Why You Need a Website #1: A Blog = A Gateway Drug

I’m not joking about that: blogging really is like a drug, and a blog can smoothly ease you into an actual website of your very own. Now, I know many of y’all have blogs and websites and have had them forever and have a bazillion visitors, and that’s cool. Good for you!

I know some of you have no desire to work professionally as an artist, so you don’t need to get your work out there and you’re happy doing exactly what you’re doing. That’s fine, too.

But let’s say you’re one of those people who wants to take The Next Step, maybe not as a full-time artists, but you want to get your work Out There and have people see it. Then you really, really need a website. Remember what I said yesterday? If an editor or writer or organizer has heard about your work and wants to see more, you’ve got to make it easy for them to find it. You need a website, but if that seems daunting, you can start with a good blog. And by a “good” blog, I mean a blog that’s about you and your work–not your kids or grandkids or fascination with 80’s hair bands–you can always have a separate, personal blog for that. You can have multiple blogs–most are free, and even the simplest ones will allow you to showcase photographs of your work.

Here’s a screenshot of my own blog, which is *not* an example of A Professional Blog, because I’ve got everything from cat videos to rants. But I’m not about to use anyone else’s blog as an example of anything, so you get to see mine. At least it’s colorful, right?

The purpose is to make it easy for other people to see what you do. The reason it’s addicting is that once you start taking photos of your work and uploading them and sharing them, you get some feedback. You realize there are people out there looking at what you do, and you want to show more. This is a good thing: you’ll find yourself learning a lot about photographing your work and talking about your work, about being able to describe what you do in just a couple words. A blog is good for this, and it’s a good way to get started putting your work out there without the time and expense of building a website. Here are half a dozen things to keep in mind:

1) Keep it simple. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to look at someone’s work and been frustrated by complicated backgrounds or semi-transparent text blocks that make it almost impossible to see the photographs. It’s distracting to have things moving and flickering on the sidebars. If you’re setting up a blog to showcase your artwork, your artwork ought to be the most visually captivating part, not some cartwheeling bumblebee over on the side.

2) No automatic music, please! I know it’s tempting to share your love of Elvis with every visitor to your blog or to show how hip you are by having a constantly-updated playlist that starts automatically, but please do not do this. Editors and organizers may well be working in an office with music playing on their iPod and someone yelling for more toner. If they land on your blog and are bombarded by Julio Iglesias crooning “To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before,” they’re probably not going to be hanging around long enough to see what you’re doing. If you want to add music, put the player on your blog and let visitors click on it to start the music.

3) Leave out the drama. If you want a way to share the saga of your on-going feud with your skanky neighbors, start a separate, private blog for that. Do you really want gallery owners to know what you’ve been doing with your left-over liver of sulphur? Remember: you can have multiple blogs.

4) Good photos. Let me repeat:  good photos. You don’t need a fancy camera to take good quality photos. You need a plain background, a steady hand, and great light. Forget the props–lace and pearls are OK if you’re doing a lifestyle blog and that’s your style, but you want nothing that will detract from your work. Keep it plain, keep it tight, and make it large enough so we can see the details. Take photos outdoors if the light inside isn’t so great, or set up a backdrop near a window.

5) Update regularly. You don’t need to blog every day, but you need to post new work regularly–you’d be amazed how many abandoned blogs are languishing out there. If you haven’t posted since 2005, we have no way of knowing if you’re still working or if you’ve gone into a witness protection program.

6) Provide contact information. You don’t have to put your phone number or home address out there for everyone to see. An email address is fine, but make sure it’s an address you check regularly. There’s nothing more frustrating than sending an email to someone whose work you like and never getting a response. Did they get the note? Are they interested in your proposal? Who knows?

There’s more, much more. You can find all kinds of books and blogs and websites that will give you all kinds of advice and information about blogging. The main thing you need to do, however, is this:  decide what you want your blog to do, make sure you have a clear idea of the purpose of your blog and then stick with it.

And that’s about it. It needn’t be complicated; it doesn’t need to take up huge chunks of your time. It’s just a good, comfortable way to start getting your work out there, if that’s one of the things you’ve been meaning to do.

Next time: Why You Need a Website #2: It’s not Rocket Science

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5 Responses to Why You Need a Website #1: A Blog = A Gateway Drug

  1. swallowcliffs says:

    I found this very interesting, but am still a bit confused as to the differences between a blog and a website. Are there free websites too? And, when a site asks for your url is it the website they want? I think I need a comparison chart on these, lol.

  2. rebeca says:

    I could not agree more.

  3. DianaTrout says:

    Such great advice. Thanks! I tend to ignore my website and know that I shouldn’t!

  4. tracijohnson says:

    Great post and just the kick in the seat of my pants that I need to get a blog started. I keep wavering but if I really want to call myself an artist, I better let people know what I’m working on and how to find me. Thanks Ricë!

  5. lulu moon says:

    great advice! I think I’ll get started on a dedicated blog. thanks!