Creating Your First Email in Mailchimp

Brian Sun

For five days (from January 5-9) Staffhacker contributor Brian Sun is going to tell you why he uses Mailchimp (and why you should too), show you how to write your first email, and give you tips on how to write effective newsletters and get more subscribers.

Now that you’ve registered and set up the details of your account with Mailchimp, it’s time to create your first email. Let’s get started.

From the “dashboard” page, click on the the big orange button that says “create campaign.” Then click on “Regular ol’ Campaign,” which is what you will be using most of the time when you send newsletters to your donors. The HTML campaigns in Mailchimp make it easy to design newsletters with pre-made templates and to embed pictures into your newsletters. On a side note, if you send 10 pages of text in an email update (I’ve gotten these before, no joke), I can pretty much guarantee that 1% of your support team (if that) is going to read it. But that’s for a later post, so let’s get back on track.

Step 1: Choose recipients

You should now be on “Step 1 of 5,” where you choose the people you want to send it to. If you haven’t created a list of people yet, no worries. I’ll cover that in the next post and we can go back to this step later. The most important thing right now is trying out Mailchimp and seeing for yourself that it’s doable for you. If you don’t have anyone on this list, just add yourself or a friend to test it out. Click next to move on to step 2.

Step 2: Campaign details

Now you should be on “Step 2 of 5,” where you’ll type in your campaign details. For the “name your campaign” section (which none of your supporters see), I recommend classifying them by date (January 2011 Newsletter, February 2011 Newsletter, etc.). The top two reasons for this are to be able see in one glance from your dashboard how often you’ve sent updates to your donors and to hold yourself accountable to the schedule you’ve chosen (you have decided on a sending schedule, right?). Double-check that the “reply-to email” is correct. Once everything looks okay, click next and move on to step 3.

Step 3: Design newsletter

Now you’re on step 3 where you’ll design your newsletter. The first thing to do is choose a template where you can plug in your content easily. Let’s start with a basic template. Click on “start from scratch,” click on simple, and choose the basic template.

To get your feet wet, let’s write some text. Click on the main body of the email and a screen should pop up with text editing controls similar to those in Microsft Word. Just start typing. I recommend “p;jsdflkjblnslfjslejrdsf.” Click “save now” and voila!

You’ve just started creating your first email newsletter in Mailchimp.

Now, start exploring on your own how to modify your newsletter. Once you’re done, it’s time to test and send. Click next to step 4.

Step 4: Plain text alternative

On “Step 4 of 5” Mailchimp creates a plain text version of your email. This exists for people using outdated email readers or screen readers (email browsers for people with physical disabilities.) I send a lot of newsletters that are picture heavy, and have never heard any feedback from any of my supporters about needing/wanting a plain-text version. However, it doesn’t hurt to allow Mailchimp to auto-generate the alternative version; I just wouldn’t recommend spending too much time on this step unless you hear feedback from your supporters. Click next for the last step.

Step 5: Test and send your newsletter

Now you’re on “Step 5 of 5,” and it’s time to test what your newsletter will look like in the real world. Click on “send test” and send a test email to yourself. It should arrive in a couple of minutes. Does it look/feel good? Do you know need to make the images smaller? Does the text need to be formatted?

Once you’re comfortable with your newsletter, it’s time to send it. You can either schedule your delivery for the future or just send it now. At this point, you’re probably excited to send it, so just go for it. You can optimize your delivery time later.

Click send now. Mailchimp will ask you to confirm. Do it. Your email is now on its way to lots and lots of inboxes. Smile.

Tomorrow Brian will show us how to get more subscribers for your newsletter list.

By Brian Sun | Posted: Jan 07, 2011
Category: Email/Communications | Tags: | Permalink | Post a comment | Trackback URL.


  1. Alex Moore
    January 7, 2011, 6:00 pm | Permalink

    This is great, Brian! I’m planning to switch to an HTML letter this term, and I’m pretty sold (& confident) after reading this. Way to go, dude.


  2. steve wimmer
    January 9, 2011, 10:44 pm | Permalink

    is the HTML campaign now called “regular ol campaign”? thanks


  3. LaToya
    January 12, 2011, 3:28 pm | Permalink

    This was awesome! I have been looking all over the web on information about a newsletter. Not knowing that i could create one with mailchimp, I just thought they handled your mailing list! Easy, simple and to the point! Thanks! will let you know how it works out!


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