While third party sites like Etsy or Society6 can be helpful just starting out, we STRONGLY advise you build your own independent site to provide your audience with a controlled, branded experience that’s only about you and your work— there is a lot of power in that approach.
By creating your own website you’re elevating your work to look more professional and as a result, able to control the user’s experience for your audience -- aesthetically continuing to establish your brand and voice, and more nuanced interactions and flow through your website, artwork and content.
At first it may seem like third party sites are only offering benefit by bringing shoppers your way, when in fact those shoppers belong to that site.
Let’s use Etsy as an example:
On Etsy a customer may buy from you, but they’re buying through the branded experience of Etsy and that’s likely how they will think of the transaction. Have you ever heard someone say, ‘I got this on Etsy.’ to answer an inquiry about where they bought something? That conversation may help Etsy stay top of mind, but we want YOU to stay top of mind.
You should create a site that will make your customers think of you, experience your brand, follow you on social media, and leave you with their email address so you can maintain sustained interactions with them even after they’ve left your site-- hopefully converting them into a repeat buyer!
Another benefit to having your own site is that when those eyes are on your site, that attention is yours, and not within a mass category like “paintings” on a third party site where your work is displayed among thousands of others within that same search category. On your own site you’re not competing with other artists!
We did a lot of research before concluding definitively that Squarespace is the platform we recommend for Artist Websites. There are lots of platforms out there (and many differing opinions on this matter!) but we tried them first hand, weighed the pros and cons, and ultimately chose Squarespace to both host The Studio Source site, and why we continue to recommend this platform to our Artist Members in our Websites for Artists Foundation Course.
On the spectrum of website builders, from the simplest, most basic, to the most complex, Squarespace lives somewhere in the middle. An all-in-one platform, combining your portfolio + blog + e-commerce, with beautifully designed and easy to use templates.
For visual artists, its emphasis and priority to aesthetics and its minimalism approach, best shows off and elevates your work— keeping it at the center stage.
All templates function clearly and effectively, as responsive designs that work beautifully on desktops and mobile platforms.
The backend user experience is uncomplicated and intuitive, even for the most inexperienced web designers. No coding is necessary (but can be added if you’re feeling so bold!) and is all drag + drop.
Built-in features like newsletter signup forms with Mailchimp integration, a blog, and social media promotional options makes your job so much easier! You don’t have to piece together the different features (and pay more for each one) they are all included! That helps keep your monthly expenses low! (Expect to pay about $30/month for your Squarespace subscription depending on the plan you choose — comparable, or lower than most other options.)
For what it’s worth, we are NOT sponsored by Squarespace — just big fans. Allie has used her Squarespace site for the past five years, and built a thriving business from it! The website builder landscape is constantly evolving and we strive to stay on top of all the latest trends and options, and truly believe this is the best option on the market at this time! If that changes — we will let you know!