May 7, 2017

Do Artists Need a Website?

The real question is whether or not you need an online presence, and the answer is YES! Its up to you to choose between a website, an Etsy store, a Facebook page or all three. The important thing is that you get your name out there and have a way for people to find you. Our world has become one of constant connectivity. While you may feel more confident about relationships you develop in person and sharing your artwork face to face, there's no denying that the online sphere can bring you shoppers and supporters in a more scalable manner. Online interaction doesn't replace real world connection, but it offers a supplement to help you cast a wider net and reel in more opportunities to share your work.

#1 Takeaway - All artists need an online presence, be it a website, Facebook / Instagram or online storefront like Etsy. Make yourself easy to find and convenient to contact!

Why Does an Online Presence Matter?

>> Greater Exposure - Show off your art at a larger scale than what can be seen in person to a wider range of people. Not everyone who might buy your work will be able to visit your studio, gallery or booth at an art event. Even if you don't opt for an online store, you can garner commissions and other opportunities simply through online outlets for contact. There's a lot to be said for showing up, and online you can only do so if you have a presence.

>> Digital Portfolio - Along the same lines, if you have a website, you can use it as your digital portfolio. It's much easier to share a body of work with interested parties when all you have to do is send them a link. Quality photography can be enough to showcase your breadth and depth. Plus, for certain types of art like installation pieces or commissions, this is the only way to document what you've done and offer inspiration future pieces. How often do you buy something without seeing examples of what you're interested in?

>> Professionalism & Reputation - Taking the time to set up a website shows a level of dedication to your craft. Artists that believe in their work and see it as more than a side project should represent themselves as officially "in business." Plus, this gives you the opportunity to tell your story and showcase education, expertise and accomplishments. The professionalism of keeping up with the best practices in today's marketplace can be the difference between sales and going unnoticed.

>> Art Show Applications - While not a requirement for all local art events, having an online presence can make you more appealing to event juries. It's ironic that being online can make it easier to sell offline, but that's the truth. Event organizers and gallery owners will often research you online to see how much work you have done, your history in the industry, your level of activity and more to determine if you're likely to be a successful vendor. Having a website can also make the application process simpler.

>> Developing Leads - For those of you who participate in local events, you may have noticed a lot of window shoppers. Hopefully you have business cards to offer them so they don't forget about your work and consider coming back to buy. Make sure they can find you online to reconnect, and then you have the chance to keep them engaged enough to possibly support you later down the line.

>> Selling Online - Last, but not least is the opportunity to actually make money online without leaving your home (except to ship orders or to buy more materials to keep up with inventory). Whether you have a website, an Etsy store or listings on another marketplace, you are making it possible for people to shop local (or at least handmade) without actually being local. Maybe it's someone new who discovered you via Social Media or an Etsy search, or perhaps you have a repeat customer looking to reorder. The first step is being there for them.

What Form Can this Presence Take? 
Next week's blog post will go more in to detail on outlets for selling online, but for now I'd like to share an overview of the options to get you thinking. Maybe you have a website, but haven't gotten into Social Media or you only have time for a Facebook page, but would like to know the options when it comes time to expand. Here are what I recommend:
  • Your own Website with or without eCommerce capabilities
  • Social Media Business Accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.
  • Etsy or Amazon storefront to take advantage of the shoppers & infrastructure
  • Listings on handmade & Art focused marketplaces like Big Cartel, Society6, etc.
  • Storefront through a "Prints on Demand" Style Service for 2D Art Prints

How Do you Get Started or Improve What You've Already Got?
  1. First, consider what presence you have. If you don't have anything established, now is the time. If have set up one or more of the above mentioned options, take a look at how up to date they are. Plan to refresh a website at least quarterly and Social Media at least weekly. 
  2. Once you've taken stock of where you are, start to think about where you'd like to be. For newbies, pick at least one option to pave the way. You can hire someone to design and build your website or use an online builder with templates like Weebly, but expect this to take some time (at least a few weeks). A respectable Facebook or Instagram presence can be setup in less than an hour, so you might manage that while your website is under construction or while you're working on your first listings for an online store. 
There are lots of choices, and each platform is well suited for specific audiences. If you don't know where you should get started, look at your competitors. Do a Google search and see what presence they've established. You don't need to copy them, but you can get ideas if you notice that they are really active on Instagram and Etsy for example. Or maybe you want to start selling prints of your work, so a Print on Demand option would save you time while helping with exposure. There's a good solution for each of you. If you have questions or want to discuss a customized plan, I'd be happy to connect. Get out there and be seen!