Professional freelancers say that marketing yourself is the second most important part of being an artist, after making great art, and they’re not wrong. Until I figure out how to get this perpetual motion machine working, there are bills to pay and that needs money.
So far, my online strategy has been hit and miss, but mostly miss. I have Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Blogger, Instagram and DeviantArt accounts, but they’re hardly interconnected (and the less said about my YouTube account the better). I ditched my website as an online portfolio because it was updating it was too time-consuming, but all these disparate services aren’t doing me any favours on their own; I miss having a central point of reference and want a way to link them together.
- A portfolio site that’s easy to update
- A contact page with social media links
- A blog that’s easy to update
- A consistent theme throughout
DeviantArt offers a portfolio service, but if I want to remove the dA branding, use a custom URI or have more than one portfolio, I have to be a premium member. Its customisation options are limited and it doesn’t support additional pages or external links.
In the plus side, it’s easy to curate the images via a pre-existing DeviantArt account and the theme is clean and looks good.
Tumblr can be customised with some work, and I already have a script which updates it whenever I add work to my DeviantArt. I like the tagging and reblogging system, but since you’re supposed to tailor a portfolio to the job, that’s probably not as much use as I think it is.
Although I can choose which images to upload to Tumblr, removing them once they no longer show my best work could be problematic – I won’t have any control of the image’s distribution and, even if I remove the original, it may continue to circulate (this is more an argument against using social media in general, not a problem unique to Tumblr).
The third option is to use the SimpleXML library to scrape a Tumblr RSS feed and create a self-updating page of images, links, captions and tags, divorced from the Tumblr interface with no option to follow my tumblog or reblog the images. With a bit of PHP logic, I could even create different portfolios for different roles.
This blog is hosted by Blogger and I’m fairly happy with that. I have the ability to customize the theme, add custom pages and I can use a subdomain as its URI if I so wish.
I don’t know if I can scrape the Blogger feed the way I can Tumblr’s but it seems likely that, if I can, I would lose the archive widget. Since Blogger allows you to create custom themes fairly easily, it would be much better to drop in the CSS file for the main website (could I link it properly?).
The contact page would be a static page with my contact details and links to my social media accounts, perhaps with one or two of my most recent tweets or Facebook posts.
I’ve already made the most difficult choice – whether to trust my hosting to third-party services or not – with all the attendant concerns: I’m using someone else’s servers so they might close at any time, loss of privacy, loss of control, possible degradation in service (Tumblr is now owned by Yahoo!), changes in the terms of service, but a lot of these are issues I’d have with any hosting company and I’m simply not prepared or equipped to host my own website.
Splitting my site between multiple services is both a pro and a con – if one part goes down, I won’t lose everything, but maintenance might take different parts of the site down asynchronously.
The elephant in the room is WordPress. All of this could probably be done far faster and with less frustration with WordPress, but I’ve not used it before and I’m loathe to undertake a new learning project and start a new social media outlet when I really need to spend more time concentrating on the first most important part of being an artist.
Once I’ve got this developed a solid portfolio and done a few more shows and conventions, I’ll revisit the WordPress question, but not before. Besides, if I can put up with a free Angelfire website for five years, I can handle a less-than perfect site for a few months.
EDIT 28/10/2016: The website and blog have been migrated to a self-hosted WordPress site.