When I first started my art business, I considered just using Instagram and not actually hosting my own website. I mean, it's cheaper (free!), right? And websites are a pain! Also Instagram is so popular, people are likely looking for me there anyway. Right?
I also knew that even though I am very technically literate, creating my own website using the most common tool, Wordpress, was something I would have to spend time learning and updating. Time I could spend elsewhere.
But I want to explain why not hosting your own site is a problem.
First, even though Instagram is much cheaper than hosting your own website, that may work against you. As the saying goes: "If you aren't paying, you are the product and not the customer." Free social media profiles should never be the main source of your presence on the web because you have very little control over the website. Instagram won't even let users post links with images! Your control is limited and your access to others, even those who willingly chose to follow you on the service. The algorithm chooses who sees what content and if Instagram doesn't think your latest post is newsworthy enough, it won't display it to many of your legitimate followers. The same goes for Facebook and any other social media website.
There are a number of free blogs that you may consider starting with, even Wordpress.com. But remember that these free blogs also control the styles and content and maybe reach of your content.
Creating a profile on a merchandising site such as Etsy or Shopify (or even Amazon) will give you a way to sell content but again can be limiting to the types of content you can upload.
And on all of the above websites, what if you have a problem? Technical support for websites that you are not paying is notoriously bad. As an example, I recently had a problem with Facebook and Instagram advertisements. I recently wanted to create an advertisement for Curiouskirby.com on Facebook, but ran against a problem. My employee had just run some ads for plessas.net which had been flagged as unusual by my bank since previously only I had run the Facebook ads. I approved the ad purchase, but now Facebook had marked it unusual and would not allow advertisements from my account. I submitted a trouble ticket to them but still haven't been able to run ads for either company and I have no idea when that will resolve. And I have heard that sometimes account profiles will be limited, or Paypal and Etsy may flag something suspicious and take a long time to resolve it. Imagine if someone maliciously reported your content as spam, even though you submit proof you are legitimate, you may be down right at the moment when a customer needs your assistance.
You also may want to create a newsletter (high encouraged!) and that newsletter should have a home that you can control.
But creating and maintaining a website is difficult, right? Not only do you have to pay for the domain and website hosting, now you have to pay an admin to run the site and every single change in content will require more payments to the admin...
No, it doesn't have to be that hard. I am going to give you three options for websites that you can update yourself. Two of them are simple drag and drop designs that require no technical acumen and even though they are simple, they also have great tech support and will help you design the website. In general they also can help you create a store that connects directly to your bank and can create email newsletters (although I would suggest using some of the cool newsletter tools that I will blog about in the future). They will also help you get your website into the format that is most easily digested by search engines such as Google so you can be found more easily in search results.
Wix is the service I recommend most. It is the service that this website and kirbyplessasfineart.com are hosted using. It is very easy, drag and drop. You choose a template you like and then go in and change it to fit your desires. You do have to go and click every link because there are settings all over the place, but once you get the hang of it, it's very easy to use. I am currently considering changing this site completely and I know that if I decide to do so, it will be as painless as possible.
This site is used by many many artists and is designed specifically for artists. Very much like Wix, you can choose a template and quickly set up your shop. Even though I haven't personally used it, I feel I can recommend it because every artist I know who uses it loves the service and says great things about their tech support. Additionally, they have a great newsletter!
Squarespace is on this list, although they can be a bit more difficult to use. I do have plessas.net on Squarespace and it is a very sharp looking service. They have great tech support, but they do require more work. You won't need to know how to code, but they require more formatting within each section. So unless you are using the exact layout of the template, you may have to learn how to use their spacers system to get everything to look right.
In the end, having your own spot on the web will guarantee that should things go wonky in social media or anywhere else online, you will have a home for your customers to see and you can make it look exactly how you like. There is nothing wrong with putting your content elsewhere online as well, but make that content direct everyone to your own website so that you can remain in control of your online presence.