How to start an art newsletter

I often say that newsletters are the most crucial part of my business because they bring in almost all of my revenue. So, I thought it might be helpful to share more about why I feel this way and how I make the most of newsletters.

I've already talked about why I believe art newsletters crush social media, so now let's dive into how we can best approach newsletters.

I've learned there's no single right way to create newsletters, especially when it comes to selling art online. There isn't a one-size-fits-all format. What's most important is finding a format that resonates with my current subscribers and attracts the kind of audience I'm looking for.

Equally important is choosing a format that I can sustain over time, allowing me to produce content regularly and consistently.

My favorite newsletter style is longform

I've always had a habit of writing a lot, never really meeting a word count I didn't want to go beyond. So, naturally, my newsletter fits into the category of a longform newsletter.

Even though I mentioned just the longform style, there's one consistent truth across any style you choose: you have to write the emails.

If you're committed to running a newsletter, writing is non-negotiable. It's not as challenging as it might seem, and you don't need to label yourself a “writer” to succeed. Almost everyone writes emails, and we often write more words in a day than we realize. It's crucial to move beyond the limits we set for ourselves about what we think we can't do and just get on with the work.

Writing is for everyone. If I can manage to send out a newsletter every week, despite my own struggles with writing, then truly, anyone can do it.

What makes art newsletters successful

Let's talk about what makes newsletters work well, especially for us artists.

The best newsletters are the ones that people open, read, and want to share. They might not have millions of subscribers, and honestly, that's more of a vanity number than anything else. I'd much prefer to have a smaller group of a few thousand people who are genuinely interested in my work, who eagerly open and read my emails, rather than a million who signed up just to get something free years ago.

It's not about how many subscribers you have; it's about how many are truly engaged with what you're sharing.

1. Good newsletters stick to a schedule

I call my newsletter the Sketchbook Dispatches. In the optin form, I state it comes out every Saturday. My subscribers expect to receive one email from me each week containing a behind the scenes update on my art. If I do well, they actually look forward to seeing my email.

If I never sold anything through my newsletter, I wouldn't be able to afford to keep it running. However, if I only reached out on Saturdays with something to sell or promote, there wouldn't be any consistency, and the relationship would feel one-sided, benefiting only me.

By sticking to a regular schedule, I ensure I remain in the forefront of my subscribers' minds, helping them remember why they subscribed in the first place and the value of allowing me into their inbox once a week.

2. Successful art newsletters feel personal to me

I pretend I'm writing a letter to a good friend. That's it, that's my newsletter strategy. it might be 300 words with a snapshot of a recent sketchbook page, or it might be 1500 words with 10 images from my sketchbook. It's what I feel like that week.

What fascinates me about newsletters is this unique blend of intimacy and broadcast they offer.

It's a space where an email from a loved one can sit right next to a message from a company, blending the deeply personal with the widely public. For me, infusing my newsletters with a touch of my personality or personal insights serves as a reminder to my subscribers that there's a real person behind each message, not some automated corporate drone operating from a no-reply@ address.

My newsletter stands out because every response it garners lands directly in my personal inbox, not shuffled off to an assistant or lost in the void. This personal touch transforms what could be a one-sided announcement into a genuine dialogue. Engaging in conversations with individuals who take an interest in my work and my journey is invaluable. It's how I figure out what art to focus on next, how to better cater to the needs and interests of my audience, and ensure I remain relevant and valuable to them over time by sharing content that resonates.

3. I believe good newsletters respect privacy.

To me, someone's email address is a sacred trust.

Many people are more willing to share their phone number than their email address, which highlights the level of intimacy and trust involved in email communication. The fact that I have someone's email address at all is because they explicitly invited me into that private space, asking me to share something they find valuable.

If I betray that trust by mishandling their information or flooding them with content they didn't sign up for, I understand that I would quickly lose the privilege of connecting with them through my newsletter.

4. Successful newsletters are focused

I've come to appreciate that good newsletters have a clear focus.

The beauty of email lies in its simplicity. Inboxes are designed for reading, offering a distraction-free environment without ads or popups. That's why, in my newsletters, I avoid overloading them with too many images, graphics, or heavy branding. The goal is to keep things straightforward because subscribers are there to read and see what I drew in my sketchbook. Often reading my emails on the go, using their phones with relatively small screens.

TIP: You'll want your email newsletters to look and feel like a normal text-based email. The simpler design consistently leads to more reads, more clicks, and greater overall engagement. So value the focus and simplicity in connecting with my audience.

How to start an art newsletter

Starting my own newsletter was a journey without a map, but I had plenty of questions to guide me:

  1. Who belongs in my art newsletter community? What do they share with one another?
  2. Where do my ideal subscribers hang out? Whose content are they already engaging with? Who already has my target audience in their circle?
  3. How and where will I find these individuals? Where are they coming from, and what would make them switch from their current favorites to my newsletter?
  4. What gap does my newsletter fill for these people? In other words, why would they sign up and remain loyal followers?
  5. How will my newsletter align with my broader content strategy? Is the content exclusive to the newsletter, or will it also appear on my blog or social media, either immediately or eventually?
  6. What form will my newsletter take? Will it be in-depth articles, a collection of curated pieces, updates on my art, or something entirely new?
  7. What does success look like for my newsletter? Why is that my definition of success?
  8. How will I manage to consistently plan, write, edit, schedule, and respond to my newsletter? How much time will I need each week or month to do this well, and what might I need to give up to make room for this?

On the technical side of my art newsletter, I have always used ConvertKit.

Newsletters have become my favorite medium because they allow me a personal space with my audience, free from the control of large corporations. Perhaps, for you, newsletters will become a pivotal aspect of your art business as well. I wish you all the best on this art adventure!