Is a Single Website Enough for Artists?

Is having one website enough? Most of us know there are many ways to showcase your art or photos and sell them as a tangible product. This ranges from Facebook, Instagram and Twitter if you use social media. There are also shared online market places like Etsy. All these are good, but it is the actual website that you own that provides you the greatest potential and flexibility. But there may be a good reason to think about creating a second website.

One of the problems with relying too much on social media and online marketplaces like Etsy is you can’t very well predict if they will still be as effective or even be around long term. Maximize them while you can but don’t wait to try to make your website just as important if not more until you must. What if you are an Etsy seller, relying on them to drive your sales and suddenly they shut down or a major structure change? Or as was the case recently with Facebook and Instagram, they changed their algorithm so that less of your posts are viewed as they try to push people into buying paid advertising.

I recently spoke to an artist that was picking up her prints from our facility. She told me she had just redone her seriously outdated website. For a few years she has relied on social media however she was seeing that its effectiveness (I believe she was directing them to her Etsy site) seemed to have waned a bit lately. With the changes at Facebook and Instagram less people were seeing her posts. So, she decided it was time to invest some time into building a website which was both mobile first as well as be easier to optimize for search engines.

Not being the technical type, she selected Shopify as the service to use for setting up her new website. She like many artists chose Shopify since it is relatively easy to setup and allows you to build your website online without the need to write code. Being an online store builder, it allows you to receive orders online and manage your orders for processing. You can even install apps that allow you to tie in with other sites like FinerWorks, which can be helpful for order fulfillment. Some of our very own staff at FinerWorks use it for their personal websites and some artists use it to receive online commissioned / customized orders as seen by

In this case Jan wanted to use the FinerWorks Shopify App so that she could send her orders to us for processing. She asked me my opinion of the site she had setup. All her products she wanted to offer were being showcased from prints to cards. While it was enticing as an online gift shop, it did little in the way of showcasing her artwork outside of a page she had setup in which she had a bunch of images of her paintings. I asked her what was more important to her: showcasing her paintings or selling products with those paintings. Her answer was “both”.

There are gallery plugins for Shopify however I mentioned to her Robert Tatum, a recognized artist and owner of Tatum Originals, a gallery in San Antonio.

One of the first things you might notice is that he refers to his gallery as a “retail” gallery. Even though he is an artist first, he is clearly an entrepreneur constantly thinking outside of the box.

Robert’s online approach is two-fold. His main website Tatum Originals is really about the art itself, showcasing the many different designs he has done for everything from wall murals to t-shirts. It is his second site  Choice Goods Galleries that links from his main site which handles the ecommerce side. At Choice Goods Gallery, while the artwork is important, the purpose is to showcase and sell the actual products he has based off his designs.

By applying this method of online promotion, he can focus on the products while not neglecting the showcasing of the art itself.

It also gives him greater online exposure. By having two different websites they each have their own target. This provides focus in advertising and search engine optimization (SEO).

One of the things I have discovered myself, having been in the arena off ecommerce and online sales since the late 90s has been that it is sometimes difficult to effectively juggle two or more concepts or goals within one website. For this reason, I believe it can be effective to break those up into two or more websites. Keep your brand (this includes themes and colors) consistent across both but separate the two so that they both have a clear goal or call to action (“View My Work” and “Buy My Work”). And finally make sure that you link both to each other prominently in the header or main menu.

Obliviously this approach might not be for everyone but if you are serious about using a website for online sales as well as self-promotion as an artist, this is something to consider.

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