Tag Archives: business

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Welcome to the Artist's Eyeball launch party! Woo, streamers, balloons, cakes and small children peeing themselves with excitement (what, it could happen).

Pull up a chair, pour yourself a drink and have a slice of cake...

Gâteau mousse de Framboise
Creative Commons License photo credit: Rubyran

The Artist's Eyeballs were quite insistent that they had never had a proper launch and that not enough people knew about them. When they heard that I was meant to be launching something at the end of November for Customer Love, they started tugging on my sleeve. Since I felt kind of bad that I'd launched them accidentally and then buggered off to Holland for a week, I gave in.

Besides, it meant I didn't have to create something new - ssssh, don't tell them!

Btw, this is what I'm doing instead of a Birthday sale because My Inner Businesswoman decided that 10 days before Christmas was a mind-bogglingly stupid time to try to sell anything that wasn't Christmas related. Although if you do want to buy someone an Eyeball or a session of consulting as a Christmas present, rest assured that I will find a way of putting ribbon on it, even if I have to wear the ribbon myself.

A present for you

First of all, a fabulous freebie, wherein I demonstrate 'stuff that I know' and you get to think, 'shit, I'm doing that wrong' and rush off to your site to fix it. Even if you're not in the market for an Artist's Eyeball, I hope you'll watch this 5 minute demonstration video and share it with your friends.



Huge thanks to Carol Nunan for bravely volunteering to be a guinea pig in exchange for a free Artist's Eyeball.

Btw, this is why you should sign up for my newsletter. Last week I put a call-out to my newsletter peeps for volunteers and got a fantastic response - thanks so much to everyone who responded, I was hugely impressed at your willingness to volunteer. I've also picked a second victim, Julie Shackson: her site will feature in another demo video later in the week.


Why you should buy An Artist's Eyeball

Well, because they're awesome!

Of course I would say that, I'm their mama. However, I can report that the majority of people who've received one of these have been instantly fired up and usually started making changes to their websites straight away.

Kirsty cut right to the chase - what worked, what didn't, what would make my sales page better. I felt encouraged & excited to have some concrete steps to make improvements. I was a bit afraid the critique might hurt, but Kirsty knows how to make you feel good about what you have, while helping you make it even better.

Melissa Dinwiddie from A Creative Life

The Artist's Eyeball was an eye opener. Kirsty gently but firmly told me my sales page isn't about ME but my CUSTOMERS.

LaVonne Ellis from The Complete Flake


What you get

You get a highly detailed written report that points out everything that I think you're doing wrong on your website or blog. Lest this sounds too depressing for words, rest assured that I also enthuse about the stuff you're doing well. You get a lot of eye and brain for your money: Full Eyeballs tend to be between 5 and 10 pages long, sometimes even more and even a Mini-Eyeball will usually contain several pages of suggestions.

Now I know this might not seem like the most exciting thing in the world to buy but holy cow, these are seriously useful. You get a nice big list of things to tackle and often a bit of longterm strategy thrown in for free. Instead of aimlessly going around in circles for months or years wondering why this internet lark isn't working out for you, you get pointed in the right direction at last. You can also work through things at your own pace, confident that you're making positive changes.

And if I can't find anything to say about your site or you don't find the report useful, I'll give you a full refund.


Super-duper Special Offer

I highly recommend snagging one of the larger packages because they're an amazingly sweet deal. In fact, I won't be offering these prices ever again, this is an introductory offer only.

....Drumroll please....

Mini Eyeball - £20
The mini-Eyeballs are staying at £20 because that's already ridiculously cheap and my Inner Businesswoman wasn't having anything to do with a deal on these.

Add to Cart


Blog Eyeball (including up to 3 static pages) - £50, now only £35
The Blog Eyeball is down to £35, which is £15 off. That's some kind of complicated percentage that I can't work out because my maths guru, Colin Beveridge has gone on holiday to America. How inconsiderate!

Add to Cart


Full Artist's Eyeball - £100, now only £50
A Full Artist's Eyeball normally retails at £100 but for 3 days only I'm offering it at half price. £50 for an entire site analysis is crazy: I had to lock my Inner Businesswoman in the basement to get away with this.

Add to Cart


Full Eyeball with consulting - £160, now only £100
The Full Artist's Eyeball with an extra brains consulting session is currently going for £100 instead of £160. That's a full written website analysis plus 45 minutes of follow-up on Skype where you can delve deeper into what I've recommended. Total bargain.

Add to Cart


What if my site isn't ready yet?

There is no expiry date: you can buy an Artist's Eyeball now and use it later (thanks to Skaja for asking this question). Just make sure that you tell me on the order that you want to wait. It would also be helpful if you can give me a rough idea when you're likely to need it, so that I can make a note to follow up with you.


Deadline

You've only got three days to take advantage of this: the offer will close at 5pm GMT on Friday 3rd December 2010.

If you're absolutely desperate for one but you can't afford it with Christmas coming up, email me and we'll sort something out. Please don't be shy or embarrassed. I know what it's like to need something when you're skint and while I can't lower the price any further, I'm happy to work out a payment plan with you. But you've got to brave enough to step up and ask.

Please note:
If there's a high demand during this sale, it will take me longer than the usual 7 days to do your Eyeball.


Honeys, please do me a huge favour and pass this on by clicking on one of the share buttons below...


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Face facts, my little cupcakes, you are not good at everything.

I know, I know, your mother told you that you could do anything you wanted in life. She did not, however, tell you that you could do everything. And if she did, she was wrong.

Pressure...
Creative Commons License photo credit: Casey Serin

Creative people have a bizarre tendency - probably born from the Starving Artist Mindset - to believe that they can do everything. Sadly, it just ain’t so.

Can you have a stab at it? Yes, probably. Will it be any good? Debatable. In truth, other people can often do things better than you and in far less time.

For example, whenever possible I outsource my graphics. I can kind of do graphics but I suck at them: it takes forever and makes me all stabby. Nasty, tricksy graphics, we hates them, Precious.

So I will budget like crazy to hire my wonderful graphics person, Lisa Valuyskaya. Lisa does in a couple of hours what it would take me days of hysterical sobbing to achieve. Ha, who am I kidding? Even with the sobbing, my efforts are pitiful compared to hers. Know why? Because she’s a professional graphic designer and I am not.

Help, help, I have no money

It’s sucky - you’d love to hire someone but your kids/pets/landlord need to eat. It’s just not an option.

In that situation, there are several choices:
Barter
Go without
Find a creative work-around
Outsource those tasks to parts of yourself

The first three are pretty self-explanatory but what about that last one? Outsourcing to yourself? What the hell?

OK, here’s what it means. When I have a task that I dislike and I can’t afford to hire someone, I try to find an aspect of myself that can deal and then I delegate to that sub-personality.

For example, my Inner Businesswoman is now responsible for financial decisions. I find asking for money difficult, so she does that bit. She overrides my Volunteer Junkie who likes to say things like, ‘oh hey, we could just barter instead’. My Inner Businesswoman is in charge of the bottom line and she reminds my Volunteer Junkie that there are bills to pay and the Inland Revenue does not accept vegetables and eggs, no matter how happy the chickens are.

Right now my Inner Businesswoman is very cross about the state of my book-keeping and is threatening to hire an Inner Accountant.

Another example. I have been struggling with newsletters but I was brushing my teeth the other day when to my surprise, an inner Girl Reporter suddenly turned up. She’s keen as mustard and doesn’t need to be paid because apparently she’s an intern. I hope she likes typing.

Hmm, this could be getting a leetle bit out of hand…

It does work though. Marketing making you cringe? Create your own PR person. Having trouble standing up for yourself? Oh honey, your Inner Diva has that one covered. Need help with the filing? Just access your Inner Secretary


Stock photo of Joan from Mad Men

And no, it doesn’t matter if you’re male, you can still imagine yourself as Joan from Mad Men. You’ve probably got better legs for stockings anyway.

Just don’t blame me if tidying up the studio requires an Inner Archaeologist.

A Caveat

This only works if you can access a part of yourself that is vaguely competent.

My Inner Graphic Designer is clearly an eight year old child who’s prone to temper tantrums and doesn’t understand what’s wrong with Comics Sans. If your Inner Accountant seems like the kind of guy who’s going to run off to Bermuda with your money, you should definitely hire a real one or find a more competent friend you can barter skills with.

Get a hat. Get lots of hats

‘Wearing several different hats’ is a critically important skill for any self-employed person.

I have taken this to its logical conclusion and frequently wear my sequin tiara when I’m working on business stuff. Apparently my Inner Businesswoman is a bit of a princess. But because I do it often, putting on the tiara now sends my brain the message, ‘hey, we’re doing business stuff now’. I’m thinking of expanding this: I’d like a writing hat and an art hat to add to my business tiara.

Dammit, I heard that. No, my art hat will NOT be a beret!

Given the choice between sticking their toe in a blender and having to market themselves, many creative people would have to sit down and think about it.

I understand. It’s cringe-worthy, embarrassing and gruelling putting your delicate, precious, creative endeavours out there.

In my experience, anything that helps you stand slightly apart from your creative work helps immensely. It could be silly hats, a public persona, a pseudonym or parts of yourself temporarily taking charge. Start thinking of yourself as a one-person publishing company instead of just a writer. Hell, delegate to your cuddly toys or draw paper doll alter-egos if it helps. You could even ask the cat to take charge. Actually, no, don’t do that, most cats have no work ethic and they’ll screw things up just to mess with you.

Now excuse me, I have to go, my Inner Businesswoman is tapping her foot, apparently time is money or some such shit…


14 Comments

Hey lovelies, it's been killing me to keep this quiet, so I'm chuffed to bits that I can finally announce my Super-Exciting Something.

Ta-da!

Next week I'll be teaching my first ever online class in collaboration with Tara Swiger from Blonde Chicken and Crafting A Business. As you'll see if you watch the video below, I am quite ridiculously excited about this. In fact, it was all I could do not to pepper this entire post with exclamation marks.

What's it about?

The class is called 'Within Limits' & it's for those of you who want to have a creative business despite having time or energy challenges like an illness, children or another job. I wanted to share some of the things that I've learnt from my bloody-minded determination to have an art career (and now a shiny new business), despite having Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and raising a kid. Tara and I felt that November was the perfect time to offer this class because the holiday season tends to bring those time/energy challenges into sharp relief.

When is it?

The class is on Wednesday 10th November at 3pm Eastern Time and consists of an hour-long call with Tara and I, followed by a Twitter chat. You'll then be sent a recording of the class AND a worksheet that will help you set out your own Time & Energy Budget. We'll be talking tips and more importantly, the attitudes that can help you manage your own restrictions.

What does it cost?

The class is only $35, which is outrageously good value. Just to recap, that's an online call, a Twitterchat, a recording and a worksheet, all for $35.

Oh Kirsty, please tell me more...

So, I made a little five minute video to launch the class and er, I got a bit over-excited...

This is either charming and funny OR I'm a complete dork, I haven't quite decided which yet. It makes me laugh but I suspect that may be because I'm a dork.

Buy the class

If I've convinced you, head on over to Tara's site and buy the class.

Share the news

P.S. If you'd like to share this, please click one of the social media buttons below.

And I will love you forever and come round to your house with chocolates. OK, maybe not the chocolate part because some of you are very far away but I would be very grateful and happy because I want to get this out to as many people as possible.


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Orange Cones and Their Strange Whereabouts
Creative Commons License photo credit: Sister72

Last Monday the lovely Rachelle from Magpie Girl posted an interview with me about my Internet Hand-holding consulting service. It’s a good interview, you can read it here. As part of the interview, I offered a half price deal on a session of my consulting. Instead of the usual price of £70, Rachelle's readers could get it for its original £35. I mentioned it on Twitter and Facebook. I thought it was great deal & I was hoping for a few new clients.

And…silence.

No one bought my thing. Tumbleweeds blew past. I felt needy, desperate, sad and pathetic. No one had bought my thing even though it was half-price - clearly no one loved me and everyone thought I was crap. Obviously I was a total failure. Oh woe, woe and thrice woe.

A revelation occurs

This evening I was messing around on my site when I realised that the sales page for Internet Hand-holding had moved in the last couple of days due to a bit of site tweaking.

‘Oh’, thought I, ‘I hope that Rachelle’s people aren’t getting an error page now. I should check on that.’

So I did. And it was even worse.

Rachelle and I had done the email interview some time ago and in the meantime, I had written a lovely new sales page. Unfortunately Rachelle did not know this because I had not told her. I hadn’t realised that the only link she had was for the original blog post announcing Internet Hand-holding and it didn't occurred to me to check the link when the interview was posted.

Unfortunately the original blog post did not link to the nice new sales page. In fact, it only had an old, dead Bixbe link on it. So, for an entire week, anyone clicking on the link from Rachelle’s site hoping to get a lovely special deal was directed to a page where there was absolutely no way they could buy my thing. No way at all.

Peeps, I’ve done some pretty daft things in my time but I have rarely felt quite so stupid as I did at that moment.

How I fixed it

Firstly, I contacted Rachelle, apologised and gave her the correct link. Because she is a sweetheart, she corrected it within the hour.

Then I muttered darkly about my stupidity on Twitter and several people agreed that they had also on occasion had done monumentally stupid things that took their breath away. This made me feel better.

I then edited the blog post that her post linked to. I put a message at the top of the post explaining to her readers what had happened, apologising and directing them to the correct page. I also removed the old dead Bixbe link. While it was unlikely that anyone was going to read the interview a week after it was posted, I wanted to instantly fix the problem because I had no idea how long it would take Rachelle to redirect people. Plus it was entirely my mistake and therefore my responsibility.

Then I told people on Twitter and gave them the direct link and the code.

At this point, I took a small tea break and wandered around the house laughing at myself because hey, at that point what else can you do?

Finally, I wrote this blog post.

What you can learn from this

1) Always check the technical side
‘Check the links’ is clearly the internet version of ‘measure twice, cut once’. If you’ve been featured on someone else's blog, check the links (ideally on the day it goes live, not a week later!) If you’ve moved things around on your blog, update all your links. The other thing I spotted during this debacle was that the link in my sidebar was also incorrect. Because the sales page had been moved, WordPress had magically redirected that link to the old blog post so for several days, no one could have bought my product at all.

2) Don't assume the worst
Because I was feeling sick last week, I instantly jumped to the worst possible conclusion - that everyone hated me and I should go and eat worms. Now it's entirely possible that no one does want half-price consulting but it was daft to assume that was the reason. Plus I spotted and corrected the mistake before Rachelle mentioned the offer to her entire mailing list, so it could have been much worse.

3) Apologise, fix things, move on
You can recover from what seems like disaster if you act quickly and openly. Everyone makes mistakes. Accept yours, tell people what happened, fix the problem, move on. I'm not going to beat myself up for ages about this. I did about half an hour of 'oh wow, I can't believe I was that stupid', then I dropped it. The important thing is that I've learnt from it.

4. Nothing is wasted
I got a blog post out of this, which is great as I'd been blocked on writing.

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.


23 Comments

Question mark
Creative Commons License photo credit: Marco Bellucci

Hey folks, I've got a small favour to ask. I desperately need help naming the more advanced version of Internet Hand-holding (that's an unfinished sales page btw - it'll be properly live next week).

I know you'd probably help for free because my people rock but as an added incentive, I'm offering a free consulting session (at the level of your choice and on the subject of your choice) for the person who comes up with the name I wind up using.

The more advanced level is currently called Website Tune-up, which I hate because I think it sounds like I'm offering way more technical help than I am.

I do have a reasonable amount of tech knowledge but the sessions are more about setting the person's intention for their internet use. It's about identifying their aims and then cooking up a strategy, so they go off thinking 'right, to achieve my aims, I need to do these these steps, in this order.' It's intended for artists and creative people who have some or even a lot of internet experience but need help sorting out a better strategy or need a friendly eye cast over their existing website. A lot of people were saying 'I don't need hand-holding, I need something else', so it's intended to appeal to those people.

But Website Tune-up definitely doesn't convey all that.

 

Here are the alternative names I've come up with:

 

1) Gordian Knot Specialist - I like this but I think it should go in the copy, not the title.
Variations: Gordian Knot Untangler or Gordian Knot Dismantler

2) Shit hot strategies - I like this but I think it's more of an e-book name

3) Web Detangling
Variations: Website Untangling or Internet untangling, Web Detangler, Untangle your website

4) Something using unravel, uncoil, untwist?

5) Something about strategies or tactics but I've no idea what?

6) Coaching for your Internet - dull!
Variations: Mentoring for your demented website (like this but I think it's sales copy not a name)
Therapy for your confused website - I'm not too keen on the therapy association, I think it might confuse people.

7) Confusion Removal Expert - more a description of me than the product

8) Something using the word catalyst

9) Loosening up tied ends - I think this is a tagline, not a product name

10) Strategy laxative - OK, this is funny but it might not be the mental image I want to give people!

 

OK, that's the list so far. If you have any thoughts on these or can come up with better ones, I'd certainly appreciate it. I'm looking for something that conveys the idea but isn't corporate & boring-"sounding because my people are awesome artists and they don't like 'suit talk'.

PS. I need to get this sorted as soon as possible, so the deadline for suggestions is Friday 3rd September.

 

Please leave a comment

Thoughts, suggestions, fabulous names? Leave a comment below. Remember, if you come up with the final name, you get a free consulting session.

And btw, this isn't some scummy fake launch technique, I really am STUCK with this.

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170
Creative Commons License photo credit: me and the sysop

Oftentimes we get hung up on a perceived need for fancy tools when simpler solutions would work just fine.

Consider the nappy disposal unit I bought before my son was born.

Was it a complete waste of money? Why yes, yes it was.

Turns out that storing loads of used nappies together smells far worse than you just throwing them straight in the bin and no amount of expensive, deodorising bags will help. At the end of the day, all I had was a larger bag of smelly nappies to get rid of. That I'd paid extra to acquire (those deodorising nappy bags aren't cheap, you know!)

So why did I buy such a ridiculous thing?

Simple. I was 24, living in a shelter for homeless pregnant women and desperately trying to prove to myself that I knew what I was doing.

For some strange reason, a nappy disposal unit seemed like the perfect answer to all my problems.

It wasn't.

Here I am, pregnant and terrified.


Kirsty Hall: Pregnant, 1992

Several months later: note the 'holy shit, what just happened?' look.


Me with a very fresh Kidlet, 1992

Yeah, I don't think a nappy disposal unit is going to cut it, babe!

.............................................

Fast forward 18 years. Nappies are no longer an issue; instead I have a teeny tiny business to tend.

I find being in business a challenging proposition. Definitely not as tough as being alone, pregnant, on benefits and homeless but still pretty tough.

I'm chronically ill, which makes it hard for me to sustain the energy and momentum needed to run a business. But more importantly, the language of business either bores me rigid or terrifies me. If you start talking about 'target markets' and ROI, I go into 'hiding under the desk' mode. Plus my Starving Artist Self comes out to play and it's not long before I'm hissing things like ‘shun the unbeliever’ and looking around for some garlic and a stake.

And then bad things happen. Mostly involving tears and chocolate.

Because businessy stuff scares the bejeezus out of me, I often find myself fixating on unimportant details or falling into the trap of thinking that I can spend myself out of stress.

So I’ll start believing that if I can just find the ‘perfect’ software system, then my disorganisation will miraculously be fixed. Or I’ll convince myself that I've bought the ‘wrong’ accounts book with the incorrect number of columns, so I should waste £17 on the 'right' one or the Inland Revenue will descend upon me and beat me with sticks.

In both these cases, I’m looking for fixes for the wrong problem.

The problem is not the accounts book: the problem is that I have a lot of anxiety around numbers, filling in forms and money. And no amount of software is going to magically fix my ADD tendencies.

It’s magic pill thinking.

What do you need to have a business?

Something to sell, somewhere to sell it and people to sell it to.

Er, that's it.

Sure, there are plenty of twiddles you can add - you can systematise and optimize out the wazoo - but those are the three basics.

It's true that some systems and tools are smart investments that will make things easier, cheaper or more efficient. Unfortunately when you’re a beginner, you don’t know what those things are. A lot of solutions are going to be over-engineered for where you are right now. And a lot of the things you think are solutions are actually your anxieties playing silly buggers with you.

Ignorance, anxiety or excuse?

We all find ourselves suckered into purchases that we end up not using. Sometimes it’s ignorance. Sometimes it’s a response to anxiety. Sometimes it's an excuse.

We all know the person who has all the latest, greatest equipment for a hobby but doesn't seem to spend much time doing it. Perhaps they have a mental image of themselves as someone who plays a musical instrument but they’re not committed enough to put in the hours of practice needed. So they buy yet another tuning device or the latest how-to book. And then never use it. They’ve confused buying with doing.

If you find yourself saying "I can't make art until…” then stop & ask yourself if that's really true? Maybe you do need a certain amount of funding or a studio space or a particular piece of equipment. Or maybe it's resistance or fear talking.

If you find yourself stalling on starting your business because you're writing a 40 page business plan or because you think you need new office furniture, you're getting overly hung up on the details. You don't need to wait for small lemon-soaked paper napkins before taking off.

Do you need a studio in order to paint? No, unless you're working on a large scale, you do not. You might work better in a dedicated studio. However, if a studio is impossible right now, work out some other solution. But don't use lack of a studio as an excuse not to paint.

What do you need to paint? Paint, brushes, something to paint on and the time and energy with which to paint. Does space help? Yes, it does. But not having space doesn't completely rule out painting. Work smaller. Work in quick drying paint. Is it ideal? Obviously not and I sympathise if you're stuck in a difficult situation where you can't make the work you long to make. However, finding a compromise is better than not making art.

Do you need a ton of expensive equipment? Depends on what you're making but often the answer is no. If you do, then owning it is not the only solution. Perhaps you can hire that specialist equipment, especially if you don't need it every day.

If I wanted to make prints, I wouldn't go & buy a printing press, I'd join the local print co-operative and use theirs. Or I'd use hand-printing techniques. But if I knew I wanted to make prints every day and I had the technical knowledge to properly maintain it, then I might consider buying and setting up my own printing press.

Do you need a £2,000 website? Almost certainly not.

Do you need expensive software? Maybe. But maybe you’re just looking for that magic pill. I recently tested out specialist content management software but decided that my existing spreadsheet programme would work just fine.

Stop. Rethink. Do you really need that thing or are your naughty ducks giving you grief again?

Spend smarter: 5 questions to ask yourself when you’re considering a new purchase

1) Why do I think I need this?

2) What tools do others in my field recommend?

3) What will this cost me in time, energy & money?

4) Is this an investment or a liability?

5) How could I achieve my aims without this thing?

Conclusion

Start small and work up. Don't burden yourself with debts you don't need. Don't put artificial barriers in your way. Quit sabotaging yourself.

In short, watch out for nappy disposal units.

Resources
This post was inspired by Adam King's post about why he became a minimalist woodworker piece. You should read it, it's good.

Please leave a comment
Have you ever bought something through ignorance, fear or anxiety? Conversely, which tools have been great investments for your business? Got any other tips for avoiding magic pill thinking? Let me know below...

30 Comments

Hi, are you a MagpieGirl looking for your special deal? You need to go here. Sorry about this, Rachelle and I did the interview ages ago and I've only just realised that she didn't have the new sales page details.

Come up to the lab and seeeeeee what's on the slab.

So. With my usual inimitable flair I appear to have accidentally launched another new service mere days before I disappear off into the wilds of Scotland for a week. If you've read my Resources page but you're still floundering and you'd like some individual one-on-one help, you can now buy 30 minutes of my undivided attention. Also, there are biscuits.

Behold, my beautiful creature...

Internet Hand-holding

Now, this isn't quite as daft as it sounds (OK, the 'just before a holiday' part is pretty stupid). I've always been drawn to the idea of consulting and coaching and I'd been making tentative plans in this direction for several months after a very thought-provoking Awesomeness Check-up session with the lovely Catherine Caine.

So when John T. Unger asked for willing volunteers to test out Bixbe on WordPress, I did the 'closing my eyes and jumping' thing again.

As a way of launching this and also celebrating the 3 year anniversary of this blog, I'm offering 15 free sessions. If you're interested, please comment below before Wednesday 7th July (the blog's official birthday, we shall have cake). If I get masses of people, I'll pick names out of a hat to make it fairer because I know that not everyone is online at the same time. Please note, the free sessions won't be happening until at least the second week of July because of the whole holiday thing.

Oh and while I'm shamelessly self promoting, I updated my shop, which is now called Drawings And Delights. I added an 'about me' page, some shop policies and more drawings. If I get time later today, I may add a few ACEO's that I've drawn recently.

29 Comments


Gossiping Ducks by foxypar4

Sometimes I have to slide sideways into things. Or trick myself into starting by making projects smaller than they truly are.

I am cursed with perfectionism, so often the only way forward is to just close my eyes and jump.

Which is how I found myself opening an online shop for my art. Without branding. Without a big launch. Without having all my drawings scanned and ready to go. Without enough mounts or packaging materials. With all my ducks decidedly not in anything even vaguely resembling a row. In fact, I’m not entirely sure where my pond is and it’s quite likely that all my ducks have flown off in a huff.

But I started anyway.

There’s not much in my shop yet (see aforementioned lack of ducks) but I’m adding things as I go along. It’s also possible that my pricing is entirely wrong but I decided that fear of pricing was a lousy reason not to start something.

And I have no idea if this is going to work.

I’ve already sold two envelopes (yay!) but maybe no one else will ever buy anything. You'd think that this would be a source of stress, that I would be filled with the fear of rejection. But weirdly, it doesn't seem to matter and that's because I just jumped. Without too much preparation or angst or investment of time, energy, money or emotion.

Sure, it would be fabulous if I make a gazillion pounds selling art online – don’t get me wrong, I absolutely want this to succeed - but I’m also very clear that it’s a test piece, a maquette, an experiment.

See, that’s the great thing about the internet - the cost of entry is low. I don’t have to spend lots of money ‘setting up a business’, I can just say, ‘hey, let’s throw a few quid at an online store for six months and see if it works?’ If it doesn’t, well, no harm, no foul and I’ll have learnt some useful stuff. I’m hugely interested in trying new things online. At the moment it still feels as though there's a lot of freedom on the web; that maybe I can do things in my own strange, messed up way and still make a go of it. That maybe all those ducks aren’t quite as important as people tell you.


Our local synchronized swimming team by Eric Bégin

Because I think I can do this, but not if I have to get my ducks in order first. My ducks are recalcitrant, they fly away when they’re told to line up, they quack in a rebellious manner, they flaunt their sassy little ducktails like 50’s rockers. And when I wring my hands about business-type things, they make rude and unhelpful Donald Duck noises. My ducks have ATTITUDE.


In the Swim by StarrGazr

Now I'm not saying that you should make a half-arsed job of things. If you're the sort of person who can easily organise your ducks, that's absolutely great - you've got a huge advantage and you should use it to the full. What I am saying is that for perfectionists, the perceived need to get all our ducks in a row before we start anything can be a very effective stalling technique. It can be an excuse. And sometimes you have to be braver than that.

So I’ve learnt to pointedly ignore my ducks and then quietly organise them into rows when they're not looking.

How do you deal with your ducks? Let me know in the comments...

5 Comments

I don't know about you, but I regularly get email invites to join art sites. It can be daunting working out if they're worth your time and energy. I can't make those decisions for you but I've written this general guide to help you assess this sort of opportunity.

1) Do You Like The Other Art?
People judge your work by the company it keeps. If you'd be embarrassed to be shown on the same gallery wall, then don't place your art in the same online space. The exception to this is when it's an enormous site like Saatchi Online, where there's a huge selection of work in a wide range of styles.

Submitting your work to a curated site can be more work but that 'gatekeeper' aspect often results in a site with a higher quality of art. That exclusivity can also appeal to visitors who may take your work more seriously because it's been vetted.

2) Does It Match Your Values?
Do you like the aesthetics of the site? Does the site have an ethos with which you strongly agree or disagree? How much control do you have over what appears on your page? Are there adverts? In short, does the site chime with your values, both moral and aesthetic?

One important point you must always check is whether the site retains any rights over your images. I know it's a nuisance but you need to read the Terms Of Service (often abbreviated to TOS). These are always available when you sign up to a site - you'll probably have to check a box to say that you've read them - or you can also usually find a link to them at the bottom of the site or in the FAQ.

3) Do They Charge?
Ooh, the big one!

I have no objection to spending money online but I do think that a lot of art sites prey on the desperate and inexperienced. There are many excellent free art sites that offer just as much exposure.

There definitely are good subscription sites out there. Even though I've still not got round to applying, I've long considered AXIS to be worthwhile, especially for UK artists. They're a long-established site with a solid reputation and they provide a lot of 'added value' such as job opportunities, forums, high Google ranking and access to curators. Personally, I'd be incredibly wary of newer sites who want payment without having that sort of proven track record.

However, different rules apply if the site is specifically for artists in your area. These can be very worthwhile. I'm a member of Bristol Creatives and Textile Forum South West. Both charge a small annual membership but they're worth it because they connect me to other local artists, give me access to pertinent news & exhibition opportunities and organise regular offline events that are close enough for me to actually attend. Consequently both sites have a far greater practical value to me than many free national or international sites. Similarly, as a UK artist I wouldn't dream of letting my annual subscription to a-n lapse. An artist at a recent networking event I attended described it as "like Equity for artists". There are masses of benefits but frankly, it's worth it for the free public liability insurance alone.

There's also usually at least one professional organisation specifically for artists using your particular material and many of these now have websites where you can add a profile. Even if their website doesn't give you space for a profile of your own, you'll get access to high quality information that is specific to your field.

So I'm not saying that you shouldn't join websites that charge but you need to research them thoroughly, find out if they're as effective at promoting artists as they claim and and know exactly what you're getting for your money. In my opinion, you should definitely spend your money on your relevant professional organisations and local networks first.

4) How Effective Is It?
Randomly pick a few of their artists (not the ones that show up on the main page) and type their names into Google. How highly do those site profiles rank? If their site profile doesn't come up on the first couple of pages, it may not be worth your time.

Do be aware that if that particular artist already has a broad and effective internet presence that will skew the results. I'm all over the net like a cheap rash, so any site I'm on has to compete with all the other places where I'm active online. But if you check several of their artists and none of their profile pages rank highly, then that site probably isn't promoting its artists very effectively.

The second way to judge whether a site is worth your time is by checking their stats. Diane Gilliland has put together an excellent short video demonstrating how to do this. Her video is specifically about judging other blogs but most of the information still applies.

5) How Much Work Is It?
Is participation necessary or is it a 'set it and forget it' kind of place?

A lot of sites strongly encourage artists to maintain blogs on their sites. In my experience, there's a limit to how much blogging a single artist can do well. Remember that Google punishes duplicate content - it regards it as spam - so simply writing one blog post and plastering it over loads of art sites is counter-productive. I do allow occasional republishing of relevant blog posts from this blog on a few select sites but I would never republish every single post because that would definitely hurt my Google ranking. Many sites also contain forums where regular participation can gain you valuable contacts and further exposure on the site. However, be aware that forums are a notorious time suck.

If you're spending a lot of time on an art site but not getting many visitors to your site, you should question whether it's a good use of your time and energy. Marketing bods call this ROI - 'return on investment'. There's a wealth of information about your visitor numbers and behaviour in Google Analytics. If you've not already got Google Analytics on your website, you absolutely must because you need to know that information.

Now there could be strategic reasons to spend time on a site that's not bringing many visitors to your main site - perhaps it contains lots of people you're trying to get to know or it may just be fun - however, if it doesn't fulfil the criteria you've set, reconsider your participation.

6) Will You Be Seen?
Will your work be lost in the crowd? The smaller, more intimate sites can often be a more effective way of promoting your work than the huge sites. However, if a site has sufficiently huge traffic, you may garner significant eyeballs just by chance.

Are there opportunities to feature in newsletters, on the front page of the site or otherwise be brought to people's attention? I enjoy Central Station, partly because it's a fun place with interesting people but also because they regularly showcase my work. Because it's not a huge site, it's quite easy to stand out there with very little actual effort. In places that showcase new work, it's smart not to upload all your photos at once but to stagger them over a couple of weeks - you're more likely to get featured that way.

7) Who Are Their Audience?
Will your work be seen by the people who matter to you? If you're selling work, are new customers likely to find that site? If you're more interested in coming to the attention of curators, is there any indication that they browse the site? Does the site contain a lot of artists who you'd like to get to know?

If you're marketing your work to a specific niche, consider participating in non-art sites where your customers are likely to congregate. For example, if you paint racehorses, being active on a respected racing forum might be beneficial. Obviously you don't want to spam people but many forums allow you to have a short signature when you post, so you can subtly let people know what you do. Plus, you're presumably painting racehorses because you're interested in them.

Conclusion

If the site is free, matches your values and joining it won't take too much time, then you might as well go ahead and whack up a couple of images and a profile. After all, you don't know exactly who their audience are and you've got nothing to lose. However, if a site charges or requires far greater time participation such as using forums or blogging then you need to carefully weigh up the costs against the benefits.

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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.

Comment

I'd love to hear how you decided which sites to join. I'm planning on a follow-up post detailing some of the sites individual artists use, if you'd like to be included with a link to your site, please comment below or get in touch on Twitter.


19 Comments

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.

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.

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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.