Ever wondered how to send opt-in freebies (a.k.a. lead magnets, or content upgrades) to your subscribers so that you can build your email list?

Even the newest of newbie bloggers figure out pretty darn quick that email marketing is kind of a big deal. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve read things like…




Etc. etc.

We get it, email is super important!

Another thing you’ve probably read A LOT is that offering opt-in freebies to your readers is a great way to grow your email list. I definitely agree with this.

But, it can get a little complicated when it comes to setting your blog up to deliver lead magnets to your subscribers. It seems like all the big bloggers use Convertkit and Leadpages to send opt-in freebies, which are awesome systems but can be expensive if you’re just starting out.

Fear not! Through trial and error, I’ve come up with a FREE method to send opt-in freebies using Mailchimp plus a WordPress plugin for collecting email addresses (called MailMunch).

No coding required! Here’s how…

How to send opt-in freebies, content upgrades and lead magnets using Mailchimp



First of all, if you’re still a bit iffy on what a lead magnet is, or how to create one for your blog, then I’d recommend you take a look at MeeraKothand.com. She knows her stuff when it comes to using content upgrades for email marketing!

Once you’re up to speed on lead magnets, this post will talk you through all the steps to send opt-in freebies to new email subscribers.

It’s not difficult at all, but there are a few moving parts. Once you’ve nailed it once though you’ll be able to replicate it to send as many opt-in freebies as you like to grow your list!

Here’s what we’ll be doing…

  • STEP 1 – Create an email list on Mailchimp (if you don’t already have one).
  • STEP 2 – Create a new Group within the list for your content upgrade
  • STEP 3 – Set up an automation in Mailchimp to deliver the freebie to anyone who joins the Group.
  • STEP 4 – Write the email which contains the link to the freebie.
  • STEP 5 – Create an opt-in form for your blog using the MailMunch plugin to capture subscribers to the Group.
  • STEP 6 – Embed the opt-in form where you want it on your blog.
  • STEP 7 – Test that it all works!
  • STEP 8 – Optional: create a VIP content library so that existing subscribers can access all your freebies in one place.


STEP 1: Create an email list on Mailchimp and confirm opt-in settings

Mailchimp is a really solid choice to start off your email marketing journey. It’s free up to 2000 subscribers and you can easily set up automations that will deliver multiple opt-in freebies to your readers.

If you don’t already have an email list set up, head to Mailchimp, sign up for an account and then click ‘Create List’ under the lists tab.

how to send opt-in freebies with Mailchimp 1

IMPORTANT – unless you’ve been living under a blogging rock for a couple of years you’ll have heard of the European Data Protection regulation called GDPR. Amongst other things, this impacts how you conduct email marketing – particularly how you collect personal information and record consent. This post does NOT go into how to ensure your content upgrades are GDPR compliant so I recommend that you do your own research on this to ensure you’re following all relevant requirements.  For more information see the Mailchimp blog.


STEP 2: Create a Group within the List to segment the subscribers who’ve downloaded the lead magnet

A big mistake that many bloggers make is to create a new list for every content upgrade they have. DON’T do this – it will get super confusing to manage a ton of different lists.

The way to deal with it is to create Groups within your main list to segment subscribers. On your list menu select ‘Manage Contacts’, then ‘Groups’…

How to send opt-in freebies with Mailchimp 2

Click ‘Create Group’ on the upper right-hand side.

Select the option to show the groups as checkboxes.

Then name your opt-in category. I tend to just have one overall freebie category and then create subgroups for each opt-in freebie I’m offering on my blog.

How to send opt-in freebies with Mailchimp 3


STEP 3: Create an automation to send opt-in freebies to that Group

We’re now going to set up the email that will automatically be sent to new subscribers who are added to a particular freebie Group.

In the campaigns menu select ‘Create Campaign’.

how to send opt-in freebies using Mailchimp

Choose the option to ‘Create an Email’.

how to send opt-in freebies using Mailchimp

Select ‘Automated’ then ‘Subscriber Activity’ and the option to ‘Respond to subscriber updates’.

how to send opt-in freebies using Mailchimp

On the next screen choose the ‘Added to group’ tab and then name your Campaign. Select ‘Begin’.

how to send opt-in freebies using Mailchimp

You’re now on the automation dashboard for this freebie.

It automatically brings up 2 default email suggestions for the automation. You can just delete the second email entitled ‘Learn More’ (choose DELETE in the drop-down arrow to the right of the ‘Design Email’ button). You may decide to add a welcome series to the automation, but for now, we’re just going to concentrate on the first email.

In the first email, we need to select ‘Edit trigger’ to specify how you want the automation to work.

how to send opt-in freebies using Mailchimp

The most important change to make is in the ‘Delay’ drop down. This defaults to 1 day, but that means your subscribers would be waiting a whole day to get their freebie. Not cool. So select ‘immediately’.

Then in the ‘Settings’ dropdown choose the freebie group that you want to deliver.

Select ‘Update Trigger’

how to send opt-in freebies using Mailchimp

You now have the automation set up. Next step is to write the welcome email that will be sent.


STEP 4: Write the welcome email and attach the lead magnet

Select ‘Design Email’ to write the content of the email to new subscribers.

how to send opt-in freebies using Mailchimp

Fill out the required fields for the email (such as subject line, email address it’s coming from etc.) and then you’re prompted to choose the email design. I personally go for simple text as I think it’s easier to read (and many people believe plain text emails have higher deliverability than ones with lots of images).

how to send opt-in freebies using Mailchimp

You can now type up the email content – select the textbox on the left that you want to edit and then type on the right.

In order to link to the freebie file to download, select the text where you want the link and then select the link button in the toolbar above.

how to send opt-in freebies using Mailchimp

It defaults to a web address link – which you can use if you want to add the freebie as a shareable file from Dropbox/ Google Drive other online storage.

However, a great feature of Mailchimp is that they provide storage for files that you can then link to in your email. To choose that option select ‘File’ from the dropdown.

how to send opt-in freebies using Mailchimp

Upload the freebie file and then click insert.

how to send opt-in freebies using Mailchimp

The download file is now inserted into the email and you’re ready to roll! Save and continue to the next step.

how to send opt-in freebies using Mailchimp

Review all the workflow settings and then ‘Start Workflow’ to set the automation in motion.

how to send opt-in freebies using Mailchimp


STEP 5: Create an opt-in form to capture subscribers on your blog

There’s no point having a perfectly set up automation in Mailchimp if your subscribers have no means of signing up for it! So, you’ll need to add an opt-in form to your blog to capture email addresses.

A free way of doing this is to use the Mailmunch plugin for WordPress.

Full disclosure: I don’t actually use the Mailmunch plugin to send opt-in freebies on this blog. I use Pop Up Ally Pro as it also allows me to create click to open and polite exit-intent pop-ups. I invested in it a couple of years ago and love it but it is a $99 upfront investment. 

While I don’t use Mailmunch, I have tested it thoroughly for this purpose and it works really well. It allows you to have a very simply formatted opt-in box which totally does the job. But if you’re looking for something more personal to your blog brand then you can consider upgrading to the Pro version if you have the funds.

Related: how to fund your blog when it’s not making any money yet

Ok, so first things first, download the Mailchimp Forms by Mailmunch plugin to your WordPress blog and activate it.

You’re now ready to create an opt-in form. It’s not difficult but there are way too many screenshots to explain, so I’ve created a quick video to talk you through it:


STEP 6: Embed the form where you want it on your blog

In the Mailmunch ‘publish’ page for your freebie, there are two different lines of code for you to copy.

how to send opt-in freebies using Mailchimp

You can use the WordPress shortcode to display the opt-in box within your blog posts or landing pages. Simply copy and paste the shortcode into your page (when in the visual editor).

Related: cheap and free alternatives to Leadpages for broke bloggers

This will display the opt-in form within your post once you publish it, like so:

You can use the HTML code to display the opt-in elsewhere on your blog. The easiest way to do this is via a Widget (head to Appearance >> Widgets in WordPress).

Simply drag a ‘Custom HTML’ widget to the spot where you want the opt-in (I’ve chosen the Sidebar) and copy in the HTML code.

Then it displays very nicely in the sidebar…


STEP 7: Test the automation to make sure it’s delivering your content upgrade correctly

If you’ve followed all the steps you should now have a fully functioning automation to send opt-in freebies. But, mistakes do happen!

I always do a quick check that it’s working by entering my email address in the new opt-in form on my blog (use an email address that isn’t already on your mailing list).

I then complete the subscription path that my subscribers will follow, including confirming my subscription via a double opt-in email, hopefully resulting in the automation email arriving in my inbox.

Make sure you also check the link to the freebie in the automation email when it arrives as broken links are by far the most common mistakes I see in emails.


STEP 8: Once you have more than one email opt-in to deliver, set up a freebie library

If you have more than one content upgrade on your blog then it’s a nice idea to create a resource or freebie library. This has two benefits:

  1. You can offer it as an incentive for new subscribers – i.e. “sign up to get access to all my freebies”; and
  2. It makes life easier for your existing subscribers as they’re not going to want to have to sign up for every new lead magnet (plus Mailchimp doesn’t allow duplicate email addresses in your list so they likely won’t be able to sign up twice anyway).

The easiest way to do this is to create a private password protected page on your WordPress blog and then give the password to your subscribers in every email you send them.

Just head to the ‘Publish’ settings on the right-hand side of the draft page and change visibility from Public to Password protected and choose a password (don’t worry, you can always see the password you’ve chosen there should you forget what it is at a later date!)

how to send opt-in freebies using Mailchimp

When you write to your subscribers you can remind them in every email that they can access the freebie library with that password and give them the heads up when something new is added. They’ll appreciate it!


I know you’re sold on the power of lead magnets to grow your email list (or you wouldn’t have read this far down this mammoth post!). However, it’s very easy to think that when you don’t have a big budget for your blog that you’ll struggle to grow your list.

It really doesn’t have to be the case.

This post shows that you can send opt-in freebies for free by downloading a free WordPress plugin and following a few simple steps. Best of all, with Mailchimp you don’t have to pay a penny until your list tips over the 2000 mark.

So now you know how to send opt-in freebies you can get on and grow your email list with lead magnets!