Author Archives: Susan

The art of business cards

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Do you have a business card for your art business? Does it represent you well? Is it easy to read? Your business card is a reflection of yourself, and your artwork, and may be the only item that someone has to remember you now, or a year from now. Maybe you might want to create a different size card for a more memorable and interesting experience. It’s all up to you, the artist!

Can you read your name from a distance? Are the colors too dark and interfering with your name? Your Art Card should be a good representation of you and your art.

Is it easy for someone to read your email address or find you on Facebook, Twitter and other social media? You can also create a card that is two-sided for more information.

Information that you may want to include:

Art Business Name (if your business name is other than your name)
Name
Phone
Cell
Website URL
Email
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram pages or other social media
Optional: Studio address

It may be worth it for you to have a professional designer design your logo and cards but if not, just design it yourself! You can do it easily by going to various business card sites. Don’t forget…your business card represents You and your Art. Keep your design clean, the focus should be on your art.

I highly recommend MOO.com.
Moo offers a service call Printfinity that allows you to select up as many photos as you want for the back of your card in one pack. That means you can carry your portfolio in your pocket. They have a super easy design tool to create your design online. Choose a template and upload your images and Voila! you have a great card. Visit MOO.com now!

Weekly assignment 1. Just do it!

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Are you one of those artists that procrastinates about updating your website? Does it makes you uncomfortable to talk about yourself or your artwork? Are you afraid to blog? I think we all feel that way some of the time. So the goal here is to lessen the amount of time you feel that way and get motivated to do it.

Set aside time each week to write something about your current work. Does it have anything to do with something in the news? How does it relate to work you’ve recently saw at an exhibit? What inspired you to do that work? Tell a story. Go outside your comfort zone. Be authentic. Make it your own.

Share it on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Just do it and see what happens.

6 Ways to Grow Your Mailing List

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The most common thing I hear is “no one is signing up for my mailing list”. Yes, it’s true that people don’t fork over their email address easily. But if they love your artwork they will subscribe to get invitations to exhibitions and to follow the journey of your success. Here are a few things you can do to increase your email list.

1. Don’t hide your subscribe form on your site.
Place your form above the fold, not in your footer. Don’t make your visitors scroll to find it. They aren’t looking for it. Make it visible. I suggest using a pop-up subscribe form like the one I’m using on this site. They can’t miss it.

2. Offer a freebee or run a monthly contest.
Some artists offer a screensaver of their art, something downloadable. Get Creative! Maybe offer a free print. A small print that you can send regular mail. For a small investment you can collect email addresses of the people who love your art.

3. Have a guestbook at your live events.
People who are at your events love your work. Have a guestbook for them to sign in. Don’t forget to prompt them to give their email address. I would love to find one that has a column for email. I created my own. You can also have a bowl to collect business cards. You can entice them by giving away a print at the end of the evening.

4. Volunteer to give an art talk at a Club or Organization.
This is a great way to get your art in front of potential new customers. Pass around a short form to rate your talk and include a field for their email address.

5. Network outside the arts community.
Join networking groups in your area. Get out there, bring your business cards, collect business cards and let it be known your art is for sale. Ask for referrals.

6. Add your subscribe form to your Facebook Profile.
There are apps for Facebook that allow you to connect your Constant Contact or Mail Chimp accounts to Facebook. Add it, then Promote it.

Now that you have emails in your list, send emails. Your list can get stale just sitting there. Each time you send an email you are cleaning out the emails that are no longer active.  Keep your list fresh by sending regularly.

Don’t forget to include a “Forward to a Friend” link in your emails. Your subscribers will help you get more subscribers by sharing your emails with others. Mail Chimp and Constant Contact both include social buttons for sharing and “Forward to a Friend”.  Please share ways you’ve grown your mailing list in the comments below. I’d love to hear the creative ways you’ve increased your mailing list.

Maintaining your database for optimal performance

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WordPress works hand in hand with a MySQL database. Maintaining your database is a difficult task if you’re not a programmer. But ignoring it not a great idea. With every change you make to your site you are adding more data. When you are experimenting with plugins and/or content, each version is being saved to the database. When you delete plugins not all the data is removed from the database. Your database gets bulked up and a bulked up database can slow down your site.

Clean-up your database

WP-Optimize is a free plugin that will automate the clean-up process. It cleans up post revisions, spam comments, and other extraneous information. You can also set it to auto clean your database once a week.

If your site is fairly new you probably won’t see a big difference in file size but if your site is a few years old you will save a lot of storage space.

Install WP-Optimize

Go to >> Add New in the Plugins section of your WP admin and search for WP-Optimize. Run the install. After the install you will have a new tab for WP-Optimize.
wp-optimize clean up options

I recommend the default settings. Make sure that Optimize database tables is checked under “Actions”. Now hit the “Process” button. It takes less than a minute.

To schedule regular clean-ups select the settings tab and select the General Settings as you like and Save Settings. Enable the Scheduled Clean-up for every week, every other week or every month and don’t forget to Save your Auto Clean-up Settings.

You will now have the peace of mind that your database is regularly maintained. Don’t forget to backup your database on a regular basis. Wp-Optimize only keeps your database clean. There are other plugins that you can use to backup your database and keep it safe. A free plugin you can use is WP-DB-Backup. You can schedule backups to be emailed to you as needed. This depends on how frequently you update your site. You should always backup your data before every WordPress update. If your hosting company does auto-updates on WordPress then it is imperative that you run scheduled backups, keeping your data safe!

Backing up your database

Schedule BackupsGo to >> Add New in the Plugins section of your WP admin and search for WP-DB-Backup. Run the install. After your have installed and activated the plugin you can find it under “Tools”. Select Backup and check all the tables you wish to include in your backup and click the button to “Backup now!”.

You can then schedule all future backups to be sent to your email address.

What is Akismet, should I be using it?

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After you install WordPress you will notice there is a plugin pre-installed called Akismet. So what is Akismet? It’s a comment spam filtering service from Auttomatic. Auttomatic was founded by the WordPress co-founder Matt Mullenweg.

Why is Akismet valuable?

You’ll find after your site is found by search engines it is also found by the spammers. You will start getting lots of spam comments. Ads for shoes, bags, viagra, etc. It can be a time sucker. Your email box will be filled with spam comments and you will be pulling your hair out trying to keep up with it. Enter Akismet! Akismet catches blog comment and pingback spam using their algorithms. This algorithm learns from the actions of other participating sites and can then identify that kind of content as Spam.

Activate Akismet

How to set-up Akismet in WordPress

Since it is already installed and located in the Plugins that first step is done. Go to the Plugins in your admin and Activate the Plugin.

After you activate it there will be a new menu item in your admin settings for Akismet. Go to the settings and click on the “Get your API key” button.
Akismet API key

You will arrive at the WordPress.com site to create an account. If you already have an account with them because you applied for a Gravatar, then use the same login. For highly successful artists running a business on the web, select the Business Option. But if you are using WordPress for your blog and not selling on the web, then you can name your own price. I would suggest at least the $6 a year option. Let’s continue to support this service.

Attaching an Avatar to your email address

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Attaching a what?….An Avatar?

We all know James Cameron’s “Avatar”. The avatar was a representative of the person used to facilitate communication with the indigenous Na’vis from the planet Pandora. So an “Avatar” on the internet is a photo representation of you in the digital world.

If you read blogs and occasionally comment on blog posts you might notice that some of the other commenters have a photo associated with their comment. This is very good if you have a blog. You don’t want to have the default avatar when you reply to a comment on your own blog. This avatar is connected to your email address. Every time you comment on a blog post, sign-up for a forum, or some membership sites using your email address, your photo will be used. This is a great personal way to communicate.

How do I create an avatar? With Gravatar.

A Gravatar is a Globally Recognized Avatar. You upload it and create your profile just once, and then when you participate in any Gravatar-enabled site, your Gravatar image will automatically follow you there.

You will need an account at WordPress.com. Don’t confuse WordPress.com with YOUR site. You have a self-hosted WordPress site, not a free blog at WordPress.com. It is a good idea to have an account at WordPress.com so you can not only sign-up for Gravatar but sign-up for Akismet as well. More on Akismet in another blog post.

gravatar tip

Let’s get started!

Go to Gravatar.com. Click the sign in button in the upper right corner. On this page you will find the “Create an Account” link. Use the email you want to associate with your Gravatar and select and username and password. Upon sign-up you will receive a confirmation email. Activate the account and then sign-in. You will then be prompted to add your photo. You can choose from your computer’s hard drive, an image on the internet, or an image from your webcam. Browse and select your photo. It allows you to crop the image into the required square. Rate your image, I think this is silly but maybe necessary in today’s world.

Your Gravatar image should be connected with your email address at that final stage. You’re done. Happy Blogging!

Promoting your art with video on YouTube

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Recently I came across an artist who uses YouTube to promote her art. Gwenn Seemel’s videos explain her process. You get a glimpse into her world and see her work in it’s evolution. Promoting your art with video is a perfect way to show collectors your evolution, your past work, current work and your thoughts on the future of your work.

So how can you use video to promote your artwork? Watch Gwenn’s video and get some inspiration.

Gwenn Seemel’s artwork and books can be found at http://www.gwennseemel.com

How to set up a static home page in WordPress

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A static home page in WordPress is very easy to set up. You do not have to live with the default blog style home page. Artists, in particular, need to show their art in an interesting way. You have just seconds to catch the interest of your visitor. Wow them with your art.

Here’s how to set up a static home page in WordPress
1. Create a new page and use the title you planned for your Home page.

2. If you will be including a blog in your site, create another page called Blog.

3. In the admin so to Settings>> Reading.

4. Use the drop-downs to select the pages you created. Don’t forget to save.
a static home page in WordPress

Best SEO Plugin for WordPress

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WordPress does a pretty good job with basic SEO functionality in it’s core but with tough competition you need to do some optimization. This wasn’t the first SEO plugin I used when I started building sites with WordPress but I’ve since learned why this is the best SEO Plugin for WordPress.

WordPress SEO by Yoast

This plugin helps you learn search engine optimization. It grades your page as you build it. You instantly see where to improve your content. It includes fields for the focus keyword, SEO title, and Meta description.

SEO Plugin for WordPress

Color Coded

As you’re drafting your page or post it shows you what’s working and what’s not. Keep editing and saving your draft and watch the items turn green.

Page Analysis

Refer to the page analysis tab for hints on how to improve your SEO. Even if you have all green the analysis still shows more room for improvement.
SEO Analysis

These are important on-page settings but there are other global settings for this plugin. You can set a default SEO title and Meta Description, assign Webmaster tools for Google, Bing and others, auto-generate a XML Sitemap, add breadcrumbs, and control Canonical Settings. Some of these are a little advanced, I admit, but there is more than enough documentation at Yoast.com to get you started.

The videos included with our Hosting Packages also include a walk-through of WordPress SEO by Yoast. Click here to download the Plugin or search plugins from within WordPress by searching for WordPress SEO by Yoast.

If you have any questions, add a comment below.

Do you have a XML sitemap? You should!

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So what is a XML sitemap? It’s a document that lists all your web pages with their priority so the bots can more intelligently crawl your site and index the pages. Sitemaps do not boost your search ranking, but allow search engines to better understand your website.

Sitemaps are great for new websites and blogs. Without one it will be difficult for search engines to discover all of the post and pages. Sitemaps improve the visibility of your site to search engines. With more pages indexed your traffic will improve.

Generating your Sitemaps

Generating a XML Sitemap for your site is easy, there are many sites that can help you create one. I recommend using xml-Sitemaps.com.

Search Engines and Sitemaps

Your xml sitemap needs to be located on your server. After you have uploaded the sitemap to the server, you have to submit the URL of your sitemap to Google, Bing and Yahoo.

Google: Sign up for a Webmaster Tools account and submit the URL to your sitemap.
Bing: Sign up for Webmaster Center within your Window Live account and submit the URL to your sitemap.
Yahoo: Sign into Yahoo and insert the URL in the Submit Site feed field.

WordPress Users

There is a plugin called Google XML Sitemaps for WordPress that will generate your sitemap and keep it up-to-date as you add new pages to your site. WordPress SEO by Yoast also has a XML Sitemap Generator as part of the plugin. SEO and XML Sitemap plugins are another reason I highly recommend WordPress.