My art blog turned 2 years old this week! So, in celebration, I thought I’d write a feature on how to start an art blog. It is based on my own experiences, mistakes (yes, there are many) and some successes too.
You see, since starting to blog about art in Birmingham (and now beyond) I have been on an incredible journey. I have talked with talented artists, had drinks with a dinosaur at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, blogged for the BBC, written text for museum exhibitions, been featured in a Channel 4 art documentary, and contributed to magazines about fine art.
More recently, I have even started to make money from the blog itself. What started as a hobby has surreptitiously taken over my life!
So, here’s my advice for starting a blog about art.
1. Find a focus for your art blog
Why do you want to start a blog? What are you going to focus on? Will you write exhibition reviews, or do you want to share your own artwork? Make a list of potential blog post topics which you’d want to write about. Are you motivated enough to invest your time in this? Is there enough content for regular features on your blog? These are all crucial considerations.
I decided to start a blog about art in Birmingham for 5 main reasons:
1. There’s a really great cultural scene in the city, with lots of exhibitions, museums, galleries, art fairs and auctions.
2. No one else was really writing about art in Birmingham. No newspapers, magazines and very few other bloggers.
3. Art is what I love. In my free time I visit museums and galleries, research new artists and collect art. I studied art history at university, so I feel like I know (mostly) what I am talking about.
4. I wanted to share my experiences with other people and encourage everyone to access the arts.
5. I needed a creative outlet outside of my job.
I felt like I had a real reason to start a blog, as well as focus to it: art in Birmingham. The rest is (art) history!
2. Bag yourself a blogging platform
Not that I have favourites but, well, WordPress is excellent! I really like WordPress for 2 main reasons: it’s easy to use and it’s free. It was recommended to me by another blogger, and I am passing this advice on. I could soon see why it’s the most popular option for a free blogging platform. I was able to set my blog up in no time at all and customise it creatively.
3. Decide on a domain name
The first thing you will then need to do is set up a domain name. It’s your identity and brand online, so start thinking about this as soon as possible. Shorter is better, as is easy to pronounce! I decided to opt for my name, which is another option. Now, by default your free WordPress address is yourblog’sname.wordpress.com. But I think it’s worth paying a small fee per month to make this more personal, professional and make it your own with a .com or .co.uk.
How do you do this? Login to your blog’s dashboard, click the arrow beside Upgrades in the sidebar, and select Domains. Enter the domain or subdomain you want to add to your site in the text box, and click Add domain to blog. If you entered a new domain you want to register, WordPress will make sure the domain is available and then present you with a form to register the domain. Enter your information, and then click Register Domain. Done!
4. Select a simple but striking theme
Next, you’ll need a theme.
WordPress has thousands of themes! So, try them out and see what looks best for your blog. As you’re setting up an art blog it will need to be aesthetically pleasing. You don’t want it to look like a boring business website. I tried out around 30 themes before selecting mine. I knew when it was the right one and I receive lots of compliments for my blog’s appearance. It was worth investing the time in this decision.
If you’re an artist, this is your portfolio. So, which theme best showcases your artwork? Just like in a gallery, you don’t need it all on show, so be selective about what features on the homepage/different pages.
5. How to write an art blog post
When I first started the blog I wasn’t sure how to write a blog post about art. I had written lots of academic essays about art history but these were all pretty dry and not the most engaging to read. I wanted my blog to be accessible to a much wider audience, and encourage people to visit art exhibitions. I realised that I needed to change the way I wrote.
So, to write about artwork for a blog post you need to have fun. Engage your audience. Inspire them. Include interviews with artists, quotes from curators and add captions to any images included.
Are you an artist? Include personal insights into your practice, shots from your studio, sketchbook drawings, and advice for other artists. You are selling your brand.
Break the blog post into subheadings, and include a catchy title if you can think of one.
Lists are always popular e.g. as well as ‘How to’ articles such as this!
And make sure you include some high resolution and attractive images, usually around 3 or 4 per blog post.
If you’re bored re-reading the blog post, your audience will be too. So, keep it fast-paced and interesting.
Finally, proofread each blog post before publishing to minimise grammatical and spelling errors that may make your blog less easy to read.
6. Your first article
You’re all set up but nervous about starting. My advice for your first blog post: just write it. You can edit it later. Reach out to an artist you’re interested in, cover an exhibition you loved or hated, ask a curator for an interview, introduce your own artwork. I find that people are usually willing to help you and want to be featured on an art blog! I wrote up lots of interviews with gallery owners or curators in my early blog posts. Plus, if you write about an artist or gallery’s show, they will also share the content with their followers.
My first article was far from my best. The images are all over the place, there are no captions on them, and the formatting is off! However, I soon developed my own style. I look back at this and see how far I’ve come. So, just get stuck in!
7. Let your blog develop
Which articles are the most popular? Which do you enjoy writing the most? Let your readers and own experiences guide what you write about. I now include theatre reviews, covering art and wider culture in Birmingham. I have also found that arts careers advice is a popular topic, such as ‘How do I get a job in an art gallery?’. While sticking to my blog’s focus, I take into consideration what people want to read about and what content can actually help people.
8. Invest in a decent camera
You should also invest in a good camera. This means you can include your own images from exhibitions, events, art galleries and artists’ studios. Of course, once you are on press lists, organisations will send you over high res images too. But adding your own photos is much more personal.
9. #Promote your art blog
Social media is obviously key to sharing and promoting your blog online. I set up a Twitter account to promote my blog: I followed museums, galleries and curators across Birmingham. I also joined blogging communities online. I then started to push out my content on Twitter.
I soon learnt that Saturday afternoons are the worst time to post on Twitter. People are generally busy then (although I use that time to blog). Instead, Sundays are much better, especially in the evening.
I came across localised networking hours such as #BrumHour, which is a great way to share your content with an active audience from your area. Other art and museum blogger groups and hours include #MuseumHour and #CraftHour.
Also, make sure you USE IMAGES. Tweets without images receive far fewer retweets and likes. I found this out from experience.
Once I had mastered Twitter, I moved on to Instagram. This obviously suits sharing images of artworks, as does Pinterest. And for any arts careers-related articles, I share my blog posts on LinkedIn. On Facebook I have joined blogging communities such as Brum Bloggers, where you can collaborate with other blogs and find opportunities through brands seeking bloggers.
The blogging community is welcoming, so make the most of it.
10. Sprinkle some SEO magic on your art blog
If you want to rank in the top art blogs then you’ll need to include some SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) magic. I didn’t start to do this until recently, and have seen a real difference in my page views from organic traffic.
Put simply, SEO allows people to find your art blog from their search terms. You will need to start by researching what people enter into the search box e.g. how to start an art blog!
There are plenty of free SEO tools out there, including Google AdWords Keyword Planner. You can get search volume and traffic estimates for keywords you’re considering, such as ‘sell art online’ or ‘best places to buy art in Birmingham’. If the terms are popular, you then need to include them in your blog post on the topic.
So much has been written on SEO, and I recommend checking out advice such as this beginner’s guide from Moz:
11. Don’t give up!
When I first started my art blog out I was getting just a handful of readers for my posts. They were probably (definitely) my friends and family who I had emailed the link to. It has taken two years for me to receive over 10,000 views per month.
So, don’t be impatient.
12. How to monetise your blog
Blogging is not a get rich quick scheme. But, in time, you may be able to make money from your blog. There are two main ways in which I do this:
- Affiliate marketing is the easiest way to make money from your art blog. I have an account with Amazon, and make a small commission on books and other products sold via links on my blog.
- I also make money by using the blog to showcase my writing. I take on paid projects, writing for artists, museums, galleries and magazines. The blog is, in effect, my writing portfolio. Want to work with me?
If you’re an artist, you can use the blog to sell your artwork online. For example, include links to your Etsy store, or offer commissions, or link to a gallery selling your art.
Eat, sleep, blog about art!
If you’re still reading then you must be interested in starting an art blog of your own! Do it! If you put yourself out there, you will be presented with some great opportunities to share your love of art, discover new artists and maybe even make some money. Just remember, blogging can take over your life, so eat, sleep and blog. Edit. Repeat.
And invest in a coffee machine. This is the one I bought which has saved me a fortune in coffee shops!
Best of luck with your very own art blog!