How big does my list have to be before I start making money?Hey folks! Welcome to Short and Sweet Newbie Week, where I’m answering a bunch of questions from business beginners! My goal is to answer each question in less than 1000 words. This is profoundly difficult for me, but I like a challenge.

Our first question:

How big does my list have to be — before I start making money?

Great question. There are a lot of VERY big numbers getting thrown around in this industry, and it’s hard to find information for beginners. Like, “yeah, I’m so happy that you bought a yacht with your launch proceeds, but my blog has precisely three posts on it, and I wrote them four years ago, so how does that help ME?”

I’ll see what I can do. :)

I’ll give you the short answer, and then I’ll give you the details.

The short answer is: most people start making “real” money at about 1000 people.

Now, the details:

To address this question, we have to look at the moving pieces in the question. The question is “how big does my LIST have to be before I start making MONEY?”

To answer, we have to look at what one means by “money”, and what one means by “list”.

When you say “money”, what does that mean to you at this time?

For some, that’s “a full time income at a high salary”.

For some, that’s “a full time income at a low salary”.

For some, that’s “$800 a month for groceries”.

For some, that’s “any money at all, to prove my idea is viable”.

For some, that’s “enough that my partner stops looking at me with that face”.

For some, that’s “pays its own expenses for once”.

So, how big does your list need to be to match your day job salary of $140k?

Pretty big. 10,000 people maybe? Assuming you’re good at your work, good at marketing, and consistent as hell. You’ll need to raise that number if you don’t have many offers, or if they’re very low priced. You can lower that number if you’re very publicly active or have good social proof – social media, videos, podcasts and such.

How big does your list need to be to buy $800 worth of groceries a month? A lot smaller. Especially if you don’t need to make it consistently. It’s a hell of a lot easier to make $9600 once a year than it is to make $800 a month.

So first you need to assess your early term financial goals to get your definition of “money”. The smaller the number you need, the smaller the list required to make it.

Then we can move on to the second part, which is “list”.

What does “list” mean in your world?

For some people, “list” means “people I send unique, quality content and offers to on a regular basis”. If this is you, your list doesn’t have to be very big at all.

To prove my point: The best converting offer I ever saw was a small niche content creator doing something about horses. She got an 85% LIST conversion rate on an offer for an ongoing membership site.

That means 85% of the people on her mailing list agreed to give her money on an ongoing basis.

(To put that in perspective, 1% is pretty normal. I think the highest I’ve ever hit is 10-15%.)

If she had 1000 people on her list, 850 bought. How big does her list have to be? Not very big at all.

On the other side of the spectrum, sometimes “list” means “at some point in the past, however distant, people put their name in a box on my website, and they have heard from me twice since”.

That list could be the entire population of Australia and the creator will still be punching a clock.

Send CARE-focused content and/or offers (CARE is Consistency, Authority, Relevance, and Expertise) and you can get away with a pretty small list. Abandon people for eight years at a stretch and change the topic of your content as often as you change your smoke detector batteries, and you’re going to need to go big.

So, how many people do YOU need before you start making money?

For most people at the ittybiz level, who are content to start small (say, grocery money) and build from there…

and they focus on having a unique perspective and consistent content or offers…

You can make meaningful money with about 1000 people, give or take.

Next, we’re going to tackle social media. Do you need to be on it? Given my vocal and aggressive loathing of it, you may find yourself surprised by my answer.

Special note! In honor of Short and Sweet Newbie Week – and newbies! – for this week, you can get a sweet deal on my beginners’ course, Zero to Hero. It’s designed to take you from “hi, I’m new” to “this is starting to look suspiciously like a business” in 21 short and simple lessons.

Check it out here:

Tomorrow, I’ve got another big question for you. I’ll see you there.