The First 4 Steps Toward Selling Your Art: Step #2

Continuing the series on what to do when you first decide to take the plunge and start selling your art . . . Steps 2, 3, and 4 for selling your art are in no particular order. You need to do them, but you can work on them simultaneously.

Step #2: Create your mailing list

As I say in I’d Rather Be in the Studio! your mailing list (a.k.a. “contact list”) is your most important asset. No one knows the same people you do. The people you know–regardless of whether or not they are part of the art cognoscenti–will help you succeed. And no one can succeed on his or her own.

In the simplest terms, a mailing list contains names and contact information of people you know or might like to know. For the artist, a mailing list usually begins with friends and family, and then expands to buyers and potential buyers. You use your mailing list to stay in touch with all of these people–to keep them informed of your goings-on. In a nutshell, your mailing list–something unique to you and your career–is the primary tool you use to share your art with the world. As you may know, I think sharing in a sincere way is much easier and much more effective than trying to sell.

These days, the artist’s mailing list contains both brick-and-mortar addresses along with email addresses and phone numbers. For these reasons, it might better be called a contact list. You need all three types of information in order to keep your name in front of people and to conduct critical follow-up.

Sally Tuttle, Winterish Series-2, 2007. Encaustic and dry pigment on board, 6 x 6 inches. ©The Artist.
Sally Tuttle, Winterish Series-2, 2007. Encaustic and dry pigment on board, 6 x 6 inches. ©The Artist.

Don't delay. The longer you wait to begin or to update your mailing list, the more work you make for yourself. You don’t want to have something to tell everyone and then have to carve out time to input names into your computer. A mailing list is something every artist can do regardless of experience. You know people already! Having said that . . .

Give yourself a break. Forgive yourself for not starting earlier and don't look back.

Don't purchase a mailing list. Build your own from scratch. Lots of people will eagerly sell you a mailing list, but you’re going to become annoying to gallery dealers and curators who have nothing to do with your work. No purchased mailing list can be as valuable to you as the one you build with a keen eye on your long-term goals.

Use software that makes it easy on you. While names and addresses are waiting to enter your computer, keep everything in a file folder so that it’s in one place when the time comes.

Do only what you can, but do it consistently. Input 20 names a week until everyone is in there. If you work better with large projects, set aside a day or two to crank it out. When it comes to updating, add and correct names and addresses in a way that makes sense. If you make lots of sales, meet lots of people, or have seasonal sales, you might need to do this weekly. If you are slower at getting your work out, monthly updates might be sufficient.

See the other 3 steps:

Step #1: Devote Yourself to a Studio Practice
Step #3: Connect with Other Artists
Step #4: Start Writing About Your Art


I’d Rather Be in the Studio! The Artist’s No-Excuse Guide to Self-Promotion (pages 15-20 for organizing your mailing list and pages 197-212 for expanding your mailing list)

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20 thoughts on “The First 4 Steps Toward Selling Your Art: Step #2”

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  11. Alexandra Lazovski

    Hi Alyson. I’ve downloaded the book a few weeks ago and I’m trilled. I think you are an incredible person for shearing all this incredible information with us. Although I leave outside the US I find it extremely usefull and inspiring.
    This is my first blog comment and i am sure not the last.

  12. I’ve had your voice in my head for a long time, saying “Your mailing list is your most valuable tool!” Just want to share that I had 2 sales last weekend directly because of an email blast I sent out the day before a show! I will be doing that much more regularly in the future. Thanks! Shelley Brucar

  13. Pingback: The high art of visability: How I am learning to use social media to promote my art | Helen Klebesadel: A Muse and Her Artist

  14. After many years I’ve just completed my contact list and mailed my first newsletter, I found that many of my old customers that I had lost touch with are now online and we’re pleased that we were back in touch with each other. Plus no unsubscribes!

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Debby: Even if you do get unsubscribes, say Thank You for them. You don’t want people on your list who don’t want to be there. It costs you money in the long run.

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