How to set up an e-mail list

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If you want to build any type of business, you need to think about marketing. You’ve probably thought of social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. That’s great! But you have to think that you have no control over any of those platforms. Facebook is changing its algorithm constantly and making it more difficult for small businesses. This is one of the reasons why it’s essential to build your own e-mail list; this way you have full control of your communications with your customers. Also, e-mail is still one of the marketing mediums with the highest number of users and the highest conversion rates.

To start building your own e-mail list, you only need two things:

 1 – An opt-in form where your users can enter their name and e-mail address.

 2 – A way to securely record your users’ details.

Legal requirements

Before you start setting up an e-mail list, you need to at least have an understanding of some of the regulations around e-mail marketing. The laws are generally different depending on the country, but there are a couple of important points that you need to follow:

1 – You need to get explicit consent from users before you send them any e-mail communications (make sure consent boxes are not pre-checked).

2 – You need to include a valid postal address. If you are concerned about providing your own home address, you can look into renting a P.O. Box or getting a registered office address service which you should be able to find from around £30/year). 

3 – You need to include an “unsubscribe” link in all your e-mail communications.

4 – You need to have a method for users to be able to check what personal data you hold about them and to request all their data to be deleted.

If you want to check some of the regulations in more detail, please find below links to some additional information:

 GDPR in the EU

CAN-Spam act in the USA

Please remember that I am not a lawyer, so any information in this blog post should not be taken as legal advice.

How to create an opt-in form

There are different types of opt-in forms and several free ways to create them. You may have seen websites where suddenly a form pops up or slides in. I personally find those quite annoying and I think that they are too intrusive for the users, so I use a static form that I add at the bottom of my pages and posts. To create my opt-in form, I use a WP plugin. Follow these steps to create and set up the opt-in form:

1 – Install the opt-in form plugin: Go to your WP dashboard > plugins > add new and search for “optin form”. There are many free and paid plugins to create opt-in forms. Take a look at a few until you find one that has the look and feel that you want for your website. I use the free plugin “Optin Forms” by FancyThemes.

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If you want to use a pop-up form, you need to find a different plugin that creates pop-up forms. This plugin does not provide this option.

2 – Configure the opt-in form: Once you have activated the plugin, a new option “Optin Forms” appears on your dashboard. 

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Select the “Optin Forms” option on your dashboard to configure your form:

2.1 – Form design: this plugin allows you to choose from a few pre-defined form styles. Select your selected form design (you can change fonts, colours and text in the next step).

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   2.2 – Style your form: In this section, you can select the different colours, fonts, font sizes and messages for the form.

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2.3 – Form options: Here you can hide different parts of the form or enter your own CSS code.

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2.4 – Form functionality: You can choose whether or not to open the form in a new window.

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2.5 – Form placement: Choose where you want to place your form. I have it at the bottom of all my blog post and every page except the “Contact me” page. You can also select the “Don’t display…” options in blog posts and/or pages and manually enter the code [optinform] where you want to input the form. I personally like to have the form automatically inserted as it’s really easy to forget to include it.

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To be able to exclude a specific page, you will have to enter the page ID. To find the page ID, go to Dashboard > Pages and select the page whose ID you want, then check the URL that appears in your browser, which will include a number that is the page ID.

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The page ID for my “Contact me” page is 33, which is what I’ve added in the “Exclude on pages” option above.

Once you’ve configured your form, you can see the result at the top of the page:

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Remember that you need to be honest and transparent when you ask your users to subscribe. You should not ask them to enter an e-mail address in return for a free resource and then use that e-mail address to send them marketing messages if they have not agreed to receive that type of information.

3 – Set up your e-mail service provider: Now you need to configure the e-mail service provider that you are going to use to manage your e-mail list. Go back to the top of the page and select “Email Solution”. 


Here you need to select the e-mail solution that you are going to use and add the details provided by the email provider to allow the connection to their service.

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Optin Forms integrates with a number of email service providers like AWeber, Mailchimp and Convertkit. I use Mailchimp which provides a free solution for up to 2,000 subscribers. Next, we are going to look at how to set up Mailchimp.

How to set up Mailchimp

Once you have set up your opt-in form, you need a way to store all the user data. We are going to use Mailchimp for this. To set up Mailchimp:

1 – Sign up for a free Mailchimp account: Go to mailchimp and sign up for a free account. You will then have to confirm your account and enter some details about your business: the name of the company, your website or facebook/twitter URLs and your business address. In both USA and EU there is a requirement to provide a valid postal address in all e-mail marketing communications. 

2 – Create an e-mail list within Mailchimp: Once you have confirmed and logged into your Mailchimp account, go to Lists. By default, there will be a single e-mail list with the name of your company and one subscriber (you) already created. You can use this list or create a new one with the “Create List” button on the right-hand side.


Once you have created your e-mail list, select the e-mail list that you want to use. This will display the list of subscribers. Go to “Signup forms” and select “Embedded forms”. On the right-hand pane, look for an area titled “Copy/paste onto your site” where you can find some code:


Select all the code in that section and paste it into any text editor. Scroll down a few lines and look for the lines starting with “<form action=“.


You need to copy all the text between the quotation marks (“ “) after form action; in my example:

3 – Integrate your opt-in form with Mailchimp: Go back to your WP dashboard, go to Optin Forms and paste the text in the “E-mail Solution” tab:


This will connect the form in your website with the e-mail list that you have created in Mailchimp, so when someone subscribes to your e-mail list, the name and e-mail will be stored in your e-mail list within Mailchimp with a record of when the person signed up. 

You have now successfully set up your first e-mail list!!

You can start using your e-mail list straight away, but I recommend that you think through your sign-up sequence and customise all the interactions to follow your brand. Check out this post on how to brand MailChimp e-mails.

If you’ve found this post useful, please check some of my other posts and sign-up to my e-mail list below.

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