Maybe you’re a freelance web designer hired to create email templates. Maybe you work for an agency, and you’re setting up a client’s MailChimp account, designing their templates and teaching them how to use the application. Maybe you’re a web design consultant. No matter your situation or background, you can use MailChimp to create beautiful emails for your clients and see to it that their email marketing plan is successful. MailChimp got its start as a web design firm, so we’ve made it a priority to create a system that empowers both designers and their clients.

That said, we don’t want you to click every button and send every email for your clients. As a web designer, your expertise goes far beyond button-clicking. If you agree to hold a client’s hand throughout the entire process without teaching them anything, you’ll be forced to become an email marketing manager and a deliverability expert and a professional copy/paster. That’s not what you’re trained to do—and you probably wouldn’t enjoy it, either.

Different clients will want different services—you might choose to limit your email marketing work to template design, and that’s perfectly fine. But if your clients are looking for more involvement from a creative agency, you should know how to set up their account, create their templates, and teach them how to use MailChimp so they can send their own emails.

The setup phase usually involves general MailChimp training, creating accounts and lists, consulting your client on list management, and coding templates. Your client might even ask you to help them determine what kind of templates they need or how frequently they should send campaigns.

After setting up your client’s account, work with them to determine which features they should use. From there, teach your client how to send a campaign, and introduce them to MailChimp’s reports. Check in often to see how their campaigns are going, and ask if they need any new templates. Down the road, you might want to connect your client's store to MailChimp, create a Facebook Ad Campaign, or look into API integration. And of course, always keep an eye on your client’s list to make sure they’re not spamming.

Once you learn your way around MailChimp, you can apply to become an Expert. Experts are freelancers and agencies who know email design, coding, and programming. We have a lot of customers who need help with their email marketing— with list importing, HTML email design, API programming, e-commerce and more. MailChimp’s Experts database gives users a list of third parties who can help them.

You can learn more and register to become an expert at experts.mailchimp.com.

Manage Your List

In order to manage multiple clients' email marketing plans, you need to know how to build lists and group them. First, decide if you are going to set up multiple accounts, multiple lists, or just create multiple groups within one list. Here's the breakdown:

One list, no groups

If your client plans to send only one type of newsletter to one group of people, and they want every one of their campaigns to go to every one of their subscribers, then you should create one simple list in MailChimp.

One list, multiple groups

If your client plans to send different types of content to different segments of one subscriber list, then create one list for the company, and divide it into groups. For example: A nonprofit might have separate groups for volunteers, news, board of directors, and more—no need to bug the board with the volunteer schedule. And when the content applies to everyone, they can send a campaign to the entire list.

Multiple lists

One account with multiple lists makes sense for people who have more than one business. We know it’s tempting for web designers to set up one agency account and a list for each client, but it’s a bad idea. We recommend an account for each client for a few reasons. First, if you only have one account, you can’t give your clients access to your account, because other clients’ data is there too. Second, if certain clients take over their own email marketing and get in trouble for spamming, then your account will be shut down—and you could lose a lot of business over it.

Multiple accounts

Agencies that send email campaigns for different clients should create a separate account for each client—you don’t want your data for one client mixed with data for another. Plus, if you part ways with one client, you can simply remove/disable account access.


You're already juggling plenty of tasks, so we have incorporated features in MailChimp to help encourage collaboration with your coworkers and clients.

Multi-user accounts

As an agency, you’ll likely have teams working together to manage client accounts. This can get a little hectic, especially if you’re all sharing one set of login credentials, but our multi-user accounts will help keep the process organized and stress-free. There are five levels of access available within each MailChimp account: viewer, author, manager, admin, and owner.

Once you’ve determined the roles and responsibilities for each member of your team, you can easily invite new users and assign the appropriate access levels.


Our Email Designer allows you to leave comments on campaigns. Start a conversation with your coworkers, or make sure something important gets changed. Your collaborators can respond to your comments in real time, complete tasks, and leave their own feedback so everyone is on the same page. This article has all the details.

Case study: The Atlanta Film Festival has several newsletters to juggle and even more employees contributing to them. They use MailChimp's collaboration tools, including comments, to send their many successful and varied campaigns.

Design Your Campaign

Ready to design a campaign? First, choose or create a template. MailChimp provides a variety of customizable Basic templates and predesigned Themes that can be used as a starting point for email campaigns, but you’re not limited to those options. If your clients would prefer to import their own templates or have requested that you create custom-coded templates to match their branding, that's no problem.

Whether you visit Templates > Create Template section in your account directly or start the campaign building process and make your way to the Template selection step, you’ll find the Code Your Own option. Here, you’re able to paste in your own custom-coded design or upload templates from an HTML or Zip file.

We’ll cover some of the basics here in this guide, but for in-depth explanations and tutorials about everything custom-template related, please refer to our Email Design Reference. If you're looking for information about creating a Facebook Ad Campaign, visit our Knowledge Base and helpful resource guide.

MailChimp Template Language

MailChimp’s Template Language lets you easily code your own HTML emails that are reusable and editable from within the MailChimp application. Your clients will be able to adjust colors, fonts, and more—without breaking the layout or messing with your code. And, our template language uses CSS comments and a few special HTML attributes, so you don’t have to waste your time learning another language. A word of warning, though, if you’re not proficient in HTML and CSS, using our template language likely isn’t your best bet.

CSS styling

Inlining CSS styles is the standard for making sure template designs retain their integrity within an email client. If you’re designing a template for yourself, this isn’t an issue. But if you’re designing for a client, inlining the CSS styling by default within the markup keeps them from making style changes to any editable sections within a template using the app’s editor. That happens because the inline styles always override what a user enters. Emails leaving our system have their CSS automatically inlined, so it’s not necessary to do it beforehand—it’s only necessary to ensure that the CSS styling would behave correctly in the first place.

Your email’s layout should be no wider than 600 pixels in order to allow proper viewing in most email clients. As a rule, avoid using floats and positioning in your email templates.

Remember to set the @theme declaration in your CSS for the page background, header, footer, and content space, so the templates can be quickly customized with MailChimp color themes.

Declaration blocks

MailChimp requires that you define editable CSS styles using declaration blocks. The formatting is pretty specific:

* @tab WWWW
* @section XXXX
* @tip YYYY
* @theme ZZZZ

Add the following declarations to your CSS to define the areas where styles should be editable:


The @tab declaration establishes a tab within the template editor. It is best to keep these broad (think page, header, body, footer). This is the only required declaration.


The @section declaration establishes a subsection within a tab, and allows you to split styles into more specific areas. For example: In “@tab Page” you could have subsections like background, title and subtitle—anything broad enough to be applied to the email as a whole. This declaration isn’t required, but is highly recommended, as it keeps the editor from becoming too complex.


The @tip declaration allows for a short line of helper text that appears when a user is editing styles within the app. It’s not required, but it’s helpful if the style being edited could be confusing.


The @style declaration takes a CSS rule set you've created and pulls it into the campaign text editor's drop-down menu. This allows you to apply styles to your text in a quick and selective way.


The @theme is used to set five specific default styles: page, main, header, title, and subtitle Once set, the user can call on these styles to be automatically applied to selected text or areas within the template. In order for a heading to work correctly (title or subtitle), the CSS class has to be set correctly: either .title or .subTitle.

Only these five arguments are used in @theme, so it’s not necessary to set @theme for anything else. The page theme defines a standard background color for an email. The main theme defines an email’s default font style and color. The header theme should be used for the background color of the View in this browser (preheader) section, or leave it off entirely. The title theme defines the foreground, size, and font of titles. The subtitle theme defines the foreground, size, and font of subtitles.


The @editable declaration is required on each style intended to be edited in MailChimp’s campaign builder.

Background images

You can use background images in templates (MailChimp even offers the option to include hero images in campaigns), but getting them to work consistently across all email clients is tricky at best. Consider yourself warned. Using the “background-image” CSS property declaration to set a background image on an element is probably second nature for you—but unfortunately, a lot of email clients disregard the convention.

So if you plan to use background images, you need to know which clients support them, and which will require you to do a little more work to make sure your design is consistent across multiple platforms. Consult our Email Client CSS Support article for details.

What can you do to make sure your email looks best across all clients? Two things:

  1. Make sure that when defining background images you’re using the background-image property and not the compound version of “background” as in:

    background:#FFFFFF url("bg-image.jpg") repeat;

    Using individual properties (like background-image, background-repeat, and background-color) instead can overcome issues of partial CSS support where the client doesn’t understand compound values in a CSS property.

  2. Use the often ignored bgcolor and background HTML attributes on your table and body tags. This can circumvent your CSS issues completely, since you’re using HTML code that’s older but still well supported.

Ideally, you would have something like this:

     #email {
  <table background="bg-image.jpg" bgcolor="#336699" id="email">
    table stuff here, just like 1999!

Editable content areas

All mc:edit areas must have unique names (like mc:edit=”box1” and mc:edit=”box2”). Template content is attached to these names and stored in the database accordingly—so regardless of where in a template the mc:edit area is, if it shares a name with any other area, it’s going to duplicate any content entered (and it can trigger the loss of content). For simplicity’s sake, you should limit the number of editable spaces in your template and name all editable spaces consistently. The name you assign via mc:edit=”somename” is used to create a field in the database to store the user’s content. If the editable spaces aren’t consistent, and your client switches templates after writing the content, they could lose their copy. Use these conventions for common content areas:


This is used to name the header of your email.


This is used to name an editable header image.


This is used to name an editable left or right side column.


This is used to name the main content space of your email.


This is used to name the footer of your email.

Remember, you should not place editable images within an editable content container.

Editable image areas

An editable image within a template can take a few attributes in order to allow users to insert the content they want. An editable image structure follows a normal img tag html structure, with our attributes added, and with specific CSS rules. The attribute value should be alpha-numeric and unique.

<img src="xxx.jpg" mc:allowtext style="max-width:600px; max-height:250px;" />

We strongly recommend using the max-width CSS rule in order to keep an image from blowing out the set width of the template. The app supports the max-height rule too. When these rules are used on an img tag, they constrain the image size and show size limitations on an editable image within the app’s template design screens.


The mc:allowtext attribute lets the user replace an image with text. Again, this is only needed on large-scale images (like header images), and it should not be used on content images.

<img mc:edit="header_image" mc:allowdesigner **mc:allowtext** />

Repeating content areas

The mc:repeatable attribute defines a content block that can be repeatedly added to the template. An mc:edit item must always be nested within an mc:repeatable item, as seen below. Repeatable sections are appended with a unique ID every time a duplicate is created, and several repeatable sections within a template are possible.

Repeatable sections have their own built-in hide function and cannot be used in conjunction with the mc:hideable tag on the same element.

<div class="article" **mc:repeatable**>
<h3 mc:edit="article_title">Title</h3>
<p mc:edit="article_content">Content</p>

Never nest mc:repeatable blocks within other mc:repeatable blocks, mc:edit areas within other mc:edit areas, or mc:edit images within mc:edit areas.

Hideable content areas

The mc:hideable tag defines a content block that can be toggled between hidden and shown during campaign creation. It cannot be used on an element that already contains an mc:repeatable tag. Repeatable sections have their own built-in hid function and cannot be used in conjunction with mc:hideable.

<div mc:edit="content" mc:hideable>

Variable content areas

The mc:variable tag defines a content block that lets you switch between any number of different content structures (blocks of HTML) within your email. The mc:repeatable tag is familiar, save for one detail: it's taking a name (in this case, "product"). That's an important difference between a normal mc:repeatable tag, where no name is required.

<div mc:repeatable="product" mc:variant="content with left image"> </div>

Merge tags

With MailChimp’s merge tags, you can customize your emails with dynamic content. Include a subscriber’s first name, translate a campaign into different languages, or pull RSS content from a blog. If your client has connected their store, you can even include personalized product recommendations for each of your client's individual customers. While they may look scary at first, they’re the secret to a finely tuned, personalized email. Check out our merge tag cheat sheet for a full list of available tags.

The use of most merge tags is completely optional, but the following merge tags should always be included in your campaigns—typically in the footer.


This merge tag creates a one-click unsubscribe link in the email.


This merge tag pulls in the list’s permission reminder.


This merge tag pulls in your physical mailing address and the "Add us to your address book" link that points to the vcard (.vcf) file with your address details. For a “plain text” version of this information, use the *|LIST:ADDRESS|* merge tag instead


This merge tag inserts the URL to the list's Forward To A Friend form.


This merge tag gives subscribers the opportunity to update their profile information.

The *|UNSUB|*, *|HTML:LIST_ADDRESS_HTML|* and *|LIST:DESCRIPTION|* merge tags are required in all MailChimp campaigns.

External links

When you’re including links in an email, include the target=”_blank” attribute in your anchor elements to ensure that they open a new browser window or tab when emails are viewed in browser-based email clients. Here are some useful links to consider adding to your email:

<a href="*|UPDATE_PROFILE|*" target="_blank">change subscription preferences</a>

A link for users to update their subscription preferences

<a href="*|ARCHIVE|*" target="_blank">view this email in your browser</a>

A link to allow users to view the email in their browser

<a href="*|LIST:URL|*" target="_blank">visit our website</a>

A link to your website

<a href="*|FORWARD|*" target="_blank">forward to a friend</a>

A link allowing users to forward the email to a friend; consider placing this in a prominent location

Template design best practices

If other people are going to use your template, don't wrap your email's content in standard HTML tags—avoiding unnecessary tags will help minimize confusion and errors if part of the tag is deleted within the editor. To style your content, simply target its container with CSS, instead of targeting the content itself.

A simple way to set up your editable styles is to alphabetize your CSS rules. Don’t go overboard with providing editable styles—try not to repeat styles from section to section if a global style will have the same effect. And try to pare down the number of styles you have for any particular item. For example: With heading styles, only consider color, font family, font size, and font weight as your editable styles—this will help keep a lightweight editor interface.

Leaving out a title in the email template can bring up some difficulties when using social sharing functions. It’s best to include the HTML title tag and include the *|MC:SUBJECT|* merge tag within it. This allows the campaign title to be pulled in automatically.

Save your template in the Templates section, without content and with your necessary editable areas, and use it to create your campaigns instead of replicating a campaign and re-editing previous content every time you want to send.

Testing your templates

Once you've created a template, test it in a campaign and try customizing it by changing its colors in the style editor, adding content, uploading images and anything else that would go into creating a new campaign. This "stress test" can help you to make sure the template will work well for others who might be using it in different situations.

To learn more about the different ways that you can test your templates and campaigns in MailChimp, visit our Knowledge Base.

For additional information about designing your email campaigns, refer to our Email Design Reference guide.

About Spam Filters

After you’ve taken the time to design the perfect campaign for your clients, the last thing you want to worry about is getting flagged by a spam filter. But, this is where things can get tricky. Spam filters look at a long list of criteria when they’re analyzing incoming email. They’ll weigh each factor, and then add them together to assign a spam score to the email. This spam score is what the server uses to determine if the email will pass through or be flagged as spam. The problem is, though, that each filter tends to function a bit differently than the others. So, an email could pass through one filter without issue, but get flagged by another and never make it to the subscriber. Even compliant senders with permission-based lists have been known to get flagged by aggressive spam filters.

The list of spammy criteria is constantly growing and adapting, because spam filters learn more about what junk looks like every time someone clicks the Mark as spam or This is junk button in their email client. Spam filters even sync up with each other to share what they’ve learned. There’s no magic formula, but the following tips will help you avoid some of the most common mistakes that often send email to junk folders.

If you’re interested in learning more about spam filters, we have a dedicated guide for that, too.

Warning signs your client is spamming

Can you tell if your client is spamming? Unfortunately, it’s the most common issue we see designers having with email marketing, and we’ve had to shut down a lot of agencies for their clients’ bad email-marketing practices: improper list management, poorly designed emails, and purchased and old lists. This stuff gets the client—and the agency—reported for spamming, and sometimes even blacklisted.

In many cases, we recommend creating a separate account for every client. If one of your clients is spamming on a MailChimp account that they share with some of your other clients, then everyone gets shut down. And you probably lose a lot of clients as a result.

If your client has their own account, MailChimp can be the bad cop when it comes to spamming. But in any case, your role as an agency might be to consult your client on email marketing best practices, so you need to be aware of their list management practices.

When you create a MailChimp account, you agree to comply with all anti-spam regulations and MailChimp’s Terms of Use. These terms require all lists be permission-based, consisting of subscribers who have signed up through a mailing list sign up form or have given explicit permission to add them to the list. You must have tangible, confirmable proof that the subscriber wants you to communicate with them. Be mindful of the following guidelines as you’re getting started:

When you create a MailChimp account, you agree to comply with all anti-spam regulations and MailChimp’s Terms Of Use. These terms require that all lists be permission-based, consisting of subscribers who signed up through a mailing list signup form or gave explicit permission for you to add them to the list. You must have tangible, confirmable proof that the subscriber wants you to communicate with them. Be mindful of these guidelines as you’re getting started:

This KB article can help you determine if your list is acceptable. If you’re still unsure, contact our compliance team for further clarification.

Understanding Reports

You have worked with your client to create a beautiful campaign, and it’s been sent to their subscribers. Now what? MailChimp offers a ton of reports—including a comprehensive account dashboard full of stats to help track campaign engagement, audience growth, and store revenue—that can help you and your client analyze the performance of your campaign and provide insights that can be used to fuel future campaign successes. If your client is a MailChimp Pro customer, the Comparative Reports feature can be used to dig even deeper into their data by compiling stats across multiple campaigns and any segments of their list into a comprehensive, shareable report. There’s even a MailChimp Mobile app so your client can view their reports (or manage lists, add subscribers, and send campaigns) while they’re on the go.

It’s especially important for agencies to know what the reports mean, not only so they can impress their clients with all the opens and clicks, but also so they can make informed recommendations for upcoming campaigns.

To view campaign reports, click the Reports tab and then on the title of the campaign.

Keeping Data Safe

MailChimp has a lot of security measures in place to keep your data safe. But when you’re responsible for your clients’ email lists, it’s especially important to stay informed and paranoid when it comes to security.

Account verification settings

If we see login patterns in your account that seem unusual, we will ask you to confirm your identity with your chosen method of account verification before continuing to use your account. There are two options for account verification that you can choose from. The first method uses security questions and the second uses SMS text message verification.

Set security questions

If you choose to use security questions as your method of account verification, you will select your questions and provide the corresponding answers. If there’s something strange going on in your account we’ll ask you to provide those same answers to verify your identity.

If you need to change the questions or answers for your account, you can always do that by returning to your Account security page.

  1. Click on the profile name in your MailChimp account to open up the account panel and select the Account option.
  2. From the Settings drop-down menu, select Security.
  3. Under the Account verification heading, select your three security questions and provide your answers in the corresponding fields.
  4. When finished, save your changes.

Set SMS text message verification

As an alternative to setting up security questions, you can opt to use SMS text message verification. If we see patterns that seem unusual for your account, we'll verify your identity before login by sending you a text message with a verification code. This option is recommended for account security since it requires access to your personal mobile device.

  1. Click on the profile name in your MailChimp account to open up the account panel and select the Account option.
  2. From the Settings drop-down menu, select Security.
  3. Under the Account verification heading, click the Use SMS Verification link.
  4. Select your country using the drop-down menu and enter your mobile number in the field on the right.
  5. Click the Verify button to send the code to your mobile phone.
  6. Enter the code in the Verification Code from SMS box.
  7. Click Verify to save the changes.

Account notifications

If you have Admin access in the account, you can turn on notifications that will alert you when a change is made. It’s an optional security measure, but we strongly encourage all users to activate it for added account security. To set up notifications:

  1. Click on the profile name in your MailChimp account to open up the account panel and select the Account option.
  2. From the Settings drop-down menu, select Details.
  3. Use the checkboxes under the Email from MailChimp section to select which notifications you’d like to receive. You can choose to receive security and login notifications by SMS or Email.
  4. Click the Update button to save the notification settings.

Once notifications have been enabled for your account, we’ll send an email or SMS message when any of the following occur:

We also offer a location detection feature for your account. If you receive a login notification from a location that you don’t recognize, you can lock down your account and contact our support team for assistance.

Google Authenticator

Google Authenticator is a mobile application that adds two-factor authentication to your MailChimp account, providing an extra layer of security for thwarting phishing attacks and breaches caused by insecure passwords. It works by generating a temporary authentication code that is only accessible on a user’s mobile device, and then requiring that code for entry to the account. We offer a 10% discount for MailChimp accounts where all Owner and Admin logins have activated Google Authenticator. Think of it as a "good driver discount" you’d get from your insurance company. For details on integrating Google Authenticator with your MailChimp account, refer to this article.

MailChimp takes security very seriously, but you have a responsibility to protect your clients’ data too. Make sure you’re using a safe password for your MailChimp account that you don’t use anywhere else, and stay on top of our security updates.

Education and support

Thanks for taking the time to learn your way around MailChimp. If you have any questions that weren’t addressed in this guide, visit our Knowledge Base for more information or contact our support team directly.