Content upgrades are a really important way of building up your email list.

Your email list is crucial to your business, blog or creative work as it’s a great way to get your work in front of your loyal fans and also sell products on your website too.

In Volume 2 of 99 Percent Lifestyle, there is a whole article dedicated to building up your email list with Nathan Barry, founder of email marketing tool Convert Kit. The article looks at why you should have an email list and how you can get started in acquiring those emails early on.

There are tonnes of ways to build up your list and content upgrades are a really effective way of doing so.

This article also uses an example of a content upgrade too. I have broken down what a content upgrade is, and then broke down the steps to create some content upgrades and then integrate them into your site too.

I have created a new free e-book with all the steps need to create a free and beautiful content upgrade. This has been added to the free resource library and I highly recommend you look at the upgrade itself so you can see the design and how you can make the content appealing to your audience.

All you have to do to download this free content upgrade is click this page here and follow the instructions.

A few months ago I also published an article on what you should do with your email list once you start to build up subscribers.


Content upgrades are premium pieces of content that are linked to an existing article you publish on your website. These premium pieces of content that come in the form of cheat sheets, ebooks or PDF’s, that your readers are able to access by handing over their email address.


Content upgrades are proven to be one of the best ways of building up an email list, which is proven to be a businesses or persons most valuable asset to have online, especially when compared with social media followings.


There are various ways to come up with content upgrades. You can use the same technique you use to come up with blog posts, you can look on Quora to seek what answers people are looking for in your community (your piece of content being the answer), or you can find your most popular pieces of content through your Analytics account and then build a premium piece of content around that article. For example, if you most popular article is a guide on how creatives can get more freelance work, you could offer a step-by-step download, a perfected email template for contacting clients or perhaps a guide for building a stunning portfolio.

Ideally, you want to come up with as many content upgrades you can and build a library of free resources. If you can create content upgrades for all of your most popular articles then even better.


At 99 Percent Lifestyle, I use two tools for creating e-books and content upgrades. Being a magazine brand I use and rely heavily on Adobe InDesign for designing each issue of 99 Percent Lifestyle. It’s also very useful for creating e-books too. However, I also use the free online creation tool Canva too. Canva has tonnes of pre-loaded templates for e-books, social media posts, pictures and illustrations you can use for your e-book cover. If you are struggling with the design process then Canva is definitely the best option for you.

The cover image for the content upgrade is a key part of people handing over their email. Keep it bold, to the point and attractive. Websites live Fiverr offer the ability to hire designers to design e-book covers for you if you would prefer to offload this task.


From experience, I have found that the best content upgrades tend to be simple and to the point. If your offering a guide to something then make use of headers to clearly chop the content into sections.

If you are creating a long-form content upgrade then that’s also fine as long as you are using a combination of both. You will find that some people only want a short and concise piece of content. At 99 Percent Lifestyle, I offer a long-form freebie in the form of the award-winning digital magazine, The Interview Edition, alongside a library of short content upgrades.


The next step is to create a page on your website where people can view the download. There are two options here. Once someone signs up to your newsletter you can direct them straight to the download (don’t direct the user to a site like Dropbox where they have to download the content upgrade before viewing, you want the e-book or download to be viewable on you website with an option to download it from the page instead), the second is to do what I do with 99 Percent Lifestyle and re-direct the user to the Free Resource Library, a landing page that acts as the content upgrade home page with all the downloads on. Make sure you keep this page a secret and only viewable for people with a link. You can even go one step further and make the content of the page only appear for those people who have a password similar to what Mellissa Griffin uses on her blog.


The next step is to create the form, pop-up or landing page to entice people to sign up. At 99 Percent Lifestyle, I have used a whole range of different approaches over the past year. You can use the free tools from Sumo.com to easily create basic popups and welcome mats, plus you can customise which pages and when you would like these to pop up. If you want to customise the popups further then you will have to sign up for one of their paid plans.

The other option is to create stand-alone pages on your website that act as opt-in landing pages. At 99 Percent Lifestyle, there are two pages accessible in the top menu bar that link to opt-in landing pages. I use the form creation tool on Mail Chimp and then embed these forms into the page itself. You can do this free of charge by signing up for a Mail Chimp account, clicking on creating a form and then following the instructions from there. I use a WordPress theme for my website that uses the drag and drop plugin Visual Composer, alongside a custom template that I purchased through the website Theme Forrest. This makes it super easy to create beautiful landing pages on the site. However, you can also create landing pages on an external site if you can’t create one in within your website. The company Lead Pages is a great example, though they do charge if you want to use the templates yourself.


The next step is to go back through your existing posts that are linked to the content upgrade and editing the copy to tie in your opt-in forms. Simply adding a sentence or graphic within your post saying something along the lines of, “Download the ultimate template for finding clients as a freelancer”, is enticing enough. Using Canva’s free graphic tool would again be useful to add a graphic to the copy to make the content upgrade more enticing. Hyperlink the sentences up and link it to you landing page.

You can also add pop-ups for more generic content upgrades and e-books that aren’t linked to the post. For example on 99 Percent Lifestyle I talk about content upgrades that are linked to the blog posts I am writing. I then have a pop up for the Free Interview Edition (something that isn’t linked to the blog post), and then have two links in the header for different landing pages.


Share these content upgrades with your existing audience, add the links and graphics to your homepage, share it with your existing social media followers and email subscribers and even add the link to the landing page to your bio on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Share these content upgrades as you would with blog posts, telling people to “click the link in your bio” to get this content upgrade. If you have some funds for marketing you can even go a step further and use Instagram or Facebook adds to create an ad around your content upgrade to lead more people to the opt-in landing page.


Your email list is extremely valuable to your business and you need to find the best way of growing your list. You can use the classic tactic of offering a discount for first-time customers in exchange for their email but content upgrades are a great way of using your content marketing as a way to grow your list and lead to sales down the line. By giving your readers something valuable in exchange for their email they are more likely to subscribe to your newsletter and trust that you provide valuable advice, information or resources.

Thank you for reading this article. I highly recommend you check out my latest print magazine, Volume 2 of 99 Percent Lifestyle.

This print magazine is packed full of priceless advice and information from the worlds best creatives and entrepreneurs such as Youtuber Steve Booker, designer and entrepreneur Jeff Sheldon of Ugmonk, photographer Chris Burkard and tonnes more. All of the content inside this magazine will help you live more creatively and live life to the full.

By Conor Rees — Founder of 99 Percent Lifestyle Magazine