Holiday Card Absolution

You are hereby absolved from sending any holiday greetings on behalf of your art business this year.

Deborah Bollman O'Sullivan shares her holiday greeting card Wish. ©The Artist
Deborah Bollman O’Sullivan shares her holiday greeting card Wish. ©The Artist

Getting holiday cards from artists is wonderful. I love it! I hope you ignore my first sentence above and send me one.
But you don’t have to. 

If you are planning on sending holiday cards this year, take a moment to think about what you are sending and why.
Holiday cards often get lost in the stacks of mail that appear during this season. Those stacks are dwindling each year, but there are still a lot of holiday greetings going out.
(In a few years, I’ll be advising you to be sure to send out cards because no one else is doing it.)
It can be awkward. Is it okay to promote your art at the same time you’re sending good tidings? Answer: No.
You can certainly use an image of your art on your card, but if you want to use promotional language, it’s best to leave that to a separate mailing.
Let’s face it: most holiday cards are lame. I didn’t say it’s not nice to get lame cards, but they usually consist of a picture and a short greeting. Fewer and fewer people are writing on their cards.
If you’re going to go to the trouble of sending a personal greeting, make it personal!
We stay in touch throughout the year now. With the help of email and Facebook, we are in closer contact than ever before. The people on our mailing lists see pictures we share online and know far more about us than we could ever cover in a holiday letter. Sending pictures of yourself or your art just for the holidays may seem redundant.
So . . . don’t send holiday cards just because that’s what you’ve always done.
If you’re going to send a holiday greeting, make it stand out. Make it funny if you’re so inclined, write a poem or a heartfelt story about the image on the card, or include a favorite family recipe. Make it personal.
Otherwise, you’re absolved from this tradition.
Are you sending cards? How do you make them stand out? What holiday card have you received that stood out the most for you? Who is on your list?

This post was first published in the Art Marketing Action newsletter. Subscribe here. Free!

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28 thoughts on “Holiday Card Absolution”

  1. I haven’t sent cards for years. I do after holiday letters to folks I want to stay in touch with or to follow up to their holiday notes to me. Cards with a signed name or names and no “what we’ve been up to” make no sense to me in this day and age when “chatting” with someone is only keystrokes away. In the past I have sent out after Thanksgiving postcards to clients with a framable picture on front and a freebie of some sort (and thank you for your patronage) on the back. But I’m even skipping that this year.

  2. Thanks Alyson!…here are my thoughts…I send “thank you” notes to clients after each project (I send thank you notes for everything else, too)…and starting this year, I am going to send “thanks for your business, have a wonderful year, holiday..etc.” cards… I realized how important that personal touch is when I received a thank you/Thanksgiving card, personally signed by the pizza shop (and a handwritten note from the delivery guy) we get pizza deliveries from…and it was hand delivered to our door!.. yes, a PIZZA shop! They have our unending business with that one little Hallmark card–….also, our insurance company, personally signed by the “owner” and the other office staff… I will definitely send one– and include a little present….a refrigerator magnet with my business card…might sound lame, but it’s what I can afford, and my clients know me well enough to appreciate it…in a personally created card–no other advertising, just simple. I’m a young business and really appreciate every little (or big) painting job they give me.

    1. Kathy, when I saw your note about the pizza shop, I had to share my own story of above-and-beyond thoughtfulness: a bed and breakfast in Istanbul sent me a Christmas card (and they are Muslim!). I was impressed, and have recommended them to others many times. I think folks really appreciate this level of attentiveness these days.

  3. I ALWAYS send a card with a special contemporary Christmas image as a thank you to our ministry partners. It is a religious image with a message from Scripture, and is always hand-signed with a short message. It’s a way to connect personally with our friends. My cards are finished and I’m about ready to address envelopes. 🙂

  4. Interestingly, I just sat down at the computer to consider designs for cards when your newsletter arrived. I’ve created drawn, collaged, printed (hand and digitally), painted, etc., cards over the years. Many people tell me that they look forward to getting them and that they are “keepers”, often sticking them on their fridge. One friend has a wall with a framed gallery of my cards.
    It’s the hand-made, uniqueness they appreciate. Whether they keep them or not, it’s my gift to them, one way I share my work with others, and a personal touch.

  5. I send out a holiday greeting postcard each year. As I make jewellery I use a photo of my gems and pearls made into a christmas theme (eg. a christmas tree, a bauble, scattered gems along with some tinsel etc.) I hand write my holiday greeting and if it is someone who I have only had one contact with, I thank them for their custom during the year. I also hand address the envelopes. I don’t send these to friends who are customers though as it feels a little too promotional – they get a regular card LOL. I have to do it in a few sittings as its hard on my hand, but at least it has the personal touch!

  6. I love to send cards! I usually send them to family and close friends because it is usually over 100. I may just send a few to some on my art mailing list this year. I know I would love to receive a card from an artist or art collector of mine.

  7. I just dropped my holiday cards in the mailbox. I use an image created especially for this purpose. In addition, I gave the painting away as a promotion on my blog
    I send mine to patrons who purchased work this last year, and to those who have kept in touch with me over the years. And I always, always write something particular to each person. It’s worth the effort. Alyson, yours is in the mail!

  8. Alyson, I know what you mean but I’m in the nice position of having people ask to stay on my Christmas card list. I’ve been making my own cards for years and, except for last year, have been consistent in sending them out. I don’t advertise on them but I do sign with my gallery name underneath if it is going to a person who bought my art. That’s really just to jog their memory in case they don’t remember my name.

  9. A unique “art” card thoughtfully sent via snail mail is delightful and loving. I look forward to creating a new design for my dear friends -and clients. I recently met with a collector who shared with me x-mas prints I had made 10 years ago, I had forgotten of these…what a great surprise to see.
    ’tis the season to give*

  10. I love opening the mailbox and finding holiday cards. And they help make my home festive for the holidays. My favorites are the hand-made ones, seeing the love and care someone has put into their card and message. Its the most special.
    I have been making my holiday cards for going on 25 years, now. They are hand-printed, embossed cards, signed and numbered in an edition, and I hand-write the message inside. I send it to friends, family and to clients, too, its my gift to them all. My great thrill is hearing from people who have kept them over the years, and pull them out at the holidays to enjoy again. My biggest thrill was one day when I was invited for the weekend to a friend’s cabin in the mountains, and found she has framed and hung all of them up in their guest bathroom there. She hadn’t told me in advance, I suddenly discovered they were up there when I first went into the powder room.

  11. Last year I was tired of sending the same old photo card, so I tried something a little different and it was a big hit.
    I took 12 digitals of my lastest paintings and went to an on line web site store that make printed materials, and made a mini desk calendar with one image one of my paintings on each page for each month. There is a spot for copy to list name of painting etc.
    It was great to send to new and old clients as well as family and friends.
    Everyone is looking forward receiving this years calendar and see the 12 new paintings!!

  12. Hi Alyson,
    I am sure you are right, but sometimes there is just no budget to send out both postcards and a card without sending them together.
    I sent personally written cards out to about 25% of my mailing list along with their postcard announcement of my open studio, just to connect, thank and send appreciation and send gift certificates to some of them.
    Just writing a note in the margins of a postcard is not enough for everyone, especially since I only send a couple of postcards a year, and sending a postcard with no note doesn’t seem like a good idea at this time of the year.

  13. Thanks for the absolution, Alyson. This year I don’t need it.
    I’m sending handmade cards to my clients and favorite customers. I made a list of about 40 people and am calling it the 40 cards project.
    The project came together easily. First, the desire to send cards to these special people. Then, I was making a card to send with a gift and really liked how I combined postcards I’d bought at a rummage sale (mostly art postcards – score!) with some of my blessings and stamps.
    From there it’s been easy to make a list, finish the cards and devise my plan. I’ll hand address and write on each one, and take that time to be appreciative of that person’s special gift and my gratitude for them.
    I’m happy to be sending cards from a creative impulse rather than from a sense of obligation. It’s fun.

  14. Excellent post, Alyson.
    I love your, “If you’re going to go to the trouble of sending a personal greeting, make it personal!”
    I don’t usually send Christmas cards. I used to feel guitly about it, but not any more. Besides, there’s something more refreshing to me wishing someone a fabulous New Year!

  15. As much as I understand the “bother” of sending out holiday cards, I still do it. And have a slew of people, both personal and professional relationships that say that they look forward to my cards every year. Before, I usually would take a holiday or winter image and send that. This year some fellow artists and I got together and made our own collage cards which allowed us to work “outside the box”. I think they are hysterical and are a true reflection of me and my personality and can’t wait to send them. And as far as receiving cards? They become a part of the holiday decor around the condo.
    Happy Holidays!!

  16. I can’t resist sending cards this year, mainly because of my new painting of a cat sitting on the middle branch of a Christmas tree! Now the hard part will be to come up with a message that covers the religious range of my wide-spread family!!!!
    Nan in Texas

  17. When I was growing up, my father would take a photo of the family and use that to make greeting cards. Which, invariably, were sent out late. The one year they went out on time, everyone complained because they liked getting the late cards (apparently this stretched out the holiday season for them).
    I, myself, have always been horrible at sending out cards. Except condolence cards. I like to make individual, one of a kind cards and I don’t have enough time. And I don’t want to forget anyone. From the business side of things, though, I just have to admit I never even considered it.

  18. As a photographer, I have been in business for over 23 years and each year I have made a big deal about sending out a great Christmas card. My clients and friends really love them and look forward to seeing what I have come up with each year. I have slacked off a little the last year or two and have sent them out as eCards but the response is always very favorable.
    I never intend them as a sales tool but they always leave a great impression (from what I hear).

  19. Good points… I am a fan of receiving cards that are My favorites are those that have a personal message, not just a signature. Ecards are not so high on my list and the infamous Christmas letter, better have a personal message in it… I mean do people think we really want to be reminded that the 25 people they mention in the letter are more important to them than we are. Ye[. Send me a personal message and I’ll save it forever.

  20. I think we’ve lost the personal touch of sending handwritten cards through snail mail. Yes, we do keep in touch easily through the internet but it’s so far removed. I think that getting a personal, heartfelt wish through snail mail makes more of an impact and is a special way of saying thank you to past customers and wishing them well in the coming year. People appreciate the extra time they know it took to choose a special card and write it out. And that’s important as Alyson said – do it all by hand, not printed labels. Writing extra inside the card makes it much more personal. I love to put the cards I receive up on my mantle and leave them up most of the winter, they’re so bright and cheery. Now, saying all of that, I’d better get busy and start writing my cards! 🙂

  21. Hello,
    When I design custom invitations, I offer to designholiday cardsfor my clients to complete the look of their invitation package. The party starts when the guests open their invitations, so setting the tone of the party with the invitation is important. But even before the envelope is opened, the first impression the guest has of theholiday cardsis what’s on the outside.

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