There is something about spreadsheets that evokes fervor amongst blog readers of all breeds.

Like, I’m not bs-ing ya – they seriously go nuts over them!


Go to any Facebook blogging group and scroll through the feed – I bet you’ll find at least a few threads that back this assertion up.

So, why not offer a content upgrade to your readers using spreadsheets?

You may end up growing your subscriber list.

Spreadsheet content upgrade ideas

Depending on your niche, the type of spreadsheet-based content upgrade you’ll want to offer may already be a no-brainer.

Otherwise, you’ll want to approach it in the same manner as you would for any other type of content upgrade you create – you’ll want to identify a problem that your niche has that a spreadsheet will (help) solve.

If you are struggling to come up with ideas, check out this *drumroll* FREE content upgrade (no email required!) that contains 27 content upgrade ideas using spreadsheets!

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Depending on the nature of your spreadsheet content upgrade, you may find it easy to create a premium version of it to sell, or you may even opt to simply sell the exact same spreadsheets that you just taught your peeps how to create…like I did in this post about managing Pinterest activities [Okay, so this admittedly isn’t exactly a content upgrade anymore.]

Tell me this isn’t brilliant…not what I did, but the concept in general 😉

Another blogger did the latter, and the insane reaction to her (very basic) budgeting templates shows that gals are happy to drop coin on some seriously simplistic spreadsheets.

Look, I’m saying that you don’t need to be a spreadsheet goddess to snag a piece of this pie.

Logistics for packaging up your spreadsheets

So, I’m going to assume that you already have a rad spreadsheet that you are either ready to give away or sell. Now what? Fist, you’ll need to make a few decisions:

  1. Whether you want to protect your formulas from being either overridden or seen.
  2. Whether you want to make your spreadsheets compatible across platforms (e.g. Google Sheets, Excel, Apple Numbers).
  3. Whether you want to brand your spreadsheets.
  4. Whether you are going to change any customizations you made (e.g. custom fonts you purchased that your subscribers don’t own).
  5. How you are going to distribute your workbook.
  6. Whether you are going to offer troubleshooting help and to what extent.

Let’s touch base on each of these points.

1. Protecting your formulas from being either overridden or seen

Protecting your formulas from users accidentally overriding them is smart because broken formulas aren’t very helpful.

Maybe you want to hide your formulas so that they aren’t easily copied by evil copycats who want to steal your work.

Excel lets you do both. Google sheets only lets you do the former (boo!).

Here’s how to protect a cell or range of cells from being either deleted or viewed in Excel:

  1. Select the cell or cells you want to protect => right-click => ‘Format Cells’ => ‘Protection’ tab => select ‘Locked’ to simply prevent deletion, ‘Hidden’ to prevent viewing, or both => ‘OK’.
  2. If you want to protect additional cells, repeat this process.
  3. In the ‘Review’ tab in the ribbon, go to the ‘Protection’ section and select ‘Sheet’ => enter a password and re-enter the password => ‘OK’.

Here’s how to protect a cell or range of cells from being deleted in Google Sheets:

Select the cell or cells you want to protect => right-click => ‘Protect range’ => select ‘Range’ to protect just one or more cells or ‘Sheet’ to protect the whole darn sheet =>’Set permissions’ => select ‘Restrict who can edit this range’ and select ‘Only you’ => click ‘Done’.

Yippee! Your spreadsheet is now protected! Rinse and repeat for each spreadsheet in your workbook.

You can test how well this worked by trying to type in the protected cells – Excel and Google Sheets will throw a hissy fit if you were successful.

To unprotect your sheet so that you can edit it, click ‘Sheet’ again and enter your password.

That’s it.

In the spreadsheet below, I have a complex formula that calculates monthly expenses based on a user’s selection. I definitely don’t want the user to be able to override this formula! Here’s a short gif that shows you how simple it is to protect this cell:

How to Create Spreadsheet Content Upgrades

*Very important: remember the password you chose (if you are using Excel), because there is no password recovery option!

2. Making your spreadsheets compatible across platforms

Before launching Darling Little Spreadsheets, I polled a large Facebook group for bloggers about their preferences for spreadsheet platforms.

Did they prefer Excel or Google Sheets? Most reported that they didn’t care which platform it was created in, so long as they could use it on their preferred platform. Those who did prefer one over the other preferred Excel to everything, with Google Sheets coming in at a not-so-distant second.

What does this mean for you?

It means that you can create your spreadsheet in either Google Sheets or Excel.

Watch out, though!

Some formatting may be lost, and some protections may not be possible to retain if your end user accesses it through a different platform than that which you used to create it. So, if you don’t want to field a lot of troubleshooting questions, test drive your finished workbook using both Excel and Google Sheets and make any necessary tweaks before you distribute it.

Aren’t sure about which platform makes the most sense, all else equal? Here are a few considerations:

  • Will your user want to be able to use the spreadsheets on the go? Use Google Sheets.
  • Do you prefer working with a platform that has brand recognition and a greater number of users? Use Excel.
  • Does a large proportion of your users use Macs? Go with Google Sheets.
  • However, at the end of the day, as long as you spend a little time verifying that your spreadsheet works in both platforms, and you communicate to your readers how to access it from either platform, it doesn’t really matter which one you use.

In case you are concerned that your user won’t know what to do with a particular file format:

  • If you create it in Google Sheets, simply instruct your Excel users to click ‘File’ => ‘Download as’ => ‘Microsoft Excel (.xlsx)’.
  • If you create it in Excel, simply instruct your Google Sheets users to upload it to their Google Drive. Then right-click on the file => ‘Open with’ => ‘Google Sheets’.

3. Branding your spreadsheets

This is similar to watermarking an image – it serves to both protect your workbook from theft and helps others identify your work.

Plus, it just looks really rad when your spreadsheets contain your logo and match your branding!

Of course, branding your spreadsheets doesn’t guarantee that they won’t get copied or stolen, but it does protect them from all but the most determined spreadsheet burglar.

Don’t know how to add your logo or otherwise make your spreadsheets pretty? Check out this post on how to do both (it’s mostly for Excel users, as there is no close equivalent in Google Sheets). Also, check out my FREE guide From Spreadsheet Virgin to Goddess in 30 Minutes, which walks you through how to style your spreadsheets in both platforms.

*Note: if you save a styled spreadsheet as a template, you won’t have to recreate the wheel each time.

4. Changing customizations

Custom fonts rock!

Alas, 99.9% of our readers probably don’t own the same non-standard/universal fonts as us.

This means is that Excel or Google is going to convert your gorgeous, premium font to something else for your readers, and that ‘something else’ is likely going to be a wee bit unattractive.

Not only that, but your font size will remain unchanged, and your whole spreadsheet may look a bit wretched.

So, when choosing fonts for your spreadsheets, I’d strongly suggest using fonts that are native to both Google docs and Excel, including:

  • Arial
  • Calibri
  • Cambria
  • Comic Sans MS (but really, this font screams 1990s and should be banished)
  • Courier New
  • Georgia
  • Impact
  • PT Sans Narrow
  • Times New Roman
  • Trebuchet
  • Verdana

Other customizations like row height may not carry over either. I’ve run into this problem, and it’s really a bitch!

If you know of a way to prevent row heights from changing between Google Sheets and Excel, please do share in the comments below.

Here’s your recap to maximize the likelihood that everything will look lovely on every platform:

  1. Don’t use custom fonts; do use a font that both Excel and Google Sheets include in their default options.
  2. Avoid changing your font sizes, especially if you insist on using a non-standard font.
  3. Avoid changing your row height, especially if you insist on using a non-standard font.
  4. If you created your file in Excel, open it using Google Sheets and vice versa. Correct any weirdness you observe.

5. Distributing your workbook

Now that your workbook is optimized and looking fabulous across platforms, you need a method of delivery. Here are some options:

  • If you created it using Google Sheets, you’ll need to create a shareable link:
    1. Click the blue ‘Share’ button at the upper left of your screen => ‘Get shareable link’ => ‘More…’ => select ‘On – Anyone with the link’*. Then,
    2. Copy the link and click ‘Done’.
    3. Embed this URL wherever you want (e.g. in your LeadPages opt-in, email, or even in your blog post).
    4. Inform your peeps that they should make a copy of the workbook if they intend to edit it.

*Very important: make sure that the ‘Anyone with the link can view’ option is selected. Also, make sure that you don’t move this file once you’ve created the link, as people won’t be able to access it if you do.

  • If you created it using Excel or Apple Numbers, you can either:
    1. Upload it to Google Drive and repeat the same steps for sharing a Google Sheets doc*. OR,
    2. You can upload it to Dropbox and share access that way. OR,
    3. You can upload the file to WordPress and save it to a password-protected page, embed it in a blog post, etc. OR,
    4. Well, do whatever you want!

*Note: Google Sheets allows users to view Excel files in its preview mode, and it will offer to convert Excel files into Google Sheets files. Can you say wicked?!

6. Troubleshooting

If you offer a spreadsheet as a content upgrade, be prepared to field user questions.

Something isn’t going to work, or someone who doesn’t know much about spreadsheets will have questions about how to do things.

Here are my tips for minimizing troubleshooting requests:

  1. Adopt a set of rules that govern how you explain spreadsheet-related formatting instructions and consistently adhere to them (see this post for how I address this).
  2. Offer short videos or gifs that demonstrate how to use your workbook.
  3. Encourage your readers to post their questions in the comments section below your post, and encourage other readers to jump in and answer any questions if they’d like. So, this isn’t minimizing the requests, but it may help to reduce how much time you spend responding to questions.

That’s it!

Now, why not offer a content upgrade in the form of a spreadsheet and watch your email list grow?!

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I’d love to know whether you have offered spreadsheets at content upgrades or lead magnets before and, if you have, how well they converted. Also, if you have any awesome ideas for spreadsheet-based content upgrades, please share them below!

Download my FREE spreadsheet with 27 spreadsheet-based content upgrade ideas for you to grow your list.