Artists and craftspeople should consider the value of building an e-mail list. When you can e-mail people, you have your own medium that allows you to contact them as much or as little as you wish. (Once they have opted in.) 

E-mail is an excellent way to grow your business, sell more paintings, and deepen your customer relationships. 

Not sure HOW to build an e-mail list? In this article I’ll share lots of ideas and methods that can work for you. Keep reading, and I’ll make it simple to understand and do. 

Why, exactly, should you consider building an e-mail list?

Well, if you were suddenly stripped of all your Facebook, Instagram, and social media accounts, what would you do? What if all the websites and advertising vehicles, like art magazines, disappeared? What then?

Though this is unlikely to happen, we’ve seen artists make a simple mistake (like posting a nude painting) and have their Facebook accounts cancelled. All it takes sometimes is one complaint, and you’ve lost years of accumulated followers. Starting from scratch and getting those followers back may not be possible. 

Therefore I believe your e-mail list is so valuable that you should guard it with your life. Make sure it’s never shared and never lost. And, of course, your list must be treated with respect. Your e-mail list may be the most important thing in your marketing arsenal. 

But, just like a website that is out of date and not managed can hurt you, so can a weak or outdated list. You need to make sure you stay on top of your e-mail marketing list. 

And just like you don’t want a bunch of non-buying tire-kickers visiting your studio and wasting your time, you don’t want people on your e-mail list who will not become potential customers. So you need to attract the RIGHT kind of people who will become valuable customers and be willing to avoid all others. And you need a strategy, following my ABG (Always Be Gathering [e-mails]) method. 

Of course, you must nurture your e-mail list, not just do basic maintenance. If they are ignored, you will be ignored.  

Where do you start to build an e-mail list?

In the simplest possible terms (no, it’s not complicated), you want to reach people who are a fit, often called your “target prospects.” These are people you know love art, people who have bought art from you or others you know, or people who have expressed interest in your art.

Caution: You’ll make a lot of enemies (and be breaking the law) if you just start adding people to your e-mail list without their permission. People have to opt in (give you their permission to e-mail them). If you start sending to people without their permission, you will make them mad, and they might report you by hitting the dreaded “spam” button. This could result in your e-mail service provider NOT delivering any more of your e-mails, and could result in big companies like Google not delivering them either. It could take years to solve that problem.

Getting a Fast Start

Walk before you run. That means get some experience driving before you hop into a Ferrari. Things can go at high speed and you don’t want to crash. So start by getting some experience, and keep it simple.

Start by enabling a tool on your website that allows you to collect names. You can have a button offering something of value, like a newsletter or e-book, so people can click it and put in their information. You’ll have to build a form.

Caution: The longer the form, the lower the response. Your main goal is to get nothing more than an e-mail address and a first name. Anything more  than that will lower response rates; people don’t like to hand out information. (There are tools to gather more information at a later point.)

Once you have your web form up and running, there needs to be a button that opts people in to your list (and you’ll also need a privacy policy explaining how their e-mail will be used).

Once you’ve been collecting names of buyers and potential buyers for a while, you can drop them an e-mail and ask if you can add them to your e-mail list (please explain the benefits). If they say yes, you can add them or provide a link so they can add themselves.

Of course, you can use your social media to announce your e-book or newsletter and invite people to come to your new website to sign up.

If you advertise, invite people to visit your site for their free gift, e-book, newsletter, etc. Put it in every ad forever. ABG.

A speedy way to advertise to get people onto a list is to make it the focus of your ad two or three times in a row (offer a benefit!). And you can run ads on social that are designed to offer a benefit for a visit (“Visit my website for my free e-book”). You can do this with print, web, or banners, or with campaigns on Google or social media. 

If you have something specific to offer, you can promote and advertise a webinar on that topic and get people to sign up (which also opts them into your list). Then present the webinar, and possibly ask for an order for something else you offer — for example, signing up for a workshop. Make the webinar a sample.

Your Free Offer

Note: If it’s all about you, they won’t care. (Sorry, truth hurts). If it’s of benefit to them, they will care. Your free offer, free gift, e-book, etc., should benefit the reader. Will they give their e-mail for something valuable in return? Absolutely. 

In the direct marketing world, these are called “lead magnets.” They can be books, planners, guides, white papers, reports, checklists, materials lists, color lists, etc. Come up with something people want.

Note, we as artists tend to forget there are two worlds … the world of our friends (other artists) and the world of our customers (art buyers). In some cases BOTH can be customers, such as when we’re selling workshops or training. If that’s the case, have two offers — one per target segment. But remember, the more choices you offer, the lower the response. Maybe start with what matters MOST to you, like potential art buyers. 

Don’t Forget to Sell

Put some sell behind your freebie. Make a nice picture and write a small paragraph about the value of the item. You may want to use a pop-up so people see it right away when they visit (if their filter is not engaged to prevent it).


Should you offer actual gifts that cost money?  That’s up to you. You have to assume that only a small percentage of those receiving a gift will become customers. So if you give out 10 gifts that cost you $1 each, is it worth that much to get one customer? (Absolutely.)

Know Your Data

You need to know how much people spend on your artwork. If you sell one out of 10 visitors who get your free gift, it could be a big win. This is why it’s important to know your audience and your numbers. Track everything.

Get Interviewed

A great tool for getting people to sign up is to do interviews on other people’s platforms (their web shows, podcasts, Zoom teaching) and mention that you have a free offer for those who visit your site. Also mention your social media handles. Then you can link those shows in your social pages, which can bring new listeners and maybe new e-mails. 

Make sure your gift or offer is targeted or you’ll get lots of visitors who are not ever going to be customers. 

E-mail Signature

Don’t forget to put your offer in your e-mail signature and in your social media profile (“Sign up to get my free e-book on X by clicking on this link”).

You can also offer things like discounts (“Visit my website for 20% off, this week only”).

Sharing is important, so in your newsletter or your free e-book, make a request that people share it with others. Offer a link they can send.

And — if you’re able to be tasteful about it — if you see people on social media you want to meet (maybe a collector), send them a private message or a comment, inviting them to get to know you. 


Contests or giveaways are a great way to get leads. You can offer a painting giveaway and require e-mails to enter (let people know they are opting in to your list). Keep in mind that this is harder to use for qualified leads because some will sign up for anything free but will never buy anything from you. Also, know the law. If someone has to pay or buy something to enter, your contest may be considered a lottery (three criteria for creating a lottery: prize, chance, and consideration), and the laws concerning lotteries can be complex.

Set Goals

Oh, and set goals. If you are deliberate and tell yourself you are going to get 10 quality names a month, you will do it. By the end of the year, if you have 120 quality prospects, that beats having a list of 10,000 people who are not prospects.

Happy 2021

If you start now, you can start seeing results soon. Repetition of offers, shows, special events, etc,. can be very effective. Be creative, have fun, and make your e-mails fun to read and entertaining. If not, they won’t get opened (and that’s a story for another day).