What's the point of having a newsletter if it doesn't provide you with paying clients? It takes a lot of work to put together a newsletter regularly, as well as to make people aware that it exists. Unless you've got prospects coming from your newsletter, it's not going to pay for itself.
There are some people who will argue that even if an email newsletter isn't directly creating new clients for you, it's a worthwhile endeavor for a freelancer; however, given that we're more likely to be short on time than companies with multiple team members, there's no reason to focus on any approach that isn't directly bringing you new clients. It can take a little while to get a new newsletter performing to its full potential, but if you've been publishing emails for months on end with no results, it's not worth the effort.
That means that you've got to invest some of your time into ensuring that your newsletter readers know that you're selling something.
Set Up Your Analytics First
Before we dive into increasing the number of readers of your newsletter that become paying clients, it's useful to make sure we actually have numbers in the first place.
You need a way to be able to tell where new clients are coming from, so you can actually track how well your newsletter is doing. Setting up Google Analytics on your website is a step in the right direction. From there, you may need to make some mechanical choices, to make sure you're getting useful numbers. Most newsletter software also has their own built-in dashboards. Take the time to be sure those are configured correctly, as well.
One of the easiest options is to direct email subscribers to a specific landing page on your site, and make sure this is different than where your regular web traffic will land on. You can't absolutely guarantee that the only people who land on a given page will all come from the same source, but you can come close if you don't publicize that page elsewhere.
Make an Offer That's Right for Your Audience
In theory, at least, you're creating lots of content for your newsletter that's helpful and relevant to the type of people you'd like to work with. If, for instance, you're a freelance photographer who wants to take pictures of houses for real estate agents, you should be writing articles about topics like how a real estate agent should use photographs for more than just his website. Write content your target clientele finds interesting often enough and there will hopefully be plenty of prospects on your email list.
Going too long without making it clear to your readers that you’re in business may make them less likely to work with you down the road.
But unless you tell them that your services are available for hire, your readers may just assume that you're offering this email newsletter out of the goodness of your heart. You have to tell them how they can hire you.
Since you know everything about your target market, though, you don't need to offer a vague list of services. You need to tell them exactly what they need to do to help themselves. Going back to those real estate agents, our hypothetical photographer has lots of options. Just offering a package deal for photographing houses for online listings, rather than selling generic photography services, can move you in the right direction. But you may know your market even better than that. You may know what's a great price for a certain package and how you can manage to offer your services at that price. You can make an offer that your audience can't afford to ignore.
If you're having a hard time thinking of an offer, don't give up. Going too long without making it clear to your readers that you're in business may make them less likely to work with you down the road.
Integrate Your Offer with Your Existing Newsletter
It's important not to surprise your readers by changing up your newsletter too much when you make your offer. It should be something that logically follows the other content that you've been offering. It should fit stylistically and sound like the same person who has been writing the newsletter is behind this special offer.
Your offer has to be easy to act on. If a new client has to sort through a bunch of information and try to call you to move forward, she's going to lose interest very quickly. If you can make signing up a new client a matter of getting them to click on a button inside your email and fill out a form, however, you'll be much more likely to land that new client. Make the process as simple as possible, to the point that an excited client can start working with you in a matter of minutes.
Depending on your email service provider, this level of integration can be very possible. You may need to experiment a bit with your tools or bring in a specialist, but email newsletters generally give you plenty of options for getting additional information in front of readers. Even a simple link back to your website can get the job done.
Make Your Offers Part of Your Editorial Calendar
Offers should be a normal part of your publishing schedule, so that your readers come to expect them — perhaps even look for them. Adding your offers to your editorial calendar can also create an opportunity to build particularly relevant content around those offers. If, for instance, you're sending out one offer a month on a weekly newsletter, you can make sure that the three preceding emails show the need for the service you're promoting.
Adding your offers to your editorial calendar can also create an opportunity to build particularly relevant content around those offers.
Ideally, the content for your newsletter may be enough to completely win over your readers so that you just have to mention that you can provide the help they need. Realistically, the content on your newsletter is more likely to convince a reader to click through and consider your offer, rather than win them over entirely. But getting your readers' attention in the first place is well worth your while.
But you do need to balance how much you sell with the rest of your content. Your readers aren't going to be excited to receive a newsletter every week that is full of nothing but ways for them to give you money. You have to be providing top quality content to turn newsletter subscribers into clients.
Testing Your Offer Across Your Audience
Many email service providers allow you to split test (also known as A/B test) different parts of your newsletter. That includes testing whether one offer or another works better for your audience. If you aren't sure yet which offers will actually appeal to your readers, testing is an easy way to find out.
Because it's hard to ensure that every offer is perfect, it can make sense to try out new offers only on a certain segment of your audience, especially once you've been publishing your newsletter for a while. Split testing gives you the opportunity to perfect your approach over time.
You can also choose to segment your readers beyond just for testing purposes. You may have multiple offers, that may make sense for only one portion or another of your audience. By separating out those sections, you may be able to better address your target's needs. The ability to do so depends a lot on which email service provider you use — some are better equipped to segment lists than others.
Learn as You Go
Unless you've been working as a freelancer for other folks setting up and tweaking email newsletters for a long while before you've decided to set up your own email newsletter, you're probably going to have a learning curve. It's generally a bit easier to figure out what content is going to get your audience excited than to guess exactly what they're willing to pay for.
You need experience to get your newsletter right. You need to start publishing as soon as possible, so that you can see what works. That's one of the benefits of publishing a newsletter: each week, you can improve on what's come before. But unless you're getting some real world responses to what you're publishing, it's very hard to tell if your efforts are actually working.
You need paying clients to justify operating a newsletter, but give yourself some time to land them. Try out some different approaches to selling to your readers, as well as some different offers, and look at the numbers. You'll figure out what works well for your audience after you've been interacting with them for a while. It's just a matter of making it past the learning curve.