following GDPR policies.

Okay, so at this point, you have your email service provider set up. You have your subscription form on your Web site or you have that killer landing page. If you have a lead magnet set up that is drawing in all these new subscribers who are really excited to hear from you. Now what? Well, step number six is to consistently connect with your subscribers, so maintaining this consistent contact is incredibly important for a couple of reasons.

The first reason that it is so important to be consistent with your emails is because the whole purpose of your mailing list is to build really strong relationships, so maintaining a presence and being in their email box every week or every couple weeks consistently, with great content and engaging information that's gonna really help you to build those relationships. And those relationships are what you will rely on when you have a conservation issue that you need to put the call out and gather the troops or when you have something new that you really need support from your followers on. So building those relationships is really important and the way to do that is through consistent, emailing being a familiar presence inside that email inbox.

The second reason why it's so important is deliver ability of your emails. So this is kind of a bigger topic. I'm not gonna go in depth into it. But I do wanna mention that if you only email sporadically and people don't open your emails very often, then the email hosts, they're not even gonna necessarily deliver your emails to your subscribers. So even though you're inside mailchimp or convertkit and you build this great newsletter and you send it out to your list of 100 people, well, if they're only seen stuff from you sporadically, they're not opening your emails than their email host like Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, whatever it is, those hosts are gonna be like, Oh, well, this isn't important to my client. I'm not even gonna put this into their inbox. I'm not gonna have it. So it'll show up underneath the promotions tab, and it'll be filed into the spam or the junk mail. You really don't want that to happen.

So overall, if you are maintaining that consistent contact and people are expecting to hear from you and they open up those emails than your deliverer ability rate goes up, so I'm not gonna hammer into that too hard. But I really do think that looking into concepts like this, this deliver ability is really important because it's gonna help you figure out what kind of best practices you wanna have in place when it comes to your mailing list.

You know, the best way to maintain consistency is to set a schedule, and I actually recommend that you set a schedule to cover each of three stages of creating and sending e-mail. The first is brainstorming your content ideas. The second is writing the content, and the third is loading that content into your email service provider and scheduling it out to send.

So I recommend that you set a schedule that on one day you sit down for an hour or two hours and you brainstorm the content that you want to send through your next six or eight emails. So you're gonna come up with at least six or eight ideas and do an outline for each of those. Then later, you'll see a schedule for maybe two or three hours where you're writing the content of those emails. So for each of those six or eight ideas in their outline, you're actually writing out the email content and then you'll set a schedule for a day when you'll set aside maybe an hour or two to load those emails into your email service provider and schedule them out for sending.

And this way, in three days, you actually are scheduling out maybe 6 to 8 weeks of your email newsletter. It's a way that you can really stay consistent without that newsletter feeling like a burden to you, right?

So if you have this consistent schedule, what are you going to write about? That might be the question that's popping up into your mind right now like yeah, okay, that stop Sounds great. But what? What am I gonna offer? I don't know what I'm gonna write about. Here's the thing. The boring emails that get unsubscribed from, they're typically sent by the photographers who are only ever updating their subscribers on what they've been up to lately. So it's a me, me, me one way conversation. They have nothing to offer to the reader. It's just like this update. This, you know, celebrity up on stage, sort of a feeling. And those are kind of dull, right?

Instead, what you want to do is to build a two way conversation. You know, you're building that relationship. The way that you build that to a conversation is by providing something awesome to your subscribers or asking engaging questions and genuinely wanting to hear back from them. You really want to create an email that makes your subscriber feel like you are talking directly to them and that you want to hear back. That's how you really build those connections.

So if you're going to do that, then I recommend things like stories from the field or stories about overcoming a challenge. Maybe you do a behind the scenes story, so you're really bringing your reader kind of into the field with you behind the scenes. Or answer a question that you get asked really often. You could provide tips or how to strategies on equipment or supplies, things you recommend or input on how to use common pieces of equipment. You could provide the story behind how you created something like a certain image or maybe a project. You can kind of let people in on how that was done and give them some steps on how they could do it, too. Of course, there's always tips or tricks, and also resources that you can recommend. These are all content ideas that you could offer to your readers that they genuinely want to know. And they want to hear from you in order to know all of this good stuff.

And there you go. You've got everything that you need to create and grow a really amazing email list, so let's go through those steps again.

First, you'll set up a new account with an email service provider, so that's mailchimp, aWeber, drip, convertkit. I personally recommend Convertkit. Again, if you want to start out with ConvertKit with 100 free subscribers, I do have a link for you inside the show notes.

Step number two is you create an email subscription form inside your email service provider, so you'll either do an email subscription form or you'll do a landing page. But either way, you're gonna create that inside your email service provider, and this could be a simple as first name and email, and I generally leave it as simple as that. The more information you ask from people, the less likely they're gonna want to provide that information. So all you need is first name and email. So only ask for that.

Then step number three. If you have a website, then you'll connect your E S P to your website. And that's how you're gonna be able to load your forms on your website again, not getting into the details of that step, but email service providers are going to give you step by step instructions on accomplishing that. So it's not hard, I promise.

And if you don't have a website, then you'll simply create that landing page for email collection, and you'll use that you are all that your service provider gives you, and that's what you'll hand out to people to direct them on where they can subscribe.

Step number four is to create that really engaging welcome. Email the email that allows people to know what to expect, who you are and to really feel like they're getting settled into being a subscriber who's really welcomed.

Step number five is to grow your list. And that's through all the strategies that I mentioned and also specifically through that lead magnet that one really cool thing that people want to provide their name and email in order to receive from you

And finally, step number six... Connect with your subscribers consistently. Be a familiar name inside that email inbox, and that's how you're going to really build the relationship that will allow you to be able to put the call out when you need your email subscribers to take action.

So let's say that's because you are starting a new project and you really need donations for funding or you are toward the end of a conservation project and you really need your supporters to act on a vote or to call a representative or to do something that will make a really big impact for your conservation issue. Or maybe it's because you have a new product out there, like a book. This is a way that you can really have people care, pay attention, engage an act

And that's it. I mean, only six steps. It is pretty straightforward and pretty simple, really. And I bet that if you were to really focus on this, you'd be able to set up a new email list and have it up and running within 1 to 2 days. Easy. It really doesn't take much longer than that.

If you want help in going through these steps again and in strategizing on your email list - so really thinking about what it is you're going to accomplish, what the format looks like, all of that - I recommend downloading that free starter kit so you can get that at JaymiH.com/9.

If you're just starting out, that starter kit is gonna really help you walk through each of the steps in order to set up and grow your list. And if you already have an email list, there's worksheets inside that starter kit that can really help you to think more critically and strategize about how to best use and grow your existing list.

And if you start up your email list, please invite me to it. I definitely want to subscribe and see all of the awesome content that you'll be sending out to your list. I want to be part of that list and help support you in your work. All right, my friends, I hope that you have a lot of fun implementing this, and I will talk to you next week

Before we wrap up. I would love to ask you to do one quick thing. Subscribe to this podcast as a subscriber, you'll not only know when each week's episode of those lives, but you'll also get insider goodies like bonus episodes. You might miss them unless you're subscribed and I don't want you to miss out on a thing. So he's tapped that subscribe button and I will talk to you next week


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