Should You Use Freebies to Build Your Email List?

Email marketing is one of the most lucrative ways for the bloggers to monetize their blog, but building your own email list can be a tricky process. Two bloggers, using the same strategies to increase the number of their subscribers, can have very different results depending on their niches, their level of authority and, of course, the audience. One of the most famous techniques is offering a freebie in exchange for the email address, but it doesn’t fit every blogger’s style.

If you’re thinking about offering something valuable for free to your future subscribers, here’s some food for thought.

What is a “freebie”

An e-book guide, or a series of video tutorials that you’ll create in order to get more people to subscribe to your blog – these are the most common forms of incentives used for that – are commonly used to encourage people who have come to your blog to leave their email address. It works very well if they’re already thinking about subscribing (which has a lot to do with whether they’re already perceiving you as an author and expert), or if you’ve made an exceptional material and presented it in such a way that they simply can’t resist it.
The goal of giving such content away is simple: once they leave their email address, they’re in your“database” of people willing to receive further emails from you; then you can send them, apart from the “freebie” that they have signed up for, other emails in which you will try to connect with them and get them to know you and to trust you, from where you can do all sorts of things: send them various offers that you’re promoting (if you want to directly monetize your list), or turn them into loyal followers who will help you build your online reputation (if your primary goal is to became the authority in your industry).

The mistakes and the downsides of freebies

The mistake that most bloggers make is that they either pay some cheap writer to create an ebook (so called), or do that themselves without thoroughly researching whether there’s a real need for such content. Just think about how many blogs you have come across that are offering a “complete guide to blogging for beginners” or “blogging your way from rags to riches”. These are the kinds of content that every single new blogger wants to read – and if you have given your email address in exchange for some of them, how many of those “guides” have actually given you something valuable, something that you haven’t already read elsewhere? Probably not many (unless you’re very lucky); what people usually do when they see that the “guide” is crap and that the blogger is just trying to sell them stuff without providing any real value to them – is to unsubscribe. And you better don’t forget that, unsubscribing takes only one click, as well as subscribing

Another downside of offering freebies as an incentive is that, well, you’ll end up with a lot of people subscribing only to get the free content, and then either unsubscribing, or never opening your emails again (there are a lot of people who filter the emails from specific senders, or those who will give the email address that they aren’t actually using – and there are those who are collecting all kinds of content on the Internet, and never read it). You have to count on the fact that a big number of your new subscribers will fall into one of these categories, and closely monitor the behavior of the people on your list; every subscriber costs you (just check the price plans on any major auto responder service), and you want to make sure that your money is well spent.


If you want to increase the number of people on your list by offering them the free content – then make that content stand out from the beginning: the heading and the call to action have to be different than what they are used to see, and they have to understand right away that the content they’re about to get will really be useful to them. The content itself has to be created with the end users in mind, and if you want them to stay on your list and get involved, it has to be cleverly made, so that they do get the feeling of tremendous value, but also to understand that there’s a lot more (of knowledge, tips and tricks) where that came from.
So, if you’re in it for the long run, think about whether you’re able to create that kind of content as a freebie. If not, then don’t be afraid to pay a good and reliable writer to do it for you. Especially if you’re a new blogger and no one knows about you yet – the investment should pay for itself shortly if you do everything else right.

Andrew is a content manager for a small business website in New York.


  1. krishna says

    have not started building any list yet, and was just planning to start building using a special freebie.I think so, you could try to use freebies to build e-mail list.thank you sharing!
    krishna recently posted..Banking Software

  2. mohit says

    Everyone love freebies and these are things,which are love by every single person on this world and we can use this to increase our mailing list and we can make a lot from it also.
    mohit recently posted..TricksTreat Launching Post

  3. says

    I tried to give freebie for an email address for my google adwords campaign and I got banned. It’s against their rules. Although it’s great way to build mailing list, it doesn’t work with adwords
    Adam recently posted..What Attracts Women

  4. says

    I agree with you that people should be very careful with freebies, because people who will get them shouldn’t be disappointed with their quality. Because, as a result, it can influence greatly on your blog’s image or brand’s one.

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  5. says

    Hi Mitz, Great Post! Most of the bloggers are using freebies to build their list. They are Providing Free Ebooks and building their list. I feel Freebies and Giveaways are the best way to build good email list. Thanks for Sharing!

  6. Tran Le says

    I have not started building any list yet, and was just planning to start building using a special freebie.
    After reading the article I am not so sure if I will include a freebie increase the signups..
    An alternative to use the freebie for signups can also be a “tweet to get” option.
    Tran Le recently posted..Long Tail Pro 75 % Discount [7 Days ONLY]

  7. peth says

    Blog readers are smart enough to use a computer and navigate around the web. They are usually smart enough to spot poor content. It’s good advice to make your freebies “short & Sweet and Full of Meat”
    peth recently posted..How to Write Good Blog Titles?

  8. says

    I really have a bad experience using freebies to attract members to join the list because, they join us for getting the freebies and whenever we try to sell something to them it scares them away! They always expect something for free…

    • mitz says

      Ahh it is a delicate balance we need.. You cannot just sell sell sell. You need to give give give sell, give give give sell. So they are waiting for the give but will definitely consider your sell as well.

      • says

        But Mitz… finding the right balance is a challenging task isn\’t it? Like I said.. when we go free, free, free and the sell, they just go off….

  9. John says

    Hi Mitz, brilliant advice. I have created a mini ebook highlighting the main points. I used the ebook to link back to my blog where I had in-depth content that the reader could uses as reference. By doing this I showed my reader that there was more information on my website, thus turning him into a habitual reader. I believe when they receive my emails they are more inclined to open my mails.
    I hope this helps

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  10. KevinR says

    Ive always been a big fan of giving away free stuff as an inventive, but I’d never considered its drawbacks so that was quite informative. Ideally, if it were me, I would make sure that the ‘prize’ is something that people would want, something that would be valuable to them. Why not give away a free copy of your 2 year old eBook which is already quite popular – something that people would want. About the second point, again, a valid concern. Thing is, if you’re putting up valuable content, I would WANT to subscribe to you, regardless of whether I get an ebook in return or not. Your content should be a big-enough incentive for people to want to subscribe to you.
    KevinR recently posted..Best WordPress Plugins for 2013

  11. says

    It’s important to use good and useful stuff for your freebie so that your subscriber can notice the value of freebie. Otherwise if you’re subscribers are not satisfied with your stuff then they can easily unsubscribe your list.
    Pankaj recently posted..Hire SEO Freelancers

  12. TracyAnn0312 says

    I think so, you could try to use freebies to build e-mail list. I will be able to know these idea to. Thanks for sharing these idea.
    TracyAnn0312 recently posted..Glock accessories

  13. Silas says

    Offering freebies isn’t a problem and can be made to work. The actual problem is when the bloggers don’t create the content themselves or get someone to do it for them, but rather find them on other sites that offer freebies by simply searching “free eBooks” on google.
    As a blog commenting this can easily be spotted as they dont bother to even change the pictures or titles.
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