Not small as in, ‘Ah shucks, I only have 500 or 1000 people’ – small.
My email list is just plain old small — as in tiny.
In fact my mailing list is so small that if I told you exactly how many people are on it right now you’d probably rush to your kitchen to make me a grilled cheese and some cocoa to comfort me.
Thanks for the thought but I’m good, I swear.
When I stopped chasing after growing my numbers and started investing time in the people I already had on my list, four incredibly weird and wonderful things occurred.
But before I get to those you might be wondering; ‘Why is this poor women’s list so small to begin with?’
Well, for starters the topic of my blog The Charmed Studio is unusual. I help artists reconnect with what they find most meaningful in their creative practice, and give them ideas on how to write about their work with more clarity, passion and authenticity.
When I originally attempted to promote the blog on social media I realized I was getting caught up in the very things I was trying to help my readers let go of.
So I’ve opted out of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, for now.
Instead of stressing over trying to do Facebook-Live events or making Instagram vines, I focused on improving the quality of each post I wrote.
(I had the time, right?)
In the beginning, every time I got a new subscriber, I jumped around my house, like a Black Lab reunited with his owner at an airport.
I checked out each new subscriber’s website and was blown away by the caliber of the art.
Right around then I read a game-changing post by Darren Rowse the founder of Problogger. In it he reasons bloggers should revisit the cooperative, win-win values the blogosphere was founded on by helping and getting to know their readers.
Darren’s post encouraged me to go ahead and ask new subscribers in a personal email if I could showcase a specific piece of their art I had seen on their website in one of my past or future posts.
I also asked my new readers what they were struggling with and might want to see a post on.
Initially, I was terrified to do this.
I was positive people would do three things after receiving my email:
1. Accuse me of stalking them for combing through their website. 2. Throw tomatoes at me. 3. Then unsubscribe.
But the opposite happened.
I received back excited emails packed with stellar art and insightful ideas for new posts.
I’ve started forming friendships with these cool artists and writers from different parts of the globe and am beginning to understand what the heck blogger Jeff Goins means by the term, “finding your tribe.“
Here are four other things that I bet can happen for all of us if we choose to focus on the readers we already have as opposed to the ones we don’t.
4 Surprising Benefits Of Honoring Individual Subscribers
1. A Fresh Fountain of Good Ideas
I no longer sweat it over coming up with topics like I used to because I get them from my subscribers.
My improved open and click rates have let me know I’m writing more on topics my readers want or need to read about.
The most popular posts on The Charmed Studio (aside from the writing articles) are interview based.
I ask a subscriber to elaborate on a meaningful story they initially shared with me in an email or the comment section of my blog, and then I weave that into a post.
What that one artist cares about deeply usually resonates with other like-minded creatives who read the blog.
2. Comments in Your Comment Section
Before I interacted with readers I rarely got any comments.
The comment section on the blog I once had on my freelance writers site was a refuge for moths.
I received two comments in two years.
Since I’ve started listening to and interacting with subscribers more, I can enjoy dozens of comments on a single post.
I wonder if my readers feel more comfortable commenting on The Charmed Studio because I subscribe to their blogs and leave comments on their posts?
Reading my subscriber’s blogs really helped me get to enjoy, empathize with and be inspired by, my individual readers.
3. You Build a Better, More Beautiful Blog
Not spending hours a day chasing after new subscribers slows things down enough so you have time to constantly improve your blog.
There’s time to edit your old writing, fix broken links and follow through on creative improvements, so you’re ready if that tsunami of readers ever comes.
Your readers can also help you to literally make your blog beautiful as subscriber Shawn Marie Hardy does with her collage to the right.
Let me end with the benefit I least expected to receive.
4. Monetize Your Blog Without Feeling Like A Used Car Salesman
I was always planning on finding a way to monetize my blog that didn’t feel sleazy.
I rationalized, that I would try to sell some logo t-shirts, down the road; like when lightning struck the foot of my bed or something.
Then when the blog was a year old last December, a charming subscriber wrote me a surprising email.
She told me she loved my writing style and asked if she could pay me to help her write and send out her first newsletter?
I was jumping around like that Black Lab again — for 20 minutes, until the fear kicked in. Fear of being an imposter, fear of disappointing my potential client, fear of succeeding.
Can you relate?
I put together a writing coaching sales page anyway and ended up working with that reader and together we made her dream of a newsletter launch in 2 months, a reality.
Since then, to my amazement, several other creative subscribers have alighted on that page and hired me on an ongoing basis to help them publish their first post and to keep sending posts out every month.
Would readers hit those PayPal “Buy Now” buttons on my page if they hadn’t gotten to get a sense of who I truly was via email?
I somehow doubt it.
No Cocoa For You Either
For me the gifts of a small mailing list are:
Learning how to truly listen to readers.
Being heard and accepted by them in return.
Getting to feel the joy of helping others live their creative dream.
Getting to live your own as a result.
Not bad, right?
So if you have a small list of readers, and are getting to know them, no grilled cheese and cocoa for you either.
What do you think?
Have you ever worried you don’t have enough readers?
If you do feel content with the amount of readers you have what did you do to get to where you are now?
Got any tips on upping reader engagement? I’d love to hear and learn from you in the comments below.
Thea Fiore-Bloom, PhD is a humor-loving, award-winning journalist, artist and children's literacy volunteer. Come check out her new blog TheCharmedStudio. It’s a sanctuary for creatives who care about soul. Her dream is to help creatives like you feel better, write better and sell better---by being yourself.
A refuge for moths! Ha! I love it!
Can you believe it has been almost a year since I subscribed to your wonderful blog? My favorite thing about it is YOU! I love your writing style but you are such a wonderful human and I’ve enjoyed getting to know you. I always appreciate your use of my artwork–I think our styles work very well together. I know you aren’t on Facebook but I share links to your blog there and I do hope you’ve gotten some traffic from those posts.
Speaking of grilled cheese and cocoa, what do I get if I have an invisible list with imaginary readers? I may have to seriously consider finding a budget for some assistance. Let’s talk. xo