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The Incentives that Will Convince Subscribers to Sign Up for Your Email Newsletter

Read Time: 8 mins
This post is part of a series called Building a Successful Freelance Email Newsletter.
How to Plan the Content for Your Email Newsletter
What You Need to Know to Write Enough Content for Your Email Newsletter

When you ask for someone’s email address, you’re asking for something that’s actually fairly valuable: you’ll be able to contact them directly if need be. It’s only reasonable to offer something of valuable in return. That includes valuable content inside your newsletter, but that’s just a start. As potential readers have become more savvy about newsletters, the norm often includes offering a big incentive in exchange for sign ups, like an ebook.

There are a lot of options on what incentives you can offer to potential readers. It’s important, however, to make sure that you’re offering something that matches closely with your audience — the people who could potentially become your clients. If your audience reads white papers, but not ebooks, you can guess what sort of incentive you should offer.

Before leaping in to creating any type of incentive piece, make sure you know exactly what will attract your audience. If necessary, survey a few of the people you’d most like to sign up for your list about what they really need.

The Content Inside Your Email Newsletter

While an additional incentive is useful and something that you should invest time in if you’re going to rely on your newsletter for marketing, you need to get the content inside your newsletter right, first. Readers will forward really good newsletters to people they know, provided those newsletters have a high level of writing and are useful.

The incentive of getting your words of wisdom on a weekly or monthly basis should be something that people in the know are excited about. It’s tough to make a newsletter’s content stand out, but it’s necessary. Otherwise subscribers may not stay on your list for long.

It’s important to get your newsletter going before you start working on or offering your incentive. Going in the opposite order means that you may not be able to retain subscribers, even after you do a ton of work to find them.

The Best Incentives are Useful

Odds are pretty good that, as a freelancer, you’re targeting prospective clients who are in business on some level. Creating personal websites, writing for personal blogs or otherwise working for clients who aren’t hoping to make money in some way or another rarely makes sense — because such clients rarely have a lot of money to put into a project. There are exceptions, of course, but not to the extent that many freelancers rely mostly on non-business clients.

There’s no reason that solution can’t benefit you, either, provided you’re solving a problem that your prospective clients actually know they have.

That actually makes the job of marketing your freelance business easier: if you can clearly showcase how you can help a business earn more money than it would spend on hiring you, you’re way ahead on convincing a client to help you. It also makes it easier to come up with an incentive that will convince a prospective reader to sign up for your mailing list.

Offering something that will help a business owner (or other decision maker) with a key problem in their company is an easy way to get their attention. And, if that solution is free and the business owner can figure out how to implement it, at least on a basic level, they’ll be in your debt.

Finding an idea for a good incentive should be relatively easy if you know your target market thoroughly. It can be just a matter of identifying an issue and coming up with a solution. There’s no reason that solution can’t benefit you, either, provided you’re solving a problem that your prospective clients actually know they have. For instance, a web designer might want a client to know a bit more about the process of designing a new website, so offering a resource that includes that information can result in clients that are a little easier to work with. But since clients don’t always know what they don’t know, they probably aren’t going to get excited about a simple guide to the web design process. Something that helps them decide if the cost of a website redesign is even necessary for their businesses, however, with the information you’d like them to have about the web design process baked in, can be incredibly valuable to a business owner.

Targeting a specific niche can prove crucial. After all, there are already plenty of other freelancers out there publishing newsletters, so having a more focused incentive can help you stand out. It can also make your incentive more appealing to prospective clients.

Good Formats for Incentives

When it comes down to it, an incentive is almost always some sort of information. It might be applied information, like a worksheet or calculator that a reader can download and use, but it’s almost always something that you’ve researched and put together. There’s rarely any reason to offer an incentive that isn’t electronic — just the cost of production makes business swag and other physical objects less practical.

But the formats that an incentive can take are diverse. Just among the options you have if you want to provide a PDF to your readers are white papers, workbooks, reports, ebooks and more. If you’re willing to develop a small piece of software or have some amazing design skills to put to work, the formats can seem endless.

It’s crucial to name your incentive correctly, in the jargon that the industry you’re targeting uses. It needs to be a familiar format for the audience you’re focused on. Sure, they can probably figure things out if you name your incentive differently, but why take that chance? Formats need to match what your prospective readers need, as well as what they’re most likely to use. An ebook does nothing for you if it sits unread on a subscriber’s desktop.

The reaction you want your readers to have when they receive your incentive is surprise that they didn’t have to pay for something this amazing and useful. It won’t be an entirely accurate response, because they’ve paid by giving you their email address and permission to send them your newsletter, but it should still feel like an unbalanced transaction.

You’ve got an opportunity to really impress someone with the quality of your work, as well as establish that you are the expert in your specialty. It doesn’t hurt that many people will feel that if they get something really helpful from you for free, they owe you at least a little bit. That can make landing a project a little easier down the road.

Test out your ideas: see what works in different formats and for different audiences. There’s no universal best format for a newsletter incentive.

Building Your Incentive Right

Hiring someone to help you with getting the piece ready for public consumption can help you ensure that you’re really offering something that people will clamor for.

As a freelancer, you’re a step ahead on creating a great incentive that will get people to sign up for your newsletter. You can almost certainly build a significant portion of any incentive yourself. But remember that every facet has to be top notch. If your specialty is design, you may need some help with writing — or vice versa.

Luckily, you probably know a few other freelancers pretty well. There’s always the option of trading work, especially if you’re all thinking about putting together an email newsletter and a great incentive piece.

But if you have to invest some cash into building your incentive, as well as your time and effort, it’s probably worth it. Hiring someone to help you with getting the piece ready for public consumption can help you ensure that you’re really offering something that people will clamor for. There’s the side benefit that if you actually put some money down, it’s often easier to make sure that you get the work done by a deadline, rather than just waiting around for whenever you might have a chance to work on it.

Once You’ve Got Your Incentive in Place

As crazy as it may sound, you’ve got to market your marketing piece. You need to make sure that people are hearing about the great incentive piece you’ve poured your heart and soul into. Otherwise, the only traffic that might see it are the people who will wind up on your website anyhow.

Treat your incentive like a product, that you just happen to be selling for the price of an email address. You need to get it in front of as many eyeballs as possible. Ask sites to review it, if it’s relevant. Promote it on social media. List it on freebie sites. There are a whole host of ways to tell people that you’re giving away a piece of information for free. Make use of all of them.

An incentive can’t bring you the full range of possible sign ups unless people know it’s available. It can be an incredibly valuable tool for convincing people to sign up to your email newsletter, but prospective readers need to know it exists before they will seek it out.

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