Email List-Building

How To Create an Irresistible Opt-In Freebie to Explode Your Email List

Have you ever wondered how bloggers grow their email lists to reach such explosive numbers? Like the viral pins you see on Pinterest proclaiming “How I got 20,000 email subscribers in 9 months!” or “How I tripled my email list in 24 hours!” Maybe you just started your list and are struggling to get people to sign up besides your mom. Or you’ve had your list for a couple months, but just aren’t growing. Well I got an answer for you: opt-in freebies. But not just any opt-in freebie, you need yours to be so irresistible that your readers won’t bat an eyelash and instantly hand over their email address.

Create Perfect Opt-In Freebie To Grow Email List


This post contains affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase by clicking on them, I will receive a small commission, at no additional cost to you, that will help me continue to bring you valuable content. Thanks for supporting In Search of Sheila!

What exactly is an opt-in? It’s the one thing you absolutely NEED in order to grow your email list, that’s what! To be more specific, an opt-in is anything that you can give someone in exchange for their email address. Other names for opt-ins include: content upgrades, freebies, opt-in gifts, triggers, and lead magnets.

Okay Sheila, I get it. I need an opt-in to grow my list. But what kind of opt-in should I use? And how do you make one? Oh, and how do I get it out there for people to see?

Girl, I got you. Just keeping on reading!

Me As a Case Study

My very first opt-in freebie was a list of 25 morning mantras, which only two (yep ONLY TWO!) people have since signed up for. I thought it was a good idea (at the time) and since I am trying to incorporate mindfulness into my life, it’s something that I would totally download myself.

My most popular freebie, on the other hand, is my free Instagram Hashtag Library. It’s gotten over 100 sign-ups and is the reason my list has grown to over 200 subscribers.Why did my list of mantras only get 2 sign-ups and my Hashtag Library got over 100? We’ll come back to this at the end of this post. As you’re reading along, try to think of some reasons why one did better than the other.


1. Figure out what people want
Before you dive in, you want to make sure you’re actually making something that people will want to sign up for. The best way to figure this out is to ask yourself what your readers would be most interested in downloading.

Can’t think of anything? No worries. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • What are my target readers currently struggling with the most?
  • What is one question that I’m frequently asked?
  • How can I use my expertise and knowledge to help them?


Still stumped? Head to the source! Read through your (and other people’s) blog and Instagram comments. Conduct a reader survey with Survey Monkey or Zoho or a poll on Twitter or Facebook. Another great place are Facebook groups. People are always asking questions about what they’re struggling with the most, so it’s a gold mine. A good hack for finding what you want is to utilize the search function for topics you’re researching.

2. Offer a quick solution to a problem
Once you figure out what your readers are struggling with, provide a solution! But not just any solution–a simple, actionable, and fast solution that will provide RESULTS. We’re all pressed for time, which means people LOVE instant gratification. The majority of the time after someone signs up for your opt-in, they are going to expect an answer to their burning question right away.3. Keep it simple
You also want your freebie to be as simple as possible, while still being jam-packed with value. Avoid trying to cram a bunch of information into your freebie with broad topics. In this case, less really is more. You want your content to get to the point as fast as possible, otherwise your reader will get frustrated and deem your freebie unhelpful and invaluable. And that’s not a good way to build trust. Focus on delivering ONE big point, rather than a bunch a little points.For example, instead of offering a mini e-book called “How to Drive Traffic To Your Blog with Social Media” go more specific and focus on just one platform, such as “How to Drive Traffic To Your Blog with Twitter.” This is one area I’m working on. I’m the kind of person (IRL and on my blog) that wants to be so helpful, that I always try to share as much information as possible. I’ve slowly learned that this isn’t necessarily the best way to present information and as a student, it’s not the best way to learn. Think of whenever you start a new job and your new colleague is “showing you around.” You end up leaving your first day at work with so much information, that you know you won’t remember anything the next day.

4. Gain your readers’ trust
The name of the email list-building game is building trust with your readers, so that they will eventually become potential customers in the future. This is why it’s so important to start your email list as soon as possible, and to start pumping out valuable and FREE content on the regular.

In a nutshell, your opt-in freebie should give a simple, quick solution and gain your readers’ trust. If you can deliver this, you’ll make yourself more credible, and your readers will stick around for more.

Your opt-in freebie should offer a simple, quick solution & gain your readers' trust. Click To Tweet


Yay, the fun part!

1. Choose a Format

Now that you have a clear idea of what to include in your freebie, you need to choose a format to present your information that will make the most sense to your readers and will be easy to digest.

Here are some format examples:

  • E-book
  • Email course
  • Mini eCourse
  • Workbook
  • Worksheets
  • Video or tutorial
  • PDF guides
  • Printables
  • Checklists
  • Cheats sheets
  • Webinars
  • Consultations

If you end up conducting a reader survey or poll, you can ask them which way they prefer to learn.

2. Think of a Memorable Title

Your title should be catchy and intriguing, but also short and simple enough to remember.

3. Create and Design!

Get creative! There are many different programs and software out there that all essentially do the same thing, you just need to pick one you’re comfortable with depending on the type of format you’ve selected. I personally enjoy making PDFs, which I use and recommend Canva for, because it’s free and easy to use. When I want more control, I’ll use Photoshop, but it’s not necessary if you’re just starting out!

PDFs (checklists, worksheets, e-books, printables)
Free: PicMonkeyMicrosoft OfficeGoogle Drive, PDF Escape
$$$: Photoshop, Adobe In Design, Illustrator

Here’s what designing in Canva looks like. You can use your own custom dimensions are use presets such as “U.S. Letter” (great for PDFs), “Ebook” and there’s even a template for Pinterest images. They also have a bunch of different layouts, font options, and graphics to use and get inspiration from, or you can totally start from scratch. I like to keep my opt-ins pretty minimal, so I always start with a blank canvas!

Email Courses
You’re going to need an email service provider with automations.
Free: MailerLite
$$$: MailchimpConvertKit

I really recommend ConvertKit just because it makes the whole process easy and super organized.

Free: smartphone, Screencast-O-MaticJing

Free: smart phone, AudacityGarageBand (Mac)

Webinars and Consultations
Free: Meeting Burner, ZoomYouTube  

4. Stay On Brand
It’s important to make sure your freebies reflect you and your blog or business aka are “on brand.” When someone sees your freebie, you want it to scream Y-O-U so people know exactly where it came from. Use similar aesthetics (colors and fonts), keep the same tone of voice, and add your logo or website URL. Also make sure to title the file appropriately and include your name. I’ve downloaded so many PDFs that if the author didn’t include their name in it somewhere, I would honestly have no idea who it came from.

You also want your freebies to be visually appealing, while still staying on brand. Use your own photos or stock photos from sites like Creative MarketShutterStock, and UnSplash.


Now it’s time for your freebie to get noticed! First, I recommend incorporating your opt-in into one blog post directly related to the same topic, and add it to all other relevant blog posts. I’m not going to stick my Blog Traffic Booster Cheat Sheet in my How To Start Meditating Right Now post because that would make no sense to my readers!

Other places to stick your sign up forms are in the side-bar, top-bar, footer, and pop-ups.

Here is an examples of how I have opt-in forms on my blog. This one below is embedded in my blog post. The opt-in form was created right in ConvertKit. Easy to make, easy to install, and effective!

If you use ConvertKit, they provide simple opt-in forms that you can embed right into your blog post or main page. You can also create a landing page that features just the opt-in, making it less distracting for potential subscribers. Additionally, I also created separate pages and a resource library in a drop down menu on navigation bar.

The next place you want to hit up are your social media platforms. Create a promotional graphic for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. Add a link to your freebie in your Instagram bio and share it on your story. Pin it to your Twitter page. On Pinterest, go wild with pins. The more, the merrier! Mix up designs and titles to appeal to different audiences. Take advantage of Facebook groups and post in daily threads and on the main wall depending on the group rules. Because I promoted my Hashtag Library on the main wall of one of my favorite Facebook groups, my email list exploded.


On ConvertKit, you can add your opt-in into an incentive email if it needs to be attached as a separate file. It will be automatically sent when someone signs up to your form.

On Mailchimp you can upload your freebie as an attachment to your email and on MailerLite you’ll have to upload the freebie to a separate host, such as Google Drive.


Remember my least popular and most popular freebies I talked about at the beginning? Lets examine their success and failure now that I’ve explained how to create an opt-in that people will love.

My least popular: List of 25 Morning Mantras. Was this solving anyone’s problem/biggest questions? Not really. I soon figured out that my target readers struggle with blog traffic and Instagram, so a list of mantras isn’t really going to help them, nor does it offer any quick fix to a problem.

My most popular: Instagram Hashtag Library PDF.  It offers a solution to problems of low Instagram engagement. It provides a quick solution, because it lists over 350 hashtags that you can instantly use on your next post that will boost your engagement. In summary, it provides a quick solution to one of my audience’s biggest problems.

Ready to craft the perfect opt-in freebie that people will devour, share, and patiently wait for more? Download my free checklist below which outlines 7 easy steps to craft your freebie that people won’t be able to resist! These are the main criteria your freebie NEEDS in order to deem yourself trust-worthy to future customers.

Have any freebie ideas rolling around in your head yet? Feel free to share them down below! And if you are still stumped, just leave comment and I’ll help you brainstorm! And please share the image below on Pinterest if this helped you!

Create Opt-In Freebie Grow Email List

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