Use Personal Branding to promote you, your art, and your business.
As a solo entrepreneur, which describes nearly all artists today, you, your art and your business are intertwined, inseparable factors. Art buyers, galleries and those who would help promote and distribute your art view them through the same lens.
When collectors think about buying your art, they want to know who you are, what your art is about, something about the company that stands behind the art and artist. They use these factors to help shape their perceptions, opinions, and to make buying decisions.
Personal branding is about perception.
Unless you are an unknown production artist, the perceptions others hold deeply affect the value and sales of your art. Those perceptions will linger long beyond your living years.
You can choose to ignore personal branding with the noble, yet unrealistic idea the value of your art should stand on its own merit. However, unless your last name is Van Gogh, it will be a costly choice — don’t forget he died broke.
Personal branding is a catchall phrase that lumps together different factors that affect your career. Prestige, perception, and professionalism are part of personal branding. It is important to take as much care of your personal branding as you do in creating your art.
Don’t make this too complicated.
Start with the basics. Remember, it’s about you, your art and your business. Together they form perceptions in the minds of those you want to influence, favorably.
To have a successful and fruitful career, you need growing awareness for you and your work. Today, that means owning a place on the Internet where you control what happens. Art buyers, galleries and other sources who will own or distribute your work nearly always start by looking for you, or researching about you on the Internet. It’s natural. They want an easy way to get more information about you.
Often, reputation and perception precede you. Nearly always, they sway the decision to buy your art. Because of the ubiquity of the Internet, personal branding and digital branding are almost synonymous.
These three items are necessary for you to take control of your digital brand:
- Domain name
- Email address
There is much more to personal branding, even digital branding as social media is also a factor. Sticking to the basics, you begin with these items because they are an integral part of anything you can do to boost your brand and market your work.
The importance of a proper domain name.
A domain name is a human-readable version of your Internet Protocol (IP) address, which is the unique numerical value of your domain.
If you do not own a domain name, you need to find a suitable one and purchase it immediately, if not sooner. You can usually find them on sale at domain registrars, such as GoDaddy.com where I recently found .com domains offered for $8.99.
You are the brand.
As the artist, you are the brand. People do not buy art from a business name; they buy it from the artist. With that in mind, your name should be included in your domain name. Try for a .com extension above all others. It is the most common and preferred.
Because of the popularity and volume of .com domains, it’s possible you can’t buy your first and last name as a .com domain. This is especially true for those who have common names. Not to worry, just start adding appropriate words. Try JohnSmithArtist.com, JohnSmithFineArt.com, JohnSmithFineArtist.com and so forth. Domain names are not case-sensitive, but you can type them in upper and lowercase letters to make them more easily readable.
Get an email address based on your domain name.
I continue to be amazed at how many artists and other small businesses fail to obtain an email address using their domain name. This is either out of not wanting to be inconvenienced, laziness or ignorance that they cling to their Gmail, AOL, Comcast, Verizon, Yahoo or some other free email address.
If you want others to take you seriously, prove it.
If you desire to be taken as seriously as possible, and viewed upon as a professional, you need an email address that uses your domain name. My email address is email@example.com. If you know my name, you know my email address. Besides the professionalism, I’ve made it easy to know and remember my email address.
A free email address lends itself to a poor reputation as an amateur. It can be a determining factor in more than buying decisions. If all else is equal in a juried show, your professional email address may tip the scales in your favor. A gallery owner, interior designer, or boutique operator may more favorably judge you by your email address.
You never know what makes the difference in close cases. Why leave something simple and affordable such as having an email address using your domain to chance? Wouldn’t it kill you to know that was the determining factor on why you were turned down from a show?
Using free email from your self-hosting provider is not advisable.
If you have a shared hosting (self-hosting) account, you may have free email service available with it. I recommend against this idea because your email storage is charged against the available storage for your account. More importantly, keeping your email on a separate server avoids potentially nasty problems.
It’s a total wipeout disaster when you lose both your website and email if your site is hacked, or the with the server that hosts your website and email crashes. There is no excuse when you can get a free service from Zoho.com with up to 25 email addresses and no ads.
Yes, it will be a bother to have all your contacts update your email address. But, it’s a one-time event that you can learn to live with. It’s a small price to pay to up your digital branding to professional status.
You must have your own website.
If you don’t have a website that resolves to your domain name, you are doing the equivalent of renting while those you compete with own property. There is no reason or excuse you can make to be using a website with a URL such as barneydavey.wordpress.com or barneydavey.blogspot.com, which is what you get when a provider gives you a free website or blog.
There are many problems with such addresses. In both examples above, my name is a subdomain of the primary domain. I neither own nor control the wordpress.com or blogspot.com domain names. That means should I want or need to move my website or blog, I don’t get to take my address with me because I don’t own it. In that case, I can’t even do a domain forwarding. It’s just all bad news.
You can get free websites from some companies, but they often have limitations on what you can do with their sites. In almost all cases, you own the contents but can’t take the design with you should you decide to move to a different provider. Moreover, most free sites use your website to promote and link back to the supplier’s domain. This again, as with a free Yahoo or Gmail email account, smacks you with the amateur label.
You can get a professional website through multiple ways. These are the most the common options:
- Use an artist-specific website building provider. Some examples include FASO.com, FolioTwist.com and dozens of other companies. Check these out and do your own due diligence and research to find the one best for you.
- Use a generic website builder provider. Some of the top providers include Squarespace.com, com, Wix.com, and Weebly.com. As with point #1, it is up to you to do your own research. Get on the Internet, ask your fellow artists. When you find a site that catches your eye, find out how it got built.
- Build a self-hosted site using WordPress. WordPress besides offering free blogs (not recommended) also provides open source, meaning free, software you can use to create a site on a shared or dedicated server you get from a hosting provider. If you are going this route, I recommend you have decent tech skills or easy access to someone who does. Otherwise, WordPress can become difficult to use with its many tech choices and challenges.
There is a lot more to personal branding.
This post just scratches the surface of the importance of personal branding and its components. Stay tuned, as there is much more information planned for future posts on the topic. They are coming soon. Make sure you are subscribed be alerted when new posts are published. CLICK HERE to subscribe.
My branding story.
Some of you may have noticed that the name of this blog and the domain it uses changed last week. The name went from the previous ArtPrintIssues.com to the current ArtMarketingNews.com. I made the change for branding purposes.
In 2005, I came up with ArtPrintIssues.com as the domain name for my blog at the same time I published my first book, How to Profit from the Art Print Market. At the time, it seemed like the smart thing to do. Looking back, it was not the best name or domain name.
You can see now that I have also changed the header and lightened the background, but did not alter the blog design. I felt that for now, that was enough change. A blog redesign is on the roadmap for later this year.
I could not read the tea leaves ten years ago.
I am much more informed today about nearly everything. In some ways, I feel one of Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers. In his bestselling book, Outliers: The Story of Success, he describes how spending 10,000 hours working on something will make you an expert.
Well, I am sure that I have devoted every bit of 10,000 learning how to write books and get them to market in the last ten years. I’ve learned how to build a blog and website and tons about Internet marketing, and I’m still on a steep learning curve today. It’s all good as I’m enjoying the challenge and look forward to reaping some overdue rewards for my efforts.
You see though in 2005, I did not know I would go on to write and publish four more art marketing books, and produce 600 blog posts on art marketing and the art business by the time 2015 would roll around. Nor did I realize how much my focus would widen into offering advice on literally dozens of other highly significant art business related topics.
A poor domain name choice can cast your business in a bad light.
If I knew then what I know now, I would not have characterized my blog’s brand with the name Art Print Issues. It was quite functional if I were only going to confine my content to information related strictly to the print market. Unfortunately, I couldn’t see ahead. I didn’t know about goals and forecasting as I do today.
The result was I often had to take the time to tell my story and explain the origin of the name. It felt in some way as if I was apologizing and hoping you would look beyond the domain name. I’ve found I would sometimes lose potential new readers and otherwise interested artists who thought my blog about was about art prints, which was not a topic of interest to them.
Because of some major initiatives I am working on now, I was hit with the realization that I could no longer saddle my business’ future plans with a domain and blog name that did not fully support it.
Changing your domain name is important, but it needs to be done correctly.
Last weekend, I made the switch. I began by changing the blog name and description, and domain name settings inside my WordPress dashboard. I then contacted my host to request a change of the primary address for my blog and hosting account. The next step was to park the ArtPrintIssues.com domain name and forward it to the new ArtMarketingNews.com domain.
Moving on, I added code the root of my hosting account in the .htacess file to ensure the 301 redirects happened without incident. I also refreshed the Permalinks of my WordPress site. Lastly, I logged into Google Webmaster Tools and changed my domain name on that account. I was also able to update the domain name change for my Google Analytics account at the same time.
From what I have found by researching how to do this change smoothly, I will lose some search engine rankings for some keywords and keyword phrases until Google completely reindexes my site. That may take a few weeks. In the end, I’m thrilled to be done and to be sporting a new blog name with the exact same domain name.
If what you read above about changing your domain name sounds techie and scary, then hire a professional to help you. It’s a one-time expense that will easily be worth not having to stress over getting it right.
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