5 Ways to Follow Up with Students in Your Art Classes

The follow-up process for students is different than that for buyers and collectors.

Once someone has studied with you, they are likely to take additional classes from you, which means it’s just as important to follow up with students as it is with your collectors – if you want to grow your class sizes and offerings.

You have to show students that you care before, during, and after the program they enroll in.

Here are five ways to do that.

Kathy Johnson's Heavenly Umbrellas
©Kathy Johnson, Heavenly Umbrellas. Watercolor, 13 x 18 inches. Used with permission.

1. Ask for Evaluations and Testimonials

Evaluations can help you improve your offerings while showing students that you care about the experiences they’ve had with you. You’re asking to hear their opinions.

Evaluations can also be a source of testimonials for your programs – if you ask the questions the right way.

Keep your evaluation short. I suggest some variation of these three questions:

What did you most enjoy about this class?

What was your biggest accomplishment?

What are you still struggling with?

When you get an enthusiastic response, write back immediately for more details that might help make a powerful testimonial. The most effective testimonials are in this format:

 Before I took Sally’s class, I [this is how I was struggling]. Now,        [this is how my life/work has improved].

Polly Jones, Plums and Artichokes
©Polly Jones, Plums and Artichokes. Acrylic mixed media on canvas, 40 x 30 inches. Used with permission.

You don’t have to use the text exactly as it was written. You’ll get a stronger testimonial if you edit or rephrase what you have and send it back for approval to use as a testimonial.

One last thing: Always ask for permission to use someone’s name. Real names from real people are infinitely more powerful than anonymous testimonials.

2. Invite Students to Continue Working with You

Chances are good that your students love you. Don’t miss the opportunity to suggest what their next steps might be to keep working with you.

Perhaps they are ready for:

Telling people how you can continue to support them goes beyond marketing. It’s being of service.

3. Use Real Mail When Appropriate

If you provide a variety of teaching levels, you don’t have the time to treat everyone equally. Consider the level of service you gave when planning your follow-up with a particular group or person.

Private students and clients always receive a higher level of attention from you than those in larger group programs. These are the people who paid more for your services and are likely to repeat their investment in the future.

You would do well to add special touches to your follow up for private students – touches such as handwritten thank-you notes or even gifts.

4. Extend Personal Gratitude

Send private emails or Facebook messages of gratitude to individuals who were especially active and attentive, who were helpful to other students, or who gave you a good testimonial.

Here are some other high-touch ideas:

  • Create a gratitude badge (a graphic JPG) that you can share on students’ Facebook profiles.
  • Brag on your best students on your own Facebook page.
  • Tweet student accomplishments.
  • Share student art on Instagram.

5. Share Helpful Tips & Resources

My favorite way to stay in touch with former students is to send them useful content.

They are my students because they trusted me to teach them specific knowledge. If I can give them more knowledge than what they signed up for, they’re likely to become bigger fans than if I gave the minimum required effort.

Honey Lea Gaydos, Close Buddies
©Honey Lea Gaydos, Close Buddies. Pastel on board, 12 x 12 inches. Used with permission.

Useful content is everywhere and might include:

  • A tip you’ve learned since the end of your program.
  • A new resource that just came out, such as an art material, business book, or app.
  • A link to an article you read or wrote that expands on a concept you taught or a question that arose in class.
  • Your new favorite podcast.

By the way, sending helpful tips and resources is also a great way to warm up a list of students that hasn’t heard from you in awhile.

Your Turn

How do you follow up with students?

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11 thoughts on “5 Ways to Follow Up with Students in Your Art Classes”

  1. Alyson, this topic is very timely for me. I n about six weeks, I will be teaching my very first workshop, and these tips for follow-up will certainly be helpful. Thanks!

  2. All excellent suggestions. But sometimes, Alyson, we need to tell people that it is time to stop studying and time to take action, instead.

    I have done this numerous times when I wondered why a particular student took class after class with me. When I sensed that this was partly or mainly a delaying tactic, I would speak up and, in a nice way, suggest that they might be ready to graduate from the learning stage.

    Do you agree that having people sign up for more and more classes may not be in their best interest?

    1. Absolutely, Marcia! And I’ve said it on numerous occasions. I’ve told people: “You have what you need. Go do the work.” That’s not what they wanted to hear. I guess they feel like they’re making progress if they just keep giving me money.

      I am uncomfortable with that, which is why all of my classes are focused on taking action rather than just gathering info.

      Thanks for bringing this up.

  3. Let students be your advocate: Ask them to take a photo with their finished work, or in progress if they choose, and post it to social media (instagram, facebook, pinterest) with a hashtag of your business name (or something like it). Those who send you the link can get a discount to next class, or some other incentive.

  4. I love this post, Alyson!
    I teach classes every year but one of the art associations that is my primary venue won’t give any student info to instructors. I get a list of names the morning of the first class. My supply lists are sent through the art assoc. office to maintain the students’ privacy. Even if a student has a question for me, they have to go through the office. *sigh* It makes it difficult to 1) build enthusiasm, 2) get to know the students and their experience before the class, and 3) engage in follow-up with the students. All I can do is have a sign-up sheet and ask for their contact information, but they rarely give it. Last year the assoc. posted a notice stating no photography could be taken of the students during class, which I like to do to build enthusiasm for other classes I’m offering. Any suggestions?

    1. Julie: Yes! Find a new venue or start doing your own. This is ridiculous. If they are an art association, they should be working to support artists.
      Alternatively, have a conversation with them and build your case. You can have students sign a photo release.

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Get a transcript of episode 182 of The Art Biz (Rethinking Mailing Lists for Artists) followed by a 3-page worksheet to evaluate the overall health and usage of the 3 types of artist lists.

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