how to set up an email subscriber list

Why start or build an email list though?

Because with an email list, you have total control. It’s your list. It’s your asset.

With social media or ads traffic, you’re at the mercy of external platforms (that you don’t own or control).

Your account could get shut down overnight — like Olympic gold medalist sprinter Elaine Thompson-Herah, whose Instagram account was temporarily blocked.

She is kind of like a celebrity… and if her account can get shut down just like that, definitely so can you. She is famous enough to be able to pull strings to get her account back quickly, but what about the rest of us ordinary citizens?

Another popular YouTuber LeafyIsHere was also permanently shut down with 4.9 million followers wiped out overnight.

With an email list, you can take it to any email marketing tool / platform you like. You will always own the list. Hence why it’s an asset.

Imagine if you were to solely rely on social media traffic and suddenly one day it gets shut down → you wouldn’t be able to reach your audience → high chance the business will die.

After reading this article, you’ll be able to:

– Set up an email subscriber list quickly (15 mins max)

– Know the dos and don’ts of email marketing

– Understand how to effectively persuade people to give you their email address (no, it’s not “sign up for my newsletter”)

– Drive traffic to your opt-in page

If you don’t have much time and just want to quickly set up an email subscriber list, BirdSend is a simple email marketing tool you can use to achieve that. Content creators use BirdSend to save 80% in expenses every month, while still getting high email opens.

The dos and don’ts of email marketing

The dos

1/ Take interests in subscribers’ well-being (instead of their wallet)

The tagline for The Ultimate Email Marketing Guide for Content Creators illustrates this point perfectly:

Email marketing is not about what you’re going “to do” to subscribers. It’s about how you’re going to help them go from where they are to where they want to be.

2/ Help subscribers solve part of their problems

Don’t solve all their problems because:

  • If you solve all their problems, you’d have nothing left to sell to them →
  • You wouldn’t spend time and energy providing helpful content and strategies (since you have to feed yourself and your family)
  • Lots of people wouldn’t be able to enjoy your helpful content →
  • You’d help less and less people over time

3/ Be the entertainer

Don’t hard teach strategies and tactics.

Instead, frame them around entertaining stories and deliver them in a fun way, so folks stay engaged with you and are always on the edge of their seat eagerly waiting your content.

Hard teaching = boring and uninspiring. It’s like how most teachers teach students, which result in students feeling bored and loathe attending classes.

The don’ts

1/ Never buy an email list

Buying an email list is illegal in most countries. Additionally, the email addresses are most likely stale (no longer exist, abandoned, interests change) and inaccurate (changed jobs, profession).

If you send emails to thousands or tens of thousands of email addresses from an email list you bought, there’s a high chance you’ll get tons of spam complaints and bounces — leading the email marketing tool you use to ban your account.

2/ Don’t be the “pushy car salesman”

The way to effectively sell is to make subscribers know, like, trust, and eventually buy from you.

And pushing sales pitches after sales pitches down people’s throat is not the way to do it — and worse, it makes people distrust you. In their mind, you’re this greedy person who is only interested in their wallet.

3/ Don’t be the “I provide value all the time” person

This is the total opposite of the pushy car salesman. This time, you’re afraid to sell anything. You’re afraid that subscribers will be upset with you and unsubscribe.

Hence you never sell.

All you do is just provide value, value, and value 24/7.

Remember why you’re doing all these work in the first place? Is it to have fun or is it to run a business that generates profits?

How to build an email list

Persuade people to give you their email address

You can’t just say: “Give me your email address so I can send you emails”.

I mean you can… but nobody would give you their email address.

To entice people to give you their email address, you need an incentive — give something valuable (to the person visiting your site) in exchange for their email address.

And a lead magnet is the best incentive I’ve found after doing email marketing for years. Definitely NOT “Subscribe to my newsletter” because nobody wants to subscribe to another “newsletter”.

There are many types of lead magnets. Some of the most common ones are: free reports, short ebooks, checklists, worksheets, and templates.

These don’t incur any hard cost to produce since they’re digital in nature. Someone interested in your topic (e.g. public speaking) would of course be interested in the free report “How to speak confidently on stage in 5 simple steps”.

Lemme give you another example.

Together with my small and cohesive team, I run an email marketing tool business — BirdSend. Naturally, I want to attract folks who want to use email marketing in their business.

Which is why for our lead magnet, we came up with a free “email mistakes challenge” where people interested in email marketing can join to discover and fix their email mistakes — so that they build better relationships with their subscribers and hence make more sales.

example of BirdSend built its email list

Create an email opt-in form or landing page to capture email addresses

An email opt-in form is basically just a form where people can submit their email address (and name) so that this info is pushed into your email marketing tool.

You can then use your email marketing tool to send emails to these folks.

A few tips to get as many people to opt-in to get your lead magnet as possible:

Above-the-fold email opt-in form

This means when visitors land on your site, they can instantly see the form without having to scroll down.

More visibility = higher chance of opt-ins.

Use an enticing headline for your opt in form

Here’s a formula to come up with a great headline:

  • Target audience
  • Pain you solve
  • Proof (what makes you qualified to solve their pain)

Here’s an example:

headline formula

Ask the bare minimum

The more info you require people to fill, the less likely they’re to fill at all.

Meaning — you should ask for the minimum amount of info.

And when it comes to email marketing, the only thing you really need is their email address.

You can ask for their first name if you so choose, but it’s not required.

People know that you’re using software to send mass emails, not emailing them on a one-on-one basis… so it’s not like they’ll be impressed when you use their name in your email.

Use a great CTA (call to action)

Instead of using the boring default text of “Subscribe” or “Submit” on your email opt-in form button, change it to an action-oriented + benefit-laden text.


Improve your memory in just 7 days

Show my first email mistake now

Discover the 5 steps to a beach body

I cover more about writing a compelling CTA here.

Now that you understand how to get as many people opting-in to your email list as possible, next let’s show you how to actually create your opt-in form.

How to set up an email subscriber list (15 mins max)

To set up an email list, you first need to create an email opt-in form.

I’m going to show you how to easily create an opt in form in BirdSend, since you’re on our site.

Time required: 15 mins max

On the Forms page, click [New Form] and give it a name:

how to set up an email subscriber list - step 1

You’ll arrive at the following screen where you can choose from a few different options:

  • Popups
  • Welcome screens
  • In-content forms
  • WordPress widgets

Let’s select [Popup] for this example:

set up email opt-in form - step 2

You’ll arrive at the following screen:

set up an email opt-in form - step 3

Here, feel free to customize the headline, text, picture (or remove it), background color, button color, button text, checkbox text, add and remove custom fields as you see fit.

Once you’re done, click [Display Trigger] to set how you want the popup to display to visitors:

how to set up an email subscriber list - step 4

You can set the popup to show after X seconds, or after the visitor has scrolled more than X% of the page, or when they try to leave your page.

You can also set how often you want the popup to be shown, under the [Don’t show if] section.

While under the [Show if] section, you specify where you want the popup to appear:

set up email subscriber list - step 5

  • Based on page URL
  • Based on URL parameters
  • Based on WordPress post type, category, or tag

You can add as many [New condition] as you like.

Next, we go to the [Post-Submit] section:

set up email subscriber list - step 6

Here, you can redirect people to your thank you page after someone fills in their email address and click “Subscribe”.

Or you can set up a custom message instead — something like: “Thank you for subscribing. Please check your email inbox.”

Next, specify if you want to use double opt-in or not:

text: set up email subscriber list - step 7

Then, we go to the [Post-Submission Automation] section:

set up email subscriber list - step 8

Here, you can add as many Action / Automation as you want. In other words, what kind of email automations (if any) do you want to execute after someone has entered their email address and click “subscribe”?

In the above example, I want to apply the tag [interested in disneyland] to the subscriber and also subscribe him to the the [disneyland] sequence, so that he starts receiving drip emails about Disneyland.

Finally, we arrive at the last section — Integration:

set up email subscriber list - step 9

In this section, you can download BirdSend’s WordPress plugin (if you use WordPress) to seamlessly display this popup that you’ve just created into your WordPress site.

If you don’t use WordPress, you can insert a text snippet (that we provide) into your site.

Or you can simply use BirdSend’s hosted feature to host your email opt-in form on BirdSend’s server. All you need to do is grab this link and start sharing it on social media or anywhere you like:

how to set up an email subscriber list - step 10

And wait for subscribers to roll in.

The set up for the other form types (Welcome Screens, In-Content forms, and WordPress Widgets) are similar… so I’m not going to go through each step again.

Put your opt-in form in as many places as you can (cast your net wide)

You’ve done the hard work of getting people to your website or opt-in page. Now you want as many people as possible to give you their email address.

A good way to achieve that is to put your email opt-in forms throughout your website:

  • Near the top of your homepage
  • On your about page
  • Popups throughout your site
  • Within your blog post content
  • Sidebar opt-in forms

Don’t be shy. The more you put your forms out there, the more visible they are, and the more likely someone enters their email address.

I cover 15 more ways to boost opt-in conversions here.

Promote your lead magnet / opt-in page

Nobody is going to know about your lead magnet / opt-in page if you don’t actively promote it. Here are a few ideas on how to promote:

Social media profile

Don’t just link over to your opt-in page.

❌ Not recommended:

Welly Mulia

[opt-in page link]

Instead, use an enticing CTA to tease folks and give them a reason why they should click your link.

Again, curiosity and benefit is a good way to achieve that.

✅ Recommended:

Welly Mulia

5,423 aspiring public speakers say this is the best free course they’ve taken to ditch their nervousness just before going on-stage. Get the free course here:

[opt-in page link]

In addition to your social media profile, you can also promote in your social posts. But don’t just paste your opt-in page URL point-blank. Tell a story. Share your struggles. Share your win. Then link over to your opt-in page.

YouTube description

Using the same concept as above, entice people with a compelling CTA to go to your opt-in page to get your lead magnet.

To maximize visibility, put the CTA near the top of the description before the text cut off:

CTA text before show more text in YouTube description


Make sure to abide by the rules of the community. Most legit ones don’t allow self-promotional posts and links.

Provide value by engaging, uplifting, and sharing tips instead. Do enough of these to get recognized as a helpful community member → some will check out your profile.

Same strategy as above — make sure you use a great CTA to entice folks to click over to your opt-in page.

Email signature

Be creative and don’t waste “real estate” by using boring email signatures like this:

Welly Mulia Sales Manager Email: bla bla bla Phone: bla bla bla Address: bla bla bla Website: bla bla bla

No one is going to click any of those links because they are boring. Those are what everyone uses and they don’t give any reason for people to click.

Like what I’ve been saying for the past few paragraphs, use a strong CTA instead.

FAQ about setting up an email list

Should I use popups? I head they’re effective but I’m afraid of annoying visitors.

In my experience (and also based on many people’s experiences), a popup is going to yield a better opt-in conversion rate compared to any other kinds of email opt-in forms.

If you’re afraid of upsetting visitors, set the frequency of the popup to be less obtrusive. This can be easily done in BirdSend like this.

If they’re still annoyed, I’d like to invite you to ponder this…

The purpose of doing all these work of creating lead magnets, spending precious time writing emails, and creating products — is to run a business that generates profit, correct?

You’re not here to become a philanthropist, right?

If people can’t stand a few popups here and there… do you really want them to become your customers?

Can you imagine doing business with “easily angered” folks like this?

Your time and energy is better spent serving customers who respect you.

Should I worry about bots joining my email list?

A legit email marketing tool is able to identify bots and prevent them from joining your email list. Hence, as long as you’re using a legit one (like BirdSend 😉), there’s nothing to worry about.

How to build an email list without a website?

Technically, you can. Just use BirdSend’s hosted page to capture people’s email address. But from a business perspective, you should have a central website where people can get to know you more without opting in to your list. It gives you you more credibility vs having no website at all.

How to build an email list for free?

I’ve covered this above. Let me repeat it again.

Provide tips related to your niche, and then soft-sell to your lead magnet at the end of the tip. You can provide these tips in your social media posts / profile, as well as in your email signature.


I’ve shown you the strategies and tactics on how to persuade people to give you their email address.

I’ve also shared a few ideas to boost your opt-in conversions and how to generate traffic to your opt-in page.

Finally, I’ve demonstrated step-by-step how to set up an email subscriber list quickly (in 15 minutes max).

Now it’s time to put what you’ve learned into practice.

Sign up for a free BirdSend account today and finish setting up your email list in 15 minutes.

Welly Mulia

Turning coaches’ newsletters into 6-fig money trees. 1.6+ billion emails sent. Claim free case study: 26k in 6 days via emails

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