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How to Create an Email Newsletter with MailChimp for Free

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Read Time: 8 min

MailChimp offers a high quality email service, and you don't pay a cent until you hit more than 2,000 subscribers. MailChimp calls it "Forever Free".

If you're planning to sell products online, other email newsletter providers, such as Aweber, offer more options for segmenting your lists and targeting particular subscribers.

MailChimp, however, is charming, quirky, and perfect for freelancers looking to stay in touch with clients and prospects once or twice a month. In fact, it powers our FreelanceSwitch newsletter and is a quality service we highly recommend. In this tutorial, you'll learn how to get started with MailChimp for $0.00.

Tutorial Assets

For this tutorial, you will need:

  • A website or blog
  • An email address

The Power of Email Marketing

Email became part of our world in the early 90's. This was a time when kids played SuperMario on the SNES, when if you wanted to "download" a music track your only option was to record it off the radio (or buy the CD or cassette), and when Bill Clinton had just been sworn in as President.

Email has stood by and watched the rise and fall of numerous web technologies and empires - from MySpace to Napster to AOL.

If you’ve got a website or blog, setting up an email list should be the next step in your marketing strategy.

Email is here to stay. If you want to build long-term relationships with your clients and prospects, email should be your tool of choice.

Still not convinced? The stats should win you over.

Back in 2010, research by Exact Target found 62% of internet users start their online day with email. With the rise of smartphones, email has become an even more intimate part of our lives, carried with us everywhere in our pockets.

According to research published this year, 93% of consumers subscribe to at least one brand's email, and 49% of consumers have made a purchase as a direct result of an email marketing message.

If you've got a website or blog, setting up an email list should be the next step in your marketing strategy.

Creating a list doesn't have to be complicated or expensive. In fact, with MailChimp, you can start your email list for free.

1. Sign Up For MailChimp

Step 1: Visit the Chimp

Head over to and click Sign Up Free.

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Step 2: Create Your Account

Enter your email address, and choose a username and password.

When you click Create My Account, you agree to MailChimp's terms. The main things to note are that MailChimp reserve the right to view and review your emails. You're also not allowed to send out spam. (Find out what spam really means here) .

Step 3: Welcome to the Party

Once you've signed up you'll be sent an email filled with typical MailChimp charm.

Click the red button to get things going! You'll be asked to enter a reCAPTCHA phrase to prove you're human and not a spammer.

Step 4: Fill Out Your Details

Now, go to the login page and enter your username and password.

You'll be asked for your name and physical address. You must enter these before you can continue.

You'll also be asked for your website address and industry. MailChimp visits your website and uses it to automagically create a color palette for your newsletter. Entering your industry allows you to see how your newsletter performs compared to others in your sector. Professional Services or Creative Services are good choices for most web-based freelancers.

When you're done, click Save And Get Started.

Step 5: Understand The Lingo

Next, MailChimp introduces you to its jargon. In short:

  • A form is where people sign up to your email list on your website. If you've ever signed up to receive an email newsletter by entering your name and email address, you used a form.
  • A list is the group of people who've filled in your form to receive emails from you. You can have more than one list.
  • Templates are the design of your emails. Once you've created a template, you can use it for as many emails as you like.
  • Every time you send out an email to your list it's called a campaign.

Click Let's Go to move on.

2. Get Subscribers

Step 1: Create a List

Before you can create a form to put on your website, you first need to create a list.

In the MailChimp dashboard, click Create a List.

You'll be asked for several details about your list.

  • The List Name is what you'll use in MailChimp when you're deciding who to send your emails to. If you're only collecting one list of emails, the name doesn't matter too much. "Client Newsletter" would be a good choice.
  • Default From Name is the name that will show up in the inbox of everyone on the list who receives your email.
  • Default Reply-To Email is where emails will be sent if anyone hits reply when you send out an email.
  • Remind People How They Got On Your List. This will show up in the footer of every email you send to the list. For example, "You are receiving this email because you signed up at our website."

After filling out these details, check that your company address is correct.

Under Notifications, you can opt to receive updates whenever your list has a new subscriber.

Finally, you choose whether subscribers can pick between HTML and Plain Text emails. I recommend not selecting this option, as it can confuse potential subscribers who don't understand what it means and put them off from subscribing.

When you're done, click Save.

Step 2: Create a Sign Up Form

Go back to the MailChimp Dashboard, and head to the Lists - it's the third option in the top menu.

Next, click Design Signup Forms - it's the green button in the right hand column.

As you only have one list, MailChimp will assume the form you're creating is for that list.

Creating a sign up form has two stages.

In the Build It stage, you choose which components to include in your form, for example email address, first name, phone number, address, zip code. Drag and drop the components you need on the form.

Hint: The fewer components you choose, the more people will sign up for your list. Unless you've got a good reason to ask for lots of details, I recommend just asking for an email address and first name.

In the Design It stage, you choose the colors for your form. Make sure the background color is a good fit for your website.

Step 3: Share Your Sign Up Form

Once your form is designed, you're ready to share it with the world. In MailChimp's "Create Forms" page, click the Share It tab.

On the right hand side, you'll see a Subscribe Form URL. You can share this URL on your social media accounts. Anyone who clicks the URL will be taken to your sign up form.

One the left hand side, you're given the option to Create Form HTML. This lets you create a sign up form on the sidebar of your website. Click the grey button Create HTML Code For a Small Subscribe Form.

On the next page, you can choose your form type (Super Slim, Classic or Naked).

Click the Options button beside the form type to change the title of the form. The default title is "Subscribe to our mailing list".

When you're done, click Create Embed Code. You can copy and paste the code that appears into a sidebar widget on your blog.

Now anyone who visits your blog can sign up to your email newsletter. Once you've got a few subscribers, you're ready to send your first email.

3. Send Out Your First Email

Step 1: Create Campaign

On the MailChimp Dashboard head to the Campaigns Page - it's the second option in the top menu.

Then click the red button Create Campaign. Select "Regular Ol' Campaign".

On the next page, you'll be asked to choose which list to send the campaign to. Select your list, then click Next Step.

Step 2: Name Your Campaign

Give your campaign a name. If you're sending out a monthly newsletter, you might simply call it "June 2013 Newsletter". Your subscribers don't see the name of the campaign.

You're also asked for an email subject. Your subscribers do see this. Write a subject that will entice them to open the email.

Leave all the other options selected. You want to personalize the To: field, Track Opens and Track Clicks.

Click Next Step.

Step 3: Choose Your Template

You're now given a range of options for designing your email template. You can create your own if you like using the drag and drop editor.

For this tutorial, we'll choose a basic template.

Step 4: Write Your Newsletter

MailChimp's editor is simple to use. To edit a section, simply double click it.

After you've written your newsletter, you're given the option to edit the plain text version. If you've given subscribers the option to receive plain text emails, check that everything looks okay, then click next.

Step 5: Send!

You can send your email immediately, or schedule when you'd like to send it. Now sit back and relax. If you want to see how your Campaign is doing, you can go to the Reports Page on the MailChimp dashboard.

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