Someone recently asked me – what’s one of the most consistent mistakes you see on websites?  If we’re narrowing in specifically on creative’s websites (artists, composers, musicians, writers, choirs, etc), my answer would pretty easily be: no email list strategy.

These days, most DIY websites have an email list sign up form. Typically, it’s a standard fill in your name & email address, with a brief message along the lines of: “subscribe for news, updates, and promotions!”

Now, if you have a loyal customer base, or fan club, this might work JUST fine for you. Maybe you’re bringing in ten, twenty, a thousand new subscribers daily. But my hunch is that this isn’t the case for most creative entrepreneurs.

The main reason your generic newsletter signup isn’t converting visitors into subscribers is this: you haven’t given the site visitor ANY real motivation to hand over their email address.

If they want updates from you, they’ll follow you on Instagram or check back to your website later on. They can easily stay updated if you have a social media presence. Most of the time, people don’t want more email updates in their inbox – unless, they are being provided with valuable information. 

Instead of thinking of your newsletter sign up as a place to share news, think of it as a transaction. In order for someone to give you their email address, what value can YOU provide them with?

Better yet, think of it as a gift. They’re subscribing to your list and as a thank you, you’re providing them with free (fill in the blank): knowledge, services, creative work, etc.

This is what is called an opt-in gift. In the biz, it’s also known as a freebie or a lead magnet. To me, opt-in gift sounds the most eloquent and benevolent; you’re generously giving something to your site viewers and potential email subscribers!

So, what exactly does an opt-in gift look like?

It’s not something you wrap-up with a bow and mail to your subscribers. It’s much simpler! Typically, an opt-in gift is a digital product (like a PDF) or an exclusive offer code for savings – something that will have a clear benefit to your site visitor and will motivate them to subscribe. 

For example, when building Patty Ripley’s website, she had the goal of starting an email list that was catered towards promoting a new art series. She had lots of Instagram followers, but an email list of ZERO subscribers. To motivate her Instagram followers to sign up for her email list, she offered early access to her series as well as free shipping. She went from zero to 200 email subscribers within a few weeks, and nearly sold out the new series, mostly from buyers that were subscribed to her list. The power of a valuable oft-in gift!

Sometimes the trickiest part of diving into the world of email marketing is deciding what sort of offer or gift to give your site visitors in exchange for their email address. You don’t want to give away too much for free and you also want to make sure that you’re providing them with enough value to get them to opt in. It’s a fine line to walk.

To get you excited and motivated to revamp YOUR newsletter sign-up, I’ve created a list of 25 ideas for opt-in gifts, specifically catered towards CREATIVE careers. 


  • A checklist of your favourite studio tools and products for making your art
  • An educational free-training video of you teaching a technique or concept
  • 10% off of a new product
  • Free shipping on a new product
  • Exclusive or early access to a new product or series
  • A creativity journal with fill-in-the-blank prompts


  • A checklist of your favourite software and products for composing
  • A sample recording of one of your new pieces of music
  • 10% off of a first purchase from you
  • An educational free-training video of you teaching a composition technique
  • A complete guide to working with clients on commissioned pieces of music
  • A Spotify playlist of music that inspires you


  •  A checklist of different shots for whatever style of photography you do:
    • Weddings
    • Engagements
    • Portraits
    • Events
  • A guide to your favourite editing software, apps, or presets
  • A checklist of your photography equipment must-haves
  • A guide for potential clients on how to prepare for their shoot (what to bring, how to dress, etc)
  • A how-to-choose a shoot location guide (might be specific to certain cities!)
  • Photography presets (if you make your own!) OR your best tips for editing photos


  • A sample track or EP of your latest recording or performance 
  • 10% off of concert tickets
  • An educational free-training video of a music lesson or choir rehearsal
  • Exclusive or early access to select seats for a concert with limited spacing
  • A choir-rehearsal planning guide
  • A printable lesson planner for music teachers
  • A guide to selecting repertoire for different concert cycles or performances

I hope one of these ideas might resonate with you and inspire you to create your own opt-in gift. Wondering which email system to use? I’ve personally tried a few of the leading options – Mailchimp, Convertkit, and Flodesk. My favorite, by far, is Flodesk (this link gives you 50% off and gives me a small commission!). It is specifically designed for creative-types with beautiful layout options, options to easily create automations, and it’s a great price!

Happy list-building, friends.

25 different email list building ideas for creatives

June 11, 2021