Email Newsletters for Artists in Three Steps

We’ve written extensively about using social media and blogs to promote your art, but we haven’t really touched on the most powerful part of an artist’s online toolkit: email.

Many artists have a contact list of emails they’ve collected from different exhibits and events (and hopefully, their website).

Don’t let that list collect dust! Once somebody’s expressed interest, you want to keep that relationship alive by staying in touch. That’s an email newsletter.

So how to start? Whether you have an old email list to work with, or you need to start collecting names from scratch, it won’t take long:

1. Pick a service and start collecting

Email service providers

There are numerous email service providers (ESPs) to choose from. Two of the most popular are Constant Contact and MailChimp, the latter of which The Art League uses. MailChimp is even free if your list has fewer than 2,000 subscribers! If you used a website builder or similar for your site, check to see if there’s a built in option there.

There are many, many other options, both paid and free. Search around! Any good service will offer options to export and import lists, so you won’t be stuck.

Why use a service? Sending through a service, instead of through your personal email account, has several advantages: it’s easier to manage your list, you can see whether people are opening your emails, and it’s less likely to be marked as spam, especially as your list starts to grow.

Add the signup form. Whatever service you go with, the next step is to add names. You probably have three main sources:

  • people who sign a guestbook at an exhibit or art fair,
  • people who have purchased artwork from you in the past, and
  • people who sign up on your website.

To capture the last group, follow your email service provider’s instructions to add a signup form to your site. Keep it quick, easy-to-use, and hard-to-miss, and watch those emails come in!

You can add other addresses manually — for example, people who wrote their address in a guestbook — but make sure you only add people who have given their permission. Otherwise, your emails may start getting marked as spam.

2. Design an email

MailChimp's email builder.

MailChimp’s email builder.

This is the fun part! As a guiding principle, think of all the promotional emails you get every day. Which ones do you actually open, and which ones go straight into the trash?

There are three things every good email needs:

  • Subject line: This is the most important part. Why should I open your email? Let me know with a short, clear subject line, or it’s likely to remain unopened.
  • Image: You’re a visual artist, after all, so make sure to include at least one image. The less the recipient needs to read, the better. If you have a web-friendly version of your exhibit card (or workshop flyer, etc.), that will work beautifully.
  • Something to do: This is called a “call to action.” Somewhere in the course of your email — maybe even more than once — you need to let me know what you want me to do. Otherwise, I’m likely to read your email and move on, and then you’ve lost my attention. So instead of just announcing the date of the reception, include a clear message: “Come to my reception tonight! I’d love to see you there!” Other potential calls to action: “Sign up,” “Come see,” “Watch my latest video,” etc.

Some common reasons you might send an email:

  • a new exhibit you’re in
  • an opening reception or event you’ll be at
  • a new offer for buyers
  • something new for sale: bowls you’ve just fired, photos you’ve just printed, etc.
  • other news: what would your fans want to hear about?

Let people know what to expect when they sign up for the first time. If you have different people interested in different things, organize your list into different segments and email the most relevant groups. (Your email service will have a tutorial on managing your lists.)

3. Hit send

Hit Send

How often will you send emails? That will largely be determined by what kind of emails you send. If you send announcements about receptions, exhibits, and other events, that will be dictated by when you have those events. If you want to send out a newsletter, make sure you’re committed to keeping it up. (If you have a blog, you can achieve this by automatically sending emails with each new post or on a regular basis – just search for “RSS to email.” This blog’s newsletter sends out weekly to everyone who signs up here.)

Find a happy medium between sending out too frequently, in which case your useful emails may start to look more and more like spam, or too infrequently, which might cause people to forget why and when they signed up in the first place. MailChimp’s co-founder recommends sending at least quarterly in his blog post with tips for artists.

Any questions or other ideas? What artist newsletters are you subscribed to, and which ones are your favorites? Let us know in the comments!

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