Email marketing — dig the well before you’re thirsty

When’s the last time you checked your email? My guess is that it wasn’t that long ago. In fact, on average, 89% of Americans check their email at least once a day.

But if you’re like me (and the majority of people in the world), you’re probably checking a couple of times per hour. Hey, at least I practice Inbox Zero!

I get it. For the past thirty years, email has become an integral part of our daily lives. It’s become an extension of ourselves. It allows us to communicate with one another, express opinions, stay in touch, and get things done.

But over the past several years, another platform has gained traction and seemingly left email in the dust: social media.

The rise of social media

That’s right—everyone’s favorite love/hate relationship. But you can’t deny the numbers. Social media platforms now drive a majority of the traffic across the web. The big players are constantly jockeying for more users and attention.

Instagram, Facebook, Dribbble, and others are a saturated mess. The amount of content poured into these machines by willing users on a daily basis is astounding.

The Four Horsemen
The Four Horsemen

These platforms have one job and one job only—keep your eyeballs on the app as long as possible. And why is that? So that they can charge their advertisers a premium while boasting about their dwell rate. These “walled gardens” want to keep you and your data on their servers and in their app.

But something is happening. With all of our “connection” and “access” to seemingly endless numbers of people and communities on social media… it’s becoming harder to find an audience. And with algorithms changing almost weekly, it’s hard even to know where to look for your tribe.

With more than 3.4 billion users worldwide, it’s lonelier than ever on social media. So what is a designer looking to extend their reach to do? The answer might surprise you.

Email marketing is (still) the answer

As these social media behemoths grow in both size and reach, it’s clear that you own less and less of the content you put on their apps. You’re only renting space to play in their sandbox.

Email lists are the only things you can own on the web anymore. And when you break down the numbers, it’s a pretty valuable thing to have.

Email conversion

According to OptinMonster, email has more users than social media (a whopping 3.8 billion) and much higher conversion rates. How much higher? It’s significant. Email converts at a rate of 6.05% compared to 1.9% on social media sites.

Furthermore, open and click-through rates annihilate engagement rates on social media, producing an ROI on email of 4400%. If those numbers aren’t enough to get you excited about building an email list, I don’t know what will!

Cultivate your community with email marketing

Communities are more important than ever today. They build us up, teach us new ideas, and help us in times of need. As I’m writing about this topic, one phrase keeps coming to mind: “Dig the well before you’re thirsty.”

“Dig the well before you’re thirsty.” — Harvey Mackay

There’s no better time than now to start finding and attracting like-minded people to join your tribe. It doesn’t matter if you’re a young freelance designer, a wily creative vet, a CEO, or an agency owner. If you have opinions and are interested in building a community, you need to have an email list.

Still not sure you need to start cultivating your email marketing list? Consider these three points:

  • Email is a 1:1 relationship where you control the flow of communication. There are no walled gardens, data breaches, and privacy scandals.
  • You can interact with a highly engaged, like-minded audience all there for the same reason—YOU!
  • Engagement rates are through the roof, as I mentioned above. If you provide value and listen to your audience, you could see 60%, 70%, even 80% open rates. The potential is amazing.

So how do you get started? Let’s take a look at some of the email marketing software you can use to get the ball rolling.

The email marketing software doesn’t matter—you just have to get started!

The great thing about email marketing is that it takes minimal effort to begin. You can employ far more intricate platforms and techniques, but I’ll explore some of those ideas in a later article.

For most people starting off, a free plan on a platform like MailChimp (hometown heroes and a client of mine) is a great place to start.


MailChimp allows you to collect up to 2,000 contacts on the free plan, which is more than enough to get you up and running. In my experience, their platform is reliable, and their service is top-notch.

But I don’t want to get lost in the minutiae of email marketing software. The point of this article is to encourage you, no matter what stage of your career, to start cultivating and growing your email list.

It’s simple: Start building the community you would want to join. Be helpful, valuable, and thoughtful. Your tribe will find you.

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