An email list means you have access to your ideal readers at all times.
Published a new blog post? Get instant traffic to all new content by sharing the link with your email list subscribers.
Launching a course or an ebook? Start selling them immediately to your superfan subscribers.
Need validation for a new idea or product? Ask your subscribers!
You get the picture.
But the first step to growing an email list is to sign up for an email marketing platform. There are plenty out there. You may have heard of MailChimp or Constant Contact, or MailerLite, etc. These are tools that help you collect email addresses (and sometimes additional information such as location, phone number, etc.,) schedule email blasts (newsletters,) automate email sequences, and much more.
In today’s post, I want to talk about one particular email marketing platform that I personally use and love: ConvertKit. I want to show you exactly how to use the tool to start growing your email list using ConvertKit. Think of this post as a beginner’s guide to using this email marketing software.
Let’s get started!
Want to know how I gain over 1K subscribers every 3-4 months? Then check out this completely free, 5-day, email crash course.
Sign up below to start the course today! (You’ll also be signing up for my regular newsletters, FYI.)
The Basics of ConvertKit
I mentioned that I personally use and love ConvertKit; but why you may wonder. Let’s look at what ConvertKit is and why I love it more than other email marketing platforms.
But, before that, please note that this blog post is strictly about how to use the ConvertKit platform. If you want a more in-depth look at the strategies for building an email list, then please read my blog post: How to Build an Email List from Scratch.
What is ConvertKit?
ConevrtKit is an email marketing platform created by founder Nathan Barry. ConvertKit helps business owners collect email list subscribers, automate email sending and scheduling, and much more. ConvertKit distinguishes itself with a user-friendly, simple, and clean interface, while being sufficiently powerful and feature-rich.
ConvertKit is easy to use, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less powerful than some other email marketing platforms that make you want to pull your hair out trying to figure out what’s what.
In fact, that’s the primary reason I fell in love with ConvertKit.
I’ve had the opportunity to use some other platforms such as MailChimp, Aweber, Active Campaign, Constant Contact, etc., and while they’re all sufficiently powerful and great platforms, they’re simply not as user-friendly as ConvertKit. As a solopreneur running my blog by myself, I needed a platform that didn’t make life harder than it had to be. And ConvertKit offered the ease I was looking for.
That said, let’s look at some of the ConvertKit features I love, and honestly, every blogger needs.
When a subscriber signs up for your email list, you can automatically tag them. These are super helpful when your business starts to grow.
For example, let’s say that I have a webinar freebie on a specific topic. I can tag them as “topic-interested” (or anything that helps you recognize and identify which freebie the tagged subscribers signed up for) and down the road, if I create a paid product for that topic, I can selectively market that product to the subscribers with this specific tag.
I always make a point to tag subscribers based on which freebie they signed up for even if I don’t have any immediate plans of marketing a paid product. I just sleep better knowing which subscriber wants what from me.
I can easily set up a set of emails, also known as sequences within the ConvertKit ecosystem, and send them to my subscribers based on tags or subscription forms. These are super helpful if you’re trying to warm up potential leads and customers into buying something from you. You can even use an email sequence as a free email course as I do for my free start-a-blog course.
Rules and visual automations
When you want multiple things to happen simultaneously, or one after another sequentially, rules and visual automation are a life-saver.
I especially love visual automation as they’re super powerful and actually help me visualize what is happening once a subscriber signs up for my email list. This is especially useful when you start to offer multiple opt-in freebies and have many different marketing tactics to target different audiences based on their unique interests.
ConvertKit integrates with a lot of other tools that can help grow your subscribers.
For example, I use the online course platform Thinkific to sell my courses. ConvertKit integrates with Thinkific with API, so whenever someone purchases one of my courses, they’re automatically added to my email list and I can even add a tag to these subscribers automatically!
I do the same with Acuity Scheduling: a powerful scheduling platform that I use to sell my 1:1 blog coaching services.
These integrations keep my business running smoothly and seamlessly even when I’m using various different platforms to perform different business-related tasks.
Commerce and tip jars
Let’s say that you have a one-off digital product such as an eBook that you want to sell to your audience and subscribers. But perhaps you do not want to set up an eCommerce platform just for that one product. What do you do?
You could sign up for a paid platform like Sendowl just for that one product. Or, if you’re already a ConvertKit user, you could use their commerce feature which requires no additional fee whatsoever!
You can even set up a tip jar with ConvertKit. If you’re a new blogger with no product of your own, you can always include a link to a tip jar so that readers can directly support you by leaving a tip.
Or, maybe you want to sell a product where buyers pay whatever they want. That is easy to set up with ConvertKit.
I won’t be covering the commerce feature in this blog post, but if you’re interested, I do have a guide to ConvertKit Commerce in this blog post.
These are just some of the features that I love about ConvertKit.
Alright, now that we have a better understanding of what ConvertKit is, let’s look at how to use the platform.
A Step-by-Step Tutorial for Using ConvertKit
The bulk of my email list building involves doing the following:
I ask my readers to become subscribers and to facilitate that, I offer them a free incentive. Once they sign up to be a newsletter subscriber, they automatically receive the incentive. They also receive an introductory email (or emails) from me introducing my readers to who I am, what I do, and what they can expect from me. I also send weekly emails to my subscribers keeping them up-to-date with new posts, products, promotions, etc.
To that end, these are the tasks we’ll accomplish in the following tutorial:
1. Sign up for ConvertKit
First, you have to sign up for ConvertKit, duh!
ConvertKit does have a free plan (up to 300 subscribers,) however, this free plan has some major limitations. The biggest one is that you cannot set up automated sequences. So, I highly recommend you sign up for their $9/month plan which comes with all the major features you need to successfully and quickly grow an email list and also start building a relationship with your subscribers using email sequences.
That said, if you’re a total beginner on a tight budget, feel free to sign up for the free plan to start off, and then upgrade as soon as possible.
Set up your address
Once you sign up, there’s one thing I want you to do right away: Set up your physical address. It is required by law.
The good news is that if you do not want to use your own address (many first-time bloggers do not have a business address or a PO box address, so it’s understandable,) you can use ConvertKit’s address. You’ll find their address here.
To set up the address, click your profile photo/icon at the top-right corner, then click “Settings” from the dropdown. On the Settings page, locate and click “Email” from the list of options on the left panel. Then scroll down until you see “Mailing Address”. Fill out the address.
Feel free (I recommend it) to check out all the other options on the “Settings” page and edit/update information as needed.
2. Get familiar with the platform
Whenever you sign up for a new platform/software, the first thing I recommend you do is to get familiar. As I’ve mentioned earlier, ConvertKit is easier to use than most other email marketing platforms (in fact, I’m pretty sure it is the most intuitive platform out there.) So, here’s what you should do:
Click all the available navigation menu items at the top and see where’s what. Familiarize yourself with the platform. Make sure you know where to go when you need to find something.
For example, if you want to see your day-to-day subscriber growth, email open rate, click rate, etc., you need to click on the “Grow” menu at the top bar, and then choose “Subscribers” from the dropdown.
If you want to send a newsletter blast, you’ll need to click “Send” and then click “Broadcasts” from the dropdown.
Here’s a quick overview of the available features:
The Grow Tab
Under the “Grow” tab, you’ll find:
Subscribers: Total subscribers by day, open rates, click rates, available tags, and all the subscribers. If you wish to create new tags, find subscribers by tags, add or update subscribers, and import or export subscribers, you’ll have to be on this page.
Landing Pages and Forms: You’ll find daily subscriptions by landing page or form on this page. If you want to add a new landing page or form, you’ll need to come to this page.
The Send Tab
Under the “Send” tab, you’ll find the following:
Broadcasts: This is where you’ll need to be when you’re sending a newsletter blast to your subscribers.
Sequences: If you want to send a series of emails to a group of subscribers upon opting into your email list, you can set up this email series, also known as a sequence, on this page.
Email Templates and Snippets: ConvertKit allows you to create email templates and snippets that you can insert into individual emails or templates. I consider these advanced features and won’t be covering them in this post. However, I do have another blog post where I go into details about these advanced ConvertKit features. So, check that out if you wish to learn more about those.
The Automate Tab
Under the “Automate” tab, you’ll find:
Visual Automations: You can create powerful email funnels using visual automations. For example, let’s say that someone signs up using a specific opt-in form for a specific freebie on your blog. You plan to sell something to these subscribers down the road with a series of emails (sequences), and also tag them with a specific tag created specifically for this group of subscribers. You can set up this entire system using visual automations.
Rules: Rules are simpler two-step automations. Everything you can do with Rules, you can do with Visual automations. However, sometimes I like to use rules for simpler “if this then that” automations to keep my visual automations page cleaner and less cluttered.
Integrations: Here’s where you can set up third-party integrations.
RSS: If you want to send automated emails to your subscribers every time you publish a new blog post, you can use this feature. I personally don’t use it and prefer to write more personalized email newsletters when I publish a new blog post.
The Earn and Learn Tabs
The “Earn” tab is where you’ll find the commerce features. I won’t be covering them here, but if you wish to learn more, head over to this blog post about all things ConvertKit Commerce.
The “Learn” tab is where you’ll find documentation and a link to the ConvertKit community where you can ask questions and get help.
Find API key for third-party integration
If you want to integrate ConvertKit with third-party platforms, then you need ConvertKit’s API key.
For reference, an API key, short for Application Programming Interface key, is a piece of code that can identify and authenticate external applications or programs.
To find the API key:
Click your profile photo, then click “Setting.” You’ll see a bunch of menu items on this page to your left-hand side. Here, find and click the “Advanced” tab and you should see the ConvertKit API key (it’s a long string of letters and numbers.) This is what you typically need when you’re integrating ConvertKit with another platform.
I’ll give you a couple of examples of when an API key may come in handy.
- Aside from using ConvertKit native forms, I also use the Elementor page builder to design forms and collect email list subscribers. To do that, I had to connect Elementor with ConvertKit with the API key.
- I also make sure that when someone signs up for my online course hosted on Thinkific, they’re automatically added to my email list. I also do that by connecting ConvertKit to Thinkific using ConvertKit’s API key.
We won’t go into any more details of integration in this post, but I wanted to mention it so you know where to find it if the need arise to use it in the future.
3. Set up and customize an opt-in form
ConvertKit gives you plenty of ways to start collecting email list subscribers. You can create a landing page with the many landing page templates that are available within ConvertKit. You can create a form that you can embed inside pages or posts. You can even create popup forms!
The method of creating these forms are similar, so, for the sake of brevity, I’ll show you how to create a form that you can embed inside a blog post. You can follow the same method to create other types of available forms as well.
From the main top navigation, click “Grow > Landing Pages & Forms” and then scroll down past the graph and find an orange button that says “+ Create new.”
On the next page, you’ll be asked to choose either a form or a landing page. As mentioned previously, in this blog post we’ll create a form. So, choose “Form.”
As of writing this, ConvertKit lets you create four different types of forms:
- Inline — a form you can embed within your content, ideally inside blog posts or pages.
- Modal — a pop form
- Slide-in — similar to a pop-up but this one slides in from a corner of a web page
- Sticky bar — sticks to the top of the page
For this blog post, I’ve decided to create an inline form that you can embed in a page or post. So, click “Inline.”
The next page shows a bunch of templates that you can customize to create your opt-in form. You may choose whichever you like and the process to customize is pretty much the same; if you can customize one, you can customize the rest of them. Click the orange “Choose” button on the template that you wish to customize. For this tutorial, I’ll choose the very first form template: Charlotte.
Now you can customize your template. This process is pretty straight-forward and involves the following tasks:
- First, rename the form so that it has a name that you recognize. When you’ve blogged for a while, you start accumulating many different forms and landing pages so it’s important to name the forms something that makes sense. For example, I have a content upgrade that is a blog sponsorship case study. The popup form that I use for this to collect subscribers for this is called: “Popup – Free Blog Sponsorship Case Study.”
- Customize all the texts so that they reflect your intended message.
- ConvertKit forms all have the email address collection field inserted by default. But you can also add an additional field for a user’s name. if you want, you can add that.
- Customize any images and/or colors based on your blog’s branding, style, aesthetic, etc. To customize any field, click on that field to go to its style settings. To customize an image, go to “general style.”
- Once the form looks like you want it to, click “Settings” from the top white bar (next to “preview” and “reports”, before the “save” option.)
- A popup will open where you can customize further details such as the form domain and what happens once someone opts into your email list using the form. For simplicity, we’ll leave things in their default state.
- The only setting here that I might change for my own forms is the “Incentive” field. here, you can change ConvertKit’s default “thank you” page and make it so that it goes to a page on your blog (if you’ve designed a custom “thank you” page,) or you can even make it so that when someone confirms their subscription, they’re prompted to download something. This is useful if you’re giving away a specific freebie to your subscribers for opting into your list.
- When everything looks good, click the orange “Save” button to save your settings.
- When everything looks good, you have to save the form again by clicking the “Save” button on the main form page, located in the top white bar, to the right.
And that’s it!
4. Create a tag for the subscribers
Tags are powerful. They can help you stay organized, and organization is particularly important when you start growing your subscribers. For example, when you have thousands of subscribers who have opted in for different types of opt-in freebies, tags can help you segment those subscribers for customized marketing tactics.
You may not understand the importance of tagging if you have no subscribers, but I recommend getting into the practice of tagging your subscribers from early on.
To tag a subscriber, first, we’ll need to create the tag. To do that,
- Go to “Grow > Subscribers”
- Scroll down until you see “Tags” (you should see it in the right column.)
- Click “+ Create a Tag”
- A popup will open, and you’ll be prompted to create a tag name. Make sure this name is something descriptive, so you can instantly recognize what this tag signifies.
- Click “Save” when done.
I’ll show you how to tag a subscriber shortly when we set up our visual automation.
5. Set up an email sequence
An email sequence is super important. This is your chance to do a lot of different things, for example:
- Introduce yourself to your audience/subscribers.
- Get them into a sales funnel through multiple emails.
- You can even create a free (or paid using ConvertKit commerce) email course with multiple emails that go out at specific intervals.
- And more.
(Note: You cannot create an email sequence with a free ConvertKit account; you must upgrade to a ConvertKit Creator account to start sending sequences.)
A basic email sequence that you can use as a beginner without a paid product is a simple introductory sequence.
For example, let’s say that you’re a beginner blogger and you have a freebie. You want to start building your email list. You can set up an introduction email sequence in the following pattern:
→ Person-A subscribes to your email list in exchange for freebie-X.
→ Right away, an email sequence is triggered (through automation that we’ll cover next) and Person-A receives the first email in an email sequence that gives her access to the freebie.
→ The next day, Person-A receives the second email in the sequence where you’ve introduced yourself and shared a bit about your blog/business, etc.
→ A week later, you can send the third email in the sequence where you can share two or three blog posts that you think may be of help to Person-A.
The best thing about email sequences is that they’re all automated. Once you set it up, with ConvertKit’s powerful automation, they’ll start to go to the subscribers automatically, and you won’t even have to lift a finger!
To create a sequence, follow these steps:
- Click “Send > Sequences” and then click the button on the top-right that says “+ New Sequence”
- On the next page, name the sequence, and then click “Create Sequence.”
- In the next window, you can start writing your emails. You can add as many emails as you want for each sequence. You can control when an email will be sent out, etc.
In the next section, we will set up a visual automation that ties in the opt-in form, the tag, and the sequence to create a system that runs automatically once you’ve set it up.
6. Set up a visual automation
Visual automations are so much fun! And with ConvertKit, it’s really simple to set up. In the previous section, we created an opt-in form, a tag, and a sequence. With a visual automation, we’re going to tie them all together so that this happens:
Person-A signs up using the form → they’re assigned a tag → the email sequence kicks off and Person-A starts receiving the emails in the sequence.
Here’s how to set up an automation:
- Click “Automate > Visual Automation” and then click “+ New Automation.”
- You can choose a template, or, start with an empty automation, which is what we’ll do for our purposes.
- Click the button “Start from scratch.”
- Give your sequence a unique name (you can change this at the top-left corner.)
- In the next window, you should be able to create the automation. The automation will bring together everything we have done so far. Our opt-in form, tag, and sequence will act as a system with this automation. For example, your system may look like this:
> People sign up using a specific form in the first stage.
> Subscribers using the form are marked with a specific tag (you’ve created this tag in step 4)
> In the next stage, the subscribers start receiving a specific email sequence (you’ve created this sequence in step 5)
- After you’ve built the automation, make sure to turn it on so it is live (top-right corner.)
For example, I have a visual automation set up for folks who’re interested in selling Canva templates. My goal is to collect subscribers in exchange for a free webinar on this topic and then try to sell my premium online course on the same subject through automated emails. Basically, it’s a sales funnel. This automation does the following:
Stage 1: Automation is activated when people subscribe to my email list in exchange for a free webinar on 5 tips for selling more Canva templates. This can happen in three ways. People can either sign up using a pop-up form, an embedded form, or a landing page (basically, I have three different forms set up for the same webinar.)
Stage 2: When people sign up using one of the three forms, they’re tagged with “Free Canva Selling Webinar.”
Stage 3: After this, they start receiving an email sequence from me, which, essentially, conditions my subscribers to purchase my online course — Side Income with Canva Templates — where I’ve shared everything I know about selling Canva templates and making a solid $2,000+ in side income every month.
This is what the visual automation looks like on the back-end of ConvertKit:
7. Send Weekly Broadcasts to Your Subscribers
People get a ton of emails from all sorts of places. To stay relevant, I recommend you send your subscribers weekly emails.
This diesn;t have to be complicated. If you’re a blogger, ideally you publish at least one or two new blog posts every week. Send your subscribers a newsletter blast with a link to your new post.
If you publish more than 2/3 blog posts per week, instead of sending an email after each post comes out, perhaps you’d want to send them a summary of new posts (with links) once a week.
The thing is, if you send too many emails, you might tire people out fast. But if you don’t send enough emails, then you risk being forgotten. So, 1-3 emails per week are ideal.
To send a newsletter, go to Send > Broadcasts and then create a new broadcast. Write the email and then follow prompts to send it out to your list.
And that’s it for the tutorial.
There’s plenty more you can do with ConvertKit, of course. It’s a powerful tool, after all.
If you’re curious, I have a blog post on some advanced ConvertKit features here.
I have also written about ConvertKit’s eCommerce feature in this blog post.
Check out these posts to get a better idea of all the cool things ConvertKit can do for you. And of course, sign up for ConvertKit to fully experience this amazing email marketing software.
But well, this blog post is for beginner ConvertKit users, so hopefully, you now have a better idea of how to use this tool to start collecting email addresses and gain subscribers.
Want to learn more about the strategies behind building an email list? Check out my post on how to build an email list from scratch.
Frequently Asked Questions
What do you use ConvertKit for?
ConvertKit is an email service provider (ESP) and digital marketing platform that you can use to build an email list of subscribers, send newsletters, create landing pages, sell digital products or services, and even collect tips!
How many subscribers can I have with ConvertKit for free?
The free ConvertKit plan allows you up to 300 subscribers. You can send as many emails as you want with their free plan. However, you cannot create automatic email sequences with the free plan.
Do you need a domain for ConvertKit?
When you sign up for ConvertKit, they ask you about your business, which includes a website URL or domain name. They like to verify that you have a business. However, if you do not own a domain yet, reach out to their support and they'll be able to help you out.
How many emails can I send with ConvertKit for free?
As many as you want. There's no limitation on how many emails you can send. However, you can only have up to 300 subscribers with ConvertKit's free plan.
If you have any thoughts or questions that I haven’t covered here, feel free to share them below in the comments. Also, I have a completely free, 5-day email crash course on how to build an email list. In this course, I’ve shared how I get 1K+ new subscribers on average every 3-4 months! If you’re interested, sign up using the form below! It’s FREE!
Want to know how I gain over 1K subscribers every 3-4 months? Then check out this completely free, 5-day, email crash course.
Sign up below to start the course today! (You’ll also be signing up for my regular newsletters, FYI.)