April 8, 2020 | Alyson Stanfield

Using Real Mail to Delight

I'm using this time during the coronavirus outbreak, while we are sheltered in place, to help you focus on small things you can do now to stay in control of your art business. This post is a complete transcript of Art Biz Podcast episode 47.

I started by talking about why structure and control are so important now. I invite you, if you haven’t already heard it, to go back and listen to those tips in episode #46.

In this episode, I want to talk about something specific you can add to your daily structure that I think will lift your spirits and that I know will lift the spirits of others: Mail. Real mail.

Email Isn’t Always the Answer

Artist trading cards by Margaret Bremner
Margaret Bremner turned her artist trading cards into note cards that she can send as Thank Yous.

Email is terrific. It’s fast, inexpensive, and connects to other online resources. But along with email comes a few headaches—primarily, and I don’t have to tell you this, too much of it.

It’s stupidly easy to type up a message and press send. Everyone does it. Every day. And they’re doing even more of it right now because even more of our lives are lived in the digital space while we are staying at home. That means there is a dizzying number of emails flying over the airwaves.

How can you make sure your email is being seen by those you want to stay connected to? You can’t.

I don’t want you to discount email completely, but it seems like a good time to try a different tactic—to revisit a strategy for sending real mail that lands in a real mailbox.

Listen Now


Music by Wildermiss.

4 Reasons You Should Send Real Mail Now

There are 4 reasons why I’m raving about real mail to my students, members, and private clients.

1. Real mail is tactile.

Envelopes and postcards are things you can touch. You can cut, tear, and unpack a package (sometimes you can even smell it).

Hand-painted watercolor cards by artist Alison Nicholls
Alison Nicholls sends hand-painted watercolor cards to her collectors.

Handwritten notes enhance your emotional bond with recipients—something that can’t be duplicated with email. I can’t think of a single email, regardless of how kind it was, that evokes the same level of emotion as a piece of mail with handwriting.

This tactile quality is as important to you as to the recipient. I am certain you will experience more joy writing a single note or shipping a single package than you will sending 500 emails.

Couldn't we all use a little more joy right now?

2. Real mail distinguishes you from other artists who aren’t using it.

When you send a package, letter, or postcard, you have to address it, stamp it, and put it in a mailbox. It’s so much work that most people don’t do it. How did we ever manage before email?

People who receive your mail will recognize and appreciate this extra effort.

Anything with your handwriting, in a note and on the envelope, will get more attention than printed labels. Even if you’re sending a postcard with pre-printed text on it, write a personal note somewhere.

Artist postcards from Sandra Mucha
Sandra Mucha includes handwritten messages on her postcards.

3. Real mail is more likely to be seen by recipients than email.

There are 2 major issues that make email delivery unreliable.

First, filters might send it to the recipient's junk mail folder, where it’s dead on arrival. Second, if an email does reach the inbox, the busy recipient might delete it in an effort to eliminate an overwhelming number of messages.

I don’t know about you, but I am quick with the Delete key.

I can easily plow through 300 emails in an hour when I need to. My focus isn’t on responding to the juicy stuff. I’m just trying to get rid of everything that doesn’t absolutely require my attention. I miss hundreds of marketing messages this way, but it’s the only way to remain sane with an overflowing inbox.

Maybe I missed one of your messages while emptying my inbox.

Can you imagine this happening with real mail? No!

I’m aware that some people never get around to deleting email, but in the company of several thousand messages in an inbox, your email might as well be in a black hole. This brings me to my final point.

4. Real mail endures.

It’s more likely to be preserved.

Framed handmade cards by artists
Cards from artists that I've framed. From left: Geri deGruy, Karin Olah, and Jim Meeks.

Recipients can store a letter or postcard in a folder, tack it to a bulletin board, or slap a magnet on it for the refrigerator. They can keep it on top of a busy desk to make them smile.

Some people even frame their mail from artists.

The bottom line is that real mail has the potential to delight. Imagine the expression on recipients’ faces when they sort through their unwanted mail and discover a piece with your art on it. ART. In the mail. That’s a fun find!

Who to Send Mail to Now

Of course you want to send mail to the special people in your professional life right now. Your collectors, your gallerist (who is likely struggling), and any team members who are vital to your success.

You might also want to share gratitude with first responders and the critical people who keep the grocery store open or deliver food and packages to your door. And don’t forget to leave a personal note to your mail carrier inside of your mailbox.

What To Send in the Mail Now

Hopefully I’ve convinced you that it’s a good time to send real mail. Or deliver it. Or leave it on a neighbor’s doorstep.

Don’t worry about the germs right now. If recipients are taking the proper precautions, your mail will be safe.

Artist Studio Sale Announcement from Trudy Rice
Trudy Rice has added a sticker to the top of her previously printed announcements for her open studio. Due to quarantine, she has adjusted her plan to be a virtual studio sale. She includes the corrected postcard and handwritten note (which she photocopied) in an envelope.

What’s more disturbing is the thought that coronavirus might shutter the postal service as we know it. The thought of this breaks my heart, and has me scheming about ways I can use mail now to support the system.

Whatever you send should feature your art, and you could add something useful for the occasion—something the recipient might want to keep. Perhaps:

  • Instructions for an art activity to do with kids
  • A poem or inspirational quote, which is especially meaningful if they’re your own words
  • Your favorite recipe

Truly, all you have to send is a quick note that says Thinking of You or Stay Healthy. Remember, it’s the thought that counts.

For more tips on using real mail, see actions 6 and 11 in my book, I’d Rather Be in the Studio.


Music by Wildermiss.

Join the Conversation

I need you to be part of the conversation. I need to hear from you! Please leave a comment and tell me how you're faring.

And join me on Instagram using #ArtBizNow and bookmark ArtBizNow.com as a hub for art business resources during this crisis.

22 comments add a comment
  • Delightful ideas. Love tactile.

  • Hi Alyson!

    On the same page, and have been packaging up with ribbon, a set of 5 pretty floral cards & envelopes for my top clients, and for some prospective clients .. or as many people as I can for whom I think it will make them smile!

    Cute masks. Stay safe. And thanks for your upbeat inspiring emails! ;)

    xx Susan Pepler

    • Real mail is a great idea…but many people I know are nervous about mail and packages due to the health crisis. Better to wait to do such mailings ‘til things are a bit better!

    • Alyson Stanfield

      Deborah, I addressed this and linked to articles on the topic.

    • Alyson Stanfield

      That sounds so nice, Susan! Lucky people.

  • I am a huge package sender. All year long and then a ton during the holiday season. Have sent a number of packages already in last month. (If receiver leaves box for 24 hours before opening, or wipes down with antiseptic, it is safe). I’ve been less consistent with sending real mail. Don’t know where to beging with collectors…one of my goals was to separate out a list of my collectors from my mailing list and to send all postcards(to be ordered with more recent artwork). That will take some time. But with self isolating, there are so many people that are part of my daily life, that I don’t see anymore and real mail is a great idea for touching base with them. I have been overwhelmed by the barrage of online videos, tutorials, virtual meetings and gatherngs and surveys…this is a good antidote. And having used handwriting in my earlier work, I have to agree that there is nothing so distinctive and wonderful about the handwritten!

    • Alyson Stanfield

      I hear you! I cherish my time away from the screen right now. And I can attest to the fact that you’re a fantastic package sender. Such a treat to open boxes from you, Christine. xoxo

    • Yes, I also hear you about the screen time, Christine. And hope to see you again in person soon! Stay well.

  • Great post–
    I have been doing a small (4″x 6″) drawing or colored study most days, matting them then sending them to collectors with notes of cheer. My first ones should arrive in the mailboxes starting tomorrow, so while I don’t know how they will be received, this has made ME feel better and more connected!
    And my husband loves donning his mask to take them into the post office.

    • Alyson Stanfield

      Those sound lovely, Lindy. And how nice that you have a personal mail carrier! Give that man a kiss.

  • just love this idea!
    Was continuing on with purging my desk and paper files and found some thankyou cards from folks. they made me feel so good I decided to keep them yet again! a few of the really nice ones are on my wall by my computer. even if I don’t think about it conciously, it is certain to have a positive effect on me !

    • Alyson Stanfield

      I love this, Georgina! How special to have those? Think of the effect yours have on people.

  • Always, thank you, Alyson. Two days ago I received a surprise check in the mail from one of my vendors. No prior notice of sale. When I opened the letter, besides the check it included simply a note to be safe and enjoy. I know how that made me feel. A little later I decided to send some hand written notes to my friends (we’ve been doing texts and emails) to put a smile on their face and be just a little surprise. After reading your message today, I definitely will be sending some notes to my loyal customers.

  • The day before I received your email I thought now would be a good time to send cards to family and friends. So yes, why not send them to my collectors. Thank you!

  • WOW! Just got to read this email today – and it really struck me! YES!! Real mail!! I hate email marketing anyway! Busy thinking about what I can send to collectors and others – to brighten their day! I have a flush of ideas – for today – and as a wonderful connecting opportunity going forward! It’s a step back to the way we used to do it – direct mail! And I LOVE it! Thank you for the idea, Alyson!! I’m going old school and showing up in my collectors lives in a more authentic way!

  • Thanks for using my cards to illustrate this wonderful blog post, Alyson. I’m finding that sending out cards is not only a way to stay in touch with my subscribers, buyers and Art Safari guests, but it’s a way for me to make art with less pressure (we can all do with less pressure right now) and a great way to connect with people without worrying about the normal marketing messages, which can seem inappropriate at this time.

    • Alyson Stanfield

      Thanks for sharing your lovely hand-painted cards, Alison! Sounds like this is the perfect outlet for you.

  • Thanks for the encouragement. I just ordered 500 postcards to send to my list with words of love and encouragement. Just needed the reminder.

  • Thanks for this great blog post, Alyson! I totally agree. Such great ideas–I will certainly be sharing this article with my clients.

  • Yes! Yes! Yes! I never received hand-written letters anymore. In fact, my hand-writing is so bad and so embarrassing. Yet I completely agree with you that sending real mail is such a nice touch. I thought it was my only secret :) (I’ve been sending real postcards to my art collectors with my own handwriting for a while now, they love it :)

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