|A pic of my paints that has little to do with this topic.|
Though I was technically online in the late 90s, I really only started actively marketing my artwork online in 2010. The internet has allowed me to focus on my personal art full time, learn to market it, and make enough sales that I can justify continuing to do it full time.
It's really important for an artist to have:
- A presence online, with images, and preferably a paragraph about you that makes it clear you're a real live person
- Contact info that you actually respond to in a timely manner
- Basic understanding of image protection
- An understanding of how to promote yourself, and be found by quality traffic
Start small, figure out what works for you, then expand as needed or wanted.
Below are types of sites, and you may want to try one of each.
Discussion sites are good for reading the personal experiences of artists when choosing sites and learning how to use them best for your needs. I highly recommend wetcanvas.com for this, and most POD communities also have good discussion forums. (I'm not making everything here an active link, as I'm told that makes a blog look like spam.)
There are many free sites, although some limit how much you can do there unless you upgrade to a paid account. Though I've not tried wix or weebly, they are two sites many artists like. I'm considering choosing one or the other myself soon.
Blogs are a good way to show images and talk about your work. Besides the one you're reading, Blogspot, also consider Wordpress.com which is free also. (Not to be confused with website building wordpress.org, and I'll stop there because I never used the dot org version to build a site!) Some POD sites have a way to publish blog-like posts, e.g. Redbubble's "Journals." As you learn how to use it, you'll see in the settings you can usually choose whether to allow comments and how strong of spam protection you want. The blogs I'm on do a good job of trapping spam so far.
Social media, IMO, is best for networking with artists, sometimes buyers, galleries, art supply co's, etc. It CAN also be good for marketing and even sales, it really depends on what the artist is doing with it and who their buyers are. I do not recommend paying to promote posts on social media. Examples include Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, etc. On social media you are the product, as they say. Ads, data mining, are all prevalent, so I don't waste my money paying for upgraded accounts, to promote posts, etc. I do find the Groups and Event pages most useful on Facebook for networking and promoting shows, etc, and on Linked In I like Groups for sharing professional information with other artists. Many artists swear by Twitter; I am not not on it. I tried it once a few years ago and just never warmed to it.
POD's (Print On Demand)
A POD is a site that you upload art images to, and they handle payments, printing, and shipping, of products made with your images. Many are free to join. They take the lion's share when a sale is made, but you typically can mark up your prices as you see fit, having some control over how much you make. They all have their own Terms about payment, like paying when you reach a threshold amount, or at a certain time of the month. People DO sell on POD's, but they have to actively market their POD page; the site does not do it for you. You can work to capture some of the site's traffic by use of search tags, promotion, community involvement, etc. Some PODS show up on search engines well, and some don't. Since you don't have up-front costs you won't have piles of unsold merchandise to store. That is why they call it "print on demand." Nothing is made until someone orders it.
As you probably know, I use redbubble.com to sell a few of my things as reproductions on products. I am also using it as a stand-in portfolio at the moment, since I have established a good network there that's been beneficial. While RB is my personal favorite, other PODs include Artwanted, Bluecanvas, Fine Art America, Society 6, Zazzle, and more. Do your research first.
A photo of yourself on at least one of your sites helps. I think it's fine to use a pic of your art as an avatar especially if it's very recognizable as your style. But somewhere, people like to see who they're dealing with, and it makes it easier to recognize you when in person opportunities arise from your online networking.
Set up an email address specifically for art site contact, social media etc, if you're not ok mixing it with your personal email. Check it at least a few times a week. Write it out rather than make the email a link, e.g. "your name AT domain" instead of "yourname @ domain". I don't recommend publishing a phone number or address but that's up to you. Have business cards made to hand out to people in person, with your site's URL on it, email, (and if you like, more contact info). Take business cards everywhere. Most people are online and it's easier to hand them a card if they inquire, than to try and spell it out for them.
Having had a significant infringement problem, this is one of my favorite topics. I want to help other artists prevent this, and many don't even know it's happening, because they have not yet done a "Reverse Image Search" of their own images. Read about finding and dealing with infringements here: http://www.redbubble.com/people/cschnack/journal/7750976-art-theft-copyright-infringement-find-it-act-on-it
On most sites there may be image protection available to you but it may be weak. It is often a combination of things that works, and in my experience a strong watermark is the most effective but nothing is 100%. We lock our doors to prevent most burglaries; we don't throw up our hands in resignation, and that's the way I look at preventing infringement. If I don't make the effort, it eats up too much of my time to deal with it after the fact.
Ways to prevent infringement include:
- Watermarks (of your name)
- Right click disabling
- Disabling share buttons
- Uploading only Small (low resolution) images of 500 to 800 pixels per side
- A stated copyright policy
A strong watermark, (that includes your name), is one you add yourself in photo editing software, that is large but semi transparent, and across the image. Many add the copyright symbol as added notice even though it's not required anymore, because many people still wrongly believe that no notice means it's not copyright protected. On a PC you make the copyright symbol by holding down the Alt key, then on your number pad 0169. ©
To add your watermark, Photoshop Elements is a graphic artists' staple and still relatively inexpensive. GIMP is a free online art/editing program. Showing you how is beyond the scope of this blog post. There are many ways to do it, and numerous tutorials on Youtube for example.
Removing a strong watermark is possible, but relatively few people can or will remove it, so it remains worthwhile at this time. More people will remove a small watermark on the edge which is easily cropped off. Removing a watermark can be considered criminal infringement and can increase the money damages infringers would be liable for if sued. http://www.theartistsjd.com/copyright-management-information/
Right click disabling, disabling share buttons, a no-pin code, etc, are weak protections. They probably serve to send the message you don't allow it but they won't stop many infringers. Be aware that much 'sharing' lacks attribution. Do not assume it's free advertising. If your images are marked well, at least they might still be identifiable.
The main reason site's display small images is that the page loads faster. It is of minor deterrence to infringement, because most web use only requires the same small images most sites typically display. On everything BUT PODs you typically upload only low resolution images. Even PODs create a smaller version for display so the page loads well, (they keep the large version on their servers for making products).
On all of your sites there is likely an About page, or some spot where a copyright notice can go. It's not much of a deterrent but it's some, and adds to the message you're sending, making it more "willful" if someone ignores it.
|A painting that sold hours after posting it online, hanging in its new owner's home.|
BEING FOUND (Search Engine Optimization or SEO)
About a year ago, I felt like I was facing the opposite direction in a stream of lemmings headed for a cliff, because I had noticed search engines' new models were actually taking my traffic and increasing infringement. (E.g. credit for my work given to "Google.") Their new large views and easy right-click-copy were making it unnecessary to go to artists' sites, where there might be image protection options in place.
Most people (and sites) were still trying to just get big traffic numbers. I was trying to do what seemed impossible; to be found by good people, and not be found by bad people, LOL! I wasn't the only one who noticed the train wreck, (just one example): http://creativitytech.com/google-image-search-hurts-photographers/
Some easier ways you can tailor your traffic include possibly cutting back on the search tags to only those most relevant and that would be the most likely to be used by a buyer. Your name is an important search tag! On many sites you simply type in search tags in the allotted space for it, (sometimes called labels). Or, using more tags to get people to a blog post to read about your process, which then leads the truly interested to go to your portfolio.
If your images are watermarked before you upload them, then search engines will display a marked image. This helps keep the image identifiable as yours. It also puts potential infringers on notice, that the image is NOT free to use. Many people mistakenly believe that the internet is "the public domain," (free), but it's not. Public Domain refers to (for one example) copyrights that expired due to age, or never existed, like the Mona Lisa or many govt documents. Public Domain Sherpa is a site that explains more. Public Domain is not the same as public place. Infringers are not your audience and they're not your buyers. They are junk traffic, like spammers and scammers, some just annoying, others quite nefarious.
Work on being found by legitimate people. See Ask Harriette's blog for more technical info: http://askharriete.typepad.com/ask_harriete/2014/07/10-tips-for-artists-and-makers-to-attract-web-traffic-to-your-site.html
On many sites you don't have the option to add code, etc, and are limited to the check box and fill in the blank options.
Judicious use of search tags and watermarks has gone a long way for me.
READ SITE TERMS CAREFULLY
Read ANY site's Terms before joining, and especially before uploading any images! Compare them to other similar sites. Choose the one that is the most friendly for what you want to do, and once joined, use the site in the way that best serves you. E.g. I don't upload usable art images to social media, because their terms are kind of grabby and I don't want to find out how far they'd go as far as those clauses that say they can do pretty much whatever they want. Studio shots, prominently marked images, etc, are mostly what I post on social media now. I got tired of finding restaurants and coffee companies using my art to advertise their businesses, without asking or paying me.
Don't be afraid to try more than one site, find out what you like, and put most of your effort into it, rather than being on too many sites to do any of them well. I feel that one website, one or two social media accounts, and one blog, are plenty. A POD could fit in there if you like, and I'm not alone in using a POD as a portfolio. Having accounts allows you to comment, follow people whose info interests you, and network, even if you aren't particularly active on all of them.
MY TWO BLOGS, OR IS IT THREE NOW?
When I set up both accounts, for wordpress and blogspot, I figured I'd choose one and delete the other. But it ended up being useful to have both accounts even though I gravitated to using my wordpress blog the most, to discuss my art. E.g. this post I just did about what tools I take with me to sketch away from home: http://cindyschnackel.wordpress.com/2014/07/11/taking-a-sketchbook-almost-everywhere/
For awhile, I figured I'd just save Blogspot for the registration, or to blog about not quite relevant enough topics for the 'art blog.' Then Google Plus came along and now I'm trying that, still not really using it a lot, because I forget it's there and haven't gotten really comfortable with it. But it is useful to have the account. https://plus.google.com/u/0/111601554468647360732/posts
There will always be evolution in social media and other types of sites, and how we use the net. It's good to be ready to adapt, but to have a sort of home base site or two that you stay on long term. That way, even if some sites don't work out and you try new ones, you're always findable by your buyers and network.
© Cindy Schnackel.