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How to Build an Email List to 1000 Subscribers From Scratch & For Free

July 9, 2024

To sell an online course or leveraged offer, you need people to sell to. 

The problem? 

Those looking to build an online course business from scratch usually fall into one of two camps.

1) They are existing content creators looking to leverage their extensive audiences by building a course based business around it; or

2) They are service providers seeking to take their skillset and build something more leveraged from it.

My experience is that usually? 

In both cases, the founder hasn’t started or prioritised email list growth, and they are either starting from scratch or they are starting with a small email list that they haven’t nurtured.

So, how do you start and build an email list so that you are able to successfully sell an online course, group coaching program or membership?

Here’s two things to keep in mind first and foremost:

Firstly, quality matters much more than quantity.

The secret? A super aligned email list, and high quality nurture of the people on it.

Alignment comes from making sure that the lead magnet you offer to people in exchange for their email address is very closely aligned to the topic of your core offer.

High quality nurture means that your lead magnet is more than just a PDF. 

People need several touchpoints with you (the number is up for date, but it has increased with time – last time, it was around 17) before they are ready to buy from you.

And secondly, your email list growth should be done WHILST you are building your business. 

It’s common to spend months and years spinning your wheels trying to hit a magical number BEFORE you start selling, but actually?

The act of starting your course business and launching will be the thing that grows your list as you go.

For both of those reasons, the strategy I recommend for people that want to build a successful course business in 2024 is to start by creating a mini-course and delivering it live over four or so weeks.

The process of doing so will do a few things:

1) It will help aspiring course creators to assess their “click power”, which is the number of email addresses they are able to collect in a short period of time.

2) It will kick start their email list growth.

3) It will provide a number of high quality touchpoints with their new “leads”, and contribute to a higher quality email list.

4) It will give them an asset which they can later turn into an “audience offer” – which is one of the two core offers I recommend all course creators have in their offer suite. The objective of the audience offer is to offset lead generation ad spend. 

Here’s how to do it: 

1) Develop a Very Closely Related Mini-Course Topic

It’s super important to make sure that you are building an email list of people that are actually going to be interested in your offer. 

If you don’t you, the percentage of people that actually purchase from you will be much smaller than the industry average of 1-5%. 

You do this by choosing a topic that is the perfect first step to be solved before whatever the topic of your core offer is. 

2) Promote It for Two Weeks

Once you have the topic, you will set up a registration system and promote it heavily for two weeks.

3) Deliver the Mini-Course Live Over Four Weeks

Finally, you will deliver the mini-course live over four weeks, creating it as you go. You will record the modules, and later use this offer as an “audience offer to grow your list. 

This process of growing a new email list with a live mini-course is the process we teach inside of our Create and Validate course in Lifestyle Business School.

At the end, students are encouraged to put together a core offer, and to offer it as an upsell to their new leads.

The primary goal isn’t actually a heap of sales – instead, it’s practice.

Whether they make sales or not, they now have an email list, an asset to use to continue to grow that email list and experience in online business – all essentially elements in successfully growing an online course business.

4) Set Up a System to Continue to Nurture your New Leads 

After you have run your live round, you may or may not have made sales. 

Either way, you have experience in the process of building a leveraged offer and you have a small and mighty collection of leads which you can continue to nurture. 

People need time to purchase; and you will continue to do so each week. 

The next step will be to set up a nurture sequence of 10 emails, that will go out each week day for two weeks. You will write one a day, and add them into an automated sequence. 

5) Turn your Mini-Course into an Audience Offer

This is where the magic is.

By this stage, you have done the hard work to create an exceptionally high value lead magnet.

The trick – not to leave it sitting on the shelf!

In any course, group coaching or membership business, I recommend two offers: 

A core offer (which is the main offer in your business and the one that all roads lead to), and an audience offer. 

An audience offer is a lower cost offer that has one job:

To offset the cost of generating leads for your business, and to prime leads for the core offer. 

Once you have run your mini-course live, you will make a decision on what type of audience offer you want to run and set your pricing model accordingly. 

The first option is to run it as what is called an SLO offer. 

SLO is short for self-liquidating offer. 

It is one that you offer for around $27-47 and run ads to, usually with a lead magnet in front of it. The goal is to offset your ad or paid media spend. 

Usually, the offer is made on the thank you page after someone opts into a lead magnet, and there might be a couple of follow up emails after that.

The second option is to run it as a low cost entry offer. 

Usually, the price point will be around $49 – $199. The objective is the same, however the goal is to offset the ad spend within the first 30 days by making this offer the first one you sell in a back end funnel.

In both circumstances, your mini-course has now become something that fuels your email list growth. 

It should always be running, so that you are building an email list to launch your core offers to. 

6) Drive Traffic

Once you have the system, the final step is to drive traffic to it. 

Here’s how I recommend you do it. 

a) Pick ONE Build, Borrow or Buy Strategy:

There are only three ways to drive traffic.

You can build it. You can borrow it. Or, you can buy it.

Pick one strategy for getting in front of NEW audiences with your lead magnet (and back end mini course). 

b) Track Metrics: 

Every day, track two key metrics. 

Firstly, an action metric. This will tell you whether you are taking the ACTION required to drive traffic.

This could be your ad spend, or the number of pitches you make for guest podcast appearances, for example.

It needs to be tracking the ACTION you take, irrespective of the outcome. 

Secondly, new subscribers: This is the number of new email subscribers you get.

It is the result of your action. 

It’s not completely within your control, and you will need to tweak it to success. 

As long as you are tracking these two metrics and they are growing each week, you are on the right track to your first 1000 subscribers.

Often, we don’t take the ACTION required to build our list, so by tracking both your actions and the outcome and you can see what the “culprit” is if things aren’t growing and adjust accordingly. 

And there you have it! 

That’s how I recommend building an email list from scratch so that you have an aligned pool of leads to sell your offers to and build your wildly successful online course, group coaching or membership business. 

The Mini-Course strategy is the same one we teach in Create and Validate, our 12-week paint by numbers system for building an irresistible offer suite and aligned email list. 

You can get it as part of Lifestyle Business School here.

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