One of the questions I have most often been asked is “is it better to start my own website or is it better to join an art platform?” That sounds like a simple question and overall it is but the answer is complicated. In this article, we will address when it is most appropriate to join an art platform when its best to go with your own website and even some things that must be done regardless if you join a platform or build your own site.
First things first
Determining the purpose of your web presence and website is the main determining factor in whether you are better off going it alone or utilizing the leverage of an Art Platform. How much time do you have to develop your market? Are you going to sell originals or prints of your works? Do you have a well-established name and following or are you new or newer to the art scene? Do you already have gallery representation? Is the website just going to showcase your works or will it be an e-commerce website, through which sales are going to be received and processed? These are just a few of the questions you need to ask yourself when determining what format you should utilize online.
What is the purpose of your art’s web presence?
Creating an online art portfolio that you solely control (Self-Hosting).
Is the purpose of your artist website only to showcase your best work? If the sole purpose of your website is to establish a web presence and showcase some of your best works or present a few (under 50) current works for sale then creating a website with your own domain may be appropriate for you. There are some distinct advantages and definite disadvantages to creating your own website.
As for advantages one of the primary advantages is you are in absolute control of your site. You choose the layout, you choose the target keywords, and you choose what and how things are shared. You have more access to tracking information. Every aspect of your website is absolutely controlled and designed by you. When you subscribe to a platform, the platform dictates the basic layout. If you have a specific vision for your site then self-hosting is the only way to go.
There are some very distinct disadvantages to self-hosting. Time is probably the largest disadvantage. When you self-host you are responsible for all of the site’s coding. If you do not know HTML, CSS, and PHP depending on the layout/coding of the site, you will invest a bunch of time in coding or a bunch of money having a web developer design your site in such a way that you have a front end for creating pages. One other disadvantage is that artists who participate in a platform do not get the advantage of residual traffic to your platform site.
I will be very honest here. I have had both self-hosted, self-managed, sites and I have also participated on platforms. I loved the control I had over the website, its layout template, the integration of my blog into the domain and everything about it. What I did not like was the time involved in maintaining and updating the site. Part of that was due to not having a front end coded for me to go with the template design so I had to hard code (write every line) of each page on the site and when I updated the site. Hours were spent adjusting the pages so they displayed the way I wanted them to. That took a lot of time away from producing and publishing my fine art images. After 1 year of slowly adding pages to the website (and not having all my current works posted and sluggish sales), I decided to go with a platform. I will speak to the advantages and disadvantages of participating in a platform a little later in this post.
Participating on an art platform
Art platforms do have a couple advantages over a self-hosted site. The first advantage is the platform manager controls, updates, and directs the HTML, CSS, and PHP. The sites back end support is typically structured in such a way that the most pertinent information about an artwork is provided in an information box and injected into the newly created web page properly coded. This saves a lot of time and money because you do not need to have a load page coded by a professional (or yourself if you’re proficient in code) or doing manual hard coding for the pages.
Another advantage of participating in a platform is, a platform will provide you with some residual exposure and sales from the clients already looking on the platform for specific works. Your works would, especially at the beginning, draw more traffic than those located on a search engine. The traffic would be targeted more to those who buy home décor or artworks than general inquiries.
There are many platforms online the annual fee for joining and other associated fees for a platform vary widely. Some platforms charge a percentage of the sale price, some charge an annual fee, some charge an annual fee and pass off charges to consumers, finally some have fixed platform prices and pay you a percentage based on volume.
Personally, I belong to the Fine Art America platform. I have tried Zenfolio, 500px, and several others. I chose FAA due to the platform volume size and services. I have maintained my portfolio with them for several years. FAA coincided with my needs to market my prints, offered a print on demand service, managed the shopping cart security, and handled state sales taxes. Of course, for proof/limited edition prints, FAA may not be the right platform for you. A platform such as ArtPal may be more appropriate.
There are some drawbacks to joining a platform. I have already mentioned cost. Besides cost, platforms typically use php and do not allow for much modification of the base template. If you have a very limited scope of what you desire your site to look like then a platform may not be the proper choice for you. If this is not a major concern, as long as it looks professional, then a platform may be a good choice for you. One final thing check the pricing, payouts, and features for the platform you are considering. The features of platforms vary wildly. Look for one that has the features and costs that work for you.
So back to the original question can joining an art platform make me more successful?
How does an artist define success? Is it measured by exposure? Is it measured by sales? Is it measured by brand or name recognition? Is it measured by how many works of art you have in a gallery? Or is it measured by some other metric? Most artists would say it’s measured by all of these, plus some other metrics.
That said the short answer is yes joining an art platform, in theory, should assist you in being more successful. Like I said that’s the short answer. The full answer is there are many factors that will play into your success. While an art platform already has a set of established clientele that is looking for works on a platform the best way to ensure your success is putting in the leg work.
A platform can only take you so far. You still need to advertise your work, present your works to galleries, make contacts, and speak to potential buyers. A platform will only help you close a deal and give you credibility. It will not create your art or drive buyers to you. That’s a task you, as the artist will have to undertake.
I would suggest the following:
- Marketing your works utilizing your online presence to assist you in closing a sale rather than the online store being your entire web presence.
- Utilize social media such as Google+, Linkedin, facebook, twitter, and Pinterest (and any others you have accounts with).
- Blog about your new works. Tell how they were created (in general) or the meaning of the artwork.
- Share niche articles about your genre on social media.
- Share with the world what you are doing and creating (in person) using business cards.
You might also want to check out some of my other blog sales and marketing entries by clicking here: ART Sales and Marketing
I sincerely hope this assist your endeavors of achieving success as a photographer or artist.
Chris Flees – Cfleesphotography.com