How to scale your creative business with email marketing

Email Marketing Take Yourself Pro
12 min read
In this Article

You’ve probably felt the siren call before: “Scale, scale, scale.”

But usually, that means one thing: “Hustle, hustle, hustle.”

Running a creative business isn’t easy. We’re all struggling with burnout these days — 52% of Americans say they’re burned out in 2021 — and pushing yourself to grow for growth’s sake isn’t going to necessarily work for everyone. When it comes to scaling your business, you have to grow in a way that works best for you.

In general, there are three ways to operationally scale your business:

  1. Automate routine or mindless tasks with software
  2. Delegate or outsource tasks to new hires, agencies, or virtual assistants
  3. Eliminate to-dos that don’t matter to the bottom line

Luckily, you can do all three of these well with email marketing.

Why email marketing is so useful for creators

Scaling your business on your own terms means thinking through what matters most to you, not what everyone else is doing. Is it revenue, or is it flexibility? Or some kind of balance between the two?

Lucy Reiser

For North Carolina artist Lucy Reiser, it’s about giving herself space to breathe and be creative — including a financial cushion to be able to pursue her passions. She scaled her business from side hustle to a full-time, sustainable income over the past seven years, which now includes art prints, gallery work, and an online course.

“I’ve always been an artist,” she says. “After I graduated from college, I taught for a few months as an art teacher, and did a bunch of babysitting, enough where I could make it six months before finding another job. Then, in a year it just snowballed to a six-figure business over the past seven years.”

Lucy Reiser
Reiser explores multiple types of painting, including abstract, impressionist, and landscape.

Email marketing is one of Lucy’s top channels to spread the word about her business. She uses email not only to drive sales, but to build a community and audience of people that look forward to seeing what she does next. “When it comes to the bottom line, email is by far the most important for me,” says Reiser. “These are the people who intentionally choose to have me show up in their inbox. They’re the people I feel most connected to and who truly keep my business thriving.”

Hunter Welling

CMO-turned-business coach Hunter Welling takes the same approach with her email marketing strategy, building a multi-six-figure business over the past few years almost entirely through her email skills. With 800 subscribers and an above average open rate of 40%, she’s built an engaged, excited list of people to connect with.

“I help coach clients into creating a business model that supports them, so they can have a life outside of their business,” she says. “With email, I always prioritize value. It’s a way of being able to share advice, behind-the-scenes info, and celebrate my clients. I use it as a place to be really generous with people, which works well, because when it’s time to sell, they already know the value that I can bring to the table.”

The best time to start your email marketing program? Today.

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If you don’t already have an email marketing program, today is the best day to start one.

That’s because you want to build a runway for your business and connect with an audience you own before you try to sell to them.

It’s ok to start small — a single monthly newsletter, or even a few one-off emails here and there — but the point is, of all the marketing you could be doing, making email a top priority will give you the ability to scale your business quickly, with higher ROI (up to 38:1!) than constantly keeping up with changing social media algorithms or 1:1 sales calls.

“Email is the most important channel for me because it’s my own asset,” says Welling. “Just get started with your email list. Even if you don’t know exactly how you’re going to scale, even if you start with just 30 subscribers, it’s going to be the foundation of your marketing program.”

When you are ready to go bigger, you’ve got a primed, opted-in audience that wants to hear from you, which is the most valuable asset you can have in marketing. “I have clients that finally send their first email to say, the 37 people on their email list, and make a sale immediately. These are people who have asked you to be in contact, and they’re more ready than you think,” says Welling.

Step 1: Build an engaged email list

Whether you’ve already built an email list or you’re just getting started, it’s important to focus on engagement, rather than the overall number.

To drive engagement, you need to focus on creating value for your community. You want to think of your subscribers not as numbers but as relationships that you’re nurturing — and email marketing makes it easy to do at scale.

One way to build your email list quickly with value is through lead magnets. These can look like:

  • Ebooks, checklists, or other long-form content
  • Giveaways for small products or swag
  • Mini-courses, webinars, or coaching previews

Reiser splits out her lead magnets based on where her customers are in their path to purchase, catering to the different interests of her audience. Some of her buyers are much more interested in learning how to become better artists than purchasing art themselves and vice versa.

Lucy Reiser
Reiser offers a free 10-minute painting demo in exchange for email addresses as one of her lead magnets.

“The simplest thing I do is create close-ups of paintings or palettes and share them as free phone backgrounds if you enter your email address,” she says. “I try to keep it simple and easy, like a free mini-painting class for 10 minutes, or PDF downloads that explain a key concept.”

She offers her lead magnets through dedicated landing pages and through pop-up forms throughout her website, which you can easily build using ConvertKit. Our landing page opt-in forms not only create a seamless path to turn your readers into subscribers, they also help you gather information to connect with your audience and increase your sales.

Lucy Reiser
Another lead magnet example from Reiser is a free guide all about finding your artistic style.

With tactics like these, Reiser grew her email list from nothing to over 3,000 people — all of whom are excited about what she has to offer.

Step 2: Connect with your audience on a deeper level

You want your email marketing efforts to feel true to you. The less like “marketing” email communication feels, the more likely it will resonate with your community and build that trust.

“I always want marketing to feel natural,” says Reiser. “There has to be a little bit of strategy, but I make room for organic parts, like things I feel good about and want to share. I try to be intentional about what I’m doing, so that it always feels like me. For my monthly newsletter, I send out what I’m reading, what I’m listening to, anything that inspires me.”

Reiser focuses her monthly newsletter on inspiration and notes from her, making it as personal as possible.

Listen to your existing customers to figure out what to talk about in your emails. They’ve already raised their hand to be a part of something you’re creating, so pay attention to them.

“I used to always send out a weekly email to my whole list, and then a second, separate email to my membership program. This month I just wrapped up some launches and I got so many responses from people that asked for more, wanting a daily email, so that’s where I’m going to go next,” says Welling.

Welling’s weekly emails aren’t fancy — they’re often plain text and get straight to the point, which is what her audience loves.

With ConvertKit, you can batch content for daily, weekly, or monthly newsletters ahead of time, automating the process so you can more closely focus on responding and engaging with your audience.

You can grab the evergreen newsletter automation template below and start creating your batched newsletter today.

When it comes to one-off campaigns and launches, set up email sequences ahead of time that automatically separate your audience out by their engagement. If you have someone who adds new merchandise to their cart but never purchases, an automated nudge can help tip them over the line.

“I do three or four online painting collection releases a year, and that’s where my email list becomes very important,” says Reiser. “I’ve already created a seven-step flow where email number one is the introduction to what I’m doing, email number two outlines exactly the offer, the third email has FAQs, and from there, the rest of the emails talk about value, testimonials, and final reminders.”

Lucy’s launch emails follow the same formula, making it possible for her to schedule them ahead of time.

Welling also uses automated emails as much as possible to build relationships without being always-on. “Automated emails are what take care of anyone who buys anything, especially with check-ins and progress updates, so that we’re delivering bonus resources long after they purchase, and keeping up that surprise and delight,” she says. “Doing this prevents customer churn, but it’s also what turns them from interested into lifelong fans, so they keep coming back again and again.”

Welling’s re-engagement campaigns continue the relationship with her customers long after they’ve purchased.

With ConvertKit, it’s easy to map out exactly what email flows you need, and to which segment of your audience with Visual Automations. There’s even a whole bunch of templates for product launches, welcome flows, abandoned carts, and more that you might need to get started.

Step 3: Scale your business, your way

Think of scaling your business as a long-term conversation with your audience.

That may be offering a completely different product, like an online course — both Reiser and Welling added membership and course offerings in the past year, after listening to their audience.

Reiser’s painting course takes a deep look at different styles.

“The way I think about it, is if I can keep someone in conversation with me, then they’re probably going to be customers again, even as I expand into different product offerings,” says Welling. “Sending them an email and getting them to start talking to me usually opens things up in a new way.”

As you grow into more products, higher prices, or a larger team, you’re going to start asking more of your audience — so make sure you’re delivering more value and getting ahead of any objections.

“With the Studio School, I need to do a bit more explanation on the value they’re going to get than, say, one of my paintings,” says Reiser. “I need to give it more time on social media, send more emails, talk through the FAQs and testimonials as much as possible.”

As you scale, remember: automate, delegate, or eliminate tasks so that you’re staying aligned with what matters the most to you. That may mean using ConvertKit’s automations more often, setting boundaries on your workday, or hiring an assistant to help with marketing efforts.

“I’ve built space for me to be able to have conversations with people by telling them, ‘Hey, I’m not going to respond right away,’” says Welling. “And then for clients coming in on my lower ticket offers, I route them to my assistant or my customer team. It takes all of us to make it happen.”

Use ConvertKit’s email marketing to scale authentically

There are many different ways to scale, so choose what’s right for you. It doesn’t mean chasing big cash or hustling so hard you burnout. Remember, you’re in charge of your business, and it can be something completely new. That’s what creators do best — create.

Says Reiser, “You don’t have to keep going bigger if you don’t want to. There’s so much business talk about going bigger, better, harder, faster. But do you want your life to look like that? If not, don’t listen to that advice. Build a business that works for your life and your family, not whatever the next CEO says is successful.”

That’s exactly why email marketing can be so valuable. With tools like automations, scheduling, email sequences, and templates, you can more effectively scale your business without necessarily chasing someone else’s dream.

And ConvertKit will be there to help.

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Kayla Voigt

Always in search of adventure, Kayla hails from Hopkinton, MA, the start of the Boston Marathon. When she's not using words to help businesses grow, she's probably summiting a mountain or digging into a big bowl of pasta. Like what you're reading? Come say hi: http://www.kaylalewkowicz.com

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