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  • Writer's pictureLauren Evans

How to Set Up an Email Opt-in Freebie Without a Website

Updated: Dec 4, 2023

If you’re an entrepreneur or small business owner, you've probably been told you need to build your email list.

While social media and video platforms are helpful for growing a following, they do have limitations.

If one of them decided to shut down tomorrow, would you have a way to contact all those followers?

That’s why it’s so important to build an email list and maintain direct contact with your fans, friends, and followers.

And the best way to build your list is by offering a free download or resource to people who subscribe.

For instance, I created an Apple Shortcut that converts PDF files to image files and I offer it for free in exchange for your name and email address (click here to see this example).

It’s never too early to start your email list, especially since you DO NOT need a website to get started!

In this blog post, I’ll share how you can set up an email opt-in freebie without a website using Mailchimp's free plan, which allows for up to 2,000 contacts and 10,000 sent emails per month.

Please note, some of the links on this page might be affiliate links, meaning if you take action (ex. subscribe, make a purchase), I might earn a little something at no extra cost to you. Any recommendations I make for programs or tools are because I truly believe in them and have actual experience using them. 

Example of a downloadable PDF freebie created in Canva, called "7 FREE Tools for Running a Small Business"

Step 1: Create the Freebie

The first step in creating an email opt-in freebie is to create the freebie you’ll offer subscribers when they opt-in to your list.

This could be something like a social media planning tool, 3 recipes for people with prediabetes, or 5 full-body exercises for new moms.

It’s not about creating something fancy, it’s about offering something simple, downloadable, and so appealing to your target market so it’s a no-brainer for them to opt in, get your free download, and join your list.

You can share all kinds of tools like Trello boards, Google Docs templates, PDF files, calendars, ebooks, etc. (If you're looking for a great free tool for designing downloadable PDFs, calendars, ebooks, etc, I recommend using Canva).

Screenshot of creating a new Tag in the Mailchimp email marketing program

Step 2: Create Tag for New Subscribers

It’s important to have a way to identify new subscribers who opt-in to your email list through this freebie. The best way to do this is by creating a unique tag in Mailchimp. (You can find this under the Audience section.)

I recommend making it something simple but distinguishable so you can easily remember what it means later on. For instance, if you’re offering 3 recipes for people with prediabetes, your tag for these new subscribers could be “Opt-In - 3 Recipes”

This tag will be important in the next two steps, plus it gives you a way to track how effective your freebie is and how people were referred to your list.

Screenshot of the Landing Page builder in the Mailchimp email marketing program

Step 3: Create Opt-in Form

The next step is to create an opt-in form, or Landing Page, in Mailchimp so new subscribers can enter their name and email address.

A Mailchimp Landing Page is a very simple one-page website that’s optimized for desktop and mobile viewing and includes an online form so people can get more information and sign up for your email list.

You can design the page to match your brand and customize it with header and paragraph text, images of your brand or the download subscribers will be receiving, and form fields so you can capture the person’s information.

This is the first place you’ll need that new tag you created in Step 2, which in our example is “Opt-In - 3 Recipes.” In the settings of the Mailchimp Landing Page, make sure that all new subscribers who opt-in through the form will receive the tag you created.

Also in the settings, you’ll need to decide what happens after subscribers click the submit button. You can choose to display a thank you message or to redirect subscribers to a website or downloadable file.

Screenshot of the Classic Automation Builder in Mailchimp's email marketing program

Step 4: Setup an Email Automation for New Subscribers

It's best practice to send new subscribers a welcome email with a copy of the freebie, even if they were given the opportunity to download it immediately after completing your opt-in form.

This gives you a chance to thank them for subscribing, offer extra value and information, and help them stay connected with you on social media, YouTube, and other platforms.

This means you’ll want to set up a one-step automated email sequence that’s sent to each new subscriber who joins your email list through the opt-in form you created in Step 3. Thanks to the “Opt-In - 3 Recipes” tag we set up in Step 2, it will be easy for Mailchimp to distinguish who to send this email to.

With a free Mailchimp account, you’ll need to use the old or “Classic Automations” builder. To access this, click on the Mailchimp Automation tab, and near the top of the screen, you should see an option to switch to the old builder. If you don’t see it, you can also click here to access Mailchimp’s Classic Automations builder.

Screenshot of Mailchimp's Automation tab showing a red circle around the announcement bar where you can switch to the classic automations builder

Once you’re in the Classic Automations builder, click on the “Tags” tab and select “Email subscribers when they’re tagged.”

Now, you can set up your automated email sequence by choosing the triggering event, the time the email is sent, and what the email says. In this case, we’d want the triggering event to be when subscribers are tagged with the “Opt-In - 3 Recipes” tag.

For the email that new subscribers receive, I suggest thanking the person for joining your list, sending them a link to the freebie, and sharing links, such as your social media channels, blog posts, or YouTube channel.


In four simple steps, you’ve set up your first email opt-in freebie with an automated email response to all your new subscribers!

The best part is that you can repeat this process if you decide you want to change your opt-in, create a special freebie for VIPs, or publish an event interest form.

Mailchimp’s free plan allows you to have multiple landing pages and one-step automation sequences. You’ll only need to upgrade when you exceed 2,000 contacts or 10,000 email transactions per month.

If you want something like this setup, but don't want to do it yourself or want more bells and whistles than this simple system includes, schedule a Discovery Call with me to get started.

For more tips to help you grow and scale your business and spend less time running it, be sure to subscribe to my email list and follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.


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