Today there are a lot of options available to you to build your website and develop a web presence for your art business. You can build a website yourself or have somebody else do it for you. You can also spend a little money to develop an effective website or you can spend a fortune. Before you do anything, make sure you have a good understanding of why you are developing a website and who your target audience is. It also makes sense to develop a budget on what you are willing to spend on website development, you can always add new features as your business evolves so try to budget for these as well.
Build a custom website yourself
As web development technology has evolved it is easier than ever to develop you own website. Gone are the days when you need to know computer coding or HTML to develop your internet presence (unless you choose to). Some of the options available to you include:
- Use web creation tools provided by hosting services such as Godaddy, Squarespace or Weebly.
- Purchase a template from one of the many template providers. Beware that these may involve a lot of expertise, money and time to customize.
- Use web development software, but keep in mind that you may want to spend more time running your business than learning how to use the software.
- Use blogging and publishing platforms such as WordPress or Tumblr to develop your website.These are relatively easy to use and have thousands of plugins to increase your websites functionality. They also have a great support community if you need help. If you think that WordPress is just for amateur looking websites take a look at the Wall Street Journal’s page, it was built using the WordPress platform. The blog platforms also have another important advantage in that it is easy to add content and interact with your readers.
- Before you embark on building your own website make sure that you have the time and technical skills to create and maintain an adequate web presence.
Have somebody develop a website for you
One of the choices available to you is having someone else develop and maintain your website. In the not too distant past developing a website required extensive technical skill in addition to a keen eye for design. The problem was that having both of these skills together in one person or one company was hard to find and usually expensive. The major advantage of having someone else take care of your website is that you don’t have to do it yourself. Some of the disadvantages are:
- It is expensive to have an outside firm or consultant develop and maintain your website.
Outside firms may not be reliable, are always changing personnel and they may go out of business. When you need to change content you may need to rely on the web development firm to make the changes for you. You may find yourself at their mercy.
- Hiring a web firm may be a long term financial commitment. Make sure you thoroughly understand what you are getting into before you sign any agreement or contract.
- Some web development firms use lesser known software and methods to develop websites. If you later decide to go with another web firm it may cost you less to develop a new website than have them figure out what the last guy did.
More web development firms are using platforms such as WordPress to develop websites for their clients. I highly recommend that you take a look at this option. It will give you maximum flexibility if you decide to choose another web development firm and it will allow you to easily add content.
Tag along on others for a web presence
If you don’t want to develop your own website and don’t have the funds to have someone else develop it, you still have some great options. There are a multitude of new services for artists and other creative companies to develop a web presence. Most of these services will allow you to have a webpage complete with an online gallery, web store and a unique web address to share with your clients and prospects. Some may also help promote your work. Some examples of these types of services are Fine Art America and Etsy. There are also online portfolio sites such as Behance and Dribbble which allow you to showcase your work and connect with other professionals. Conduct a web search and you will find hundreds to choose from. Here are some of the pros and cons of using someone else’s web platform:
- Low cost or even no cost but don’t forget to value your time!
- Easy to set up
- Many offer e-commerce and merchant processing (they accept credit cards from your customers)
- Some may offer exposure to your art on their site (don’t count on this)
- They provide you with a link to your webpage to give to your customers/prospects
- You may want to use these services even if you have your own website. They can be a good way to expand your market reach and exposure.
- Some offer product fulfillment and other services such as prints and framing which can be a great way to build your business and your brand.
- The amount of customization or branding you can do on your page may be limited.
- There may be setup and maintenance charges which may make having your own website a better alternative.
- They will charge you a commission for selling your products and collecting money from the customer on these sales.
- You will also be building their brand along yours. You will be driving traffic to their site instead of yours.
- There is a chance that you will attract visitors to your page and they will end up buying from someone else on the site.
- Your choice of website address (URL) may be limited.
Each month more and more of these services are being created. Be careful as many of these firms will go out of business. Also make sure that you understand the terms and conditions regarding payments, copyrights and other terms of service before choosing a service.
The bottom line(s)…
Take a look at the various alternatives to build a website and see which one works best for you. In addition to your website budget be sure to take into account your level of skill and time required to maintain your website. And don’t forget that websites and website technologies are changing rapidly and your website may have to change as well.
If you would like to learn more about preparing your own business and marketing plan, building your art business and selling more art I invite you to check out my book – The Artist’s Business and Marketing ToolBox. Good Luck!
Neil McKenzie is the author of The Artist’s Business and Marketing ToolBox – How to Start, Run and Market a Successful Arts or Creative Business available in softcover from Barnes & Noble and Amazon and as an eBook from iTunes, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. He has developed and teaches the course “Artrepreneurship” at the Center for Innovation at Metropolitan State University of Denver, and is also a visiting professor at University College at the University of Denver where he teaches “Marketing the Arts”.
Neil has over 30 years’ experience as a management consultant and marketing executive, working with some of the world’s top brands. Neil is a frequent lecturer to artists and arts organizations, a guest columnist for Colorado Biz Magazine, where he covers the creative sector of the economy, and the author of several articles for Americans for the Arts, a national arts organization. Follow Neil on Twitter: @neilmckenzphoto