Cheaper, Affordable Mailchimp Alternative

Mailchimp is great, but more than a significant amount of subscribers and you’re going to go broke. Today I’m going to show you how to make your own service to send newsletters as a much cheaper alternative to Mailchimp using Sendy. The best part is, you can do this even if you don’t know programming or are technical!

How is it so cheap? The system we will be using to send emails will be Amazon’s robust SES service to send out emails for a per email cost. It is important to note that while Mailchimp and similar services (ex. Aweber, ConstantContact, etc) may offer unlimited emails per month, most people will not need to send out too many emails per month. It’s worth running the analysis below for your own variable and determining whether Sendy is cost-effective for you – in most situations it will be.

 

Cost Breakdown

Sendy has a great widget to play with on their site to determine how much you’ll save but I’ll do a quick breakdown below.

Sendy – Sendy Software ($59) + Hosting/Set-Up ($130 yearly though can vary) + Amazon SES ($0.0001 per email)
Mailchimp – 2 main pricing models:
1. Monthly – Subscriber based (Subscribers/Monthly Cost):

(Note: for under 2,500 subscribers Mailchimp also has a free plan)

2. Pay As You Go

Lets calculate a hypothetical scenario: I have S subscribers in my list I send a newsletter to every week for a year. I’ll include the initial Sendy software cost ($59) – note though that this is only a one-time cost.

For S = 5,000 subscribers
Sendy setup: $59 + $130 + (5000 subscribers * 52 weeks * $0.0001 per email) = $215
Mailchimp: $50 * 12 months = $600

For S = 10,000 subscribers:
Sendy setup: $59 + $130 + (10,000 subscribers * 52 weeks * $0.0001 per email) = $241
Mailchimp: $75 * 12 months = $900

Caveats

Analytics – While Sendy does have a great analytics dashboard for analyzing open rates and other key email metrics, Mailchimp does offer a superior analytics layer. For some, this may be a deal breaker though for me analytics wasn’t always a huge factor and the basics sufficed.
Email Editor - I have to hand it to Mailchimp on this one for creating an awesome email editor that makes it super simple for even the least technical individuals to create a beautiful looking email. Sendy’s email editor is pale in comparison to Mailchimp’s editor. One workaround that I’ve been using is to simply create the email in Mailchimp and copy over the html into Sendy’s email editor. This takes some minor HTML knowledge but is doable. Look out for a future blog post detailing this method.

Set Up

Judge for yourself how much these caveats are worth. Several hundred dollars? Maybe Mailchimp is better for you. If not, then great lets finally get to how to build our own solution!
First purchase Sendy.
Note: The link is a referral link. I found out about their referral program just as I finished writing the article. Help me keep this blog running :)
Next up we have to decide where we’re going to host Sendy. Sendy is just the software layer but we need a server to put Sendy on so that we can access it online and actually send the emails. This is where some paths can diverge. While many opt to create their own server using their favorite stack of technologies, the simplest solution came to me in a response in Sendy’d forums.
The good folks over at Hosthese have a created pre-made dedicated Sendy environments, optimized to its requirements. Their services can be used without limitation on webspace or traffic for a yearly price of € 109 / ~$ 130.
All you have to do is contact Hosthese and they’ll create a new hosting environment with your Sendy license without you having to dabble into the technical details at all. I should note that this does require a domain/subdomain that can be pointed at the hosted Sendy solution. This is as simple as creating a CNAME record that points to Hosthese’s servers.
You’re done! Sendy supports importing contacts so to transition from Mailchimp or any other service, simply export your current subscriber list and import it into Sendy!
If you have any trouble, feel free to comment below and I’ll do my best to help you out!

Update: New post is now live: Sendy Hosting & Advanced Set-up

Free Mac Text Expansion Tool (Built-In)

In an attempt to streamline my advanced customer support system *ahem* email for my side project, I started looking for some text expansion tools. If you’re not looking for something too fancy and just works, the built-in Mac (I believe it was introduced in Lion) text expander is great. Here’s how to set it up:

1. Go to ‘System Preferences’ > ‘Keyboard’.
2. Click the ‘Keyboard’ tab on the top and then click ‘Input Sources…’.

3. Choose the ‘Text’ tab in the top row and click ‘+’ to add a new text expansion.

4. Choose a unique phrase to trigger your text expansion. Tip: use symbols or less common letters to avoid accidental expansions.

Tips:
  • I found it easiest to type my text in a text editor and then paste it in the window. You avoid having to type in a tiny box and dealing with new lines.
  • If you choose to type your expansion in the window: To add a new-line break use ‘control’ + ‘return’ and leave a full line in between the lines you want to break.

ex.

Thanks, 

    Zaheer M.

becomes

Thanks,
   Zaheer M.

Not as good quality as I’d like but came out half-decent.

How to Bold Text Comments on Instagram

A really popular question I get asked on Instagram is how to bold text. Check out this awesome guide to learn how to bold text on Instagram.

Are you a business? Increase revenues and take advantage of the hottest social network on the web – Check out my Instagram Consulting.

$1 IPhone Macro Lens

Macro lenses for iPhones and smart phones these days are usually quite expensive. Here’s how to make an iPhone macro lens with a $1 laser pointer.

1. Get a cheap $1 laser pointer from the dollar store or online and disassemble it. It’ll look something like this when its disassembled:

(This image is from online since I can’t find my laser pointer anymore)

2. In between the first and third segment there should be a lens that focuses the laser. This can be in different place depending on your model but you’ll know it when you see it. Eventually you’ll find a lens that looks like the one below.

3. Attach it to your iPhone using a small piece of tape stuck around its edge. It should be small enough that it doesn’t interfere with the view of the iPhone.

4.Take amazing macro shots! Note that the depth of field is extremely narrow and you’ll have to be less than an inch away from your subject. Though you can get some pretty amazing shots like below. More on my Instagram (@ZiggyMo).

Psst… Want more Instagram followers/likes? Check out my new site.

Google AdSense Not Working in Google Chrome / Mozilla Firefox / etc

I was having an issue recently where the Google AdSense site was not rendering properly in Google Chrome browser. At times it would display the plain HTML with no styling. At other times it would display a simple message: “View in: Classic | Low bandwidth”. Finally I realized that I had AdBlock installed! Disabling it for the site made the AdSense site render correctly. I don’t know why it took so long to occur to me, but if anyone else has the same issue, hope this helps.