8 Excuses Artists Make For Not Having A Website

1. I CAN'T AFFORD IT

Websites used to be an expensive proposition but the costs have dropped considerably over the last few years. Excluding any initial design costs, the annual fees for a self-hosted website should be about £60-£80. If you really can't afford that, there are other options for setting up a simple online portfolio.

a) A free Blogger or WordPress blog and a Flickr account can be set up in a couple of hours and are a surprisingly effective combination.

b) If you don't want a blog, Flickr can be used on its own as a basic art portfolio.

c) Many art sites will host portfolios for you and some of them are quite sophisticated. There are too many to link to but type the words 'free artist portfolio' into Google and you can research the many options available. Do check that their artists rate highly in Google and choose a site that gives you a short URL so you can easily add it to your email signature and put it on business cards.

d) A Facebook fan page is a fourth option. Most artists use Facebook fan pages as a subsidiary to their main site but at a pinch you could use it as your sole online portfolio. However, this is not something I'd recommend as a longterm option because they're overly fond of suddenly changing things around and there's some debate over how much control they have over any images you post there.

Any free site will have limitations but if it's a choice between whacking up something free now or waiting until you can afford something better, go with the free option. You can always move to your own site later if you want to. But get something. Hell, use MySpace if you have to! And I say that as someone who hates MySpace and thinks it should be your last port of call unless you're a musician.

2. I DON'T HAVE TIME

I won't lie to you, setting up a full website like mine is not an instant process. My site took about 6 months from start to finish and was a lot of work for both myself and my web designer. Even if you work with a designer, there's still blurb to write, design decisions to be made and photos to edit. In addition, all websites need low levels of ongoing maintenance. Blogging is an even bigger commitment and ideally needs to be done at least once a week to be effective.

However, setting up a simple portfolio site in the ways detailed above is relatively quick. If you've already got edited photographs of your work and a reasonable artists' statement, you could do it this weekend.

If you're serious about your art career then you must make time to get some sort of website up and running. Take a good hard look at what you're currently doing and what your priorities are. Can you let go of any commitments? Are you using your time wisely? As Gary Vaynerchuk says, quit watching Lost!

If you definitely don't have time to commit to a large website project right now, free up a weekend and put up a quick free version for now.

If you decide you do want something a bit more swanky, you can gradually start working towards your permanent website by doing preliminary things like researching designs and deciding what you want. Start a digital scrapbook of other artists' sites that you like - a site like Evernote is good for saving this sort of research. If you look right at the bottom of the page it will usually say which templates or designers they used. Equally importantly take note of what you don't like. Now look at your work and think about what sort of presentation would suit it. Do you want quirky or classic? Colourful or monochrome?

Laying the foundations like this will shorten the time taken by the final design process and if you do decide to pay a designer, you'll save money if you're clear on your design brief from the beginning. Although I changed my mind about plenty of things during the design process, I was very consistent about the basic parameters of the brief. I knew I wanted something elegant, simple and easy to navigate in neutral colours that would subtly compliment my often monochrome or pale work.

3. I CAN'T CODE OR DESIGN

Then pay someone who can!

Artists are absolute buggers for believing they have to do absolutely everything themselves. I understand the reasoning: money is often tight and even when it's not, that starving artist mentality is tenacious. I tried to put together my own site 4 or 5 times over the space of a decade. I taught myself HTML at least twice! Finally I had to admit that while I was perfectly capable of learning to code, I was monumentally shitty at the design side.

If you've got a good grasp of design but no coding skills, there are masses of customisable templates out there. If you're willing to pay for a premium WordPress template, I hear very good things about both Thesis and Headway. There are also lots of cheaper and free templates available: type 'free WordPress themes' into Google.

4. MY GALLERY PUT UP A PAGE FOR ME, SO I DON'T NEED A SITE OF MY OWN

Oh really? And how much say do you have over how that page looks? Do you plan to be with that gallery forever? What happens if they drop you or go bust?

Please don't give your power away like this: ceding control of your career is never smart. There's nothing wrong with having a page on your gallery's website but it shouldn't be your only online presence.

5. MY FRIEND SAID THEY'D MAKE ME ONE

This is one I hear surprisingly often.

Unless your friend is a professional web designer, you may be waiting a long time for what turns out to be a sub-standard site. Are you willing to put such an important part of your promotion in the hands of a untrained mate who probably has better things to do with their time? Even if your friend does know what they're doing, the process can be fraught with problems. What if you don't like their work? Are you going to fire your friend? What if working together sours your friendship?

I'm being slightly hypocritical here since my site was designed by a friend. However, he is a professional web designer and we were both very clear that I was employing him but we wouldn't let it get in the way of our friendship. We worked hard to keep the boundaries firm and managed to come through mostly unscathed. I'm quite certain that I was far more annoying during the process than he was but thankfully he still talks to me!

6. I DON'T KNOW WHAT I WANT

Yep, that's going to make life difficult!

Start mindmapping what you do want. Follow the steps mentioned in Excuse 2 and Excuse 7. Again, if you recognise that this is going to be a long process for you, slap up something quick and cheap like a simple Flickr portfolio now (are you sensing a theme yet?)

And remember that the website you have now doesn't have to be the website that you have forever. Websites are not static things. If you make a mistake or your needs change, you can always redesign the site. Even though the basic design template for this site has stayed the same since we launched three and half years ago, I've changed multiple things since then. Things change. You can change too. Website nirvana does not exist and perfectionism is just another excuse.

7. I JUST DON'T KNOW WHERE TO START

I'm always sympathetic to cases of overwhelm because it's something I'm extremely prone to. But you don't have to conquer the internet instantly. Break it down into small manageable chunks.

If a full website is too overwhelming for you to consider right now, there's absolutely no shame in going with any of the other options I've discussed. It's OK to just set up a Flickr account, whack some photos on there and a bit of blurb about your practice and then stop. It won't be the absolute 'best' website option but it's far better than being so frozen by indecision and fear that you wind up doing nothing at all.

If you do decide that you want a 'proper' website, your first step should be deciding what you want that website to achieve. Do you plan to sell from your site? Is it a virtual portfolio/business card? Are you planning to drive traffic to your site with a blog? Do you want to deepen your relationship with existing collectors?

Your second step is to decide on your professional name. If you've got an unusual name you've got an instant advantage. Artists with more common names may need to be more inventive.

Your third step is to buy that domain name. It'll cost you less than £10 for a year.

There you go, you've made a good start towards having a website and you've only spent a couple of quid!

8. I DON'T BELIEVE I NEED TO BE ONLINE

Don't be daft! As I hope I've demonstrated, you don't need a fancy website hosted on your own domain but you need something. If you don't want to deal with any of this stuff yourself, hire someone who's willing to take over the whole process for you.

I personally believe that a well designed website hosted on your own domain name is the ideal option but you can still have an effective and beautiful online presence by using one of the simpler methods detailed above. What won't work is sticking your head in the sand and hoping all this crazy internet stuff will go away. It won't.

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I am also available for online consulting if you need one-on-one help.

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Well, I hope that was helpful. What website solutions do you use? Please join the conversation by commenting below or tweeting the article.


19 thoughts on “8 Excuses Artists Make For Not Having A Website

  1. Rock on Kirsty! You nailed it! I remember coding my first website by hand back in 1994... I had no idea what I was doing, but I just figured it out, and it even got me one of my best jobs ever. It's not scary - just dive in!

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  2. Wow, you did far better than me, I could never get past the endless design possibilities. I really needed someone to say, "OK, Kirsty, we're doing THIS now." But you're right, it's not that difficult, especially now - the number of good templates available for WordPress have made it possible to set up a website quickly and easily with very little knowledge.

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  3. lisamcshane

    Great post Kirsty! And timely, as this has come up a lot lately with local artists where I'm located. I'm sending it their way.

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  4. sunshinescot

    The procrastination queen in my head is nodding right now as I probably have answered yup to all of these! Lovely read as well as being informative - I'm now on the 'mend' and have started to take baby steps. Greta blog - nicely curated!

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  5. Thanks for the information, Carrie. I do like the blogging they do over there but obviously because I already have my own site, I've not used their template designs myself.

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  6. Julie_thompson

    Brilliant, Kirsty! Great article. I'm going to print this out and Snail Mail it to my artist father. Yep, he isn't even online... yet!

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  7. I couldn't agree more with Daniel - you nailed it hard! With easily available information via a google search no artist should be without a website. I do have one tip (being that my day job is designing websites, marketing, seo). If you can find a designer with knowledge of SEO your site will be the better for it.

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  8. After reading this blog post, I have some doubt into my mind. Now a days many of the artist has their own website to share their work with their fans. So I am not totally agree with this writing. Any ways it is a good post.

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  9. Just discovered your article. Thank you very much for this great post, as I am a webdesigner who offers simple, professional and very affordable solutions to artists. i totally agree with what you are saying. I hear these words all the time. To have a website nowadays is an absolute necessity for any artist. unfortunately there are still many who don't understand that or either choose amateurish and bad quality solutions detrimental to their career.

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  10. Just discovered your article. Thank you very much for this great post, as I am a webdesigner who offers simple, professional and very affordable solutions to artists. i totally agree with what you are saying. I hear these words all the time. To have a website nowadays is an absolute necessity for any artist. unfortunately there are still many who don't understand that or either choose amateurish and bad quality solutions detrimental to their career.

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    Thanks Kim, I agree that a bad website can do more harm than good but thankfully it's getting easier all the time to put up an easy, inexpensive site.

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  11. Phil - From Northern BC Canada

    Hi

    Fantastic post and comments.
    I am a computer instructor in Northern BC Canada and am teaching Frist Nation's Fine Art students from the Pacific Northwest how to put up web sites. My students range in age from 18 - 64 s and some are very very computer phobic.

    I have used some of the conversation (with cited references and links to your blog) to help them answer the question.. Why do I need a web site?

    Hey maybe I can share the web site I am developing on web develepment if it'll help .. I'll be launching it Dec 1.

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    @Phil - From Northern BC Canada

    Thanks for commenting, Phil, I'm so glad the articles are helping your students. By all means, please do sure your site when it goes live. Just email with it.

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  12. Lis

    Hi, Kirsty.

    Thanks for this wonderful blog. I am just about to start my blog as an artist who draw fairly well. I have the same obstacles as you have written above. I am trying to really focus my mind on creating my own website rather than depending on other web services because who knows.. they might bust you...as you've mentioned.

    I have one question though.. Why are there artist using their names on their website? And why are there who don't? I am having a dilemma whether to use my name or create a totally creative name for my website. I don't know which works. Can you enlighten me on that one please?

    I would really appreciate it. Thank you so much in advance!

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