Harness the power of the internet to sell your art and creativity online

What is your crucial secret weapon for selling art? : Lessons from “The Apprentice”

Lets put on our “imagining” hat for a second. {I hope you have an imagining hat? I wouldn’t go anywhere without mine}.

Imagine for some strange and unknown reason you {heaven forbid}suddenly find yourself taking part in an episode of “The Apprentice”. Your objective is to sell as many of your paintings as possible in 5 hours from a rented shop. People come in, wander round disinterested in your work and leave. They don’t come back. You gradually get more and more panicky at the thought of bearing the brunt of the gimlet eye of Sir Alan Sugar and his henchmen and resort to standing at the shop door shouting and trying to grab passers by. They cross the road to avoid you as, by this point, you have become more than a little bonkers looking. You fail the task miserably, get fired and go home sobbing in a taxi.

Stop! Rewiiiiiiind

Now lets re imagine it…
Same Apprentice style task, same scenario. But this time you have a secret weapon. You have a big list of people who you already know LOVE your work. You set up your gallery and contact them. They arrive in droves and because they are already pre-qualified to like what you do, they buy a lot of paintings. You trounce the other team, get a fabulous job with Sir Alan and get to fly off to Royal Ascot in a private jet quaffing champagne.

Your mailing list is your secret weapon.

That’s pretty much why you need an artist’s mailing list in a nutshell {omitting the champagne, jets and Sir Alan bits}. It’s your secret weapon for selling art online and off.

Many many people will visit your website or see your work in a gallery but unless you make some kind of record of who they are you will probably never see them again and an opportunity is wasted.

This is why you need to collect their details, start your artists mailing list and keep growing it.

Many people set up a site but neglect to grow their mailing list when really at the end of the day it should be the FOCUS of your entire online presence.

So what exactly is it?

An artist’s mailing list is simply a list of the details of people who expressed an interest in your work, whether they be on your site or viewing your work in a gallery. Name and email address is really all you need {unless your audience predominately don’t use the internet and you want to send out invitations by post.}

The less information you ask for, the more likely people will be to give it to you. Asking for peoples inside leg measurements and the name of their dog will result in a very small mailing list.

What do I use it for?

You use your mailing list to keep people up to date with your latest work. A good idea is to send out an email newsletter once a month detailing new work, things that you are working on and your general announcements {upcoming exhibitions etc}

Is it worth the hassle?

Absolutely! For example Artist, Hazel Dooney {some of Hazel’s work may be NSFW} has built a great deal of her success on keeping her own group of collectors informed of her work. Hazel sends out a monthly “Studio Notes” email, thus allowing her to operate independently outside the gallery system. Basically if you have your own list you aren’t reliant on a galleries list of interested folk. You have your own. Hoorah.

When do I start?

I love this Japanese saying. “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now” If you start now, a year down the line you will have a healthy list of collectors. Just do it.

So, how do I do it?

At the very basic end, just make sure you have a book for people to add their details at your next exhibition.

Read this post for some ideas about how to get people to sign up. Simple tips to increase your mailing list signup at gallery exhibitions & craft fairs

At the more high tech end, start to collect names and emails on your website. Trust is a very precious thing so make sure that you reassure people that you value their trust and will not sell or lose their email or spam them.

Very importantly – don’t use your normal email programme to send out emails or manage your list. It looks unprofessional and is likely to end in a junk mail folder. The professional services below ensure that their emails are designed to get through the spam filters. You also can’t measure how many people open your mails when you use Outlook so have no idea if anyone is actually reading them and how to improve.

Ok Mrs Smartarse. So what DO I use instead of Outlook?

There are specialist online services which you can use to manage your list and send out emails.

MailChimp offers a great FREE package which is ideal for cutting your teeth. They have loads of nice features and you can have up to 1000 subscribers on the free account. They do seem to have more problems with deliver-ability though but it is a good place to start.

Aweber
I use Aweber to send out all my emails and manage my list and it works great. It has a high deliverability rate, great templates, stats and features. It does cost $20 a month though but you can use it on multiple sites and send as many emails as you like for that fee.

Don’t be a V14gr4 Gnome

All this could start to sound a bit mercenary and it’s true that the mailing list is open to abuse by ice hearted internet marketers who use peoples emails to bombard them with ads for v14gr4 or promises of a larger willy. However, like anything in life, it’s what you do with it that counts. Always remember that your mailing list is about people, not just numbers.

Take time to connect and build relationships with the people who like your work. Don’t treat them as a commodity. Get to really know them. Grow your connections with your people and you,  your work and your audience can grow together.

How do you manage your artists mailing list? Tell us below.

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Are you making these 6 art sales killing mistakes on your artists website?

Poking around the internet a lot, as I am wont to do, means that I look at a heck of a lot of artist’s websites and in my meanderings round the corners of cybespace I have found that there are some issues that come up again and again.

Without wanting to be overdramatic, I would say that there are a core of common mistakes, all of which have the potential to seriously damage if not kill the possibility of selling any art on the websites that make them.

So here in no particular order are my top 6 sales killing artists website mistakes. Check your site to see if you have any of these issues, and if you do, sort ’em out quick to ensure you are in the best possible position to sell art online.

{warning. I may get ever so slightly ranty in this post as I get so frustrated at the amount of sites and artists scuppering their own chances of success when their work is great. Don’t let it happen to you.}

1 } Hidden prices give us “The Fear”

There is nothing more guaranteed to prevent a sale than looking for a price and seeing “price list available on application”. It brings out in us all “the fear” of going into an expensive shop and dealing with a snotty assistant who assumes we can’t afford it and looks at us like we crawled from under a hedge.

Most people {especially us Brits} would rather pull our eyes out with spoons than ask the price.

If you are happy with your price structure you should be happy to show people the price. Make it clear on your site so that people don’t have to hunt for it.

How does it kill sales?

People will just not contact you for the price out of embarrasment in case they have to make an “Ummm, Oh yes that’s fine but I think I have just strangely changed my mind” kind of excuse. Just tell them.

2 } Muzak

Putting music on your site is really offputting to a visitor as the chances of them liking the same music as you are VERY slim. Then it just annoys them whilst they scrabble around to find a mute button. Even worse, if you haven’t included a mute button they will harbour feelings of deep and steaming resentment towards you that you inflicted Richard Clayderman on them at 6am when they were having a quiet surf and woke up their sleeping husband so he got grumpy at them [or maybe that’s just me].

How does it kill sales?

As well as the aformentioned deep and steaming resentment build up prejudicing sales, music also stops people having a sneaky look at your site at work.

3 } Splash screen lunacy

A splash page is a web page placed at the front of a site that contains a big image or an introductory flash animation, possibly of artwork swishing in and whizzing round.

They were popular about 10 years ago but can still be seen on some sites. I did think they were dying out but just this morning got a link to an artists newly launched site which had one.

Splash pages annoy and frustrate visitors [Have you ever watched an animated one through without clicking “skip intro”?] and confuse search engines, even if they are static by putting an extra, unnecessary and empty page between them and the content. It can make the site unusable on smartphones and just generally gets in the way.

How does it kill sales?

Splash screens frustrate the viewer before they even get to consider buying your work, driving them away from your site and off to look at other artists work.

See this post Artists Websites and the Attack of the Toddler Brainz to see why.

4 } Google adsense chaos. A site cluttered up with advertising.

It’s quite common to find a site where the work is lost amongst columns of Adsense ads [little text ads from Google] as well as flashing banner ads taking up half the space of the site. As these ads will be related to art [Google places ads relevant to your content] it can be hard to see where the ads end and the art begins.

Its very off-putting to users if your pages consist of large chunks of advertising. Its also very difficult for you to make money this way unless you have a very popular site with thousands of visits and constantly updated content. You won’t just get free money for cluttering your page up with a few ads. For most artist it’s better to concentrate on selling your work rather than advertising space.

How does it kill sales?

The advertising devalues your work making your site look more “bargain basement” than “Saatchi Gallery” This makes visitors far less likely to want to part with good money to buy your art.

5 } The anti-Zen. An imbalance between form and function.

The best websites keep a good balance between looking good and functioning well. A site that does either at the expense of the other will perform poorly.

We have all come across them. The beautiful sites that take ages to load and then crash your machine or the extremely functional sites that look terrible. Good website design should balance both elements to create a harmonious whole. [Ooh, I have come over all zen!}.

How does it kill sales?

An imbalance either way can prevent sales. Too much form can mean a deficit on the technical side and issues with the user having difficulty with the purchasing process. Too much function and you can devalue your artwork by placing it in an unnatractive setting {back to the “bargain basement” again}.

6 } Weird Navigation involving fairies

Visitors to your site just want to be able to view your work easily and quickly. They don’t want to play a game where they have to discover an invisible hovering fairy on the page and then chase it around the screen until a menu unfolds out of its tiny wings {I have actually seen this navigation, I’m not making it up!}

At this point they will have gone off to have a cup of tea and a lie down in a darkened room. Just make it as easy as possible for them to get around the site and find out more about you and your work. Don’t make them have to work for the information.

How does it kill sales?

Going back to the Toddler Brainz post, people have the attention spans of 3 year olds on the web. By the time they have found the hidden fairy menu they will have wandered off to do something else, thereby not even looking at your work for sale. Just make it easy for them to find it and then they have more chance of buying it.


So there are my top six sales killers. Removing any of them from your site should definately mean an improvement in your results and a general improvement in the user experience of your visitors.


Do you agree that these are killers? Has removing any of them improved the performance of your site? Do you have any more killers that annoy you? Please share your comments below.

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Best of the web | October 2010 | Don’t miss these.

Take 10 minutes at lunchtime to watch this thought provoking animation. Really important discussion touching on the reason artists often find it so hard at school.

Why being a square peg is now your greatest art sales asset
I have been looking into this subject in a guest post on The Abundant Artist which you can read here.

9 creative women share secrets to suceeding with social media
A series of blog posts curated by a group of creative women blogging about how social media has helped them and their businesses, and how you can put these ideas into action.

Art School Monsters
Do you have a monster lurking from art school that tells you you are no good at art and undermines your confidence? I certainly do. I LOVED this post from Kirsty Hall.

Social Media Cheat Sheet
Extremely useul map of where you should concentrate your attention in the social media world.

Is Etsy Dying?
Thought provoking read from Skinny Artist about Etsy’s figures. A good reason to get your own artists website and not rely on Etsy as your sole web presence.

See 10 crucial reasons why every artist needs a their own hub website

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Illustrator Lisa Stubbs shares her online world

Lisa Stubbs is a freelance illustrator, artist and printmaker from Yorkshire England.

Her work is inspired by a wide variety of lovelyness ranging though Japanese graphics, vintage packaging and the creativity of her children and includes screenprinting, stitch and textiles. She writes an eclectic & inspirational blog at ‘LilSonnySky and her work can be found on both Etsy.com & Folksy.com

In this interview, Lisa shares her experiences about marketing her work, the business of art, and success selling art online. She also shares her inspirations and processes.

Your work

Lisa. How would you describe your art
I’d describe my work as narrative, characterful, honest and with a sence of humour, I want people to connect and relate to my artwork I want it to make the onlooker smile.

Please explain a little about your creative process.
For my own personal work I carry a sketch book and camera around with me, if anything inspires me I jot it down or snap it! Then later I will work further on the sketch and decide what medium to create the final artwork in, which at the moment is mainly as a screen print or a fabric collage. I have three children who are a constant inspiration to me with their energy and fresh imaginative way of looking at the things, and along with their picture book collection and their own art, this fuels ideas for my sketch book too.

What is your workspace like?
Do you have a dedicated space to create? I have a studio next to my kitchen which is open plan ( you can see an image it of it here) Where I do most of my work, my screen printing is done at the West Yorkshire Print workshop where I learnt how to screen print.

Your Online World

fossil hunting in red hatYour blog www.LilSonnySky.Blogspot.com is packed full of fascinating and exciting work, inspiration and fun. It’s created on the Blogger platform. Would you recommend Blogger to artists starting to set up a blog or would you do anything differently if you were setting it up now?
The Blogger platform is perfect for me as it’s easy to use. I’m no whiz when it comes to computers and blogging along with opening Etsy & Folksy shops has been a huge learning curve, which I’ve really enjoyed! Because I don’t have a massive range of computer skills, Blogger has been simple and easy to use and perfect for my needs.

What did you find the most difficult or challenging part of setting up your blog?
The courage to do it!! I knew the technical side would be a challenge but I could learn that side of things and overcome any difficulties by ‘help’ links and trial and error. But the actual ‘ does anyone want to read about my work and inspiration?’ bit and finding an online voice that represented me was the hardest bit! I’m so glad I did, it’s been a massively positive learning experience and have met some wonderful ‘blogging’ friends along the way!

How useful do you find your blog in terms of promoting and selling your work?
Very useful, it’s been an online shop window for me and an open studio for people to see how my work is created and what inspires me, which I think gives my work a visual history of hows it’s been created before going onto my shops.

How much do you find your online presence crosses over into the real world?
Do you find contacts and promotions that you make online help your work offline too? Yes, I think the links and contacts I’ve made through people seeing my work on my blog and Etsy shop have been wonderful, and I have received many commercial briefs because of this. My Etsy shop and my Flickr account have been almost like an online portfolio and a way to show case my work.

Out of all the things you do online to promote your work, which has been the most useful or worthwhile?
That’s difficult to say as they’re all linked, I’d say my blog as a platform leading to other links, but my Etsy shop has been wonderful at attracting interest abroad, people come to look at the blog who have bought items from the shop first. So I’d say my blog and Etsy shop.

Approximately how long do you spend each day or week, working to promote your work on the web?
I’d say an hour to maybe 2 hours a day, it depends on how much work I have to do.

You have shops on both etsy and folksy. Do these work well for you?
They don’t do too bad really, considering this is all my own personal work and not my commercial work so I don’t put my full time and energy into it. I work as a freelance illustrator so my Etsy, Folksy, Flickr and blog are all side lines if you like, but they have helped and supported my commercial work enormously. Not just as a brief free zone to experiment and try out my own ideas but also as a shop window for potential clients.

Roughly what percentage of your total sales comes through Folksy and Etsy?
For me it’s not a massive amount but it’s growing. That’s due to time and my work priority’s. I think to be really successful on these sites you need to spend a considerable amount of time networking, joining chat rooms, subscribing to news letters, getting involved in Etsy promotions, Etsy Treasury’s and online communities, generally being involved with every aspect of it to get the word around about your work. This takes time which I haven’t got as my commercial work takes priority, but I’m very proud of ‘Lil Sonny Sky’ and if I can do this just with a small amount of time, just think of what you could achieve if you gave it your full attention!

How do you get people to visit your shops on these sites? What promotion do you do to let people know about them?
I have links on my blog and links in posts. I also leave comments on other blogs and I’ve got involved with online competitions and projects, ( here and here) Offline I have exhibited at local Art fairs which have info of my shops and blog,

Your Arty Business

Japanese spring girlWhich marketing strategies have been most helpful in advancing your career and selling your work?
Investing time to learn new ways of working and experiment, this has been the best way I’ve advanced my career – not really a marketing strategy I know but by doing this everything else has just naturally followed on. The contacts I’ve made and the work I’ve sold has all been through constantly pushing myself work wise to better myself as an artist and reinvent ways of creating my ideas. My Etsy shop has been an out let for this and it’s this work that has got me noticed more than ever and got me more work. So I’d say experimenting, being open minded and inventive has been my best marketing strategy!

In a normal day, how much time do you spend on creating and how much on business related stuff?
I’ll spend the first hour of the day online, then stop and do design work making use of the day light and then on an evening spend time at my mac doing the online stuff or keeping up with the books! this is tricky with a young family so the creative time has to take priority as I can’t do this with the children around. This balance seems to be working ….. at the mo!

Can you offer any advice to someone who is just starting out down the road of self employment as an artist?
Just work really hard! invest the time you need to get organised and target who you want to notice your work. Have a clear idea or goal and then list what you need to do to achieve that goal, personally and commercially. Buy the Artists and Writers year book which should be your bible as it’s packed with loads of advice, case studies and contacts. Believe in yourself and your work otherwise nobody else will and don’t be afraid to seek advice and help, there are tonnes of resources out there, local free courses on book keeping, marketing, time management etc. Get involved with organisations like The Association of illustrators or local Art organisations, we have the Art house in Wakefield, or WYPW who have monthly news letters with lots of opportunity’s for artists! and be positive, don’t see problems as mistakes, they’re just lessons on your journey to achieving your goal!!

Do you make a living exclusively from your art and creativity or do you combine it with other work too?
I earn my living as a commercial freelance illustrator and I have just got an agent purely through my personal work online which is wonderful as it makes me nearer to my goal of becoming a children’s book illustrator.

Working for yourself

lisa stubbs - PiggybackWhat has been the biggest obstacle or difficulty you have faced whilst getting established as a self employed artist?
How did you overcome this difficulty? I started as a freelance illustrator 14 years ago which seems like a life time ago! I think for me I found juggling time difficult and being jack of all trades, understanding accounting, time management and computers and solving technical problems were all new skills I had to learn. The only way to over come this was to go on ‘new business’ courses. I went on lots which were free at the time and great as I met people in the same boat and learnt from their mistakes as well as my own. I could pick the brains of professionals in their field for free. Today I think local art associations will run similar workshops which will be better as they will be tailored to artists needs.

What is the best thing about working for yourself as a self employed artist?
Now I have a young family it’s been wonderful to be flexible time wise, I can work around my family, school runs and swimming lessons! Also just being able to get paid for something I absolutely love doing and being my own boss! I feel very lucky!

And the worst?
It’s a very solitary profession! The radio and the blogging community are my studio mates! but I get around this by going out to screen print, I also help out now and then at the school my children go to doing art classes which helps to brake up blocks of time spent on my own.

Do you have any advice for creative people who want to work for themselves or set up a business selling the products of their creativity?
The same as before really, work hard, seek advice and help, believe in your work and research your market and competition, write down your goal then list what you need to do to achieve it. And be positive! The person who doesn’t make mistakes is unlikely to make anything!

Your Inspiration

Finally, please share something that inspires you.
My children, picture books, song lyrics, Japanese graphics, fabric, tumblr, vintage packaging. I find inspiration in so many things the list is endless! it’s ever changing, but my children mainly and their art the confidence they have when drawing and their imagination is just magic!

Thank you Lisa for sharing your work and practise with us. Don’t forget to visit Lisa’s blog at ‘LilSonnySky

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Artist’s Websites & The Attack of the Toddler Brainz

Let me share with you a little story about Toddler Brainz.

So, it’s pouring down outside with the kind of passionate and lumpy rain only available in Yorkshire. My Other Half is attempting to keep the wee uns entertained and has got to the slightly desperate point where he has to resort to finding things of magic for a 3 year old on YouTube.

My wee toddler son loves two things more than anything in the universe {including me and his Dad} and those two things are Drumming and Trains, in no particular order. He will watch any video involving either, or preferably both {if anyone ever finds a video of a Samba band aboard Thomas the tank engine my life would be complete} ad infinitum.

OH is trying to interest small son in a video clip of particularly fine drum solo featuring Santana’s amazing drummer at Woodstock in 1969.

The video starts with a great screaming guitar solo from hairtastic Carlos Santana.

Note – Guitar solos are NOT drumming.

Son – “Want Drumming”
OH – “Its coming – just watch this and wait a minute. This is great guitar playing”
Son – Frowning deeply. “Want DRUMMING. Where’s the drumming?”


More guitar solo. Son starts squirming on seat and looking round the room. I’m thinking “jump to the drumming!! You’re losing him” Carlos has started singing now.

Finally the drumming starts but wee sons patience has run out.
Son – “Want to see TRAINS”
OH – “But look – Here’s the drumming”

Santana drummer is performing the most impressive drum solo ever but 3 year olds patience has run out and he couldn’t care less if it was a drum solo with flaming drumsticks and fireworks.

The drumming has come TOO LATE.

Son -” TRAINNNNSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!

Son grumpily climbs down from the computer and wanders off to pick up one of his toy trains and run it the wrong way up the sleeping cat whilst giving his Dad a disenchanted Paddington Bear hard stare…

Dad/YouTube/Drumming #Fail

So what has this little cameo of my Sunday domestic bliss got to do with artist’s websites and web design?

It was a fine example of an attack of the Toddler Brainz in action.

My son may be three, but the thing is, when any of us use the web our brains revert back to being a three year old. Even those of us who read the Guardian and have an iPad and like to think we can multitask and all that stuff.

We are all totally capable of having an ATTACK OF THE TODDLER BRAINZ when using a website.

All the grown up stuff about patience and good things come to those who wait, sloughs off like a discarded skin & we are our tiny 3 year old selves again, one disappointment away from stamping our feet and rolling about under the table bellowing, going purple and smearing chocolate in our hair if we don’t get our way immediately.

We are 3 years old and WE WANT STUFF NOW

Your audience want to see what they are looking for as soon as we get to your website, within milliseconds. There is absolutely no time to show anything else or they will be off. Even if they are already deeply interested in what you have to offer, if they have to jump through any kind of hoop to get to it you have lost them.

Unfortunately there are often toddler brain stumbling blocks in artist’s websites. They come in the shape of…

  • Splash intro screens with lovely pictures of your work fading in and out. You may think they look pretty but 3 seconds in your audience has already wandered off to run a train up a sleeping cat, or at least visit another artists website.
  • Clever and obscure navigation that makes a visitor to your site have to figure out how to find your work. Their three year old mind is off cat bothering again.
  • Flash websites that take a while to load also test the toddler mind to the limit. In the time it takes for the pretty bar to reach 100% it has found a Thomas the Tank Engine video to watch.

So you see how it’s crucial that when someone lands on your site they are offered

  • Clear information,
  • An obvious way to view your work and
  • A direct route to be able to buy it.

That’s it. The essence of good website design in a nutshell thanks to my wee un. Simple

Take a fresh look at your website through the eyes of a 3 year old. Are there any stumbling blocks which may stop a visitor in their tracks. Can they be removed or simplified?

Do it now before you lose any more visitors to the ATTACK OF THE TODDLER BRAINZ.


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

Whenever you exhibit your work at a gallery or have a stall at a craft fair it is a great opportunity to get people to sign up for your mailing list.

By keeping a list of people who like your work you have a ready opportunity to let them know whenever you are exhibiting or have a new piece of work ready. Collecting emails is ideal for this as it is a quick, direct and low cost way of reaching out to your audience. You can keep them abreast of what you are up to and direct them to work that you are promoting on your website.

Many artists keep a notebook on their stall or in the exhibition area for people to add comments and contact details to. However, getting people to part with their email address is not the easiest thing and you may find that you end up with more comments than contacts.

The good news is that there are quite a few simple things that you can do which will increase the number of people willing to give you their email details:

Display a clear NO SPAM! notice

Make it very clear on a little notice next to your book that email addresses will not be shared, sold or abused in any way. Maybe also make it known that you don’t send out zazillions of emails and won’t be stuffing their inbox full of rubbish. This will increase peoples confidence in you and make them more willing to share their details.

Chocolate attraction

A slightly sneaky tactic is to place a bowl of  gorgeous chocolates next to the signup book. This will draw people towards the book and a piece of chocolate will increase their feelings of goodwill towards you. This really works, and you can always eat any that are left over at the end of a long day. 😉

Make it obvious

Looking round art fairs I always notice that a lot of comments/signup books just offer a blank page for you to add what you want. This often results in just comments and no emails.

You need to make it obvious to the visitor what you want them to do. Draw columns in the book and title them NAME, COMMENT, EMAIL. This way you guide the person through the process which makes them feel comfortable and more likely to fill in each column. I guarantee if you do this it will double your email signups. Make sure that you make it clear [on a notice perhaps] that by giving their email they are agreeing to join your mailing list.

Ethical bribe

Offer people who signup to your mailing list something in return. Depending on your work perhaps you could offer a small piece of work or entry into a draw to win a larger piece.

And the most important thing you need to do…

Make sure you copy the emails into a database when you get home. Don’t just collect them and then ignore them, leaving them at the bottom of your bag or forgotten in a corner of your studio [talking from personal experience again here.]

Your mailing list is a really valuable tool for selling your art. Keep adding to it whenever you can to keep contact with the people who love your work.

Do you have problems building your email list of people interested in your work? Any good tips that work for you? Please share them with us below.

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10 Crucial Reasons Why Every Artist Needs Their Own Hub Website

Painters, sculptors, musicians, dancers, crafters, photographers, designers, illustrators…the internet is a mass of opportunities for artists and creative folk to sell artwork and creativity online.

There are so many great sites where you can upload your art and sell it, either direct online or as part of a print-on-demand service, where a copy of your original artwork is printed as a high quality Giclée at the size and format requested by the purchaser.

Sites like Redbubble, Zazzle, Etsy, & iStock all allow you to spread the word about your work. Your creativity can be winging its way to a buyer on the other side of the world. Networking sites like Flickr, & Twitter & Facebook allow you to connect and build contacts, discussing, sharing and collaborating with like minded people everywhere.

So why on earth would you bother setting up your own website when all these great free services are available?…

When I speak to artists setting up creative businesses on the web, I always recommend that you set up a central hub website which sits at the very centre of everything you do online and is linked to all the other free sites you use.

Your hub website is your portfolio and the central connecting point around which all your other free website presences rotate. It is the sun whilst your other free web presences are the planets in orbit around it. It is your home at the centre of your little online solar system and the focus of all your efforts. It pulls all the other elements of your online world together rather than letting them spin off into space.

There are lots of very good reasons for setting up your own hub artists website. Here are just 10 of them:

  • Professionalism

    Owning your own hub website looks more professional. You can control every aspect of it and ensure that it looks exactly how you want it to look. You aren’t reliant on someone else’s template designs or constrained by their rules. Great when you are a control freak like me.

  • Build your own brand

    You can use the design of your site to build a personal brand around yourself and your work, which makes you more recognisable online and makes your work more likely to sell.

  • Customise your domain

    You can register and use your own domain name [i.e. www.yourname.com] and have a custom email address related to that too. No more hotmail addresses or hard to remember emails.

  • Stand out in the crowd

    Your hub website only features a gallery of YOUR work so you won’t get lost amongst zillions of other artists, a big problem on large showcase or shop sites. Having your own site can help you stand out in the crowd.

  • Focus

    Having your own hub website gives you a FOCUS for all your marketing and search engine optimisation efforts. You can drive traffic to your own website more successfully than to a collection of satellite sites. This central site then links to all the other sites you use but you only have to focus your promotion efforts on your hub website. Your promotion efforts, focussed on this one site, will build up over time to great results.

  • Build your list of people who love your work

    You can build your own mailing list of people who are all interested in your work and ready to buy it when you release a new piece. This is a great way to steadily build interest in what you do. This list is yours to keep and build.

  • Freedom

    If you decide to stop selling or showing your work on a satellite website you can easily do so and you won’t lose your client list or the advantage of all the promotion you have done. It will all still point to your hub website. You are free to change shops or galleries as often as you like with no problems.

  • Offline opportunities

    You can concentrate on promoting the site offline. If you get promotional items printed up advertising your site and work, you need to make sure the web address you are printing is going to stay the same over time. With your own website and custom domain name you can keep on promoting your work in the real world, at exhibitions and art fairs. This way you can capture sales after the event has finished too.

  • No commission

    You don’t pay commission. Anything you sell through your own site is commission free. [Although you will have to pay a small fee to the company who handles your payments i.e. Paypal].

  • Endless possibilities

    You can keep adding satellite websites to your little solar system and increasing the traffic to your hub website to increase your chance of sales. You aren’t tied to any one satellite site.

Setting up your own website may take a little more time and organisation but if you are serious about selling artwork online or setting up a creative business it is a crucial step that will pay dividends in the long run.

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