I’m still rather surprised that many artists don’t yet have their own websites. This comes up in conversation quite often in our gallery, especially when an artist is presenting their work to us. Often the work is great, but the artist isn’t aware of why they need to promote themselves online.
Others have a website but it’s out of date, or a lash-up, or it just looks out of step with the standards of presentation expected these days. Sorry if that sounds harsh, or dismissive, but let’s be completely frank for the avoidance of doubt!
The ‘explanation’ tends to be one of these:
- ‘A friend built my website but he never has time to update it and I don’t like to hassle him.’
- ‘I did it myself but it took me a long time and I’m not very happy with it.’
- ‘I have a gallery page on an art site but I don’t know if it’s really working and I can’t really update it very easily.’
- I use Facebook / Instagram / Flikr / social media platform du-jour
- ‘I had a site built for me but updates are expensive so I don’t really use it.’
- I sell on Artfinder so why do I need a website?
- Or – quite often – ‘I haven’t got a website’.
So let’s consider some of the reasons why it’s essential for people like us to have our own websites. And to keep them fresh and up to date!
Make it easy for your customers to find you and your work
Your future customers are searching for information about art. Some of them are looking for work that’s like yours. Some of them may even be Googling for you, your work, and for ways to buy from you. Let’s make that as simple and rewarding as possible. Whether they already know about you or not, your objective is to make it possible for them to find you!
The cost of having a basic website is probably about the same as doing 1 or 2 shows or craft fairs. And your website is open for business 24 hours a day, 365 days a year…
Even plumbers have websites these days; you’re a creative visual person – what you do needs to be seen much more than a plumber’s work!
Reach your customers yourself
When you have a website you’re proud of, you can use it as the reference point for your newsletters, update emails, social media activity….and so on. Emails and social media posts can link back to pages, or specific pieces on your site, or to your ‘events’ page instead of going nowhere.
This is far preferable to sending word docs, PDFs or images as attachments to your database. Nowadays attachments are highly likely to get trapped in your recipients’ spam filters. You can easily produce visually rich emails that do justice to your reputation as a creative person!
Services like Mailchimp (which we use for Vitreus Art’s newsletters and I use for newsletters for clients) make managing your circulation list and creating and sending your emails very easy and professional-looking.
In our world, once someone has bought from you, they’ll probably buy again.
Provided they can find you, and you continue to nurture the relationship!
Build your reputation – aka your artist brand
Your website is a great place for showing off your design skills and your artistic ability. It’s where you get to show how your work is the result of years of experience and dedication; you can sell the unique aspects of your work; you can emphasise the hand-made nature of what you do. Use your site to ‘sell’ the value and uniqueness of what you do, helping to distinguish you from the far-off factories that churn out cheap alternatives and the charlatans who cut corners!
We know plenty of gallery owners who won’t consider artists and craftspeople who don’t have a website. It’s an indication of the seriousness with which you take your work.
Sell your art online directly
It’s a long time since ecommerce was the preserve of established businesses, who paid web developers to have their own bespoke ‘e-commerce engine’. With the advent of PayPal, and simple ‘self administer’ shopping carts, you can have a highly-secure website shopping and payments facility at little cost and minimal hassle. If you elect to use PayPal no special technical know-how is required – just your time and a bit of organisation.
Showcase your work at a distance
Unless you have the time to attend shows or seek trade buyers & galleries further afield, it’s very difficult to achieve recognition and gain sales overseas or even in your own country. There’s a whole world of art buyers and potential artistic partners out there and a decent website brings them all closer to you! And with inexpensive courier services(be careful which ones you choose though – cheapest is usually worst!), and simple e-commerce systems available, selling to overseas customers is hardly any more difficult than selling to someone in your own town.
Make your shows, exhibitions and press releases more successful
Perhaps you send out invites to your shows or private views? Being able to highlight these online is the first step. You can then get yourself listed on the many ‘what’s on’ sites, local arts and tourist info sites, and on all sorts of other listings websites, with links back to your site. Experience shows that the people who use these sites often do follow the links to further info – to get times, dates, venue details, maps and an idea of what’s on offer.
If you send out press releases, being able to point editors and journalists towards more information increases the chance your release will get used.
A further thought – if you publicise your shows (of course you do!) – people who can’t attend but want to know more can see some of what they’ve missed on your site. It’s like having a permanent exhibition, open to all!
Own your art ‘brand’ and control your presence
As an artist selling your work (and yourself) online do you have a cyber-home, or are you in the equivalent of a squat in a friend’s house?
After you spend (probably) too much time ‘interacting’ with people you don’t really know on Twitter and Facebook do you have a home for your work to direct people to visit? Where they can see a good selection of your best work? Where they can judge your skills and get a feel for you as an artist?
It seems that you can’t go anywhere on the internet without bumping in to a gallery website or craft sales site promising to sell your work. There must be tens of thousands of these sites now, with more being created every day. All make essentially the same promise – to sell your work in return for a commission and a little of your time to upload your images.
You wouldn’t only exhibit at one physical gallery or sell at just one craft show. It’s effectively outsourcing the selling aspect of your job, right?
It’s also abdicating control of your online presence – your artist’s brand. When you upload art to a gallery site, you upload your control too. You need your own online space with your name on it!
This is a fundamental point – if your work is only seen on other people’s sites, they have the control over what you can show and how you sell it.
This isn’t just vanity – it’s about retaining control over your brand, determining the presentation of your work, and getting your own message out about why you do what you do. This is your virtual identity and that’s too valuable to just hand over to a website owner or social media site.
The naked truth is – when you put your work on other people’s sites, it becomes their work. They’ll sell it for you (according to their terms). They may show it, they may reject it. They may show it alongside work from other artists, and ultimately you’re one of many other artists on the same site – all jostling for attention.
This is why it’s important that artists have their own online presence that they have control over.
This is not to say you shouldn’t use other art sales sites, but you definitely should have your own site – and use it to promote your own work and your own artistic practice.
And another important point – make sure you own your domain (like www.vitreus-art.co.uk) and arrange for your website to be hosted on that domain. Again, it’s about control. If you opt for a ‘free’ or low-cost package that gives you a domain like www.mikesart.greathosting.net that domain actually ‘belongs’ to someone else. They get the benefit of the search engine traffic, while you get to look unprofessional and lose control over what happens with that domain.
Happily, when you have your own online space, you’ll have the ability to develop it as you develop as an artist. You’ll have to pay upfront to purchase your domain and find a decent hosting company, but the long-term benefits for your artistic brand will hugely outweigh the cost.
Use all the outlets you can – always be selling!
At the risk of seeming contradictory, the argument for having your own website is not undermined by the availability of other selling sites. Use those other sites, enjoy, choose wisely and make sure you manage what’s on sale where, and for how much. But don’t let any success you enjoy on those sites be an excuse for not having your own home on the internet. It’s not an either-or!
So there you have it – take control of how you’re found, presented and sold on the internet by managing your own website. Especially if you’re serious about your art!
P.S. for a bit of fun, head over to http://www.artybollocks.com/ to create your own highly pretentious and totally made-up artist’s statement. It’s a bit naughty and somewhat irreverent!