Having an email list is one of THE most important things for your business, and there are many reasons why. If you would like to know those reasons why, read about why your business needs an email list here.

So you know that you need an email list, but in order to grow your email list, there’s something you need to master…how to get people to actually give you their email addresses.

This seems simple, right? Yes, if you have a plan for gathering email addresses. If you’ve thrown an email sign up button somewhere on your website and are just hoping that people give enough shits to subscribe, then no…not so simple.

There are A LOT of blog posts on the glorious world wide web about how to grow your email list, and some people actually encourage buying emails or finding them on random websites – to which I say “ew.” If you aren’t growing your email list with people who are actually interested in your business, then you’re wasting your time. The end.

The entire goal of learning to grow your email list is to FILL IT TO THE BRIM with people who may actually turn into your customers. And the way to do this, you ask?

Free stuff. 

Grow Your Email List

Kinda anticlimactic, I know. But it really is that simple. Offering something (of value) for free in exchange for an email address is one of the easiest ways to obtain legit readers who are actually interested in your business, aka grow your email list.

Terms for this include but aren’t limited to: freebie, opt-in freebie, content upgrade.

Some examples of the “free stuff” that I speak of:

  • Printables: Calendars, planner pages, artwork, templates, charts…pretty much anything that someone can print from your site and then use in their life is considered a printable. You want these to have something to do with your business, because if the reader is interested in your printable, chances are they’ll be interested in your business. So if you have a landscaping business and you decide to make a free printable for a recipe card template because you’ve seen a lot of them and they’re SO POPULAR right now, you’re wasting your energy. Because as soon as you send that person an email about lawn care they’re going to say “WTF is this” and quite possibly unsubscribe. A better option would be a garden tracker that suggests what to plant when, and has spots to mark when you’re supposed to water, fertilize, prune, etc. Something useful that is related to your business – that is the key.

Some examples of free printables that I offer my readers:

  • Checklists: This could go under “printables” but I like checklists so much that I’m putting them into a category of their own. These are EXTREMELY easy to make and every niche can create a checklist of some sort that would be valuable to their readers. An example of this could be “What to Pack for Your First Trip to Disney World” if you’re in the travel niche, or “Things You MUST HAVE in Your Kitchen if You’re Starting a Baking Business” if you’re in the cooking/baking niche.


  • Workbooks/Worksheets: Let’s say your niche is home schooling. You could create a worksheet or workbook focused on a certain subject that is free for your readers to download. Or if your niche is calligraphy/lettering you could create a calligraphy worksheet that has letters for your readers to practice tracing.


  • Graphics: Some of my FAVORITE things to download are free graphics. These can be phone backgrounds, screensavers, wallpaper, etc. A lot of graphic design professionals offer free digital downloads as their opt-in freebie, and let me just say, I will give my email address to my worst enemy if they have a cute enough desktop background up for grabs. Very effective when trying to grow your email list!

So you get the point. The formula for growing your email list is as follows: free + valuable + relevant = worthy of trading an email address.

How do you create said freebies to grow your email list? My suggestions if you want to create your own are to use Photoshop, Illustrator or my personal favorite, Canva. Read about 26 things you can create for your business using Canva here! And did I mention it’s FREE?!

Once you have planned and created your freebies, the next step is learning how to grow your email list with them. And don’t worry, because Mailerlite makes it SO easy to do so.

In my previous post How to Use Mailerlite Automation to Introduce Your Business (On Autopilot) I explained how to set up email automation for your welcome series. For your opt-in freebies, the process is almost exactly the same, it just involves a few more steps. If you aren’t already familiar with how to use Mailerlite’s automation feature, I would highly recommend reading my automation post. Don’t worry! It’ll open in a new tab so you don’t lose your place on this post!

Grow Your Email List Using Mailerlite Forms

Like I’ve explained before, once I started really trying to grow my email list, I switched from MailChimp to Mailerlite. Overall, I feel that Mailerlite offers more in terms of tools to grow your email list and that is why I made the switch. Their free forms are WONDERFUL tools to use to grow your email list. AND, it’s free to sign up. You can learn how to do that here if you don’t already have an account.

When you log into Mailerlite, this is what you’ll see at the top of your dashboard:

Grow Your Email ListFor this tutorial, you’ll want to click “Forms.”

Under the Forms tab, you’ll see this menu:

Grow Your Email ListIf you haven’t ever created a form, you won’t have any numbers in parentheses beside the different options. I’ve created quite a few which is why mine looks like it does.

So! The differences between these three options…what exactly are they?

  • Popup: This is a form that literally “pops up” on your website in response to a trigger. The trigger could be when someone scrolls to a certain spot on your page, when they go to leave your site, or various other things.
  • Landing Pages: These are actual webpages that your readers will land on if they click a certain button or link. One important thing to include if you decide to make a landing page is a link BACK to your page (if you don’t have it set to open in a new tab). The last thing you want is to navigate someone away from your website with no way to get back to where they were.

Grow Your Email List^^This is a landing page for my Wow-Worthy Welcome Emails Cheatsheet. When readers click the button within my post, they are brought to this landing page where they can see a brief summary of what the freebie includes and submit their info in exchange for a free download.

  • Embedded Forms: This is a form that is placed right onto your webpage.

Grow Your Email List^^This is an example of an embedded form that I put directly inside one of my blog posts. I explain what the freebie is within the post instead of directing them to a different page.

There’s no right or wrong one to use, it’s really all about your preference. Any of these options will help grow your email list, but I personally think popups are a little aggressive (but they supposedly have kick-ass conversion rates) so I tend to use landing pages the most and embedded forms are a close second.

Depending on what tab you click, the orange button will either say “Create Landing Page” or “Create Embedded Form.” The setup for both is essentially the same, so I’m going to show you the setup for a landing page since there is slightly more to it. If you can master landing pages, forms will be a piece o’ cake.

The first step is to name your landing page. Always name the landing page/form after your opt-in freebie because once you have a bunch of them, you’ll need to be able to easily identify them. I called this one 25 Content Upgrades that Convert – Cheatsheet. If you want to download that, by the way, you can do so here! It can also be found in the Free Resource Library if you’re a subscriber.


Grow your email listNext, you’ll need to select which subscriber group you want this freebie to be connected to. This is very important. Because your subscriber is going to receive a unique email specific to this content upgrade, you want them added to a segmented email list – NOT YOUR MAIN LIST. This will all make more sense as we get into the part about automation, but basically we’re going to set up automated emails for each freebie so that they automatically send out when a reader signs up to receive a content upgrade. If you read How to Use Mailerlite Automation to Introduce Your Business, you may already have an automated welcome email set up for your main email list (and if you don’t already, you need to get that done ASAP!) and you know that when someone gets added to that list, they automatically receive your welcome email…we don’t want that for these, because your reader wants the freebie first.

The best way to achieve this is to create separate email lists for each opt-in. It seems like a lot, but it is extremely helpful in keeping everything organized. You can see below that I have a list for all of my upgrades. These lists ultimately feed into my main email list, but for the purpose of automation you need to have them segmented at first. To create a new list, you just click “add new group” in the top right corner.

Grow Your Email List

Just like with naming the landing page, you want to name your group after the name of your freebie to keep everything nice and organized.

Grow Your Email List

After you click “create” your group will show up in your list of groups. Click that group and ONLY that group, then save and continue.

Grow Your Email List

If you’ve never created a landing page or form before, you’ll need to do this next step where you choose and customize a template. I usually like to use the top left but they’re all pretty sweet.

Grow Your Email List

You can insert your logo, a photo of your freebie, a description, a clever button, a bio of yourself…whatever you want!

Grow Your Email List

After you design your page, you’ll need to configure the settings. I change the URL to the name of the freebie and add in a title and some meta data.

Grow Your Email LIstClick save and this summary page will come up with all of your information. This is where I triple check to make sure the correct subscriber group is selected (at the bottom). What is going to happen when someone signs up through this landing page is that they will be subscribed to that email group…and then automation kicks in from there.

Grow Your Email List

Once you’ve created a few of these, they’ll all show up under the landing page tab. And when you go to create a new one, you can simply duplicate one of the old ones and save yourself a TON of time! I usually change up the color scheme, the photo and the wording and then I’m done!

Grow Your Email ListGrow Your Email ListGrow Your Email List – Automation: I thoroughly explain how to set up automation in my post How to Introduce Your Business Using Mailerlite Automation, so I’m not going to go through the entire process in this post (I do recommend reading about that, though!) but here is the abbreviated version:

  1. Click “Automation” in the top of the Mailerlite menu and then click “Create a new workflow.”

Mailerlite Automation

2. This is the way I have mine set up. The workflow name is, surprise surprise, the same as the landing page and the email segment. The trigger should be “when subscriber joins a group” because that is what happens when they enter their information on your landing page. You should choose the email group with the corresponding name for the “select a group” option. Once you save all of this information (right hand side of the photo below), the top portion of the left hand side will pop up – the part that says “When subscriber joins a group [insert your group name here].Grow Your Email List

Click on the little plus icon to add a step. My first step is always an email that is pre-designed with my opt-in freebie. Then I add in a delay (usually one day) and then copy that subscriber to my main email list.

If you read the post about setting up automation, you know that it’s VERY IMPORTANT that you DO NOT click the box that says “reactivate the full workflow for subscribers who rejoin the same group in the future” in the settings of your welcome email. BECAUSE if you do, every time someone signs up to receive one of your freebies, they’ll get re-added to your main list and will be sent your welcome series emails over and over again. Not cool. You don’t want to annoy readers while you’re trying to grow your email list, because chances are they’ll unsubscribe.

For the individual content upgrade automation workflows, it’s really personal preference whether you want to reactivate the workflow if someone signs up again in the future. If you have your settings right in your welcome series automation workflow, they won’t receive your welcome email more than once. They would only receive your content upgrade email again if they subscribed for that freebie again – like if they accidentally deleted it or something like that.

Now, for the email part. You can design an email the same way you designed your landing page (aka using a template) or you can drag and drop elements to create your own. Totes up to you. What is really important is that you deliver your content upgrade correctly. So I’m going to show you how to do that.

If you click on the email just under the first plus sign, the menu on the right side of your screen changes to the email settings. This is where you decide on a clever subject line and add in your “who it’s from” info. Most importantly, we want to “Edit Email Content.”

Grow Your Email ListWhen you click “Edit Email Content,” you’ll either design your template from scratch or choose to duplicate an existing template that you created. I always duplicate mine A) because I like it B) because it saves a ton of time and C) there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Like with the landing page, I simply change the info and some photos and wahlah – we’re in business.

Grow Your Email ListThe secret to this is to keep it short and sweet. No need to get into introducing yourself and all that, because once the subscriber receives this email, they’re going to be added to your main list a day or so later and will receive your welcome email(s). For this one, just give them what they want. The free thing.

Like I mentioned before, I usually use Canva to design my freebies, and I save them to my computer in PDF format. Once I’ve done that, I upload them onto my website. This is very important because you’ll need a URL for the freebie to link to your email. In my case, I always have a button after my brief description of the freebie, and when they click said button, they’re taken directly to the freebie on my site where they can download it and live happily ever after.

Here’s how my settings look. All you do is click in the box of your template to edit the info.

Grow Your Email ListUnder “Button” it gives you the option to put text on the button and then leaves space for a link. This is where you put the URL to the freebie which is hosted on your website.

Once you have all of the information in your email (most importantly, the link to the freebie), you can click the orange “Done Editing” button in the top right corner and you’ll be brought to this screen, where you can turn on the workflow using the toggle in the upper right corner.

Grow Your Email ListThe only thing left to do is talk about your freebie! Include it in your blog posts and share them like crazy! The more your posts get read, the more possibility you have of people signing up to receive your freebies which in turn, will grow your email list. Before you know it, you’ll have a healthy email list full of interested readers who could potentially turn into customers.

Go get yo’ forms and automation on! 🙂

Questions? Comments? Concerns? Sarcastic remarks? It’s all welcome below. Let’s chat about how YOU like to grow your email list!