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Aletta de Wal
Artist Advisor & Art Marketing Strategist

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Fabienne Bismuth
3-D Artist

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Huguette May
2-D Artist

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Aletta de Wal
Fabienne Bismuth
Huguette May

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Friday
Feb282014

Artist Web Sites: Six Pros and Cons of Free Websites

There are no "always" and "never" rules when it comes to choosing how you get a website, free or paid. It depends on what you want to accomplish with your website, your budget, your skills, and your willingness to participate in the building of it and ongoing maintenance.

There are many companies these days that offer free websites. Consider these pros and cons  when deciding:

Pros:

  • They're Free

    If you don't have a website, are not sure about your goals for the future, or are working on a very limited budget, it's a low risk place to start. You have many choices these days, and you're bound to find a system that is a good fit for you.

  • Flexibility

    You can customize them with your logo and colors. You can also see what your website will look like before you "go live" with it, and it's usually fairly simple to add text and images.

  • Modules and Plugins

    They often come with useful plugins or modules which give you the ability to add image galleries, a contact form, and other types of web pages. 

  • Use Your Own Domain Name

    Some free website companies will let you use your own domain name (www.yourname.com) or will offer you a subpage on their website (www.theirname.com/yourname). 

  • DIY

    The online sites you use to create and maintain your website are usually very user-friendly. You can do it yourself and save the cost of a professional website designer. You can also update it any time you want, 24/7

  • Shorter Learning Curve

    You will gain valuable experience in developing your own online presence and will become a more saavy marketer. Sure, you invest your time, but you also gain benefits from the experience.

 

Cons:

  • Some Skills Required

    You may not have the skills to do a decent job of it. Designing for the web is different than designing for print production or your art. Many artists with an excellent eye for their own design work cannot piece together a decent website. You could spend a lot of time developing and maintaining a less than professional-looking website instead of having that time to focus on developing your art and the other aspects of your art business. Make sure you can view samples of websites designed on that system and read information on how updates are done to see if it's a good match for your skills. 

  • Fine Print / Contracts / Support

    Read the fine print/contract. Some require you to use their url (www.theircompany.com/yourname) which is not ideal. It lets viewers know that you have a free website. Also, remember that a company cannot stay in business only offering free website, they need to make money too. Be aware of how they do that. Do you have to pay for support? How long is it free?  If there is a contract, read it thoroughly to understand the limits of what you are getting and to make sure you retain copyright on your work. Are there setup fees? Do they sell other products and services not in alignment with your values and ideals?

  • Ads

    Some free websites require that you let them run ads on your site. Again, less than ideal for a professional presence and screams "I have a free website." 

  • Space and Design Limitations

    Design/customization options can be very limited, leaving you with a website that looks less than professional and one that may not let you have everything you need and want in a website. Your website may look like every other website on that system. There may be limits on how much "space" you can use up, making it difficult to have all your images and information on the site. 

  • Ploys

    Many companies offering a free website have ulterior motives and are less than truthful, often using the ploy of "free search engine submission" which really means absolutely nothing. Don't fall for it and take your business elsewhere.  Also, make sure that any names/addresses you collect from the site (and sales through their system) belong to you and are available to you. Some companies give away free websites and keep your database. 

  • Limited Growth

    Free websites can be very limited when it comes to growing your art business, and you may end up having to recreate your website later in a paid system when you want more control over the design, need more images/space for your work, and/or want to incorporate a shopping cart to sell your work and art items.  

I've listed six pros and six cons, but that doesn't mean they cancel each other out in favor of a paid web site (although full disclosure - that's what I recommend and what I do for artists).

Now, what you need to do is start by asking yourself a few questions about your audience, your goals, your budget, time available and your skills. Lucky for you, I wrote some out for you to start with: Artist Web Sites: 10 Questions To Ask Yourself Before You Start  

Sometimes it's all a bit overwhelming, we know. Remember, you don't have to go it alone. We can help by supporting you with advice on DIY, website updates, and new websites plus social media setup/fine-tuning, database setup, artist inventory setup, email newsletter setup/templates, and just about everything you need in your art business. We can also tutor you on various online systems for websites and email and getting up to speed on your software.

Let me know if we can hand-craft some business support just for you!

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