List Building 101: A blueprint to grow your email list. Download your free cheat sheet!

Email lists are one of the most popular topics in which I get questions about. And for good reason, building an email list and creating a healthy system to manage that list is one of the best things you can do for your business. Don't just take my word for it. Think about some of your favorite brands; Gap, United by Blue, Magnolia, Letterfolk, West Elm, Anthropology. They work hard to build their email lists and they want you on their list too. They ask for your email almost every time you go through the register. Anytime you stop by their website they give you an opportunity to sign up too. And they do a great job at it. In trade for your email, they offer 10% off your first order or they offer you free shipping. If you give them your birth date they'll even offer you something special on your birthday, like a free drink.

An email list is a direct link between you and your customers. Between you and your audience. Whether you are a small business, a lifestyle blogger, or a service provider, you can grow your brand and create a lasting connection with your email list. Every time a brand shows up in your inbox, even if you don't open it, you are reminded of them. I get plenty of emails from West Elm and Anthropology that I don't open, but I never unsubscribe, because one-day they might send me the exact deal that I need. They know it and I know it.  

I know, the idea of emails and list building may be overwhelming, but they don't have to be. List building is all about creating a system and this type of system can be created in steps. And these steps can be built over time. Try not to get ahead of yourself. It's easy to get excited and want to do everything all at once. But if you do the work ahead of time and set up your system first, you will be in amazing shape, your list will be growing, you'll be connecting with your audience, and your system will be doing the work for you. 



Choose a provider to manage and build your list. There are plenty to choose from; MailChimp, Convertkit, Mad Mimi, Infusionsoft, and many more. When making your decision choose the one that is best for you and your current situation. I use MailChimp, which has been perfect for me and I can't recommend it enough, especially if you are just starting out. You can sign up for free and your account remains free up to 2,000 subscribers. I've also heard good things about Convertkit and I've heard a lot of businesses switch over once their managing multiple lists and revenue streams. 


This is super easy. If your using MailChimp this is as easy as a few clicks. You'll name your list, set up your email, etc. MailChimp is extremely user-friendly and if you run into anything you're not sure about they almost always have an example or guide to get you through it.  



Create a welcome sequence or onboarding system. In MailChimp, this is an automated sequence of emails welcoming new subscribers. This is going to take the most legwork, but it's also going to do all of the work for you.  A welcome sequence can be a single email to a sequence of emails. The first welcome email often introduces you to your audience and also includes the download/freebie that they signed up for. If you want to create a sequence of emails, which I highly recommend, you'll want to set up a sequence of nurturing emails, followed by an offer email. Nurturing emails are meant to serve your audience, before selling anything to them. 

Let's use my on-boarding sequence as an example. I have 6 emails in my welcome sequence. The first 3 emails are all nurturing and the final 3 include an offer. My first welcome email introduces me to my new subscriber, includes a link to their free downloads and talks a little bit about the benefit of using styled stock photos. The second email is what I would consider a resource email. It outlines a variety of resources they can utilize on our website to help them do business better. The third email includes a link to a special download and includes a survey (which helps me serve them better.) My forth email includes a special offer only available to subscribers. My fifth email answers any questions they may have about the offer. And the sixth email lets them know that their offer is about to expire. 


I'm going to be honest, it took me a long time to create my system and I continue to tweak it as I continue to learn. Your welcome sequence does not have to be as long as mine. You can start small, with a single email and add to it as you go. The important thing is to really think about how you will serve and communicate with your subscribers. They're on your list because you have something they need or want. If they unsubscribe, that's no reflection on you. That simply means your not a good fit for each other. They may come back later and that's cool. Don't sweat the unsubscribes, focus on those who really want what you have to offer. 

This step of setting up your welcome sequence does take a significant amount of work, but this is the part that will keep working for you as your list grows. Once you set up your welcome sequence, these emails will be taking care of your subscribers 24/7.

You might be thinking, "how am I supposed to make an email sequence about my freebie when I haven't even made one yet?" We're almost there, trust me. And I get it, it might seem odd to set up a welcome sequence without having created your freebie yet.  But your welcome sequence sets the tone for your relationship, so while your freebie hooks new subscribers, your welcome sequence is more important. Creating your welcome sequence first forces you to think about how you plan to communicate with your subscribers and how you'll bridge the gap between your subscribers and your product. While you work through this step you'll be brainstorming the perfect freebie to bridge that gap. Create your emails and remember to go back to update them with the freebies you create. 



I think one of the most overwhelming things about having an email list is figuring out how to serve them. Especially when you're just getting started. So the next step in your list building blueprint is to outline your content calendar to serve your subscribers. Outlining your content will give you confidence once your email list starts to grow and you'll be all set to serve them right off the bat. Now, let's brainstorm some content that you can serve up to your subscribers. 

  • A blog post round-up
  • Monthly freebies (example: I send out FREE stock photos every month
  • A resource guide
  • E-course
  • Tutorials 
  • Your favorite business apps
  • How-to videos
  • You favorite tips and tricks

Think about your business specifically. You want to bridge the gap between your customer and your product. Think of ways you can serve them that also brings them closer to making a purchase. Even if you're a lifestyle blogger, your email subscribers will drive traffic and sales to any affiliate links or sponsored posts your working on. Teach your subscribers creative ways to use your product. Teach them something and emphasize how using your product would make what you're teaching even easier. (example: building an email list is hard work, but promoting it can be made easy with styled stock photos. See what I did there. ;) 

Once you've brainstormed your content add it to a calendar. I use Google calendar for all my content and once a month I review upcoming content to make any changes. Because my content is outlined I'm never scrambling or feel rushed to wing-it. Do the work, plan ahead, and you'll be in great shape.



Okay, friend, this is where you create the freebie or download to hook new subscribers. We've already done a lot of work before even getting to this part. But that's okay, because the magic is in the prep work. The most important thing to remember when creating your freebie or download is to make sure it aligns your audience with your product or offering. You don't want to offer a freebie that doesn't connect your subscribers to your product. Otherwise, neither them or you will be a good fit. You want to do the work of creating something that is a perfect fit, that way your subscribers will be head-over-heels for your offer.

Let's work through some examples. One of the main freebies I offer is FREE styled stock photos, which is perfectly in-line with my product and customer needs. It gives customers an opportunity to test out the styled stock images and also gives me an opportunity to share how stock images can really make a difference in their business.

Let's say you sell a physical product, you could offer a discount on their first purchase or free shipping. You could even create a downloadable freebie that pairs with your products. Remember when Magnolia offered free decorative prints, which were perfectly aligned with their design style. I didn't think twice about downloading them.

Another example, I create a variety of downloads specific to business, like this Instagram calendar (which could be used with styled stock photos), or this Instagram Toolkit. Because I know my target audience is also feeling overwhelmed I created freebies to help with that exact thing, like this maintenance day checklist. 

This step might be easy to overthink, but just think about some of your favorite brands and think about what freebies they are offering. If your selling physical products think about what larger brands are doing, like Anthropologie and West Elm. At the top of the Anthropologie website, you can sign up for free shipping. At West Elm, you can save 15% off your entire order. Do you offer digital products? Is there anything that you can create to offer for free? Can you create an e-course? You can do this!


Need FREE stock photos to help promoate and grow your email list? Sign up and receive 15 FREE stock photos today. 



Now that you've created your freebie, a freebie that aligns perfectly with your customer, it's time to create a way to offer that freebie and collect emails. You can do this a few different ways, but in short, you want to create an opt-in. Most websites have opt-ins in multiple places, giving new visitors plenty of ways to subscribe to your list.

There are lots of different ways to add opt-ins to your site and Squarespace makes it so easy. You can use their announcement bar feature to direct subscribers to an opt-in page. You can use the promotion pop-up to offer your freebie and collect emails. You can create a blog post promoting your freebie and collect emails through an embedded form. You can create a separate opt-in page, like this too. If you're not sure how to create an opt-in page, check out this how-to.  You can add forms at the bottom of each blog post (scroll down and you'll see mine.) You can also add opt-in forms to your blog sidebar. There are multiple ways to collect emails, the great thing about that, is you can utilize almost all of them.







Creating your opt-in forms can be even easier with stock photos too. You can use stock photos to create an opt-in page. And you can use stock photos to customize any promotional pop-ups you create. 


We're on to the fun part, woot! We're about to the cross the finish line! It's time to throw some confetti for all the work you've done! You've determined how to manage your list, you've set up your list to collect emails, you've created a welcome email sequence, you've outlined your content calendar, you've created your freebie, you've added all your opt-in forms, now it's time to promote your freebie!

The easiest ways to promote your freebie is through a blog post and you can use Pinterest, Instagram (plus Instagram stories,) and Facebook to funnel people to that blog post. Did that just sound like a lot? With a little bit of planning, it doesn't have to be a lot. You can create images and posts that all work together. Your focus during this promotion is to use all the platforms I mentioned to funnel new visitors to your opt-in forms. You definitely don't want to have done all that work to set up your list and then not be able to promote it well. 

So, before you get overwhelmed, download your FREE stock photos first. You can use your free stock photos to make promoting your freebies a breeze. And before we start creating images to promote your freebie, we're going to wrap up today's posts, because it's been a doozy and you've got plenty of work to do. I'll be bringing you lots of ways to use your stock photos to promote your freebie, so keep your eyes peeled. xoxo! Samantha



The newest collection to the Member Library is here! And they are perfect for baby mamas and mompreneurs.  Introducing the Elle Collection, 20+ styled stock images, full of color, desktops, and mockups.


  • Expectant moms
  • Mommy bloggers
  • Mompreneurs 
  • Lifestyle bloggers
  • Anyone in a medical profession
  • Anyone providing baby and family tips
  • Anyone that creates baby DIYs on Pinterest

This collection has a variety of horizontal images, vertical images, and square images. You'll find something perfect for Facebook covers, website banners, blog posts, Pinterest images, and Instagram images!

There is plenty of color within this collection too! Blues, yellow, marble, champaign, green, and white. You can mix and match your favorite colors. You can also mix and match the Elle Collection with other images and you'll be set. 

Are you in need of baby inspired stock photos? Scroll through the gallery below to view the Elle Collection.

Did you know, as an Elah Tree Member, you get instant access to these images plus an additional 350 images in the Stock Photo Library! I can't wait to see how you use your stock photos! xoxo. Samantha



You may be thinking, "less than a minute? No way!" And you would be right, it took me about a minute and a half, from start to finish, so I'll take that as a win. ;) Plus, less than a minute just has a ring to it. So if you're pressed for time and need to create some Instagram collateral or even whip up some fun Instagram stories, this how-to is perfect for you. 


Download one of my favorite business apps, WordSwag. I use WordSwag almost every week. Between creating Instagram stories and Instagram graphics for my feed, it's perfect. I shared about how I use WordSwag for Instagram Stories here, but it's just as great for your Instagram feed too. It does cost $4.99, but if you're in need of Instagram graphics and creating beautiful Instagram stories, it will be completely worth it. I can create Instagram stories on the fly no matter where I am.


Download your favorite image. What makes this process so quick is having access to everything you need. When I need to create Instagram stories or Instagram graphics in a pinch, I simply log-in to the Elah Tree Member Library and download my favorite image. It's as easy as scrolling through a collection of images and saving an image to my camera roll. 


In need of FREE stock photos for your Instagram and website? Sign up and receive 15 FREE stock photos today. 



You've downloaded WordSwag, you've got your hands on your FREE stock photos, and now it's time to start creating. Open WordSwag, click the picture icon at the bottom right and upload an image of your choosing. WordSwag works a lot like Instagram. Uploading and choosing photos to work with is just as easy. 

Pro Tip: Keep Google Drive on your phone. All of our free stock photos can be accessed through Google Drive. This way you can have access to free photos while you're on the go. 


Once you've uploaded your image you can choose a template size for cropping. You can easily crop the image for square format or story format. It's just as easy to zoom in too. This is a perfect time to utilize your stock photos and make them unique to your brand. You'll see above that I zoomed in on the original photo (left) and focused on the flowers (right.) That's one of the great things about the photos in the Member Library, there are plenty of options for cropping photos to make them unique. 


Once you have chosen and cropped your photo WordSwag automatically opens with a text box ready for you to personalize your photo. You can add a quote (which WordSwag already has built-in #winning) or you can customize it to promote a blog post, new product, or new offering. What makes WordSwag so quick and easy to use is that you can scroll through font options and customize colors with just a tap of your screen.

As a new user it may take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with the app, but once you're comfortable, you'll be whipping up Instagram graphics in less than a minute in no time. 


Now that you've created your Instagram graphic, you're ready to share it on your feed!  Wondering how your new Instagram graphics will look in your feed? Hop over to mine and scroll through to see how easy they are at adding a little something extra to your feed. xoxo! Samantha

P.S. Have you downloaded your FREE stock photos yet? Click here or sign up below to grab yours.  



If you're anything like me, you know life gets busy. Busy grocery shopping, busy with family, busy building a business, busy doing laundry, busy managing social media. And it can be frustrating and overwhelming. Overwhelming because there are so many things to do and frustrating because you don't want to sacrifice time with the people you love and the things that mean the most to you. 

So let's say goodbye to the overwhelm and frustration and say hello to having time for the things that mean the most to you. The Elah Tree Member Library is here to help you do just that. With over 350 styled stock photos at your fingertips, you can create a beautiful brand without sacrificing time with your favorite people. You can reduce social media overwhelm and feel confident and professional online. 

Investing in your business can be scary, but the great thing about the Member Library is that it will continually keep giving with fresh new photos every month. Want to take a peek inside the library? Click here.

No more feeling guilty because you've missed out on time with your favorite people. No more social media stress. Join the Member Library and start using the Sweet Spring Collection for you brand today! xoxo!