How I Got My First 1000 Subscribers: The List Building Strategies of 12 Successful Entrepreneurs

What’s the best way to build up your email list?

There are so many great strategies out there – and the sheer variety can be overwhelming. Is one method really better than the rest? Or do they all “work” the same?

This question intrigued us enough to ask 12 successful entrepreneurs how they managed to get their first 1000 subscribers. The wide range of answers proved one thing:

It’s not a one-size-fits-all operation.

For some, blogging has served as the foundation of all list-building efforts. Others have seen success with paid ads, Facebook groups, or even in-person networking.

So let’s take a quick dive to see what the process looked like:

Blogging To Build an Audience

Blogging has often been touted as one of the mainstays of establishing an online presence, so it comes as no surprise that it’s played a pivotal role in the list-building success of a few different entrepreneurs.

Natalie MacNeil

Natalie MacNeil My first 1000 subscribers came through guest posts on blogs and for media outlets that had a larger following than I did, and through speaking at small events, often for free.

She Takes on the World is going on ten years old now so Facebook Ads wasn’t a thing!

I always made an ask and had a free offer ready to present that would be relevant to the audience I was reaching.

It took several months of consistency to reach 1000 subscribers and I remember being so proud of the super engaged little community I built around what was just a blog back then.

Andrea Owen

Andrea Owen I got my first 1,000 subscribers with consistency and paying attention to what my audience resonated with.

At the time I started list building (2010), blogging was “it”, so I blogged weekly, without fail.

If I had to do it all over again, I would incorporate podcasting and/or videos on Facebook live or YouTube. [I’d post] no less than weekly.

[I’d also] have patience for people to start showing up and listen to what they love and resonate with the most.

Gaining Subscribers Through Facebook Groups

Facebook continues to be one of the main social hubs for people of all interests and backgrounds.

That’s why investing time interacting in Facebook groups can really help you learn more about and connect with your ideal clients… but why stop there?

With the right level of engagement (and a solid free offer), you can eventually use your Facebook group expertise to draw like-minded individuals to your email list.

Nikki Elledge Brown

Nikki E Brown Back in 2013, I attracted my first 850+ subscribers in just a few months by being SUPER visible and active in relevant Facebook groups.

Adding my first freebie to the mix quickly pushed me over the 1000 mark.

In short, my go-to “strategy” is to:

1) know your value

2) know who needs it

3) communicate your value to the people who need it in a smart, authentic way.

Read the full post on how this worked for Nikki (complete with #tbt-style screenshots!) here: My First 1000 Subscribers.

Zach Spuckler

My first 1,000 subscribers came mostly from livestreaming and Facebook Groups.

I think sometimes people forget the power of positioning yourself as an authority by just being really helpful and giving a lot of value.

Now I get most of my leads from Facebook Ads, and recommend that my clients do the same – thousands of leads on demand just waiting for you!

Networking Your Way to 1000 Subscribers

Sometimes, we think that an online endeavor like building up an email list has to take place entirely online… but thinking outside the box can definitely work, too!

Taking the time to attend physical events can be such a powerful way to forge stronger connections with your ideal customers… and you have a chance to really get them excited about staying connected through an email list.

Essentially, the crux of this strategy revolves around taking the time to focus on the individual and delivering as much value as you can to fit their needs.

Kavita Patel

Kavita Patel I attended a lot of networking events and asked if they wanted a free audio on how to turn on your love light … then had them sign up for my list!

When she was first getting started, Kavita shared that she invested in her natural speaking abilities, by paying to speak at various events.

In the end, it was a telesummit that boosted her over the 1000 subscriber mark.

Racheal Cook

Racheal Cook My first 1,000 subscribers came from a lot of outreach.

In the first few months of taking my business online, I participated in several online conferences, pitched myself to speak at industry events, and wrote at least a dozen guest posts.

Some opportunities simply came from networking – some came from pitching myself cold.

It helps that I started in a small niche {coaching yoga businesses} because I was quickly getting invitations to speak and contribute once I got the ball rolling!

Tara Gentile

Tara Gentile When I got my first 1000 subscribers, my business was very different–and in many ways, very much the same!

I was running a community-oriented website at the time and so my subscribers and community members were earned through grassroots networking. I researched individual business owners I wanted to feature and emailed them an interview.

Instead of slapping up their answers verbatim, I crafted their answers into a narrative and posted a 1000-word piece on what made them unique, their story, etc… This was something they really wanted to share with others so, little bit by little bit, my reach grew and grew.

My site earned a reputation for being a place where something really meaningful and intentional was happening.

I put the focus on unique content and interesting people and the subscribers joined to see more of them.

Free Email Challenges

In our own business, the 30 Day List Building Challenge continues to be a huge draw for new crowds who are interested in what we’re passionate about.

Looking around, there are other entrepreneurs who also use the power of a free email challenge as a key strategy in building up their email lists.

Mike Morrison

Mike Morrison We got the majority of our first 1,000 subscribers quite fast by running a free email challenge based around the lofty goal of helping people to build and launch a membership in just 30 days.

We limited the enrolment period and turned the whole launch of the challenge into an event; making a lot of noise across all of our social channels, our website and inside our Facebook group.

And we also used Facebook ads to remarket the challenge to our web traffic as well as promote it to related audiences.

An Email Invite… To Join an Email List!

One of the biggest “recommendations” made to new bloggers or online business owners is to avoid relying on your family and friends for feedback or support. After all, chances are slim that they match up with your ideal clients.

But in some cases, starting with your own circle of acquaintances just works.

Kate Northrup

Kate Northrup I got my first 1000 subscribers by inviting everyone I knew to join my list via a big email where I said “I’m starting a blog and I don’t know exactly what it’s going to be about but I know it’s going to be good. Do you want to be on my list? Join here.”

I got 400 people over a month from that initial email.

Then from there, the rest of the folks came from posting my blogs weekly on my site and then on Facebook and Twitter and emailing them to my list (and the people on the list sharing them when they felt moved.)

It was very organic and awesome!

The Powerful Opt-In Gift

Opt-in gifts are sort of passed over as an “obviously I need this” part of building up an email list. But it’s these opt-in gifts that can make or break your list building endeavor.

Focusing on the opt-in offer itself (and how you set it up, if you’re trying something like the Reverse Opt-In) can be the key to building up your own list of 1000 subscribers.

Nathalie Lussier

how i got my first 1000 subscribers In my early days, I started off with just 3 subscribers like most of us do… My parents and significant other!

Then I started guest posting, and writing articles for different websites… But what really got my list building going was doing my first launch and offering a really enticing opt-in with healthy dessert recipes. This opt-in ended up getting shared so many times on social media that it got me 500 new subscribers in a month.

From there, my list kept growing through word of mouth and my continued efforts to write great blog posts and share on social media.

Melissa Ramos

Melissa Ramos Getting my first 1000 subscribers was definitely based on lead magnets that were free one-page guides.

I kept it simple because when I tried creating an entire ebook, it didn’t perform as well.

So I’d have five tools on a specific topic and it performed way better because I imagine it’s much easier to consume.

The “Little Bit of Everything” Method

While many of these entrepreneurs cite a single strategy as the “main” one that really boosted them over the first 1000 subscriber mark, you’ll notice that most mention branching out into other avenues of growth.

The need for variety is so important when you’re serious about delivering value to your ideal subscribers (wherever they may be)… but definitely focusing in on one method when you’re just getting started can save you from overwhelm.

That having been said, our final entrepreneur puts equal weight on the platforms she used to get her first 1000 subscribers… but emphasizes the role that persistence and caring about her subscribers played in this journey.

Elizabeth DiAlto

Elizabeth DiAlto Platform wise, I got my first 1000 subscribers through a combination of my blog, YouTube channel and Facebook page between 2011-2012 when I was still in fitness.

Showing up wise, being consistent with my content, publishing, and loving on the people that were into my stuff was even more helpful.

How Will You Get Your First 1000 Subscribers?

In the end, it isn’t the number of subscribers that will make or break your online business. A smaller list of dedicated subscribers is far more powerful than many thousands of lukewarm subscribers.

But it continues to be important to take the time to polish your ability to reach out and appeal to your future superfans… Learning how to grow an email list from scratch and build a solid relationship with them through your content are essential, no matter which approach you take.

Nathalie Lussier

I’m a writer, technologist, and regenerative farmer. I founded AccessAlly with my husband in one frantic weekend to solve my immediate course platform issues. Over a decade later the company has grown, and our product has evolved to serve millions of learners across the globe.

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