Do you suffer from invisible artist syndrome? : How to get noticed online.

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This post may just be an excuse to play a clip from my favourite tv show as a kid – “Randall and Hopkirk Deceased”. {“My Partner the Ghost” in the US}

This was the fabulous swinging 60’s-tastic story of a private eye (Randall) and his unfortunately deceased ghostly sleuthing partner, Marty Hopkirk {Kenneth Cope wearing a white suit}.

Swaggering leather jacketed London criminal types couldn’t see ghostly Marty Hopkirk allowing for all manner of high jinx as he got one over on them. However poor Marty was frustrated by his inability to interact with the real world {especially the ladies} the main difficulty being that he was invisible to everyone but Randall.

The real world just didn’t take any notice of poor Marty. He didn’t exist…

Do you feel a bit like this with your efforts to publicise your art online? Like you can shout from the rooftops about it and no one hears you. You spend lots of time Tweeting, Facebooking, putting new images on Etsy, adding work to Zazzle or Redbubble etc yet no-one seems to even stop by your shop.

Are you an invisible artist?

There is no denying that getting your creative work noticed online is HARD. The competition is vast and ever growing. Every day more and more artists add their work to the humongous selection of artwork available online. I sometimes get the feeling that the internet is comprised entirely of celebrity gossip, nutritional supplements, sex and art, not necessarily in that order. How can you even begin to make a dent in that mountain of content and be noticed?

So what is the secret to beating invisible artist syndrome?

I’m afraid the secret is that there is no quick fix easy answer. It comes down to a combination of working on these areas below and getting them right.

1 ] Branding – Standing out from the crowd

Getting your image right is crucially important. In fact it is the solid foundation to everything else you do. If your imagery is poor you can waste time on promotion and never get anywhere. Get this right first.

You need to stand out from the crowd and make a statement with everything you do. Great high quality photography of your work, well chosen colours and a consistent message across the web will start to make you and your work noticable.

Make sure that your website, printed materials, presence on Twitter and anywhere else your work appears all carry this consistent message. People will start to recognise you and your work and the quality that it represents.

2 ] Your artists website – make it personal

It’s very easy to set up a shop on Etsy, Redbubble, Zazzle or any of the many myriad of artists shopping websites available. Whilst this ease of access is brilliant you can soon find that getting people to visit your shop or buy an item is not so easy.

This is for the very simple reason that these sites are not there to just sell YOUR work alone. Their goal is to get traffic to their entire site, not specifically your shop. They really don’t care who makes the sale, you or any other artist on the site as they get the commission either way. Therefore they make it very easy to surf around and flit from one artist to another. Even if someone lands on your page they will probably flit off to look at another pretty item they notice. It’s the butterfly mind at work and there are SO many other artists on these sites that your work just gets lost in the crowd.

You can expend a lot of energy trying to drive visitors to your shop but chances are they will be off to look at someone else once they get there. Faced with a lot of choice, buyers tend to get befuddled, do nothing and not make a purchase. You are left feeling invisible again.

People who stand out and do well on these sites tend to do a LOT of marketing directing people to their shop but what if something changes?

Sellers on 1000Markets had an unpleasant surprise recently when it was bought out and renamed, Any hard work put into promoting and creating links to a shop there was undone overnight as the web address changed. Back to invisibility.

Only YOU care passionately about your work. Use that passion to create your OWN website. You have no competition from other artists on your own site and time you spend on promoting and marketing it is well spent and will only improve your chances of being seen.

Your site isn’t going to disappear, change name or get banned. It is your own little bit of the internet and you can make it look exactly how you want. Over time, your work will become more and more visible across the web.

3 ] High quality professional work.

It goes without saying that everything you put on the internet should be your very best work. Never show anything you aren’t happy with. Much better to have a smaller selection of brilliant work to view than a sprawling mass of substandard pieces that you really aren’t happy with. Again, make sure the photography and presentation of your work is excellent. Set your quality threshold high and your work is much more likely to be noticed for all the right reasons.

4 ] And finally… Hard Work {sorry ;-(}

The greatest lie perpetuated about the web is that you can just sit back and let it do the work for you. I think we all know by now that it doesn’t work like that [unfortunately] and you do have to put the time in promoting and sharing your work in order for it to become more visible across the web to potential buyers.

In an interesting interview recently {worth a listen}, artist John T Unger said that he generally spends 30-40 hours per week marketing his art. He figured that he could either work for someone else in a job and come home and work on his art after work, or he could take the hours he would spend on another job and use them to promote his firebowl sculptures, and again work on his art after hours. This is a fairly extreme example of working really hard at promoting his work, but John is able to sell expensive high end artwork through his website and has been featured in publications such as the New York Times so he is definitely not invisible.

The bottom line is that it takes time, work and patience to gain visibility for your artwork, but unlike poor Marty, condemned to eternal invisibility, you CAN do it.

Begin taking some steps now to make sure more potential buyers get to see your fabulous work.

Time to stop being an invisible artist. Let me know in the comments how you get on.

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15 replies
  1. Rene Marzuk
    Rene Marzuk says:

    Thanks for the tips! I have just started to create a presence online, and it is a lot of work. I’m trying to increase my exposure and started a blog:
    However, I think I will consider your idea of a website. I feel, though, that as a starting point, the blog has allowed me to calibrate the direction I want to move on.

    • Helen Aldous
      Helen Aldous says:

      Hi Toonicorn.

      Love your site. Some gorgeous work on there. Especially love Celestial Kings. Keep posting and you will start to get picked up by search engines. The trick is to just keep going ;-). V nice work

  2. Nan Engen
    Nan Engen says:

    You could certainly call me an “invisible artist” as I haven’t had much success at all over the last 2 or 3 years at selling art prints. I have my own website, sell at POD sites like Imagekind, Redbubble, FineArtAmerica and Zazzle and blog at 1st Angel Arts Magazine.

    Smaller items at Zazzle sell well but I’m not have much luck selling art prints which is what I want. I found out about your wonderful site from Tara Reed’s newsletter – just signed up for licensing information which may be the next consideration.


    • Helen Aldous
      Helen Aldous says:

      Hi Nan.

      So glad you found us. Love your work on your site. So fragile and delicate with gorgeous colours!. Tara Reeds site is great. Lots of info re licensing. We have a guest post coming up in the next couple of weeks about licensing too so hopefully that may help as well.

  3. Joan A Hamilton
    Joan A Hamilton says:

    I have had an site for a year then moved to a FolioTwist artist website, which I’ve had for nearly 2 years. When you talk about having your own website do you consider a FolioTwist as your ‘own’ site?

    I have worked hard on this site for quite some time doing tutorials and demonstrations of digital watercolour techniques and blogging about the ups and downs of being a new artist. It is starting to pay off in the number of visitors I receive, how much they look at and if they return. Google Analytics is great, but you shouldn’t get hung up the numbers too much, especially for the first year or so.

    One thing that I noticed helps is belonging to art forums and places you can post your art such as: Wet Canvas, Red Bubble, Fine Art America, ArtWanted, Flicker, Painter Factory and Painter Talk. The more I participate on a regular basis in these groups the more referrals I get and the more my name gets out there.

    So, I wholeheartedly agree with you that it takes time, work and patience. It has to be a labour of love rather than just another ‘marketing’ chore, or your attitude will show.

    Hats off to artist bloggers everywhere! Hang in there!

    • Helen Aldous
      Helen Aldous says:

      Hi Joan.
      Love your site, loads of great content. Im not surprised it is starting to work well for you.

      Yes, a FolioTwist website I would definately consider as your “own” website. They allow you to have your own domain name {ie } and to control the content of your site. Also, you dont share the site with other artists, so yes, most definately your own. FolioTwist offer a very good service.

      Like you say, the more energy you put out into the world [commenting, doing demonstations etc], as always the more you get back, but yes, it mustn’t be a cynical marketing excecise but rather an enjoyable extension of your art and practise. It is amazing how we can connect with other artists from around the globe now. That never fails to blow me away 😉 Its brilliant!

      Absolutely, hats off to budding artist bloggers everywhere…

  4. Franziska San Pedro
    Franziska San Pedro says:

    agree in all points! It is hard and takes a lot of work but it will pay off. Just like anything, if you are dedicated to something and do it with all your heart and soul, you will be successful no matter what. I think that most people give up too soon and don’t invest enough time consistently.
    I started my blog last year in August and my daily visitors went up from 0-5 to 40-80 per day. I made wonderful connections throughout social media and get invited to opportunities with other artists. Hang in there, people, success will come if you work hard enough (but you won’t mind because you love what you do!).
    Great post, thanks Helen,

    Franziska San Pedro

    • Helen Aldous
      Helen Aldous says:

      Hi Franziska

      You are so right that all the work will pay off. Just hang in there.;-)

      I think I made the work sound too hard in the original post and as you say it isn’t really “work”. It is fun and you enjoy doing it because it is part and parcel of your art and creativity.

      And as you say, when you put the energy in, good things come out. Just hang on in there and keep going…

  5. Nancy
    Nancy says:

    Amen! Thank you for making a strong point that an artist must have his or her own website and that it has to be personal. I would add that while marketing your art (I work mostly with musicians and other creative entrepreneurs) can be “hard,” it doesn’t have to be. There are actions you can take that are as creative and fun AS your art!

    But you do have to put in the time and energy… either way.

    • Helen Aldous
      Helen Aldous says:

      Hi Nancy. You are absolutely right. Just because you need to put the time and energy it doesn’t mean it needs to be horrible toil. It can definitely be really good fun. Great point.


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