Tag Archives: brand

I don’t need a website, I’m an artist…

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Others have a website but it’s out of date, or a lash-up, or it just looks out of step with the standards of presentation expected these days.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!

Artists – what are you selling?

Are you selling your work or is the customer buying it?
But more importantly (in my view) – what are you selling?

Yes, I know I have a reputation for being obscure sometimes, so let me explain by asking some more questions.

When you cost up a piece, especially if it’s an original, or something like the stained glass my partner in crime and I make, part of the price covers the materials used, and some more takes care of the time you spent making it. That’s mom-and-pop to most artists of course, and the mark of a good business-minded artist is how carefully and realistically they account for all their costs – electricity, rent, the other running costs of their studio and so on.

But there’s another element to pricing that’s overlooked more often than not – your standing in your field, and the years you’ve spent honing your craft, developing your ‘eye’ and acquiring the skills that elevate you above the hobbyists.

Time for a characteristic digression to illustrate what I’m getting at.

There’s a probably apocryphal story in industry concerning a factory owner who’s production line has broken down, and it’s costing him big money every hour it’s not churning out products.
The factory owner calls in the engineer who spends 10 minutes examining the control panel, opens the door and presses a button. Hooray – the production line cranks back into life and products begin piling up at the end of the line.

The engineer writes out a bill for his work: £10,000.
“What – for 10 minutes of your time?” yells the factory owner.
“Ok – I’ll give you an itemised bill” says the engineer.
£75 for pressing the button; £9925 for knowing which button to press.

And here, loyal fans, is the point – it’s not just how much time you put in to that piece you’re selling – it’s how much time you’ve put in to developing your skill. And how do you value that, when pricing up a piece, or negotiating with a gallery?
And how do you communicate that to prospective buyers, who may not have heard of you until now?

Back in the commercial world, branding is how companies seek to communicate the sometimes intangible values of their products and services.
What’s your brand as an artist, and how can you build it, reshape it, and communicate it?

The first step is to think about what it is you do, and how you do it.
Do you draw on inspiration from places or things, or natural phenomena?
Do you have a unique skill or approach that gives your work distinctiveness?
Is your work born out of challenges in your life, or times you’ve endured or enjoyed?

All of these combine to make you the artist you are. And if you add in your command of technique and training you’ve had, we can build a picture of why your work is the way it is.

Branding gurus (not that I’m one, or advocating you become one either) have a structured way of distilling the essence of a brand or a business and finding ways to promote those as values that consumers will respond to.
Applying  a simpler approach to our artist endeavours, it’s still possible to identify some key points that we should seek to get across in each of our communications, or ‘touches’ as marketing folk might say.

Some of the basics include always using a sign-off for press releases, emails, artist statements, websites pages, printed catalogue or gallery entries that centres on the uniqueness of your work as an extension of you, rather than the materials you used.
Instead of describing the brushstrokes, the brushes themselves, the gouache, the gesso, the hand-stretched canvases, you could instead cut it right back and say: This piece was created using a technique I have developed over 5 years involving a light box and a negative image print.

When you’re composing written content for brochures or your website, make the content about what the customer gets when they buy your work – the experience, the vision, the uniqueness, the clothing for their walls or windows,  the colour that makes their homes interesting places to be – not just the canvas and the frame.

When you meet people and they ask what you do – how about saying ‘I create pictures that capture the remarkable colours and textures of the earth’s  geology’ instead of ‘I paint stones using sable brushes and expensive paint’?

It’s easy to dismiss those artists who’ve found a popular niche that’s become recognisable, and stick to it. But they’re doing two admirable things – they’re managing to combine customer demand with expressive desire, and they’re creating a recognisable style – a brand.

Some quick bullets to point us in the right direction:

  • Make your descriptions of your work about the intangibles the customer gets
  • Make your website about how your experience has shaped the work, not just about how it was created
  • Avoid getting too personal about the work, put its presentation in the terms the potential buyer thinks about – where will it go, how will it look, what will it say about my choice, tastes and prefernces?
  • Think about what it is that makes your work unique and find ways to get those across when meeting people
  • Find opportunities to demonstrate your work, not just show it
  • Work with potential buyers to understand what they’re looking for,  and then sell the story of your work in terms the buyer has shared with you
  • Finally, find a narrative – a brand concept – brief, not too flowery, but not aloof either, that sells your hard-earned expertise; find places and ways to use it, consistently.

I always think of Vermeer in this context – the aspect of his work that we’re most likely to think of is his use of the camera obscura to achieve dramatic perspective effects. Maybe that was Vermeer’s brand concept.
What’s yours?

Feel free to leave a comment or get in touch via my website if you want to work on your brand concept and communicate your uniqueness!