A guide to getting started online pt. 3
A strange thing happened last week. The day after my last article was published I received an email notification from Wix (the web development platform I use). If you read last week’s article you would recall me complaining about the one thing about Wix that drove me absolutely crazy: hashbangs. Well, imagine my surprise when I saw the subject line of the email: Important notification about your URLs.
Now I usually trash emails left and right, but this I had to read. Come August 8 those ugly hashbangs will be a thing of the past! Millions complained and millions were heard! They’ve finally found a way to give their users much cleaner looking URLs without compromising the search engine optimization, something literally every other platform has been doing for years. I felt compelled to work this news into today’s article because (hashbangs aside) Wix is actually a really beautiful platform and now there’s no reason to not use it. Needless to say, I’m completely overjoyed. Now, back to the matter at hand.
So you’ve registered your name and your website is finally up and running after months of work. What next? Contrary to popular belief, the work doesn’t end once the website is completed. In addition to consistently making updates you will have to find ways to drive traffic to your site and expand your network. There are a number of ways you can do this but keep in mind that, like most things, it will take time. Sure you can throw money at it by paying for likes/followers/subscribers but organic user engagement is always best. Spend time cultivating meaningful online connections.
One way to do this is by blogging. While platforms like WordPress and Blogger are popular within Guyana’s literary community, our visual artists are yet to tap into this valuable resource. There is the widespread misconception that artists need not write since viewing their work should be good enough to satisfy any curious mind. This belief is the result of an education system that trains creative individuals to think that their strength lies primarily in their technical skill. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. I could get into that some more but that’s a topic for another day. What I will say is that blogging is a great way to keep viewers engaged with your work and it allows curators a glimpse into your thoughts and processes.
Another way to drive traffic to your site is by linking it to all of your social media accounts. You can include a social media bar with icons to each account so that viewers can readily access your profiles, and in most cases you also have the option of auto-sharing your own posts to your various profiles with the click of a single button. It should go without saying that this feature makes life so much easier. By eliminating the need to update each account individually this feature not only cuts the time spent managing your online presence in half, but it allows you to expand your network by reaching out to persons who might have an account on one platform and not the other.
Hashtags (not to be confused with hashbangs) are another great way of driving traffic to your website and social media accounts. What started as a feature unique to Twitter eventually became incorporated into almost every social media platform after developers realized how powerful they were. Hashtags are used when searching for specific content, particularly images related to their respective tags. Within the creative community it is often used to brand an individual’s artwork (for example, Jane Doe would use the hashtag #JaneDoe so that viewers who click on that tag would be able to see all of her work). This is a great way to discover works by artists and it’s an even greater way to be “discovered.”
Now your website is functioning as it should, all of your social media accounts are connected and you’re starting to create a buzz, what else could you possibly need? The answer is pretty simple: sales. Imagine how great it would be if you were able to generate sales from your online accounts to help cover some of your expenses. At this stage you would’ve already gotten your Visa debit card and your PayPal account in order so this next step is fairly easy. You need to consider how you would want your online shop set up, keeping in mind the type of items you will have on sale.
Most web development platforms would have an option for establishing an online shop in the menu of your website. Alternatively, you can set up shop with an online marketplace like Etsy and link it to your website. It makes sense to capitalize on this since Etsy has over 50 million registered users and potential buyers. In exchange for paying a few miscellaneous fees and a 3.5% commission from individual sales, you get access to a thriving market without the hassle of having to look for that market yourself. Not a bad deal if you ask me. You can also include Etsy buttons on most social media platforms to help drive even more traffic to your site.
Of course, with an online shop you need to also consider which shipping company you will be using when the orders start to roll in. Take some time, do your research and a lot of ask questions before you commit to any one. Granted you could always switch companies if you’re not satisfied with their service, you would want to avoid having any bad experience that could possibly cost you a repeat customer. Those shipping companies will also have regulations that determine how your art product will be packaged and you should make it your duty to find out the best options for packing and shipping your items. Be sure to review their Terms and Conditions or any other legal documents to ensure that you understand what you’re signing up for and that you agree to avoid any difficult situations in the future.
This brings me to the end of what I hope was a helpful guide to getting started online. There is so much more involved in creative disciplines than simply making work. The end of production only signals the beginning of a new and often exhausting process of moving the work out of the artist’s studio and into the public domain, both physical and virtual. Thankfully we live in an era where every question we could ever imagine is but a few clicks away from being answered. So whatever ground I failed to cover in this series could most definitely be covered with a little research. Good luck!
This article was first published in the Pepperpot magazine of the Sunday Chronicle newspaper on July 31, 2016. Click on the link to be redirected to their website: