How to start selling art, crafts or photos online {quickly & without going nuts} Part 1

A crashcourse in starting to sell your art online without getting your fingers burnt or wasting valuable creative time. Simple steps include | setting up a website | taking payment | blogging | social media | the best gallery, print-on-demand & market sites | Google tips | Using a mailing list

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Rock your Online Art Business – Lessons From Gnarly Rock Gods

Now anyone who knows me can vouch for the fact that I’m pretty much OBSESSED with a certain rock band. Far more than is probably right or seemly for a middle aged woman with kids.

The band in question is New Model Army who are based in Bradford, 10 miles from where I live, and to be honest chances are you probably won’t have heard of them. Go and Google them right now {ok, well, maybe when you have finished reading this post}. You’ll be glad you did.

NMA have been a successful band in various incarnations, lead by the majestic Justin Sullivan for nearly 30 years {!}. They don’t have Lady Gaga sized commercial recognition {thankfully} but My God do they have a passionate following of dedicated fans! They sell out gigs all over the globe and have created a world which allows them to follow their artistic vision, get paid for it and continue doing it without compromise.

This constitutes pretty much the ideal artistic & creative business success in my book…

So I started to think that I should look into these CREATIVE BUSINESS HEROES in a bit more detail to bring all this condensed rock knowledge to those who haven’t heard of them as I think they are a pretty perfect example of a great creative business in action. What the hell have they been doing right all these years to make it so far? Which of their ideas and methods can we pinch and apply to our own artistic businesses because these guys must KNOW STUFF right?

So without further ado I present…

The Rock God guide to running an extraordinary creative business.

It turns out NMA {and original manager Joolz Denby} have known the most important thing all along… the key element that any artist needs to concentrate on with their business, both online and offline.

New Model Army understood the power of TRIBES right from the start.

Long before even the BIRTH of the internet. Long long before the wonderful Seth Godin articulated the concept in his must-read book Tribes – We Need You To Lead Us they understood what the bottom line was…

You can become successful through genuinely connecting with an interested and passionate group of people who share your ideas and values.

New Model Army and bands like them have always understood the power of the Tribe. With music, art and any kind of creativity it’s all about finding YOUR TRIBE, YOUR PEOPLE, the folks who LOVE what you do and can’t get enough of it. The guys who will queue round the block late into the dark rainy night to buy tickets for your latest gig. Who will trek half way across the world to see you play. The ones who will wait poised to buy your latest painting when you release it. These are the people who strongly identify with your work and artistic vision and resonate with it down through their very soul and into their boots. If you talk to someones soul they will walk to the ends of the earth for you.

These are the people you need to ATTRACT to YOUR creative business.

So, how do you do it? Before the invention of the internet, bands created mailing lists of fans and kept them up to date, with photocopied mailshots through the post, all with the aim of growing and keeping their Tribe together. Now email makes all that so much easier and cheaper and within the reach of any artist. You can keep finding your people, keep growing your email list, keep increasing the size of your Tribe.

  • Takeaway
    Reach out and start connecting with YOUR Tribe – If you don’t currently have a mailing list you need to start one right now. You don’t even need to have a website yet to do this. You are missing all these great people you meet both online and offline and will probably never see them again. Think where it could get you and your art in just 2 or 3 years time if you start collecting their details now and keeping in touch, let alone 30 years.

And there are other pearls of creative business wisdom to be gleaned from these guys.

Steer Your Own Ship. You might end up as a mangled corpse on the rocky shore of fate but at least you are in charge of the route…

NMA saw the way the internet was changing creative business, escaped from the clutches of the corporate record companies and set up their own, ensuring that they owned the copyright on all their material, allowing them to control their work and the way it was sold, packaged and distributed. No more being controlled by large scale corporate businesses who can only ever have their own interests at heart.

  • Takeaway
    Keeping control over your own work and creativity is essential for any artist and the only way to creative freedom. Make sure you maintain copyright on all your work and always work for yourself {or aim to get there}.

Wear bloody clogs if you want to. Sod the Jimmy Choos.

Never ones to follow fashion NMA were pilloried by the music press for their anti-fashion stance and love of bluff northern working class clog footwear but they ignored it and just kept on doing their own thing and creating work that they believed in. Those bands who were the hip flavour of the month fell by the wayside many years ago as their star fell out of fashion and NMA just kept on trucking for all these years.

  • Takeaway
    Always create work that you believe in, no matter what is “hip” and “cool” now. {Yeah – by using those words I’m demonstrating just how deeply uncool I am}. Trying to chase whats hot now turns you into an also ran along with zillions of identical others. Be yourself, stand out and forget what is flavour of the month. Original is far far better than “cool”.

Don’t stop moving forward or you become a dead shark

New Model Army don’t rely on their music back catalogue unlike most bands who have been around a while. They are constantly writing and releasing great new music which attracts new fans and keeps their creativity fresh.

  • Takeaway
    This is of prime importance for artists. Don’t stagnate, keep moving forward, keep trying new things and creating new work. Only by doing so can you keep your work fresh and keep your enjoyment of your creative process alive.

And the moral of the story is…

To achieve all this, COMMUNICATION is the key factor and of course THE INTERNET rides to the rescue. NMA may have started out with paper & post mailing lists in those dim and distant pre-internet days but now the web allows them to do all these things and communicate with their Tribe much more easily & cheaply.

Their website is the hub of the Tribe where a strong forum based community go to chat and keep in touch. The site keeps their people in touch with their tour dates, collects more names on their mailing list, sells their music & DVD’s [all of which they own copyright on of course] and their online shop sells a vast range of merchandise to a global audience.

Their website holds all these elements together and is THE HUB of COMMUNICATION.

  • Takeaway
    Any artist wanting to sell their art online needs their own HUB website as a focal point of their endeavors through which they can publicize their artwork and share their artistic vision with their own Tribe.

YOUR TRIBE is out there waiting for you to share your artistic vision… How are you going to communicate with them?


If you liked this post please get updates via my feed or check out the related posts below.

10 Crucial Reasons Why Every Artist Needs Their Own Hub Website

Simple tips to increase your mailing list signup at gallery exhibitions & craft fairs

And make sure you visit newmodelarmy.org to see all these ideas in action.

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How to get loads more Google Love to your art blog or site { or 11 dead easy SEO tweaks for artists }

If you sell your art on the internet through your own website it is really really important to ensure that you have a steady stream of interested visitors looking at your work. I can’t emphasis this enough because you can have the most amazing work in the world out there on the web but if no one sees it nothing exciting is going to happen. You can’t just sit back and wait for people to turn up. You have to help them find you.

So, one of the best ways make this happen and make sure you get all those visitors popping their head round the door of your shop is to spend a little bit of time making sure that your website is as “Google Friendly” as possible. This means tweaking the site so that Google and other search engines find it easy to navigate and index. If your site is easily found via search you are likely to get a steady stream of good quality interested traffic.

Search Engine Optimisation { or SEO for short } can seem like a complex and daunting bit of the web but the truth is that there are some really simple tweaks that you can make to your site which will greatly improve it’s Google { & overall } search engine performance.

So here we go – some easy SEO that will give your site a head start.

Use keyphrases – not single keywords

Keyphrase consists of 2 keywords together – like “Abstract Art” or “Contemporary Art”. You will get far better targeted results than if you just use a big fat generic single keyword like “Art” which is too general.

Page titles – Sort em out!

The page title is the short string of words that shows up in the top left corner of most browsers and describes the page. Probably the most important thing you can do on your page is make best use of your page title and its surprising how many sites don’t. It is one of the biggest ranking factors for any page.

  • The most common mistake is to leave the home page titled “Home” or “Welcome to my website” or similar. That’s a huge facepalmtastic missed opportunity. Actually USE your page title.
  • Make sure your page title relates closely to the content of that page and the keyword you are trying to optimise that page for. See “Research your Keyphrases” below to figure out what your phrases should be.
  • Target your homepage with your main keyphrase. Every page should have a different keyphrase focus, don’t just use the same title for each page. Keep your page title short [under 9 words or 80 characters] and focus your keyphrases at the beginning of the phrase.
  • Here’s a totally made up example for a fictional photographer – “Wildlife Photographer | Martin Smith | Nantucket”
    or
    “Arctic wildlife | Wildlife Photographer | Martin Smith | Nantucket” specifically for a page of shots of the Arctic. Keep a consistent format across each page but make sure that each page title has a different keyphrase focus. {ie in this example the phrase at the beginning of the title will change relevant to each page.}
  • The title is read from a piece of code in the HTML of your site which looks like this. <title>Title goes here</title> You may need to edit it directly if you are happy working with HTML or if you use a portfolio service, research the help files to discover how to alter it.

This is a very simple and HUGELY effective SEO tweak that will make a big difference to your ranking results.

Don’t miss out on Google Image Search

Google Image search is a brilliant opportunity to show your work and get more visitors which is often overlooked. It works like this – someone is searching Google for images of Barn Owls. If you have created a painting of one and named the file correctly, they stand a good chance of seeing your work in a Google image search. You can potentially double the traffic you get if you get this right as searches for art related subjects are often visual.

  • In order for your work to show up in image search you need to name your image files properly. Make sure you include the relevant keyphrases in the names of your files.
    For example, our fictitious wildlife photographer – He may name his files in the following format – snow-goose-arctic-martin-smith.jpg or snow-goose-wildlife-photography-martin-smith.jpg ensuring his image are indexed and found easily.
  • Make sure you use the same words in the alt tag of your image and any caption relating to it. Always try and include relevant image caption text with your image as this really helps your picture to get picked up by Google image search.
  • If possible, add your images to Flickr.com with a descriptive caption. I have found this does really well in image search

Research your keyphrases thoroughly

Its dead easy to make assumptions about the keyphrases you THINK people will search for. You can spend a lot of time optimising for those keyphrases when a few minutes of research will show you that another phrase would get better results.

The tools below will help you find out what people are ACTUALLY searching for.

Google keyword tool
Use Google’s keyword tool for a rough indication of keyword popularity.

Wordtracker
Wordtracker is the industry standard keyword research tool and offers free limited searches.

Choose a relevant keyphrase for every page

Look at the content of each page and decide on a keyphrase that most closely describes the content of the page. Its no use trying to optimise your page for “bronze sculpture” if the page content is actually about “abstract painting.” Make sure the keyphrase and content match closely. The key to search is relevance.

Write natural text using your key words or phrases

When you have chosen a relevant keyphrase or two for a page, add the keyphrase and related words into your copy. This doesn’t mean cramming the word in repeatedly. Make sure you write in a natural way but make sure the keyphrases and related words are featured say 3 or 4 times, preferably at the beginning, middle and end of the text.

Use keyphrases in headers

Similarly, include your chosen keyphrase in the headers text on a page. This means the bold text that divides the body copy into sections. Words in these headers may be given more weight by Google.

Work on getting quality incoming links

There’s only so much you can do to improve your site itself. A lot of what will help your Search Engine rankings are so called “Off Page” elements. These include incoming links to your site and the important thing here is QUALITY. It’s better to have a handful of good quality links than hundreds of spammy links from irrelevant sites and directories. You want to show to Google that your site keeps good company. You don’t want your website to become the online equivalent of a dodgy shop down a backstreet on the wrong side of town with stained net curtains and a man behind the counter with no teeth. Right?

Try and secure links from sites that are related in content to yours and are well respected. In the case of our imaginary photographer, a wildlife photography forum or blog would be the kind of site to try and get a link from.
You want a site that values its links and doesn’t have zillions of other links on a page. If possible [and this isn’t easy] try and ensure that the linking site uses your keywords in the link text [ i.e. “view Martin Smiths Arctic Wildlife Photography on his site by clicking here” ]

Avoid links from directory type pages that are only there to generate links and don’t have any other relevant content, like massive business directories.

Create a signature file on forums

If you comment on any forum related to your work, create a signature file with the address of your website in it. Whenever you comment your web address will be included, possibly helping SEO {depending on the way the forum is set up} and potentially raising the profile of your site.

Research and use the SEO capabilities of any site you join.

If you have a ready made artists portfolio site for example, check the documentation and find out how to best modify your page within the system to help the search engines find you.

If you have a WordPress site download and install and use the All-in-one SEO Pack plug in.

Create quality content

This is The No 1 most important rule in SEO. Quality content will naturally attract people. They read or see something interesting and link to it. All these incoming links are a signpost to the search engines that your site is worth bothering with and will increase your ranking. This is why blogs are such a great way of getting people interested in your work.

Write in a natural style about topics of interest around your work, for example, techniques, history, exhibitions etc. Make sure your content is grammatically correct and spell checked. Use a range of keywords and phrases in order that people can easily search for your topic. Break the text into paragraphs and ensure it is well divided with headers and sub headers. Make sure it isn’t too long.

The great thing is that any changes you make to your site for the benefit of Google will generally have a positive impact on your results in other search engines too.

Please share the SEO tips that work for you in the comments below.

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