BUILDING YOUR EMAIL LIST AS AN ARTIST.
Conversation, shared experiences, intentionality and openness--these things bring people together and are some of the most beautiful parts of being human.
The words you string together say something about who you are, what is important to you and the way in which you share and interact with others, even ones you have not met in person.
As an artist, blogger and letter-writing enthusiast, communicating in meaningful ways is at the forefront of my mind when engaging in person, over social media or through email.
My e-newsletter has become a valuable way to share work, grow my business, communicate directly with loyal readers and connect with others through art.
While setting out to build my list, I encountered three areas that helped discern direction.
Artists are often encouraged to create content and build an email list as quickly as possible to convert readers to customers. There is an emphasis on frequency with aggressive marketing as a means to a financial end. Yet, each artist is different, and cookie-cutter strategies can make it difficult to individualize and personalize outreach for greater impact.
While it is important to provide consistent, easy ways for people to learn about and purchase your work, the above approach may not be the best way. For me, it wasn’t. Not because I lack confidence in my art or promoting it, but because I have a different philosophy.
I believe in creating lasting connections and building community around art, and that doesn’t happen overnight.
I’ve learned that meaningful growth happens organically. It’s not something that is achieved quickly with instant results. It takes time to find what you wish to say, share or offer.
And, it takes time for people to discover who you are and begin a conversation or lasting relationship with your art.
Interest grows naturally from both sides when I learn about my readers and what they need, and as they learn who I am and see my gratitude for their willingness to hear from me amidst busy days and saturated inboxes. My emails become not only a way to introduce new work, but a way to show appreciation for loyalty and patronage.
Before jump-starting your list, consider how you will use it and determine what you wish to communicate to your readers. This will help shape your content.
Creating valuable content goes hand in hand with purpose. Value must reside in each message to set a precedent for what your subscribers will come to expect from you.
Email marketing is often automatically linked with sales and discounts. Big brands do it, so we imitate them. Yet, as small, handmade businesses, we do not have the same large-scale budgets and profit margins with which to work. But, don’t dismay. There are many ways to offer value without devaluing the quality of your art or teaching readers that handmade isn’t worth full price.
Make sure your readers feel as valued as they are. Since my love language is gift giving, I have a running list of treats that I create for my readership alone. These surprises come in the form of illustrated downloads, behind-the-scenes sneak peeks, interactive opportunities or special promotions. And, I always respond right away if they reply to my message.
You are a creative. You know your readers and what they love most, so find ways to create value with art and words.
Discerning a good communication approach requires honest reflection, creative brainstorming and maybe even some do-overs.
Earlier this year, I didn’t know what to do with my email list. I went through the motions, doing what I thought I was supposed to do. Yet, I saw little engagement and knew that I was somehow missing the point for my readers.
So, I stepped back to evaluate. I thought about my work and delved deeply into what my art was about. In some quiet moments, Lacelit’s tagline resurfaced in my mind: “Sending intentionality through the post.”
The phrase resonates with the very heart of me, and each new design centers on it. If a new piece doesn’t feel intentional and uplifting, it’s back to the drawing board. With this in mind, I reconsidered my newsletter in a new light.
If I was going to communicate through email, each message would need to intentional—from the aesthetic and design details, to the way I express thoughts and ideas in written form. I would find new ways to send intentionality through the (digital) post.
With newfound clarity, ideas on how to revitalize my newsletter flowed in with exuberance. I began hand-lettering elements as I would a real letter. I set aside time to compose personal notes and share photos not only of products, but my creative process.
Consider your readers, yourself and the heart of your art to identify the best way to reach those most interested in what you do.
Since Then and Well Wishes
Since shifting my philosophy, engagement has increased and my list has been growing steadily with readers who clearly resonate with the core of Lacelit.
Here are five notes that helped me through this process:
1. Make sure you understand how to legally build, manage and send to an email list before you begin.
2. Determine why email communications are important for your art and readers. Consider what they want and need.
3. Articulate what you want to communicate and brainstorm ways to convey these messages in meaningful, effective ways.
4. Remember that email communications are not only an opportunity to share your art with potential customers, but to give back to those who believe in your creativity.
5. Be patient with the process and don’t rush it. Being yourself will draw the people who truly resonate with your work.
Wishing you well with the artistic beauty you instill in this world, and may its light and reach continue to grow.
Kimberly Taylor-Pestell is the artist and owner of Lacelit, a stationery and home goods company featuring ink and watercolor illustration with hand lettering. Lacelit is all about sending intentionality through the post and keeping the art of letter writing alive and well. Kimberly resides in Monrovia, Ca., with her lovely husband and their calico tabby.