"Don't talk of what you are going to do. Do it." William Morris Hunt
© 2000 Nita Leland
This article isn't about selling your artwork on the Internet. It's about establishing a presence on the Internet that clearly indicates who you are, what you do and how to contact you. If you do it right, this may lead to sales (O happy day!), but that's another matter and generally follows when you have a good marketing program in place.
The first step is to take a professional approach to your Internet persona, whether you have a Web site or not. If you're worried about your privacy, then this isn't for you, but if you want to be accepted as a serious career artist on the Internet, then you can't hide behind cutesy code-names and aliases. Start by creating a "sig file" in your mail program. This is a small file that is automatically attached to every email you send. Look under Tools or Options in your mail program--most will have this feature. Your signature should include your name, business, email address, and if you desire, a brief slogan relevant to your business. Many artists attach lofty quotes by famous artists, but these are distracting and do nothing to enhance your business image. This is my sig file:
Join discussion groups and mailing lists for artists and lurk for awhile till you get a good idea of the general tone of the discussion. If it interests you, join in by asking or answering questions about art and painting, avoiding idle chatter and off-topic conversations like the plague. You can learn about these groups at sites such as Yahoo! groups.com. AOL, Compuserve and Yahoo also have art clubs and forums. If you're well-informed and share worthwhile information with other artists and potential patrons, you will be a valued participant.
Write a newsletter about your art specialty and build a mailing list for it. A big caution here: Make your list an opt-in or subscription list so you won't be accused of spamming the recipients with unwanted mail. Join ListBot or some other list-mailer and send out invitations to your email address list to sign up for your newsletter before you send it out. I didn't know this when I started my newsletter and received sharp reprimands from a couple of people who had corresponded with me previously but resented having unsolicited mail sent to them.
Of course a Web site is the ultimate Internet marketing tool for art or anything else. To make the most of your site, don't just put your art on it. Put content of interest to your visitors that will bring them back for repeat visits. Write an article on framing watercolors or buying art for the home or office. Describe techniques used in your artwork or show step-by-step stages in the development of one of your paintings. You don't want your visitors just to click through your artwork, you want them to stay awhile and get acquainted with you. I firmly believe they will be more interested in your art if you capture their interest with content.
Another important matter in Web marketing is effective use of search engines. I've learned this by trial and error. The most cost-effective way to get search engines to list your art site is also time-intensive. It begins with learning to use title, description and keyword meta tags correctly. For more information on meta tags go to ScrubtheWeb. As for search engines, I searched Yahoo for a list of search engines, visited each one, and selected those I wanted to submit my site to. Then I hand-submitted my Web site to each one. I re-submit about every 6-8 weeks. This has worked well for me.
And don't forget to submit your URL to any art site that offers free submission. There are a lot of them out there. Check my Links page to search for resource sites that accept submissions. (Look up the marketing sites while you're there, too!)
There are plenty of Internet-connected opportunities offline to market your art, too. Add your email address and/or Web address to your business cards or print a new card with this information on it. Have a rubber stamp made with your Web URL on it and stamp all of your outgoing mail with it. Send out postcards to your mailing list with your Web URL and see if your local newspaper will use a press release about your art-on-the-web.
A final caveat: Whatever you do, be sure that your emails, Web site, post cards, or press releases are legible, comprehensible and correct in spelling and grammar. I realize that on the Internet a lot of posts and sites are written by folks who use English as a second language and there are sometimes curious spellings and turns of phrase, but I'm appalled at how many American artists use careless spelling and grammatical errors on their beautifully designed Web sites. Have someone proofread all--that's ALL--your marketing materials.
Good luck with your adventures in Internet art marketing.
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