You know having an email list is important. In fact, you finally realized that growing your list is just as important as growing your blog — if not more important.

Here’s why:

  • You can automate your emails. You write them once, set them up with your email service provider, and they will send out on their own. You can’t say the same for a blog, can you? I mean, you write your blog post once, but you’ll need to drive traffic to it.
  • It can almost replace your blog because unlike Twitter, there isn’t a 140-limit. Instead of writing blog posts that never gets found, write them in email form.
  • You can reach out to them on your terms. Got tips? Send those ninjas out.
  • People don’t change their email address because their email is their home base. Everyone signs up their apps and Internet accounts with their emails. How else did you sign up for your Facebook account once upon a time? Well, not by hooking up your FB account at that time. 😉

Does any of this sound like you?

  • I don’t know what converts better. A landing page or pop-up form. Where should I create my opt-in freebie?
  • I blog about several unrelated areas. How do I create an opt-in freebie that covers all of those areas?
  • I’m ready to serve my audience, but I don’t know if they want a free PDF, a short video, or a 5-day email course?
  • The whole opt-in process really gives me headaches. I want a checklist that gives me everything I need.
  • I want to create a screen recording video, but what software can I use? I want to create a PDF, what tool can I use?

In fact, I didn’t come up any of this. I did my fair share of research on online communities and these were the main questions related to opt-in freebies people were having. Essentially, people were asking the same questions in many different ways.

What got me hooked on tackling this topic is that people were asking others for ideas and suggestions about what opt-in freebies to offer their own audience. But if you think about it, do you really want me to tell you (because I don’t your audience)?

Or do you want a step-by-step plan to create something your audience will actually want?

I definitely had my amateur days where I was proud of the knowledge in my mind — and I thought people would want it. But people don’t buy knowledge for the sake of it (unless it’s your traditional college degree), but they sure do want to overcome their struggles and pains. They want to have their problems solved so they can get to their “next level.”

Today, I’m going to share with you 7 opt-in freebies and which one you should use and when. Want to learn more about how to create an irresistible freebie? Sign up for 10 examples and more ideas for high-converting opt-in freebies! I’ll be creating a mini 3-day email course on how to create an irresistible freebie so stay tuned for that after you sign up.

#1 The basic “Newsletter”

The newsletter is the old classic where many bloggers and small business owners had way back when email marketing wasn’t as popular. Now almost everyone who has a blog has an email list.

What’s good about the newsletter as an opt-in? If you don’t have any ideas for an opt-in yet, this is the classic go-to. You put the ball in your reader’s court and let them decide if they want to keep in touch with you.

But unlike the other freebies, we’ll talk about next, this one doesn’t have any type of instant gratification if they signed up for it. They have no idea when you’ll send out your next newsletter. Could it be the next day? Next month? Or even next year?

They’ll have to wait around. And unless you’re a celebrity, public figure or established influencer who has been around the digital block for 10+ years, people won’t care about “your newsletter.”

But that said, there are a few influencers who offer “newsletters.”

Example: Paul Jarvis and his “Sunday Dispatches” emails

Paul’s opt-in on his main website is his “newsletter” even though he doesn’t use those exact words. Because he’s written for many big name companies like LifeHacker, Newsweek, and Forbes, he’s established himself as an expert in what he does. He also makes it clear that he emails his list every Sunday so there is an element of consistency.

But the best part of his opt-in is that it says “join 29K+ folks” who are ALREADY on his list! It’s social proof and it’s proven that his subscribers love his emails. So you should sign up too.

Example: Jason Zook and his emails to his “Action Army”

Who doesn’t love a branded email newsletter? I know I would have totally taken the term “action army” if it wasn’t already taken yet. But ninjas are just as cool too. Again, Jason doesn’t offer a specific incentive to sign up, but he does mention that he’ll send you stories, lessons, and projects he’s working on. Want any of these? Sign up.

But the best part here is, he has a headline that you can’t resist. It’s bold and HONEST. And it says, “Can I be 100% honest with you? I want your email address.”

Example: Sophia Amoruso and her Girlboss newsletter

Sophia has risen to fame for a couple years now and her brand “girlboss” is everywhere.

Sophia’s opt-in form isn’t a landing page. It’s not bold. Neither does it stand out from everything on her website. And the only thing that makes her newsletter branded is her headline “Join us for one hell of a ride” — which totally sounds like her. Because that woman is crazy. A good crazy though.

#2 PDF (checklist, cheatsheet)

Now if you’re growing your email list from zero and the group up, offering a PDF is the ninja’s way to approach it. Give or take, there might be a zillion PDF’s rolling around out there, so how does yours stand out from the crowd?

Your checklist or cheatsheet needs to give someone a specific result. And the quicker you can give them a result, the better. The result can be some form of instant gratification or a pain relieved.

For example, I wished I had a checklist of the best products to use for my everyday makeup routine. Of course, that was way back in the day when I had no idea what bronzer was used for. I found a bunch of videos that talked about “top 5 bronzers”, but didn’t find anything comprehensive, especially not for Asian skin at least. What I wanted was just a simple checklist so I can go to Target and grab everything in one go. But I ended up having to piece together the puzzle myself. I made numerous trips to the drugstore to find a complete list of products that works for me.

The idea here is not beauty or makeup, but how you can simplify people’s life. In this case, having a checklist keeps my errands streamlined and organized. Of course, the more narrow your audience is, the more specific the result you can give them.

A PDF or one-pager is easy to create. You can do this in one sitting, assuming you know what your audience wants and needs help with.

Example: Co-schedule’s 180+ Power Words

You can reach out to them on your terms. Got tips? Send those ninjas out. There was a point in my blogging life when I hit a hard on not being able to come up with good titles. And if you write a blog and you have poor headlines, it can affect your click through rate. Now I have this list on my desk wall for inspiration every time I need to grab a power word!

#3 Ebook/ Mini-ebook

It seems like there was a time where ebooks were very popular and they were the go-to opt-in idea. I won’t lie, I haven’t signed up for too many ebooks. And if did sign up, I never ended up reading them because they sound like a ton of work to do. Even the one time I bought an ebook on a topic I loved, I only got through half of the book. I filed it away and moved onto other things.

Is this to say you shouldn’t have an ebook as an opt-in? Not at all.

If it takes longer than a one-pager to get your point across, then an ebook might be for you. I like reading mini ebooks because they’re specific and to the point. The best ebooks have simple tactics that I can implement right then and there.

Example: Derek Halpern’s “Get Your 5000 subscribers” ebook

I like Derek’s simple ebook on how to get 5000 subscribers though. As someone who knows copywriting, he really has a way in his writing. He engages you from top to bottom and makes sure you read every line. After you read the top line, you know you have to keep reading to find out about the rest of his story.

As a kid, I loved reading mysteries. I still love re-watching mystery shows as a big kid. If you want to create an awesome ebook and make sure they read it, engaging people on every line is a must. Otherwise, they’ll fall off at some point no matter how useful your info is. You have to frame the story in a way that’s engaging.

But a great story keeps people on their toes even if the topic isn’t that fun. I mean, who wakes up every day and says “Today I want 5000 subscribers!” Maybe $5000, but not 5000 subscribers. I mean, what will I do with that?

(Okay maybe you will, but that’s only after you know how important it is to have a list.)

I didn’t end up implementing the tactics in his ebook, but I sure did read the book twice because it was such an awesome read! That moment of epiphany made me realize that not all ebooks are boring content fillers.

If you want to go the ebook route, make sure your writing is engaging. If it’s long, people who aren’t readers might fall out. Otherwise, it’s better to create an email course, which we’ll talk more about below.

As for the length of a mini ebook? I’ll keep it at 5-7 pages, really. Think about writing a mini ebook like writing a long-form blog post. Keep it at about 2000-3000 words and make every word count.

#4 Toolkit/ Resource Guide (a few pages)

I’ve heard people say that resource guides convert very well for them. And I can confirm that my own Resources page is one of the top 3 visited pages on my website. At the time of writing this, it’s the third most visited page after my only my homepage and another blog post that accidentally went viral.

People hop on over to my resources page (it’s opt-in for a resource library) more so than my About page. What does that mean? People care about how I can help them before they care about who I am.

When people are hopping aboard on a new journey, they want guidance. And this help is best if there’s personalized, human touch to it. If not, tools are their best handyman so they can DIY it.

Example: Leah’s Freelance Toolkit

Leah helps new freelancers and offers a toolkit to get them started. It also helps them scale their business by creating passive income streams.

A toolkit is a few PDF’s that’s packaged together for starters. I see it as the next step up to a free checklist or cheatsheet. If there are 2-3 things you want to give away that people want, a toolkit is a good option.

When creating your toolkit, it’s helpful to think in these terms:

  • Can I offer them 3 different tactics that they can implement? I like offering just one method so people don’t have to make decisions, but sometimes people feel that there’s more leeway when they have a choice. If Plan A doesn’t work, there’s still hope with Plan B.
  • What are the first three steps they need to get started today? You can even offer one quick win per PDF.

#5 Worksheet/ Workbook

So far all the opt-in freebies we have talked about are more like guides. Introducing, workbooks and worksheets. These are interactive digital downloads where your subscribers can follow a process you set up to get a specific result. They don’t just consume and implement. They have to sit down and actually brainstorm and come up with an answer.

Workbooks are effective if it’s a longer, more drawn out process. If you want to help people plan out something in relation to your topic, a workbook is a great option. I like to think of it has a strategy call, but instead of asking the questions on a call and giving advice, you ask the questions and they come up with the answers. At the end, you have a plan ready to go.

But if you’re creating your first opt-in freebie, I’d go with creating a worksheet that’s only 2-5 pages. One of my most popular downloads is a two-pager “Craft your About Page” worksheet. I guide them with a few questions so they can do a brain dump about themselves and their brand. Then they tie all the pieces together and do an edit. They can have an About Page ready to go in a matter of one day.

#6 Email course

Earlier we talked about creating an ebook. But if you’re on the fence about creating an ebook that won’t be read, an email course is the perfect solution. Email courses tend to be 5-7 days long, but I’ve seen courses that are as short as 3 days and as long as 8 days.

You can determine the length of your email course by the price of your product, program, or service. For example, if your product is only $97, then a shorter email course will suffice. If you’re selling a $500-1000 product, then there’s probably more steps that you need to draw out for people.

Not sure how to break down the ebook to email courses? You can break them down by chapters.

I’ve never created an ebook as an opt-in (though I have thoughts too soon), but the email course I’ve created convert at about 30-40% for me. Your conversions will fluctuate depending on how relevant the traffic you send to your landing page is.

Remember how I mentioned that email courses are better than ebooks that never gets read? Want to know why?

With email courses, you can track your open and click-through rate for each and every email you send out! That’s such a lifesaver for me to know if my emails are being read and interacted with. So you can also watch if there’s a fallout at some point. If you create this 8-day email course and half the people stop opening your emails on Day 5, then the course might be too long for the topic you’re talking about.

Remember, people want quick results so if it takes 3 days to get there, don’t make them take 5 steps.

#7 Resource library

The first ever opt-in I created on this blog was a resource library. And while it converts at about 40%, here’s why I don’t recommend it for your first opt-in:

  • It takes a long time to put together. I can’t remember how long, but from coming up with the ideas and fine-tuning all the PDFs took at least 2 weeks!
  • You have to do a bit of tech setup. I knew from the start how I’d password-protect the library for only subscribers, but I didn’t know what plugin to use to organize the files. If you’re not that great with tech, I won’t recommend this.
  • From the people who I’ve seen create resource libraries as their opt-in, people always ask how many resources they should have to launch it. Of course, there’s no right answer, but if these questions are stopping you from taking action, choose something that’s easier to execute!

If you really want to start off with a resource guide, I’ll recommend giving away a toolkit. That way, you’re still giving away something big, but because you can deliver it via email, you don’t have to worry about the tech setup of a resource library.

So when should you create a resource library?

A resource library is much easier to create once you have blogged for a while and you started adding content upgrades (or bonuses) to your blog posts. At some point, you can add all those bonuses to your resource library without having to come up with new ideas. It’s much more encouraging to come up with one content upgrade for a single blog post than it is to come up with 5-10 just for your resource library.

While a resource library converts well on the front-end, people who get access to it don’t always click on the links to do the work. So having access to many resources doesn’t mean that’ll they’ll end up doing the work. And if they don’t do the work, they won’t end up getting the results — or feeling extra love for your brand.

But when I offer the “Craft your own about page” worksheet, people get instant access to it on the spot. They read my blog post about how to create an About page, they’re primed, so when I offer the worksheet as a content upgrade on my blog post, they are ready to do the work.

But when I offer it upfront in a resource library, people want and get initial access, file it away, and often times, forget about it.

Final Words

At the end of the day, you shouldn’t approach creating an opt-in freebie as “Let’s create a webinar” or “Let’s write an ebook.” Try asking yourself, “What are my people getting out of this? What’s the result they’re going to get? What’s the instant gratification?”

People don’t buy knowledge. Otherwise, everyone would love sitting in on college lectures even if the information wasn’t relevant to solving real-world problems. So what do they buy? Solutions to their problems, pains, struggles, or frustrations.

Why else do people buy painkillers like Advil even though there’s nothing classy or fun about them? Because it instantly gets rid of a pain you have.

Chat soon + keep in touch,
xo Ju

Author: Ju

Ju is a copywriting ninja for creative entrepreneurs. She also helps bloggers with their content strategy to grow their audience, customers, and online presence.

  • Alexandra Stevens

    Great tips thanks.

  • BobWarfield

    I’ve tried most of these, and they all work well. It helps to change them up every now and again to keep things fresh. Probably my biggest conversion rates have come from personalizing the lead magnet. My web site is very large (4.5 million visits a year), and I have 5 distinct customer personas I serve. I try to come up with a lead magnet that would appeal to each and offer them in areas of the web site where those personas are most commonly seen. Really improved my conversions!

    Lately, I invested the time to create a free online training. It’s a 5-lesson video course on personal productivity hacks. It even includes free software!

    I’ve been a productivity junky all my life, and even helped invent some great techniques that are famous in certain circles. I put that all together for folks to get for free by joining my email newsletter. Check it out here if you want to see an example of this kind of promotion:

    http://bobwarfield.com/work-smarter-get-things-done/

    I saw your article over on #bloggingboost and was glad I came over to read it!

    • Glad you enjoyed the article, Bob!

      Totally true about changing them up every now and then to keep things fresh! I think I change them up a bit too frequently even, but that’s only because I’m experimenting with a few things.

      Definitely diving into video next and see how well that fares. Will check out your link 🙂

      Thanks for leaving a comment. 🙂

  • I am so in love with this post that I had to share it on 3 different platforms.
    Love the examples you gave! It goes to show that you can’t copy anyone else if you want to stand out.
    You have to replicate their strategies with your own spin so they match your brand!

    I use both a resource library and pdf lead magnets, but I am beginning to consider some of the other options here.

    Thank you for sharing!
    xoxo,
    Ana – Blogger at http://www.TheSheApproach.com and big supporter of women who are building an empire online through blogging!

    • Wowza! Thank you for your kind words and sharing, Ana! I’m glad you found this helpful. 🙂

      • My pleasure! Loving your blog since I discovered it!
        And I just happen to have updated my ebook recently and I made sure to list this as a resource in my “Email List” chapter.

        Keep up the amazing content! x

  • amazing collection of lead mag case studies….

    another one that is working great for me is free software.

    • Thanks Ike! I’ve recently heard of offering free software as lead magnet.. from Sumo Me’s blog if I remember correctly. What kind of free software do you offer? Love to check it out if you have the link 🙂

      • Hey Ju, that’s where I got the idea.

        …and they where right, my conversion jumped sharply after introducing my chrome extension.

        Basically, it was created out my own need… Pinterest has their autofill search bar but to get access to those keywords you need to copy and paste EACH INDIVIDUAL keyword before you can collectively paste them into your pin’s description…

        My free Pinterest SEO chrome extension SOLVES THAT.

        Just put in your root keyword and the tool will automatically extract all related keywords from Pinterest’s autofill for you.

        it will also separate the keywords with a bar, comma or no separation at all (up to you)

        It has saved me a ton of time. You can find here with a video explaining it all: https://www.internetmarketinggym.com/pinterest-seo-keyword-finder/

        https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/7094c07e5b39832e341a7e141cd6ed1556ebb79cf34d26c4995cb1fb727b5997.png

        • Thank you!, Ike! I use Pinterest a lot so this will be definitely helpful. I signed up for your list. 🙂 And you reply fast haha

          • Thanks Ju, let me know if you have any questions about the Pinterest chrome extension or any part of my baby shower printable business (my video email list series).

            I find myself sharing your content on tailwind a bunch, because its really good. Nice Work!

  • arita muhaxheri

    omg thank you , this was so informative, I am studying your article right now 😛 I wanna start a newsletter for my blog and this will come in handy <3

  • Larissa Joassaint

    This list is perfect! I’ve been working on creating my email list for forever and a day. I just can’t seem to figure what would be the best to offer my potential subscribers, but your examples helped wonders. Thank you, thank you! I think I’m finally ready to take the next step!

    • Larissa, thanks! Glad you found this helpful. 🙂

      If you’re struggling to come up with your first lead magnet idea, I’ll start with knowing what your paid offering is. You can make your lead magnet the first step in your paid offering. If people can get a small or mini win from your lead magnet, they’ll love to work with you. Instead of thinking of them as “potential subscribers”, think about them as your “potential customers” or “potential clients”, depending on what business you’re in. For example, if you’re a designer, what are stuff design clients ask you about most often? What should they know before they start working with you?

  • What an extensive, detailed post! I’ve personally tested an email course and an ebook and they have both been amazingly successful. The ebook took the cake! Now, what I need to work on is lead magnets in my blog posts and get ConvertKit. I’ve been lacking on using those because I don’t want multiple people in several lists. That affects costs. Thanks for sharing!

    -Natalie of Strategist Cafe

    • Glad you enjoyed this, Natalie! I’d love to hear your perspective on why your ebook converts so well for you! Mini ebooks can be cool and very helpful. I personally slide a little bit more towards the email course because I can have small bites of the longer journey every day. I also haven’t created an ebook yet so I can’t say much from the creator’s end.

      Diving into video next! 🙂 So excited too experiment.

  • Perla

    I keep reading from time to time about the importance of a mail list and getting subscribers and I cannot make the decision to try to grow my own list because I hate them in my own inbox and delete them all. Not that I have many, I avoid to subscribe, and when I’m forced to do, I unsubscribe quickly. If I like a blog or just a blog post I usually bookmark it.

    • Perla, there’s certainly two sides to the coin. Most people who start an email list aim to build a relationship with their clients or customers and stay top of mind. It also helps to send traffic to your blog when you update it.

      Some people read blogs for the pleasure of it. I still do and don’t sign up to receive those emails.

  • Great collection of lead magnet ideas! I’m pretty impressed by your authentic examples. It works!

    I personally love e-books 🙂

    Arfa

  • This is such a great resource! Thank you so much for sharing because this is definitely something our blog is struggling with. So I’ll definitely be bookmarking this for reference. Thank you!
    Fromunderapalmtree.com

  • TeeShares

    Thanks for your timely post. You’ve just reminded me I need to get onto this.

    • Haha, sometimes all we need is a little reminder, TeeShares 🙂

  • Nita Ho

    Definitely bookmarking this to come back later! I just started my blog not long ago and this list is a great guide!

    • Yay, Nita! Creating a blog or a lead magnet, they’re both free content to attract an engaged audience 🙂

  • Oyinkan Ogunleye

    HAVING and email list is super important. Social media can disappear anytime. You shouldn’t allow your blog to be based on just social media. Great tips!

  • I agree that people LOVE a checklist. 🙂 Of course, once you have them on your list you have to keep them there. I admit I’m a sucker for a good opt-in.