Auto-Responders for Artists: Your New Personal Assistant

Email marketing automation advice for artists – setting up a Welcome Sequence autoresponder, what to write, and how to set it up in MailChimp.

We want you to hire a new assistant.

Someone to work day and night for you, building your art business through your email list.

Someone to help your new fans learn more about your work. To send them offers that convert site visitors into first-time customers.

Think you can afford a new assistant?

Trust me, you can.

Because I’m not talking about a person, I’m talking about an auto-responder.

mailchimp for artists

Automated marketing technology designed to make your life easier.

Think of it like a simple cause and effect operation: Someone performs action ‘X’ on your site, you send them email ‘Y’ automatically.

Simple as that; set it and forget it.

With an auto-responder set up, you’ll be emailing your newest subscribers and potential customers morning, noon, and night. The system will be running whether you’re sleeping, on vacation, or putting 200,000 miles on your van hitting every art fair in the country like Bill Stidham.

Auto-responders for artists, photographers, fine artists, and abstract artists alike are an effective tool, and the technology is likely already available to you in you email service provider.

So use it!

But that brings us to the age old question: what to write about.


Welcome Sequences are the most common auto-responders in use, and the first one we recommend you set up.

Your objective? Introduce yourself to new subscribers, show them your work, let them know what to expect from your email list, and make sure they get a nice coupon code to use on their first purchase.

It’s the most essential auto-responder to have running, and one that we at Art Storefronts have been using since day one.

A couple of notes before we lay it out:

  • No selling! This is a first impressions type of situation, and to put your best foot forward with these folks who have been kind enough to join your mailing list, you’ll want to keep it light. In other words, all jabs, no hooks.
  • With that said, you will be providing a coupon code in this sequence of emails. But just like with approaching the gal or guy at the bar, coming on strong won’t get you anywhere. Work the coupon code information into language written in your own voice – like a casual email to a friend. No big all caps “Shop Now” company language.
  • This framework is just a reference to build off of. You’ll want to customize the number of emails and their contents, to fit the specifics of your art business. Just keep the general spirit of “Welcoming” in tact, and remember, no hard-selling!
  • Keep length in mind for all of these emails. My best advice is to keep it short but personable. No rambling, or people will tune-out.
  • A good starting point for frequency (time between each email sent) is one day – you want to hold their attention at the beginning before you lose it forever and become another list they subscribed to, forgot about, and unsubscribe from.

Alright, let’s get into it with the first email of your welcome sequence.


welcome sequence

The Objective: Introduce yourself to new subscribers, set expectations, and give them a discount.

One thing we often hear from artists is something like, “Why should I go through the trouble of introducing myself in an email when that information is all over my site? If they’re subscribing to my list, they probably already know me and like me!”

And that makes sense, if you’re building your business very slowly over the course of many, many years, making personal connections one at a time with people that take a great interest in your work.

But the path to consistent art sales is a bit more aggressive, and if you’re properly leveraging your email list, you should be receiving new email leads all the time. Around 10 for every sale you make.

These leads will be coming from all over:

  • One that hit your site from a Facebook Ad, liked your work, and subscribed to wait for a discount over the holidays.
  • One that has been following your Romantic content on Instagram for months and wants to hear more stories about your work and process via email.
  • One that found your site from a Google search, saw your lead capture tool, and instantly opted-in for the discount code.
  • One that was sent one of your pieces by their spouse, and is opt-ing in so that they don’t forget you come time for their spouse’s birthday.

If all four of these hypothetical subscribers were to opt-in on the same day, is your system prepared to give them each what they want?

The first email of the Welcome Sequence sets a base for you. A foundation to provide all of your new subscribers:

Who I am, where I’m from, what I do.

Because they truly might not know.

After you’ve filled them in on that, let them know a little bit more about what they’ve subscribed to:

You can expect one email a week from me, and I do my best to make sure every one of them is awesome. I might tell you the story behind one of my pieces, share photos from my studio of works in progress, or even send out the occasional sale.

Now, work in your discount code using the same language you’ve used up to this point.

Speaking of which, to really thank you properly for joining my list today, I wanted to give you a chance to pick up something from my store for 25% off, just enter code “FIRSTTIMER” at checkout. I’ll make sure this code works for you for 3 days so that you have a chance to pick out something you like. Otherwise, thanks again and stay tuned for more on my work and process!

Something like that, make it work for your voice and brand.

Finally, ask a question.


The goal here is to get a few people to reply to your welcome email providing a bit of feedback for you.

It accomplishes 2 things:

It boosts your sender score with Google. Receiving occasional replies to your emails is very good for your list health – it will help your emails get into Gmail’s “Inbox” more often, and “Promotions” tab less often.

It gives you intel direct from your audience. Learn how they found you, what type of content or products they want – anything you want to know.

So pop in a quick P.S. or “by the way” to the end of your email.

P.S. – I’m curious…How’d you hear about me? Just hit reply and let me know.

Not many will bite with this request to send you a response, but with the few that do you’ll be helping improve your list two-fold.


Artist Randy Hufford’s best-sellers.

The Objective: Familiarize your subscribers with your work.

Now that they know you, it’s time to show off your stuff.

Take your top-seller and tell a story about it. Why you made it, or how you made it – what it means to you.

Include an image of the piece, and make sure it is tap/clickable to view the product in your store – but don’t worry about selling it, just show it off.

Below that, the images of a few more of your most popular pieces.

If you have a Best Sellers category built on your site, this would be a good place to link to it.

Finally, showcase any alternative products you may have.

As a general rule, it’s always good to offer something for customers at various price points.

When it comes to art, that means you’ve got originals at the top – your most expensive offering – prints below that, and then alternative products such as calendars and phone cases.

Autoresponders-06Artist Mike Taylor has had success with the calendar idea. He also sells a coffee table book featuring his work that functions as a low-price entry into his work, and a great way for customers to work up to buying a full-priced print in the future.

Mike has also expanded the offerings on his website to include classes – a great service to mention in this email.

mike taylor events

All together, this is a friendly, image-rich email that familiarizes new subscribers with what your work looks like and what they may be interested in buying from you in the future, all without ever asking for a sale.


Jenny Goring art

A few shots of Jenny Goring in action.

The Objective: Invite your subscribers to form a personal connection with your work by sharing a little bit about your process, plug your social channels, and remind them about the discount code.

Now that they know who you are and have seen your work, it’s time to get personal.

Bring the audience into your world with this romantic email that shows them a bit more about how you work.

This is a good spot for a photo of you in your studio, a short explanation on how you approach process, or even something like a timelapse video of you completing a piece.

Make a connection.

Then, give them alternative ways to keep in touch with you. Invite them to follow you on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram – wherever you put in the most work sharing content.

If you have a gallery in addition to your online store, talk about that.

Finally, hit them with a friendly reminder that their first-timer discount code will be expiring shortly. No “last chance to save” giant text, just remind them in your own voice that you hope they’ll take advantage of that offer.

And that completes your Welcome Sequence!


Your subscriber is now fully educated on who you are, what you do, what your work looks like, and where else they can follow you.

You’ve invited them to provide you some direct feedback, and even given them a code to start shopping immediately if they are ready to take that step.

All of this – especially down-playing the discount code – is good will you’re depositing into your subscribers’ personal banks.

The time will come to make a deposit on that good will with a good old fashioned hard-sell discount email (follow the Art Marketing Calendar for our advice on when exactly to send those emails).

But for now you’ll have made a wonderful first impression designed not to sell today (most won’t), but to make superfans that will buy tomorrow, next month, or next Christmas (many will).


Not sure how to actually get any of this done?

how to set up autoresponder in mailchimp

Don’t worry, it’s easy.

If you can send your subscribers an email in MailChimp, you can handle this. Here’s how:

how to set up welcome sequence

Shown above, navigate to the “Automation” tab in your MailChimp account. Use the navigation to the left of the screen to select “List Activity” and then click “Add Automation” under “Welcome Message”.

Name your Welcome Sequence (for internal purposes only), and select your Main List (whichever new subscribers are added to automatically).

how to create autoresponder

At this point, you will reach the Welcome Sequence screen. It is already mostly set up for you, but there are a few things to customize.

First, (1) “Edit Workflow Settings” and set your “From” address and name. This is what will appear in the “From” fields from the subscriber’s point of view. You’ll also want to ensure all tracking is turned on at this stage.

Next (2), click “Edit trigger”:

autoresponder for artists

You’ll see this screen (above). Click on the “day(s)” dropdown and select “Immediately” to ensure Email #1 of your Welcome Sequence sends immediately after the new subscriber opts in. Or you could leave it on a 1 day delay. Up to you.

You’ll also want to check the box that says “Trigger when subscribers are imported” to ensure absolutely everyone being added to your list receives this sequence.

After saving that, you’ll return to the Welcome Sequence edit screen as shown two images above.

Now (3), you are ready to click “Design Email”. This step should be very familiar if you have sent your subscribers any email in the past. Just set up Email #1 the same way you would any other Campaign. Create a subject line, write the email, all as usual.

After you have completed Email #1, click “Add Email” (4) on the Welcome Sequence edit screen. This will populate another email in the sequence – Email #2.

Repeat the above steps. The trigger should automatically set itself for “1 day after previous email is sent”. This is ideal, but feel free to change this for your needs, or even get into “Edit Schedule” if you only want these emails to send between the specific hours of the day, ie: 7am-7pm.

You’ll need to add one final email for Email #3, and after you have created the content for that email you should have a beautiful, complete full sequence, like this one:

mailchimp autoresponders

Double check your triggers. If you are setting it up per these instructions, Email #1 should be set to “Immediately”, while the following 2 should both be set to “1 day after the previous email is sent”.

You’ll see on the top right of the screen you are able to send yourself a Test Email for a final look at how it will all appear.

If you are satisfied, click the “Next” button in the bottom right corner of the screen to set your Welcome Sequence live!


There’s just one thing left to do after you’ve launched your welcome sequence: monitor it!


setting up autoresponder

I know, what happened to “set it and forget it”?

Don’t forget it quite yet.

After you’ve set your welcome sequence live, keep an eye on the results and learn from them.

For example, if you are seeing a spike in unsubscribes in email #2, that’s a strong signal that you need to revise the content of that email. So do it!

You can check out all of the detailed stats for your new Welcome Sequence at any time by navigating to “Reports”:

autoresponder report

Refer to this report often in the first few weeks of running your new autoresponder.

Make changes, add an extra email if you see fit, keep an eye on the results, and never set the sequence fully in stone.

Use the responses to your question in Email #1 to better tailor your content or attract more subscribers, depending on what intel you’re getting. Be sure to personally reply back to folks who take the time to send you a response to Email #1 – a great opportunity to create a superfan right off the bat.


At the end of the day, the bottom line is this: don’t overthink it.

Don’t spend weeks or months thinking about this, just do it.

Write the three emails, and turn them on.

Again: Don’t overthink it! You’ll be in a better place with your list than you were yesterday.

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Is Social Media Becoming Less Effective? Here's Your Solution | Artsy Shark says

[…] have a pop up opt-in form to capture names and email addresses. Follow up new subscriptions with an autoresponder message that welcomes them, and delivers a coupon, freebie, […]

10 Basics of Building Your Creative Business - The Artist's Admin says

[…] out with an autoresponder that sends new people on your list a series of welcome and get to know you […]


[…] out with an autoresponder that sends new people on your list a series of welcome and get to know you […]

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