How to Build an Email List from Scratch Fast and For Free

Last Updated: April 2024

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Almost everyone has an email. Investing in an email list is a rational thing to do.

Email dominantly stands as the most precious asset to online businesses — with a return of $40 for every $1 spent!!

Better yet, it’s not as nerve-wracking to build as long as you follow the right steps — the following steps:

Gather actionable data

Knowledge is power. And in line with that thought, the understanding of who your audience is is crucial.

You have to know who your target is when you aim. Likewise, you’ll have to know where to find your audience.

One common way of doing that is by conducting a survey that puts all the perspectives into play.

Some of the best places to carry on research are:

  • Google
  • Amazon
  • Quora
  • Reddit
  • Ubersuggest
  • Survey sites

For example, if you target a hairstyle niche, you can start by understanding how to get both genders.

Men usually hang out on YouTube, google plus, LinkedIn, and women on Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook.

Understand your audience’s fears, their points of view on hairstyles, and how they intertwine with work, appeal to business, and their families.

Get the fun facts about people who put on such hairstyles to give the subscriber-to-be a sense of pride. Isn’t it right that everyone wants an ego boost?

Understand the factors she puts dear to her when getting her hairstyle.

Have some insight into the age bracket of your audience, their location, and how it affects the hairstyles they prefer, their salary — so you can put up products within their budget and values. You get the idea of how and why the survey is necessary.

You should not put to action what is in your thoughts rather what your clients want or need.

Now that we have done the research and know who your audience is and where to get them to let’s get them.

Creating branded freebies

Who doesn’t love things that cost them very little but add value to their life?

The financial cost of this is zero for your audience, and the value immeasurable. An email and they get a nifty product.

This fantastic product that you don’t charge for is what we call a freebie. That’s my term for it.

Someone else might call it an opt-in, another a free market, and another a lead magnet.

For the product to acquire the recognition as excellent in most people’s worlds, it should be something that they do want.

When they want your product, they have all the reasons to give you their email, and you get to reach out to them more intimately.

If you are wondering what these products might be, I have several suggestions for you.

You can offer:

  • report on the industry’s huge trends that you are writing about,
  • a webinar,
  • a guide from your personal experience,
  • a video on how to solve a specific problem,
  • mp3 files,
  • templates

The list is endless.

Please ensure that your freebie is well crafted. They say that first impression matters and, in this case, it matters… a lot!

It is pointless to spend too much time on something that will have a low or negative ROI.

Don’t give up hope if you have nothing to give away.

I’ll give you a sure way, or two ways, to get one.

Hiring content creators

Content creators have an immense ability to resonate with the audience by appealing to their interests. You can hire them from sites like Upwork, Fiverr, Freelancer, and countless more.

There is an expectation that your clients have on the kind of content you will offer them. Don’t disappoint them by not hiring a content creator if you do not have any creative abilities.

Visiting freebies sites

The other way to get a freebie is by visiting sites like They have products from any niche you can think of.

The plus to this is that you can buy and resell them without getting into any legal issues.

You are welcome!

It is a no-brainer that you need to very well design your opt-in pages giving it very little or close to no cliché.

In creating your freebie, choose an attractive headline to attract the client towards getting the product. The headline should highlight what the customer is getting for free.

Then, add a relevant tagline for the product.

The tagline, like Apple’s — Think Different, should be clear and to the point.

The audience will get the message.

It’s a low effort that rewards handsomely.

Engaging with your user on your opt-in pages might not be a design, but it works super well.

For example, you can create a quiz that self-assessed the audience. The hook will be where you hold all the cards, and they have to give you their email to get to know their results.

Yes, you are that smart.

In as much as you are smart, you need to be cautious with your opt-in pages. A page that oversells can be very nagging. We don’t like nagging people, do we?

One way to avoid overselling is to describe to your client precisely what he/she will get.

Instead of “subscribe and get my most valued eBook,” put in your opt-in page, “You are just a click away from getting the most compatible hairstyles for your face shape and hair type.”

We both agree that the second opt-in statement gathers more emails than the first.

Distributing Freebies

I’d recommend putting freebies in multiple sites to generate leads.

There is one hurdle that you have to jump for that to be effective, though – you have to personalize the opt-in pages to the needs of the audience.

You do not want to put an opt-in page tailored for men’s hairstyles on a women’s hairstyles website. That is counterproductive.

You need to make the audience feel, “Damn. This person is speaking to me. I need to hear more.”

With that approach, you can distribute emails on numerous platforms and grow your email list.

On-Website distribution

There is one thing that goes without saying.

You need a website.

The website will be the point of concentration of all your contacts.

And no. A website isn’t hard to build. You do not need a huge one: just one where you will have your landing page and a couple of blogs.

For every webpage with different content, offer a freebie on it.

Some other ways that you can distribute freebies on your website include:

Landing pages

A landing page is primarily the page you direct visitors to so they offer their emails to be included in your email list.

The landing pages have a connection to your email list since most email list providers, such as WordPress, Wix, Squarespace,., offer them.

If your email list providers do not offer one, you can use landing pages software such as Landingi and Unbounce.

The landing page gives the visitors enough but not too much information to capture their interest.

Do not fall for the temptation to put a one size fits all landing page. In as much as it is lucrative, I’d suggest otherwise. Remember to personalize. Everyone wants to feel special.

Upon arrival to your landing page, the visitor can scroll to the fantastic blogs you have written for them, and if you do not have blogs, kindly do craft them.

Call-To-Action on every page

Having blogs is a way of marketing yourself. It is known as content marketing.

The blogs are essential in retaining your subscribers and charming new people into your email list.

At the finalization of each blog that you have to advise the reader to sign up for the newsletters.

You can set your website to have sign-up opt-ins at the beginning, end, and sidebar of every blog.

Your website has an about page, right? That’s an excellent place to put in an opt-in.

Creating pop-ups

Let us get back to the website. Once a person has read through a blog for a reasonable period, you can set a pop-up with an opt-in to appear with value related to the blog.

The person is at this point interested in what you have written about, and the chances of converting him/her to your religion are more significant than you imagine.

That’s the importance of the pop-up opt-in. To capture the reader when their interest has already peaked.

Ensure that those who have subscribed do not receive the opt-in message. It will only pester the older subscriber. We both don’t want that.

Tagging your opt-in to your product

Every sale you make without an opt-in count as an email lost. We can prevent that.

Confirmation of the purchase of goods message is a fertile place to gain an extra email in your list.

If you discount the buyer for signing up for your newsletter, you are more likely to close the sale and the email!

Integrating opt-ins in business/company emails

You can take advantage of company/business emails sent to clients.

At the footnote of the email, you can include the opt-in to lure your clients into subscribing to your email list.

Use social media

Social media can inevitably help you grow your email list.

This is by far the most feasible and less demanding way of doing so.

The use of social media to create and share content will help you in more ways than one.

  • To increase the traffic to your website
  • To raise the awareness of your brand
  • To create an identity for your brand
  • To improve interaction and association with your audience

The more audience and audience engagement you generate, the more you can get to subscribe and eventually convert.

You should invest in finding keywords that feature in your social media accounts so that if a person searches for that word, your account will be among the top suggestions, if not the top.

Just as in your website, continually adding relevant content to your social media account will grow your audience.

How? You might ask. By keeping you on the feed of your audience who then share with their audience who then share with theirs and the trend continues.

Mix up your content with videos, articles, facts & figures, audios, memes, and GIFs.

Keep your audience intrigued and entertained.

You, though, might want to keep your brand identity congruent across all platforms.

Take Amazon as an example.

They have a brand personality that revolves around the message of sincerity and competence.

No matter which social media platform their personality consistently emits sincerity and competence.

You might not be the best social media marketer, and that’s okay. In the words of Pablo Picasso, “Good artists copy, great artists steal.”

Go to the pages of your competition and steal (don’t plagiarize, though) their format.

Sometimes things just happen—bad things for that matter.

When you link and create a relationship between your social media account and your email list, you will need to be well equipped with social media crisis management.

Preventing one from affecting the other is a concrete objective.

Below are several social media sites you can use.


Facebook has groups that engage in different topics.

You can place the opt-ins in a Facebook group that deals in the niche you are specializing in. If there isn’t any, pioneer one.

The other thing that you might want to consider is Facebook pages.

Facebook is a relaxing site where people sip a soda while chatting with friends or strangers. Therefore, keep in mind that the tone that you will use should be relaxed and very friendly.

You will want to design your Facebook page to the appropriate visual components for a good Facebook experience.


Undoubtedly, Pinterest is growing way too fast and will continue to for a very long time.

Pinterest will give room to display your products and drive brand awareness with spectacular images.

In the description section on the image, attach a link to the opt-in.


There is a little distinction between Pinterest and Instagram besides the fact that you can engage with your audience on Instagram – which is a window of opportunity for you.

Before you get down to business, you might want to change your account profile to a business account.

With a business account, followers will contact you from your Instagram page, similar to how they do on your website.

You will access your analytics from such an account and monitor the impressions that you have made.


LinkedIn is a professional site. As such, you will need to frame your content professionally.

LinkedIn has groups that allow you to engage with like-minded people.

If you put your content reasonably and layout your points well, you may convince them to join your email list.

This will boil down to proving you have value to offer.

Encourage the clients you accrue, encourage them to recommend you on the platform so as to gain credibility.


With the assumption that you have or will create a YouTube channel (you should), This is a ripe place to attach your lead magnet.

You might think that your video needs to go viral for the lead magnet to spread.

I want to counter that thinking.

The same way you landed on this article is the same way someone will land on your YouTube video – learning how to do things.

Create a video of how-to and offer to give more methods in your progressive emails.


With Twitter, you can broadcast new features in the niche you are offered with your lead magnets attached.

This will pique the interest of your audience and gain you,r followers.

The upside of gaining followers is if your follower retweets one of your posts, they will generate impressions for you and indirectly affiliate people to your email list.

When someone makes a positive comment about you, retweet that comment.

This, as per psychology, is social proof. People are more likely to engage with people or products other people engage in.

Twitter is fundamentally rooted in communication and dialogue.

Use that to your advantage.

There are two first areas to put your lead magnets.

That is in your Twitter bio and your

pinned tweet.

There is a cunning way to get more subscribers to your list.

Remember Quora and Reddit.

People engage with a lot of questions.

Look for questions in your niche.

Answer them and leave a message like, “This person offers better knowledge on the knowledge than I have. Check it out!”

Then wait for the magic to happen.

Manually distributing your freebies

You sure have a few (or a lot of) friends.

If not friends, maybe acquaintances, and if worse comes to worst, your family.

They should represent an offline market to which you can pitch your lead magnets and obtain emails from.

If they like your offer, they might affiliate other people in joining your email list.

It is worth a trial.

Whenever you attend events, you can exchange cards with people, which in them contain email addresses


You will have to type in their emails manually, though.

Distribution through ads

(The title is about building an email list from scratch and for free, but it would pain me not to give you this idea on ads. However, you will have to pay for them.

If you do not want to spend any money at the moment, you can skip this part. But I guarantee you it’s worth the money.)

You will want to distribute your freebies in as many places as possible. And an effective way to do this is through ads.

I’ll list for you several ads.

Solo ads- with this, you are paying people to promote your opt-in forms to their email list. Websites for such is Solo ads are, by far, the cheapest ads.


Facebook ads: Facebook has powerful segmentation utilities to easily and quickly aim your ads to peculiar people.


LinkedIn Sponsored Features: LinkedIn also targets a specific audience and has different features with Facebook ads.


Twitter ads: These ads will keep promoting your tweets to a broad audience, which will, in turn, attract more people to your landing page and add your followers on Twitter.


Google ads/AdWords – These ads have terrific potential to gather traffic. I mean, who doesn’t use Google?

Writing an Email sequence

Following that you have distributed your freebies, you want to plan on keeping clients permanently on your email list.

The clients on an email list are attended to without so much human intervention by using email marketing services. This is the plan you desire.

This plan is what we call an email sequence.

An email sequence, by definition, is a series of emails delivered to the client from the time a person subscribes to an email list to the temporary or permanent end of the series.

This series is triggered by the user’s action or set time intervals by the email list holder.

The emails sent as a result of time intervals are referred to as autoresponders.

I’d recommend that you use a combination of autoresponders and trigger-based email sequences.

Email sequences give a ripe moment to send an email at the optimal time presumed to impact.

If there is one sure way of making customers an advocate of your brand, this is.

There are different types of email sequences that an email list should feature to guarantee growth.

Nurture Sequence

This series contributes to familiarizing the client with the company or business.

With this sequence, you deliver on your promises by giving your client the coveted freebie (we’ll discuss freebies later) and inform the subscriber what and when to expect activity from you.

Engagement sequence

These emails prepare your clients for conversion in the future by deepening the relationship between you and them.

The engagement sequence should involve micro-steps. Do not rush them. Slow but sure.

Eventually, you will close deals with your clients.

Conversion sequence

All the above sequences have been preparing you for this moment.

You’ve taken care of your relationship with your client, and it’s the ripe time to ask them to do something – which they’ll be more than willing.

The conversion sequence usually involves getting your audience to purchase something.

Onboarding sequence

After you convert a member of your audience into a customer, you will want to guide him through the process of using your service or product for them to be at ease with it.

This will ensure that your clients are happy and buy more products from you. They may even recommend you to their friends and acquaintances!

Recover Abandoned cart Sequence

When a buyer leaves without buying an item in the cart, the email sent will bring their attention to that same cart for further action.

The buyer might have left the item due to the site’s crashing or timing out.

Using this sequence will get those unsure of their purchase to make up their mind, hopefully to your advantage, and put those who were sent out by technical issues back in to finish their purchase.

Renewal sequence

More often than not, email list subscribers will stop engaging at some point. The reasons for this may be more than we can imagine.

This sequence will be the last attempt to luring them back in. With this sequence, you attract them back by offering an incentive for doing so.

Event sequence

An event sequence is a call-to-action.

This sequence informs the audience of an event to come and encourages them to attend.

The event might range from a webinar to an online arcade.

The event sequence serves multiple purposes all-around an event.

One of which is laying the information about the event to come.

After alerting the audience of this, the subsequent email will nudge them to attend and ensure a good number of people will be in attendance.

The event will soon conclude. Use this sequence to get feedback and offer a follow-up.

Follow-up sequence

These sequences are used after the completion of an action by a client.

Among many other goals, the goal of this sequence may include:

  1. Hammering in the information obtained
  2. Getting the client to a referral program to gain more clients
  3. Informing clients of upcoming events
  4. Alerting a client to purchase a product that is worth his money

Your subscribers will not enter and exit at a specified point in your email sequence in a real-world occurrence.

Weaving different email sequences will make the subscriber’s engagement intimate and lead him to the next product you want to sell.

Curb every reluctance by giving him valuable free content.

This free content will:

  1. Keep him engaged
  2. Orient him towards purchasing the next product


Weaving multiple email sequences together will prove to generate a complex system that will be based on trigger events and tags.

You might want to take this slow. There should be a core sequence for this.

The slower you go, the better you can test for errors in the triggers to prevent major havoc at the end of the sequence.


The goal is to send as many people to your landing page as possible.

In line with that thought, there is one primary precaution. DO NOT BUY AN EMAIL LIST.

Having someone’s email is an honor. Let it remain that way. Please do not give them a reason to feel disgusted by you possessing their email.

If this is not convincing enough to keep you from buying an email list, let me give you several reasons:

  • You will end up in the spam folder. Who wants that?
  • Other people are buying the email list you are buying. If the person doesn’t remember signing up, chances are you will not get engagement from him.
  • The email list you have purchased might be spam or used as a spam trap. Your email address stands a high chance of being blacklisted together with your IP address as spam.
  • The spam complaints will be too high that your email service provider will shut your account down.
  • There are regulations put by GPDR (General Data Protection Regulation) that prohibit and penalize people who violate them.

You get the idea. It is not worth your money.

It is email marketing suicide.

Email marketing is permission-based, so it is not annoying to see a marketer in your inbox.

In summary, the two factors that are surrounding a successful email list include:

  1. Good website traffic
  2. Well-crafted opt-in forms on the website

It is worth mentioning that you will need to have an audience of engaged clients. Only these will bring you a fortune. You will need to keep a curated sphere of engaged customers and active email addresses.

A whopping 30% of people who subscribe to an email list change their email addresses yearly. This statistic tells you that you should clear the inactive emails from your list as frequently that is, annually.

Focus on having beneficial emails, not a lot of emails.