The Ultimate Newsletter Guide

How to build an email list in Mailchimp quickly and efficiently. How to use Mailchimp to send campaigns, RSS feeds and use the reports to track your progress.

You need a mailing list.

Whether you're a business owner, blogger, college student or even considering selling something someday, you need a mailing list.

Think about this - when you need a favor who are the first people you call? Friends? Family? When you have something to sell who are the first people you launch to? Say it with me "YOUR MAILING LIST". 

Having a group of people who willingly sign up for updates from you means you already have a captive audience and direct access to their most frequently checked channel. A mailing list is the very first thing you should create when beginning a business, blog or service.


Mailchimp Basics

Mailchimp is my weapon of choice when it comes to mailing lists, sign up forms and email campaigns. The best part? It's free.  Maybe you don't have a newsletter set up, maybe you already do. Either way, MailChimp makes it super easy to automate and simplify the whole process.

I use very few tools that MailChimp offers. I use their lists (make as many subscriber lists as you want, easily transfer and add people to the lists), their sign up forms (customizable forms for any site), and their newsletter automation (automatically sends new posts with an RSS feed, customizable newsletter design, easy to use templates and design tools). However, MailChimp has a ton of features that set it apart from other newsletter providers.

MailChimp is the best newsletter tool because of its ability to work with other tools. They have an entire Integration Directory to show you everywhere you can connect MailChimp for a smooth work-flow process.

Pricing & Features

MailChimp has 3 membership options currently available. 

  • Entrepreneur (free for anything under 2000 subscribers and up to 12,000 emails a month)

  • Growing Business (unlimited emails per month, pricing varies by number of subscribers)

  • High Volume Sender (for businesses over 80,000 subscribers, again pricing varies by number of subscribers)

A free account does not give you access to some of the reporting tools or the automated emails, which could be used for an email course or automatic welcome emails and things like that. For a full list of their prices & features click HERE and HERE.

Make a list

The first thing you'll need to do in Mailchimp is create a list for people to join. This is pretty easy and quick. 

On the top bar click on "list", then in the right hand upper side, click the "Create List" button, this will open up a little pop up, click "Create list" one more time. Now there are a couple settings you'll need to set up.

  1. List Name (give it something catchy but descriptive)

  2. The "from" address (your subscribers will see this in their inbox, use your business email)

  3. the "from" name (again everyone will see this, use the name you use online)

  4. Reminder (let your future subscribers know how they got on the list, from your blog, social media or shop)

  5. Add contact info (your subscribers will see this if you don't remove it from email templates)

  6. Notifications (I suggest the daily summary, but you do you boo-boo)

Hit save and boom, you've got yourself an email list.

Create a sign-up form

Once you have a list made, you can create a sign-up form right from Mailchimp (you can also make a form in Squarespace, various WordPress plugins or using TypeForms + Zappier).

Click on your "lists" tab and click the little arrow next to "Stats" on the list you want to create a sign-up form for. Click on the second link "Signup forms". This will take you to some options

  1. General Forms

  2. Embedded Forms

  3. Subscriber Popup

  4. Form Integration

  5. Facebook form

  6. Tablet form

General forms will work best if you want to share a link to the form on social media or use a 3rd party app (Squarespace, WP, Typeform) to make a form.

Embedded forms will allow you to use a snippet of HTML code and place a form in your site (perfect for WP sidebars). The other four are a little more in-depth, so let's stick to the basics for now.

Designing, editing and formatting your sign-up form is cake in Mailchimp. They have a drag and drop feature that makes it quick to move things where you want them. For a little design help or help embedding your form watch the video below or check out MailChimp's guide HERE.

Basic Campaigns

Okay, you have a list, a sign up form (hopefully a couple subscribers) - now it's time to write the emails you'll be sending to your lovely audience. 

RSS campaign

These campaigns are perfect for bloggers but require a little more tech setups to get the emails properly formatted.

If you're having trouble with image sizes in your campaign, watch the video below and download the code snippet HERE


Build your list

Making a list and a campaign is simple, the hard part is getting subscribers and keeping them. There are a few ways to begin getting sign ups, even if you don't have a blog yet, you can build a sizable email list before launching a site, product or service.

Landing page

The very first thing you should do is set up a landing page. This is a single web page that should have your contact info, links to your social media accounts and an area for people to subscribe to your list.

This can be created using Squarespace cover pages, lead pages, WordPress, Weebly or even blogger. All you need is a single page.

Opt-in Freebie

One of the best ways to grow your list is by offering free resources for your subscribers. Creating some sort of opt-in giveaway or freebie will give people a reason to sign up, they get an instant download of resources and you get access to their email.

In the video, I'll show you how to create a freebie both in Mailchimp and on Squarespace. I also show you how I add different freebies on each blog post.

So you know HOW to make an opt-in freebie, but WHAT should it be? There are a million different ideas, and what you choose will really come down to the blog post, your niche and your personality. I made a short list of some ideas for you.

  • A full eBook or chapters from an eBook

  • A podcast or video about your content

  • A PDF version of you blog post so they can refer back to it later

  • A worksheet or workbook

  • Templates, fonts, graphics or backgrounds

  • An add-on to the blog post (an example for this post could be "10 more ideas for opt-in freebies")

  • A webinar invite or a password to a super secret page (like what I give to my subscribers to access the Toolbox)

Guest Posting

If you want to grow your list, but you don't have a big audience, the best way to grow is with guest posting. 

Start networking with people in your industry and (very nicely) ask for a guest post opportunity. It's best to ask and have a post ready to give them so they can see an example right away!

If they say yes, you'll want to create an opt-in freebie for your guest post. Something that the reader will want after reading your post. Instead of providing a download link in the post, provide a link to that fancy landing page you made, and give the freebie away there after the reader gives their email. 

Guest posting like this will get your name out in front of larger audiences and give you the chance to build your own audience while you do it. If you don't know where to start, guest posting is the absolute best place to start.


What to send people

This is the question I see most often -

What do I send my subscribers every week?

There are no rules when it comes to what you send your subscribers. You can go with the basics, like a weekly review of your blog posts, or go with more exclusive content. I made a list of some ideas.

  • Articles or posts from your blog (using an RSS feed campaign or just regular links to the site)

  • Downloadable content like guides, eBooks, worksheets or templates

  • Exclusive articles, these are "blog posts" that are nowhere else on the web except in their inbox.

  • Podcasts or videos

  • PDF copies of your latest blog post

  • Announcements, news, and updates

  • Coupon codes, free products or services

  • Your secrets and tips or behind the scenes of something you do

  • Post round-ups, or other great content from the web.

What you send will really depend on your audience and industry. Keep your topic in-line with your niche so it fits your readers, but don't be afraid to try something different!

Ask for your subscribers for feedback on what they enjoy most and utilize the MailChimp reports to see which emails are the most popular.

Get the Worksheet

That was a lot of info. To help you get started, I created a worksheet that will help you plan your list-building strategy based on your industry & audience!