List Building

Yes, I gave up on this blogging stuff, but then. . .

By Leslie Samuel

Have you ever been at the end of your rope? No seriously – I mean ready to just throw in the towel on this whole Internet Marketing/blogging thing.

Well, I have a confession to make . . . are you ready for this . . . Yes, I too was ready to call it quits at one point. In fact, I actually did just that. Step into the time machine with me and let me tell you a little story.

Leslie – The Freebie Guy

For those of you who haven’t been following what I’ve been doing from the very beginning, let me tell you – it’s nothing like what I’m doing now.

When I started learning about internet marketing, I was toying around with Incentivized Freebie Websites – you know those websites that claim that you can get a Free ipod, TV, or other consumer electronics for free in exchange for completing an offer and referring others to do the same.

Yes, you thought they were scams, and yes – many of them are (especially today). However, back then (2008), I was on fire with those sites. In fact, I found a way to not only get free stuff, but also make some decent money.

Ok, lets make this more concrete. I started what we called “Freebie Trading” on January 18, 2008. On my very first day, I made $70 doing it. When I saw that money in my Paypal account, I got so excited and started thinking that I would just do that over and over and over and make a ton of money.

It started off VERY well. In fact, In my first year as a Freebie Trader, I made $28,000+, got a flat panel TV and an iPod, while having a full time job as a High School teacher. I mean – look how happy I looked!

Me, Happy with my Flat Screen TV

Then I stumbled onto blogging and I realized that I could build an awesome blog about Freebie Trading and take what I was doing to the next level. I then started the blog and called myself “The Freebie Guy”. Ahh mann, the memories . . .

My blog grew to be the premiere blog in the Freebie Industry and I became well known among the Freebie Traders and Freebie Companies.

The Problem…

Hard WorkI know what you’re thinking – That’s Great Leslie. You should have continued what you were doing. Well, that’s not exactly the case.

What I was doing was extremely stressful, and took A LOT of work. Not only that, but if I didn’t work, I didn’t make any money. There was no passive income. Every dollar I earned was a dollar I worked HARD for.

I then went on to purchase a Freebie Trading Forum with 10,000 members, and my partner and I grew that forum to over 40,000 members within the span of a few months.

It got to the point where if I wasn’t eating, sleeping, or teaching, I was working on my business. No time for myself, no time for my wife (even worse), no time for my relationship with God, no time for hanging out with friends, no time for ANYTHING!

I can remember the days when I found it VERY hard to leave my laptop to do things like eat and use the restroom. It was BAD!

The breakdown point

Then it happened – I was SO FED UP with what I was doing and I decided to give up on the system. I stopped blogging, didn’t even look at my forum, wasn’t working the freebie sites, and just forgot about it all.

As far as I was concerned, it just wasn’t worth it. I didn’t care if I was making 1 Million dollars, that wouldn’t buy me all the things I was missing out on. Money wouldn’t have fixed my relationships, and I’m all about relationships. Then again . . . with a million dollars . . . ok, never mind 😉

My Saving Grace

While I was building my blog, I made a very smart decision (under the guidance of some Australian dude named Yaro Starak). I started a list from the very beginning.

After a few days of writing and tweaking, I had put together a Free eBook called “The Freebie Report”, and gave it away from my blog in exchange for signing up to my email newsletter.

The report became a hit, and I had a bunch of people (don’t remember the exact number) sign up for my list. But it didn’t end there – I used that list to nurture relationships with my subscribers. They came to know me for who I was, and they started appreciating the value I was providing.

When I posted an article to my blog that I thought would help them out, I sent them a message letting them know that it was there for them to read. When I found a valuable resource, I shared it with them. They were becoming my friends. I know I sound kinda mushy, but that’s the way I like to look at my list.

What’s the significance of that? Just follow along and you’ll see . . .

The result of me stopping everything

So, as I mentioned before, I gave up on everything I was doing. I had enough and didn’t want to do it anymore and I took a step back from it all.

The result was exactly what I expected. I went from having hundreds of people check out my site every day down to a handful of people. After a few months, my level of traffic was pathetic, but I didn’t care because I was DONE!

However, in my time of absence (which was very valuable), I decided to take a “bigger picture” look at my business. In doing so, I realized that it wasn’t that I couldn’t build my business without working so hard, it was that I wasn’t going about it in a smart way, and I wasn’t setting up systems to let my business work for me.

It was in that moment of clarity that I decided that I was going to give it another try, but that I was going to make sure to do it in a smarter way.

The Magical Moment

Once that decision was made, I went at it again. What happened next was absolutely beautiful. I posted an article to my blog and sent one email to my list, and from one day to the next, I went from virtually no traffic the day before writing that post to having the same level of traffic I had before taking my hiatus.

What I saw that day taught me a very valuable lesson – Having a list of responsive subscribers is a very powerful thing – no joke!

From that point on, I made a conscious decision to focus on making my list better and better, by delivering value and going above and beyond what my subscribers expect from me.

If I had to start over from absolute scratch, knowing everything I had gone through to get to where I had gotten, I don't know if I would've made it. THANK GOD, I followed the wise advice of building a list!

Are you building a list?

That’s a serious question, because if you aren’t, you definitely should be. Just in case you need a simple guide to follow on how to get started, let me break it down as simply as I possibly can:

Step 1 – Sign up for an Aweber Account. This will give you all the list management capabilities and features you need, and you can get started for $1

Step 2 – Set up your list in Aweber by following the onscreen instructions.

Step 3 – Create a Free resource that you can give to your subscribers in exchange for them signing up to your list.

Step 4 – Create a Web Form in your Aweber account for the list you created. This can actually be done in step 2, because the onscreen instructions for setting up your list will also walk you through this process.

Step 5 – Put the Aweber form code on your blog and start collecting subscribers.

Step 6 – Fill your autoresponder sequence with valuable content to go out to your subscribers automatically. Ask yourself – what does your audience want, and give it to them. Make sure you are doing it in a way to nurture relationships with them.

Bonus – As you add content to your autoresponder sequence, also include promotions for any affiliate products that can help your subscribers accomplish their goals. If you have products to sell, this would be a great place to do it. Don’t oversell, but don’t undersell.

Lets end this off with a question for you . . .

What is the biggest struggle you face in growing your list?

  • Leslie, what another great and PERSONAL story!  This is something that will definitely help me out.  Telling my current blog readers to just subscribe to the email list hasn’t gotten me very far.  But if I was to create something that they would get in return – that’s golden. I just have to figure out what to create… hmm.
    My biggest struggle – For a health/foodie blog, it’s not that easy to come up with a large document to give away for free, unless it’s a bunch of recipes, but that’s something my readers would get just from coming to my site on a daily basis.  I guess I need to get to brainstorming, but I would say the content for a large resource is where I’m struggling to move onto the next step.

    •  @hbrill83 good to hear. Sometimes we don’t need large docs to give away free. There is a lot of info out there re health/food…and I know when you find your unique voice you will be able to offer your readers something personal and valuable on healthy eating/healthy living. I often get inspiration for ideas by looking at magazines in my field (yoga/health) and writing articles and ideas for products from the covers of the magazines. Enjoy the journey. Hugs

    • @hbrill83 You’d be surprised. The content I sell on one of my sites is based on the content they can get for free on my site. They are purchasing the convenience of having it all in one eBook.

      The concept can be the same for your site. You can package your top 10 recipes (just as an example) and provide it as a neatly formatted eBook. Just a thought. Just be creative. You’d be surprised at what you can come up with.

    •  @Leslie Samuel  @hbrill83
       Leslie, great idea! I actually had never thought of that… content that’s already on my blog – just packaged neatly and all in one spot.  Smart!
      Thanks!! That may have been the idea I needed to jumpstart my ebook 🙂

    • @Leslie Samuel @hbrill83, Wow…I did not think about it either but using content already on my blog in a nice ebook might just be the solution to one my biggest problem (conversion).

      My site is about dance and culture around the world. I have an eweber form on my dancequotes page that just doesn’t convert into suscribers. My stats from Google Analytics says I am receiving between 100 to 200 visits per day but i get hardly any comment and no subscriber to my newsletter as I present it. The number of visit is small, but before getting all wired for more, I thought it wise to first takle the conversion rate problem.

      The other important problem is that I absolutely want my blog in 3 languages (french, english and haitian creole). The feedback I got about how it is set now is that it can be confusing for the reader. A collection of the dance quotes in distinct language section, as a gift, might be intestingly attractive to the reader.

      Thanks for the idea. I am going to give it a try and let you know how it is working out…

    • One recommendation Turenne – I wouldn’t start off trying to do your blog in 3 languages from the beginning. Get it established in one language first, and then once it’s established, you can consider adding another language. Trying to do all at once will have you running in multiple directions and not accomplishing as much.

    •  @happyfoodholly How about a themed recipe collection?  A week of eating that is healthy and delightful.  Or, something around your journey, healthy options for what you are craving – high protein, sugary and fatty little treats, delicious salads.  Or a series recipes to try so people can find out what their bodies like best.  All of these could be mostly a collection of recipes with the thought going in to how they are structured and a briedf introduction to each one.  This could be distinctive but not a lot of extra work.

  • Great to hear your story Leslie and to realise you too had a “breaking -melt-down point” followed by moments of clarity and renewed passion. Sometimes, we have to “go there” in order to grow and become more of who we are. I am in that place and really glad to read your story. Thank you. I look forward to reading more, Take care

    • @yogainspiresyou You are very much welcome. So glad to hear that my story could help you get through your time of struggle. Just never give up. Promise me that 🙂

    • @cheptiony LOL, so glad to hear that my personality was coming through for you in my written content. That’s one of my main goals. Thanks for the feedback!

  • Hi Leslie, 
    Thanks for another inspiring post.
    I wonder whether it would be better to create the content for the free giveaway, blog and autoresponder first.
    Also AWeber is $1 for the first month but $19 every month after that. Isn’t Mailchimp a better option for newbie blogger because it’s free for the first 1000 or 2000 subscribers?
    Thanks again.
    Rohi Shetty

    • @rohishetty In terms of what type of content is better, they are ALL important. I would try to work on all of them. Takes work, but it’s all about the hustle to make it happen.

      I love Aweber. Mail chimp is good too, but I’m biased. Yes, you can choose to start with mail chimp and that’s fine. I recommend what I use because it works very well for me, and I can only really answer questions and help people with what I know.

    •  @rohishetty Hey Rohi – I thought I’d chime in here too – looks like a lot of people are asking about MailChimp. Please read their Terms of Use page here:
      Scroll down to where it says “Prohibited Content And Industries”… and you will see a whole range of businesses excluded. The main one of concern for most folks is the Affiliate Marketing one. Even though we don’t purely teach affiliate marketing, that is definitely one of the monetization options we recommend. And if you use MailChimp, well it seems they wont allow that unless you want to have your account removed without notice.

  • The biggest problem I  have growing my list is with conversion. I can’t tell which comments are spamming me (because they’re too broad and general) or which comments are responding to my posts.

    • @vocalmaestro You need to install a spam blocking plugin. The one I use is akismet and that virtually eliminates spam comments from my blog. You should check it out!

    •  @Leslie Samuel  @vocalmaestro
       Hi Leslie,
      I am also getting some comments on by blog that are very complimentary, but by judging from the sender, don’t seem to be relavent to my niche – could they be spam?  Also isn’t the aksmet plugin a subscriber service?

  • Leslie,
    Aweber is $ 19 from the second month onwards, and this has put me off from having a mailing list. How about mailchimp or any other free autoresponder service ?

    • @ Esther SS Mailchimp is a good alternative from what I’ve heard. I prefer Aweber and think that they are the best in the industry. However, the main thing is that you want to start a list. The money is in the list. I can’t give any recommendations for others because I haven’t used any others.

    •  @Leslie Samuel I’d be careful with Mailchimp if you’re interested at all in promoting anything. Read their Terms Of Service page to see all the businesses they rule out. Affiliate Marketing is one of them for example…

    •  @GideonShalwick Ahh yesss. I knew there was a valid reason for not going with Mailchimp, but I couldn’t remember what that reason was. Thanks for chiming in!

  • My site just doesn’t have enough content to keep people interested. At least I hope that’s the reason. I’m working on  the solution right now…  
    I’ve had aweber for a few months, but no list to speak of.

    • @lucyanne Keep working on it one blog post at a time. Start working on your auto responder 1 email at a time. According to Will Smith, don’t try to build a wall, focus on laying 1 brick at a time as perfectly as you can. Do it over and over and you’ll have an awesome wall.

  • It’s probably knowing what problem people will pay me to solve.  Also getting the word out to more people.
    I wonder if you have reflected on whether your experience with the freebie site carried over to your blogging efforts, perhaps unconsciously.

    •  @livingauthentically Oh, it definitely did carry over significantly. I believe that we build on the knowledge that we acquired in our past experiences 🙂

  • I use MailChimp.  Those who use aWeber will know but I have heard that if you import your list to aWeber then the subscribers need to double opt-in again.  Not sure that this is true as I don’t use aWeber but would certainly be a consideration in me moving to them from MailChimp if it was the case.

    •  @livingauthentically Gideon made an excellent point about mailchimp and you want to make sure to look into it, depending on what you’re niche is. Mailchimp is VERY restrictive in terms of what you can do with their service. If you’re doing affiliate marketing, or any make money online opportunities (and many other things), you can’t use their services. You can see that in their terms here –
      Don’t run the risk of building a list to have them all of a sudden shut you down.

  • My biggest struggle is getting enough people to subscribe to the list. I believe the FREE eBook I produced provides a lot of value but due to lack of traffic am unable to get enough people to read it.

    •  @KrudlerAce Hi there. It sounds like you have identified the problem you’re facing. Now that you’ve understood the problem, you need to figure out why you aren’t getting the traffic you want. Are you doing what it takes to market your site the right way? Do you have great content that will hold your visitors attention? Have you been doing it long enough? What kinds of interesting strategies can you use to bring more traffic? It can be challenging to identify those things, but once you have done so, amazing things can happen. Stay tuned for more info on traffic 🙂

  • Thanks for this  inspiring story. I’ve just put another new post out on my blog. I think when I’ve published enough posts I’ll make an ebook out of this, as you adviced. Hans

  • Leslie, I realize your story is aimed at encouraging us to keep on keeping on. I haven’t quit but I did put my site on hold whilel I build a solid base of in-demand, keyword rich, polished content and learn how to use WordPress. I think it was a mistake for me to register a domain name and start paying for hosting before I have built a traffic and newsletter worthy blog. I think it would also be a mistake to begin marketing my site and risk irritating visitors, perhaps permanently, with a blog that isn’t ready.

    •  @Billy Dean I disagree with you there. I recommend getting the hosting immediately and setting up wordpress. So that when you are working on traffic generation, you are directing them to something that you own and control. That way, you can build your asset, which is your blog and your list.

  • Great advice Leslie and nice to know more about your story. Thanks for sharing. I’m glad you mentioned this about setting up a list, that’s what I have been working on in the last week. Job done!

  • Very inspiring and informative post. My main challenge is usually the technical end of things, especially on how to set up getting the free report out to those who opt-in, for example. Also, I think there are some limiting beliefs I’m dealing with as well (just read Yaro’s latest post, LOL). In fact, I think I will read your post again to make sure I’ve really gotten the msg. Thanks again!

    •  @EdieDykeman1 Hi Edie,
      Forget about those limiting beliefs. They will only hold you back.. The key is to get stuff out there, learn from your mistakes, refine what you do, and make things happen. You will get better over time. The technical challenges are only challenges until you figure them out. Then they will become easier, because you will get stronger.
      Get it started, and come back to show me the awesomeness 🙂

  • Hi Leslie,
    I’m having a more positive experience with blogging.  I find that over time, as I gain more experience and a more loyal following via rss and newsletter subscription, I’m able to become more efficient and use my blogging time more wisely.  Also, I find that my old posts bring in passive income and continue earning for quite a while. 

    •  @richescorner WOOHOOO, that’s awesome to here. Keep up the good work. The more you do, the more it builds on your past efforts, and the more money you make over time. Lovin it!

  • This is probably a dumb question, but I don’t understand.  When someone is a subscriber, don’t they already GET your new content?  Why would you send them a note about new content you’ve added to your blog? 

  • This is probably a dumb question, but I don’t understand… when someone subscribes to your blog, don’t they already GET the new content you post?  Why would you need to send them a message when you’ve added new content?

    •  @LoreleiSieja Not a dumb question at all. It all depends on how you have them subscribe. If they subscribe to your RSS feed via email, they do get your blog content sent to them. That’s one option. However, with that, you don’t get the ability to send customized messages that are separate from your blog content. For example, if you have a product to promote or just a separate email broadcast to send out, you can’t do that. It’s still good to have that as an option though.
      When I say building a list, I’m referring specifically to having an autoresponder service like aweber, where you can send out specific messages on an automatic basis AND you can send broadcasts to your list about anything in particular. It gives you much more control of your message, and allows you to set up some cool things in an automated way for nurturing relationships with your subscribers.

  • Great post Leslie !

    At first, I was thinking that, well, things were working out pretty good. But then, the point is clear and I agree; quality of life is essential and that’s one of the most important reason why we are working hard in the first place. It is fantastic that you had the guts to step back, plan and rebounce stronger and more efficient with the use of your time and efforts. Thanks for sharing…

    The biggest struggle I face in growing my list is the conversion rate. I am going to try your suggestion of a colletion of my site content in an ebook as a free gift and see if it will get my readers to engaged more… changing the word one blog at a time… takkling the problems to improve my readers experience through the power of dance and getting closer to my goals, one at a time…

    • I definitely think that having an eBook as a free gift will help with conversions. It gives people a reason to subscribe. If the eBook is enticing enough Turenne, you’d be surprised at what can happen as a result.

  • Hi Leslie, did your 10 free video tutorials on building a blog. I’ve been battling with the back end stuff for years and you are without doubt the best communicator of that information I’ve come across. Many thanks, I’ll definitely be following up with a couple of your purchasable courses. Are they downloadable or posted out as DVDs? Thanks again, you’re a rare bird – John

    • @John Hanna That’s great to hear John. Glad you are finding value in the videos. The courses are downloadable and you can also watch it from within the members area. See ya inside 🙂

  • Hi Leslie, wonderful article indeed. I’m growing a list and I’m so happy that people are actually signing up! Internet Marketing is no joke. I’ve been studying hard for a long time. I love your teaching style and the clearness in your work. I’ll be along for the ride even though I know the beginning stuff after doing it 33 hundred times lol. One thing that’s powerful for all professionals is to not stop learning, there’s always something I maybe missed or can add to what I’m doing. Besides you’re definitely successful at this so thanks again for the great value here!

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