Behind the Scenes: How to create an effective opt-in to grow your list


Like many creative entrepreneurs I know, marketing can be a bit of a struggle. I know I need to promote my stuff (this is a business after all). But I want to avoid being sleazy about it. So that’s what bother’s me about opt-ins. I hate the idea of “tricking” someone into my list.

Quick Jargon Review: An opt-in refers to providing people a “gift” in exchange for them signing up for their newsletter.

Here’s the thing, I know opt-ins can be really great for building lists. I’ve grown my list from 0 to 500 in a month with a great opt-in (more on that later in the post!).

I just want to make sure I create something that’s helpful, and to my people.

After thinking it through, I decided if it’s going to be super valuable for people (and available for free), why not give it a whirl?

So today I’m going to be taking you through that process of how to figure out WHAT your magical opt-in will be.


If you’re new around here, you may not know that I have a course that helps fresh entrepreneurs + aspiring designers DIY their branding. When I was starting DIY Design, I had zero subscribers and knew that I’d need to grow my list to spread the word.

In this video I talk about some of my past experiences so you can skip over what DOESN'T WORK, and go to what DOES.

Don't forget to SUBSCRIBE


I knew I needed an opt-in so I put together this PDF about designing your site that I thought was SOOOOOO amazing and colorful and helpful. Got a handful of sign ups but it didn’t really seem like it was striking a chord.


HEY I KNOW! I’ll put together this awesome resources page, full of everything I use and love that will help entrepreneurs get their business off the ground.

This was it, this will be what people will flock to since it will help them grow so much. (She writes as she rolllllllsssss her eyes...)

OH WAIT, EVERYONE HAS THIS ALREADY!!??? After my brilliant idea I started to notice resource pages were already a thing, and nothing special.

Back to the drawing board.

[bctt tweet="Check it out!: How to create an effective opt-in to grow your email list."]


It took some time, but eventually the idea of the Graphic Design Crash Course sprouted. I posted the idea in a couple groups and people were like yes please, want it, need it.

So I put together a free 5 day crash course all about graphic design for DIYers. It had 5 videos jam packed with everything you need to know about graphic design as well as 20+ resources. DING DING DING. People loved it! They shared it with their friends, readers, groups and it grew realllllly fast.


I try not to get too bogged down with the numbers because it makes things stressful (and way less fun!) But in business, numbers matter. And building my list was an important part about sharing my course.

After the relaunch of my site, I find myself in a similar situation. Let things grow naturally or have a plan of action.

I’ve thought about offering my brand identity workbook that I use while working with clients, but is that really enough? Workbooks are freakin’ everywhere, will adding another one really help?

Well I’m going to stick with what works here and put together a free mini course.


First take a look at what you’re offering.

For me, that’s logo + brand identity design for entrepreneurs and bloggers.

What do your clients need before they can work with you?

  • A copywriter could provide a guide to naming your website or coming up with creative naming for services.
  • If you’re a website designer a content planner or organizer would be sooooo helpful.
  • A coach could wrap up a ton of helpful materials (based off whatever kind of coach you are) in a mini course so potential clients know what the experience of working with you is like.

What will help people most?

Well I’ve done some asking around and it seems people still struggle with the foundation of their biz. Things like discovering their “why”, “ideal audience”, etc.


What’s the next step? Ideally, it would be something your clients would find extremely useful and something that you already know a ton of information about.

The best opt-in is:

  1. Solving a problem
  2. Entertaining

Since my clients need to be clear on their brand personality before we work together, and in my experience this is something people have a hard time figuring out themselves, I’m going to put together a free mini course to discovering their brand personality.

Luckily I already had a bunch of ideas and materials to work from. This will probably be the case for you too, but no worries if you need to do some research before you get started.


[su_box title="Action Step"]Brainstorm everything that goes along with the opt-in your creating. Call me old school but I still think that brainstorming with a pen and notebook is the best way to get your ideas out with no distractions.[/su_box]


After my brainstorm sesh, it was clear that there’s a ton of info on the subject of brand personality. The next step is how to organize the content and provide it in the most clear + succinct way so that people can ACTUALLY benefit.

Remember, the goal is to avoid free crap that gets bookmarked and never read!

I decided I’ll break my course into three phases:

  1. Background
    1. Nitty gritty details like business background, current situation, etc.
    2. The Audience
      1. You know, the ideal customer, audience.
      2. All About YOU
        1. What makes you unique, what’s your niche, etc.

These are all things I go over in my creative brief with my clients. I could have just prettied that up and offered it as an opt-in. But as one of my favorite books says - we’re here to SHOCK + AWE.

How can we create something that’s different than what everyone else is doing and be even more helpful + engaging?


What do you need to get the ball rolling? How are you going to make this thing and SHIP IT!?

Here’s what I need

  • Videos for each phase of the process.
  • Text/transcript incase people don’t like videos (a lot of my DIY students like to learn and work simultaneously which can be easier with text then video.
  • Downloadable PDFs or workbooks that go along with the videos.
  • A member’s only area.

PRO TIP: Start creating buzz NOW! You don't need to have the opt-in completed to start getting people excited about it. Create a quick graphic, share it on social media + add it to various parts of your site. (You can find examples of this in my sidebar, footer + menu bar).