Artists: Are You Digitally Sharecropping?


digitally sharecroppingToo many artists are building someone else’s business.  They are essentially digitally sharecropping.

Are you one of them?

Sites like Etsy, eBay, Artfire, FineArtAmerica, and others (which I call Art Malls) make it easy to create the illusion of having a ‘web presence.’

When they upload all of their work to an Art Mall site, it makes many artists feel like they are finally getting their work online.

All you’re really doing is creating more content for these sites to sell, with no investment on their part. You could be doing the same thing for yourself.

Reasons to Have Your Own Website Instead of Using Art Malls

You are an artist, not a commodity. No getting lost in the crowd. If you are on one of these online art malls, you are one artist among thousands. Browsers will click right by all of your stuff because someone more interesting is right next to them. Even if you get featured as an artist of the day and have a few thousand people look at you, that attention is gone within a couple of days.

You can build your fan base. When you are on someone else’s website, you had better believe that they are benefiting more than you are. When they share a page with a friend on Facebook, that links back to someone else’s website. When they sign up for an email list, that list is owned by someone else, not you. With a little bit of work or a small investment of cash, you can build a site where people play directly with you, not with others.

You get your own domain name. If your website is something like then you are leaving a lot of opportunities on the table. A real domain name ( costs about $8 – $10. There’s no reason to not have a custom URL. In addition to it looking more professional, you will do better in the search engines.

Control over your look and feel. If you are a dark and brooding artist, why are you displaying your work on a site with cheerful, happy arts and crafts? You know that people’s reactions to art is all about context. They need to see your work in a context that makes sense. In online mall sites, you get a limited set of looks, with a very limited ability to change them.

Last week I had a client email me because her artist website was a mess. The company that she was with had made some changes to their websites and she didn’t like the changes that were made.

In addition, the company was keeping her mailing list hostage – she couldn’t export her mailing list if she switched websites.

If you’re using a template then your site looks like hundreds or thousands of other websites. People expect artists to value creativity and originality. Your site should differentiate you enough to make you stand out.

Also, most artist website templates already look like they were designed in 2000 with no updates since.

Non-flexible features. Even if the company just launched and they have every bell and whistle in their current templates, the Internet changes fast and you need to be able to adopt new technologies into your site as they come along.

Most artist website companies shoehorn new features into their sites in ways that are awkward and unwieldy. Also, some artist website companies try to be all things for their artists and they end up not doing anything very well.

It makes you look cheap. If you are selling $2000 original pieces of art, why do you have a website that looks like it cost $30? Your image has to match your market.

Since most collectors are wealthy and educated, they are probably going to expect something a little more sophisticated.

No access to the html of your site. In order to make real customizations to your website, you need access to the html files. If you don’t have access, you can’t change borders, colors, sizes, and where page elements are placed.

In addition, if you ever decide you want to move your website to another hosting provider or another company, you’ll have to start over from scratch.

Search Engine Friendliness. This is a tough one for most web designers. Quite often, if they are good at making pretty designs, they’re not too good with making sure the search engines find your site.

If you want to be found online, then you need to make sure that your site can easily be optimized for search.

How Do I Get A Good Artist Website?

I recommend hiring a professional website designer. Expect to pay $500 – $2000, depending on what you want. It’s an investment in your business, and it will pay off many times over.

If you can’t spend the kind of money that it takes to have a really great website built for you, then I highly recommend WordPress as a way to get a high-quality blogsite up and running.

WordPress is a free website building software that can have a site up and running in literally minutes.

You can easily transfer your WordPress blog website into your own domain and keep all of your current email lists and information intact.

It's a great way to start small with literally no investment of money up front, and then grow it as you can afford it.

And for more winning strategies, grab my FREE Video Training for Artists. You're gonna love this 3-part video series that will help you sell more art.

This Post Has 8 Comments



  2. Ronald Gillis

    Happy New Year,Gary.Do miss thyyte city.Lived there 10 years.
    I hear you,but I had very little money and went with FineArtStudiosOnline……..before I learned about WordPress.I checked it out and,at first glance,It looked complicated….I’ll check again.I do like the folks at FASO and the site looks great and has good SEO.My plan is to open multiple revenue streams by operating a Zazzle store for some commercial work as well as reproduction on products and I want a store to gallery link which requires(I believe)a separate site from FASO.They do have site design services and I could ask for an estimate….any thoughts?

    1. Gary Bolyer Fine Art

      Hi Ronald,
      Thanks for commenting. I am not familiar with the site that you mention here. But I know that there are a lot of good sites out there where you can build your own space. The main point when dealing with one of these is that that allow you to have your own domain name and you have full control of the html code on the site. Also, make sure that the price is very low. The reason I chose WordPress is that getting your own domain is only $17 per year. That’s very low price. So for the money and quality that you get nothing to me beats WordPress. It is highly flexible in the way it lets you grow your business. To me, it can’t be beat. Good luck with your store sites and let us know how you are progressing with that. Thanks again.

  3. Mindful Drawing

    Good advice inspires good resolutions for 2012.
    Wordpress is great and probably easy. Drupal is interesting too for artists.
    Wishing you a good New Year!

  4. venda de tcc

    Hello my friend! I want to say that this artficle is awesome,
    great wriitten and come with approximately all important infos.
    I would lijke to see moore posts like thiis .

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