How to Create a Free Guide

As a blogger, you are going to reach a point where you need to start working harder to provide value than just the blog posts you create. In so doing, you will be improving ways to gather your audience’s attention. The one thing you are writing this blog for is an audience otherwise you’ll be a lonely person talking to the four walls. It is easy to become caught in tunnel vision in blogging, thinking that simply the blog will be enough. Even if you are working to a non-profit agenda, you still want to provide value to an audience otherwise you won’t be discovered.

Creating a guide and marketing it gives you some good lessons in marketing a product on your site, using enticement to grow your audience and start building a tribe, and form a connection between a success for your reader and you.

No matter what anybody says, it is good value to generate a guide and I’ll elaborate more on how and why.

  • Providing value
  • Marketing lessons
  • Audience retention lessons

Incentive – A guide that people want (for free)

Think back to when you have been in need of information and you have been on a search of the Internet via your engine of choice. You’ve typed in your search phrase in hopes that you will find that solution which fits the bill. How much more valuable are those guides that are downloadable, printable, compared to those that are static and confined to the dimensions of a blog? The answer should be obvious. Good guides are the ones you keep.

There has been some debate among lofty bloggers on whether you should offer a free guide or not. My thoughts are that if you try to provide something useful it is better than nothing at all and it should at least focus you to develop methods to squeeze your audience and get into the habit of targeting viewing goals.

One of my favourite Big Wig Bloggers, Pat Flynn, offers a comprehensive free guide with his mailing list signup. The eBook is a valuable document but acts as a brilliant enticement to remain with the mailing list. The best part is that you get a comprehensive guide for free. You know that Pat has spent many hours crafting a guide that can provide you with exactly the right information to help you.

Many sites provide this kind of free guide.

  • Good guides are the ones that are kept
  • An offering is better than no offering
  • Outward signs of time spent and value added

So Why Not a Paid Guide?

In order for a paid guide to be valuable, somebody has to have gone first. When you start talking about a paid guide, you are talking about a product but it has to be good.

With a free guide it can start out average. It can be short of focus. Expectations are lower. It’s free.

But actually, it has to fulfill a use. The more useful a free guide is, the better.

  • Has actionable merit
  • Can be short of focus
  • Must be useful

What are the Benefits of Writing a Free Guide?


The audience will get used to your writing style and may be more likely to purchase a book from you.

The act of writing a blog (that doesn’t operate through a membership) is the fact that you give away free content every time you post. You may expend several hours into this task per shot in hopes that by striking on the right solution or view you’ll tap the ‘mother lode’ of audience you seek. Audience builds with time, you lose some followers for a number of reasons, then gain more when you start doing things right.

  • Your showcase
  • A route to doing things right

The Act of Giving

With a free guide, you give the audience a bit extra, something they can take away via a handy download. That guide will rest on their computer, tablet, phablet or phone and if they review it more than once, it may serve to remind them to come back to the source for more goodies.

The good news about giving is that it can end in receiving. Another word for this is reciprocity. The beauty of something free is that each individual will decide how they repay you.

  • return again
  • sign up to your mailing list
  • endorse you
  • share something of yours
  • buy a book you wrote
  • complete a purchase through your affiliate link
  • become a client

You can’t demand these forms of repayment but you can improve your chances by providing quality.

Let it Shine

A successful free guide has to be valuable. In other words, the content within has to do a stand up job. The guide needs to shine. Think of it as your foot in the door. The little taster they give away at a supermarket. It has to taste good; not too salty nor too sweet.

Balance comes from feedback so you need some friends who have an affinity for the niche you are in or maybe a client or avid fan of yours. As mentioned above, it has to be a solution that your audience has a burning desire to remedy.

Keep it Simple (Stupid)

Your free guide needs to be less involved than a novel but enough to give the audience something to savour. Anything over 50 pages is too much because you are invariably giving too much away for free and spending too long on it.

The beauty is that you can start out simple and develop your free guide as you go along so eventually you can pass those 50 pages. I wouldn’t recommend writing a big guide up front. 10 pages max for issue 1.

Don’t go too cheap though. A thin 1 page guide might not cut it.

  • Less than 50 pages
  • More than 1 page
  • 10 pages max for issue 1

With content you already have

Say you had an eBook on Amazon (for example)…

You could make it permanently free and it could serve as your free guide. Better still, it has already been reviewed and had value at some point. Some of your material will reach a maturity point, a level where demand tops out and then recedes. You can’t expect to be a bestseller on your first try or see interest in your book run evergreen. At the very least you can make it work for you.

Taking Guides Further

Once you have a guide you can take it further, the sky is the limit.

Establishing a guide takes the time and effort but once you start getting people interested in the content and it becomes fuller of form, you can take it a few stages further.

A Solicited Guide

This goes further to cementing your authority. You can take a free guide you have had in plain sight on your website and both enlarge and focus it to provide valuable content. You can then float it on a variety of paid platforms such as Amazon and Kobo.

3 NEED TO DOs for Professional quality:-

  1. Hire an editor or at the least, Beta readers, possibly both. Even though your guide turned IP may have garnered interest, it may not quite hit the right buttons for the commercial realm. A line editor will ensure all idiot spelling and grammar faux pas have been remedied. An explorative editor will ensure that your book makes sense to the audience you are pitching it to and will fill in the gaps. Beta readers will spot gaps and errors quickly and with enough readers should do a good job of polishing your final piece. Editors observe your work with a critical eye and will adjust or suggest changes that will lift your work beyond. They do this as a living so are good at it.
  2. Invest in a decent cover image. Image is everything. This can aid you considerably in standing out against the crowd. If you have the graphic ability and the time, create your own!
  3. Let people know. It seems obvious but if people don’t know about what you have crafted they are much less likely to find it. You will need to use social media in order to perform this task (and your blog too). There are other ways to get noticed. Placing printed copies in coffee shops and other public dwellings might be a good way to go.

All of these things take either money or resources but at least if you’ve already developed the guide as a free item, you know where the value is. You are not going to waste time on a guide that was barely touched.

Lifting From Your Posts

It is possible to put a book together from your successful articles. Darren Rowse, over at, put together a guide from a month’s articles based entirely on Twitter aids for bloggers. If he can do it, you can!

  • Focus on those articles that did well (lots of views, comments and shares).
  • Focus on those articles that have some degree of after-glow (relevant for long periods).
  • The guide can include more images than you originally included. Images that complement the content are likely to boost the value of the solution.

In Closing

A comment and share are always appreciated.

Incidentally, my free guide over at covers the issue of Writer’s Block. If you have trouble putting together something or just get stuck, some of the details may be useful to you. Whilst the guide is aimed at novel-writing, there are many development aspects that you can apply.


*Might not actually save your life.

Image Credits

Feature Image Sourced from Pixabay by DariuszSankowski

6 Comments How to Create a Free Guide

  1. Ahmad Imran

    Jackson, providing a free ebook or guide to audience is something which I have never done and to be honest, I don’t know how will I do that. I just feel that I am not qualified enough to write something like a book which my audience can you as a reference. I think it will be a disservice to them.

    Call me a fool or naive, but this is how I see it. I have seen many websites and bloggers who give away this as a freebie to capture email address. People like Jon Morrow ( does that and I am not saying that it is incorrect. In fact, if anything, this is exactly what is needed. I have seen your guide at JackoWrites as well, good work.

    This idea is cooking in me, who knows one day I am writing one for my website too :), nice write-up, take care and bye for now.
    Ahmad Imran recently crafted…SiteGround WordPress Hosting Experience – My Yearly ReviewMy Profile

    1. Jackson Davies

      Hi Ahmad,

      You have to have a grand problem that your audience needs to solve in order to strike on a good guide so if there is nothing obvious then its best to carry on with producing standard content until you feel there is a burning desire.

      I have found that if you focus on a core concept for a time, you will find a topic that you can expand on into a standalone guide. There is always something that needs to be tackled in a certain way and through experiences you’ve gained you can help steer a positive outcome.

      As I know that you focus on Android tech, I’m sure there is something you could explore that would provide suitable weight to an eBook. By now you’ve covered a number of models of mobile phone and looked at a few variants of the chrome book. Is there a guide you could create to tell the audience what to look for?

      I like your visual presentation style a lot. I admit to being envious of how you setup your watermarks and the image selection you use. Maybe there is a guide in that by means of the software you use and how you organise your images?

      I think that if you take a look at most of the larger bloggers you will find they have a guide of some form as enticement. Unfortunately, the mailing list is not an easy opt-in and it is even harder keeping people so a free eBook goes some way to providing the incentive. Of course, as mentioned, it has to be useful.

      If you need any assistance, give me a shout, always happy to help.

      1. Ahmad Imran

        Jackson, I think I definitely agree with your point, I am somewhere in the middle, a couple of 3,500 words articles are already published which can be converted to guides – but with refinement and as you said, a larger burning question to answer for your readers.

        Thanks for the advice. Will definitely think about guides :)) – have a nice week ahead.
        Ahmad Imran recently crafted…LG G5 Macro Performance Review With 10 Sample ShotsMy Profile

        1. Jackson Davies

          Sounds like you already have a plan Stan! 🙂

          I think guides are worth some investment in time. I have two written for Blog Prefect but in order to launch them I need to make some adjustments first so that they are visible.

          That is a point for another article. Visibility.

          Best wishes and I hope you have a good week too!



  2. Tony

    In my opinion, free guide is the thing that many people want it and they don’t know about it yet. It must be something they can follow and get success. Maybe not much, but it’s required. Didn’t talk about e-book yet, but when I write an online tutorial or how-to article, it must tell readers how to do it, step by step or write in a form that they will easy to understand and follow up.
    Tony recently crafted…Fix Your Connection Is Not Private Error In Google ChromeMy Profile

    1. Jackson Davies

      Hi Tony,

      Thanks for your comment and welcome to

      I agree with all of your points and the how-to guide that is linked through on commentluv is a good indication of the kind of “need to fix” topic that a free guide should cover.

      Making it easy can be the hardest step sometimes. You don’t want to drown people in information but you want to give them enough to correct it.

      Having a successful yet achievable goal at the end is also highly valuable. Achievable goals are something you can make use of when marketing your guide. Business eBooks always sell better when they have positive user testimonials.

      “Product X got me W number of likes in just Y days. Gush gush gush.”


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