This is the first in our series of articles focusing on on-line marketing for artists and other creative folk who make their living from what they create – be it paintings, poetry, cupcakes, necklaces or comic book characters!

do i need a website?

Well, given what I do for a living, there’s a pretty good chance I’m going to insist that you do!

But in all honesty, the answer is yes.

Lets say that you’ve been making jewelery for a few years now and you’ve decided to start selling it. You go to a party, wearing one of your creations. A fellow guest comments on it and you casually mention that you made it yourself and the two of you strike up a conversation about your fledgling business. That guest goes home and a day or two later starts thinking about that interesting necklace you had on and that it would be perfect for a birthday present. They google you, hoping to find more information and samples of your work.

What will they find? Anything?

letting the world know you exist

Having a website allows you to present your work to a world of potential clients who might not otherwise find you. It’s a critical marketing tool and one you can’t really afford to be without. You could leave it but… what happens if people are searching for you on-line and can’t find you? Will they give up? Or, worse, will they give up and go to somebody who they can find? Are you losing business by not having a web presence?

This is especially important if you are attending artisan or craft fairs, trade shows, public events – anywhere there is the possibility you will be networking with potential clients who might not necessarily need your services that moment but who may want to talk to you in the future.

taking control

Perhaps that potential customer will find something about you on-line that somebody has posted on a blog, or Facebook or twitter. But what will it be? Will it leave the right impression?

By having your own web presence, you retain some creative control over your image. Yes, there will be other bits and pieces posted about you, especially as your reputation grows, but your website, if done properly, should be the first thing to pop up when people do a search for you. And that’s what you want. Not only will you ensure they get a good first impression – you’ll ensure it’s the impression you WANT them to have. I’ll be talking more about branding and image later in the series but it’s important to project an image that you feel resonates with who you are as an artist and a website gives you a fantastic opportunity to do that.

it’s too expensive!

I think many people shy away from a website when they first start a business because they feel it will be a significant outlay of money.

They’re right – it certainly can be. $1000 might be pennies to a big company with a seemingly unlimited marketing budget, but to somebody just starting out from a home office or studio, it can represent hours and hours of hard work.

There are two ways to look this. First, consider how much it would cost you to print up 500 colour brochures on the most inexpensive paper? Probably around $200 (I’m basing this on Staples Canada’s price list). What happens to those brochures? How many get lost or thrown away? And what happens when you run out? Do you spend another $200?

Second, a website is working for you 24x7x365. A potential customer in Australia might be browsing it while you’re fast asleep. They might email a link to a friend living in Japan. And that friend might like the little gem they’ve discovered so much, that they link to it on their blog, or on twitter… and suddenly, 50 new potential clients have been introduced to your work – all while you were fast asleep. Of course, that won’t happen every night, but the potential is there.

With a website, you have the potential to have a very cost effective marketing tool that can be updated to reflect the changes you go through as an artist and a business owner.

Having said all this, a website does not have to be a huge cost attached to it. Frankly, beautiful, attractive, standards compliant design should never ever have to be compromised due to budget. Bells and whistles and other extras might have to wait until you can afford them but a basic design should be within the reach of almost any budget. If you find a designer who understands your situation and you are willing to keep an open mind, you should come away with a site that you can be proud of.

There are a few different ways you can achieve a web presence on a budget and I will look at those in part two of “do i need a website”, coming soon.