Email automation is the most powerful tool in many creators’ tool boxes… But it can be intimidating to get started with it.
Automating your emails means you can warmly welcome new subscribers, send them hyper-valuable content, and pitch the perfectly-matching products exactly when they need you to. But where do you even start?
If you want to know exactly what email automation can do for your creative business, the types of automations you can use, and how professional creators use them, you’re in the right place.
What exactly is email automation?
Email automation lets you send specific emails to each subscriber based on the actions they take. The best part? It’s all run on autopilot. Once you set up an automation, it sends targeted content to people hundreds or even thousands of times without any intervention on your part.
Each email automation will have a trigger event that adds a subscriber to that specific automation, like subscribing to a newsletter or purchasing a product.
From there, you get to pick what happens next. This can be as simple as sending a welcome sequence to each new subscriber, or as complex as sending hyper-specific emails based on the person’s clicks, purchases, tags, segments, and more.
Email automation makes it easy to build powerful funnels and tweak the journey your subscribers go through. It lets you send the right message to the right person at the right time—without adding more work to your plate.
In ConvertKit, building email automations is a visual and intuitive process, but you can also lean on our visual automation template library to get started (more on that later).
What are the benefits of email automation for creators?
At their core, email automations help you streamline the work you’d otherwise do manually, saving you many hours over the coming weeks, months, and years. Our 2022 State of the Creator Economy report revealed that full-time creators often work over 40 hours per week, but over half would like to keep it in the 20-40 hours range.
Automations are one way of getting there, but their benefits expand to more than just pure hours saved:
Consistently build your audience
Once your email automations are in place, you can make the most of everything you do in your creative business.
For example, when you create a new piece of content—a blog post, YouTube video, podcast episode, Instagram story—you can tie it to a lead magnet that helps your audience member. From there, your email automation is what keeps delivering value to that subscriber.
Same goes for other ventures, like joint webinars or being a guest on a podcast. When you show up consistently for your audience, your list building efforts will compound.
Another benefit of automations is that even when you take a break from publishing new content, your SEO efforts will lead new people to your email list, where they can still get valuable emails thanks to email automation—even when you’re on vacation.
Free up time to create content
Sending a weekly newsletter can create tremendous pressure on you as a creator. If that’s you, you might feel like you’re running on empty and trying to come up with a topic each week. You feel bad for skipping a week while you regain some inspiration and creativity, and worry you’ll disappoint your subscribers.
Another scenario might be that you’re already spending 10+ hours building each week’s newsletter edition, and wishing you had more time to create content on other platforms.
Email automation lets you create a sequence of emails that goes out to your subscribers for weeks or even months after the moment they signed up. You can use your existing content to build up this sequence, and even divide them into categories, making sure people only get the topics they’ve signed up for.
With a long buffer, you can focus your energy on researching your audience and creating new content.
Make more sales, even when not actively promoting your products
Have a product that’s always open for purchase (in other words, you don’t exclusively sell it through a live launch)? Automations are a fantastic way to bring regular attention to them.
When a person shows interest in a topic that your product covers, you can use automations to tell your subscribers about your product, like a course, a workshop, or an ebook.
Let’s take a cooking blog as an example. Your free grocery shopping checklist can kick off a sequence with educational emails about meal planning, and the final emails of that sequence can pitch your paid meal prep cookbook.
Or if one of your newsletters links to a YouTube video about meal prep, you can have an automation that sends a cookbook-specific email to subscribers who clicked on that link.
Deepen your relationship with people in your audience
Finally, automations help you spark meaningful engagement with your audience. Through any of your emails and sequences, you can encourage your subscribers to reply to your emails and share their feedback and questions with you.
You can also use automations to survey your subscribers—you’ll understand them better and be able to send them more personalized content.
Here’s an example from Charli Marie, a designer and YouTuber with over 200,000 subscribers. She uses email automation to ask new subscribers about their design experience level, which then feeds into a custom field in her ConvertKit account.
Charli can use this information to send tailored emails to each segment of her list—for example, leadership-focused content to design managers and introductory content to design newbies.
What types of automations can help you scale your creative business?
Let’s explore the parameters you can use and tweak inside ConvertKit to build your automations and build powerful, scalable funnels.
You can set up your automation to be triggered when a subscriber:
- Joins a form or a landing page, including either any form/landing page, or a specific one
- Is added to a tag, which you can do manually or through a rule or automation (for example, all subscribers who click on your course link can be automatically tagged with the “Interest: [course name]” tag)
- Makes a purchase, either through ConvertKit Commerce or one of the commerce integrations, like Podia or ThriveCart
- Has a custom field change, like when they click on a link in an email that defines it (see Charli Marie’s example above)
From there, you can set up a sequence of various actions, events, and conditions that move the automation forward. Here are some examples:
- Add the subscriber to a sequence
- Move the subscriber to a different automation, or remove them from another automation (for example, a subscriber is currently in your welcome sequence, but a new lead magnet sign up triggers a sales sequence and stops the welcome sequence)
- Create a fork in the road based on a condition, like whether they’ve clicked on a specific link in an email and therefore shown interest in your product
- Pull subscribers forward in your automation based on an action, like if your automation is a two-week sales sequence that onboards new customers at the end, but the subscriber purchases on day one
With this combination of triggers and actions, you can build automations at every stage of a subscriber's journey, from when they first get to know you through to buying from you and everything in between.
If the thought of building an automation from scratch terrifies you, we’ve got your back. We’ve built a visual automations library that counts 25+ automation templates to help you start scaling your business, including:
- Running a paid newsletter
- Launching a new book and promoting it with a free chapter
- Pitching a paid podcast with a free episode
- Sending cart abandonment emails
- Promoting a free course and your Tip Jar
How professional creators implement automations to run their business
Automations can personalize and scale every stage of the journey your subscribers and customers go through with you. Check out these real-world examples of email automations from professional creators.
1. Offer a signature lead magnet and a unified welcome experience
Your lead magnet is an easy, accessible way to teach your audience and position you as the expert in your area. It’s also a fantastic way to welcome new subscribers into your corner of the internet—and make it easier for them to trust you and remember you.
Full-time creators invest their time into building automations that support these first touchpoints with each new subscriber.
Take Daren Smith, the creator behind Craftsman Creative. He uses automation to point every landing page and opt-in form to the same lead magnet, a free five-day email course about mastering the creator economy. Subscribers start receiving regular newsletters after the email course is complete.
“All of my different types of content—my Twitter, podcast, blog—are in service of the same audience, so they all lead to the exact same email course and compound much faster,” Daren explains.
Another example is Maurizio Leo of The Perfect Loaf, who has a sequence of 10-15 automated emails covering sourdough baking basics. “The emails help onboard people and get them past the hard part, so that they can start enjoying the process and see the value that I have in my website,” says Maurizio.
2. Deliver every lead magnet quickly and seamlessly
Some creators decide to offer many different lead magnets based on different topics they cover in their content. This way, they can promote a specific lead magnet—like a guide, a worksheet, a template—throughout a video or a blog post.
That’s exactly what product designer Femke van Schoonhoven does on her YouTube channel femke.design, where she has more than 65,000 subscribers. The majority of her email subscribers now come from eight evergreen lead magnets she mentions in relevant videos.
By using ConvertKit’s visual automations, Femke delivers these lead magnets instantly and funnels each new subscriber into her regular email list afterwards.
3. Run an evergreen, hands-off newsletter
Your automation can run for as short or as long as you want it to—and that includes months or even years of emails you only have to set up once.
That’s exactly what Shelby Abrahamsen, the creator behind Little Coffee Fox, did when setting up her evergreen newsletter. She created it because she realized that most people don’t know or care about the order in which specific content goes out.
Now, instead of feeling the pressure to keep coming up with new content weekly, Shelby sends a weekly email entirely on autopilot. Her newsletter sequence has more than 70 emails, making up well over a year of consistent connection with subscribers.
A similar example comes from Pinterest coach Cara Chace. Her main lead magnet used to be a free Pinterest masterclass, which then promoted a paid program.
If a subscriber didn’t enroll in that program, but had opened emails and clicked through to check it out, they would then be added to a long sequence (covering five months of content) that taught on Pinterest in more depth and shared Cara’s case studies.
4. Follow up with people who checked out your product, but didn’t purchase it
When people open emails and click on specific links inside them—like a sales page—they’re signaling curiosity and/or interest in a product you’re promoting (and, from a wider perspective, the topic that product covers).
You can turn these signals into triggers and forks in the road for your email automations. For example, if you promote two tiers of a membership, people who click on different tiers can receive different emails in the coming days and weeks.
ConvertKit lets you keep track of every subscriber that has shown interest in your product and build a follow-up sequence that they’re automatically added to. For anyone who did purchase, of course, you can make sure they don’t receive those follow-up emails and instead get welcome emails for the product.
This is exactly what Justin Moore does when launching a live cohort of his course, Brand Deal Wizard. Once he started personalizing the experience of subscribers who wanted to know more about the course, his sales and revenue multiplied, netting him $40,000 for an early 2022 cohort.
5. Run hyper-specific sales sequences
Email automations let you get really precise about who receives your emails that promote a paid product.
For example, you probably don’t want to send sales emails to subscribers who already purchased that product. You might also send different launch emails to people who purchased something else from you before compared to those who aren’t your customers yet.
Chris Ferdinandi, the creator behind Go Make Things, uses tags to kick off a sales sequence to promote the live workshop he runs quarterly. He’s only had to set the funnel up once, and only spends a few moments every quarter to run the promotion again.
Chris also uses email automation to give subscribers the option to opt out of the current sales cycle but stay on the email list. And for those that completed a workshop, there are separate sequences they receive with further tips on making the most out of what they learned.
6. Make the post-purchase experience delightful
The power of automations goes well beyond welcoming new subscribers or pitching the right product at the right time. You can use them to onboard paying students or customers and send them the exact information they need to make the most out of your product—freeing you up for more impactful work, like one-on-one interactions with them, or content creation.
That’s exactly what Marie Poulin, a Notion educator, uses ConvertKit for. Her Notion Mastery students receive emails with welcome steps, instructions, and important information over the course of six months.
Their journey is tweaked based on the course tier they chose as well as the actions they took along the way. For example, if they joined the Circle community, they don’t get the email that nudges them to do so. If a student wants to refer someone else to the course, they can do so at a discounted price—and there's an automation and integration with tools like ThriveCart that make that easy to do.
Start scaling with email automations
If you’re ready to stop trading your hours for income and start scaling your creative business, this is your sign to set up your email automations.
They let you send the exact message your subscribers crave from you, which will help you grow your email list, earn more from your products and services, and delight your audience every step of the way.
ConvertKit makes automations easy thanks to the visual builder—and if you want an even simpler way to start, grab one of the 25+ templates in our visual automations library.