Hi friends, this is the first blog post in a new little ongoing series I’m creating that focuses more on the business side of making art rather than the actual art process itself. As much as I love creating art, the truth is that the majority of my time is spent doing business-related, non-art things that keep my online presence going and fuel traffic to my site and shops, which in turn generates revenue for me, which allows me to make more art! So I thought in addition to my art-focused tutorials, some of you may want to know about the business side of what I do.
I started my online marketing/blogging efforts from total square one. I knew nothing about how Internet marketing and social media works, what SEO even is let alone how I am supposed to use it, or how to even actually make a website. I hold no degrees in computer-anything, but I’ve learned a lot. I maintain my two websites, this one and my Stationery Shop myself and have done all of the design work myself. And while you could totally hire someone to make a website for you, I really think it’s important to learn how to do it yourself so that you’re not relying on anyone else to update things or add things when you want to. You can update your site whenever you want, and you don’t have to work your own business around some else’s schedule.
But enough about that for now, I’m getting way ahead of myself. Let’s start at the very beginning and go through a step by step process of creating your very own blog/website for your own creative biz!
***please note that this post contains affiliate links, which I will receive a small commission for any sales resulting from using these links. This is no extra cost to you, and it helps me keep this site running and the free tutorials coming, so thank you so much for your support! It’s greatly appreciated.
Why make your own website in the first place?
Before we jump into it, let’s talk a little bit about why I recommend having your own site. With the popularity of social media, it’s totally possible (and many people have) to create an online business straight from these sites. Your can set up an Instagram account, post pictures of your works and your process, get lots of interested followers, and sell directly to them via email/Paypal invoices or whatever other direct method you choose. This is completely doable, but I still recommend having your own site. Here’s why:
Your website is your home on the Internet. By having your very own site (and I really mean you own, self-hosted site. Not through a blogging platform like Blogger or Tumblr) you have full control over what happens. Social media and various blogging platforms can come and go, but your website will always be there. Maybe you want to just sell things in an online marketplace like Etsy instead? Well, it’s the same idea. What if Etsy went out of business? Or it decided that your shop violated it’s terms and erased it. Yup. Scary. All of your hard work would just disappear.
By having your own, self-hosted site, you have a home base. Sure you can stretch out and use Instagram and sell on Etsy, but you should also be selling from your own shop, and using these other channels to bring people to your main site. Then as social media changes you can branch out into other social media channels, and abandon other ones as they lose popularity. The point is that your business has a place that it will always exist, regardless of what happens to social media channels or online marketplaces.
When should I create a self-hosted site?
If you’re waiting to take the plunge into the world of self-hosted websites, then the time is now! Don’t wait for the “perfect moment” to start building your website, because there really isn’t a right time. At this exact moment as I type this my 15 month old is sitting on my living room floor feeding his Cheerios to our dog, while my toddler is playing with playdough directly across the dining table from me. The right moment is always just around the corner, but somehow never gets here.
I also suggest not waiting until your art is “perfected” or you’ve truly found your style, or you have a big enough fan base on other media channels before starting your blog. In fact, it’s even better if you start making your website before you begin building a following on Instagram or another media channel, because the pressure will be off you. You can play around and experiment with the design of your site and with topics to write about without worrying about anyone seeing your site in a less than pretty state. And trust me, when you first start out, it’s probably not going to be super pretty. My site has gone through many transformations before reaching its current design, and I’m still in the process of going back and replacing old ugly images with pretty ones.
How to Start
Alright, so are you ready to get started? Ok! The first thing you need is hosting. A hosting company provides the servers to put your blog up on the Internet. Think of it like the dirt to a tree. The tree is the main thing, like your actual website, but it can’t exist without the dirt to grow its roots from. This is what a hosting company does. I use FatCow, so I’ll take your though a simple process of setting up a hosting account with them.
First, click here to go to their hosting set-up. It will look something like the picture below, depending on the promotion they currently have going on. Click that big Sign-Up button.
After getting through the required information, you’ll find yourself at a page that looks like the one below. This is when you will choose your domain name for your website. A domain name is the address of your website, and with FatCow, when you sign up for a hosting account, they let you choose your own domain name for free. So for example, the domain of my site is ashleypicanco.com (makes sense right?) Going back to the tree analogy, think of the domain as the physical street address your tree (your blog) lives at. Try to pick something that makes sense for your business, like your business name or your own name.
After your domain is picked and you’ve selected a hosting plan that works for you, it’s time to design your website. There are different programs and ways to design a site, but I personally use and highly recommend WordPress. It’s a great interface, and there are so many design options available with it, you can really customize it and make the site you want. So if you look at the picture below, we’ll install WordPress onto your site (it’s also free). In your Control Panel, under Website Tools, you will see the WordPress button (blue circle with a W) Click that and you can install the WordPress script onto your site.
Below is the screen you’ll see to prepare for the installation. Simply select the domain you picked for your site from the dropdown (it will probably be the only option) and click the next button. (You don’t need to pay to have someone else do it for you, seriously, you can do this!)
You’ll then be asked to create a username and password for your WordPress admin. Make sure you keep track of both your FatCow hosting login info and your WordPress admin login info. After you fill out all of the needed spaces, WordPress will install onto your site, and you’re basically done! Hooray!
Now you can go to your WordPress admin and check out your site! So log out of FatCow (from now on, you will mostly be using the WordPress admin login, which I’ll explain below, instead of logging into your hosting account. That’s the beauty of using WordPress – you can design your site from a much more user-friendly interface). So keep your hosting account login info in a safe place, and let’s visit your WordPress dashboard! Woop-woop!
To access your wordpress dashboard, simply type in the domain of your address in your Internet browser address bar with /wp-admin after. So if your domain was “ilovepasta” then the address you would type is “http://ilovepasta/wp-admin” and hit enter/return on your keyboard.
You will be brought to the WordPress login form. You can then put in your username and password you created when you installed the WordPress script, and after logging in you’ll be brought to your Dashboard! Hooray you’re in! It will be auto-filled with things like a post, comments, and such so you can get an idea of how it all works much easier than if everything was blank.
I now suggest taking some time and playing around in your dashboard. Find out how it works like creating a new post, a page, looking at comments, and playing around with the appearance of your site. Get to know it, it’s your new baby.
Next time we’ll talk about how to make it pretty, so for now just explore and enjoy. And maybe crack open a bottle of wine and cheers to your official self-hosted website for your online creative biz! I know it’s going to be awesome 🙂
I hope this was helpful, and till next time, keep creating!