How to get your first 1,000 email subscribers

Reaching your first thousand subscribers starts with understanding what tactics already work and why.

Momentum is key when growing an online audience.

To reach the first 100 subscribers, you leveraged the relationships and connections within your expanded circles of influence.

To reach the first 1,000 subscribers, you’ll need to turn your attention outwards by exploring new digital spaces, building systems, and consistently creating your best for others.

Here’s a list of proven tactics to help you reach the next milestone.

Pro tip: The order of the following tips is flexible. What matters is the principle of providing value in public in new ways and for new groups of people.

How to grow from 100 to 250 email subscribers

Audience: Niche communities

Format: Online conversations and downloadable content upgrades

There are many ways to grow past the 100 subscriber mark, but the tactics below have been shown to work well for new creators.

Create a lead magnet to attract subscribers.

The best lead magnets, or content upgrades, are built as a direct response to your audience’s needs or questions.

That’s why it’s worth waiting to make one until you have a group of people who can provide feedback and help ensure that (1) you’re making something people actually want, and (2) it's attracting subscribers who will support your content.

This guide to creating lead magnets has over twenty ideas to get you started.

Mark Manson's lead magnet is a collection of ebooks that new subscribers can gain access to by joining their list.

Contribute regularly to a niche community.

After you've created a lead magnet, the next obstacle is finding individuals who are both interested in the topic you cover and in your unique perspective on it.

That's where niche communities come into play. Digital spaces such as subreddits, Facebook groups, Discord channels, and Circle communities can all help you build momentum in the early stages.

The strategy requires you to provide free value by answering people’s questions, generating ideas, and becoming a trusted voice in the group. Then, over time, you can naturally direct these interactions towards your content and email list.

Ali Aboueletta's newsletter, First 1000, shared a breakdown of what has and hasn't worked on their own journey to 1,000 subscribers.

From the image above, Aboueletta reveals that they were able to gain over 300 new subscribers in 3 months by leveraging online communities.

These tactics require time, but they are the foundation for faster growth down the road.

How to grow from 250 to 500 email subscribers

Audience: Social media

Format: Individual replies and directory listings

With a lead magnet in place and a few more subscribers on your list, the next steps are about getting more eyeballs on your work.

Submit your newsletter to directories.

Online directories and aggregators expose your publication to new audiences. Directories are searchable databases, while aggregators share your content directly on their platforms.

Each serves a different kind of reader and purpose, so it’s worth digging in to see which might be best for you. Below are a few of the top ones to consider:

Go all-in on one social media platform.

Platforms like Twitter and YouTube are a great way to fill the discovery phase of your creator funnel. However, the most common snag new creators fall into is believing they must be everywhere to reach new readers.

The best strategy is to choose a single platform and double down on it.

Why is it more effective to be fewer places online?

Because each network comes with its own unique practices, movements, and language. Mastering one is a tall order, but will enable you to build deeper connections and take advantage of platform-specific trends.

Often, the niche communities you're a part of, as well as your audience, will have a preferred network. Meet them where they're at while pointing back to your website, newsletter, and lead magnet whenever appropriate.

Ryan attributes the rapid growth of their newsletter to timely, thoughtful responses to readers through email and on Twitter.
Pro tip: If Twitter is your platform of choice, you can easily collect new email signups directly from your profile by linking it to your Ghost newsletter. Check out this step-by-step walkthrough for details.

How to grow from 500 to 1,000 email subscribers

Audience: Early adopters, broader fanbase of topic

Format: Highest quality content, virtual gifts

The last phase of growing your free email list to 1,000 subscribers requires you to begin leveraging your current audience in bigger ways.

If you think about your relationship with your supporters as a bank, everything you’ve done up to this point has been deposits: answering their questions, publishing valuable content, developing their trust in you as a creator.

To grow, and eventually monetize, you'll need to make the occasional withdrawal, where you ask them to do something on your behalf.

Create a pillar page and ask your audience to share it.

Pillar content pieces are typically very long and exceptionally comprehensive articles that provide tremendous value on a topic.

A great pillar becomes the thing to read about a given subject, causing it to spread widely across the internet and rank well in online searches.

Writer Julian Shapiro highlights their pillar content directly on their website homepage.

By creating a resource like this, you establish yourself as a trusted figure in the niche, your audience gains the ability to share something truly worthwhile with others, and newcomers receive some of the best content you have to offer.

When executed well, everybody wins, and your list grows in the process.

Experiment with contests, giveaways, and challenges.

Event-driven initiatives, like contests and giveaways, can be a great way to infuse energy into your growth strategy.

People are drawn to competitions and free gifts, making this an easy ask for your subscribers to share with others.

Author Derek Murphy used giveaways to grow their lists in coordination with new book launches.

However, a portion of the people you attract with these tactics will only be interested in the prizes and not your content. It's best to only run campaigns like this on rare occasions and to use prizes that closely align with your niche.

A similar approach is to add a referral program to your newsletter using a tool like FirstPromoter. These incentivize people to share your content in order to earn rewards; much like viral giveaways and challenges.

Boring beats new

When it comes to growing an audience online, tried and true practices will always outperform the latest craze in the long run.

Creating quality content consistently, replying to each message that comes in, and regularly asking others to share what you’ve made — these are the boring fundamentals that lead to incredible growth.

Practice these ideas and you'll be celebrating your thousand-subscriber milestone soon enough!

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