I'm forever encouraging other artists and the authors I work with to get a website. Now that I have my own, I honestly don't know how in the world, in this day and age, an author or an artist can promote their work without it. Social media has it's important place and I'm finally coming round to acknowledging that. But you still need that landing place – that "home base" if you will – to operate from and direct clients and visitors to.
Having your own website is like coming out of a little dingy basement workshop and getting a shiny-new glass storefront on Main Street! A total game-changer!
For many years now my name has been on an illustrator's list at a self-publishing company and I've stayed busy doing my thing. I didn't need to hustle to find work, it just showed up regularly in my in-box. I always had a next project waiting in the wings and I was perfectly content with my easy gig.
Then one afternoon I found myself on the phone with a sales guy in Quebec trying his darndest to pitch me a $595 special on a website. NO THANKS! I did not want a website. And even if I did, I knew that price was too low for the kind of site I'd want. The reason I knew that was because I'd had a website before ...
In the early 2000's after I had discovered and was working with the colored pencils, I put up a portfolio site to showcase the portraits I was drawing. It was one of those very affordable, do-it-yourself sites with a small monthly fee for hosting. And I was in the graphics field, so it wasn't difficult at all to drop my images into the pre-made template. Eventually I added an on-line store selling t-shirts and prints.
It wouldn't have won any awards, but it was an adequate site. And it looked nice, but it wasn't outstanding. And it was frustrating ...
I'd get ideas for how I wanted it to look, but I was confined by the template, and I didn't know enough about web graphics to modify it. So I spent many evenings and weekends fiddling with it, trying to get the look I wanted, and never quite getting there. At one point, in an effort to generate interest and traffic, I added a comment section that visitors could access. That actually worked great for a few months until it got hacked and I had to take it down. I just couldn't get this thing to work and look like I wanted it. So after a couple of years, I killed the whole site. I got my evenings and weekends back and was glad to be done with it.
So I don't recommend do-it-yourself websites to anybody. And the lower the price, the faster I'd say you should turn it down! Of course there are always exceptions. If you're web-savvy, then by all means, go for it. But websites are a lot like plumbing problems ... don't end up spending even more because you mistakenly thought you could handle it on your own ... hire a professional from the start!
Still, haggling over the phone with that sales guy poked a long-forgotten itch and I ended up with a website after all. And a much better experience this go-round!
So for my fellow creatives who are still on the fence as to whether or not to get a website, let me give you some good reasons to chew on ... (based, of course, on my vast experience of being a website owner for all of about 17 months, as of the time of this writing!)
• Like I said earlier, your website is your home base. A virtual store/office space that's always open and ready to receive and interact with clients and visitors. Great for those of us who work in a corner of our home. Or when you don't want or need expensive leased studio space.
• Your marketing reach is now the whole planet! Let THAT sink in!
• Gone are the days of expensive mailings, pounding the pavement with a bulky portfolio in hand, waiting 6 months for a response. Your portfolio, regularly updated with current work, is always fresh and available to anyone, anywhere, at any time with a simple click.
• You are free to say and do whatever you want on your own space. Freelance sites and social media are nice, so definitely take advantage of those for marketing purposes. But there are limits on quality and quantity of content on someone else's site. So use those sites to point people back to your home base where you can share and interact with clients and visitors whenever and however you need to.
• Your "shiny-new glass storefront on Main Street" is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year. So even when you're off the clock, somebody, somewhere on the planet is still checking you out!
• It will make you look like a serious, professional artist and not just a hobbyist.
• It will force you to up your game. You're standing on a stage and the world is watching ... enough pressure to keep you moving forward, prevent you from slacking off, and both you and your work will benefit mightily.
I could go on and on, but the reasons above are probably enough to convince anyone who might be on the fence.
My biggest surprise is how much fun it still is! Shiny new toys always lose their luster after a while and I really expected to eventually settle down to a dull routine and just another chore to tend to. But I have been pleasantly surprised ... I spend zero time on maintenance and making the site work. I'm back to working evenings and weekends, but now all that energy goes towards articles, weekly blogs and regular updates ... all the things I love and do best! Updating regularly with fresh content keeps me challenged and the site interesting!
So I'd invite you to take the plunge, too! And of course you know I'd recommend my web company, 11 Fingers Design. But whoever you go with, do some research and shop around. By all means begin your research with the 11 Fingers blogs and articles. They'll answer a lot of your questions and get you pointed in the right direction.
It's one of the best business decisions you'll make ... so get that site up and show the world what you can do!