Blogging tip: Creating a free email course

One of my January goals is building my email list. Currently, the number of subscribers is 2 (and one is my email address). Sad, isn’t it? Therefore, I was busy brainstorming about how to grow my email list when an email from Mariah Coz popped up in my inbox.

Mariah is the founder of Femtrepreneur and offered a free email course about creating a free email course – I’m not kidding. The purpose of offering a free email course is to grow your email list, so I was all digital ears. I signed up and followed her course this week.

But Mariah was not the only one getting into email list building this week. I also received an email from Melyssa Griffin about her 3-day email course about – again – setting up a free email course.

These courses gave me the idea to collect their tips in a special edition of freelance writing and niche blogging tips. Interested in email marketing and growing your email list? Read on!

Why creating a free email course?

Maybe you still have some doubts about making a free email course. It seems like a lot of work, and especially when you don’t have a product to sell yet, why should you bother? Apparently, an email course is like “the holy grail of list-building and marketing strategies”. I’ll sum up some advantages:

  • Once you’ve set it up, it runs automatically (passive income people!)
  • Free email courses have a high opt-in rate
  • It is the best way to engage with your audience
  • You can use it as a market research tool
  • When you do have a product, people from your email list are the most likely to buy it

And, according to both Mariah and Melyssa, it is very easy and not time-consuming to create one. Well, let’s see about that.

Teaching your audience

Mariah’s course consisted of five emails, and she recommends to do the same. She also offered a worksheet and the possibility to ask questions on her Facebook group. Especially this workbook came in handy because it is an excellent summary of her email course.

The first step in setting up your email course is picking a topic. It’s all about educating so think about what you want to teach your audience.

To be clear: you don’t need to create a whole lot of new content. You can use your existing content and just give it a new look. For example, take a look at old or popular blog posts and social media posts with lots of engagement.

Introduction and the why

In your first email, you introduce yourself and the topic of your email course. Explain why it is so important for your reader to learn more about that subject.

When writing this first email, Mariah advises to answer the following questions:

  • What’s in it for them?
  • Why should they be interested in learning about it?
  • In what way will they benefit from it?

Get some engagement

At the end of your email, you should ask a question to spice up the engagement. For example, ask the reader to reply so they can tell you their story. This increases commitment, and it is an easy way to research your market.

Also, at the end of every email, give a small teaser about the next email and put in a PS with a ‘share this if you like it’ button to Twitter and Facebook.

Creating a free email course: get your readers engaged and committed! Click To Tweet

You and your story

The second email is about you and your story. Tell your reader about how your life looked like before event X happened or product Y entered your life. Maybe there was a turning point or your learned something incredibly value that turned your life upside down in a positive way.

According to Mariah, you should use this story to teach your audience a lesson and to motivate them to take action as well. End this second email with a small action step. This is their quick win and will increase their motivation to continue following your email course.

Three big mistakes and how to avoid them

In the third email, you’ll explain three big mistakes your reader needs to avoid. Explain the consequences and give possible solutions.

Also, you can use the reverse-action strategy to get them motivated. Ask what your reader can stop doing right now to get closer to his or her goal.

Start taking action now

The fourth email is about motivation. You need to explain to your audience why they should start taking action now.

Mariah describes that by giving your readers a small assignment that they can finish in 10 minutes, they will feel good about themselves which increases the likelihood they will stay motivated and engaged.

Answer the most important questions

The fifth email is a Q&A. Respond to the questions you know your reader has been thinking about while taking your free course. Use this opportunity to give your unique perspective on things.

Creating a free email course: tell your audience about your unique perspective Click To Tweet

In the end, ask what their biggest question is. As Mariah explains, you can use this information for creating your product.

Tools and technology for your email course

When you have finished setting up the content of your email course, there are a few things you need to do next:

  1. Set up the automation
  2. Set up a landing page
  3. Put a notification bar and subscription pop up on your website
  4. Get traffic

I changed the order a bit because Mariah had “getting traffic” as the first step, but I think you first need to get the email course set up.


For setting up your automation, you can use systems like MailChimp, Aweber, and ConvertKit. Mariah and Melyssa use ConvertKit, but I intend to use MailChimp. I’m not an expert (yet), but I already work with the free version of MailChimp, and it is very easy to use. And, not unimportantly, it is way cheaper. I totally believe that ConvertKit has many advanced features, but for now, I’ll stick with MailChimp.

Landing page

I need to dive into this. I’ll come back with more info about making the perfect landing page the next month or so.

Notification bar and subscription pop up

For this, lots of plugins (free and paid) are available. You should check which are compatible with your theme.

I have a paid theme from MyThemeShop, and use their plugins for a notification bar and a subscription pop up. In total, this will cost me around $60.

Get traffic

Mariah advises sharing your landing page on social media and in guest posts. In this way, you direct traffic straight to your subscription box.

There is another way of getting your first traffic; it is something I would not have come up with if Melyssa didn’t tell me about it in her email course. So let’s get to her tips and tricks for setting up your free email course.

Getting your first subscribers

What I found the most interesting in Melyssa’s free email course, is her strategy of getting your first 10+ subscribers.

As a side note, it originally is ConvertKit’s strategy, but Melyssa does a great job at creating an email course around the subject.

Content ideas and new subscribers

The plan is very simple: just ask ten (or thirty, or hundred) people in your network (friends, family, colleagues, etc.) if they are interested in the topic of your email course. If they are, ask them what they would like to know. In this way, you’ll get fresh ideas about the content, and you’ve found new subscribers.

Also, when you have a few subscribers, it is more fun to write your course. Nobody likes to perform for an empty theater, right? After that, it is organic growth through social media, Google (say hello to SEO!), and guest posting.

My experience with emailing ten people

So I tried this strategy last week, and I noticed something important. ConvertKit and Melyssa advise you to be short in the email. Just two sentences; about your topic (I have a website about x) and their interest (Are you interested in learning more about it?).

In my experience, this is too little information. I got responses with lots of questions, like ‘what do you mean?’, ‘do you want me to read something?’, ‘do you want to write a guest blog?’ etc. People were confused about my short message.

Give a bit more info in your email

My advice to you: give a bit more info. Tell the recipients what you’re doing, for example, I’m creating a free email course about subject x. Are you interested in this topic? If so, would you tell me a bit more about your thoughts around x?

From there, you can continue the conversation.

After I had explained it a bit more to my responders, they emailed me back with valuable info. Even people with no interest in the topic now explained to me why they aren’t and that is very very useful knowledge as well.

What do you think about these strategies and tips for building your email list and setting up your free email course?

I’m halfway through the process of creating one, and I hope that summarizing these tips will help you as well!

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