How To Build an Online Presence That Helps You Grow Your Practice
No matter what your medium, having a website creates a home base for your artwork where you can build a deeper connection with your audience. As a place that helps you build a community, it is the foundation of growing your practice! But that doesn't make it easy. Building a website is hard — especially when you are a beginner like I was! Through lots of trial and error, research, and leaning on some past experience I had working with web designers as a copywriter at an agency, I learned so much about how to create an effective website to showcase my artwork.
Today, I’m sharing some of my tips for designing an effective artist website, from creating a compelling portfolio to setting up an online shop and writing a blog that brings more visitors to your website!
1. Start with your Visuals
Before you begin creating your website, the first step is creating your visual identity. This includes your logos, colour palette, fonts, and photography. Not only does having a brand create a recognizable identity for you and your work so your audience can instantly recognize you from anywhere, but it also communicates who you are as an artist. An earthy colour palette makes people associate your work with being very natural whereas a colourful palette can communicate a more playful energy. The same goes for fonts! A script font can feel more thoughtful, elegant, and hand-written whereas a sans serif can feel more minimalist and clean.
1. A logo: this will go in the header of your website, so it's definitely a focal point!
2. Colour palette: you can play with colour in the background of your website, your fonts, and graphics!
3. Fonts: these will be used for your headings and paragraphs.
Finalizing your logos, colours, and fonts before you start on your website will streamline the process and ensure everything is consistent!
To complete the visual experience of your website, you will also want to consider your images. It's great to have text on your website, but having too much text can feel overwhelming and deter visitors, so you'll want to balance it out with compelling images! When it comes to your photographs, I recommend having professional, high-quality images. This will elevate your design, capture your visitor's eye, and represent the level of quality and professionalism you aim to achieve in your work.
2. Showcase your Portfolio
If you're hoping to work on commission pieces or do client work, having a portfolio that showcases some of your strongest pieces will help you attract those opportunities! You don't want to overwhelm your visitor with too many pieces, so you want to narrow it down to pieces that check one of these boxes:
1. It showcases your unique style
2. It is the kind of work you want to do more of
3. It appeals to your dream client (for example, if you want to work with eco-friendly brands, your portfolio should include some nature-inspired works)
4. It adds variety (eg. it shows off your watercolour painting in a portfolio full of oils, acrylics, etc).
Overall, your portfolio should represent your unique perspective, vision, and mediums you work with to highlight the full scope of your work while appealing to your dream client. If you’re stuck on identifying your dream clients and projects, write down a list of what you would love to work on and for whom. If you don't have any pieces that check this box, don't hesitate to “commission yourself!"
3. Search Engine Optimization
SEO sounds scary and you can certainly get more advanced with it, but it’s important to incorporate some basic elements to help your website rank in search engines.
One way to do this is by using keywords throughout your website copy, including your headings, page titles, and paragraphs. Keywords are words that people that would be interested in your work are searching for (eg. “wedding invitations near me” or “landscape art.” You can often explore some of these terms in Google trends. Once you have a list of words that your target audience is searching for, integrate them naturally throughout your website. To go one step further, make sure your page links and blog posts contain some of these keywords and add alt text to your images!
Although there is so much more to SEO, the baseline is that you’re creating engaging content that is valuable to your audience. Getting people to explore past your homepage, stay on your site, and engage with your work or content is going to make search engines recognize that your website is one that people are interested in. Apart from the technical aspect, that is the most important thing!
4. Set up a Blog
A blog tells your story in a way that short-form content can’t always achieve. When you take the time to tell the story behind the artwork, it builds meaningful connections with your audience. Not only does a blog help you cultivate community but consistently blogging will also help your SEO because it shows search engines that you’re regularly updating your website and people are engaging with it. Plus, blog posts give you the opportunity to integrate more keywords into your website, helping you rank in search engines!
When you’re creating a blog, the most important thing is that your post adds value to your reader. Think about who your reader is: are they an artist who is interested in learning from you? Are they a client hoping to invest in one of your pieces?
If you’re struggling to come up with blog post ideas, here are a few places to start:
Share the process behind a recent collection or piece
Share your tips for other artists
Create a how-to tutorial, whether that’s how to stretch a canvas, paint a flower, or anything in between!
Give a tour of your sketchbook
5. Make it Mobile - Friendly
Your website visitors will be coming from all different devices: phones, desktops, you name it! No matter where they are interacting with you, you want to make sure your website is readable, functional, and easy to navigate.
Most website builders will automatically make your design dynamic, meaning it will adjust to different screen sizes. However, make sure you switch to your mobile version before publishing your site to adjust the design and check that it translates across devices. I design in Wix, which easily allows me to adjust the mobile version of my website. Here, I found that I needed to make some font sizes larger and delete some elements that didn’t translate well. It always helps to test it out a few times on your own devices to check that your design looks how you want it to!
6. Incorporate Calls to Action
One question that should always be top of mind when you’re designing your website is what do you want your visitor to do after reading?
After every section on your site, every page, and every post, that next step should flow naturally. Adding buttons that direct your visitors to contact you, view your portfolio, follow you, shop, or subscribe to your newsletter will help you convert readers into engaged, long-term customers. Whatever that next step is, you want the path to be clear!
7. Create Clear Navigation
The truth is that if you don't have a clear way to navigate your website, your visitors won't stick around and explore everything you have to offer. To avoid this, add menus at the top and bottom of each of your pages! Remember to make sure they are visible and functional on mobile devices, too!
In addition to using clear menus, you’ll want to make use of headings throughout your site. This will give your visitors an idea of what each section is about when they’re skimming through your site — plus it breaks up bodies of text for a more visually appealing experience! You can get creative with the titles of your headings and incorporate keywords in them to boost your SEO.
8. Get Personal
If you prefer to stay behind the scenes, writing an about page can be so hard! But people are more likely to invest in a story rather than a product, so it's important to share who you are and what you stand for to build more meaningful connections.
That’s what makes an effective about page essential on your artist's website. And if you don’t know what to write, think about it as a fun way to share more about you! Your about page is a way to communicate your unique approach, style, the mediums you work with, your art journey, and your credentials.
If you’re stuck on what to write, here are some prompts to get you started:
What are some fun facts about you? Your favourite artist, place to travel, food, movie, coffee order?
How did you get your start with art?
What makes your approach unique?
What is your educational background? If you didn’t go to school for art, what was your journey like being self-taught?
What is your enneagram, Myers Briggs personality type, and/or zodiac sign?
What mediums are your favourite to work with?
9. Include Testimonials
If you’re hoping to branch into commission or client work, including testimonials from past clients is a great way to establish trust and professionalism. You can put testimonials on any and every page of your website, but the most important places to put them are on your portfolio and shop pages.
To get testimonials, don’t be afraid to ask your past and current clients to leave you a positive review! Explain to them that you are creating your artist website, and because you had such a positive experience working with them, you would love their feedback on the project and the experience they had working with you. The best time to do this is right after you deliver a project, so get into the habit of sending a follow-up email asking your client for their feedback
10. Set up a Shop
Having a place where people can purchase your available works makes it simple and easy for them to welcome your art into their homes in just a few clicks. Many artists choose to use platforms like Etsy, which is a great option, but the benefits of having a shop on your own website are:
You don’t have to pay additional listing fees
You can connect your website with Facebook and Instagram shopping so people can purchase your products straight from your social media posts
You can offer different payment methods
You can keep track of your customer relationships all in one place
You have more control over the visual design of your shop and how you showcase collections
Although hosting your own shop presents some challenges (especially on the shipping side), I’d definitely recommend having a place that your customers can buy from on your website! Website-building platforms like Squarespace, Shopify, and Wix make this pretty easy. However, if you’re not quite ready to set up a shop, I would still recommend having a “shop” tab in your menus and linking that out to your Etsy or other platform. This way, your website visitors still have a quick and easy way to view your available works!
11. Create an Artist Newsletter
Think about it: you don’t want your website visitors to come to your website one time and then forget about it. Your goal is to create a long-lasting relationship with that person and continuously engage with them. The best way to do this is to introduce an artist newsletter! Whether you send out a newsletter weekly, biweekly, or monthly, this is a great way to build a stronger connection with your audience and engage with them regularly.
Many website platforms like Squarespace and Wix have email campaign management already built in, but Flodesk also offers a highly customizable, easy-to-use platform. If you’re stuck on what kind of newsletter to write, try:
Taking your subscribers through the process behind a recent piece or collection
Announcing a launch
Chatting about what you’re working on
Giving a tour of your studio
Talking about what’s inspiring you at the moment
12. Create a Contact Page
The last thing that you’re going to want to include on your artist website is a contact page. When people are browsing your site and getting to know your work, you want to have a place where they can inquire about commissions, ask questions, and reach out to work with you! On your contact page, include both your email and a contact form that visitors can submit directly through your site. This will help you keep all of your inquiries in one place.
On your contact page, don’t forget to write the locations you serve and where you are based. This is not only great for SEO because a lot of people will search for things like “calligraphy Toronto,” but it also filters out opportunities you can't take on if you're location-specific. Here, you can also write your delivery options, like free local pickup wherever your studio is based, worldwide shipping options, etc.
Once you have your contact page set up, you can link to it throughout your website as a call to action. For example, on your portfolio page, you can include a button that says “contact me” so people who want to work with you can reach out easily!
Whether you’re hoping to give your current website a revamp or you’re starting from scratch, I hope this post gave you a good starting place to build an artist website that helps you cultivate a community around your practice! At the end of the day, your website represents who you are as an artist, so it should speak to your values and what you uniquely offer. It can be such a fun process, so I hope you enjoy it!