While working with seventeen six-figure bloggers in preparation for my new book, The Essential Habits of 6-Figure Bloggers, one shared piece of advice kept coming up.
Start to grow your email list sooner rather than later.
You own your email list. You do not own Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google, or any of the other big-name platforms. A single algorithm change can wipe out your audience from these places, and it can take you weeks or months to recover.
But, your email list is your own. The people on it are your tribe – the ones who want to hear from you. They willingly provide their email address and allow you to contact them.
Your email list is key to growing your business. And here’s how you can easily get started and set-up with ConvertKit (<= my affiliate link), the email service provider I use and recommend. That’s because ConvertKit offers good functionality, is easy to use, and is reasonably priced.
However, you can use any email service provider you like. MailChimp is a popular, free alternative if you’re just starting out. The technical steps in other email service providers will be slightly different to the steps outlined in this post.
An Overview of How to Grow Your Email List
Before diving into the details, here’s a quick overview of how building an email list works.
- Someone reads a blog post you wrote and enjoys it. They want more!
- Your blog has a freebie available, and the reader signs up.
- They give you their email address, and you digitally deliver the freebie.
- You send out regular email newsletters updating your list and nurturing the relationship. Your goal is to send out as much valuable information as you can, so people WANT to stay on your list.
- Continue marketing and creating great content to encourage more people to sign up.
This post is going to focus on steps two and three, creating and delivering your freebie.
Creating a Freebie
If you need help with step one—creating blog posts that people want to read—you need to start with this post on writing a great blog post.
Once you’re consistently producing great content, it’s time to think about creating a freebie. A freebie is typically a small digital product that aligns with the content of your blog. It may be a:
- Short eBook
- Step-by-step tutorial
- Video lesson
- Printable worksheets or workbooks
- A training series
No matter what you go with, the most important thing about a freebie is that it is desirable to your target audience.
Think about what your audience needs, and how you can help them solve a problem. It should go above and beyond a basic blog post and provide incredible value for your readers.
Create a Freebie that Offers a Quick Win
Your freebie should deliver fast results and be easy to consume. I don’t recommend offering a 100-page e-book as a bonus. It’s too long to provide immediate results.
I have dozens of e-books on my virtual shelf that I haven’t found time to read. You want your subscribers to use your opt-in offer and benefit from it.
Your offer must also be easy to implement. In other words, give your readers a quick win. Here are some examples:
- A how-to video
- A checklist
- A cheat sheet
- A worksheet
As a bonus for you, these quick win products won’t take as long for you to prepare and design.
Give Your Freebie an Enticing Title
Your freebie title is important because it needs to grab the attention of your readers. Here is a strategy you can use to come up with an enticing title.
Make sure your title clearly answers these three questions:
- Who is it for?
- What problem does it solve?
- How does it solve the problem?
Below is an example to show you what I mean.
“54 Headline Hacks: A Cheat Sheet for Writing Blog Posts That Go Viral” (Boost Blog Traffic)
- Who is it for? Bloggers.
- What problem does it solve? How to write viral blog posts.
- How does it solve the problem? By giving you headline hacks you can literally copy and paste.
Make Sure Your Freebie Provides Ongoing Value
Lastly, your opt-in offer must give ongoing value. You want to build trust over time because your goal is to convert your subscribers into repeat customers. People buy from those they know, like, and trust.
You also want to offer exclusivity to your email list. Nurture the relationship by making your subscribers feel special. You can do this by sending weekly tips or creating an online community such as a Facebook Group. Another way to provide ongoing value is through a free training series or challenge.
Action Steps to Creating a Freebie
When you’re ready to create your first freebie, these steps will help you take action to get it ready.
- First, brainstorm problems your ideal reader has that you can solve. This is the perfect theme for your perfect opt-in offer.
- Decide on the format for your offer. Consider what formats you can produce quickly and are easy for your ideal reader to use. Examples include a downloadable PDF, an email training series, or a how-to video.
- Next, decide on a title for your opt-in offer. Make sure your title answers these three questions:
Who is it for?
What problem does it solve (what desirable outcome does it deliver)?
How does it solve the problem?
- Finally, decide how you are going to create ongoing value for your subscribers after they join your list. Do not be tempted to skip this step. This is how you build a relationship with your subscribers and stand out from the crowd.
- Congratulations. You are ready to go ahead and create your first opt-in offer.
Create Your Freebie
Here are the steps to creating your offer. For this post, I’ll assume you’re creating a quick win style workbook, checklist or other PDF download.
- Create your offer in Microsoft Word, Canva, or equivalent software.
TIP: I use Canva to create images. It’s online and the free version works for me. Canva can also be used to create PDF documents. Use the template called “eBook” to create a standard document with professional formatting.
- Save your document in PDF format. If you’re using Microsoft Office, you can do this by selecting File->Save As. Then select PDF as the file type:
If this is not an option for you, download a free PDF creation program like PDFCreator. You can find and download this software online.
Delivering Your Freebie
Once your freebie is created, it’s time to get it to your readers. If you don’t already have one, sign up for an email service provider. I use and recommend ConvertKit (<= my affiliate link). The rest of this tutorial will walk you through creating a form to collect sign-ups and deliver your freebie.
Create a new form in your email service provider.
Here’s how to do this in ConvertKit.
Click ‘Form’ in the top menu, then click “New form.” This is below the form sign-up section, so you may need to scroll a bit.
Decide if you want to create a form to embed within a page or blog post, or if you want a separate landing page. There are pros and cons to each, but to keep this simple, I’m going to keep this tutorial about using an embedded form.
Now decide if you want an inline or a modal form. An inline form is one that’s static within your post or page. It’s always there for people to use. A modal form is a pop-up.
Since you want your opt-in to be visible, I’m going to walk you through creating an inline form that you can embed in the sidebar of your blog. Feel free to experiment with other types and see what works for you!
ConvertKit offers three different templates for a form. Since you are creating a freebie, I recommend using the full template. This way you can include a picture of your freebie and share a bit about it. It helps your readers know what they are getting. However, you can go with whichever one makes the most sense for your audience.
Click on the “Choose” button to get started customizing this form.
Change the name of your form by clicking on the pencil next to “Full Form” in the upper left corner. This name is internal, so make it something about this particular freebie so you can find it again if you start adding multiple freebies.
Customize your form. Click on the area you want to edit, and a box will pop up on the right-hand side with customization options. To change the text, simply click on it and begin typing. You can change the colors to match your brand.
Note: With the new GDPR regulations, it’s important to let your subscribers know what they will be getting when they subscribe. You want to make clear on your form that they are getting your freebie AND being added to your email newsletter list.
Click on the image to insert a picture of the cover of your freebie. You can take a screen shot and crop it down in Paint for a basic approach. If you used Canva to create your freebie, just download the first page as an image. You may still need to resize it in Paint or another program.
Remember to hit the “Save” button in the upper right-hand corner as you work. That way if your computer crashes, you don’t have to start completely over.
Create your incentive email.
Once someone signs up for your email list, you want to deliver the freebie in a timely manner. This next step allows you to create an incentive email, with your freebie as either an attachment or a download.
To create the incentive email, click on the envelope button on the right-hand sidebar.
Click the checkbox “Send incentive email.”
Next, click on the download button and browse to find where you saved your freebie PDF. Upload this file.
Click on the “Edit Email Contents” button to customize the incentive email. Make sure your “from” email address is correct.
Decide what your subject line will be (Welcome and Here’s Your Freebie is a standard subject).
Change the provided draft to match your voice and purpose. I recommend deleting the draft content and starting over, since it’s really short. Write your email content. Make sure your welcome email does all of the following:
- Welcome the person and thank them for joining your list and signing up for your freebie.
- Explain who you help, what outcome they can expect, and why you are different.
- Deliver your opt-in offer (which is deliver automatically upon confirmation).
- Explain what people can expect next (a weekly email newsletter? Two new emails a month? Your welcome email sequence?
Click on the “X” in the upper right hand corner to get back to the rest of your form options, and remember to hit “Save.”
Embedding the Form on Your Blog
Whew! It can take a bit of time to get this far, but your efforts will be worth it. Now it’s time to make your form accessible for all your visitors to see.
You do this by embedding the form on your website. I find it easiest to do this step if you install the ConvertKit plugin on your WordPress site. This allows you to automatically include the form at the bottom of every blog post. But, there are other options available.
Click on the “Embed” button on the top of your form.
This provides a link to the ConvertKit plugin, and also shows the shortcode you need to embed it within a blog post or page. Here’s a post explaining how to use the plugin.
You can also find the HTML code here if you prefer to embed it that way.
To add the form to your sidebar, header, or footer, you can use the ConvertKit form widget.
Decide where you want the form to appear and click “Add Widget.” Then select the correct form from your drop-down list.
Grow Your Email List
Congratulations! You now have a system in place to add new leads and grow your email list. This important step will give you an audience who wants to hear from you. It’s an important step for any blogger, so great job sticking with it and getting it done!
Growing an email list is a step many six-figure bloggers take. To learn other habits that they share, check out my new book The Essential Habits of Six-Figure Bloggers.