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Mailchimp and the Last Straw
April 24th, 2017 was the day I decided to sign-up for Mailchimp and begin cultivating a mailing list for myself. Up until then, I was never really all that serious about publishing my writing. I never thought it was a real possibility. I just enjoyed writing and streaming on Twitch. But after getting to know other Twitch streamers who were self-published I realized I could do it too. I also realized I needed a mailing list if I had any chance of doing it right.
At the time (and still to this day) I had only ever heard of really three platforms where I could begin to not only house a mailing list but create a newsletter as well. The newsletter is how I communicate with my mailing list on a regular basis. Those three platforms are Mailchimp, MailerLite, and ConverKit. I know there are probably dozens of others, but I didn’t want to bog myself down with comparing that many just to end up picking one.
After much research, I went with Mailchimp because it offered the most features for free. Namely, it was the 2,000 subscribers. I knew I would never hit that many so I felt it was my best option and it wouldn’t cost me anything. MailerLite has a similar free option, only they cap the number of subscribers at 1,000. Again, I figured I would never hit that much, but after poking around MailerLite for a while I felt their UI was too clunky and confusing. I just liked the aesthetic of Mailchimp and it was the service that just about every indie author I followed was using. Yet another example of how the power of recognition works.
Suffice it to say, I went with Mailchimp and it was going really great in the beginning. I joined up with Bookfunnel and StoryOriginApp in order to participate in group promos and newsletter swaps. They were my main source for growing my newsletter at an exponential rate. Being able to sync Mailchimp and import that list was fast and easy.
Then it was early 2019 (I think?) when things went terribly wrong. Mailchimp decided to change how they worked with their customers and made the relationship very strained. The issue came with how they were choosing to describe subscribers. Now we would all have an “audience” and that audience member would count as a subscriber whether they were actually subscribed or unsubscribed. The only way to not count them would be to “archive” them. I only had a list of about 600+ at the time and before they implemented this new way of counting subscribers I was already archiving anyone the moment they unsubscribed. For other Mailchimp users with upwards of tens of thousands, this is not as easy to do as it may sound. Was the hassle worth it for them? Well, in many instances, those large email lists users jumped ship from Mailchimp. They tried to “course correct” by stating this massive inconvenient change would only be for “new users” who sign-up to Mailchimp. But as they would never confirm nor deny that they wouldn’t eventually force those grandfathered into Mailchimp to eventually have to adhere to the same rules...the writing was definitely on the wall…
Some day I hope to have an email list that is so large when a change like this happens it causes me to pause and wonder if staying with the same provider is worth it. But until then what I care about most is the convenience for both myself and those I email. This is one of the reasons I’m leaving Mailchimp for another, less cumbersome, and hassle-free provider.
The thing that really made me pull the plug was when I was trying to figure out how to have multiple “lists” without actually having lists within Mailchimp. You see, in order to have more than one list, you have to get a paid account. For the life of me, I could not figure it out, so I bit the bullet and opted to get their lowest package just to have two lists. One for my monthly newsletter and the other for my blog posts. It wasn’t until, probably a few hours or the next day that I figured out what I needed to do within Mailchimp that would’ve avoided my need to upgrade to a paid account. When I discovered this I immediately went to downgrade my account off the paid account to the free account I had prior. Only, to my dismay, I was informed I could no longer do that.
Again, I reiterate, reading the fine print on anything you are signing up for, whether it’s free or not, has never been more important than now.
Turns out, many years ago, when I first got Mailchimp, I signed up for the paid accounted and downgraded back to free. And Mailchimp only allows you to do this ONCE. After that, if you upgrade you must stay paying them or your account is shut down. That’s it. No other options. I reached out to their customer service who basically told me the same thing. But they informed me I’ll still have access to my list and my previously written campaigns. Gee, thanks Mailchimp! You’re too kind!
It was at that moment that I had two clear options:
Create another Mailchimp account where I would be subjected to the “new rules” (which suck by the way cause they have fewer features than those who were grandfathered in).
Leave Mailchimp altogether and find a new home.
As you can imagine I went with option two. The last thing I want is to keep my business with a company which ties your hands behind your back and forces you to go on paying them because they won’t allow you to go back to the FREE account you had all along. I mean, what is the point of that? I’m nowhere near their 2,000 limit so it’s not like I’m pulling a fast one on them. Plus, I’ve been a user of Mailchimp for the past 6+ years. But loyalty like that doesn’t count to them. So, yeah, I’ve already began the process of leaving Mailchimp.
If you’re thinking of doing the same, regardless of where you end up with your new home, here are the quick and easy steps I took:
Put my Mailchimp account on PAUSE. This can be done from your user account within Mailchimp. I did this so I would no longer accept new people signing up to my email list.
Remove my payment info from Mailchimp. If you have any sort of payment information there, remove it asap. The last thing I want is for them to charge me “on accident” and I have to fight for my money back.
Remove my sign up link from anywhere I might have it. And it turns out I had a link in multiple places: Website, Facebook, Linktree, etc.
Inform my email list of the move. If you are importing your list from, for instance, Mailchimp to MailerLite, then the transition might not be as painful for your list as it would be in other instances. But it’s just good manners to let them know the look of the email might be different, etc.
For me, I’m moving from Mailchimp to Substack, and because of this move, I’m decided to essentially start my list from scratch. What I mean is, I’m not importing my list over from Mailchimp. Instead, I’m giving my list from now till December 1st the time to go ahead and sign-up to my Substack on their own if they choose. I’m doing it this way for two main reasons:
This list is from my novel writing and newsletters swap, group promo, days. I feel like the place where I am today isn’t the same place I was five years ago and those who are subscribed are likely still on my list because they just haven’t bothered to unsubscribe and simply don’t open my emails. Doing it this way allows me to clean up my list without having to be the one to remove anyone.
My frequency of emails will increase from the first of every month to three times a week with my blog posts (Mondays & Wednesdays) and Friday Fiction 2.0 (Fridays) joining the cycle. And starting the Summer of 2022 I’ll be adding a serialized novel series as well as an illustrated novel series. I don’t want to jar my list by going from sending them an email once a month to thirteen (on average) times a month.
If you’re looking for a place to move to, away from Mailchimp or any other mail service that could end up costing you money down the road, might I suggest Substack? There are a few positive things I love about them that might give you pause to consider a change:
Free! That’s right. No matter how large your list or how frequently you choose to email them. Substack won’t charge you a thing.
Combines Mailchimp, Patreon, Medium, and WordPress into one platform in one place. You can turn your email list into a paid subscription and have some posts that are free for anyone to read or paid for others. This is a great option for writers of both non-fiction and fiction and I’ll be sharing exactly how in future posts.
Clean! I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to have a clean aesthetic without all the bells and whistles that other platforms provide. It’s easy to write within and it’s also easy on the eyes for the reader to look at and read from. The layout is superb as well and you have just the right tools you need.
Organic growth is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. Mailchimp is not interested in helping you grow your list (though they may pretend that they are). This is true of Patreon as well. These two platforms require you to do all the work. And though Medium has a “discovery” type section similar to WordPress and Subtack, it’s behind a paywall that you need to pay before you can even do much. With Substack, they are clearly all about their users and giving everyone from the small to the large a time to shine. I have gained more subscribers by simply writing (no promotion) via Substack than I ever have or will with Mailchimp which just isn’t designed for that.
In closing, I think I’ve found a home I enjoy (so far) and will be glad to stick around as long as they stay the course and don’t do anything to harm or inhibit the user experience for both the writer and the reader. Substack is on a steady course to be the place where many writers will go when platforms like Mailchimp fail them.
Looking for something great to read this holiday season? Look no further…
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