Do you offer a free email course to your audience? If not, now is the time to create one!
You might have heard mixed things about email courses. Are they worth the extra effort? Do downloads and swipe files perform just as well?
Email courses are a fantastic way to grow your list, offer extra value to your readers and get them into a habit of opening emails from you! And, the best bit is, they don’t take that much more effort to create than your regular content.
Once you’ve set up the course with your chosen email marketing service provider, you can automate everything. Your readers sign up for the course and then have the content delivered to them automatically. After the course content is written, you don’t have to do any more work on it (apart from promoting).
Here’s a simple step-by-step guide to creating your first free email course.
**This post may contain affiliate links for products I love. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I will earn a commission at no extra cost to you. For my full disclaimer, please click here**
Why create a free email course?
I just mentioned this briefly in the intro to the post but email courses are a great way to grow your email list. Readers often view email courses as offering much more value than a simple PDF download. They are also much more invasive when it comes to their inbox.
So, whilst people will think more carefully before subscribing to an email course (and you’ll probably get fewer subscribers than with other opt-in freebies individually), you’ll be getting the right kind of subscribers. They will be genuinely interested in the topic and be looking for expert advice on it.
This, in turn, means that you are able to establish yourself as an expert in that topic. Your subscribers have the opportunity to familiarise themselves with your teaching style, as well as your personality. And, if they found your free course helpful, they’re much more likely to invest in your paid course or eBook. For this reason, a free email course also makes a great starting point for a sales funnel.
How to Choose a Topic
The process of choosing a topic for your email course is the same as choosing a topic for any other opt-in freebie that you create for your site.
Head to Google Analytics and find out which of your posts are most popular. These are the ideal topics to create a course on because you know that your ideal audience wants to learn more about them.
Another way to discover topics that your audience want to learn about is to check out what questions are being asked in Facebook Groups.
If you have a paid course or eBook already, you may want to use a free email course as an introduction to it. If this is the case, your topic has already been chosen! Deliver some amazing content that leads on to your paid product.
How to Create the Course
When it comes to the creation and delivery of the course, it’s really quite simple.
I think a lot of people put off creating their first email course because they think that it’s going to be super difficult and time-consuming. And I guess, if you overthink it, it can be! But don’t worry, here’s my simple step-by-step guide to creating your first email course in just a couple of days.
1. Draw up an outline
Before you get into the meat of your course, it’s important to draw up an outline so that you don’t spend hours on end going off on a pointless tangent!
The first step is to identify the purpose of your course. What is the one thing that your readers are going to take away from the course? Once you have identified the purpose, everything else that you work on and write will lead towards that end goal.
As with writing any sort of content, an outline will help you know what to research and what to write. With an email course, your outline will also help you to identify how many lessons your course will have and what each lesson will cover.
2. Create a timeline
Now that you have an outline, it’s time to create a timeline.
Your timeline is basically how many emails you’re going to send and when. Think about how many days you want your course to last and how often you want to email people.
A lot of email courses tend to be 5-7 days with an email being sent each day. But, if you’re planning to cram lots of information into each email, you may want to spread them out to every couple of days to allow students time to read, digest and action each lesson before moving on to the next.
Remember that this is about getting the right balance: you don’t want to email your readers so often that they become overwhelmed and end up unsubscribing but you also don’t want to leave huge gaps in between emails leading them to forget about you and the course.
3. Creating the content
Once you have your purpose and your outline in place, it’s time to fill out the bulk of things.
As a personal preference, I like to write up all of the lessons in Word or Google Docs first and then copy and paste them over into my email sequence. The main reason for this is to use the spellcheck functions but it also means that I have a backup of the sequence saved somewhere which is always useful!
I would work through the lessons in order to ensure that each one builds on the information provided in the previous lesson.
The format of the lessons themselves is completely up to you. You may choose to rely on text-based emails only. You may also consider embedding or adding links to video tutorials. Another option is to include downloadable worksheets or checklists.
If you mention something in your course that falls outside of the course curriculum itself, you might want to add a link to a blog post that you wrote on that course or use an affiliate link to a relevant eBook. An example of this might be where you say something like “Make sure that your images are on brand” and you link through to a post you wrote about branding.
Regardless of which format you choose your lessons to be presented in, it’s important to remember to make each lesson actionable. The best way to ensure this happens is to include some sort of tasks for your readers to complete at the end of each lesson.
4. Creating a new sequence
You want your lessons to be delivered automatically to those who sign up for your email course so there’s no additional work on your part. Luckily for us, most email marketing service providers have some sort of automation or sequence function for this.
I would always recommend Convertkit for bloggers and businesses as the functionality is beyond anything that I’ve experienced with other providers.
Related Post → Why I Switched from MailChimp to Convertkit
The process for setting up your email sequence is easy. Select “Sequences” from the header menu:
Then select “+Create Sequence” from the top right-hand corner. Give your sequence a name. Your subscribers won’t see this so don’t worry about it too much, just make sure that it makes sense to you.
You will then be taken to a screen that looks like this, which is where you are going to set up those emails.
Adding emails to the sequence
In the first email you want to create a welcome message and set this to send immediately (i.e. 0 days after the subscriber signs up). This will confirm to your subscriber that their sign up has been successful and also ensure that they have marked your emails to land in their inbox rather than spam!
So, set the “Delay Sending By” to 0 days. The delay here refers to the time since the person signed up for your course. This means that it’s not a one-time-only course; it will run continually so people can sign up whenever they want and will receive the email sequence then, rather than at a fixed time (e.g. on two specific weeks of the year).
Next, add a subject line and write your introduction email. Once you’re done, change the “Status” to “Published” and make sure you hit “Save”.
Next, use the menu on the left-hand side of the screen to add your first lesson by using the “+Add Lesson” button. You will have the same options as the previous email.
Set the “Delay Sending By” to the time you want – most email courses are a short series over 5-7 days, with one email being sent out each day. If this is the case, set your delay to 1 day since the last email.
Add in your catchy subject line (avoid something dull like “X Course: Lesson One”) and copy and paste lesson one into the body of the email. Once you’re done, change the status to “Published” and hit “Save”.
Repeat this process for each of your lessons until all of them are in the sequence.
End with a CTA
Remember to end your email sequence with a clear Call-to-Action. This final email is probably the most difficult email to write, especially if your CTA is inviting your readers to purchase something. No matter how experienced you are as a blogger or an entrepreneur, the “selling” part always feels a little uncomfortable. The only secret I have is to not overthink it. Keep it casual and light (not too pushy). And, if your lessons have been well-written they will have been leading up to this in a non-salesy way.
5. Creating the sign-up form
Okay, so your course now exists. And the sequence is set up to deliver one lesson each day to your students. Now you need a way for your students to register for the course. Your sign-up form is what you are going to place into relevant blog posts. You’ll also need a landing page for your course but I’ll get on to that in a moment.
Create a sign-up form as you would do usually within Convertkit.
Related Post → Creating Sign-Up Forms and Where to Place Them to Increase Subscribers
Once you have created the form itself, complete with your branding, it’s time to link the form to the email sequence that you just created.
Head to the “Settings” tab of the form.
Under “Main Settings” you have the option to add your subscribers to an email sequence. Select the sequence you just created from the drop-down menu and tick the box underneath to “Make sequence mandatory for all new subscribers”.
Your form and your email sequence are now linked. So, when a reader signs-up using that particular form, they will receive the emails in your sequence (in the order that you have set them).
6. Creating a landing page
Yes, your course is free but you still need a landing page.
As I mentioned at the start of this post, an email course is more of a commitment that signing up for a downloadable PDF. So explain to your readers exactly why they should be enrolling in your free email course.
Tell your readers exactly what they will learn and take away from this course. If you’ve decided to include worksheets and/or checklists, let them know (and include mockups of them on the landing page because…you know, visuals!)
It’s also worth including a “curriculum”. Let your readers know what you will be covering in each lesson and when they will have access to each lesson.
Don’t forget to embed your sign-up form into the landing page so that they can actually enrol in the course!
Related Post → Creating an Effective Landing Page
7. Add relevant tags and rules
One of the features I love the most about Convertkit is the “Automations” section where you can add tags and rules to your subscribers depending on a number of different triggers.
When someone signed up to one of my email courses or sequences, I add a number of different rules.
So, an example of this is my 201 Facebook Groups download. Although it’s not an email course, the rules are the same:
As you can see here, the trigger is set to “Subscribers to a form – 201 Facebook Groups”. Anyone who signs up to get this download is tagged with “201 Facebook Groups”. This lets me know which downloads each subscriber has accessed (and therefore, which topics they are interested in). They are also subscribed to the “201 Facebook Groups – Follow Up” sequence which means that they will receive the emails in the sequence that I have created.
You might have noticed that they are also tagged with “New – Don’t Send Newsletter”. I do this because I don’t want to bombard my subscribers with tonnes of emails. So, if they are receiving emails from a sequence, I don’t want them to receive my regular weekly newsletter emails at the same time. When I send out email newsletters I send them to my entire list EXCEPT those who are tagged with “New – Don’t Send Newsletter”.
Because of this rule, I create a second rule to undo this once the sequence is finished.
Here the trigger is “Completes a Sequence – 201 Facebook Groups – Follow Up” and the actions are “Add Tag – NEwsletter Subscriber” and “Remove Tag – New-Don’t Send Newsletter”. So, once they have finished the sequence (or email course), they then automatically get added to your usual newsletter list.
What Happens After the Sequence?
As I just mentioned, you probably want to add your subscribers into your main email list once they have finished the course. This is really easy to do and can be completely automated by following the steps outlined above.
If, however, your email course is the start of a sales funnel, you should add those subscribers into another sequence. This is really to set up with Convertkit.
Simply create your sales funnel sequence in the same way that you set up your email course sequence.
Then head into the “Automations” section again and add a new rule. The trigger is “Completes a Sequence – Your Email Course” and the action is“Subscriber to a Sequence – Your Sales Funnel”.
For more information on sales funnels and systems that really convert, check out Sweet Sales Systems from Elise at House of Brazen.
Promoting Your Email Course
So, now you have everything set up, how do you tell people about your course?
It’s no different to promoting anything else that you create really!
Using a tool like CanvaCanva, create some eye-catching graphics and share your amazing new email course on social media!
You can promote your free course in Facebook Groups too but make sure that you check the rules first. As I’ve mentioned a few times in various blog posts, one of the easiest ways to find the right place to promote your course is to use the search function.
Simply type in a keyword relating to your product and hit search. Then narrow down the search results to groups that you’re a member of and sort them by most recent. Scroll through the results and share your course where relevant. Remember, don’t just drop a link a run!
If someone has asked for advice on a topic that your course is perfect for, reply to them with a few hints and tips, and then refer them to your course for further information, followed by the link.
Another great place to promote your email course is in your email signature.
And that is all there is to creating your first free email course with Convertkit.
You can create an email course in a single day so you have no excuses!
Don’t forget to let me know once you’ve launched it, I’d love to see what you’ve created.