3 free-to-paid paid email service providers (ESPs)

There is zero doubt that the right email service provider (ESP) is incredibly important especially when you are starting out your online business. Growing your email list should be the number 1 priority after establishing a website (or web presence). But there’s so many out there, and how do you make the decision on which to use without wasting time and effort to learn a new platform?

Well my friend, you’ve landed in the right spot. I share three free-to-paid ESPs that I’ve personally used for my own businesses the last six years. I give my unbiased reviews on these three email service providers, and the provider I ultimately recommend.

Disclosure: I only recommend products I would use and have used myself and all opinions expressed here are my own. This post may contain affiliate links that at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission. 

Mailchimp

Sign up for Mailchimp account for free and get started!

Mailchimp is among some of the popular email service providers, and for great reason. If you are starting out fresh, with little to no budget, Mailchimp offers a free price tier. This is handy especially if you’re working on a shoestring budget. 

While there are many limitations to Mailchimp’s free plan, it still offers many of the basic functions needed for growing a mailing list. Some of these are:

  • Easy to design newsletters with a drag and drop functionalities
  • Creating a mailing list signup forms to embed, pop-up
  • Easy integration with WordPress with a plug-in
  • Designing landing pages for email collection
  • Automations – linear automations only (no branching)

If you are on a budget, the free plan still does a lot of what you’d need to do when starting out. However the price to bump up to next tier of the plans can come as quite a shock especially if you have more than 500 email subscribers. For 500 email subscribers, the price jumps from free to USD9.99 for the Essentials Plan, then to USD14.99 for the Standard Plan. To access automations with branching, you’ll have to upgrade to the Standard Plan.

That said, all the other basic functionalities like easy email template creation, and signup forms aside, you are still able to set up some basic email marketing automations, which are linear and without the capability for an ‘if-this-then-that’ situation.

In summary, the free pricing tier is suitable if you are:

  • Starting to grow your mailing list 
  • On a tight or have no budget at the moment
  • Prepared to have very basic email marketing automation 

Sign up for Mailchimp account for free and get started! 

MailerLite

Try MailerLite for free – get 14-days access to premium features

MailerLite is another ESP option for anyone starting out or on a budget, offering a free pricing tier of exceptional value in terms of the features you get from it.

I use MailerLite for my other business, The Feel Good Space – a movement and mediation studio that I run with my partner. I’ve chosen MailerLite as our ESP as The Feel Good Space is more of a lifestyle side-project than a full-fledged business. It’s free plan offers us all the features we want and potential for affordable scalability when the time comes.

If you’re looking for a free ESP to support you along your business journey, MailerLite’s free option is way better than Mailchimp several reasons that I share below.

  • Forever free plan for email lists less than 1000 subscribers
  • Affordable scalability – the next pricing tier is only $10/ month on a monthly plan
  • Access to automations (with branching) available

The main thing I’d like to highlight is MailerLite’s affordable scalability, which means that as your email list grows you won’t be hit by a steep price to continue using it. At an affordable USD10/ month (on a monthly plan) or USD8.40/ month (on an annual plan), this makes it budget-friendly for any small business.

Other features available on the free plan:

  • Forever free plan for up to 1000 email subscribers
  • Send up to 12,000 emails a month on the free plan
  • Easy to design and publish landing pages for lead collection
  • Easy integration with WordPress with a plug-in

On the downside, its free plan does not offer newsletter templates like Mailchimp on its free plan. As a result, you will have to create your own templates from scratch which in my mind is a decent price to pay for a free plan such as this.

In summary, MailerLite’s free plan is suitable if you are:

  • Starting to grow your mailing list
  • On a tight or have no budget at the moment
  • Looking to set up some automated email sequencing (such as a Welcome sequence)
  • Going to set up some landing pages for lead capturing
  • Planning to grow and scale your email list fairly quickly

Try MailerLite for free – get 14-days access to premium features

ConvertKit

Try ConvertKit for free – get 14-days access to its premium features

ConvertKit usually needs no introduction especially if you’re a course creator. It is a robust ESP used by many high-profile course creators like Amy Porterfield, Melyssa Griffin, and myself (heh!) – and for good reason too. But before I go on, let me preface this with this: ConvertKit’s true power is only apparent with its paid version.

If you’re able to afford it from the get-go and are serious with your email list building, I highly recommend investing immediately in the Creator level plan on ConvertKit. It is priced at USD29/month (on a monthly plan) and USD24/month (on an annual plan) for up to 1000 email subscribers. While this may seem like a relatively huge expense especially at the start, the reason I recommend this is to immediately gain access to its full features, mainly its email sequencing features – which is incomparable with MailerLite, really.

When you sign up to ConvertKit, you gain a 14-days access to its entire suite of features including:

  • Managing up to 1000 subscribers
  • Design and build unlimited landing pages & forms
  • Send email broadcasts
  • Free migration from another ESP tool
  • Automated funnels and sequences

Once the 14-day access period is over, you will still continue to gain access to some of the features above except automated funnels and email sequences, and support to migrate an existing email list from another ESP.

In summary, ConvertKit is the ESP of choice if you are: 

  • Able to afford the monthly or annual plan to access its automated funnel and sequences feature
  • Planning to grow and scale your email list aggressively (at speed)
  • Do not want the hassle of switching over to a robust, solid ESP when your email list has grown

Try ConvertKit for free – get 14-days access to its premium features

In summary

In summary, if you are able to afford it from the get go I highly recommend investing straight into an ESP that will be able to support your business growth from the start. This way, you’ll not only familiarise yourself with the tech platform but you’ll also be able to set it up the way you need to from the start – which saves a lot of hassle later on down the road.

Between the three email service providers above, I recommend (in order of personal and professional preference) ConvertKit, MailerLite, and finally Mailchimp.

For a free account, I advise selecting MailerLite over Mailchimp for the features you’re able to access on the free plan plus its affordability when your email list starts to grow.

But if you are able to afford it, I highly recommend ConvertKit. I find that it is a worthwhile investment and you get free two months when you sign up for their annual plan. ConvertKit also offers the ability to create landing pages for lead collection and makes it easy for website integration too.

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Hi, I'm Michelle

Hi, I'm Michelle

I’m a former corporate suit wearer turned creator and entrepreneur. I traded suits for smiles in 2020, and now help small business owners, and everyday people with a dream achieve success online. Sign up to my mailing list to receive unlimited access to my resource library. Also, let’s be friends 🙂

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