How to Take Your Blog from Zero to 20 Subscribers

I recently posted a short video about how putting a form of content up on a platform when you have literally no one following you is a strange thing. Just to warn you, it’s blurry and amateurish (I’ve recently been experimenting with video, and the front-facing camera on my phone isn’t great), but you can watch it here.

I’ve been in this same exact spot several times when running my own personal blogs, including for my most recent blog, IntrovertJedi.

Whether you’re a new business or one that has been running for a while but without a blog, there will likely be a time where what you’re writing (or recording) is likely to be consumed by few, if any.

This is pretty much what starting out can feel like. (credit:  Bessi )

This is pretty much what starting out can feel like. (credit: Bessi)

Each time I’ve started a blog, it’s really been a case of building a new audience from scratch. Starting from zero. It’s not quite as daunting these days as it used to be, but it’s certainly not easy. If you’ve never done it before, it can be downright overwhelming.

I’ve come up with a few ways to go from that big, glaring 0 subscribers to getting my first ten or twenty. It’s those early subscribers which are often the most difficult to get to, going from a standing start.

Here are some pointers that’ll help you get there:

1. Gear yourself/your business up for getting subscribers
A) Create a mailing list to begin with. Back when I started blogging in 2014/15 I was reading a lot about MailChimp and Aweber everywhere, they seemed like the two that anyone in the blogosphere was going for. Aweber has somewhat fallen off the bandwagon (the folks at Fizzle went from Mailchimp to Aweber and then back to Mailchimp again) and there are now a bunch of other options for managing/segmenting/getting data around large audience sets, e.g. ConvertKit.

Mailchimp is a great place to start, and it’s what I’ve always used. Simple, clean, and free up to 5,000 subscribers.

🎙Listen: The Honest Content Show, episode #002: My First 3 Months in Business: Website, Email, Business Cards

B) Gear your post up for subscribers

Include a call-to-action on your post, announcing your new blog and offering your readers a chance to subscribe. If there is not an ability to subscribe, they most certainly will not.

It’s also worth putting a subscribe button on your website. You can make it basic to begin with. If your worried about what on earth you’ll put on your newsletter, you can keep it basic and just send a ‘latest from the blog’ newsletter each month or quarter to begin with. The easiest/most basic is something along the lines of “Subscribe here to ensure that you never miss a post”. Even better, if you can offer a free, high value guide with their subscription.

PS. This is where HonestContent’s e-books come in, executed well they can be an excellent lead capture tool.

2. Connect with other business owners/marketers in your industry space

Reach out to and connect with other companies and their people online. Personal emails can be very impactful. As can I like, a share, or a comment on their piece of content. If you can’t track down someone’s email (which, these days with LinkedIn and the like, you can 95% of the time), you’ll be able to find them on social media. Drop them or a tweet or a DM. Build those 1-to-1 relationships, sow those seeds. I’ve made some amazing connections - and even friends - doing this.

3. Offer value on other blogs

Another advantage of engaging with other relevant content is that there will be other relevant readers there. Again, with each engagement/interaction like this think about the 1-to-1 relationship here. Be as helpful as possible in offering an answer or an insight to something which has been asked or said.

On many blogs, you are asked to write your name and your blog/company alongside, i.e. there’s a link against your comment with which they will also be able to find your content.

Someone did this recently on the NomadList forum I am a part of, he was just very helpful indeed with regards to where to start out my digital nomad adventures, and I ended up checking out him and the space he ran, and I even ended up on a Skype call with the Community Sales guy at the space. All because I asked some questions about Valencia (where he is from and not a million miles from where the space he is running is). Such powerful stuff indeed.


And here’s the biggest one. Which initially made me feel icky and scared and questioning myself and all those things, but it’s was the biggest contributor to getting those first few subscribers and gaining early momentum.

All of the other stuff I have talked about is valuable, and you should absolutely commit to spending a few minutes each week doing it, as those relationships and trust and interactions will only snowball and lead to tangible results in the long run, as well as nourishing connection, but this is the game-changer.

I got it from another guy I heard on a podcast episode who’s done the same; unfortunately I can’t recall either his name or the podcast show he appeared on.

But his advice was life-changing. Or, at the very least, blog changing.

Here it is.

THE GOLDEN NUGGET: Connect with others online - and ASK THEM to follow your blog.

Like, that’s it. Kinda simple and underwhelming, right? This doesn’t necessarily come easily to someone who tends to favour the softer-sell and, especially when it’s something so personal to me, who struggles with the whole “hey man, come and look at myself” vibe. Much more of a softer-sell, invitational guy, if you will.

But this is how I got my earliest subscribers. In fact, this is the breakdown of my first 20 subscribers on my IntrovertJedi blog:

People I know IRL / knew about me already

People from online who subscribed / I asked to subscribe

Much of those 14, the majority, I outright asked to follow me after we connected online… normally after I commented/emailed them about something that they had written.

As for those 6 who knew me already, it was a case of them seeing my stuff online and seeing Jas was at it again (haha) and choosing to follow me. 3 of those are in my very own MasterMind Group on a community I’m a part of called Fizzle.

In those early days, it’s often a case of being more proactive and more bolshy and just getting some early quick wins to give you some little buzzes. (A little bolt of joy will run through your body each time someone clicks ‘subscribe’, and you get that notification alert - or if you login and check your current list of subscribers and you see +1, +2 or event +3, trust me, it’ll feel oh so good).

Another advantage of growing your early list this way is that you’ll already be starting off your list with a connection with these people. And as you’ve interacted already, they are more likely to respond to and engage with your content when they see it online.

It really is a win, win.

In the early days, you want to get it out to the right people and build momentum. In the medium-ish term it’s that early and ongoing work you’re putting in which will grow your blog.

Those interactions with other blogs you like, 1-to-1 emails with folks, sticking to a posting schedule, sending out that newsletter once per month or whatever your chosen frequency… momentum, momentum, momentum.

But, really, it’s those subscribers themselves that are the core metric in measuring the success - as much as I dislike using the word ‘metric’ where people are involved! But, really, that’s the #1 metric to use when it comes to measuring the growth of your community and the success (or lack of) with everything that you are doing.

Gear your website & blog up for subscribers. Include a clear newsletter link/button on your website, and a call-to-action on each of the posts that you have been to ‘get the latest good stuff’ and be helpful on other folks’ posts on their website blog, on LinkedIn, Twitter or Instagram. Wherever your audience hang out really.

And directly message or email these people. Once you’ve gotten a conversation going, you’ll be able to tell pretty much straightaway whether you can ask the question and whether they’ll be amenable to following you.

I’ll leave with some real-life examples of how I engaged with others and kindly asked that they might follow my blog. A lot of the time, it worked. Just honest, organic conversations. Who’d have thought it.

You’ll also notice these conversations don’t have to be limited to email - I’ve included some chat snapshots (chatshots, if you will) from Twitter, and you can also engage like this on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.

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Be curious, be helpful, and get to making those 1-to-1 connections happen :) There’s no purer way of doing this than face-to-face or through a phone call, but in the digital space, the best thing by far is email.

Go get ‘em. :)

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Any questions?
I love questions. And I really love this stuff; I’ve spent over 7 years selling B2B & B2C, and over 4 years writing content.

Also, if you’re a small business with 10 employees or less, you might want to grab a free copy of the Guide I’ve put together 👉🏽 Honest Marketing for Small Businesses.

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