Marketing for Artists: Alyson Stanfield Gives Tips on Maintaining a Great Artist Blog

Alyson StanfieldAn artist blog is an important part of marketing for artists who want to get their work noticed. IndieMade founder Jennifer Rapp Peterson recently talked with Alyson Stanfield, founder of several sites that offer tips on marketing for artists, about how to develop a great artist blog — and find the motivation to keep your blog going.

1. How did you get your start on your artist blog?  Do you have an art background?

I started Art Biz Coach in 2002 and the Art Biz Blog started 2.5 years later in 2004. I started blogging because it was the buzz at that time. I always try to look into the latest trends so I can share them with my clients.

I took art throughout my life and started college as a painting major, but then switched to art history. I have an MA in art history and worked in art museums for 10 years as a curator and an educator before leaving the museum world to start my own business.

It has served me well. One thing that distinguishes my work is that I have lots of practice talking with all kinds of people – from collectors to curators to kids to the average person off the street – about art. I know how to help people relate to art. This experience has served my clients well.

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2. What is the #1 lesson you have learned during the process of running an artist blog?

This is easy. Listen to your audience. I learn so much from the comments on my blog, and I get ideas for new blog posts by listening.

3. Besides your art biz blog, what other free resources you have found that may be helpful in marketing for artists?

Art Biz Connection is another one of my sites, but it’s underutilized and shouldn’t be. I give away free marketing plans to artists who get together and support one another in their marketing efforts. My goal with this site is to provide a structure for groups and encourage artists to get out of their studios and interact with one another.

I also have at least 50 episodes of the Art Marketing Action Podcast available on iTunes.

4. How do you motivate yourself to post to your artist blog every day?

I don’t blog every day, but I do blog at least three to five times a week, sometimes more. I blog because I have something valuable to share and I have readers who are waiting to hear from me. I feel a responsibility to the community I’ve built at Art Biz Blog and I don’t want to let them down.

I wouldn’t find much motivation if the blog were all about me. It must be about helping people. That’s what gets me motivated!

5. What are your top three suggestions to artists just starting out developing a creative blog?  

Can I have four suggestions?

  1. Nail your studio practice. If you aren’t devoted to your work in the studio, you have nothing to promote. Or you might have something, but you won’t have much confidence in it because you know you don’t have much to back it up.
  2. Understand that your contacts are your #1 asset. The people you know are more likely to buy from you than anyone else. Don’t discount anyone! This also implies that you should meet more people. Network!
  3. Find support wherever you can – through artist organizations, coaches, or friends. Don’t think you can go it alone! Many artists don’t have support at home. If you do, you’re lucky and I hope you realize that. Make sure that your supporters (spouse, family, friends) know you appreciate them. The positive people in your life will get you through the rough spots and rejoice with you when things go your way.  Likewise, stay away from those who crap on your dreams. Don’t play into their negativity.
  4. Act like you’re running a business, because you are running a business. That means you have working hours and that you do stuff (like bookkeeping and marketing) that you don’t always love to do. But you do it because you want to earn a living and you want to be successful.

6. What advice do you give established artists trying to find a new website home?

Don’t do it yourself! I’ve witnessed the most hideous websites from artists, whom you think would know better about visual presentation. But they don’t. If you don’t know how to code and how to use metadata and lots of other behind-the-scenes tricks, you have no business building your own site from scratch.

The exceptions are sites that are created on a blogging or content marketing platform like IndieMade. They have everything already built in, so all you really have to do is fill in the blanks.

I don’t recommend blogging for everyone, because it’s a commitment that many people can’t live up to. If you can’t do it right, don’t do it at all. It just looks bad. But you can use a blogging platform, like IndieMade or Wordpress, as a site without the frequent updates of a blog.

You should understand with all of your heart that your artist site exists to promote your art. Every component of a site should show off the art. That means excellent images of your art, decent-sized images, and artwork on every page of the site. You should also make the navigation very easy for people to find what they’re interested in.

Most critically, artist sites should be spare in design because fancy fonts and graphics interfere with appreciation of the artwork. When I visit an artist’s site, I want to be wowed by the art. I don’t want to be thinking, “Dang! That logo sure is ugly!”

7. What question(s) should I have asked and didn’t?

What’s with the “no excuses” thing?

My book is titled I’d Rather Be in the Studio: The Artist’s No-Excuse Guide to Self-Promotion. I don’t accept excuses from my students and clients, because I see people overcoming them every day. There is no room for excuses in the highly competitive art world. You have to do the work if you want to be successful.

If you find yourself making excuses for why you aren’t working in the studio or promoting your art, call yourself on it! And then figure out a way to do it anyway. You must.

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