It’s a lot of work. It’s time consuming. And it can propel your art career forward faster than any other platform.
Like most artists, you may have several social media accounts you regularly update with your latest work. Fine Art America, Art Pal, Ebay, and Etsy, might be at the top of your list for where to sell your art. All of these are great resources, especially when you are diversified across several platforms.
With your own website added to this mix, you have the unique opportunity to market yourself freely and creatively without restriction. Here, you can write content about yourself, your business, your art, and provide more information that normally you would not on social media. Setting up an e-commerce shop on your website rather than using some of the 3rd party sites is easy and could also be used in addition to other sites you use. You can often imbed your Etsy store within your site.
So why go to all of this trouble?
Reach Your Audience When You Choose
There are many benefits to having your own website. When people search for your business, having your own site looks more professional rather than only being able to find a Facebook page and an Etsy account. Your own website is also the best way to continually and reliably reach your audience. With your own blog, you have opportunities to expand in ways social media and 3rd party stores alone cannot offer you.
Without being able to reach your followers directly through your own website, you are extremely limited to conforming to the ever changing and restrictive rules set by 3rd party platforms. For example, Facebook is continually making it harder for you to push out announcements from your page. You may have 150 followers and only 5 or 6 will ever see your post. By utilizing your website to provide great content to your audience, you will have them coming back for more, which in turn will lead to more sales.
The Importance of Email Addresses
Your main goal with creating content on your website should be to reach and engage your audience so they come back for more. But how do you contact them? By collecting their email address with their permission to receive updates from you directly. Collect email addresses at every opportunity you get. This approach is unique to any other platform as you usually only receive email addresses during a checkout process where you may or may not have their permission to send them updates directly on a continual basis. With email addresses captured, you can reach your audience when ever you need to. For example, you may send out a notice when you have a new piece of art for sale, when you have new content to share, when you will be participating in a local art show, or when you have a seasonal sale.
Social media platforms should still be used extensively when promoting your new content or a new piece of artwork for sale. But take the opportunity to email your followers directly so you know they have been notified of your update. We all have seen sign-up boxes on websites requesting your email address in return for a newsletter or maybe a freebie download. There is a very specific marketing technique being used here that has been proven many times to be the most efficient and effective way of expanding your business.
You do not need to know how to code websites to have a fully functional and professional website. But it is important you understand a few key terms.
Purchasing hosting allows you to have a spot on the internet. The hosting is like buying a plot of land. There are various type of hosting companies, like SquareSpace, GoDaddy, or BlueHost. They charge you a fee for their service. (Side note for all you techies out there: WordPress is a content management system often used with BlueHost. For this article, I often interchange BlueHost with WordPress for simplicity sake)
Purchasing a domain is like buying a house on that plot of land. It is also your house address. For example, www.yourbusiness.com is a domain which is also your web address.
Purchasing a theme is like picking out what model of home you want. The basic architecture and layout will be ready when you move in but you can customize it by choosing your color and fonts with a click of a button.
Don’t Cheap Out
There are additional benefits with having your own domain (your web address) rather than something like www.yourbusinessname.wix.com or www.yourbusinessname.blogspot.com.
For instance, a higher ranking with Google is important when people are Googling for you or your type of product. If someone Googles a keyword, you want your business to be as close to the first page as possible, if not the very first option. This is difficult to do and there are numerous strategies you can work with to rank higher. This is not something you have to worry about right now. Right now, your focus should be getting a professional website up and running.
When you have a free domain name that is not solely yours like www.yourbusiness.wix.com or www.yourbusiness.blogspot.com, then you are helping that other business have a higher rank. Start off on the right foot so you do not have regrets in the future for not owning your own domain. You can equate this to owning or renting your own house. Do you want to invest in your future or someone else’s?
Your email address is equally important. “email@example.com” does not look as professional as “firstname.lastname@example.org”.
Which Hosting Should You Choose?
Choosing your hosting provider can be a big decision. There are many to choose from and the list is continually growing. You want to pick someone that has been around for at least the past decade and has a great reputation. Your entire website depends on having a good foundation.
There are a few very popular hosting providers that you may have heard of: GoDaddy, BlueHost (often used with WordPress), and HostGator. If you know how to code and love all things technical, this route is for you. What’s a plug-in? Something you would need to know a lot about if you went with one of these more traditional hosting services.
SquareSpace, Wix, and Weebly are what’s known as a SaaS (software as a service). With a SaaS, you basically have everything at your fingertips required to make a website fully functional without knowing an ounce of code.
I love comparing SquareSpace to WordPress with a cell phone analogy.
SquareSpace is to an iPhone as WordPress is to an android.
iPhones are very straight forward in their design and function. They are beautifully designed and simple to use. They might be a bit more expensive, but the features and reliability make it worth the investment.
With SquareSpace, you get your hosting, domain, email, shop, analytics, and more all in one neat package. You can definitely customize your site to fit your style, but it is extremely easy to do so. And did I mention how outstanding their customer service is? If you have an issue, you open a ticket and bam! They email you so fast you would think they were sitting there waiting for you to email them. They are super friendly and will work hard to resolve your issue.
Androids are often less expensive but are also more work. You are left with a lot of options when it comes to customizing that can be overwhelming and very time consuming.
With WordPress, you are left with a lot to do on your own, the interface is not as easy to understand, and there is a very high chance of you doing at least some coding on your own. WordPress is great for someone that really needs a ton of customization and all the fancy bells and whistles that you usually have to hire a coder to provide. For creative folks looking to have a website to call their own, this might be a little too overboard.
I could go on, but that wouldn’t be very nice - I love my iPhone and Mac maybe a little too much. But you get the point.
Read more about WordPress versus SquareSpace here.
Break It Down
What would a website for an artist look like?
- Domain (web address) with your business name
- Your own logo and tag line
- Home page stating who you are and general links to other parts of your site
- E-commerce store, and/or links to 3rd party stores
- Blog page with articles, tutorials, videos (imbed YouTube)
- Links to each of your social media platforms; Pin and Like buttons
How much would it cost?
- Domain: $20 - 50 per year, often the first year is free
- Hosting: $96 per year - $312 per year
- SquareSpace’s current pricing plans look like this:
- Tier 1: $8/mo (20 pages, 1 product)
- Tier 2: $18/mo (unlimited pages, 20 products)
- Tier 3: $26/mo (unlimited pages, unlimited products)
- Theme: Free with SquareSpace. Through other platforms, it can cost around $50-70 one time fee
- Email: $5 per month (or $4.17/mo, if paid at once $50 per year) for a business email
The low end is around $166/year, which is less than $14/month.
What type of content could an artist provide?
- Tutorials for how to use your specific products
- Product reviews
- Personal stories describing what inspires you to create
- Create hype around your next completed artwork (sneak previews, etc.)
There are many more aspects to maintaining and growing your website such as SEO (ranking for Google), affiliate marketing, and tracking analytics that you may have heard about. These are not nearly as important for someone starting out with a website as to simply just having a website to refer people to either on a business card or through one of your 3rd party sites. As you become use to having your own blog, you can expand into more detailed aspects of growing your website traffic.
Your website would act as the central hub to each of your 3rd party accounts. From your website, it is easy to post directly to your social media accounts without having to log-in to each individually.
Build Your Website
Go to SquareSpace.com and register for an account and start blogging now. It’s nearly that easy. Here are a few steps to get you going in the right direction:
1. Go to SquareSpace.com.
2. Find a template that you like.
- I recommend Montauk or Avenue. All themes will have commerce options, but there are some that are particularly set up for commerce: Avenue, Devlin, Fulton, Galapagos, Ishimoto, Montauk, Supply). You can change this later if you want but it is easier if you take a moment and look around now.
- Once you choose your template, you will be able to start customizing your website.
3. From the menu to the left, Go to Settings
- Basic Information: update your information
- Domain: Check to see that your domain is available. If you’re not ready for this step, continue on with the free domain that’s automatically provided for you. You can always go back and update this later.
- Email: This is if you want to use SquareSpace as your business email provider.
- Marketing - Share Buttons: select which buttons you want readers to be able to share your blog post through.
- Connected Accounts: link your social media accounts. With these buttons, people can click directly to your social media accounts and start following you.
4. Go to Design
- Logo: load your logo and tag line
- Style Editor: customize your fonts and colors
5. Go to Commerce
- Get Started: add your shop and galleries. There is a step-by-step set up that will walk you along how to set up your Stripe account and your shop.
7. Go to Pages
- Add a Home page, and edit your home page with your logo, tag line, contact information, social media links, email sign-up boxes, information about yourself and your business, or anything else you would like.
- Add an About page. Tell the world about you and your business.
- Add a Blog. In this section, you will go into another menu with the right arrow and add you individual blog posts here.
Need help? On September 1st, Left Side Art will be announcing dates and details for an upcoming webinar series dedicated to helping you build your SquareSpace site. We are dedicated to helping creatives improve the business side of their creative world.
Write Your Blog
If you don’t consider yourself a writer and normally shy away from the keyboard, give blogging a try once a week for a couple of months and you will be surprised at what you are able to produce. This blog is unusually long for me, over 2,000 words. You do not have to have a blog post that is so involved. Focus on one key subject that you are passionate about, write a few key paragraphs, and you will be well on your way to having a blog that you can be proud to publish.
A good habit to get into now is writing a few paragraphs about each of your pieces of art that you create. Use your blog as a way to showcase your art and tell the story behind it. You, as an artist, know that every piece of art has a story. Why was it created? What inspired you? What makes this piece unique? What do you hope other people see or feel when they look at it?
Here’s are two great resources for creating blogs:
Get started today with your own professional website. Need help? Check back September 1st for details regarding our webinar series to get you set up with SquareSpace.