Having a web presence as an artist is the best thing you can do for yourself and your career. It is the gift that keeps on giving. Let me explain.
I've been blogging since 2008 and has seen my blog grow from just a few readers a day to, currently, a few thousands a day. While my blog features mostly reviews of art books and products, I share my art here occasionally. And through those artworks that I've shared, mostly sketches, I've receive enquiries at times from people looking to purchase my art, or commission me to draw something for them. Mind you, I don't post my art frequently but I still get enquiries at times, so imagine the potential you can have if you post regularly.
Having your own blog is essential for any artist. I've previously written an article about the many reasons why you should be blogging as an artist, so I shall not repeat that here. The biggest advantage to having your own blog is the ability to grow your audience and reach them directly. The second reason is you have total control over your blog and you can expand its functionality in the future (e.g. create an online store, have a portfolio page)
Isn't blogging dead?
Far from dead, my friend.
Every website out there with a headline and story is just a variation of a blog. A blog is just another way of classifying a website. It's called a blog only because you're writing something personal. If you're publishing news, you're called a news outlet. But the presentation is still the same. Headline followed by a story (sometimes with pictures).
Blogging is challenging today because there are so many blogs out there, so much competition. And there are so many ways to share your work online other than having your own domain and website, e.g. Facebook, Instagram, Deviantart, Tumblr. It is certainly more convenient to post your art on social media sites but the biggest danger is you're at the mercy of the policies of those websites. I've written about how Facebook lured people to use their site, and are now charging its users money just to reach their own audience -- despicable.
If you want to reach your followers, you should be able to reach them on your own terms. Which is why even if you are already sharing your art on social media sites, you should still have your own website, your own domain.
Isn't it a lot of work to be blogging?
Yes, but having a career is a lot of work.
But the effort that you put in will come back to help you in the future. Your efforts will bear fruits. There are painters who share their work regularly on their blog and can sell paintings through that channel, and some artists even sell out books they publish because of the huge audience they have amassed over the years.
You don't have to post every single day. But you do need to work on your blog consistently. I'm sure you can spare some time each week to write something about the art that you're already creating.
When you put in effort consistently, you will see results. Your work will always be online, and they will continue to bring you opportunities into the future. That's one big reason why I like blogging. It's the gift that keeps on giving.
How to Start and Art Blog
Alright, let's get started.
1. Find a web host
The first thing to do is to find a web host.
The web host is the company that provides you with your domain name and the storage space to store your files.
There are many web hosting companies out there. When I first got started blogging, I used Bluehost (affiliate link) for several years. They offer many plans and are quite affordable for beginners. So Bluehost is the company I recommend.
2. Choosing a domain name
A domain name is the text that people type in the browers to find your website. For example, my domain name is parkablogs.com.
Choose a domain name that's easy for people to remember, spell and type.
Many artists just use their name as the domain name, or append the word "art" to their name. E.g. Shariblaukopf.com
Always get a .com domain instead of a .net. Most people will assume you have a .com domain. E.g. Swensonsart.com is recommended over Swensonsart.net.
3. Choose a web hosting plan
There are two types of cost when it comes to hosting your own website. The first is the cost of having your domain name, usually US $10 annually. The second is the monthly web hosting cost which can range from US $3/month to US $10 and above. When you are starting out, I recommend getting the most affordable plan.
Based on my personal experience, I started with the cheapest plan from Bluehost and was able to get up to 2,000 visitors a day before the website started slowing down. The more visitors you have, the more bandwidth will be used, the slower your website will be.
Getting to 2,000 visitors a day is incredibly difficult. So even with the most basic web hosting plan from Bluehost, it should last you a long time until you reach that kind of traffic. Upgrade your plan later when needed, but not at the start.
Bluehost usually offer better discounts for those who sign longer plans with them. E.g. A 3-year plan will have a lower monthly rate compared to a 2-year plan, and a 1-year plan. So it's more economical to get a longer plan right at the start. Blogging is a long term strategy so I recommend getting the longer plan.
These are the different plans for Bluehost currently. The cheapest plan is only US $2.95 and comes with 50 GB of storage, which is a lot.
In the more expensive plan, there's unmetered storage. That's just a marketing gimmick to get you to sign up with the more expensive plan. There's no such thing as unmetered or unlimited plans, and if you read the fine print there's always a catch.
As mentioned earlier, get the cheapest plan. As your website grow bigger, you can upgrade later. There's no point spending extra money on features when your website only has a handful of visitors each day. Start small.
Say for example you signed on with a plan that cost $5 monthly. The annual cost will be $70 (included domain name). If you manage to sell something or get a commissioned job because of your blog, you've already covered your cost for a few months, and maybe a year or two. It's fantastic investment.
4. Buy the domain and your web hosting plan
Buy the domain name and web hosting plan first.
Fill in some admin details, complete the payment and you'll have a functioning domain name (it will be an empty page because you haven't installed anything on it yet).
After you sign in, you'll see Cpanel (below), which is the dashboard to manage all your files.
It's a long page, but you'll only need a handful of features. This is also where you can find statistics such as how much storage you have used (usually in the sidebar but I've blurred that out in the image above).
Note that the design of Cpanel and its icons may look different because of version differences. But functionality is the same.
6. Choosing a blogging platform.
Before you can start writing and posting content, you need to choose a blogging platform to install.
A blogging platform is basically a software to help you post content. It enables you to write, upload pictures, store files, handle comments and more. It's also called a content management system (CMS).
Of those I've listed, I recommend Wordpress. It's a popular blogging platform so many people use it, and if you have any problems, chances are you can find someone who has a similar problem and solution. Web hosting companies sometimes also has Wordpress installation built into their system, which means you can install Wordpress for your blog and start posting within an hour.
Another advantage of Wordpress is the user-friendliness. It's works like a word-processing software, e.g. Microsoft Word or Google Documents. You write, you insert pictures, you publish online. It's that simple. The other thing I like is there are thousands of beautiful templates for you to choose from.
7. Install Wordpress
On Cpanel, look for the Wordpress installation button. Click on it, follow the instructions and install Wordpress.
8. Welcome to Wordpress
After you have installed Wordpress, you should login to your Wordpress software from your domain name using this link: www.Your_Domain_Name.com/wp-admin.
Just append "wp-admin" to the back of your domain name and you will be brought to the login page.
This is how the Wordpress dashboard will look like. Click around and find out the functionality it provides.
The navigation buttons are on the left.
To create a new post, just click Post on the navigation panel on the left. To publish, hit that blue Publish button (or hit "Save Draft" to work on it later).
9. Install a theme
Your new blog will be using the default theme. To jazz up your blog visually, you can choose from the thousands of themes available.
From the navigation panel, click Appearance->Theme->Add New to choose from the themes available.
Now that you're done installing and setting up your blog, it's time to start posting content!
Building and growing a successful blog requires work. But it is worth it when it starts to bring you visitors, leads, sales and jobs.
If you want to learn more about blogging, I highly recommend the book Bloggers Boot Camp. Everything I learned about blogging over the years on my own is covered in that book, so it should get you up and running in no time. Sometimes I re-read the book just to absorb all the tips and tricks into my subconsciousness.
My last tip for you is to be consistent. Consistency is the key to success online. If you want to make a full-time income online, be prepared to spend full-time effort. But for starters, I recommend posting something once a week, and more frequently when you're more experienced or if you want to see results faster. I reckon it will take around 6 months of blogging before you can see any form of results, whether in the form of commissioned jobs, sales, or just comments from your followers.
Start today. Check out the plans at Bluehost.