Tuesday, November 17, 2009

2 Ways to Improve Your Street Cred

By Elizabeth Symington

When I first thought about creating a business card and website it sounded daunting, time consuming, costly and boring. I had to trick myself by designing the prototype with my hands instead of on the computer. Scented markers, fake grass, glue stick, large sheets of white paper, ruler, thin tipped pens and paints showed me how to have fun with making creative and interesting marketing tools.

Think about your web design and what colors and font best describe what you do. Aim for a cohesive look between the tactile business card and the virtual website. From there you can input the design into the computer or hire someone to be the webmaster.

Nowadays everyone asks if your art is online and for a business card with the web address. Here are the basics on setting these up for us creative types.

Business Card

There really is no good excuse for not having a business card. They are inexpensive. And you’ll probably find they are really fun to design. Keep your playful mindset and dare yourself to be funky by designing a mini business card or alter the shape. Maybe a more traditional card would be best. Think about how you want others to view your company and go from there.

There are free templates online or you can upload your own design, have it printed and shipped to your house super quick. Another option is to design your own card and have them printed at a local copy shop. If you want someone to take care of the designing for you, advertise on Craigslist or check out the local art college. They might even design it as a class project. You never know until you ask.

On the business card include your name, your title, phone number, email and website. If it’s relevant put your address and office hours.

You don’t want your email address to scream, “I made this account when I was 15 and I had a crush on Jonathan Taylor Thomas!!!” Think of something professional like yourname@gmail.com. If you don’t want to use your name (or if it’s already taken), consider the name of your business or something else respectable.

The image on the business card is your chance to showcase what you do. The entire back of the card could be a color image of your art. A logo would also work. To avoid having to constantly update your business card, avoid images that are too specific on your current artwork, but pick an image that shows where you are going as an artist.

Web Presence

Domain Name

There are lots of options online for showcasing what you do no matter your knowledge of web design. My recommendation is to buy your domain name, even before you think about who should host or design it. You don’t want someone to snag your web address!

For fine artists it’s standard to go with your full name for the web address for your portfolio site. If that is taken, think of something that gives an idea of what you do without being too limited. You want a domain that describes where you are going as an artist. ElizabethSymingtonCeramics.com is very specific. If I even wanted to try another medium, like photography, then this web address wouldn’t work anymore. If my name was taken I would have bought ElizabethSymingtonArtwork.com. It gives the general idea of what I do and it has flexibility for when I branch out.

Types of Art Sites

1) Design your own website or hire out. Check out other artist’s websites for ideas of what you do and don’t like. This is also a good way to find a designer that you like.

2) Set up a free art blog with Blogger or Wordpress. They are user friendly and allow you to share articles, slideshows, photos and videos. This is a good way to include customers and make them feel special by letting them be the first to see the art in progress.

3) Depending on your art business, using a free online portfolio could be the way to go. It is a virtual mall of artists that are searchable by medium and subject matter. Everyone has the same page layout that they customize by uploading photos of their art, descriptions, artist’s statement, resume and contact info.

Recommended sites for posting your portfolio:


4) Set up an etsy store to display and sell your inventory. There are minimal fees per item posted. Very user friendly and like the online portfolio sites, being a part of a community could help with networking and bringing in more traffic.

5) Facebook is very well connected and has the capability for sharing photos. Perhaps it is not the most professional if it’s your only site, but it is better than nothing.

HTML Basics that will Serve You

If you know some HTML it can help a lot to make your free online portfolio site and Craigslist ads look more polished. For reference I use Facebook’s html cheat sheet (please hyperlink: http://www.facebook.com/notes_cheatsheet.php) for simple changes like bolding words.


When you share images of your art, the quality of the photo reflects on your business. Unless it’s an obvious work-in-progress there shouldn’t be other things in the shot like ladders, art supplies, people, pets, clutter….

Prospective clients are judging the quality of your art through a 2D image. After spending X amount of time on the art, do you want a mediocre photo to advertise your hard work? You might want to take photography classes or hire a professional.

Keeping Organized

To keep track of where your art is online and for ease of adding new artwork, keep a master list of the urls, user IDs, and a clue for the password. It is best not to save it on your computer, but on a removable drive. This spreadsheet is also helpful for when you move and need to change your contact info.

To make things go faster, when I signed up for multiple artist portfolio sites, I made a file folder that contained my resume, statement, images, and image list.

Share your url

Besides having your web address on your business card put it other places, like after your signature on your email.

You can share new artwork and promotions on various sites like digg, kirsty, and twitter by leaving your url. I love twitter, because mine is set up to automatically update my status on Facebook and on my art blog. When you post on youtube in the subject line give yourself credit and include a link to your site.

In closing

Don’t get overwhelmed. Instead have fun with designing business cards and a website. It doesn’t need to be super complicated or techno savvy with Flash components. You can always upgrade. Make it look professional and just get it done.

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