Yoga Business

How to Write an Opt-in to Grow Your Yoga Email List

As yoga teachers, we want to help people — that’s why most of us start teaching after all! And one of the best ways to help the biggest number of people is by sending our teachings to people who are interested, via our email list. Your email list is one of your biggest assets as yoga teacher because it allows you to fill up your classes and events. But what if you have amazing things to offer and you just can’t seem to grow your list?

Back in the day, you could get people to sign up for your email list just because they liked you and what you have to say. No longer. Why? Because — as you probably hear your yoga students say on a regular basis — we are all overwhelmed and far, far too busy. And this isn’t just perception: in this age of information overload, it is literally neurologically impossible to keep up.

There needs to be a compelling reason for people to ask to receive more emails. If you have your own website, this is where a sign-up freebie or opt-in comes in.

What is an Opt-in, Exactly?

An opt-in or sign-up freebie is a free, downloadable something you give people in exchange for them signing up for your email list. This can be a free ebook, video, audio file, PDF, or even daily emails for a short period of time, such as a 10-day yoga challenge. I like to think of this as a generous and reciprocal exchange: you offer something of value (the opt-in) in exchange for something of value (their email, which allows you access to their attention).

Opt-ins are usually reserved for new subscribers. That said, if you have an existing mailing list and you think they might benefit from what you’ve created, by all means send out a personalized email inviting them to access whatever you’ve created.

Here’s the pop up I use on my website, for my own opt-in

Do I Really Need an Opt-in?

Short answer: yes. Not only is it expected, but it’s a perfect way to showcase your yoga expertise and win ardent fans. Without it, your list won’t grow the same way. And your mailing list is your best marketing tool, filled with people who actively want to practice with you, take your workshops, and read what you have to say.

What Kind of Opt-in Should I Offer?

There are as many options as there are yoga lineages, but here are few of the most popular:

  • Downloadable PDF, such as Yoga Poses for the Office
  • PDF Checklist, such as Ayurveda Summer Detox Checklist
  • Recipes, such as 5 Killer Post-Ashtanga Breakfasts for All Day Power
  • Journal Pages and prompts, such as A Month of Self-Kindness
  • Audio File, such as a 10-minute Good Night Yoga Nidra
  • Daily Emails, such as The Reclaim Your Energy 5-Day Challenge
  • Video, such as Learn To Fly—A Mini Inversion Workshop
  • Quiz (with cool outcome and suggestions), such as Find Your Dosha

The Written Opt-in

Many yoga teachers choose to go with some form of written freebie, partly because it’s easier to create, technology-wise. It’s also easier for your students to save and refer back to, and feels valuable to people.

But what if you’re not a writer or have never done this before? Never fear! This article will walk you through creating your written sign-up freebie, step by step. And, as a note, you can follow these same steps if and when you decide to write something longer and charge for it. 

How To Write Your Yoga Opt-in

Choose Your Topic

There are three steps to choosing a topic that works, meaning a subject matter that makes your people excited to hand over their very precious email to you.

1. Pick something that addresses an actual problem, pain, or want that your community has. Don’t make the mistake of writing what you think they need. Instead, discover what they actually want and write about that. Because what all of us want is a solution to our problems, to the things that keep us up at night. If you can give us that, we’ll hand over our email and more.

For example, let’s say you love restorative yoga and you know everyone will benefit from it. You might be tempted to create an opt-in that will help people have a restorative yoga practice at home. But this isn’t what people want. It’s what you think they need. While you might have some success with this, it won’t be as powerful as something that addresses your clients’ burning problem.

So, instead, maybe you talk to your clients and discover that most of them have insomnia because they’re anxious about money, family, or news. Once you know this, you can create something that targets their specific problem, such as “Get Good Sleep: A Guide for Your Best Rest Yet,” or “The Ten Minute Yoga Solution for Anxiety.” This will (of course) still be restorative yoga. It’s just packaged in a way that addresses a specific problem.

If you’re not sure what your people want, don’t worry. It’s easy to find out. All you have to do is connect with them. Ask your students questions, either in person or via email. Listen to the answers. You can even specifically tell them you’re writing a guidebook, give them three different topics, and ask which one they like best.

Writing a good opt-in is a decent amount of work, so do as much research as possible first to assure you spend your time creating something people actually want.

2. Choose only ONE issue or topic to write about. Keep it simple and specific. Don’t try to write everything you know in one opt-in, such as Yoga for Busy Professionals and Stay-at-home Moms. Choose one problem to address and stay focused. You can always create other freebies later.

3. Make sure to choose something you care about and understand. If you have to do a lot of research to write on a specific topic that doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea — but save that idea for later. For now, choose something you know, and make sure you love it. Your passion will come through to your clients (as will boredom!).

Create a Rough Outline or Table of Contents

This is the single most helpful thing you can do to make the actual writing part of the process easier. Start by jotting down everything you can think that relates to your topic. Don’t worry about putting it in order; just get it down. Write until you can’t think of anything else.

Let’s use The Ten Minute Yoga Solution for Anxiety as an example. Your brainstorm list of topics might look like this:

  • What is anxiety
  • How anxiety is experienced in the mind
  • How anxiety is experienced in the body
  • Why Yoga Helps (also breathing and meditation)
  • The Actual Routine
  • Yoga Poses – legs up wall, forward fold, bridge, twist
  • Breathing – 4/7/8 breath, Alternate Nostril
  • Do in bed?

Next, start clumping those thoughts into an order that makes sense to you. As you do this, you might think of new things you want to add. Write those down too.

For example:

  • What is anxiety
    • Definition
    • Short explanation of brain chemistry
    • How it’s experienced in the mind/mental symptoms
    • How it’s experienced in the body/physiological symptoms
  • Why Yoga Helps (also breathing and meditation)
    • What yoga does for the physiology
    • What yoga does for the mind
  • 10-minute Routine
    • Do in bed or on the floor (or maybe in office?)
    • Minutes 1-2: 4/7/8 breath
    • Minutes 2-4: Forward fold, bridge, twist
    • Minutes 4-7: Legs up wall
    • Minutes 7-9: Alternate nostril breathing
    • Minutes 9-10: Sit quietly

Ta da! You now have a rough table of contents

Write Your First Draft

To get started, simply choose one topic on your outline that seems easiest or most interesting to you at this particular moment. Write on that topic. Keep doing this and soon you’ll have a first draft.

Sounds easy, right? Sometimes it is. But sometimes, well…not so much. With that in mind, here are some practical tips to help you stay sane and happy as you write.

1. Don’t start at the beginning. I know, I know. This is completely counter-intuitive. But here’s the thing about the beginning: you can’t know exactly what it should be until you’ve written the rest. And you don’t want to spend hours trying to find just the right way to introduce your topic only to scrap the entire section later on. Plus, the beginning is where most of us get stuck. So dive right in.

For example, if you’re about to write about 4-7-8 breath, start writing the directions of how to do it and why it’s important without trying to write an introductory sentence. You’ll come back later and add that in, once you see what is needed. Or, you might discover you didn’t even need one at all.

2. Let it be terrible. Seriously. Let yourself write a perfectly dreadful first draft. That’s what first drafts are for: to get the ideas out of your head and onto the page. Revising comes later. So kindly invite your inner critic to go take a nice long Savasana, and then write without worrying about whether it’s good or not. And in the same vein…

3. Don’t edit as you go. Just write. When it comes to writing, we have two brains: the writing brain and the editing brain. They do not work well together. In fact, they absolutely must be separated in order to create anything of value. Writing brain is creative and messy and spontaneous. If it feels criticized in any way, it shuts down entirely. Editing brain, on the other hand, is thoughtful and exacting and prizes clarity above vision. It is absolutely necessary, but it shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near a first draft.

4. Let your own unique voice come out. It’s always amazing to me, as an editor who specializes in working with the yoga community, how many yoga teachers think they have to make their writing sound dry and scientific. In fact, exactly the opposite is true. Let your writing sound like you! It’s what sets you apart from everyone else and makes people resonate with what you say. Don’t try to be formal or “spiritual” if that’s not your voice. Let your real personality permeate your writing.

5. Don’t worry about length. Your opt-in can be as long or as short as it needs to be. Most free opt-ins I’ve seen fall somewhere between three and 25 pages.

Write until your first draft is done. Then it’s time to…

Revise

Before you get to this step, give yourself some time away. How much time depends on how long your piece is. A few pages? Give yourself a day. Ten chapters? See if you can take a full week. The time away is imperative as it lets you come back with a fresh eye. If you’re too close to a work, it’s hard to see what it needs.

Once you’ve had a break, follow these steps:

• Print out what you’ve written and read it all the way through. Printing it is important, as reading it on paper will help you to see overall structure in a way that reading it on a screen doesn’t. Write notes as you go for anything you want to change or add, but don’t do the actual edits yet.

When you’re done reading and ready to edit, first change any “big picture” issues such as reorganizing, adding, or cutting sections. Don’t fix typos or sentences until you’ve done this! Otherwise you can end up spending hours fixing a paragraph that you realize later that you have to cut.

After you’ve done the big picture edits, go through section by section to tighten, edit, and generally clean things up. Make any of the changes you’ve noted on your read-through. Reword if needed to make sentences easier to understand. Shoot for clarity: the clearer you can be, the better.

This step might take some time, depending on how long your piece is. Allow it to take as long as it needs. And one big caveat here: as you tighten, don’t lose your writing voice!

Now you have a second draft…

Give Your Second Draft to 1 to 5 Friends

Choose a few friends you trust, people who will be happy to read your opt-in and offer feedback in a timely fashion. Unless your friends are writers and editors, however, they probably won’t know what to look for, so it’s helpful to give them some guidelines. Here’s what I suggest: if they are reading on a screen, ask them to highlight anything they really like in yellow, anything that is confusing in orange, and anyplace they get bored in blue. Ask them to mark anything else by writing their own note next to it in red type. (You can use Word Track Changes for this as well, but most people find it confusing, so I’d suggest the simpler method).

Incorporate the Feedback

This is pretty self-explanatory…with one note. If everyone gives you the same feedback, it’s pretty likely that it’s right. But not all feedback is created equal. If you disagree with what someone says, decide if it’s just your ego not liking criticism or if you really don’t think the suggestion serves your writing. It’s okay to ignore feedback if it’s not right for what you’ve created. Always remember — you’re the writer. You have the final say.

Once you’ve incorporated all the feedback from your friends, read your opt-in again. Make any last changes you want to make.

Add Images if You Want 

I suggest doing this after the editing mainly because it’s clunky to send a Word document to someone when it has images in it — the layout gets wonky and hard to read. However, if images are vital to understanding, you might want to include them before you get feedback from friends.

A note on images: make sure you have the rights to use them. Taking an image from the internet and using it without permission is in fact a breach of asteya, so stay in your integrity and seek out or pay for images that you can use legally. Ideally, use your own. If you can’t do that, either search for Creative Commons images, which are free for many purposes, or purchase images from a stock photo company such as IStockphoto. In either case, be sure to read the licensing agreement to assure that your use is allowed.

Final Proofread!

I’m going to throw a wrench in the works here: don’t do the final proofread yourself. As the writer, you’re too close to the material. You know what you meant to say. Your eye will skim right over typos such as “as” instead of “is,” not to mention all the places where you’re not really sure if there should be a comma or not.

There are several options for finding a proofreader, and much of it depends on the length of your project and also the purpose. I’m a professional editor, so of course I’m going to be skewed to that side of things — but you really don’t always need to hire a professional. If you’ve written something short, it’s far more likely you know someone who can do a good proofread for you. An English teacher, a writer friend, or a friend who reads a lot might be able to catch most errors.

You may know someone who can do a good proofread for a longer work as well. Ask around. Maybe you have a student who is an English teacher and would love to trade for some privates.

If you do decide to hire a freelance editor, expect them to charge by the word or the hour. Shop around and find one who will understand what you’re writing about and fits your needs and budget.

And, if you do decide to do your own proofreading, here’s some of the best directions I’ve ever seen. 

Make it look nice, and convert to a PDF!

This section could be its own article, so I’ll just say the basics here. You can be as simple or complex as you want on this step — as long as it looks professional when you’re done. If you’re not a designer, it’s often worthwhile to hire one. Again, you may know someone who can do this for you, so ask around!

If you choose to do this yourself, don’t try to do it in Word or another word processing program. They aren’t meant to work for design or layout, so you’ll probably spend a lot of time being frustrated. Work instead in InDesign or in an online design service.

Voilà! Congratulations! You now have a beautiful, professional opt-in for your list.

How To Set Up Your Opt-in Delivery System  

The first thing you’ll want to do is create an enticing opt-in form for your website, either a pop-up or something that greets visitors on your home page. How to do this varies depending on how and with whom you’ve designed your website. I use Bloom by Elegant Themes to design my opt-ins, but WordPress also has free options. Create an opt-in form that matches the tone and look of your website, with some simple wording, such as:

  • Get My Very Best 10-Minute Yoga Routine for Anxiety, FREE
  • Join the community and get five recipes for my Favorite Post-Ashtanga Energy Smoothies!
  • Want better sleep? Grab my free guide to Yoga Nidra and get your best sleep yet!

A great way to figure out wording is to bounce around to a few different yoga sites online and see how they word it (and what they offer).

Next, set up an automated email reply in whatever email host you use. I use MailChimp, which is free up to 2000 subscribers and fairly easy to use. Write a thank-you email that includes a link to your freebie, and then set it as an automatic email to new subscribers. That way, it all happens behind the scenes.

You can keep this email really simple. Here’s an example of an automated reply email:

Dear *[FNAME]*,

Thank you for joining Yoga For Dancers! I’m so glad to have you here. We have an amazing community, and I’ll be emailing you a few times a month with recipes, playlists, and yoga practices just for dancers.

Follow this link to download your free Fix The Turnout with Yoga! PDF. You’ll have it in a 5…6…7…8!

Namaste, and Dance On!

How To Market Your Opt-in

You’ve written this wonderful freebie, and now you want to get the word out to people. There are many ways to do this, so this article will cover just a few of the most basic.

• Post to any social media pages or groups you are part of, including your own. Include a post that tells people what the freebie is and what problem it solves, and then link to your website opt-in page.

• Reach out to bloggers or people with a following who might share your same audience. Let them know what you’ve created, and ask if it might be of interest to their community.

• Look for forums on topics that overlap with yours. Also Reddit and Quora groups. For example, with the 10 Minute Routine for Anxiety, you might find a Reddit where people share tips to help with insomnia or a forum for people who have lost their jobs. Think as creatively as possible about this!

• Send an email to your current list inviting them to download your freebie. Follow up with another email that has a link to your opt-in, and ask them to share with any of their friends who might find it useful.

• Announce your freebie to your classes, or put out a sign up sheet for people who are interested. Some studios don’t allow this, however, so be sure to ask first. And if your studio doesn’t allow that, you can certainly still announce your freebie and tell people your website name so they can go sign up themselves.

Whatever kind of freebie you create, don’t worry if it isn’t perfect. It doesn’t have to be. If you infuse it with your love, heart, and knowledge, it is enough — and you may be surprised what it means to people.

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Lori Snyder

Lori Snyder is the creator of Yoga:edit, which offers writing and editing services to the yoga community. A writer, book editor, yoga teacher, and former yoga studio owner, Lori particularly loves helping yoga teachers hone in on their unique writing voice and write the books they want to write.
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