Most of us WANT to have online sales of our art, even if we don’t particularly like managing a website or spending time away from our easels.
After all, an online presence gives us access to a global market. We can reach potential collectors even while doing other things, and that means a chance to generate extra income beyond brick-and-mortar galleries and local art events.
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The internet is doubly helpful if you’re providing services such as email art classes or other forms of teaching (which is what this current series is all about).
One subject I touched on, but only briefly, was setting up a payment gateway to work seamlessly with your email service provider. That’s our topic for today.
What I use for payments and email delivery
As mentioned in previous articles, I use PayPal to accept online payments from students and MailChimp as my email service provider to send out my art lessons, so today’s article will be specific to those two services and how they interact.
MailChimp provides a number of easy-to-setup integrations with top payment gateways and shopping platforms (including PayPal). It’s as easy as following the step-by-step instructions and making a few clicks.
The goal in integrating these two services is so that MailChimp can start sending your email lessons automatically, as soon as a student’s payment arrives in your PayPal account.
How to integrate PayPal and MailChimp
Following is a very brief outline of the steps involved in setting up a PayPal/MailChimp integration. You can also find the complete instructions here.
1. Log into your MailChimp account
2. Click on your profile (to the right side of the top menu bar)
3. Choose the “Account” option in the drop down menu and select “Integrations”
4. Click on “PayPal”
5. Choose the MailChimp list you want connected to PayPal. MailChimp generates a list of information based on the fields in your list. A notification URL is also generated with the information. Highlight and copy it.
6. Log into PayPal
7. Click on “Profile” (upper right corner)
8. Select “Profile and Settings”
9. Select “My Selling Tools”
10. Several options appear on this page. Choose “Getting Paid and Managing My Risk.” (It’s not as scary as it sounds.)
11. Next, click on the “Update” button to the right of “Instant Payment Notifications” and choose “IPN Settings”
12. Paste the notifications URL into the appropriate box and click save.
And that’s it. Your PayPal account and MailChimp list are now integrated. When someone purchases your art course or art lesson, MailChimp can immediately start sending them your lessons.
But wait! Here’s why I didn’t use that method:
I went through those steps in about five minutes, and about five minutes later I discovered it didn’t work. At first I thought I’d done something wrong. But even with customer support over the phone with PayPal and MailChimp (both very friendly and very helpful) the integration failed.
After digging through numerous help articles on MailChimp, I finally tracked the problem down to a simple detail: PayPal sends sales notifications to only one location—and I could choose either to have notifications sent to me, or to MailChimp.
In order for the integration to work, I needed to allow my PayPal sales notifications to go to MailChimp. But the problem is that I also sell other items through PayPal (through their shopping cart and “Buy Now” buttons) and I still needed those particular notifications to come to me directly.
So. . . what to do?
MailChimp and PayPal recommended one of two options.
1. Set up with a shopping platform that could integrate directly with MailChimp. Something like WooCommerce or similar.
2. Open an account with a different payment gateway such as Stripe.
Those alternatives are good options, but would have required a lot of time. Adding another payment gateway would have meant subscribing to a second paid service. And, I prefer my current sales platform (Easy Digital Downloads) to anything else I’ve looked at, so I didn’t really want to start over there, either.
Here’s how I finally integrated PayPal and MailChimp
The solution turned out to be much easier than expected. Here’s what I did.
When my students enroll and pay through PayPal, they finish by landing on a “welcome to the class” page. I originally intended this page to include a link to the materials list for the class.
However—I needed to get them into my MailChimp list and start sending them lessons. So instead of putting a materials list there, I just added a link on that page to my MailChimp list for email drawing class students.
To complete their enrollment, a student is simply instructed to click on that link and join my class list.
Then over in MailChimp, I set up a simple trigger—once someone joins that class list, they should automatically start receiving my email lessons.
That was it! And it worked flawlessly when I tested it.
My primary concern was that students might be frustrated by the extra step of joining a class list, but no one has complained so far. There have also been no other problems with the process, and the class is now running itself.
Can I see the time when I need to integrate more directly? Absolutely.
But I also learned something very important in this process:
Each one of us has to begin right where we are. In the end, you shouldn’t worry about making a fancy integration. There’s no need to throw money or extra time at a problem if there’s an easy solution.
It worked for me just to add a link to MailChimp in my “welcome to the class” page as soon as a student finished paying in PayPal. If you can do something similar, then you can start selling your lessons right now!