In 2020, just after the first lockdown came into effect, I began my love affair with surface design. I would scour websites of various artists, trying my best to make sense of everything I needed to set myself up for success as a pattern designer. The extensive research was overwhelming no doubt, but one thing was clear–almost every successful designer had a newsletter sign up form either on their website or on their social media accounts.
No, I’m not talking about a newsletter that you would send out with studio updates and collaboration news or links to your blog posts. I’m referring to the regular emails you would send only to art directors and potential buyers. These emails that include your designs are called art newsletters.
Why are art newsletters important?
You might ask, “I send out pitch emails to prospective clients every other week. Do I really need to send out a newsletter as well?” The simple answer is: yes, you do! Art newsletters are a great way to share your work consistently without sounding salesy.
Pitch emails include art that is specific to a client or an industry that you want to license your art to. Art newsletters on the other hand are fairly simple to set up. They need not be tailored to one specific company. They are also a no-pressure way of sharing your designs with people who want to see your art. These art directors (sometimes art agents, if you’ve been approaching them) have signed up for your newsletter because they like your art and see the potential of being able to collaborate with you. What that means is you don’t have to fear rejection when you hit send on that art newsletter.
How often should you send art newsletters?
Most people say that weekly newsletters are the best route to take when you’re connecting with regular subscribers. However, with art newsletters, once a month hits a sweet spot between being consistent and sending up-to-date work. Unless of course, you’re superhuman and complete multiple design collections a week.
What lead magnet (or freebie) should I offer as an incentive to sign up?
Here’s the wonderful thing about these newsletters–you don’t need a freebie. Your art that could potentially appear on a company’s product and bring in revenue for them is incentive enough. And that’s what you’re sharing every month.
Art Newsletter Best Practices
Confirm that the recipient of your newsletter signed up. Do not add anyone to your list without their permission if you want to be GDPR compliant and avoid being marked as spam.
Keep it short. Tell stories if you will, but don’t go overboard because your intention is to focus on your art.
Keep your subject line simple. If you think you haven’t got a creative bone in your body, don’t force it. A consistent “XYZ Designs April Newsletter” is a simple and surefire way of getting people to open your emails.
Throw in a good mix of art. If you make both patterns and illustrations, send a combination of both, since you’ll have art directors on your list who work for companies catering to different target markets.
Keep it simple. Don’t overcomplicate your email. Have just one call-to-action (which ideally should be for them to contact you if they’re interested) rather than multiple links that take them around the world in 80 seconds.
Plan your emails in advance. Don’t postpone writing your emails and selecting your portfolio sheets until the night before the newsletter needs to go out. I’ve been there and done that. I recommend batching your email content. Write at least four email copies and keep aside artwork for each email at one go so that you’re set for the next four months.
Don’t think you have to send new art every single time. In the first few emails, you might want to send fresh portfolio pieces. With time, you can repurpose the art you email since art directors will probably not remember what you sent them six months back.
Art Newsletter Checklist
You can use this checklist to ensure you include all the essential elements in your newsletter:
Subject Line: Keep it simple and to-the-point.
Brief introduction: Talk about why you’ve chosen to share particular pieces. Give a glimpse of your personality in your introduction.
Artwork: Remember, because you’re catering to art directors and buyers from different target markets, adding a mix of illustrations, patterns, and a variety of themes can keep things interesting. Add the best designs from your portfolio.
CTA: Have just one CTA–get the clients to contact you for work. Avoid redirecting them to your blog for example, since it isn’t relevant.
Design: Keep the look of your email uncluttered. Provide enough negative space for better readability.
Responsiveness: Optimize your newsletter for all devices. Most people read their emails on their phones and it’s important that you make your newsletter responsive.
4 Places You can Encourage Art Directors to Sign Up for Your Newsletter
The footer of your portfolio website
Your social media bio
A pop-up form on your website
A separate landing page
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The Bottom Line
Building and maintaining relationships after you’ve sent out that first pitch email is crucial for long-term success, and art newsletters are an integral part of that process, especially after a prospect has shown interest in your work.
Art newsletters were a mystery to me for many months, until I signed up for the Pitch Your Portfolio course by Shannon McNab. The good news is that it needn’t be a mystery for you. PYP is back this year, and you’ll learn everything you need to know about art newsletters as a follow-up strategy inside the course. Shannon tells you what art to send and what else to include in your email. She even shows you how to create a newsletter in less than an hour.
Enrolment for PYP opens on May 10, 2022 and ends on May 13, 2022. It’s a pretty short window, and you don’t want to miss it. You can sign up for Pitch Your Portfolio here. If you’re on the fence about joining the course, consider attending Shannon’s free Build a Portfolio that Sells workshop for valuable advice on getting your portfolio market-ready.
P.S. I am an affiliate for this course but I only endorse it because I truly believe in the value Shannon provides. I have licensed my designs to five companies since taking the course. If that’s not validation enough, I don’t know what is.
(Enrolment to PYP is closed for this year. The course will return next year.)