How to Create an Epic Email Course as an Opt-in

How to Create an Epic Email Course (or Challenge) as an Opt-in

Soooo, let’s take a deep dive into how to create an email course or challenge (correction: an epic email course or challenge) that you can use as an opt-in for your email list to grow it wildly and to impress your savvy audience all the while nurturing them and adding tons of value! Now that’s what we call a win-win. And don’t worry, there are only 18 steps to creating this epicness that help turn your audience into customers.

Really, Regina? 18 steps. Are they truly necessary?

Yes, my email ninja friend, they are. We don’t make weak email courses around here. Stick with me, and I think you’ll have several solid ideas and clear steps to make them happen.

1. Pick a topic.

There are so many legitimate ways to generate great ideas for what you want to communicate through an information product. We walk through some of these ideas in our 8-day email course for free, but let’s get into seven of the most actionable idea-generating categories.

For Freelancers:

1. Teach the beginning.
As a freelancer who works on individual projects with clients, you probably have a lot of pre-work, or work you do towards the beginning of your project that can be translated into an information product of some sort—and in this case, perhaps an email course.

For example: When I was freelancing (creating WordPress websites for people), I quickly learned that people needed way more definition and information about their brand and purpose before they started on a website project. In order to save their time, their money, and my time + sanity, people needed so much more clarity at the beginning of a project.

Legit. So, I created a questionnaire, then a workbook, then a little brand discovery process that all my clients went through before really getting started on their project. That workbook was the first digital file I sold (clients got it for free though). It still sells right here. Anyone not willing to go through that process was someone I had to direct elsewhere.

What is it that you need your clients to know, do, discover, create, or understand before they start working with you? What would make your job simpler? Why not create the process as a free email course? You can hit us with videos, worksheets, whatever you want to in an email course. #Epic #MindBlown

Your clients will feel indebted to you since you will be the one who brought such [fun, clarity, organization, direction, etc.] to their very important project. You might then offer a more in-depth group training event or your one to one services.

2. Teach the end.
Can you guess where we’re going here? Create an email course (or perhaps another type of product) that teaches:

  • how to maintain the products you create (ex: best ways to maintain your WordPress website)
  • how to grow what you make (ex: now that you have a website, how do you get traffic to it?)
  • how to get the full benefit out of what you create (ex: now that you have a brand identity, where can you use it? how do you integrate it into your existing platforms? etc.)

3. Show them how to do what you do.
So, if you’re considering creating an email course, chances are you’ve done something epic that you can teach others about, such as:

  • starting a business
  • getting your first few clients
  • letting go of fear and publishing your art portfolio online for the world to see
  • etc.

What have you done in your freelance business that other people ask you about? How about a simple email course or challenge to help them out with it? Your frequently asked questions are exactly the things your audience wants you to teach them.

For Coaches:
4. Structure the madness.

So here’s the reality: the steps required to accomplish ________ (vegan ketogenic diets, custom ConvertKit coding, or whatever cool thing you coach on) are simply not that apparent and are truly overwhelming for some of us. Here’s the other deal: you don’t have enough time to coach tons of people through similar processes individually. There’s a cap on how many clients you can take on.

BUT. There’s not a cap on how many people can benefit from your email course (or other product) that structures the madness for them and takes them through some of the same processes that you would take them through one-on-one.

Bring order and clarity to the process that your potential clients and audience members really want/need to go through. #TheyWillLoveYouForIt. This is a smart and efficient way to build the content for your larger online coaching event too.

For Anyone:
5. One-step wonder.
Yep. Kinda like a one-hit wonder. Except, nothing like it at all. A one-step wonder is an information product (such as an email course or tutorial series) that helps your audience with one simple step. It appeals to your audience because that one simple step is something they’ve been wanting to learn or get past.

Examples: “Learn how to set up your website’s email list sign up form.” “How to set up your new Mac laptop.” “How to configure XYZ plugin in WordPress.”

They get a taste of what it’s like working with you and they get a quick hit in the form of immediate results. What’s one step that people want to take that you’re willing to teach for free? What’s a step that could be part of a larger series? What’s a step that could be part of a paid course?

6. Key results.
Have you achieved some key results that you can teach the methods behind? For example, I noted the specific actions I took when I was growing to my first 100 email list subscribers, then my first 1,000, then my first 10,000 friends and beyond.

Can you think of any key results you can boil down to an email course?

7. Current content.
Sure would be nice if there was a whole blog post on expanding a blog post/series into a book that could also be used to help us expand it into a free email course that we offer as opt-ins to our email lists. Yes?

2. Define the purpose of the course/challenge for your audience.

So, after you generate a few epic ideas from everything above, it’s a good idea to plan out the purpose of your course for your audience.

In fancy Instructional Design terms, this is their learning objective. What will it help them accomplish? What will it teach them? How do you want them to feel during/after the challenge? Emotion is powerful and if you set them up to feel like a winner, they’ll love you for it.

Make sure your planned purpose and goals match something your audience would find interesting, or even better, irresistible.

3. Decide on the purpose of your course for your brand.

Now that we’re solid on what this does for your audience, what will it do for your brand? What are all the things you hope to accomplish with your email course?

Oh, and can I just say this, please?

If your one purpose in creating your free email course is to get signups on your list or to sell your paid course, you may miss some other amazing things it can do for your brand—like get more eyes and shares on some of your free content or direct people to some of your other paid products that are a better fit for them than that one course—keep your mind open to the possibilities.

4. Outline your course.

It’s time to outline your course. I’d recommend idea dumping on index cards, sticky notes, or some movable paper product (or app) that will allow you to get all your ideas out and then consolidate and rearrange them . . . idea dump, then eliminate any cards that don’t make sense for your goals, combine cards that logically go together, then take each remaining card and brainstorm all the topics you want to teach within that step/topic.

The guide to creating an epic information product in three days

5. Create a course timeline.

Now, let’s create a timeline. You have your free email course or challenge divided into logical sections—so it’s time to decide how many days you want your course to last, how often you want to email people, and how many sections should go in each email.

Let’s first figure out how long we want the challenge to last. I’d recommend anywhere from 3 – 10 days (and 3 – 10 lessons), but if you want to put a day or so in between each email, your challenge might last 2 – 3 weeks. Keep in mind that short is sweet. You don’t want to lose their interest or use too much of your content that would fit better in a paid program.

What do you think an ideal timeframe is for your audience (needs to sound exciting, but not overwhelming)? For your brand (needs to be enough time to accomplish your goals, but not so much time that people fall off unnecessarily)? For your information (needs to be enough time to present the information, but not so much that each email becomes light on the info/action/helpfulness)?

6. Plan your email course connections.

And by this we mean, plan out what each lesson will connect to within your brand. Internal connections is a step that many people miss. Will it lead people back to a blog post that expands on the topic? Will all the information be self-contained within the email? Will it lead people to a paid resource you want the to check out? What will each email work with or promote? Just keep in mind the challenge purpose you planned on page 1 of your worksheets. Make sure your “challenge connections” help both your audience and your brand.

Just keep in mind the course purpose and that your “course connections” help both your audience and your brand.

7. Name your email course.

You want something descriptive + actionable (like “Build Your First Squarespace Blog in 7 Days”) and/or memorable and hashtaggable.

But, most importantly, you want something that’s not already a Trademark (you can check U.S. trademarks here), not already a competing product (ask el Google), and is easy to find as a hashtag (it’s not already being used by 2,011 other people) and a domain (so you can easily reference it in your Periscope broadcasts, social media images, and more). If a domain isn’t available for your challenge or you’re not quite ready to take it to that level, use the free tool Bitly to create branded, customized links.

And speaking of naming and brainstorming, you might love our 3-Year Content Planner that guides you through our top-performing formulas for coming up with topics, live stream titles, email subject lines, and blog posts.

8. Pick your platform.

Will you set up automated emails for free to go out every day for 10 days after someone signs up using MailerLite? Will you set up some beautiful automations in MailChimp? Will you set up an email course in ConvertKit and create custom tags for your users?

9. Create your email style guide.

It’s super important to design attractive emails. Ones that are easy to navigate and pleasant to read through. An email style guide will help. It’s kinda like a blog style guide, but for emails. Being the attractive email in the crowded inbox will encourage your audience to open and save your emails, rather than being destined for the trash.

10. Decide where you’ll host videos.

Will you host your videos on your website? On YouTube? On Vimeo? Using Wistia? On a free challenge website that goes along with your email challenge? If I don’t mind everyone having access to the videos, I’ll usually host them on YouTube so that others can access them to. If I want to keep them private (not available to the general public), I host them in my business Vimeo account or on a separate program website.

11. Decide where to host docs.

If you’ll be including documents, checklists or worksheets in your challenge, will you send them as attachments in your email or will you upload your docs (worksheets, eBooks, etc.)? You can host the separately your website and then link your email text or images to the URL your site generates. Will you host the docs on a different site or in Dropbox? Will all your docs be available in Google Drive or as Google Docs? #SoManyOptions

12. Decide on a community platform or course site (if applicable).

Will your super epic email challenge come with a community (such as a Facebook group where people can interact with each other and/or ask you questions)? Will your challenge have an accompanying challenge website people can login to download and access all the materials at once? Will you only give them access to the site on the last day of the challenge or so (as to keep them glued into your emails and provide a bonus benefit for people who stay subscribed and open all your emails)? #BrilliantMoveOnYourPart

13. Plan each email.

Take time to plan each email. What is the core thing you’re trying to communicate and accomplish? What type of introduction will get people excited? What extra or surprise are you building into the email? Follow the prompts on page 6 to plan each email (hint: print out as many copies of page 6 as you need to plan all your emails).

If you’re stumped on what to write, look back through your inbox. Which challenges have you take that enticed you to read all the way through? Any challenges (or other email promo) that struck you as particularly blah or boring? Take note of what worked for you and what didn’t work for you.

14. Create subject lines that inspire action.

How can you create a subject line that not only gets them to actually open your email, but that excites or renews your audience’s desire to reach their goals. In other words, don’t just title your emails, Day 1, Day 2, and so on. What will they learn? What course is this again? Remind people. Entice people. (And as a reminder, we have an epic plug-and-play template for you to create over 150 email subject lines.)

15. Create your worksheet/video mockups and other course collateral.

Seriously. Creating mockups (like the one below) gets people way more excited about your content. It’s a visual representation of all the work they can do and everything they can accomplish with your materials. Create mockups that help people imagine the experience and see themselves doing the work.

You can use the collateral in your individual emails, social media images, and even on your challenge landing page.

16. Create your course landing page.

Yes. Even though it’s free. Build a landing page where people can find out more about the 3-day experience or 10-day email challenge. Consider including an agenda, worksheet mockups, a signup form, and any other necessary information.

Hint: Creating a landing page gives you a specific place to direct people to in Facebook posts, Instagram Live broadcasts, or as links in blog posts or social media updates.

17. Create the “perfect paths” to your course landing page.

The what, Regina? There you go making up terms again.

I know. I know, you guys. But for real. Plan out multiple, ideal paths that your audience members can take to get to your free email challenge landing page. Will they hear about it during your online workshop? Will they see a Facebook ad? Will they get a link to it in an email? Will you write multiple blog posts on the topic and tell your audience to “click here for an email challenge the goes in depth on this” or something along those lines?

18. Set up your course in your chosen email software.

After you finish creating the content, it’s time to load everything into the software you chose. You’ll want to double check your subject lines, make sure your links are working, preview the emails to check the formatting, and more. Send drafts to yourself before going live so you can triple check everything one last time.

Psssst. Don’t forget our free 8-day email course on creating, launching, and selling an info product.

Okay, so that was the process my friends. 18 steps wasn’t so bad, eh? Especially with worksheets, right? Everyone loves #AdultHomework.

Soooooo, will you be building an email course or challenge to encourage signups to your list? What will the topic be? Do tell (in the comments below).

42 Comments | View All
  • How do your posts get better and better each time Regina?! This is an amazingly in-depth guide, easy to follow step-by-step. I’ve been working on a new email course so this came just in time! 🙂

  • As always, my Super Shero priceless info! Not a surprise that this has came out when it did. Perfect timing as always. Lol
    I think your Super Power is being intuitive. Has to be!
    Thanks Love for doing what you do!

  • I don’t know how you do it. I can’t even keep up with reading your content and worksheets. How do you create it all?

    And yes, along with the other ladies, it’s perfect timing for me too. I just finished recording the videos for a “WordPress for Newbies” course as an opt-in. I totally need you for the next steps.

    • Haha, Christina. Thank you so much for commenting.

      And, yessssss! WP for Newbies sounds super valuable. Can’t wait to see what you do with–and I hope the bootcamp helps.

    • Abby, thank you for saying that. Also, I’m a big fan of yours over on Twitter. Thank you for keeping it real, being supportive, and sharing great stuff over there.

      I appreciate your comment!

  • I have to whip out the high-five on this one Regina. You make the steps SOOO incredibly easy to follow + understand. Completely revamping and making over every thing, including an email opt-in course (epic email opt-in course). Thank you again!

    • Mia, yay. Thank you, you’re so sweet to whip out the high-fives for me. I’d love to check out your epic email course opt-in when you’re done. If you think of it, will you please tweet it to me or reply here with it? Thank you.

  • I would LOVE to create an e-mail course… my problem is, I’m an artist who blogs about life, creativity, & my artwork… what in the world would I write an e-mail course about? I would love some tips &/or ideas!

    • Katie, what about a creativity challenge? Or a guide to balancing art, life, and work? Or a guide to making your art a seamless part of life? Or “10 days to more creativity”, etc.?

      I think people would love something like that. And you could structure it as a challenge or daily guide instead of a “course” so that it sounds more epic to your specific audience.

      Just some initial thoughts. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

  • Regina, I’m blown away. This is hands down the best I’ve read in months. 18 steps sound huge, but you made it such an enjoyable read. So excited to try it one day. Totally gonna bookmark it for the -hopefully not that far away – time when I start my first email course. You made this intimidating topic so much easier. Thank you so much!
    x Mona |

  • Amazing tips and step by step process! You rock Regina! I have a find your passion and purpose course that has audio and loads of info for my tribe of single moms. It’s 10 days. I’m considering using it as an opt-in and not just as a product.

    Thank you for showing me there is more than one purpose for it!


  • Hey Regina! Random but I wanted to ask if you could consider adding a “print now” option on your posts. I’m a print-it-out kind of girl (good for my eyes, bad for trees) and would love the option to print your blog posts! Please consider it!


  • Regina, this was perfect! Today was the first time I’ve EVER used Mailchimp. I’ve only ever used Mad Mimi or Aweber so I was happy to find this email course.

    My only question is if my newsletter is going out 5x a week by RSS already, will setting up a series be annoying? Or, when signing up for the course it just signs them up for my course and NOT the actual RSS newsletter? At least that’s how I look at it. If so, I guess that wouldn’t be a major problem until the course ends.


  • REGINA!!! Yes, that is me shouting your name. 🙂 I currently have 7 tabs open, all on your site. I did a live, 7 week, online cooking class this summer, but I charged for it. (Yay, my first live course!) I wish I would have found you first. Anyway, I would love to convert that into an opt-in, but would that be unfair to the people who paid for the course? #integrity

    P.S. Just purchased your guide to creating a stellar content plan and I am devouring it at the moment. Thanks again for all of your Ninja awesomeness!

  • I don’t know how you do it, Regina. Repeatedly. This post is….well….E-P-I-C! I’ve been brainstorming ideas and formatting for a new opt-in for my site, and was feeling stuck. It’s so helpful to receive a breakdown. This got me coming up with ideas and actually starting to take the steps to make it happen. I’ve (evernote) clipped this post (and a gazillion others of yours. Yes, a gazillion). I’ll be using it as my guide.


  • I LOVE YOU!!! I want to take your brain to dinner, wine & dine it, then figure out how to clone all the parts that focus on creating TONS of valuable, EPIC CONTENT & BONUS WORKSHEETS. Don’t worry, I won’t use your ideas….just the parts that help me to create ENTIRE COURSES in an email/blog post!! How do you do it girl?! I am seriously in awe of your work ethic, your insanely valuable content & just you, cuz you’re freaking awesome.

    I’m done being insane on this comment. LOL….

    Jess @alegriasmuse

    P.S. I tried to get the Bootcamp Worksheet/Agenda but I think maybe the “free” window closed? Where can I find it yo?! I feel like I need that….thnx! 😉

  • Wow, amazing training, Regina! Thank you! 🙂

    For those who don’t have Photoshop, I often drag my screenshots back into Pages, arrange them how I like (add borders, drop shadows, etc.), then screenshot THAT.
    If you need a larger size than you can screenshot, you can also (at least on my old Snow Leopard Macbook), save the Pages document as a PDF, open up the sidebar, right-click on the page you want and click “Save a copy to folder…” Then in the dropdown, select JPG instead of PDF. This might be a bit lossy, I’m not sure, but it’s worth a try! 🙂

  • Girl. (I feel like I can address you that way now that you’ve blown my freakin’ MIND). I found your site while thinking about ways I can expand my educational therapy business to include some workshops or something. And now I have a very full content que and the beginnings of an email workshop to help teachers and parents with student behavioral challenges. This is awesome. Awesome-awesome-awesome.

    Thank you!

  • I’m just starting out but wanted to say how much more confident I have become since finding you Mariah! I’m just about to set up my first blog and am busy writing my first few posts so I’m a time away from putting some of your advice into practice… But I’m busy bookmarking so many of your posts!

    My blog will focus on helping women feel empowered in the workplace. I find there’s resources fir women starting businesses of their own but not as many to help women navigate the traditional office environment, especially younger women and especially in male dominated business areas.

    Maybe there’s even a course idea or two lurking in there…

    I hope to be back soon once I’m a bit more savvy about some of this online malarkey. Thanks again!

    • Oops, replied to previous poster! Obviously meant to address you directly Regina! Gawd! I can’t seem to get the simplest interwebby stuff right… (rethinks entire blog plan as apparently I’m a proper luddite!)

  • I’m just starting out but wanted to say how much more confident I have become since finding you Regina! I’m just about to set up my first blog and am busy writing my first few posts so I’m a time away from putting some of your advice into practice… But I’m busy bookmarking so many of your posts!

    My blog will focus on helping women feel empowered in the workplace. I find there’s resources fir women starting businesses of their own but not as many to help women navigate the traditional office environment, especially younger women and especially in male dominated business areas.

    Maybe there’s even a course idea or two lurking in there…

    I hope to be back soon once I’m a bit more savvy about some of this online malarkey. Thanks again!

  • Wow thanks Regina. Was just planning my first email course opt in when I saw your post. Perfect timing xx

  • Wow!! I am just starting my online business, but I do have a pretty solid plan and creating a course is my next step!! This is such a great resource!! Thanks so much, and of course, I will check out your Start Your Online Business course too 🙂

  • Dang. You are my entrepreneurial hero! I’ve been hitting a plateau on where to take my course content, blog posts, and resources for indie musicians. I’m about to put that mess in the rear view thanks to this awesome step by step guide! Your expertise, delivery, and humor are much appreciated!! #YouDaBomb

  • Thanks, Regina for this! The details you provided helped me go over my course (again and again) to make sure all my bases are covered. You provided some unique insights here. Thanks again!

  • Love this. ❤️💪🏾Got my free email course completed do you have any posts on example of the sequences and content we should send to the subscribers after the course has been completed. My goal is to eventually work with women in a group setting based on fashion/style. Here is my landing page if you want to take a peek.

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