When it comes to email, a frequently asked question is which is the best email service provider or (if we’re being honest), which is the best free email service. I’m going to share some of the pros and cons of the main email service providers to help you choose the best email service for YOU. This post contains affiliate links!
When we talk about the very best way to connect with our readers, email is key. I’ve written other posts about why email matters more than pageviews, but I’d argue that it also matters more than your social following or about any other metric. Which is why it matters which email service provider (or ESP) you choose. But the best email service provider for me isn’t necessarily the best for YOU.
When you are trying to decide on which email service you should choose, there are a few key factors I want you to consider:
- Your goals
- Your needs
- Your budget
- The trustworthiness of the provider
YOUR EMAIL LIST GOALS
I think people who are familiar with my free trainings or who have worked with me are probably tired of hearing me say that you need to think about your WHY. But the reason I keep coming back to this is that knowing your why makes all other decisions easy.
WHY are you using email? You likely have more than one reason, but think of the main one or two.
As an example, here are my main whys. I’m using email to connect on a deeper level with my audience so that I can build trust, share great and helpful content, and make a full-time income through the paid content and services I offer. Email is the primary way that I sell books and courses. It is also the primary way I share great free content on a weekly basis.
Since email is the foundation of my business and is where I make sales, I know that it’s something I need to invest in.
If your why is something more like: I’m using email to share my blog posts with readers, then you may have different needs and a different budget. Identify your why before you move on.
YOUR EMAIL LIST NEEDS
Using my example of why I send email, let’s talk about needs. I need to be able to segment my list using tags so that I can send more customized emails. I use powerful tools like automations and tagging.
This will enable me to do things like stop sending a series of sales emails to someone who already purchased after the first email. Or to send a sales email about my blogging book to the people who are bloggers, excluding the people who aren’t interested in blogging.
My needs are more complex. Depending on what your why is, you may have very different needs! Maybe you just have one big list of people and you send everything to them. Or maybe you just need a little bit of customization, where you can track where people signed up for your list or do some segmenting.
Different providers offer different kinds of tools, so before you choose a provider, think about your why and how that affects your email needs.
YOUR EMAIL LIST BUDGET
Here’s the thing: I TOTALLY get it that we all start on a budget. I did! I used the free Mailchimp plan for years, culling cold subscribers a LOT so that I could stay under the 2000 limit. I then worked my way up to earning enough income to pay for my email service provider and haven’t looked back.
So, yes– we have to be real that budget matters. But I also want to encourage you to think beyond what is the best free email service. If you are going to invest in a part of your blogging or writing business, invest in EMAIL.
Think about this: how many algorithm changes and other shifts have we had in 2018? SO MANY. I’m not even going to list them. But email has changed very little since like…1998.
There are some big changes with email because of GDPR, but I still solidly say invest in email. And read more about GDPR in this post.
THE TRUSTWORTHINESS OF YOUR EMAIL SERVICE PROVIDER
After running the Free Email Course for three years, I hear back from a lot of people who are simply sending emails through gmail or hotmail. Or people using companies I’ve never heard of. (Legally, you shouldn’t be sending marketing emails through your personal account, btw. Read more on legal stuff in this post.)
A smaller, unknown company could be great. BUT I often think there is a reason the big companies are big companies. They have built legions of happy customers. And they have the money to do things like roll out great compliance with new legal issues like GDPR.
When you are sending email, there are actual fines you can incur if you aren’t doing this correctly. And not all email service providers have equal weight in the inbox. Which means that untrustworthy providers may make your email end up in spam. I’ve gotten emails from people who have had major issues with unknown tiny companies that they choose because they were…free.
Again, email is a big investment. You want a company you can trust for deliverability, but also to help keep you on the legal side of things.
- If you’d like more on this topic, plus more of a framework for email, check out my full book, Email Lists Made Easy for Writers and Bloggers on Amazon!
WHAT IS THE BEST EMAIL SERVICE PROVIDER FOR YOU?
Now that you know the four things to consider, let’s talk about some of the best email service providers in general so that you can figure out which is the best for YOU.
Almost everyone starts here because they have a free account up to 2000 people. ***As of 2019, this is changing. They are becoming a CRM, or customer relationship management system. This is NOT in the best interest of the basic person sending emails. Some of the following things will change. As of now, I’d recommend NOT starting here, even with the free subscriber limit.***
- Price: free up to 2000 emails, *INCLUDING unsubscribes and unconfirmed emails
- Good features: some free emails has lots of features, added landing pages, trustworthy, integrates with almost everything
- Bad features: no customer service AT ALL on the free account, missing the more powerful tools like tagging, is now becoming a CRM aimed at serving big companies, not the small emailer
- Recommended for: I wouldn’t recommend, but they are well-established, so they have that going for them
- Not amazing for: people using tons of freebies (clunky to move people around to lists, you could pay for one person five times if they are on five lists after getting five freebies)
I’ve seen a huge increase in people using Mailerlite in the past 18 months. Why? They are still very affordable and have good tools.
- Price: free up to 1000 emails; $10/month for 2500
- Good features: has the ability to segment really well, great landing pages and forms–just generally great features for the price
- Bad features: after Convertkit, the great tools are clunkier to use or not as powerful, but very few downsides!!
- Recommended for: people who want features on a budget
- Not amazing for: um, yeah. I’d recommend this to about anyone.
Fewer people know about this one, though it’s owned by GoDaddy. I like the features and the price AND the live chat, which is epic. But the back end is a little clunky and when using Mad Mimi, I constantly found myself frustrated with simple things like writing an email.
- Price: $10/month for up to 500 emails; $16/month for 2500
- Good features: has great features and excellent customer service
- Bad features: a little clunky on the user side, some features have odd names and are harder to use
- Recommended for: people who want customer service and tools for little money
- Not amazing for: people who want more powerful tools and get confused by non-straightforward interfaces
Y’all. I’m not going to lie. I wanted to love Aweber and really didn’t. At all. I feel like it was the best back in the day and never updated. It felt like 1995 in there and I can always tell Aweber emails in my inbox because they look…off. Just not a fan. Especially since there are better options for the same money.
- Price: $19/month for 500 subscribers; $29/month for 2500 subscribers
- Good features: has the standard email features, great customer service
- Bad features: you pay for unsubscribed emails unless you delete them, no tagging or other more powerful features (or they don’t work well!)
- Recommended for: people who…um…already use Aweber and don’t want to change
- Not amazing for: anyone who can afford another option (sorry, Aweber)
This is likely not what you’re going to use. It’s a CRM, not just an ESP. In short, that means that you will pay at least $300 a month and it handles powerful affiliate programs and sales, but also is hard to use and $300+ a month.
- Recommended for: people making tons of money who need a really powerful affiliate program baked in and can hire someone to run this piece of their business
- Not recommended for: everyone else
This is my favorite choice if you want to do more powerful things with your email. Mailerlite is a close second, but after using both, Convertkit wins for a few reasons. And I’m not just saying that because I’m an affiliate. Trust me, I wouldn’t recommend them for everyone. (Email me if you aren’t sure and want to ask. I’ll be honest.) So, yes, I’m biased. But again, this isn’t the best email service provider for EVERYONE. It just is for me. And maybe you. 😉
- Price: $29/month for 1000 subscribers; $49/month for 3000 subscribers
- Good features: has all the features you could want: tagging, visual automations, landing pages, etc; easy to use on the back end has a community on Facebook and IS more of a community than a company; great affiliate program; great deliverability
- Bad features: the landing pages and forms aren’t the most amazing (to be honest, I’m not crazy about any forms that come from email service providers…); newer than the rest
- Recommended for: people who have more complex needs and want to sell things
- Not amazing for: people who don’t want to pay for email; people with very simple needs
CHOOSING THE BEST EMAIL SERVICE PROVIDER
Hopefully you read through those summaries and have an idea of which you’d like to try. My two very top choices would be MailerLite and ConvertKit. Both have very powerful features and are pretty easy to use. If you want the best email service for free, hands-down it’s MailerLite.
So why would I recommend ConvertKit over MailerLite? I think I may need a post on this, but generally speaking, there are a few things:
- ConvertKit is simply easier for many of the advanced features (tagging, visual automations, email sequences, automations in general)
- ConvertKit has a community and offers incredible support, training, and more
- ConvertKit has an affiliate program that pays incredibly well – 30% per month indefinitely for people who sign up under you
The affiliate program is why I see a lot of people who don’t actually use ConvertKit recommending it. I would HIGHLY recommend it, and after using all the other email service providers (except Infusionsoft), I would never switch again. Period. You can read some other reasons why in this post.
- If you feel like you want to try ConvertKit, you can get a free month (and bonuses from me) if you use my affiliate link. Sign up HERE and then shoot me an email – kirsten at createifwriting dot com. I’ll also happily tell you if I think you should use another service!
But if you are on a budget, don’t need fancy tools, and don’t care about the sense of support, community, and the free trainings or affiliate program, then I would recommend MailerLite. It simply beats the pants off of the other more affordable email providers, especially for the price.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON THE BEST EMAIL SERVICE
If you are using outlook or hotmail or gmail to send emails, that is not effective and it could get you in big trouble. You need an email service provider in a legal sense.
Please don’t just use a cheap or free email service provider that no one else has ever heard of. I would urge you to do more research and choose one of the bigger, safe emails.
Don’t encourage people sign up to just get emails by following you on wordpress or blogger, start using an email list where you can access and contact people. Take the initiative. It’s worth it!
Get serious about your email list. Invest your time and maybe even some money! This is the only direct line of communication with your audience and that is an incredibly powerful tool.
So…which is the best email service provider for YOU?
IF YOU’RE STILL NOT SURE…SHOOT ME A MESSAGE! I’ll talk through it with you and give you my honest assessment.
Yay, for MailerLite! That is my choice.
However, I’d like to add/clarify few things – MailerLite does offer segmentation, visual automation and email sequences. They also have Facebook community (for paying customers) and their support is pretty amazing too. Only needed it couple of times but both times they were quick to help.
Was actually not sure about affiliate program but checked it just for this comment :)) and they offer 30% from every sale.
Of course, I haven’t tested ConvertKit myself yet, so I wouldn’t be able to compare them – will try free trial with your provided link and let you know how it goes!
I definitely know that Mailerlite has those features (I use it for one of my lists)! I’m going to look back to make sure I didn’t say that they didn’t…it’s more that there are some nuances and complexities that are more possible with Convertkit that I’ve found lacking or clunkier in Mailerlite. Still great features for the price!! But for my more advanced lists, I wouldn’t use Mailerlite. I think also after you get used to one system, it’s HARD to move. For the first month or so, you just think about how everything was easier in your other one. Until you get the hang of it and forget how the other one worked. 😉 For the affiliate program, I’ll have to look at how Mailerlite sets it up. Is it a one-time 30% or monthly? CK is monthly, so it’s recurring, which is AWESOME. I’m going to email you later because I have some bonuses for people who sign up with my link. 🙂
It’s recurring – you get commissions for the initial sale and every month that user pays for 🙂
That’s very true – once you get used to something, it’s hard to break the habit. It’s said that you need at least 21 days to break it :))
Beth Anne says
I’m with you on AWeber. The emails I get from ppl using aweber totally look like they are stuck in 1995. But there are also debates about how we should be sending emails with texts and no photos which aweber is known for b/c they won’t go to spam…but idk i’m more likely to read emails with color and pictures so maybe it just depends.
I recently moved everyone from mailchimp to mailerlite and I really like it. The thing I hated with mailchimp is if I have 2 lists I have to send 2 emails but mailerlite i can send one email to 2 lists.
Thank you so much for this. I’ve been struggling with figuring out what I wanted to use. I hadn’t heard of mailer lite so I’m going to check them out. I’d love to use convertkit, but it’s just not in the budget yet.
This is all us per helpful! Thank you!! I’ll be looking into your email training too. I need more umph! and numbers in my email list department.