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Create a 'freebie' to help you grow

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Hi there,
I want to start with a thank you to everyone who reached out after last week’s issue, which brought together advice from several creators on how to reach your first 1,000 subscribers.
It was great to hear how many of you found those tips useful, and I hope this week will bring more of the same.
While I was researching those tips, I came across a lot of marketing-specific advice that wasn’t particularly relevant to independent creators — but there were one or two gems that could be applied in a slightly different way to drive growth for readers of this newsletter.
Today, I want to talk about ‘freebies’, and how they can help newsletter creators grow.
What is a freebie?
A ‘freebie’ is a cutesy name for a smart concept; you might also see this referred to as a ‘lead magnet’. The idea is that you provide something for free in return for somebody subscribing to your newsletter.
It’s a strategy that can be applied to grow your subscriber list, whether they’re free subscribers or paying members — and there are two golden rules:
  1. Make sure your freebie is directly related to the content the subscriber is signing up for. 
  2. Make it very clear that people who submit their emails will also be subscribing for your newsletter. This ensures the reader is actively opting in, and will reduce spam complaints, thereby improving your deliverability.
It’s a way to prove to your potential readers that you can provide value before they even start reading your newsletter. Let’s get inspired.
Depending on the type of newsletter you run, and whether you’re hoping to attract a free subscriber or a paying subscriber, there are a bunch of possibilities that might work for you:
Printable, PDF checklist
Maybe your newsletter is about getting kids to explore great outdoors, and you offer subscribers a list of essential items to bring on a family camping trip.
Maybe your newsletter is about foraging for wild food, and you offer a list of edible plants that can be found in your local area.
Or maybe, as in the example below, your newsletter is about wedding inspiration and you provide a checklist to help couples plan.
All of these provide immediate value for the reader who only needs to open a PDF or document to experience the kind of content you provide.
Note the clear reference to the newsletter underneath the signup form, and the ‘Subscribe’ button as a call-to-action — no nasty surprises here!
If you already have written content published on a blog or website, you may be able to repurpose it into an e-book. This is more of a time investment than the checklist suggestion above, but it’s an opportunity to provide a huge amount of value up-front.
Last week, I spoke about Bria Felicien, creator of The Black Sportswoman newsletter. She repurposed older content to create a limited-time offer of a free e-book in exchange for email addresses, which helped her grow to 1,000 subscribers.
Her e-book is no-longer free, but people who click ‘Buy Now’ in the offer below are given the chance to submit their email address and opt in for newsletter updates.
Note how the blurb for the e-book highlights that it’s a starter kit. Readers can jump in for an early introduction, and subscribe to the newsletter for more thorough profiles.
Videos/Webinars/Podcast episodes
I’ve grouped these together as they will involve higher production requirements than some of the other options here and the time investment might not make sense for all creators.
But if you produce audio-visual content alongside your newsletter, you could think about recording an exclusive episode just for paying subscribers.
Zazie Todd, an animal psychologist, offers webinars on dog and cat behavior as an incentive to become a paying member of her premium newsletter The Pawsitive Post. Paying to sign up grants access to these expert-led sessions.
Note how Zazie spells out the value readers will get in return for their paid subscription. She also emphasizes the exclusivity of the events readers can attend.
Early access to a product or service you offer
While email marketing departments tend to go in strong with newsletter pop-ups promising discount codes (especially clothing brands, in my experience…), independent newsletter creators might not find this to be the best route.
Instead, you may be able to offer early access to upcoming releases, or allow subscribers to book tickets to a limited event before everyone else.
This has the added benefit of adding a sense of exclusivity to your membership offer.
I recently signed up to a newsletter belonging to a new restaurant in the city I live in so I’d be able to book a table as soon as they opened. I felt pretty smug receiving this email in my inbox a couple of weeks later:
Note that the message starts by greeting me by name, a nice touch, and explains the value I have received compared to the experience of a non-subscriber.
More ideas
There are tons of ways to tweak the freebie concept to fit your newsletter. Here are a few more suggestions to get the creative juices flowing:
  • Quiz — This is a fun way to engage subscribers and find out where they are in relation to your content (perhaps they need to sign up to see the results?). You could also use this technique to find out more about your audience, and therefore improve your value proposition.
  • Email course — This could be a limited-run pop-up series, or a companion to your regular newsletter.
  • Template — Maybe you give new subscribers a template for a journal entry, or a weekly timekeeping schedule. This is similar to the checklist idea above because it promises immediate value and requires little time investment from the reader.
Bear in mind
For most of the above ideas, you’ll need a separate website/landing page to build a form that will let the subscriber download the freebie after submitting their email address.
This can work particularly well for creators who already have a website, but there’s no reason not to set up a landing page for your freebie if you don’t already have a website.
Fair warning: you won’t necessarily see stratospheric growth after setting this up. It’s dependent on promotion (ie. share your freebie everywhere!), and other factors such as the needs of your target audience. But it can kick your organic growth into another gear, and ensure the people signing up to your newsletter are engaged with the content you create.
In a nutshell
The main takeaway of this issue is that freebies aren’t about bribing people to subscribe to your newsletter. They’re about demonstrating your value from the get-go — which is why it’s so important that the freebie content aligns with your newsletter content.
You could even create several different freebies that appeal to different segments of your target audience; each is an opportunity to reach people interested in your work.
Let me know if you’ve ever tried out something like this, and whether you might again in the future — I‘d love to hear how this could work for you.
For now, let’s take a look at what else is going on in the newsletter world.
The week in newsletters
Meet some of the local journalists writing the first paid newsletters at Facebook
Online publisher Salon is closing its comments section for good — and banking on newsletters instead
The 'Pushing Send' podcast interviewed investor and former journalist Codie Sanchez about her successful newsletters
That’s all for now — I’ll see you back here next time.
Have a great week,
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Anna from Twitter
Anna from Twitter @revue

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