So many artists are struggling to get by with full or part-time jobs in order to pay the bills.
There are many of us out there, and we know that we can't rely on an online gallery to build up a customer base, therefore have to be more creative in order to build a business around doing what we love.
How do many of us start? We create an art blog. You're reading my blog now!
But the key question is, how do we create a successful art blog? How can we generate traffic and more importantly, how can we generate the right kind of traffic?
I talked to Dan, the power behind the successful art blog EmptyEasel to find out what his secret is!
1. Are you the brain behind EmptyEasel? I'd love to understand a bit about how the website was born?
Yes, I am. After graduating from college with an art degree in 2006, I began noticing tons of questions about oil painting on many of the art forums I belonged to. I'd been lucky enough to study under some excellent oil painters while in school, so I started answering questions based on what I knew. After a few months answering the same types of questions, I decided to start a blog about oil painting, and began pointing people towards my blog when I'd already written a post that answered their question. EmptyEasel (and all its other categories of tutorials, beyond oil painting) grew from there.
2. How long has the website been going, how has it developed?
I started EE in November of 2006. At first I was the only writer (it really was a "blog" at that point) and I tried to publish a new post every day. After about 2 years I opened it up to guest posts, then hired a few regular writers to keep the articles coming. Now I act primarily as editor, planning out the week's upcoming articles, sending out the weekly newsletter, and doing all the other stuff necessary to keep the website running.
3. What's the key to the website's success?
I think it's a mix of things. The timing was right, for one. Within a few years of starting EmptyEasel, the first wave of print-on-demand companies launched, and my reviews of their services brought me a lot of new traffic and cemented EE as a place to learn not just about creating art, but also about selling your art online. I branched out and started reviewing lots of online galleries and art website companies as well, and those articles still bring in visitors today.
Besides the timing aspect (which I wasn't in control of) I focused using good principles of SEO with every tutorial I published. At its most basic, "good SEO" just means using words and phrases in your post which you know that people will be searching for. So I made sure that my article titles had one or two search phrases in them (I always sacrifice catchy titles for longer ones) and did a few other things to make my blog posts do well in Google and other search engines. You can read more about that in my section on SEO for Artists.
And. . . it's a bit silly, but I also think the name, EmptyEasel, has helped. Never underestimate the power of alliteration in branding.
4. I really like the way that artists can be featured and contribute posts. How do you know what to write about next - where does your inspiration come from?
Originally I found artists by searching for them online (and that worked fine) but I wanted to streamline the process, so I wrote a few posts on EmptyEasel inviting artists to submit their own work to be featured. Now we get 15-20 submissions each month, and our featured artist writer chooses from those each week.
5. So many artists struggle to make money from their artwork alone and wonder what else they can do. For example, I can see that you have advertising banners - what revenue streams do you have at EmptyEasel?
EmptyEasel is entirely funded by advertising. The majority comes from Google Adsense, but a small amount comes from individual advertisers who pay for banners. I don't actually recommend serving ads on your website IF you're trying to sell your art (putting up ads just creates more opportunities for potential buyers to get distracted). However, if you're running a blog, and you have a decent amount of visitors each month, then putting up Google Adsense is a good way to earn a little extra money.
6. For someone new to the website - what do you recommend they do first?
Some really great tips here on how to develop and grow a successful art blog. From the humble beginnings of answering questions on forums and redirecting answers to the blog, through to hiring writers and getting submissions from artists eager for exposure.