After much research, you’ve determined that having your own art blog would be a great way to enhance your online presence. But you can’t afford to pay a monthly hosting fee, or hire a web designer—just yet.
“Will a free blogging platform really work?” you might ask. The short answer is “yes!”
In fact, for most of us, a free blogging platform will not only work, but it just makes sense. And if you’re not tech savvy, or just not sure whether you’ll stick to blogging past a few weeks, free is definitely the way to go.
What features come with a free blog?
In the past, free blogging platforms were very limited in design options. They also had many rules and regulations that made blogging for business purposes impossible.
Today, however, things are different. Some of those original free services are now the top website builders around. And they can all give you a great looking blog (or website) with tons of features.
Still not sure? Here’s a quick list.
Most free blogging platforms are:
1. Very flexible
2. Easy to set up
3. Easy to learn, and
4. Can be edited from anywhere—public or private computers.
They also include:
1. What you see is what you get editors (just type and press publish)
2. Free templates
3. Free widgets
4. Free image storage
5. Free maintenance, and
6. Free back-ups (though it’s wise to save a back-up yourself).
Later, when you start making a few bucks with your art, you can hire a blog designer for a modest fee to make your blog look just like your website.
Or, you might want to buy your own domain name and have it redirect to your free blog address—which is perfect when placing your blog address in advertisements or other publicity venues. (Read this article on redirecting domain names to learn more.)
Which free blogging platform should I use?
There are several free blogging platforms to choose from, with the two easiest to use being Blogger and WordPress.com (not to be confused with WordPress.org, which you should only use if you want to pay for your own hosting and domain).
Blogger is by far the easiest blogging platform to use. It has a true “what you see is what you get” interface and because it is owned by Google, it seems to get indexed in the search engines rather quickly.
You can choose to host your blog on Blogger’s platform or on your own web host account (most people choose to host on Blogger). If you want to do more than just sell your art, you can also monetize your blog through Adsense ads and affiliate links, though there are some rules you must follow in doing so.
Hosting images on Blogger can be tricky because once you load your images to Blogger, managing them is near impossible—that’s why many artists stick to using flickr’s image hosting service, for a low annual fee of $25.
WordPress is the most versatile free blogging platform, but it does take some time to learn how to move about its interface. WordPress is an open source project and has a large following of web designers who are always coming up with new widgets and plug-ins to make customizing one’s blog easier. There’s even a forum available for troubleshooting help.
Unlike other free blogging platforms, with WordPress you can truly customize your blog to make it your own. You can add static pages, categorize your blog roll, and turn your blog into a true content management system.
There is, however, one downfall—if you choose the simpler route, and host your blog on WordPress.com rather than your own web host, you cannot monetize your blog for profit by placing outside advertisers on your blog.
There are several other free blogging platforms similar to Blogger and WordPress, but they often include drawbacks like limited bandwidth and limited storage space for posts and images.
Some, like Xanga, make commenting nearly impossible since only members of the Xanga community can leave comments. Others, like Live Journal are only free if you allow the hosting company to place advertisements on your blog—ads which you have no control over.
So what are some good examples of art blogs?
If you’re concerned that you won’t be taken seriously as an artist because you have a free blog, take a look at the blogs of Claudine Hellmuth and Julie Haymaker.
Both are successful artists who have chosen to use Blogger as their blogging platforms. And while you’re at it, check out how well their blogs match their websites for a seamless and professional transition: