Don’t be daunted. It’s all about looking your best

attract website traffic

Interview: How to Attract Oodles of Engaged Traffic to Your Website, With Ana Hoffman

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how to price art

Confidence for Artists: Poker-face Pricing Your Art

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Low Budget Studio – Incredible Photos of Your Art

Chris Garrett, photographer and large format printing expert, shares some ways that you can create professional quality photographs, of your art or subjects, with very little equipment or expense, in your own home.  

I have spent so much time limiting myself to outdoor photography because I didn’t have access to a studio. Without the right lighting and backdrop, it’s difficult to get the high quality photographs I wanted. What I didn’t realize was that it is very simple to create a studio to use either inside or outside and get amazing results. Most of what I needed I already had and what I didn’t was very inexpensive compared to all brand new equipment. Whether you’re looking to move your photography indoors or to capture the nuance and quality of another type of art on film, these tips can help you to achieve professional photographs in your home or workspace.

What you can use:

  • Two ladders
  • An 8 ft. pole works great
  • Clamps
  • Various colors of sheets (make sure your colors are very rich, not faded from washing)
  • Foam boards (for reflecting light)
  • Your choice of lighting (natural light works very well)

Setting up your space.

If you are working indoors, you just need the room to set up. Moving furniture temporarily works, using the garage is great, but you should try to position it to where you have access to some natural light. When using the white foam board as a light reflecting tool, you can manipulate it to do pretty much anything you want.

photography for artistsSo place the ladders on each end of the set. Use the pole to rest between them on the tallest rung. Clamp your sheets to the pole and lay one on the ground if you want a solid backdrop. Your set should be in the prime lighting location if you are doing them outdoors, so basically you don’t want to have your subject facing the sun or you will get squinting or watering of the eyes. Use the foam board to reflect and manipulate the light in your favor. If you are in a dark area, making your own soft boxes will give you some great results, many use a flood lamp that can be moved around or even use a flashlight behind your props for some backlighting.

You can also try substituting a silver car shade for the white foam board, but they will produce a much harsher light and may cause shadows. The white board makes the light softer and more diffused. The best way to get great at this is to practice. You should be able to take amazing photos with hardly any Photoshop time.

photography for artistsSo, it is easy to say that you don’t have to have a dedicated space in your home to use a studio set up. You may need an assistant until you figure out your own way of doing things. But this is a great alternative to spending a fortune that you may not have on equipment that works in the same way. Play around with it and create photos that people will want to hang on their wall or use for customized wallpaper as a mural. No one will know you haven’t been doing this forever!

For me, this is a set up that works and is portable if I need it to be. Feel free to make your own modifications, but just don’t be afraid of studio photography. It does get really hard to do pictures in the middle of winter when your client wants family portraits and there is a foot of snow outside. Get away from being a seasonal photographer and be ready to shoot anytime on any day!

 

Chris Garrett is a large format printing expert and freelance writer for the custom printed wallpaper expert Megaprint.com. He frequently blogs on the topics of design and printing.

Photo credit Alexis Godschalk @ photo.net & Tackorama

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The Silent Beauty of Business Cards For Artists

Guest blogger Agnese Aljena writes about the power of business cards and how they work for her in promoting her beautiful photographic work.

A Business card is a simple but very powerful tool if used wisely. You can call it a “visit” or “personal” card if you don’t like “business”.

Historically visiting cards were used to announce an arrival of an aristocratic or wealthy person. Now the status for business card is much lower but still – you and your profession are taken more seriously if you announce it by printed card. As in the 17th century, a business card is still part of your first impression. Especially if your card arrives first and you as a person just follow it. So, it is an important attribute in your image building.

Here are some tips and angles you can use when thinking about your business cards.

Representation of your brand.

A business card is an essential part of your brand and should be designed according to your overall branding strategy. A business card is like summary of your brand, personality, professional and artistic abilities. It means that before you can design a powerful card your personal brand should be in place.

Information.

Your business card’s main mission is to give information in a handy way. Usually it is name, profession, your home page, email, phone, maybe postal address. Now QR codes have become quite popular for faster information flow.

I use the other side of business cards for my portfolio presentation. In my card set I have about 20 different designs with pictures of my portfolio (and that is not as costly as might sound). Whenever I am ready to give a card, I hand a bunch of them so the other person can choose which one he or she likes. Usually it turns into emotional and lively part of otherwise maybe quite businesslike conversation. People like to choose, and, what is more important, they are watching my portfolio without pressure and we both are happy about it. Sometimes they involve people around and often I find myself giving away my cards even if I wasn’t intended to.

Accessibility.

Every piece of information in your business card should mean that you are accessible via given channel. Even if I have a skype name, I prefer not to put it on my cards since I don’t log in to skype every morning. I just have different habits. That is also a reason why people don’t put postal address – we are moving much more than several decades ago and we don’t send letters to postal address any more (although it is nice and romantic). It also means that your home page should be up and running and should be as an extended version of business card – giving more and deeper up-to-date information.

Design.

Since your business card is an essence of your brand, you should use your brand elements – both design and emotion-wise. You can use different size, emboss logo or your name, use scent, add some other dimension if you wish. Just be sure that it fits within standard business card holder – otherwise your card will be lost. Or you can stick to classics – black letters on white background – just as you feel your personality requires.

 

I am using smaller size cards (half of normal business cards) to encourage people to take more different designs. Psychologically smaller cards mean “I am not causing big financial loss if I take two or three”. When giving my cards to choose I try to carry with me quite a lot – to give an impression it is not the last one. I use also postcard size cards when I want to impress somebody (like when visiting corporate customers) and to send a hidden message “I am expensive – look, I can afford big business cards”. In those cases I give them together with small cards anyway – to fit into business card holder.

Usage

is the most important element in business card philosophy. When you have your cards and you are proud about them (and you should be), use them. It is not only when introducing yourself to others. I use them also every time I give away my finished work. I include several in packaging and there has been countless times when people are calling me and start conversation with a phrase – my friend gave me your business card… Those are real buyers. And it is much easier to give to somebody a business card not to spell your name and number. The secret here is also the design – it should be so attractive that people just don’t dare to throw them away as soon as open the package.

Another simple tip is – take your business cards with you. There have been so many times I have missed them. And that might be a missed opportunity to establish a good contact.

If you are a Rennaisance (wo)man with several occupations, print a card for each and every of them. Then opening a card wallet, you can silently sort them out and even without speaking send a message that you have other interesting angles of your personality. Of course, if you feel like cross-selling is a good idea. I use this strategy because every time I use my PhD story it raises my price as an artist – I choose to be an artist, not in academia where I could earn good money as well.

People may not always translate these messages into words, but they definitely receive them. In most cases strategy of many different cards encourages healthy and natural discussion. I even have cards with my kids – just in case being mom of two ginger girls is the angle I might find myself in conversation.

So far I can say – business cards has been one of the most powerful tools in my word-of-mouth marketing. It is a nice silent (and visual artists love to live without words) way of sending a clear message and good card is a beginning of natural friendly and human conversation that some day might lead to selling your art.

 

Agnese AljenaAgnese Aljena is children fashion and lifestyle photographer, business blog for artists owner and on her way to PhD in business models for fine arts.



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An Artist’s Guide To Crafting a USP That Sells

A guest post by Andrianes Pinantoan

 

USP is short for unique selling proposition.

A USP is what makes you unique in the marketplace. It’s a strategic consideration I think every artist needs to get right. Why?

Because the success of every tactic you’re going to implement to sell your art, be it SEO, TV advertising, social media or even good ol’ face to face pitch, will depend on how good your USP is.

Here’s an example: Walmart, as you may already know, is known for their low prices. Every piece of communication that comes out of their marketing department stresses that USP. So if you’re looking to buy something for cheap, guess who you’ll go to?

Of course, that’s not to say that being “the cheapest of them all” is a good USP – that kind of positioning is difficult to maintain and you need to move an enormous amount of products to hit your profit goal.

Most artists I know of, instead, try to serve everyone and anyone who will have them. What that does is dilute not only your brand, but also your focus. For example, when you could have been engineering a marketing campaign to reach your desired market, you’re busy doing customer service with current clients.

How important is that kind of focus? Check out this study.

What Makes Someone Successful?

In 2009, two researchers, Timothy Judge and Charlice Hurst, published a 2 decade long study looking at factors of what makes a person successful. They looked at pretty much everything: family income, neighbourhood, parent’s education, the kid’s school grades, etc.

What they found corresponds with other studies of its kind. Well-to-do families with educated parents produce children who are more likely to succeed when they graduate. And those who graduate near or at the top of their classes are more likely to be better compensated.

But there’s a small subset of people who seem to defy the odds. These people are the typical American entrepreneur story: they came from nowhere, had nothing, but went on to change the world.

What Judge and Hurst found is that these people have one thing in common: the belief that their decisions shape their future – that belief in turn, allows them to make decisive decisions.

The Importance of Decisive Decisions

Now you may wonder why I told you of that study. Well, here it is: when you decide on a USP, you’re going to have to cut out certain segments of the market that you may be perfectly capable of serving.

The people Judge and Hurst found are really good at this. Because they make decisive decisions, they are able to quit pursuing other tempting, viable opportunities – an ability arguably just as important as being able to choose the right segment to pursue.

For example, Bill Gates dropped out of college to build Microsoft and Steve Jobs to build Apple. So did Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Google and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook. I’m sure you can think of a few more stories similar in nature.

It’s uncanny how all of them didn’t take the more “sensible” road of doing it part-time – an option most of us would have taken due to our inability to make decisive decisions.

It’s almost as if they subconsciously realize the amount of focus it would take to take a fledgling operation to the behemoth they are now.

Crafting a USP That Sells

The effectiveness of a USP, therefore, is only as good as the amount of focus you put into it.

Now the question is what should you focus on? If you have ever attended a marketing lecture in a university, they’d tell you there are only 3 ways: compete on price, quality and value. Not very useful, is it?

So I read half a dozen books on the subject and here are 5 ideas I derived:

1.Culture

Culture is a word I like to use to refer to a business’ story. If you’re an artist with a small business, make sure you use your story to your advantage. Why did you start this business? How did you go about it? What obstacles did you have to conquer?

Storytelling is one of the best ways to sell. Check out this great example from Dodocase.

2.Personality

As an artist, people don’t buy your products. They buy YOU. (For large corporations, people buy their brands.)

So don’t be shy. Record a video, do a podcast, and write with personality. And most definitely show a portrait of yourself on your website and any social media presence. If you try to hide behind a brand, you’ll end up competing with businesses that literally have 100x your marketing budget.

After all, what can be more unique than you are?

3.Customer service

If the media is your main source of business tips, you’d think that the public only cares about price. But nothing can be more wrong. Not even in this economy. If anything, we demand better customer service – and most of us are willing to pay for it.

Take Zappos, for example. You can find the shoes they sell in a few clicks of the mouse, but people continue to buy from them, despite the higher price, due to their reputation for great customer service.

If you’re going down this route, I suggest you read Tony Hsieh’s book, Delivering Happiness. Remember, customer service is an investment: it’s going to cost you when you get started.

4.Changing the game

Do you remember M&M’s old tagline that goes, “Melts in your mouth, not your hand?” Isn’t it strange that a chocolate company didn’t advertise how awesome the chocolates they are selling tastes?

Because they know it’s a losing game. So they changed the criteria in which people buy chocolates. Suddenly it’s no longer just about how awesome a chocolate tastes, it’s also about whether or not it melts in your hands. And M&M won.

As an artist, you can draw attention to the materials you use (does your handcrafted bag last longer?), or your process (do you mix violin with jazz?) or even your guarantee (do stand by your product for life?)

What can you think of that can change the game?

5.Pick up a cause

This will not only set you apart from the crowd, it also has the potential to boost your sales if done right. Leverage what your customers are passionate about.

For example, if your primary customers are new mothers, supporting a cause to end child abuse, reduce infant or maternal mortality rate, is almost a guaranteed way for you to rally them to your side.

Of course, there are multiple ways for you to “support” this cause. Some companies simply “donate” a portion of their proceeds, which is a bad idea because know that money is coming right out of their pockets. They will assume you’ve increased your price just for the donations – whether that’s true or not is irrelevant.

A better way to do it is to volunteer your and your employee’s time in a local charitable organization. Document the experience and create a marketing campaign out of it. The more you’re involved, the more you’ll get out of it.

Which is why it matters how passionate you are with the cause you want to pick up. Don’t do it simply for a marketing campaign. People can tell. It’s like a bank trying to convince you they care about home ownership.

One last tip: if you run a local business, ally yourself with a local charitable organization. You won’t believe how effective this is as a USP.

So there, 5 ways to stand out of the crowd. Do you have any other ideas I missed out?

 

Andrianes PinantoanAndrianes Pinantoan is part of the team behind Open Colleges’ Business Courses When not working, he can be found blogging about psychology at Cerebral Hacks

 

 

 

Photocredit : Watercolour Girl image by Lorra Elena

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Your Artist’s Sketchbook – 10 Tips For Creativity

Most Artists use sketchbooks as a means of recording an idea, object or place. However, getting the best use out of your sketchbook is about way more than having a pretty book with a nice picture on every page. Here’s how to get low down and dirty with your sketchbook to squeeze more creativity out of it.

    1. The sketchbook is a means to an end – not the end itself.
      Try not to view your sketchbook as something you could put in a gallery all by itself. Look at it more as an old friend you can bounce ideas off in a smokey pub.

 

    1. Dont be precious about your sketchbook – It will stifle your creativity.
      Years ago as a Art Foundation Student myself and the other students were given sketchbooks to work in and proceeded to be really tense about them spending hours crafting perfect pages, getting really uptight and competitive about the work in them. Then one of the older more wizened members of staff got us all to place our sketchbooks in a big pile on a table and proceeded to pour thick black coffee all over them. Result – Lots of shouting and some tears but a great lesson learned. Just relax – You willl be far more creative.

 

    1. Don’t tear out pages or remove work you aren’t happy with. 
      Your sketchbook should be honest. Dont try to edit it. It’s there as a record of your thoughts and even terrible work is a record of your progress. Even if it looks dreadful there may be an idea there you can come back to at a later stage.

 

    1. Keep a small sketchbook with you at all times.
      As a Mum I get little time to do anything but there’s always a little moment you can snatch, when the kids have fallen asleep in the car, when you’re waiting at the school gates, when you have precisely two minutes to draw something. You also have something to hand to quickly write down a great idea that pops into your head when you are at the Supermarket checkout. Having a sketchbook at these snatched times is important to keep your creativity flowing.

 

    1. Don’t just draw.
      Write down thoughts, textures, sounds, conversations. Its these everyday snippits that are often inspirational.

 

    1. Buy a cheap sketchbook.
      If you treat yourself to a beautiful hand crafted leatherbound hand made paper filled sketchbook you will get so hung up about putting the perfect work in that you will get paralysed by lack of creative confidence [well, maybe thats just me] Just get your self a cheap general sketchbook and you will use it much more and be more relaxed.

 

    1. Be Messy.
      Try out new techniques and materials in your sketchbook. That way you have an ever growing reference library of what works [and what doesn’t].

 

    1. Collect things – Stick them in your sketchbook
      Postcards from exhibitions, feathers, leaves, photos, textiles, paint samples, flyers, stickers, magazine cuttings and other ephemera can all find a home in your sketchbook as a source of inspiration. This stops them festering in the bottom of your handbag until they are unrecognisable and you bin them.

 

    1. It may be obvious but… keep a pen or pencil with your sketchbook.
      There’s nothing more frustrating that having a great idea or seeing something amazing and having nothing to draw or write it down with. Make sure you have a drawing implement that will tuck safely into your sketchbook. Clip it on, tuck it down the spine or stick it on with sellotape if neccessary.

 

    1. USE IT
      Its so easy to get out of the habit of working in your sketchbook. You forget to take it out a few times and before you know it you haven’t worked in it for six months. I find personally that my sketchbook is the root of all my creative processes so its really important to keep using it. Once you are in the habit you get in a flow and can create a positive spiral of creativity. Just keep going.
How do you use your sketchbook? Please share with us in the comments…

 

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The Secret of Weaving Art Marketing Magic: How not to break the spell…

I have of late, due to my upcoming nuptials to Mr Artonomy, by necessity acquired more than a passing interest in wedding paraphernalia {which is all a bit weird for a girl more used to wearing Doc Martin boots than any kind of fairy princess palaver}.

The other day I found myself behind the beautifully liveried van of a wedding cake maker. As I am in the market for a wedding cake I took more notice than usual, noting that the company was local and thinking in my mind that I would check them out. The van was beautifully designed, adorned with photos of towering cakes and decals of fluttering birds, butterfly’s and confetti. I drifted in to a reverie, imagining one of their beautiful cakes at my wedding and possibly a cloud of tiny Disney style bluebirds chirruping in harmony above it…

And then I pulled alongside the van at the lights…

Driving the van was a scraggly man in a dirty white bakers coat that looked like it had never seen the inside of a washing machine. Dangling from his craggy lips was a fag with an impressively long layer of ash on the end and as I stared in my shock at the mismatch, he gave me an aggressive look and burned off as the lights changed leaving my rather pathetic Disney bluebirds day dream to evaporate in a sulphurous cloud of exhaust smoke…

I think I may bake my own cupcakes or something.

And herein lies the danger… a mismatch between your creative work and what your marketing says about you can mean the difference between sales and never selling anything at all.

What goes on in a customers head?

 

When someone thinks about buying one of your paintings, they are physically considering say a canvas 50x50cm with a landscape painting in blues and greens in oils, but in their heads there is a whole other conversation going on.

It may go something like this…

This landscape takes me back to being 8 again and running in the fields outside my Grannies house in Ireland. It makes me feel free and young”

or

When I look into the depths of this painting I see another world where I can escape the stress and sadness that encompasses my life at present”

or even

If I place this painting just over the fireplace, opposite the door, when Mr and Mrs Armitage, the dentist couple over the road with social pretensions who always makes me feel uncomfortable and small, visit my house for our bi-monthly cheese and wine evening, they can’t fail to notice it and will understand that far from being a dull businessman with a wife who is having an affair with the milkman I am in fact a man of exquisite culture and taste…”

They are buying a dream, fantasy or escape. Something magical…

 

Potential buyers of your work will weave their own magical story around your work in their mind. It becomes personal to them and their life.

You can never know what this story is but the important thing is DO NOT BREAK THIS SPELL with a marketing mismatch.

Suddenly coming up against a marketing mismatch will jolt them back to reality and make them feel less inclined to buy the work and even make them feel a bit daft for thinking about it and they will sidle off embarrassed, never to return…

OK. I believe you. Give me some examples.

 

  • You sell expensive and beautiful handmade jewellery for brides but your website is poorly built and contains spelling mistakes and badly photographed images of the pieces on sale.
  • You create exquisite hand made stationery and invitations but hand out a flyer advertising your services which is poorly photocopied on thin quality paper.
  • Your paintings are highly priced but anyone making an enquiry is given the contact email sexysimon@redhotlovemachine.com

Hmmmm. All these will succeed in breaking the spell…

So, take 5 minutes today to consider the marketing of your work, your website, and any marketing materials that you have. Are all your ducks in a row? Does it all communicate the message you want people to pick up about your work? If not, what can you do to improve it? Often some small improvements will bring everything into line.

Let me know how you get on, or about any glaring marketing mismatches you have seen {they don’t have to be art related}, in the comments.

 

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Don’t run aground on the rocky shore of fate: {or how to build your own lifeboat and survive the art world}

I’m a great believer that you can shape your own destiny to a large extent. Often it’s the energy you put out into the world that carves the trajectory of your path into the future.

Think about the people you know. There are always some “lucky” buggers that seem to be in the right place at the right time, land the lucky break and deal with things successfully whereas others always seem to miss the opportunity and generally flounder around, getting nowhere.

Is it that the fates look more favourably on the “lucky” person and send a never ending torrent of bad luck on the other? No. Generally and with the exception of uncontrollable circumstances such as illness, bereavement and accident etc, much of our good luck is created by ourselves, by being in the right place at the right time and making the most of the hand that we are dealt.

As in life it is the same in the world of art. You can create your own destiny.

One common and dangerous idea that persists in the art world is that somehow a gallery will discover your art, create your reputation and do all your marketing for you. You don’t have to do anything other than concentrate on making great art.

This myth tells you that you don’t have to bother with all the timesucking marketing business and promotions stuff because one day a gallery will wade in and sort it all out for you. As long as you make great art you don’t need to bother with anything else.

The {fairly annoying} truth

The sad truth is that it’s not all about the art. There are some wonderful painters and artists who never get any kind of recognition and some terrible ones who rise to the upper eshahlons of the art stratosphere. {We can probably all personally think of at least one hugely famous artists who we think “hmmm” when we see their work, right?} So you can spend all your time creating amazing art but it doesn’t guarantee that a gallery will want to represent you or you will achieve the success you want.

A gallery is looking for an artist who already has paid their dues and built their reputation and who they can work with to take on to greater things. They don’t want to have to start from scratch and they will not save you if are floundering in the water.

A gallery will not build your reputation for you. They will only enhance it

Being tossed around on the sea of fate waiting for someone to come to your rescue at some unspecified time in the future is not a great survival plan. However, it is a popular plan that many artists believe is the one which will deliver them safely to the shore of artistic success. This is just TOO IMPORTANT to leave to chance…

Galleries will not throw you a life ring. In other words you have to build your own lifeboat

Isn’t it a much better idea to start building your own lifeboat now, by working to establish your own artistic reputation? That way you are much better equipped to get gallery representation in the future if you want it and to control your own art if you don’t.

So what steps do you need to build on to start your reputation building survival strategy?

Start building

Present yourself and your work professionally.
Invest time {and probably money} in ensuring that yourself and your work are presented in the best way possible. Ensure that photographs of your work are high quality and show it off to its best advantage. It’s no use thinking “people will like the work even if the photos are rubbish”. They won’t be able to see beyond the poor photography.

Make sure your website looks professional. This is many peoples first point of contact with you and your work. They may see your work or hear your name at an event and want to find out more. If they find an unprofessional website {or can’t find your website at all} then that’s it, opportunity missed.

Make sure all your materials {emails, website, business cards etc} present a consistent message. Keep the colours and typefaces the same across everything and establish your brand.

Extend this to yourself. When you attend an art event, make sure you “dress the part”. It may sound silly but choose clothes that convey success rather than “struggling artist”

Network and build connections.
Go to every art event you can find in your local community. Get to know the “faces” that crop up all the time and become involved in the “goings on”. This way you will find out about opportunities for shows and ways to get involved in art projects. This will all help your CV and reputation to grow.

Behave in a professional and businesslike way.
Always remember that a gallery is a business. They aren’t doing it out of the goodness of their hearts to create somewhere nice for people to visit on a Sunday afternoon and drink some wine and look at some nice stuff. Like you they need to make money to survive so they want to deal with artists that they can trust to come up with the goods. They won’t want to have to deal with an artistic temperament or inconsistent reliability. Always deal with galleries in a organised business like manner and convey to them that you take the business of art seriously. This will enhance your reputation as a serious artist.

Build your cv.
Show your work as much as possible to as many people as possible. Both online and offline. Don’t be shy and hide your light under a bushel. Get it out there and see what opportunities arise. This way you are building your CV, line by line, until you have an impressive track record which conveys consistency to a gallery.

Launch your lifeboat

So start building your OWN Reputation now. Don’t wait for someone else to do it for you. Then you will be in a strong position to work with any gallery in the future on an equal footing in a mutually fulfilling manner. You will also be much better positioned to approach galleries for representation and will have the connections to help you do it.

And what if no gallery shows up? It doesn’t matter. You are fully in control of your own lifeboat and confidently steering your own artistic destiny.

Do you believe in taking control yourself or think a gallery should deal with everthing? Tell us what you think in the comments.

Image courtesy of Freddy The Boy under Creative Commons Licence

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Naughty domain names {and how not to get stuck with one}

When you are thinking about starting to sell art online through your own artists website, one of the first things you need to consider is your domain name.

It is one of the elements of your artists website which requires the most careful thought and unfortunately somewhere that you can easily shoot yourself in the foot if you are not careful, often only discovering the problem further down the line when nobody can find you.

But don’t worry. Sticking to a few simple rules will ensure that you get the most out of your domain and website. Lets have a quick look at what it entails.

What is it?

Your domain name is the address you type into the address bar of your browser to call up your website. You can think of it as a signpost that points visitors to where your website is hosted. It will look something like www .johnsmithsculpture.com. It is an important part of your web presence and has implications for search engine optimisation. You can register your domain name before you have a website set up in order to secure it.

Why is it crucial to get it right?

Your domain name is a very important part of your personal brand. Pick the right one and it can enhance your professional appearance. Pick the wrong one and it can let down the side {see point 6 below ;-)}.

It also has a direct bearing on your e-mail address so picking the right domain enables you to set up a professional email address along the lines of enquiries@myname.com. This looks SO much better and more professional than  email addresses like sexybex75@yahoo2h5f.com,  again tying in with your personal brand and giving the right impression. I see a surprisingly large amount of artists undermining their hard work on marketing by giving out business cards with addresses like this. It is an important element of your whole professional package so well worth sorting out properly.

Careful choice of domain is also really important from a search engine point of view as a domain name containing your name and possibly a keyword about what you do can really help your site to appear well in search engine results. You want people to be able to find your work when they type in your name.

How to choose a good domain name

When you come to buying your own domain name there are quite a few things to consider before you lay down your money. Many domain names have already been registered so it can take a bit of trial and error to find a good combination that hasn’t already gone.

Google views domain names as being one of the most important elements of a website when deciding whereabouts in the search pages to rank it so its well worth spending a bit of time on getting a good combination. Spend time doing a bit of brainstorming to come up with different combinations that may work.

Some good points to bear in mind are:

1 Include your name in the domain.
Creating a domain including at least your last name and probably your first name too will help people find you more easily. I.e. www.johnsmith.com

2 Include a keyword relating to your work.
Even better, using a descriptive keyword in your domain, helps with searches for this subject. I.e.www.johnsmithsculpture.com

3 Don’t use hyphens.
It’s tempting to hyphenate your domain name as sometimes all combinations of words seem to have been already registered. If at all possible do try and avoid the use of hyphens though as it makes it well nigh impossible to tell anyone your domain name orally.

Imagine trying to tell someone your web address over the phone. “John hyphen smith hyphen sculpture dot com” just sounds really confusing. Use hyphens as a last resort only.

4 Keep it memorable.
Try and register a domain name that people can remember easily. To this end try to keep it short and to the point. www.pamalaspotterypigemporiumandartbarn.com probably wont work so well.

Also, if there are any common misspellings of your name it can be worth registering both variations in case people forget how to spell it.

5 Try and secure a dot com
If you can, try and secure the .com version of your domain name. You may want to register a few different variations of your domain name with different “Top Level Domain”s {Top Level Domains or TLD’s are the ending part of the domain address ie .com or .org etc} If possible avoid domains ending in the more obscure .info .tv and similar for your main domain name.

You may also want to register the TLD relevant to where you live {ie .co.uk if you live in the UK. .fr for France etc} You can use the .com as your main domain and point the others to your site too.

6 Consider your choice of words carefully.
Some combinations of words, when put together, create an unforseen comedy domain name. Consider the humorous joys of the following real domain names and carefully check any domain name combinations you come up with.

www.powergenitalia.com {Italian Power Company}
www.penisland.net {Pen company}
www.speedofart.com {Designers}

Yes, they are all real! 😉

Checking if your chosen domain is available

Once you have some ideas, you need to check if they are available to register. Go to a domain registration site such as www.names.co.uk or 123-reg.co.uk and enter your desired domain name in their website checker box to see what is available. You don’t have to register your domain there if you don’t want but you will be able to find out of the domain is available for purchase.

Registering your domain

There are an almost infinite number of companies on the internet offering domain registration. It makes life easier to have your domain registered at the same place as your hosting so take a look at the domain registration services offered by your hosting company if you have one.

If you want to register the domain separately {for example, if you want to secure it before hosting or your website is set up} try www.lcn.com or www.names.co.uk

If you are using an artists website building service they will generally be able to look after the registration for you and ensure it is set up correctly to point to your website. This again is a good option as it keeps everything in the same place and allows someone else to deal with the technical side of things. Just make sure you can keep the domain name should you ever want to move to a different service.

All done

Sorting out your domain name can look like a daunting process but the steps above should enable you to choose and register a domain with reasonably little pain. Go and make sure you have secured your personal domain name as soon as you can. You don’t want to discover that someone else has registered www.yourname.com when you come to set up your artists website.

Please share any problems you have had with registering domains in the comments. Have you secured your personal name domain yet?

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There is ALWAYS a sodding cat hair!

I hate framing my work. I know it’s an essential part of being an artists and a skill I need to hone but boy does it suck. I would rather do anything, ANYTHING other than frame. Everything looks alluring, cleaning the loo, scraping those grim bits of food out of the crack in the table, going to a parents evening, anything. I have become just a little pathalogical about avoiding it. And because I hate it so much I always leave it till the last minute before an exhibition thus putting even more pressure on myself.

24 hours to go. There is finally no escape

It comes to the final day before the hand in deadline. Grumpy and stressed I have no alternative but to just get down to it and do it.

So I get all my equipment out and start to enforce “The Framing Zone”. This is an area in the tradition of a NASA “Clean Room”- allegedly free from all traces of jam, cat sick, dust bunnies, half eaten sweets, kid detritus, unidentified gooey things and the general mess of which my house seems to be primarily constructed. My long suffering husband and kids know that they enter “The Framing Zone” at their peril.

The crucial importance of wine in the framing process

The final part of preparation is to ensure I have a LARGE glass of wine for moral support.

And then it begins. I measure, mark, cut, tape, clean, screw and swear a lot. {This is why the kids need to be kept out of the area}.

Then finally, my framing completed I take the finished masterpiece out into the kitchen under the strong light. And you know what?

THERE IS ALWAYS A
SODDING CAT HAIR!

It drives me wild! No matter how careful and sterile I am and no matter how hard I check before finally screwing the back on the picture, a errant cat hair will always have sneaked under the glass and be compressed on a really obvious bit of the picture. This necessitates a return back to square one, taking the whole thing apart and trying to find the culprit {which often disappears as soon as the glass is moved due to some evil static power, only to reappear again when everything is put back together}

At this point I have twice managed to smash the glass on a frame as I fumble angrily to reassemble everything. Do you see why the wine is so important now?

Which brings me neatly to my “gigantic cat hair of life” theory

Seriously… The “gigantic cat hair of life” theory is really IMPORTANT for artists.

This theory states that whenever you are trying to achieve something, be it opening an exhibition, changing your career, selling your art, starting your creative business, however meticulously you plan, however careful you are there will always be one or two massive great “cat hairs” that turn up and complicate things, mess things up for a while and make things even harder than they need to be.

This will make you want to give up, shout and swear and chuck your work out of the window.

The key thing is not necessarily to avoid the cat hairs, as that is, as we know, impossible, there will always be one or two. The key is to deal with them well when they arrive. Don’t let them derail you or stop you from achieving your goal and getting where you want to be. Just remove them calmly by whatever means necessary, take a big swig of wine and carry on.

Creative survivors have “cat hair” removal down to a fine art

The people who do well with their creative careers and survive still get the cat hairs to deal with but they just pluck em off and carry on, dealing calmly with whatever adversity throws at them. The ones who sink let the first cat hair they find turn them into a nervous wreck and stop what they are doing, often justifying it with excuses about “not having the right hoover” or cat hair removal tool.

Just remember there will always be a sodding cat hair. That’s life. It’s how you deal with it that counts.

Have you had “cat hairs” to deal with in your creative career? How did you sort them out? Tell us in the comments.

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