I'll preface this post by saying I am by no means an experienced HTML coder and the process I'm about to explain works for me. It's my "fudge, make it work" version. Anything I've shown you here I figured out myself with the help of a couple of friends I asked questions of when I couldn't figure it out. Google helped, as did reading the help documentation and forums at Campaign Monitor, the service I use to collect my mailing list information and broadcast my mailing list emails. This also doesn't cover a lot of little finessing, it would depend on which service you use as to the features available.
Once you choose a service, go find a how-to, read the forums, ask questions. You'll work it out. If I can help I will, but again, I'm a novice. Feel free to comment and ask questions, I'll answer in the comments section so everyone can see the Q&A, if there is any!
Ok. So you have a crafty business and you'd like to start collecting your customers details so you can send them news about your business. First thing, you need to ask their permission to contact them, don't just enter their details that you have from previous sales without asking first. It's against privacy laws (which I'm not going into here) and you'll probably piss them off, some people are pretty twitchy when it comes to adding their details to mailing lists.
1. You need to start collecting names.
I used a very simple form which I generated from the service I use, Campaign Monitor. There are lots of email services out there, you need to find one that is a good fit for you. Example of form below. Note, if you fill this out you will be joined to craftapalooza's general news mailing list, you can always unsubscribe. You can also "view source" from your browser menu to see what the code looks like. I've got my newsletter signup posted here at the blog, see right hand sidebar and also at the shop.
2. So you've collected a bunch of names what now?
You need to create the email template. I'm assuming here that you're a blogger and/or web savvy and have some exposure to HTML coding so you know some basics and can dig around.
If you want a pretty, graphical email then you need to create a HTML file and linked graphics. The way I did it was grabbed one of Campaign Monitor's free templates and customised it with my graphics. It was already set up to the correct dimensions and had a structure I could work with. This way I could dig through the HTML see where images were and replace with my graphics. You'll need access to Photoshop or something similar to edit your graphics to suit. I downloaded a free HTML editor, CoffeeCup, that has a preview so I can see I'm not making a pile of pooh.
3. I've created my template now what?
From here I followed Campaign Monitor's process on uploading my HTML file and image files associated with the newsletter. This process involves testing your files, running a little test yourself so you can check that when you do email it nothing funny happens and then finally hitting send! You can then have fun watching who opens it, what links they click, if they forward it etc, well you can if you use Campaign Monitor, I'm not sure about other services. Here's a link to the web version of most recent mailing I sent.
I figure this is about as "deep" as I can go, I admit it's a little generic, but it's a start. Once you dive in for yourself, you'll be able to work it out, I know it!
BTW, no Campaign Monitor did not sponsor this post :) they just happen to be who I am using, they offer a terrific product at an equally terrific price, currently USD$5 per transmit and 0.01c per email sent. Pretty darn cheap and suitable for small indies that don't have a lot of cash to throw around.
EDITED: Download PDF of this post if you want to print it.