As a solo entrepreneur, you, your art, and your business are inseparable factors. Art patrons, gallerists, jurists, and any who promote and help artists view your brand through a similar lens.
Buying decisions about your art take in every aspect of who you are, what you stand for, and how you perceive yourself. Your personal branding is how to influence reactions in your favor.
When collectors think about buying your art, they want to know who you are and what your art is about from your perspective. They want facts and insights about the art and artist. They take clues about you from all you do. They use these factors to help shape their perceptions and opinions and make buying decisions.
Personal branding is about perception.
Unless you are an unknown production artist, the perceptions others hold profoundly affect the value and sales of your art. Those perceptions will linger long beyond your living years.
You can ignore personal branding with the noble yet silly idea the value of your art should stand on its 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 factors affecting your career. Prestige, perception, and professionalism are part of personal branding. Therefore, it is essential to take as much care of your 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.
Three essential parts of your digital brand.
Often, reputation and perception precede you. Nearly always, these factors are persuasive in buying your art. However, 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 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 $.99. Namecheap.com is an alternative.
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 domain should include your 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 reality is particularly the case for those who have common names. Not to worry, 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.
Changing my blog domain to ArtMarketingNews.com was a big deal for me!
I switched my nearly 10-year-old domain name on my blog. It had approximately 500 posts on it at the time. It was one of the smartest and best decisions I've made about my business and my branding.
Get an email address based on your domain name.
I am amazed how many artists and other small businesses fail to obtain an email address using their domain name. It is hard to say if it is 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, you must show it to them.
If you desire to be taken as seriously as possible and viewed as a professional, you need an email address that uses your domain name. My email address is email@example.com. I also use firstname.lastname@example.org. That way, if you know my name, you know my email address. Besides the professionalism, I've made recognizing and remembering my email address easy. I manage both through one email client to make it easy to handle multiple email accounts.
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. For example, 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. So why leave something affordable and straightforward, such as having an email address using your domain to chance? Wouldn't it kill you to know that was determining why you were turned down for a show?
You must have a dedicated 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 their property. There is no reason or excuse you can make to be using a website with an 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. As with a free Yahoo or Gmail email account, this situation is another that smacks you with the amateur label.
There is a lot more to personal branding.
This post scratches the surface of the importance of personal branding and its components. There are MBA-level courses on branding. But you don't have to study hard or go to that extent to make branding a valuable part of your art business.
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The power of personal branding makes it a high-value asset for visual artists. — Barney Davey Personal branding is one of the most critical aspects of success in any industry. Whether trying to build your business or project a professional image, personal branding is an excellent tool for creating value and establishing credibility. For artists,
When it comes to anxieties over marketing art, it’s good to know although you can’t always control your thoughts, you can use free will to stop them from making you unhappy. — Barney Davey In my 30 years as an art marketing mentor, I have encountered many visual artists needing help marketing their art. I