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"The Independent Artist"
Issue V, April 2009

Page 5

by Connie Mettler, ArtFairCalendar.com, ArtFairInsiders.com

Connie Mettler

You hear the discussion around the art fairs, Why should I have a web site? No one ever buys anything from it. Customers just take my card and say they will visit it and then dont buy today.

Too bad. In the 21st century you cannot afford to ignore the Internet. You are missing opportunities youll never know about unless you take advantage of this important tool. The fact is, for artists having a web site is more about marketing than selling.

Top Ten Reasons to Have a Web Site
You want to make it easy for your customers to find you again and again.

Someone will have seen you at an art fair, saved your information and gone looking for you. Maybe you wont be back in their neighborhood for a year, a web site gives them the chance to buy when you are not in front of them.

Old customers will want to preshop before they see you at next weeks art fair.

Publishing your art fair itinerary on your site gives your fans something to look forward to and plan for.

Art fair PR people will have a place where they can get more information about you, fast. Making theirjob easier will get you more publicity.

Many art fairs showcase their artists on their sites. You want them to link to your site, bringing customers to find you at the fair, and also giving those same customers an opportunity to buy now, instead of just during the two days of the show

If you are at a prestigious art fair it is likely that many people who visit the festivals site do not even attend. Give those people a chance to see your art also.

The links from the art fairs site to your site will increase your web sites visibility with search engines.

A web site enables your work to be seen by potential customers all over the world, far beyond the usual locales where you exhibit.

Customers are searching online for paintings, jewelry, pottery, all the time. If your site isnt available, that business will go to another artists web site.

Bonus point:
You might sell some art! Keep in mind that every month, every year you are more likely to make online sales as the online audience keeps growing.

As you can see from this list, this is more about marketing than selling. Much as you may wish to put all your energy into creating new work the selling of the work cannot be ignored.

The other day listening to NPRs story, Real Artists Dont Starve, I heard Denver artist Bob Ragland say being an artist is:

One half creativity and one half marketing. Dont kid yourself into thinking that you can find success with a product or service without being committed to spending a significant amount of your time promoting it. Who else is going to do it?

Case Studies: Missed Opportunities
Still not convinced? Here are three scenarios of lost opportunity I recently encountered:

A reporter at the JournalStar in Peoria, IL, did an excellent in-depth story about six artists who would be participating in the upcoming Peoria Arts Guilds Fine Art Fair. Impressed with the writing, (one of the best I had read that really talked about the art and the artists lives), it was a good example of the publicity generated by a hard-working art fair organization to attract fairgoers to their event.

Deciding it would make a good blog entry for my site, www.artfairinsider.com, I started hunting for the artists

websites so I could link my article to their websites and bring them more customers, plus give them national publicity and hopefully make them some fans. Much to my dismay when I began searching online only two of them even had websites! And one of those had a different name on her site than the name used in the interview, so I didnt find her site until she emailed me with the correct one.

You can read the article at ArtFairInsider.com, Six Artist Profiles from the Peoria Arts Fair.

An art fair artist, basket-maker Mary Jackson, won a MacArthur Genius Grant of $500,000!! How is that for good news? I wanted to share this good fortune with my online audience and contribute to the buzz. I could find no web site for Mary or any way to contact her. The upside of this is that Mary is probably doing just fine without my help.

But couldnt she maybe be doing even better if her baskets were available online? Imagine how many more sales she might have made online if she had had a web site up during the publicity surrounding her receiving the award.

Wanting to buy a Christmas present for a friend, I searched all over for the artists website, there was none. His response to my email asking for it was, Regarding my website, it has been coming soon for over a year. That is what I get for going with the low bidder (me).

There we have it, at least three of the best reasons for having a website:

- to continue to attract and build an audience

- be helpful to an art fairs outreach for publicity, and in third place:

- to make money!

Having a web site is about MARKETING, not only about sales. You need to invest in a web site presence to build your brand, get publicity, and serve your customers. Look beyond the sales and think long term.

The Web is a 24/7 Worldwide Art Fair with Very Low Booth Fees and No Jury!Why Wouldnt You Exhibit There?

Lets Get Online
As an artist your time is limited. A website does require time, skills and money but not as much of any of those as you would think. Your website can be simple or complicated. To get started Ill make it easy. Here are the basics you need for a first site:

- show schedule

- some imagery

- contact information

That will give you a presence and suffice for the time being. Once those details are up a little time updating your schedule is all that is needed.

How can you do it? Who can do it? This summer needing some help for my online ventures I hired a young man home for the summer from college. He was great! Also I contacted the high school computer teacher and asked for the names of some geeky kids. They can be pretty enthusiastic and not cost you what a web builder would charge.

One of the nice things about web work is that if you hire someone that person can do the work from home on their own computer and at their own schedule.

You Can Do It, Too
If you are intrigued by the possibility of doing it yourself here are the steps.

1. Get a domain name
The best name would be: www.YourName.com because that is how most people will be looking for you. You must purchase this. The price can be as low as $9.99 depending on where you buy it.

To purchase your domain name visit: GoDaddy.com. This site offers good prices and a full set of the services you are likely to need, backed up by good customer service.

It is possible that your particular name, www.GreatArtist.com, may not be available, so you may have to make another choice. My friend, Bill Coleman, who specializes in Amish photography, has the domain name: AmishPhoto.com.

Maybe you will have to add your media to your name. Glass blower James Wilbats site becomes: WilbatGlass.com.

My mentor in learning about building web sites and starting an online business is Scott Fox and his book Internet Riches. There is an entire chapter in that book that helps you figure out what your domain name should be if your name.com is already taken.

2. Choose a website hosting service.
You did not get into this business to live on your computer building and maintaining a website.

Do you need technical skill to build a website? Absolutely not. There are many affordable tools online that let you simply type in all of your information, just like you would on a word processor. Really. This system is called wysiwig, or what you see is what you get. It is not mysterious or hard to learn. Some of these tools and sites are even free. Of course, like everything else, you do get what you pay for.

We are not talking about e-commerce (selling art online which is what everyone thinks a web site is about) here. We are talking about marketing. You need to have a presence online so your customers can find you and find where you will be next and so your art fairs can link to you.
Here are a few places to get started:

www.Wordpress.com, a very nice blogging site that you can customize easily, add images and find a lot of support. Free.

Typepad.com, has a free trial period and then starts out at $4.95 a month. Once you have your domain name you can be up and writing in minutes.

ArtisansAccomplice.com This product has a good following from the artist community. The site provides an extensive set of tools to help you build a successful website. Everything is designed with simplicity and ease of use in mind. They host many artists sites and only cost $20 a month, or $192 for a year.

Once youve looked over these tools I think youll be surprised at how easy it is to do it yourself.

Having a functional site is more important than a pretty one for getting started. If your goals are sales or publicity, design with that in mind with easy paths to lead the reader to that goal, be it finding you at an art fair, giving information that may lead to a sale, getting a commission or buying now.

As soon as you have purchased that domain name get your site up, even if it only says under construction. It can take weeks or even months for a search engine to find and include a new web site in its results. If you wait until it is perfect you may have missed many opportunities to start climbing the search engine ladder.

Another reason to post your new web site ASAP is that search engines usually give increased credibility and higher rankings to web sites that have been online longer. The sooner yours is online, the sooner it can begin accruing authority in the rankings, too.

3. Start building your site by adding your content
Here are the basics of what an artists website should have:

Business name

Three to five sentences about your business specialty, that include the most important words about the business (key words)

Contact information; email address, phone number

Show schedule with links to art fairs

Three photos:

- Your signature piece of art

- A photo of your booth at an art fair

- A photo of yourself

Notice I am not getting fancy here. If it has taken you this long to get a simple web page set up, its not likely that you are going to start adding galleries, bios, awards and shopping carts.

Once you have these basics though you at least have a web presence. But, dont let me stop you if you want to do more. It can become addictive once you get started.

CASE STUDY: Tools I Have Used to Build Web Sites

1. IPowerWeb.com
My initial site, ArtFairCalendar.com, was hosted here. When they stopped supporting my Mac platform I switched hosts. It

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