If You’re an Artist, a Professional Portfolio Website is Still Your Best Bet

By Niki Hilsabeck in Art Business Advice > Selling Art Online

When artists first began promoting their work on the internet, many opted for professional, personally designed websites, which at the time cost quite a bit of money to design and maintain.

Eventually, free websites, print on demand services, blogs, and social media took over, giving artists, galleries, event organizers, and bloggers many free outlets to reach out and connect with their fans.

With all these options, does anyone need to bother with the cost (time and money) to maintain their own portfolio website anymore? In my opinion, yes!

In the interest of full disclosure, I have a Foliotwist artist website. With the exception of Pinterest, I’m also a bit of a social media holdout. I do however keep multiple profiles to promote my art, including print-on-demand websites such as Redbubble and Blue Canvas, and make my original artwork available through Vango, Saatchi, and Etsy. I also maintain a blog using Blogspot.

Aren’t these websites enough? Why do I put time and money into an official website for my art? Here are 6 reasons:

1. Name recognition in Google

The most important thing an official website provides is name recognition. Having your name as part of your website address makes it easy for interested people to find you and your work.

For example, if you type my name into a search engine like Google, my official art website is the first result on the list. My other profiles come up too, but it’s nice to have my own, personal website there as first on the list, because that’s where I feel my work is best presented.

2. Easier navigation and sales

When I first began posting my work for sale, I did so on Blogspot, since I was writing accompanying blog posts. That grew out of control fast! I was struggling with adding and managing PayPal buttons, especially once my work began to sell and I was adjusting prices. The pages were confusing to maintain, and I got feedback from visitors that they had trouble browsing through my artwork. I had to find a solution that was easy for my visitors to navigate and for me to maintain.

I browsed other artists’ websites on a daily basis, and enjoyed visiting the websites that were easy to navigate, with art and artist information clear and accessible. When it was time to streamline my artwork with an official website, it was with these examples in mind that I chose my own art website provider and format. I experienced instant relief (a major part of that was because of the easy PayPal buttons) and I got much more positive feedback from my visitors too!

3. It’s always up-to-date

Streamlining my work into a professional website has allowed me to present my best self as an artist. As long as I regularly post new work, change my featured works, and consistently update my blog (even if I do these things just once a month), the website looks current.

My artwork is organized into gallery pages, and dimensions and prices are clearly listed. There’s plenty of information there on the home page: links to other profiles and a bio page, additional blog posts, and contact information. Those who want to explore can do so without feeling overwhelmed by too much information on one page.

4. Less competition with other artists

Speaking of being overwhelmed, one of the biggest advantages of having your own portfolio website is that you’re not competing with anyone else for attention!

Yes, social media, artist communities, online collectives, and print-on-demand websites are great outlets for your work, but thousands of other artists use them too. In short, you’re sharing space with other artists, whose work is just a click away.

5. No commissions on art sales

Listing your work on print-on-demand websites or online markets also means you’re going to be sharing your profits, since these companies take a commission from your sales. Sure, you can mark your prices up on those sites to offset the commission, but doing so means that you’re basically penalizing your collectors for purchasing your work through those websites.

6. It reflects my professionalism

An professional-looking portfolio website can open doors for you that social media profiles never can. When inquiring about opportunities, pitching articles and art lessons, or submitting a resume, I feel much more confident doing so with an official website for people to access.

I get to control how my image is presented on my website, as opposed to social media sites, where the artist’s influenced by other factors such as comments, followers, likes, etc. When someone links to my website from my email signature or resume, I know that person will be seeing exactly what I want her to see when visiting my professional website.

Here’s a recent example from my own experiences: last month, as instructed by a recent call to artists, I emailed a gallery representative for submission information for a show. The representative responded by directing me to the gallery’s Facebook page, which (unfortunately) had little information, and appeared outdated.

I tried searching the gallery, found their official website page, and discovered that they had abandoned the official website for the Facebook page. I went back to the information on the Facebook page, begrudgingly wrote down the few details, and figured I would check again for updates as the submission date got closer.

How much easier it would have been to go to an official page, download a prospectus, and be done!

It’s that experience which inspired me to write this article. . . and it happens more often than I would like. People decide to put together an art event, or a new gallery opens, so I’ll seek out their information—only to land on a poorly-maintained Facebook page, with a few straggling followers and the occasional event update.

The hard truth is this: when I see that an event organizer can’t put the time and money into maintaining a proper website, I figure they won’t put the time and money into properly promoting the event either—leaving me with the feeling that it’s not worth my time or money to participate!

It’s exactly the same for artists and their online presence. Social media alone doesn’t feel “established” and can quickly feel stale if there isn’t a constant stream of updates.

But with a consistent, clear, user-friendly artist website you can easily communicate with those who want to know more about your work. Putting in the time (and yes, in most cases a little money) to maintain your website demonstrates that you care enough about your art to present it professionally. . . and ultimately, that will motivate viewers to care more about your work too!


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