Do you need help deciding whether or not you need a website for you art? If you’ve been on the fence, here are some compelling reasons for creating a website of your own.
What Most Artists Do
Say you are an artist and you want to start selling your work online. What do you do? If you are like most other artists, you will go to Google and type in something like “Sell my art online”. This will give you an endless number of sites to sell your art. Then you will post your work on a few of these sites and see what sticks.
Now imagine you are a customer looking around for art on one of these sites. You will feel like one of those convention goers stuffed into large convention halls. filled with hundreds of booths, all competing for your attention. “Which one should I go to?” “Which one is the best? Each booth is vying for your attention, trying to stand out in the crowd. It can be difficult to find what you’re looking for. Each of us has a limited attention span, and being found in these marketplaces is like finding a single fish in a crowded sea.
Why Using Free Sites Are Not Enough
There are a countless number of sites offering to sell your art for “free”. There are hundreds of sites like Artfire, Fine Art America, Redbubble, Saatchi Art, Society6, and Zazzle offering to sell your art to their customers. You may think to yourself “There are so many potential customers on this site,” “Why don’t I just post my art on as many sites as I can?” “What could be the harm?”.
More often than not, you will see little returns from these sites. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of other artists selling items similar to yours. It will begin to feel like your work is just disappearing into the void. On top of all that, when you do sell something these sites will charge you a commission fee off of every sale that you make. It’s almost enough to make you want to quit. If you aren’t convinced you shouldn’t soely use these sites, read my article on Why You Shouldn’t Market Your Art to a Large Audience.
Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of positives that can be gained from selling your art on these community sites. You can test pricing, find out what products do and don’t sell, and you can get your products in front of potential buyers. These sites can also give you an idea of how the selling process works. They shouldn’t, however, be the main focus of your online art business. Once you’ve dipped your toes into the water, and get a feeling for how it works, it’s time to consider building a website of your own. You can still list your products on these other sites, but they should be used to compliment your website, not replace it. If it helps, you can slowly wean yourself off until you’ve sold all your items, or you can continue to use them as a way to promote your own website.
The Barrier to Entry is Lower Than Ever
Before the internet, the only way for your art to become popular was either through art galleries or by slowly building your reputation through word of mouth. There was no way to share your art with the people around the world unless you became world renowned. Nowadays, you can share your work in an instant with anyone that has an internet connection. Sites like Tumblr, Facebook, and Pinterest have made it easier than ever to share your art with the world. A single image can gain thousands of views, likes, and pins in a relatively short amount of time. You can easily leverage these networks to point people to your site.
You Are in Complete Control
Think about a symphony orchestra. When you use another website, you are like one player among many. When you own your own site, you are like the conductor who controls everything that happens. Here are a few ways you are in control:
- You own all the files and posts on your site. When you post to another site, you leave your work at the whims of another company who can remove your listing for any reason.
- It is easy to transfer your files. If you want to move domains or hosts, you can just transfer all your files. It’s not so easy when you list your items on a site you don’t own.
- There are no commissions or posting fees. Every third party site will have some sort of commission or posting fee. What’s to say they don’t bump up your commission percentage when they need more money? If you run your own site, all you have to pay is the standard payment processing fee.
- Your store can’t be shut down without explanation. There are multiple instances of Etsy shops being shut down without any reason, and it’s likely other sites do it too.
- Sites can arbitrarily change their layout or listings, which affects your sales. Other sellers have seen their position drop off or disappear completely, and it’s beyond your control.
You Can Build a Strong Brand
I am willing to bet you instantly recognized this company logo even without text. That’s the power of brand recognition. Your brand is the biggest asset you have as an artist and here’s why:
- The easiest way to gain brand recognition for your art is by having your own website. If people see YOUR website address, YOUR logo, YOUR layout, YOUR social media links, they have an instant association with you as an artist instead of being associated with some other website.
- When you have your own website, you are taken more seriously as an artist. Fairly or not, people will view you as an amateur if you only sell items on a site like Etsy or Society6. It will be seen as a hobby as opposed to a business. If you are a journalist or news outlet, would you take a business seriously if they didn’t have their own website?
- You will be ranked higher on Google and other search engines. The longer your site is active, the more weight Google gives it. Also, if you want to create your own site later, your Google positioning will start from the bottom. Any high ranking keywords, will be associated with the selling site instead of your own.
- You will have an archive of all your thoughts and your evolution as an artist. You might make money selling your art on other sites, but that’s all you will have. There is no record of how your art has evolved over the years, the thoughts you had while making the art, or what items you have created and sold in the past. If you build your own website, you can record your thoughts and reminisce any time you want to.
- If you research big sellers on Etsy and other sites, they will likely have their own website. These artists know having your own website is the essential to creating multiple streams of income. They may list their items on multiple sites, but they will use their own website as a central hub. Having your own website makes marketing much easier.
- When you sell on other sites, there are usually restrictions on how you can communicate with your customers. With your own website, customers can sign up for your newsletter, ask for feedback, comment on your posts or communicate with you in any number of ways. This gives you the opportunity to market directly to their wants and needs.
You Can Customize Everything
When you sell your art online, you should be selling a customized experience. Here are just a few things you can customize when you have your own website:
- You can customize the appearance of everything. You can show videos, have audio descriptions, change the layout on different pages, among many other things. You are not limited by character limits, image sizes, or cookie cutter layouts. The only limit is your imagination and know-how.
- You can also write text optimized for search engines. Other websites have little to no options as far as custom search engine optimization goes. (Note: I still recommend holding off on this unless you know what you are doing, but it can be a powerful tool)
- You can consolidate all your efforts into one website. You can host a blog, create your own image galleries, and add shopping functionality all on one website. As far as I know, there aren’t any platforms that allow you to do this in one place without having your own website.
It’s All About You
The greatest part about having your own website is, it’s all about you. When you have your own website:
- Your art won’t get lost in the crowd. You won’t have to worry about shoppers being distracted by the work of other artists.
- You can easily share your thoughts. The key to gaining an engaged and passionate customer base is by selling yourself as well as your art. If people care about you, they will be much more likely to buy your art. The best way to do this is to blog on your website and share your thoughts with the world.
- You can build a connection with your customers. When selling on sites like eBay, it is much harder to build a relationship with your customers. You just ship your work off to them and you are done.
- Your best customers will buy from you repeatedly. When people shop at Artfire and similar sites, they are often looking for something specific. They probably aren’t going to return to your shop. If you have your own website, it is easier to entice your customers to buy again and again.
- You have the freedom to sell your art any way you want. You are not constrained by the strict rules and guidelines of other sites.
There Are More Ways to Make Money
Let’s face it, the best way to continue making the art you love is by having multiple streams of income. Here are some additional ways you can make money from your own website:
- You can work with others. When you are selling on another site, everyone is competing for the same attention. Having your own website makes it much easier to work with other artists, collaborate on different works, or send each other potential customers because you aren’t competing for the same customers.
- You can create packages or bundled deals. When you are selling on other sites, your options are pretty limited. You can create one item or a group of items, but you can’t create custom deals. If you have your own site, you can test selling your items in different ways.
- You can have discounts and sales. If you think discounts or coupons can entice customers to buy, you can set them up yourself. You can test different selling strategies and see what works for you.
- You can up-sell items. If you have items in different sizes or at different price points, you can easily promote them on your site. You have the ability to advertise your own art to sell higher priced items.
You Can Track Everything
This one may be a little advanced, but the amount of information you can gain from analyzing your website data is invaluable. I wouldn’t worry too much about this until you are getting a decent amount of business, but here are some valuable tools that you can make use of:
- Google Analytics – Google Analytics will tell you almost everything you need to know about people who are visiting your website. You can see which websites they came from, what the top pages on your site are, where your visitors live, among hundreds of other things, and you can get all of this information for free.
- Google Webmaster Tools – Google Webmaster Tools is another valuable free tool from Google. It will tell you which keywords you are ranking for, the number of clicks to your site from that keyword, and the average search position. You can also see the number times another site links to yours, and the number of pages Google has indexed.
There are many tools you can implement on your website, from testing different layouts to seeing where a person’s mouse hovers as they browse a page, but I’ll go over those another day.
If you’ve been wondering whether it’s worth it to create your own website for your art, the resounding answer is YES. Do you feel like you’ve hit a ceiling for how much you can sell on other websites? Do you feel limited in what you can and can’t do? Do you feel like your listing is getting no love no matter what you do? The solution is building your own website. Building your own website puts you in complete control of your art and your message, it helps you build a recognizable brand for yourself, you can customize the entire experience, and it’s all about you. If you’ve ever felt the need to create a website, now is the time!
My challenge to you is to think of all the ways you can use a website to sell your art. I can only give you so much information about why you should, but ultimately, the decision is up to.
Do you know of any other artists who are on the fence about creating their own website? Share this article with them so they can take control of selling their own art too.
If you enjoyed this article, please sign up for my free marketing tips below. Future articles will include blogging, creating newsletters, tools for tracking your user interactions, what makes a good post, article headlines, site designs that work, and much more. I also plan to explore social media and SEO for those who are ready. Stay tuned, and don’t forget to leave a comment below, I would love to hear how this information has helped you.