Artists often ask whether or not they need their own website. There is no doubt that building a website is a fairly serious undertaking. Even though options for non-techie people are now available, once the website is built there are more considerations. After the initial cost and time of building the site, there are annual hosting fees, site maintenance, not to mention dealing with driving traffic to the website. And it doesn’t end there. Websites require constant updates to keep it fresh so that your readers remain engaged.
So, does an artist really need their own website? Is it really worth the effort? Or is your time better spent creating art?
Here’s the long answer:
It used to be that if you wanted to share your business information with a potential client, you would hand them a business card that identified your name and contact information. Although people still use business cards, it is far more likely that they’ll just Google your name to find out all about you, your art, and how to contact you. So is the website really necessary? The real answer is it just depends.
Typically, artists build a website for two main reasons:
1. To help people find you and your art.
A website can serve the same purpose as an old fashion business card. It provides a way for people to find and contact you if they Google your name. But, with the various social media sites ranking so high on Google, perhaps a full website is really not necessary if your only purpose for it is to serve as a means to contact you. An account on Instagram, Facebook, or YouTube can easily accomplish the same goals … for free. Social media and blog sites are an easy and free way to post information about you and your art online. The truth is, unless you are ranking high in the search engines with content marketing or some other form of advertising, your website will likely not be the first point of contact your client has with you and your art.
2. To sell your art directly to collectors.
A website can also act as a virtual storefront. Your patrons can simply Google up your website, find the art they would like to purchase, and click the “buy“ button. Although this sounds ideal, there are a multitude of websites that cater to an art buying consumer. Artful Home, Houzz, Amazon Handmade, Etsy, and Saatchi Art are just a few of the more popular and successful sites. These online store fronts are actually large businesses that have teams of employees and invest a lot of money into driving traffic to their websites. If you decide to open a website for the sole purpose of having a storefront, you will face the same challenge of driving traffic. It may make more sense to list your art for sale on an already established website that is optimized to sell art.
So why build an artist website?
Social media sites are great for attracting attention to your art. For example, Instagram, which is one of the number one site social media sites for artists, makes it very easy. Snap a photo with your phone, upload it with some commentary and hashtags, and within minutes your artwork is published. The thing is, you have very little control over the format. In other words, your Instagram page looks very similar to the Instagram pages of other artists. The same is true on Facebook, YouTube and other sites. Having your own website allows you to differentiate your work from the work of other artists. It also gives you creative control over the way your artwork is presented.
A website helps you differentiate your work by giving you creative control over how it is presented.
When a potential collector comes across your work, they will likely do further research about you before reaching out to inquire about a purchase. Linking your social media to your own website provides your future patron with a different way to research you, your artwork, and your art journey. It allows the collector to dig a little deeper and discover more about the story behind the art and therefore connect with it. Even though they may not purchase directly through your website, your website validates their decision to connect with you through your social media channel or online sales venue.
The same is true for collectors who find your work in a gallery or online venue. Many collectors like the discovery process of researching your story. They also seek out validation that your work is going to be around awhile and that their investment is wise. Even if the retail site you are using does not publish your website address, collectors will Google your name and find your site. And this website “back up“ can be the difference between connecting with you as an artist or connecting with another artist that has a thought out and well-written website.
One of the best reasons to build a website is to protect your relationship with your audience.
One of the best reasons to build a website is to protect your relationship with your audience. The truth is, your online art business can easily be handled through social media and low-cost or commission-based art selling websites. As you build your career, and use these sites, it is important that you diversify across more than one of them if you are choosing to hold off on building your own website. There have been many artists that have built a large social media following only to lose contact with their customer base when the social media site changed its terms, stopped the flow of traffic or in the worst case scenario, shuttered accounts. Building your own website provides a back up means to continue the conversation directly with your collectors without relying on a third-party app or website. If you have built an online audience to the point that you would feel physically sick to lose, it’s probably time to build your website and start an email list so that you can still connect should something happen to your account.
Additional Reasons to Build a Website:
- If you are currently (or planning to) apply for grants, academia or jobs in the arts, a portfolio website can act as a visual extension of your application. Even if the application doesn’t specifically ask for your website address, decision makers will often Google the names of the top candidates. A thoughtful portfolio site could be the unofficial tie-breaker between you and a strong competitor.
- Once your art is represented by more than one venue, a website can act as a directory of where to find your work – both online and off. Collectors who find your work in one venue will often check to see where else they might find it. One caveat here: they will also compare your prices in different venues, so be sure to keep them consistent!
- Artists teaching online classes should consider hosting their classes materials on their own platform. Many of the online course platforms are either very pricey (costing more than a website) or limit your creative control over the course materials. There are pros and cons to both, but a website should be considered in the mix.
As you begin your online art career, it makes the most sense to start with a social media sites such as Instagram or Facebook. Firstly, it’s free. And free is good. Secondly, social media allows you to build an audience that can provide you with valuable feedback as you develop your artistic style and voice. But don’t stop there.
When you begin to sell your work, it makes the most sense to sell through a site that has been established solely for that purpose. There are many low cost and commissioned-based websites dedicated to helping emerging artists connect with potential collectors. Using these sites will save you the time and cost of building your own website as well as the ongoing maintenance and marketing.
It’s time to consider building a website once you have developed an audience through these lower cost methods. As your audience develops, having your own website guarantees that you will be able to continue to stay in touch without depending on third-party apps and websites. Also, your website will provide valuable validation when your collector wants to do further research about you before purchasing your work through other vendors. Although a website won’t guarantee the sale, the validating background and storytelling on your site could very well be the tiebreaker between your work and that of another artist.