There are two basic things that artists need to be visible online:
A visual portfolio
A way of attracting people to that portfolio
Since this is a large subject, I'm going to be breaking it down into little chunks. Today I'll be examining the first of those things.
Basically put, an online portfolio should contain images of your work, some explanatory text and a way for interested people to contact you.
The best way to host an online portfolio is to have your own dedicated website with your own domain name. There are several reasons for this - Lisa Mikulski has a very helpful post on the subject and I absolutely agree with her assessment.
However, putting together a professional website takes both time and money, two things many artists lack. Making your own website is definitely something I recommend and I'm going to look at it more deeply in the future but right now, I want to encourage you to take that first small step towards an online art presence. If you're new to the idea of having an online visual portfolio, then taking a simpler step can be a lot less intimidating and far more achievable.
Even if you're already experienced with the internet, designing a website can be very overwhelming. I'd been 'meaning to get round to it' for at least ten years and had made several abortive attempts to design a site myself. Eventually I had to admit to myself that I was never going to design and code my own site and the only way it was ever going to happen would be if I paid someone else to do it for me so I hired my friend Steve Taylor, who's a professional web designer and he did a fantastic job. It was a very smart decision and I'm happy with the result, but I'd be lying if I said that getting the site up was a quick and easy process: it was a lot of work and took several months.
If you're anything like me, the idea of spending months looking through your old images and writing blurb won't fill you with delight and you'll probably put it to the bottom of your to-do list. Sure, you know you ought to do it but hey, it's so much work and you have that show coming up and you need to be in the studio and, and, and...
Well, I think we all know how that one goes, right! Yep, another year goes by without anything happening and that's another year when you're invisible online to curators, collectors and other people who might be interested in your work if they could only see it.
And that's why I recommend to artists who want an online presence but are limited by time, money or perfectionism issues (that would be all of us then!), that they make a start RIGHT NOW - don't wait until all your ducks are in a row before you begin.
So what is this first simple step, I hear you ask? Well, there are several options but the one that I always recommend is to get a Flickr account.
Certainly you can start making arrangements to get your own website - budget some time and money to do so and if you think you'll procrastinate about it, do what I did and register and pay for your domain name now (type 'domain names' into Google and you'll get dozens of sites who are desperate to sell you a domain name). This stops someone else nabbing your desired domain name but it also pushes you in the right direction. Even though it's very cheap to register a domain name, the fact that you've paid for it for a year acts as both a mental place marker and a little encouraging push: it tells your subconscious that you've made a definite commitment to get your website done and you'll probably find it niggling away at you until you do it. But in the meantime, get some images up on Flickr.
In the next article we'll be looking at why I recommend Flickr.
Get more help
If you'd like more information about building your online presence, check out the free resources section.
I am also available for online consulting if you need one-on-one help.