How To Create A Useful Content Upgrade In Under 30 Minutes Using Canva

Last week I was talking about the best ways to boost engagement on your list, but for a lot of entrepreneurs the more pressing concern is how to encourage people to subscribe in the first place. And a couple of weeks ago I was sharing with you the best types of lead magnets to use to grow your list.

While lead magnets are incredibly powerful they are also very time consuming to create and tend to require a lot of resources. They also need to be relatively generic so that they are relevant for most if not all of your ideal clients.

Content Upgrades offer an easy and simple way to consistently build your list by offering an opt-in at the end of your blog posts. These offers will be directly relevant to the blog post your audience are reading, and as such are pretty much guaranteed to be something people are interested in reading more about right then, in the moment.

They’re also much faster to create and don’t require nearly as much in the way of time and resources.

And yet, so many entrepreneurs aren’t using this super-simple list-building tactic because of the need to design content upgrades.

It can be a daunting prospect.

Luckily, it’s incredibly easy to do with one great and freely available tool: Canva.

And the best part? It will take you less than 30 minutes…

Create A New Document

Go to Canva and login. If you don’t have an account you will need to create one — it is free, although you can upgrade to a paid version with more options for $10/month. Everything I’m doing here can be done in the free version!

Once you’re logged in you will see a quick access bar at the top of the page:

From here you can create all the most commonly used file types and sizes. If you can’t see what you want, click ‘More’ and it will load the full library, and if you need something very specific you can click the ‘Use Custom Dimensions’ button and add your own size specifications.

For this example we’re going to create an A4 document, so select the ‘A4’ template in the middle of the options.

It will open a new tab containing a blank document. To the left side you will find the toolbar, which will default to show you templates you can use. You can absolutely load one of these up and use it to create your content upgrade, but I’m going to walk you through how to do one from scratch for two reasons:

  1. You might not like any of the layouts and want to create your own.
  2. It will show you how to do everything needed to fully customise an existing template to your brand and requirements.

The name of your document will default to the type of template you’ve used and ‘untitled document’. In this case it’s ‘A4 — Untitled Document’. If you look at the top of the page you will see this towards the right hand side. Click on it and a blank dialogue box will appear called ‘Design title’. Add your own custom title for the document here — this is really important if you’re going to be creating more than one (and believe me, you will!), as it helps you see at a glance which is which even if they look very similar in the preview.

Create Your Cover Page

Now you have your document setup you will want to start by creating an eye-catching cover page. I like to use a full page image as the cover and then add a title section over it. To do this, go to the ‘Elements’ tab on the left side of the page, and select ‘Grids’:

A selection of different options will appear giving you a choice of how you divide the page. There are loads of combinations to play around with but for this one I’m going to use the very first option, which adds a frame the full size of the page:

Now you will want to add a section for your title. You can add text directly over your image, but this can make it very difficult to read your title and you want it to grab people’s attention, and clearly indicate what your content upgrade is.

That means adding something between your image and your text. There are a few things you can do but the simplest is to add a colour block. Go to the ‘Elements’ tab again, and select ‘shapes’ this time:

You will be shown a wide selection of different shapes to choose from. Circles can work very well, and there are more elaborate options like stars, but the simplest choice is often the best. Here I’ve selected a square. Click on it and the edges will offer you options to resize, with a rotate button located in the centre of the bottom edge. You can also click and drag to move your shape around. I’ve moved this one to the very bottom of the page and resized it so that it creates a nice bold bar across the base:

To add your title text, to to the ‘Text’ tab on the left side of the page. There are three default sizes of font that appear, a large title, a small regular size, and a medium subheading size.

Select the largest, add the title of your content upgrade, and position it over you colour block. You can change the colour of both your text and any shapes you create by clicking the item you want to change, then the coloured square at the top of the page. A dropdown will appear with a range of options to choose from. You can click the + button and add the hex code of your brand colours, or use one of the existing options:

Now, return to the ‘Text’ tab and add a subheading. Change the colour to your desired brand colour, and make sure it’s the right size. It’s likely you will need to change the font sizes on text from the default, which you can do using the drop down font size menu located towards the top left:

You can also change the font you are using to your brand font by using the dropdown font menu next to it. If your fonts don’t appear in the dropdown it’s because they’re not standard fonts carried by Canva. (The premium version allows you to upload custom fonts, and set a lot of brand defaults like fonts, colours and logos.)

Make sure both your titles are in your brand fonts and colours, in the best size, and positioned nicely in the box:

Find a great, on-brand, royalty free image to use as your cover image. I tend to use Pixabay for mine, but there are other great sites where you can get free stock photos, as well as paid stock sites for more bespoke images. Simply search the site for what you’re looking for and choose from the range of images available:

Once you’ve found a suitable image, click on it and then download it in the right size — the full size images tend to be very large, and aren’t usually necessary, but you still want a good image resolution, so either select the ‘large’ option, or the ‘full size’ option, and click ‘Download’:

Back in Canva, navigate to the ‘Upload’ tab on the left side and click ‘Upload your own images’:

Select the image file you just downloaded. It will appear directly beneath the ‘Upload your own images’ button, with a progress bar showing how far along in the upload process your file is. You will need to wait for it to fully upload before downloading your finished design, but you can edit in the interim.

Click on the thumbnail of the uploading image and it will appear in the centre of the page you are working on:

Click on the image and drag it over the full page frame we added at the start, until the photo jumps in and fills the frame:

You can change the part of the image that is showing by clicking on the frame and selecting ‘Crop’. The full extent of the image will appear with resizing options, allowing you to enlarge the image and/or move it around until the perfect section is showing in your frame:

Once you’re happy with the positioning, click the tick box to return to normal view:

It’s a good idea to add something that identifies your business to the cover, either in the form of a business name in a small font at the top/bottom of the colour block, or your logo. You can add the former using the small text option in the ‘Text’ tab and the same method we used to create the title:

Create Your Content Pages

Once you’ve got your cover page in place it’s time to start adding your content. There are a few different types of pages you will find you want to include. Depending on the type of freebie you’re creating, you may only need one, or you may need all of them, here’s a quick rundown of the basic pages that are good to include:

  • Cover page
  • Introduction page — this usually includes either a brief introduction to yourself in the form of a bio, a brief introduction to the freebie, what it is, how to use it etc. or both.
  • Content pages — these are the bulk of your freebie, including your checklist or cheatsheet, workbook pages, or whatever you’re putting together.
  • Offer page — the final page of your freebie where you take the opportunity to make an offer.

We’ll get to all of these but for now I’m going to cover your content pages. This is partly because learning how to create one of these will give you all the skills needed for the others, and partly because you might not need (or want) an intro or offer page.

You can easily add another page to your document using the button at the base of the page (when you have multiple pages this button only appears at the base of the last page):

This will create a nice clean blank page. It’s a good idea to put a little interest on your content pages, beyond the text and any boxes that are needed. One option is to use a colour block, like the one we added to the cover, but I often use an image as a banner or footer.

You can easily add one by returning to the ‘Elements’ tab, selecting ‘Frames’ and choosing from the selection available:

There are lots of different frames to play around with and they all function in the same way as the grid we used on the cover. You can place them anywhere on a page, upload an image, drag it over the frame, and it will pop in and fill the size and shape of the frame you have chosen. There are various options in different shapes, some with borders, some with coloured bands that go across a portion of the image.

For this page I’m going to use a simple rectangle that’s nice and wide but not too tall, and add an on-brand image to it, just as I did for the cover:

You’ll also notice I’ve added a small line of text at the base of the image. I did this by going to the ‘Text’ tab and selecting the smallest size of text available. I’ve then added some copyright information using the copyright symbol, my business name, and the date:

It’s a good idea to include this on every page of your content, to protect it — even though you are giving this content away, you still own the copyright to it. In the event someone downloads it and tries to pass it off as their own, you will be an position to prove you own it.

The other thing I did at this point is add a filter to my images. If you only have one image on the cover for your freebie, this may not be necessary, but if you already use a filter as part of your branding, or you want to give all the images you’re using a nice consistent look it’s a good idea.

To add a filter, simply click on each image, click the ‘Filter’ button that appears at the top left of your design space, and select one of the premade filters. You can also hit ‘Advanced Options’ and play around with the settings to create a custom look. If you do the latter, you will need to copy the code appearing in the bottom right of the filter dialogue box, click on each image in turn, and paste it into the same place.

I personally use the ‘Nordic’ filter on a lot of my images as it keeps things nice and consistent.

Once you’re happy with your header/footer, add some additional text boxes and start filling in your content. In this first example I’m going to create a checklist page by adding a simple text box and filling it with a list:

Reposition your list to the area of the page you want it to appear in, and play around with the size until you’re happy with it. There are a few more useful commands you can use to do this in addition to the font and sizing options we’ve already used:

These are very similar to controls you get in any word processor and may well be familiar to you. To change the alignment, select the box with several lines on it and choose from left, central, or right alignment. To the right of this command is a box that has ‘AA’ on it — clicking this activates an ‘all capitals’ function in your text, which can be very useful. Next to that is the function to add bullet points.

To the left of the alignment box you find standard commands for bold and italics, followed by the colour selector to change the colour of your text and the size and font options we’ve already used. You’ll notice on this example the bold and italic symbols are faded, that’s because they’re not available options with this particular font.

It’s a good idea to add a nice bold title to each section of your content. You can do this using the large text box option, and selecting an appropriate font. I have a ‘fancy font’ as part of the brand guidelines I created for my business, which I use for exactly this purpose. I also used my brand teal colour for the title, and centred it to help it stand out even more.

Once I’d done that I started adding the ‘tick boxes’ for my checklist. There will be times you want to add elements like this and you’re not sure where to find them. You can use the search bar at the top of the control panel on the left of the screen. In this case I searched for ‘tick box’ and it came up with several options:

I selected one I liked, changed the colour to match my brand, and then moved it to the right side of the page opposite my list. You will almost certainly need to resize elements like this so they are a similar height to the line of text they go with.

You may also find you don’t have enough space between the lines on your list. One way to get around this is to simply add a blank line, but that usually adds too much space, so a better way is to click on your text and select ‘spacing’ from the options at the top:

This gives you options to change the letter spacing (the space between letters) and the line spacing (the space between lines). It also allows you to choose if your text is located at the top of your text box, the bottom, or the centre using the ‘Anchor text box’ options at the bottom of the spacing dialogue box.

Once you have your text spaced as you want it, and your first tick box sized correctly and positioned where you want it, select your tick box and click ‘Copy’ at the top right of your design area to duplicate it:

You can repeat this as often as you need until you have enough tick boxes for your list. You will now have several elements for a single section of your page. It’s a good idea to group these elements together once you have everything exactly where you want it. That way, you can move everything around together in one go, if needed, resize it all so it remains in alignment, or copy the whole group at once. This all saves a lot of time and is super easy to do.

Click at the top left of the area containing your element and drag to the bottom right, it will select everything in a box:

When you have multiple elements selected a ‘Group’ box will appear next to the copy box. Click this, and all the elements selected will become a single element you can move around and play with.

For example, you might decide you want two columns, not just one. It’s now easy to resize your checklists, move it over to the left side of the page, copy it, and place the duplicate on the right side of the page:

I actually want to keep this nice and big and bold, so I’m instead going to leave it as it was, and duplicate it to go beneath the first section I created. I’m also going to copy the title I used, and place this between the two lists to divide these sections and keep everything nice and clear:

You’ll notice I’ve changed the text in the duplicate section to include additional content. You will often find that once you have a nice page like this completed you need another one that looks just like it, but with different content in it. This is super simple to do, if you look to the right side of any page in Canva you will see a page number indicating where in the document you are, and beneath this the option to duplicate the page (it shows one rectangle over another). Click this and an exact duplicate of your whole page will appear beneath it:

If you ever find you have too many pages there is also a dustbin icon located beneath the duplicate page icon, clicking this will remove any page. Be careful you don’t accidentally hit delete instead of duplicate! If you do, you can hit Control + Z to undo it (the command may vary if you’re on a Mac).

You will now have a perfect copy of your first page which you can fill in with new content:

You’ll notice I’ve added a different image in addition to changing the text. This helps to keep each page fresh.

There are lots of different types of content you will need other than checklists, so play around with these elements until you have the type of pages you need. Another common format is a worksheet/workbook type of freebie, like the Ideal Client Workbook that I offer with my post on how to improve conversions by defining your ideal client.

Creating ‘work’ pages like this is very simple. You can use the same format with the image header or footer, and the same type of title, but rather than adding a list, you might add a standard block of text or, more frequently, a question followed by a space in which to answer it.

Adding the question is a simple case of adding a text box. To add a space for writing, got to the ‘Elements’ tab and select shapes. Next to the solid block of colour you used for the cover page you will see there are options that have a white border and the inside of the shape is the same as the background of the panel — this means the inside is transparent. Other options that have a white border and a grey inside indicate you can select the colour of the border and the colour of the background within the shape. I tend to use shapes with transparent backgrounds as it’s simpler, but you can do either. Simply select a box (or whatever shape you prefer), make it your brand colour, and then resize it and reposition it so it offers the right amount of space needed to answer your question:

You can then group together your question and answer box, and duplicate it and/or the whole page as many times as you need:

When creating all your content pages have a play around with all these different elements and use them to create the unique layouts you need. Remember, you only need to create one version of each page layout. Once you have it you can simply duplicate it, change the text, and tweak any elements that need to be a little different — for example, you might need larger or smaller boxes for questions requiring more or less space to answer.

Create An Introductory Page

If you decide to use an introductory page it’s a good idea to create one that makes a really good impression. It’s also a great idea to personalise it so people can really connect with you and your business. The best way to do this is to include a photograph of yourself in a prominent place.

Hit ‘Add a new page’ and then go back to the ‘Elements’ tab and select ‘Frames’ again. Choose a nicely shaped frame for your photograph. I’ve chose a simple circle for mine but there are lots of different options. Size and position your shape, then upload your photograph, drag it into the frame, and crop it so the best portion of the image is showing (don’t forget to add your filter if you’re using one!):

That’s a great start but you might want to jazz it up a bit more. I added a colour border to mine by going to ‘Elements’ then ‘Shapes’ and adding a colour block which I resized to form a band of colour spanning the width of the page, but not the full height of the photograph.

Elements automatically get stacked over each other when they are added. Because I added the photo frame first, my colour block is covering it and I want it to be behind it. To change the order of your photos, select the top element, and click ‘Arange’, which is next to the copy button. You can move it forward or backward until it’s in the right order.

Next you will want to add some text. You can add a nice simple text box that takes up most of the rest of the page, and gives you plenty of space for your introduction. It’s also nice to add a big, bold greeting. I’ve added a title text box for this, and positioned it over my colour border.

There are lots of really useful guidelines that will automatically appear as you move things around to help you align them. If you have elements close together they appear to help you line things up along a straight edge, or ensure one element is central over the top of another. In this case, I wanted to centre my greeting on the section of the banner to the right of my image. To do this, I made the text central, and then expanded the text box so it was aligned with the edge of the page, and the edge of the photo:

I then added another title text box at the bottom of the page and used it to ‘sign’ my introduction. This time, I aligned the text to the right, and used the guidelines to make sure it was level with the edge of my introductory text:

Using the guidelines is a really great way of making sure everything stays nice and neat and tidy!

Create An Offer Page

The final page I want to show you how to create is an offer page. Now, before you get carried away and start offering paid services, do remember that the point of your freebie is to encourage readers to subscribe to your list, so you can nurture your relationship with them.

That is the only function of your content upgrade.

It’s not here to sell.

It’s here to convince people being on your list is valuable.

For that reason, it’s usually not a good idea to offer a paid service at the end of your content upgrade. Lead magnets work a little differently, so if you’ve created a mini-course, for example, you can absolutely lead into a paid version of that course at the end. Your readers have already got a ton of value from you and they rather expect it.

But content upgrades, while valuable, are only small chunks of value. A better idea is to use your offer page to encourage people to follow you on your favourite social media platform, or join your Facebook group — something that requires a direct action from them, but doesn’t require them to spend any money.

If you are going to make a paid offer, limit it to a very low-price option that gives people a chance to buy into your business at a nice low price point.

It’s also a good idea to keep your offer page nice and simple. Create another new page, and this time, don’t add any photo frames to it. Instead, add a nice bold, compelling headline, something that draws people in — a question is a good idea.

You can then follow this with a simple series of points or follow up questions that highlight a particular problem or issue your readers are facing. Use two or three lines to demonstrate that you understand their problem, then one more line to tell them you have a solution to it.

Beneath this, make your offer. I copied the nice big colour block I used on the cover page, and pasted it onto the bottom of my offer page. This is a nice way of ‘bookending’ your content upgrade as it gives the first and last page a common element.

I then added a call to action in a nice bold title text box, followed by a URL:

When you’re adding URLs on Canva, or including calls to action, you can actually link the elements you’re using to that URL so that anyone viewing the file as a PDF can click on it and go directly to the page.

To do this, click on the element you want to add a link to, and then select the link button from the top right of your design area, paste in your URL and click ‘Apply’:

Rearrange Your Pages

Once you have all your pages in place you may decide they would be better in a different order. You may also find you want to create a new page using the layout of an earlier page, but can’t use the duplicate function because the pages are not next to each other.

In either case it’s possible to rearrange your pages, or add a new page and copy the full layout of a previous page onto it.

For example, I created the content pages on this content upgrade before I did the introductory page. My introductory page now comes after the content, rather than immediately after the cover page, so I need to move it. Fortunately, this is easily done!

Find the page you want to move and click anywhere on it. Hit Control + A (or the equivalent) and it will select every element on the page:

You can then hit Control + C to copy the entire page. Go to the point in your document you want to move the page to and add a new page where it needs to be by clicking the ‘Duplicate page’ button. Select everything on the duplicate page and hit delete to give you a clean page. Now, click anywhere on the page and hit Control + V and it will paste the whole of the page you copied onto the new page.

Go back to the original page and delete it.

You can use exactly the same method to copy the layout of a previous page and paste it only a new page as you’re creating your document.

Check And Download

Once you’re happy with all your pages and have added all your content, have a check through every page. Proofread your text, make sure everything is aligned properly and you’ve included all the elements you need.

When you’re sure everything is perfect, click save, or Control + S and then hit the download button at the top right of the page. It will give you options for file types, a PDF is usually the best bet, but you may need different file types depending on the type of upgrade you created. Select the best type and hit ‘Download’:

And that’s it, you’re done!

Creating content upgrades in Canva is super-simple and, once you’ve got the hang of it, incredibly quick and easy. The best part is that once you have one created, you can save it as a template and reuse it as many times as you need, making the creation of future content upgrades even quicker. Make sure you don’t miss a trick while you’re designing and download my FREE Content Upgrade Creation Checklist now…

Originally published at on May 16, 2018.




Business Development & Optimisation Consultant with a serious soft spot for CX, Digital Marketing, SEO and Analytics.

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Robyn Kyberd

Robyn Kyberd

Business Development & Optimisation Consultant with a serious soft spot for CX, Digital Marketing, SEO and Analytics.

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