List Building: How to Build an Email List for Free

A big part of being a successful Course Creator comes down to your list building strategy. The bigger your Email List, the more Course sales you’re going to make – it’s that simple. So it’s essential as a Course Creator you know how to build an Email List. 

Creating the Course is only the first step to being a successful Course Creator, you then need to sell it and unfortunately Online Courses don’t just sell themselves. The only way your course is going to sell, is if you build an Email List and sell your courses to your Email List. 

Just before we get into the list building strategies, I want to spend a minute and explain why we are specifically talking about an email list as opposed to a Social Media following because technically, everything I mentioned above could also be applied to Social Media. For example instead of building an Email List and selling your courses to your Email List, you could build an Instagram following and sell your courses to your Instagram followers. Or you could build a Facebook Group and sell your courses to your Facebook Group members. 

The above strategies can definitely work and we recommend you use them. However it’s important you use Social Media in addition to your Email Marketing and here’s a couple reasons why.

working on a laptop

Reason #1: You own your Email List

You own your Email List, you don’t own your Social Media platform. For example, you could be building an Instagram following and then when you wake up tomorrow an Instagram has deleted your account without an explanation or a way to get it back. The same goes for Facebook Profile, your Facebook Business Page, your Facebook Group, your YouTube channel and so on. 

However, if you have an Email List, that doesn’t really matter. You can just start a new Instagram account and email all your followers and them know your new handle. It’s not ideal, but it’s a lot better than starting from scratch.

On Top of that you own your Email List, no-one can take that away from you. Even if for some absurd reason your domain gets blocked and you can’t use that Email address anymore, you can just download your list of emails and use a new email address. 

Reason #2: There are no algorithm changes

Similar to the situation above, let’s say you’re currently an Instagrammer, you have a decent following on there. Instagram may not ‘block’ your account but they change their algorithm and show certain accounts more than others. Or let’s say you’re a Facebook Group Admin, Facebook may not remove your Group but they may change their algorithm to no longer prioritise posts in Groups. 

Or even if they don’t change their algorithm – you make a post on Social Media who knows if your audience is going to see it or not. If you send an Email – you know the person is getting it. Whether they open it or not is another story and whether it goes to junk or not is another story but at least you know the algorithm isn’t ‘hiding it’.

Email List vs Social Media

Before we get to the tips, I just want to highlight we are not saying DON’T use Social Media or Social Media is ‘bad’. We’re just saying it’s a smart idea to build your Email list along with your Social Media. Have an engaged Instagram following AND an Email List. Have an engaged Facebook Group AND an Email List. Have a YouTube channel and an Email List.

Anyways, let’s get the tips

How to Build an Email List without a Website

You don’t need a website to build an Email List. 

The first thing you need is actually a “lead magnet”. In simple terms a Lead Magnet is something you give away for free in exchange for a prospects Email address. If you’re a Course Creator your Lead Magnet will usually be a mini course, free training, PDF or something similar.

Once you’ve created your Lead Magnet, the next thing you need is a “CRM” or some form of “Email Marketing software”. The most common (and affordable) ones in the Course Creator space are MailChimp, Active Campaign, MailerLite and ConvertKit. Our preference at the Course Creator Community is Active Campaign (click here for a Free 14 Day Trial).

The CRM will allow you to 

  • Create a Landing / Opt In Page to capture emails
  • Store your Email Database (along with other notes / contact details)
  • Create Email Automations
  • Send Email Blasts / Broadcasts 

Once you’ve registered for a CRM, the next step is to use that software to create a simple Landing Page / Opt In Page and Automation. That way you could send a prospect to the landing page, will enter their details on the automatically get sent the free Lead Magnet and they will automatically get added to your Email List. 

This may sound complicated but it’s actually extremely easy to do, even if you’re a technological dunce! 

Now if you’re starting from scratch, this is the first thing you need to do 🙂 

Person checking email

How to Build an Email List for Free

Now you’ve got your CRM, you’ve got your Lead Magnet, you’ve got your Landing Page, you’ve got your Automation, now you actually need to build your Email List. 

You’ve got two simple options – you can either use “free” strategies or “paid” strategies. Both can work, both have their advantages and disadvantages, in this section we’ll talk about “free strategies”. 

How To Sell Online Courses: How to Create Your First Online Course

When talking about free strategies, you’ve got two common options

  • Social Media
  • Joint Ventures

If we’re talking about Social Media, it’s quite a simple system.

Step 1: Pick a Social Media platform (e.g. Facebook, Instagram, YouTube etc)

Step 2: Create an account on that platform (if you don’t already have one)

Step 3: Build your following on that platform

Step 4: Have strategies in place to convert those followers into Email subscribers

There’s not really one platform that’s the “best”, there’s a lot of variables e.g. where does your audience hang out, what are you comfortable with, what platform do you like, what’s the competition like at that platform etc etc.

What matters is two things 

  1. You understand that platform, how it works and how to grow an audience on there. This is probably going to involve taking a course on that specific platform e.g. take a course on ‘How to Grow Your Instagram” and follow those strategies. You MAY be able to figure out the platform on your own but it’s often a lot easier if you’re following a specific strategy.
  2. Along with growing your audience on that platform, you’re also growing your Email List. I’ll give some more specific examples later on but for now just think – it’s not just about getting views on your YouTube channel, you also want to mention your Lead Magnet in your video and put the link in the description. It’s not just about getting more listeners for your Podcast, you want to also mention your Lead Magnet in your video and put the link in the show notes etc etc.

Your other option when it comes to building an email list for free is using Joint Ventures. If you don’t want to spend the time fiddling on social media, you can leverage off someone else’s audience. There’s a heap of different ways you can do this but the most simple is a payment split. 

For example, you find someone who already has an Email List with your ideal audience. You connect with them and if they are interested in promoting your course, they can send an email to their Email List promoting your paid course. Any sales they make, you split them between the two of you 50/50. The advantage to this system is that there’s no risk on your behalf. If the partner sends out an email and none of their audience purchases – you didn’t lose anything because you didn’t pay anything. Yes, you have to give them 50% but having them saved you a lot of money and time. 

How to Build an Email List with Facebook

If you want to build an Email List with Facebook you’ve got two options 

  • Option 1: Paid Facebook Ads – for this you would use a Facebook Business Page
  • Option 2: Organic Facebook Marketing – for this you would use your Personal Facebook Profile

It’s important to be aware of this because a lot of new Course Creators will attempt to build their Email List organically but try and use their Facebook Business Page. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work as the way the Facebook algorithm works, Business Page posts get hardly any reach / engagement unless the Page is paying for advertising. 

We’ll cover Paid Facebook Ads a little later but for now let’s look at how we can use Facebook to build our Email List for free. 

There’s a whole heap of different strategies you can use but at bare minimum it would look something like this. 

Step 1: Join certain Facebook Groups where your ideal audience hangs out

Step 2: Check the Facebook Group rules and regulations and see when / if you’re allowed to promote your business 

Step 3: Post your Lead Magnet in those Groups and grow your list

Note: Just be aware, leveraging off someone else’s Facebook Group is a good way to start but it’s only going to get you so far. Sooner or later you’re going to need to start building your own following. 

If you’d like to learn more about how to build your own Facebook Group, you may want to check out the blog below 

How to Grow a Facebook Group

facebook on a laptop

How to Build an Email List with Instagram

If you don’t currently have an Instagram following, then step 1 is to grow that. There’s many different strategies you can use here… Hashtags, Tags, Check Ins, Collaborations, Joint IG Lives, IG Reels, Story Take-Overs, Shout Outs etc but personally i’d recommend taking a course on how to grow your Instagram following and follow a specific strategy.  Once you’ve built your following (and while you’re building it) it’s important to build your list and post about your Lead Magnet. Your options a little more limited on instagram but a few things you can do 
  1. Put the link to your Lead Magnet in your bio
  2. Post about your Lead Magnet and mention to your following that the link is in your bio (unfortunately you can’t put a clickable link on your description)
  3. Post about your Lead Magnet and ask your followers to comment below if they would like it, then send your follower a DM with the link (clickable links are allowed in the DM)
  4. Post about your Lead Magnet in your story and use the ‘links’ sticker 
  5. Post about your Lead Magnet in your story and use a “yes/no” poll asking if your followers would like your free lead magnet. Anyone that votes yes, send your follower a DM with the link

How to Build an Email List Fast

If you want to build a list fast – your best option is Paid Facebook Ads. The free strategies above are great but free / organic marketing takes time. It’s going to take at minimum a few months to start to see some real traction. 

Paid Facebook Ads on the other hand, you could literally create an Ad now in 15-20mins start it running immediately and start getting leads instantly. You can also scale up or down as quick or slow as you like. 

For example let’s say you put $50 on Facebook Ads today and it generated you 10 leads. You’re a little more ambitious and you want 20 leads a day, great just increase your budget from $50 a day to $100 a day – you’re not getting 20 leads a day.

Facebook Ads are by far the most effective and cost effective way to market in todays world. The limitation is there’s quite a lot of testing involved before you create the perfect ad. 

For example 

  • Is your Lead Magnet a good offer? 
  • Is the image you’re using capturing people’s attention? 
  • Is the copy compelling? 
  • Does the headline stand out? 
  • Is your targeting right? 
For this reason, it’s often easier to start off with organic marketing, make sure you have an effective lead magnet, see the images / copy / headlines that work and dial into your ideal audience. Once you’ve got this in place it’s a lot easier to run a Facebook Ad.


There’s too much detail involved in a Facebook Ad for me to cover it in this blog but one quick tip I’ll give – when setting up your Ad, use the “Lead Generation” campaign. 

The other option you can use to build your audience fast is Joint Ventures. We touched on them earlier with the payment split and that’s one way to do it. Another way is to simply pay them to send out an email. 

For example if they have an Email List of 1,000 subscribers, you may pay them $100 to send out an Email for you promoting your Lead Magnet. You may get 20 new subscribers as a result. Which was a similar result to spending the $100 on Facebook Ads but you didn’t have to worry about whittling around with Facebook Ads. 

This method here is different from the previous Joint Venture method because you’re paying the influencer up front as opposed to a percentage split. Both ways can work it just depends on your strategy.

How to Build an Email List before Launch

If you’re launching a course, the worst thing you can do is try and launch without a list.

Pick any of the strategies above and spend a minimum 3 months building your list. Even if you’re still creating your online course, while you’re creating it – also spend time building your social media following / email list.

When you’re ready to launch your course, the easiest way to launch is via a webinar / masterclass. After spending 3 months building your Social Media following / Email List you’ll have enough of an audience to launch. The goal at this point is to get as many people registered for your webinar / masterclass as possible – use every trick in the book, your email list, your social media, joint ventures, Facebook Ads, along with anything else you can think of.

If your webinar / masterclass doesn’t make sales, it’s not the end of the world, just go back to the drawing board. See what went wrong and fix it. 


Problem 1: You didn’t get anyone to register for your webinar. This means either your following isn’t interested in the webinar topic or your following isn’t big enough yet. Spend another month building your list and try again. If you still don’t get any registrants – change the topic next month. 

Problem 2: You had people register for your webinar but they didn’t show up. This means you need to do a better job with your reminders. What could you have done better? More Facebook post reminders? Instagram story reminders? More emails? A text message? Change something and try again next month. 

Problem 3: You had people register AND attend the webinar but no-one purchased. This means you have a sales problem. Tweak your webinar, your offer, your price or your messaging and try again next month. 

Free List Building Course

If you’d like to check the Course Creator FREE List Building Course, all you need to do is join our Community Facebook Group. We give all of our Group members a free copy once they join our Facebook Group

If you’d like our Free List Building Course – simply click here to join

Email List Building Course

At the Course Creator Community, we also have an official Email List Building Course, if you’d like to check that out, simply click here to check out our courses

Building an Email List can be an overwhelming experience so if you need any help or support, the first step is to join the Course Creator Community Facebook Group. We have over 5,000 Course Creators in our Group, everyone is super supportive and we all share tips and ideas. We would love to invite you in there!

Click here to join the Course Creator Community Facebook Group

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