9/2/08

"I See a Website in Your Future"

Picture this if you will, you walk into a sparsely lit room that is adorned with beautiful silks, and beads. Your heart is pounding, your pulse is racing as you see table covered in a breath-taking silk table cloth in the middle of the room, with two chairs sitting opposite of each other. On the table sits a crystal ball, nothing else; the air is thick with excitement and incense. In walks the woman who is going to tell you your future. She is dressed in the same silks that surround you; she offers you to sit at the table. She sits down and asks a few questions, then begins to tell you what she sees…

If I could tell your fortune, and give you great news about a flourishing creative (art or craft) business with lots of sales and notoriety, I would definitely tell you about it. But alas, I can’t do that so I am going to fill you in on some information about something that could shape your future, but with some work on your part…WEBSITES. I know, it could be a boring post,
but it’s not!

If you’ve ventured offline to expand your horizons and spoken with gallery owners, shop owners who offer consignment, local juried shows, organizations you are applying to become a member of, you’ve probably heard some of the following questions: “Do you have a website? What’s your web address? Is your website listed on your business card?” The word “website’” is a common buzzword you might want to pay attention to. Articles I have read, books I have scanned and artists with whom I have spoken all swear by the necessity of artists having their own…yes, you guessed it, website. Don’t be alarmed, or have an anxiety attack,it’s not as scary an on-taking as you might think. I promise I am not going to get technical.

Let’s just explore some reasons why it’s a unanimous vote for artists to have their own website…it won’t be painful or scary.
Firstly, your own website will give you exposure. Websites can offer exposure to artists, people and organizations wouldn’t otherwise know exist. A potential customer in Illinois has no clue that they would like and probably purchase a piece from a silk artist in North Carolina, if they don’t know the artist is around. A gallery owner in London would have no idea that there is an artist living and creating in Toronto whom she would love to represent! An organization such as Worldwide Women Artists doesn’t know the hard working glass artist producing gorgeous pieces in Maine and that they would love to include on their member charter, if there is nothing happening with promotion. Remember the story of the tree falling in the forest and no one is there to hear it?

Some art schools require a portfolio these days for admittance. Some will ask for a web- site to suffice that requirement. If you want to join an organization or an art club, they may ask to see your website to view examples of your work. It is much easier for people in these positions to view a simple site than to wait for your cd to arrive (or not) and find it amongst all of the other cd’s they are inundated with on a daily basis.

Secondly, a website allows you to keep all of your work in one place. Yes, that spells organization, oh, you have heard of that haven’t you? Artists are not known to be organized, that’s why we marry people who are! Just kidding. Imagine, all of the examples of your work contained in one place, wouldn’t that be a miracle? If someone asks to see your work whilst riding the train to the city, hand them your business card! They can then go to your site and take a look and all of it will be there. There’s nothing like being asked to be able to view your work and you have nowhere to send them. You want to be thought of as a professional
artist don’t you? Maybe it’s time to act like one and having this tool will assist you on that journey.

Lastly, the final word…sales. If you want to sell your work and not have to pay fees in order to list it, then pay fees when it sells, an e-commerce website is the way to go. The potential customer goes to your website, views your work, purchases it from you and that’s that. You decide if you’re going to accept credit cards, money orders, personal checks, PayPal, REM etc. There’s no one else involved! And as sites that allow you to sell your work through them begin to get overcrowded, therefore minimizing sales, e-commerce sites are taking root as another more personal alternative to sell your wares.

Now that you have seen what a web site can do for you, how do you go about getting one? There are many sites that offer free websites, and make it easy for you to create it using templates. If you blog, you know that blog sites offer templates for that. Well these sites offer templates to you to get you started. Some templates aren’t flexible and therefore you might get bored with them rather quickly if you like to change things around a lot. These sites are great places to get started, to get your feet wet and they don’t charge anything to enter the pool! Here are some free website companies that don’t have hidden charges at first glance, they are completely free: Microsoft Office Live, CrawlDog.com, geocites.com , mosaicglobe.com and weebly.com. Of course there are others, but these were the sites that had the simplest layouts and upgrades are available for a cost.

If you are able to afford it, you might want to work with a professional web designer to design this new business opportunity. There are many of them out there, some good, some not so good. Prices shouldn’t vary too much from one to the next, and if they do, be wise about their training and ask questions, ask to see their portfolio or THEIR site! If you decide to go this route, be sure you have your plan written down and have a clear idea what you want it to look like and who your target customers are. If the designer spends only an hour with you and then runs off to design, you are probably going to be seeing a lot of that person in the future. Ask questions, give the designer the clearest possible instructions and needs. Creativity is fluid, ever changing and our ideas, our “product” is ever evolving with us. You will want to invest in this web site so it lasts for a specified period of time. You really don’t want to have to spend that money every year or so, do you? Be sure to have your ducks in a row and you get what you want and need
the first time around.

So, to wrap this up, websites offer new possibilities for artists in this ever changing world. Whether you try a simple, free website for starters, or hire a professional, it’s an opportunity for you to gain the exposure Van Gogh, Vermeer, Whistler and others could not have dreamed of. A website offers organization, and a more personal atmosphere from which to sell the work you love to make! Try it, it doesn’t hurt and you’ll learn a lot. You might just have some fun along the way.

11 comments:

On a Whimsey said...

I thought I was going to suggest I might have been that lady but on reading further....... you only wrote that wonderful article because I am thinking about getting my feet wet!!! Thank you!!

Just enough there to tip me into the pool.

Chauncey said...

Gulp! You used the *organizie* word. Van, a great post and you make some very good points. thanks for all the info.

AltheaP said...

Someone should pay you for writing this . . . but I don't know who!
love,
some silk artist in North Carolina

JunkyardGypsy said...

Great advice Brett...but I'm scared! I know I need a website - maybe this is what will make me take the leap. Thanks for the tips!

Judy Nolan said...

Well written and very informative, Brett!

Sixsisters said...

Brett I think you have convinced me of what I already
know. I need a website. I am going to do some home
work on this. Fabulous blog.

Myfanwy said...

A very good post, Brett, lots of sense there.

maryeb said...

Wow, What a lot of good information. I looked at Squarespace and tried their free demo for a while.
I just couldn't justify the expense.
After reading this, I may reconsider.

Cara said...

Next question:
OK, so I got a website, how do I get people to it? I'm trying to get a new product ready for launch by November.

Jill said...

Good article, Brett. I did take the plunge and get a website for my husband and me. I need to work on it a lot more!! And I need to promote it more. Can your next article be on that?!?

Beth said...

wonderful and imformative...thanks Brett