Should you start your art business with a website?

Contrary to popular opinion, getting a website should not be among the first things you do when you branch out as a creative professional. Here’s why.

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You’re probably assuming that, since I’m a web designer, I’m going to advise every artist hoping to sell art, start with a website. You would assume wrong. 

I’ve been creating websites long enough to start viewing and building a website differently from most of my fellow web designers. If you are just starting your art business, you’re going to want to hold off on a website for a little while, anyway.

Bad Advice: To sell art, Start with a website

A website is not a magical key to success. Websites are only as good as the messages they are used to convey. 

Copywriting and web design need to work together. Without your messaging nailed down, your website is not likely to succeed.

If you want to sell art, don’t start with a website.

What does messaging mean for an artist?

Most likely, when someone buys art from you, either your work really wowed them, or (more likely) you resonated with them. They felt a connection. 

People who buy from not-yet-famous artists usually buy because they relate to the creator, not because they needed something with shades of blue to go behind the sofa. If they just need something to fill space, they would go down to Target. 

So, part of your early job as a professional artist is not just figuring out your unique style and take on art, but how you talk about it. 

  • What inspires you?
  • What motivates you?
  • What moves you?
  • What do your pieces mean? 

These and more are connection points with your patrons. 

They don’t teach this enough in art school, my friends.

Marketing and selling and the stories we tell

To sell your artwork and make a living creating, you need to figure out how to talk about who you are and what you do in such a way that it resonates with those who will buy your artwork. 

Your messaging cannot simply be, “Buy my stuff so I don’t have to wait tables!”

From the artists I’ve helped with websites, and the artists I’ve bought from and connected with, I have noticed that successful artists have a way of telling their story and inviting you to become a part of it, thus buying a piece, or at least a print, to share in the story.

The problem with creative souls like you and me is simple. We’re too much in our own heads. This is why, for artists, we can’t sell art starting with a website.

You no doubt could come up with some great copy for your website if you wanted to. Unless it feels comfortable in your mouth and connects with those likely to buy your art, it won’t work.

This is where the delay in creating a website comes in.

The clients I have had who have succeeded best are those who come into a website or branding project already certain of who they are, who they serve, and their basic messaging. They’ve already sold some pieces, connected with some patrons, and gotten comfortable in the basics of talking about their art.

Too many artists looking to sell art start with a website long before they figure out what they want to say, and how they want to say it to their potential patrons.

Until you get comfortable talking about your art, you won’t sell art starting with a website.

Put yourself out there

Where do you start then? You start by sharing pieces of your messaging out there in the universe…the real world…in front of real people. 

If this sounds terrifying, you’d be correct. It is. 

It’s so much easier to put something up on a website than it is to share it publicly on Facebook where people who actually know you will see and comment on it. 

I deleted about 100 blog posts a few months ago because I realized part of the problem with my messaging was that it was untested. It failed because I kept it hidden until the day when I lifted the cover and said, “VOILA!” and no one responded. 

Then I was listening to a video by George Kao (check him out). I bought a group coaching program with him about developing clarity in my messaging. The whole thing was worth every penny. The concept of testing my message publicly changed my approach to creation.  

Connecting with the public (yikes)

Don't assume to sell your art start with a website

After joining a business networking group (which is far, far outside of my introverted, neurodivergent comfort zone), I started realizing that what I thought was crystal clear in things I say and talk about was not at all clear. Hmm. So I started testing out explaining things differently, reworking how I talked about web design, websites, and internet marketing until real people who were not on my subreddit for uber-nerds understood me. 

You don’t have to join the Chamber of Commerce or anything like that. But you need to practice talking about you and your art publicly via social media, friends, and so forth until you figure out the best, most authentic way for you to communicate about your art. And you figure out what kinds of things, within your wheelhouse, real, live people, would probably buy from you. 

If you aren’t sure what your why is, and your “story” beyond your art and inspiration, start talking about it in smaller segments. Test it out. Put it out there. Talk about who you are, what you’re about, what your art is all about…BEFORE you ever get a website. 

In conclusion, I believe it’s terrible advice to tell an artist, in order to sell art, start with a website. Instead, start with your message, so you have something besides pictures to put on that website.

Your website cannot ever be something pretty to dump words into. Your website’s design has to accentuate your messaging, helping your audience to notice and receive your message. Therefore, get your messaging solid first, then get a website.

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Kimberly

Kimberly

I help small business and solopreneurs grow their businesses through strategic design services for web and print, while patiently guiding them around tech hurdles. My mission is to positively impact small businesses and their communities with awesome design for web and print.
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