Brand yourself online
To brand yourself online effectively, you need to have a website.
Your website is where people can find you and your work online. When clients want to commission work, they need to find you and nowadays people do the finding online. If they can't find you, they can't see what you're capable of and they can't send work your way.
Getting your own domain name
You may want to create a blog or a portfolio site. Either way, it's highly recommended that you get a dedicated domain name and web hosting.
For the less tech savvy, domain name is the name of your website, the string of text people type in the browser's address bar to get to your site. E.g. Google.com. And web hosting is the service provided by a company to store your files and run the software that will present web pages on the screen.
There are several advantages to getting your personal domain name and hosting.
1. Your domain name will be shorter and easier for people to remember and type. E.g. Parkablogs.com vs Parkablogs.blogspot.com
2. You can backup your work easily for backup purposes or in case you need to switch web hosts in the future.
3. You have the freedom to build more functionality into your website. E.g. run ads, install a forum under the same domain, create an online store.
I started out with the free Google Blogger until I switched to Bluehost, a web host. I remember paying about US $10 per year for my domain name, and US$ 5 monthly for their hosting services. If your website can reach a point where you serve 500 pageviews daily, based on my personal experience, advertising revenue will be able to cover the monthly hosting fees.
Bluehost provides a simple and good service that lasted me until my website reached about 10000 pageviews and loading starts to slow down. I was forced to switched to a more powerful server hosted by a local web host called Vodien in Singapore. However, Bluehost now also offer more powerful web hosting services via their VPS hosting. If they had VPS hosting back then, I would have continued with them. Because I had personal hosting and backup during my Bluehost days, I was able to switch web hosts relatively quick and effortlessly.
Getting your own domain and web hosting is not expensive and well worth the money. In the long run, your website will earn enough to pay for the web hosting fees which are not too much to start with. I'll talk about various ways to monetize your website in a separate post.
If you're tech-savvy enough to know about SEO, well, there's not much advantage over personal domain names or those free domain names like Blogspot. Whether your website will rank well in search engine results depends on the quality and consistency of your work.
How about those free art communities?
Free art communities or blogging services usually will use a combination of their domain name and your username, such as peterdeseve.blogspot.com, seokim.tumblr.com, artgerm.deviantart.com, www.flickr.com/photos/gerard_michel, www.facebook.com/AlvaroCastagnet, www.behance.net/ISEDieeis, etc.
You may have a page on those art communities or blog services. They are great for exposure because the community. It's like at a market. If you have a booth in the market, people are bound to pass by your booth and notice your goods.
You should still have your own personal website in addition to whatever pages you have at those art community websites. Those websites have their own terms and services, in rare occasions, they have suspended users who violate their terms and conditions, thereby destroying all the work hosted there without any way to retrieve them. The other more significant reason as mentioned earlier is you get more flexibility when it comes to putting content or functionality on your own website.
Lots of artists use Google Blogger that uses the blogspot.com domain. Nothing wrong with that. I started out with Blogger and I really like their simple blogging interface. With Blogger, you can actually use your personal domain name and still use their blogging interface.
Wordpress.com is a website that provides free blogging services. You can start a free blog with them but they don't allow advertising.
Wordpress.org is a website that provides the blogging software you can install on your web host.
If you want a personal website, domain and hosting. You should sign up with a web host and install the software downloaded from Wordpress.org. Because Wordpress is so popular, many web hosts actually have automated installation for the software. If you don't know how to do it, just ask your web host to set it up for you.
Picking a domain name
Many artists use their personal names as domain names. E.g. Cliochiang.com, Gabrielmoreno.com/, Tony Cliff etc. Those are quite a good choice because they can be very unique, unless when your name is more common.
If your own name isn't available as a domain name, you can append other words to your name. Such as Vivianswiftblog.com, Artofpcraigrussell.com, etc. Artists may append "art" to the end of their domain name. This smart trick separates the artists from others and tell people the type of work you do. You hit two birds with one stone.
Or you can come up with a new brand to represent yourself. E.g. Bearskinrug, Idle Minutes, etc.
Your domain name could be something that reflects what you do, such as World Sketching Tour or They Cook and Draw.
It's best to choose an unique and memorable name, something that's short and simple to spell.
If you don't use your personal name as the domain name, make sure to have a profile page that mentions your real name. Say you use your nickname for your website, people may still look for your website using your real name instead, such as when they get your name from past work you've done for other clients, or interviews.
Even in this day and age, there are still artists with no websites. Zilch. Nothing. Not even a website on DeviantArt or Blogspot.
They are missing a very big opportunity when it comes to marketing themselves.
The reason why people search for those artists' website is because they want to find out more about them, and see more of their works. If people can't find their websites, they just move on, and you've missed your chance to interact with them.
The internet is a very convenient medium for people and potential clients to interact with you. And you should take advantage of it.
I'll talk about the different ways to monetize a website. Follow IMFA at https://www.parkablogs.com/tags/internet-marketing-artists