10 Freebie Ideas to Explode Your Email List & How to Make Them – Part 1/2

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How to design opt-in freebies - part 1

[Note: This is part 1 of the two-part blog post. Read part – 2 here.]

I’m easily excited by free stuff.

This includes freebies that some bloggers offer in exchange for subscribing to their email list.

A free list here, a free guide there, I’m all for it!

Now, why do bloggers need their readers’ email addresses, you ask?

Well, that’s because as a blogger, your email list is really the only list that counts. Not your Facebook followers or your Instagram followers, but those folks who willingly give you their email addresses are the ones who’re your true fans.

Whether you’re selling affiliate products or products of your own, the easiest way to market it is by sending something to your email list–a newsletter, a promotion, or just a mention. Trust me, they’ll be the ones to purchase from you before anybody else does.

So, we all agree that bloggers MUST have an email list, yes?

Now, how does one collect subscribers–get people to willingly give their email addresses?

Well, that’s where a good freebie comes in.

I can guarantee you that I’m not the only one who gets excited by free stuff. Thing is, people are stingy about their email addresses. None of us like to receive any more emails than we’re already getting. Emails from work, emails from clients and customers, emails from friends and family and frenemies and legit enemies… there are already way too many emails in our inbox(es) to deal with–who needs more?

But if you offer a freebie, something that your readers can use and benefit from or learn from, then trust me, your readers wouldn’t mind giving you access to their inbox.

The catch is, however, that you need to offer the right freebies. Because not everything is for everyone.

For example, one of my most popular freebies is my blog launch checklist. It is one of the most comprehensive blog launch checklists out there, so understandably, my audience who are largely new bloggers or blogging enthusiasts, want to sign up and get this checklist.

The second most popular freebie on TSB is my free media kit template, for bloggers, made with Canva.

You see, both of these are essential for new bloggers. And considering TSB is all about teaching new bloggers how to blog, it’s easy to understand why people would want these freebies.

When you’re brainstorming what to offer your readers, take into account what will be useful to them. Not just what you think will be useful to them, but what they [your readers] will be interested in also. Try to think like your readers do. What do they want from you? What are their pain points? What could you give them that they will be able to put to use right away?

With that in mind, I’d suggest you stick to things that are not overly complicated. For example, do not write an eBook, and then offer the whole damn thing to your readers for free. At best, you can offer a mini-guide or a chapter from your eBook (this could be used as a teaser for selling the whole eBook for a price too.)

Here’s a simple formula for your freebies:

Useful + actionable + easy for you to create + adds value to whatever blog post the freebie is attached to [when offered as a content upgrade.]

And now, here are 10 popular opt-in freebies or content upgrades that you can offer to your readers:

  1. Cheatsheets or checklists
  2. Planners
  3. Workbooks
  4. PDF mini-guides (chapter from an eBook)
  5. Templates (Canva, Google docs or sheets, or something else)
  6. Email course
  7. Video guides
  8. Webinars
  9. Library of freebies
  10. Quizzes

Now, allow me to show you how you can create each of these. Seeing how most of my readers are new(ish) bloggers in a budget, I’ve tried to include as many free (or super cheap) ways to make these freebies as possible.

Also, please note that I have decided to break up this blog post into two parts. In this post, I will cover how to create 5 types of freebies (1 – 5 from the list above). Part – 2 has the rest of the items.

In this post:

Offer Checklists as Freebies

This is by far the easiest thing to offer to your readers. Let’s say that you have a list type (or even a how-to post with steps to doing something). Typically, in such a blog post, you will have each item as a header, followed by a description of the item. The checklist that you can offer as a freebie can be just that, but without the lengthy descriptions.

Think of this freebie as a cheat-sheet.

Not everyone has time to go through a lengthy blog post at all times. But when you offer a checklist, your readers can just download it and even print it out so that they always have it handy.

Case Study:

I mentioned that one of my all-time popular freebies is a blog launch checklist. I get over 50% of my email list subscribers just from this one freebie. How did I do it?

You see, this blog launch checklist is a 52-point, massive, and by far the most comprehensive blog launch checklist out there. However, aside from that, there’s another trick to the amount of email list subscribers I attract every single day with this freebie.


Let me explain. Since the checklist is massive, I decided to share only the most prominent 30 items of the entire checklist on the actual blog post. With the added description for each of the items, the blog post was already quite long with the 30 items, and full of tremendous value as is.

In fact, I have provided so much value with these 30 items that by the time people reach the end of the list, they want to know what else I have to offer in the entire 52-point checklist.

And that’s why so many people sign up for my blog launch checklist every single day.

Checklists can be as simple or as fancy as you want them to be. For example, a lot of my checklists are simple numbered lists. Here’s an example. The checklist you see below is a freebie I offer with one of my blog posts. It took no time to create at all. In fact, I spent more time writing the content, than designing the checklist.

An example of a checklist.

How to Create a Checklist

First of all, you need an idea for a checklist.

But like I said, it’s one of the easiest things to make. You can create a checklist out of anything almost. for example, if I wanted to, I could create a checklist out of this very blog post I’m writing right now.

(Do not create a content upgrade — a freebie that is attached to a blog post, and offered in exchange for email list subscription — for each of your blog posts, that seems a bit salesy. Limit your content upgrades to no more than two or three posts per month at most.)

In short, a checklist is a list of items. As a blogger, always ask yourself what you can offer your readers that will benefit them instantaneously. And the ones that your readers can use TODAY, makes for the best kind of checklists.

Each item on a checklist should get the reader closer to getting something done. For example, if a reader is at point A before going through your checklist, by the end of the checklist, they should be at point B. The checklist is the incremental stopgaps between points A and B.

In terms of the actual design, here are some things to consider.

1. All of your document type freebies, including checklists, should have a header area or a cover sheet. If the freebie is longer than a few pages or subdivided into multiple sections, then you should definitely have a cover page. Otherwise, for simple things like a checklist, you should at least have a main header section on the very first page. This header (or cover page) should include:

  • Your blog name or logo or both.
  • The title of the freebie (in this case your checklist)
  • A short description of what the checklist is about. Think of it as a subtitle.
  • A slightly longer description of what your readers can expect out of this checklist. Who it is for and what your readers will come out with once they’ve gone through the checklist.

Use your common sense for some of these things. For example, if it’s a simple checklist and the title and subtitle for the checklist are enough for the readers to know what they can expect, you may pass up on the longer description. While for some other types of freebies, a longer description may be necessary.

2. Add a footer to all of your pages. This footer should include your blog name and URL, and if you have more than a couple of pages to your freebie, the page numbers as well. Having your blog name and URL on all pages is important because you always want to have your content protected.

3. You can either have a simple numbered list, or a list with actual checkboxes next to each list item. Checkboxes are great if your list contains actionable items or items your readers can check off once a task is completed. For other types of lists, just a numbered list may be sufficient. In any case, adding the checkboxes makes the list a bit more interactive and fancy. They’re not necessary but adds a nice touch to your otherwise plain list.

4. Keep the lists short. For example, in my blog launch checklist, I go through each list item in detail in the actual blog post, however, in the downloadable list, I have mostly just added each list item as bullet points.

As for creating these checklists, you can use something as simple as Microsoft Word, or Google Docs. If you have a mac, you can use Pages to create these checklists. If you’re design-savvy and have access to the Adobe CC programs, you can use InDesign to make checklists.

Alternately, you can use my personal favorite method to create these checklists — by using my favorite online graphic design app — Canva. Canva is a whole lot easier to work with than InDesign, and it can help you design fancier documents than you would with Word or Google Doc or Pages.

The best part about Canva is that it has a lot of built-in templates, including checklists! If you’re not super design-savvy, you can just take one of the pre-made checklists from Canva, and then customize them to match your branding and aesthetics.

For example, here are some Canva native checklist templates that should be pretty easy to customize.

A Canva-made checklist that you can customize.

A Canva-made checklist that you can customize.

For more checklist templates from Canva, just log onto your Canva account and type “checklists” in the search box, or simply click here!

Offer Planners as Freebies

Everybody loves a planner. I have seen all sorts of planners out there. Starting from your usual day-to-day to-do planners, to bullet planners, to meal planners, to blog planners, to life planners… you name it. No matter what your niche is, chances are that you can make a planner out of any of them.

Just go to Etsy and search for planners and you’ll be bombarded with all sorts of planners for inspiration.

Aside from that, I also have a couple of planner templates that I sell on the blog shop. For example, here’s an example of simple daily and weekly planner inserts I have for sale:

Simple daily and weekly planner inserts.

And here’s a blog planner template I sell on the shop.

A simple blog planner template made with Canva.

How to Design a Planner

Essentially, a planner has all of the elements mentioned in the previous section — a header, your blog’s name, the planner title, (optionally, a description of what the planner is and how to use it, if it isn’t obvious,) your blog’s URL, etc.

As for the programs, again, all of the aforementioned programs can be used to create a planner. If you’re using Canva, just like with checklists, you can find pre-made planner templates that you can customize. Or, you can create one that’s just right for you, from scratch.

Below you’ll find some planner templates from Canva that I like, or, you can search for “planners” in Canva to see all available planner templates.

A simple planner template made with Canva.

A simple planner template made with Canva.

Offer Workbooks or Worksheets as Freebies

Worksheets are expansions to checklists. Instead of just saying do this or do that, you can actually create space within your document for your readers to work on.

The concept is similar to checklists but with workable areas added. The idea is to walk your readers through a certain problem as they go through your document. A workbook should make your readers think about a problem and work through this problem while they’re going through the workbook.

For example, I have a Pinterest workbook where I give directions for how to come up with board names and descriptions, followed by an area for my readers to work on.

If you want inspiration, here are some of the pages from one of my Canva workbook templates that I sell on my blog shop:

Silver - A workbook template made with Canva.
Pages from a workbook template made with Canva.

How to Design Workbooks

Workbooks are usually made up of several different types of things. They can be comprised of any combination of the following: checklists, worksheets, quizzes, planners, charts, flow-graphs, etc. Feel free to be creative.

You can use the same programs to create a worksheet as the ones I mentioned in the previous section. But, as you know, Canva is my favorite of them all.

And once again, just as with checklists, you can use pre-made templates to create workbooks as well. You can search for “worksheets” on Canva to use their pre-made templates. If you want to use multiple templates to create your workbook (such as a combination of worksheets, checklists, planners, etc.,) all you have to do is copy all elements from a template, and then paste them in your design.

To copy elements from one Canva design to another, select the elements with your mouse, then click Ctrl + C (or Cmd + C on a Mac) to copy, and then click the design where you want to paste the copied elements, and then click Ctrl + V (or Cmd + V on a Mac) to paste.

If you want to copy and paste all elements of a page, click Ctrl + A (or Cmd + A on a Mac) to select all elements, and follow the directions above to copy and paste.

Offer Mini-Guides as Freebies

Mini guides are great freebies that you can offer alongside a blog post, or as stand-alone opt-in freebies. For example, let’s say that you want to create an email list subscription opt-in on your homepage. You want to offer a freebie that is not part of any blog post but is a stand-alone incentive to get people to sign up right as they land on your blog. A mini-guide could serve as a lure when there’s no blog post to convince your readers that they should sign up for your email list.

As another example, let’s assume you’re trying to sell a course. But before you sell, you want people to have a taste of what you have to offer. A mini-guide can serve as that little “taste”. It can also be the entry point of a sales funnel.

How to Design a Mini-Guide

Again, any of the programs I have mentioned before can be used to create a PDF guide, which is essentially just a document.

Think of a mini-guide as another blog post, but instead of publishing it on your blog, you’re making a PDF out of it and offering it as a downloadable document.

Ideally, such a guide will have a cover page, a back cover page, and then the in-between content pages. The main cover should have the title of the mini-guide, a subtitle describing what the guide is about, your blog’s name (and optionally, the logo,) and your blog’s URL.

The back cover should have your contact details (such as your email), your blog’s information (the URL once again), copyright information, and optionally, social media information if you have them.

The content pages are just that, the contents of the mini-guide, often written in the same way you would a blog post. They may have a combination of text and relevant images. Also, just like blog posts, you should have headers and subheaders. Depending on the length of the guide and your aesthetics, you may create separate “chapters” for your headers.

Additionally, you may also add an “about-page” and a “table of content” page.

I have several eBook templates on my blog shop that you can use to create your mini-guides. Or, you can create your own from scratch.

Here are some examples:

eBook template - Cotton - made with Canva.
eBook template – Cotton – made with Canva (available on the shop).
A 16-page eBook or opt-in freebie template for your blog or business, made with Canva.
cBook template – Ivy – made with Canva, available on the blog shop.

Offer Templates as Freebies

Templates make for great freebies because this allows your readers to customize it to meet their unique needs.

For example, one of my most popular freebies (right after the blog launch checklist) is a media kit template made with Canva. A media kit is essential for bloggers, but the information of a media kit is unique to each blogger. That’s why I decided to offer a template that my readers can customize with their own branding elements and blog-specific information.

When it comes to offering templates, you have a LOT of different types of options.

You could just make something with Canva and offer it as a template (like I did with the media kit). You could make a planner (as described above), and offer it as a template instead of a downloadable PDF.

If you need some ideas for templates:

  • Income/expense tracker spreadsheet (or made with any of the other programs)
  • budgeting spreadsheet (or made with any of the other programs)
  • meal planner template
  • workout template
  • weight tracker template
  • bullet journal template

… and many more.

How to Share Templates

When you create templates with Microsoft Word or Excel, you can simply have your readers download the file and you’re good.

For Google docs or sheets or slides, you can save a document or sheet or slide as a template if you have G-Suite, which is a paid service by Google. If you do not want to sign up for G-Suite, you can create your template within your Google Drive, and then save the template as a Word Document or Excel File (or any other available file type you see fit) and have your readers download that so that they can open up the template using their preferred program.

For templates made with Canva, if you wish to share a design as a template, you need to be a Canva Pro member. Personally, I recommend having a Canva Pro account to all bloggers as soon as you’re able to afford it because it’s full of resources that a blogger will benefit from. The ability to share designs as templates is just one of them.

However, if you do not upgrade to Pro, you can still share a design a bit roundabout way. For example, you can use the share link to share the design, but make sure to REMIND YOUR READERS to make a copy of the design first, and then ONLY make changes to the copy. If anyone makes changes to the original master document, that will change the design for all, which is NOT what you want.

Sharing Canva Design as a Template with Canva Pro

To share a design as a template, when you’re a Canva Pro member:

– Open the design that you want to share.

– At the top of the design, click on the “Share” button to open up the share options. At the bottom of this new pop-up window, click on the “share a link to” option and click on “share a link to use as template”. Again, you can only do this if you’re a Canva Pro account holder.

– Next, click on “Copy Link” to copy the shareable template link. This is the template link that you will share with your readers.

– You can share this link when someone signs up to your opt-in form. (Most email platforms will have a welcome email option that you can use to share this link. I use ConvertKit as my email list platform, and recommend all bloggers to use it as well as ConvertKit is the only email marketing platform that was designed to serve bloggers and small business owners; basically, they’re the best for us! If you need help setting things up, I have a ConvertKit tutorial right here.)

– You can share this link directly, or you can add this link, along with some direction for how to use the template in a separate PDF and then have your subscribers download the PDF.

Important:: For those of you who do not have a Canva Pro account, you will need to use the “Share a link to edit” option to share a design. Do remember that when you use this option, you’re sharing the master design with your subscribers, and not a template. Meaning, when someone customizes the design, it changes the master design. It’s important that you let your subscribers know that they must create a copy of the design first (by opening the design and then going to File > Make a Copy) and then make all of their customizations only to the copied design.

Video Tutorials for Creating Freebies with Canva

There are times when a template just doesn’t cut it. You need something custom-made. In the videos below, you will find some tips for creating such a custom checklist/workbook, if you have the need for it.

Creating a header section for your freebies:


Creating a checklist:


Creating worksheets:


Copying Canva pre-made template elements and pasting them to your own design:

This wraps up part-1 of the two-part blog post on how to design a freebie to explode your email list. You can read part – 2 here. Questions and comments about this tutorial? Feel free to share with me in the comments!

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10 Opt-in freebie ideas and how to create them - part 1

10 opt-in freebie ideas for exploding your email list, and detailed tutorials for how to create each of these freebies to attract your ideal audience to sign up for your email list. #emaillist #optin #freebies #listbuilding #blogging #bloggingforbeginners #beginnerbloggers
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