How To Grow Your Email List With A Lead Magnet

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“How to grow your email list” is quite the hot topic amidst the freelance and online business community… but has anyone ever bothered to tell you why you should work on growing your email list?

Time for a little email marketing review! I’ll spare you guys the speech in favor of a quick explanation: your email subscribers are people that know they already like you. And, most importantly, they’re the users that will still be there if something were to happen to social media (hacked account, IG apocalypse, you get the picture). Email subscribers are opted-in, locked and loaded, ready to purchase (or sign up, or download, or whatever your call-to-action is).

Now that we’re all up to speed on the why, let’s talk about the how: by creating a lead magnet. To learn more about what a lead magnet is, how to create one, and how to deliver it to your growing email list — keep reading!

What even is a lead magnet, anyway?

A lead magnet—or freebie, as most of us creators call them—is a free item that is given away in exchange for contact details. You download my free homepage how-to guide, I get your email. Lead magnets are win-win situations, created by business owners who want to attract people who’d be interested in what they have to offer, aka qualified leads.

The best freebies are easy reads, or “low-hanging-fruit” style gifts to your audience that solve an immediate need. This freebie has got to be something they want now, in order to make them want to click the ‘download now’ button.

Not only do freebies help you grow your email list, they also help you build authority, community, and—eventually, more often than not—your client list. 

Before creating your lead magnet:

First things first: some self-reflection questions.

what do I want to be known for?
what can my audience benefit from?
will this capture attention?
which subject should I address?

Think about what you can create that will provide enough value, without giving too much away. Because remember, you are giving this item away in exchange for an email address. You need to determine much someone’s email is worth to you, while keeping in mind that this freebie has to also be worth someone giving you their email. I beg you not to be the type of person who makes a dinky little lead magnet out of an existing blog or IG post. A freebie should be exclusive info. That’s the point.

We’ll talk about how to determine whether you’re providing enough value or not another time, but for now, make sure you’re comfortable with people — including your competitors — accessing this information for free.

“Give away the what, not the how” as fellow copywriter Alex Cattoni says. You want to leave people coming back for more, not clicking ‘unsubscribe’ because you’ve already given them everything they need to know. We love a free value moment, but we don’t love a free work moment.

Deciding what to offer for your first freebie:

Once you’ve given some thought to the topic of your freebie and how much information about that topic you’re comfortable including, it’s time for the next step: deciding on the what. What are you going to create as your first lead magnet?

This is the fun part! Your lead magnet can be *anything* you want, in any format that you’d like it to be presented, but remember: the goal of this lead magnet is to get people to sign up for your list. It has to be worthy of them taking an extra moment, typing in their name and email, then stopping their scroll to head over to their email, open it, and actually read it.

That may not sound like a lot of steps, but think about the times that you’ve entered your own email on opt-in forms. What were you getting from it? More often than not, you were likely getting “10% off your first purchase” or a free guide, checklist, or cheat sheet to something you really wanted to learn. You wouldn’t have willingly given away your email for something that didn’t sound valuable—and your target audience won’t, either.

Here’s a list of some lead magnet ideas for ya:

  • Checklists

  • Cheat sheets

  • How-to guides

  • Video tutorials

  • Step-by-step outlines

  • First module of a course

  • Free lesson

  • Templates

Choose the format of your lead magnet based on what you think your audience will enjoy and benefit from the most! (Hint: people prefer simplicity.) And make sure it’s something that you’re positive you can actually bring to life.

In terms of topic, think about your long-term goals. If you know that you’re planning to launch a course about how to become an influencer next year, maybe it would be smart to create a lead magnet about the best tools for first-time YouTube vloggers. Or if you’re just starting out in your career as a freelance branding designer, maybe it would be beneficial for you to create a free lesson on the importance of having a complete visual identity, or a pack of free fonts to download.

Consider what you feel comfortable educating about, and what you want your audience to remember you for.

Also, before we move on, a pro tip: just because you’re knowledgable about something doesn’t mean you should create a freebie about it. Really take the time to consider who is going to benefit from (and download) the freebie, and who you want on your list.

A while back, I created a freebie all about optimizing your Pinterest account, even though I’m not a social media or Pinterest manager. I was doing a bit of content strategy work at the time, because I like it and I’m knowledgeable about it enough to help clients, but it isn’t my main focus.

After spending all that time and effort creating it, I realized that the people downloading a guide to Pinterest probably weren’t my ideal client. I mean, sure, there’s definitely some overlap—but ultimately, my ideal clients are the business owners who want to learn about how to optimize their homepage, learn about SEO, and care about improving their blogging skills.

When to release your lead magnet:

Short answer? Yesterday. Long answer? It depends.

If you’re ready to actually engage with your email list on a regular basis, then you’re ready to launch your lead magnet now. But if you can’t commit to nurturing your list every so often, then I suggest waiting to launch your lead magnet until you’re ready to actually talk to the people on your list.

The whole point of releasing lead magnets is to get more people on your email list. But if you’re not active on email, then… what’s the point? Releasing your lead magnet with no email strategy would be like matching with someone you really liked on Bumble, going on your first date, then never speaking to them ever again. They’d forget about you by the time you were ready to see them again.

You don’t have to be ready to send a lengthy weekly newsletter, but you do have to be ready to chat with your list every once in a while so they don’t forget ya. Stay tuned for a part two to this post all about how to deliver your lead magnet and why you need a ‘welcome sequence’ to keep your new subscribers engaged!


If you found this post helpful, make sure to subscribe to be notified about my next email marketing post — all about welcome sequences and set up workflows in Flodesk (my fave email marketing tool). And don’t forget to SAVE the below photo to Pinterest for easy access to lead magnet ideas for when you’re ready to create yours!

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Hi, I'm Sara—Website Copywriter & Marketing Mentor.

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