The Truth About Unsubscribes


After months of procrastination, you’ve finally drafted your first newsletter.

You’ve tested and tweaked. All looks good. With a pounding heart, you hit “Send.”

Then… the unsubscribes come trickling in. First one, then two, then three.

By the end of the day, six people have opted-out of your list — and your list wasn’t that big to begin with.

You’re devastated. You wonder, did I do something wrong? Did my content suck? Am I a jerk?

Unfortunately, this is where many new marketers get scared. They back off. Sometimes they even give up — before they’ve really gotten started.

Now you’re probably expecting me to tell you that the answer is to suck it up and grow a thicker skin. But I’m not going to do that.

You see, narcissists and sociopaths aside, I believe that any person who cares about what others think can’t help but take opt-outs personally, because it feels personal.

You’re putting yourself out there, and you’re vulnerable. You want people to like you, and every unsubscribe feels like a slap in the face. A small humiliation. An attack on your self-worth.

So what’s an email marketer to do?

The answer I’ve come to is you’ve got to reframe the situation. You’ve got to change the meaning you assign to unsubscribes.

You see, you think that your list is a measure of your worth and that every unsubscribe is a judgment of you. That’s not true.

The truth is that your list is simply a pool of people who may or may not be interested in your products and services. The vast majority of the folks on your list will never purchase anything from you — no matter how awesome your stuff is.

Your job is NOT to keep these people on your list at any cost.

Your job IS to winnow down your list to only those who are most likely to become paying customers. Your job is to sift, sort and select. To separate the wheat from the chaff.

I like to think of this process as panning for gold. You want to keep the gold nuggets. You want to let the ordinary rocks, sand and debris wash away.

When you look at it this way, unsubscribes are a GOOD thing.

Why would you want to keep the dead weight? Why would you want to spend your time and money trying to convince people to buy from you when they have no intention of ever doing so?

Look, I’m not saying that prospects who don’t become customers aren’t valuable. Sometimes the sales cycle is years long, and they may very well refer a friend who eventually does become a customer. You should still care about these folks, but not enough to get hurt every time one of them opts out from your list.

There’s a brilliant marketer named Ramit Shethi who has a great approach to dealing with unsubscribes. He actually encourages people to leave his list! Here’s the first half of an email that landed in my inbox today:

Hi Julia,

Look at this note I got recently. Whenever someone unsubscribes from my email list, they can leave a reason:

“I really like Ramit but he is too much of a perfectionist. It is exhausting to read about every day. Bring your actions down to common-people level. Very few people would read (or have time to read) 6 books to prep for a webinar.”
–Kate N.

And you know what? She’s RIGHT!

Very few people would spend the time reading 6 books to prep for a free 1-hour webinar. And even fewer would write about it to 75,000 people. My material isn’t for her.

But if you think I’m going to dumb down my material, or pander to the lowest common denominator, you’re wrong. There are plenty of other sites like that.

I’ve shown you how you can accomplish more in a week than in the entirety of last year.

And this week, we’re going to accelerate even more. Today, I’ll show you time-management techniques to digest the flood of material I’ll be sending you.

I’m going to send you more emails than before. If that’s not cool with you, please unsubscribe.

I’ll be doing webcasts and holding you accountable for taking action. If you don’t like that, scroll to the bottom of this email to remove yourself.

And starting next week, I’ll be selling my Earn1k course. It’s not the cheapest on the market, but it gets the best results. If that makes you uncomfortable, you know where the door is.

Can you believe how many times Ramit lets you know you can (and should) unsubscribe?

He actually says “please unsubscribe”, “scroll to the bottom of this email and remove yourself”, and “you know where the door is.”


This guy’s no dummy. He’s very clear that he’s looking for smart, motivated, action-oriented customers. He actually wants anyone who doesn’t fit that bill to get lost, to scram.

(He’s also using a very clever psychological tactic called exclusivity, but that’s a topic for another day.)

So look. You’ve got to understand that people will come and they will go. That’s true no matter how much awesomeness you provide.

Here’s a great example of this. A few days ago I sent out an email to my list with an offer to GIVE AWAY my services. I told them that for a full week, they could email me  ANY question about marketing and growing their business and I would personally answer every single question within a day or two. (Personal coaching with me costs $250/hr, so this wasn’t a small offer.)

Surprisingly, only a few dozen people took me up on the offer — I was expecting more like a hundred. But these folks were richly rewarded with thoughtful, detailed answers and advice, and I got tons of heartfelt appreciation in return.

But even more surprising was that about a dozen people immediately unsubscribed!

This seemed strange to me. Here I was offering a FREE, valuable, personal service and yet… not only were they not interested, for some reason they felt compelled to leave my list!

You see, you can do your best. You can do everything “right” and still, folks will go away.

You know what?

That’s okay.

Perhaps they weren’t a good fit. Perhaps they were having a bad day. Perhaps they were simply feeling overwhelmed and wanted to de-clutter their inboxes.

You may never know exactly why (unless you ask like Ramit does, which is a good idea), but don’t stress about it. Just keep doing your best to provide outstanding value, always improve your content, and keep panning for gold.

Even the most famous internet marketing “gurus” will tell you — behind closed doors — that their opt-out rates are not insignificant.

That’s why it’s important to always be focusing on list-building activities. I’ll be talking more about these and giving you powerful strategies for growing your list in the coming weeks and months.


Want to learn how to build a wildly profitable online wellness business? I’m hosting a FREE webinar on March 22 where I’ll show you how. Learn more and register here.

Now, I’d love to know, has this article been helpful to you? Have you taken unsubscribes personally in the past, or have you been hesitant to get started with email marketing because of a fear of what people will think?

Please share your comments and questions below:



  1. Thanks, Julia!
    Yes, I have unsubscribes, and Yes, it is hard not to take it personally. Love the perspective you give to rejection!

  2. That’s it, I say “yes” to your website blueprint free offer! It hasn’t been easy to know how to navigate efficiently through internet marketing, and your input is amazing. Your discernment, choice of topics, and presentation of material are right to the core of what’s troubling me below the surface. You’re elevating my awareness, my understanding, hence my interest and willingness to play the game. What a rock star you are, Julia. You make web marketing sexy!

  3. Hi Julia,
    Were you reading my mind recently? I really needed and appreciate this article since I always check how many folks unsubscribe and am very cautious not to send too many emails to my list fearing more unsubscribers. I know I’m overwhelmed these days with how many offers and newsletters I get. That said, I was one of the luck folks to get your advice from your free offer and am still delighted and so grateful you gave me that opportunity. It pays to go through the offers! Whoot! Yes, I’ve already gotten your free book too! :O)
    So thank you Beloved Julia! You are a valuable resource and I hope to actually pay you for something in the future and will be referring people to you!
    Love and Light,

    • Sherry, thanks for the feedback! It’s great to hear from you. I’m glad this article and the other advice I shared last week were helpful. Best of luck to you!

  4. Yes, I was taken aback when people unsubscribed from my newsletters. My first reaction was “well screw this!” I work hard on getting my newsletters out with valuable content. Then I came to realize “screw this!” they weren’t a good fit anyway and let it go. I have 260 subscribers and none of them buy anything from me, so I have recently been wondering if it was worth my time and effort to keep putting the newsletters out. I rarely get feedback from them. Then I realized, I never respond to any newsletters I get either, much of the time I never get around to reading them and eventually unsubscribe from them since my inbox is so cluttered. Surely I am not the only one. Information overload is affecting everyone. I wonder if it is time to rethink the full newsletter and simply post my articles on my blog with a short description with a link on the email instead.

    • Susan, I love your honesty! Screw this — ha ha! Here’s the truth: newsletters are time-consuming and they don’t do a good job of selling. What people don’t realize is that a newsletter’s primary purpose is informational — meaning, it should provide value through great content (education, resources, etc) and help build and maintain a relationship with your audience. But if you’re finding them a headache and not worth the return, I wholeheartedly recommend that you do exactly what you suggested: simply post your article on your blog and then send a short and sweet email with a link. This is exactly what I do. You see, newsletters have a lot going on, with multiple sections and often competing calls-to-action. A solo email, on the other hand, is focused only on ONE thing, so you’ll get far greater engagement and action-taking. Try it! I think you’ll find it more rewarding.

  5. Katie Carter says:

    HI Julia,
    Thanks so much for this much needed understanding of an emotional topic. I like the metaphor of finding the gold nuggets and letting the ordinary rocks fall away.
    Love all that you do for us!

    • Katie, I’m so glad this was helpful to you. It’s definitely an emotional topic. I appreciate your sharing your thoughts!