Crafting Professional Emails for Better Art Business Communication

As an artist in the digital age, chances are you have to write emails on a regular basis.

You might have to use email to approach galleries, maintain current gallery relationships, touch base with collectors, or connect with other artists. Because you write so many emails, it can be easy to type out something quickly and send it off without taking the time to make sure you are communicating well and presenting yourself professionally.

It might not seem important, but if you are running your own art business, communicating professionally is key for having positive relationships. If you’ve ever had to work with someone who wasn’t good at communicating, you know how difficult and frustrating it can be. Unprofessional emails can make you appear flaky, apathetic, or even rude, and that is not the reputation you want to have in the eyes of people with whom you are working or to whom you are trying to sell art.

The key to writing professional emails is to take your time to make sure you say exactly what you want to say as clearly as possible, but there are some other specific steps you can follow to craft better emails.

Come up with a good subject line.

The subject line you use should be unique and get the attention of the person you are emailing, but also make sure it is professional, polite, and appropriate for the situation. You don’t need to write a sensational headline to get someone to open your email, and it’s important to be honest about your purpose in writing it.

Use a friendly but professional greeting.

Typically, with the kinds of emails you’ll be sending, you’ll be able to use a friendly greeting like “hello,” “hi,” “good morning,” etc. However, make sure to think about your audience when you are writing a greeting, and if your audience requires a more formal greeting like “dear,” adjust accordingly.

Keep it short and to the point.

If you want your email to be read in full and not skimmed over, keep it as short as possible. Focus on only one or two topics in the email, and eliminate any unnecessary details. I would recommend keeping most emails less than 5 paragraphs long with 1-3 sentences per paragraph.

The more concise, the better. If you can get your point across quickly, it will be much easier for the person on the receiving end to read the email and respond.

Watch your tone.

Because body language and inflection aren’t present in emails, it can be easy for your tone to be misinterpreted as demanding or rude. To avoid uncomfortable misunderstandings, be careful with your word choice and sentence structure. Avoid terse sentences. Don’t write questions that sound like they are coming from an interrogation room. Use “please,” “thank you,” and other polite phrases graciously.

And certainly don’t write things that are actually meant to be rude or passive aggressive. Most problems can be solved through polite questions and discussions.

Use an appropriate sign off.

Leave the reader with a good impression of you by closing your email professionally. In some cases, it might make sense to close with a “thank you,” but when it doesn’t, use a sign off like “warmest regards” that is friendly but not too personal.

Don’t use emoticons.

Punctuating your message with smiley faces might be okay for emails to close friends and family, but emoticons don’t belong in professional emails. Leave them out of emails to gallery owners, clients, art instructors and students, and any other professional connections.

Double check spelling and grammar.

As in any written communication, spelling and grammar mistakes in an email can make it much more difficult for the receiver to take you seriously, no matter how good the content of the message is. Take a moment to read over your email again for grammar mistakes and typos, and for more important emails, have someone proofread for you before sending them off if possible.

Make sure any promised attachments have actually been attached.

We’ve all made the mistake of sending hitting “send” on an email only to realize that we forgot to attach a document or image we needed to include. While we all relate and will forgive this error, it’s much more professional and less frustrating if it doesn’t happen. Take a moment when you finish the email to make sure you’ve attached everything you meant to.

What do you think?

How important is email in your art business? Have you ever had a misunderstanding because of poor communication?

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About the Author: Mara Blackwood

Mara Blackwood is the Executive Editor of RedDotBlog

27 Comments

  1. I had an art history professor that graded us not only on content but on grammar, punctuation, proper English usage etc. It was a good lesson, learned early. Thanks for the refresher, Jason.

  2. I found all the information useful, but I am concerned about the discussion of the greeting. The greeting can be especially critical and can determine if your email is read (or phone call is taken).
    I have found that almost 100% of the time when I get an email (or telephone call) from someone I do not immediately recognize and that person addresses me by my FIRST name, it is spam and a waste of my time. I get so many of these that I rarely open such emails anymore to see the content. If you don’t know the person, do not address them by their first name only. I am going to know that I don’t know you and I will lump you in with all those folks trying to sell me investments, etc., in cold calls.
    It behooves all of us to consider the initial reaction of the recipient to how we address them.
    I own a small art gallery. A couple of weeks ago I received a cold call from an artist with such a wild intro (something about being a soon-to-be world renown artist) that I thought is was a badly done cold sales call, asked to be taken off the calling list, and hung up. The artist called back a few minutes later and better identified himself. I did talk with him that time. He was wanting to have a show in the gallery and said that he used that intro to try to pique some interest. Apparently it had not worked any better with his local galleries and he was looking further afield. BEING TOO CUTE IS A REAL TURNOFF for many people, and it can hurt your credibility.
    A reasonably explanatory (but succinct) subject line is critical. Many of us will check emails on a phone when we are not at our computer–and we will delete anything that doesn’t appear to be of interest to us.
    The newspaper story format works well for the message. Critical info first, followed by successively less critical info. Put the critical info last and the recipient may not read that far.

  3. Good Day Jason Horejs. Thanks for that useful information about E-mails. I agree with you absolutely, but I personally make it a rule to address everyone I am dealing with in a formal way. I typically use the common ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ Salutation, even when they have established a friendly relationship with me. If i happen to know their names, I precede with ‘Dear followed by their tiltle’. For Example; Dear Professor Reas or Dear Mrs Bruce. I strongly believe that just because they have stooped low to my level, does not justify my informality. like the old saying goes ‘ A first impression is very important’ but i can add here that, even the subsequent impressions count as much as the first one, so I stick to my rule as a tradition. I think failing to do so would be interpreted as taking their leniency granted. The worst consequence of this might be that impression cannot be erased no matter how i try to make up for the blonder.
    Seriously they might loose interest in my business proposal or even doubt my credibility.

  4. I appreciate this review. Out in the real world children and adults alike call other adults by their first name alone. I am now a senior and was not raised this way. I do not believe it is respectful, but that dates me! I like to sign in with Dear… and sign off with ‘Sincerely’, and I guess that is out of date too. That is how we were taught to write letters and so it follows that it should be used in new/other forms of communication. Artists have to realize that certain forms of formality may be appreciated, especially when many Gallery owners are older folk who would appreciate a Mr or Mrs rather than a first name when addressed. What is difficult is that now with some names one has no idea of what sex they are addressing, so a Mr or Mrs would not work!.

  5. Thanks, Jason. This is a critical subject since email is the preferred form of communication these days.
    1) Keep it short and to the point. I know a professional who maintains five active email accounts. Total, she deals with 200 emails a day. She has no time to sift through vagaries before she finds out what you want. Be precise.
    2) Have reason for the email; announcement, soliciting representation or a response, question, etc. Professionals are too busy for random visiting.
    3) Don’t get clever trying to distinguish yourself. The goal is to communicate.
    4) Close the email with a needed response … ask for return input of some kind. “May I include you on my attendance list? Are you seeking new artists? Does your show still have openings? Who is on your juried panel?”
    5) If this is a return email to an inquiry, answer their questions!

  6. Most of the emails I write are submissions where the gallery says to write “Art Submisson” or something specific like that in the subject line or short inquiries asking if they are accepting submissions.
    It also seems to me that 5 short paragraphs would be a lot for that kind of e-mail. Maybe mine are too short??

  7. I have emailed two galleries asking for a portfolio review. “Portolio Review” was my subject line. It was short, I introduced myself and explained I was an emerging artist nd was seeking feedback via a portfolio review. I took the liberty of attaching two jpegs of current work and requested that if the gallery had a review policy, to please provide details and I would resubmit accordingly. I never heard anything at all. Is it appropriate for me to contact them again (I have been accepted into to two exhibitions in early 2017) and follow up or just consider their non-response the actual “response”? Thank you.

    1. Maybe call before you send the email if they don’t know you. If you can’t do that, resend the email as long as you can every week or 10 days with kind reminders ‘I wonder if you received my email which I sent 10 days ago’. Keep in mind that people receive so many emails, they will only answer you if they really need to or if you are politely and respectfully insistent…. if they don`t respond and you really need to talk to them pick up the phone or drop by the gallery!

  8. I think it’s good to give a phone call before you send a unsolicited email. That way they are recognizing your name when they open their inbox. Giving phone calls is a lost art but I find it really effective. That way you have their permission to send an email and you can introduce yourself as following up from a previous phone call.

  9. Great advice, Jason. Email communication is a vital component of my business. Each month I write an ‘art, gardens and always roses’ inspiration newsletter which is warmly received and is always a prompt for conversation with my collectors and followers. But, my newsletter is more than that, it is the catalyst that makes me live an inspiring artistic lifestyle, and I know that I must have new paintings to share in my ‘fresh off the easel’ section so it encourages me to keep my production up too.

  10. I always send a trial email to a close friend for editing. It helps for someone else to take a look at it before it goes out. Fresh eyes can spot grammatical and stylistic errors. Well worth the efforts.

  11. Great reminder, Jason.

    I keep several emails in my electronic file such as a “new student” letter, thank you note, how I ship paintings, how to add a coat of varnish to a painting (6 months down the road), etc.

    It’s really a time saver when I can use these templates. I always use “blanks” such as dear _____ in my template so that I remember to customize the form to each individual. I wouldn’t want to hit send with the name of the wrong person in the body of my correspondence.

  12. I agree that thoughtfully crafted emails are essential. I always review mine from the vantage point of the receiving party. Writing is an art form and must be approached with an open eye and critical thought…

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