Artist on a Budget: Websites

Hi there!

Resident broke artist here. I'm sure you're always looking for ways to save money every month. I know I am. I've even parsed down my list of $10/mo or less "fun" items down to 2-3 (Kindle Unlimited is my new bae).

I wanted to redo my site, Fauna Fantasy, for a while now. I wanted it to be more ecommerce, less "hey look at my gallery!". I felt I have something to sell and I wanted it to be easy for people to buy.

After a gruelling 72 or so hours- including building a site from scratch in Squarespace (well, as "scratch" as Squarespace gets, I don't know CSS or coding), then ultimately abandoning it- I came up with some good, free solutions, so you don't have to! You can thank me with Facebook likes or cat gifs or something ;)

All totalled, it looks like I'll be spending a whopping $12.42/year per website. Unfortunately, I don't know of a way to get the domain name URL for free. I'll be the first person to let you know if you can though ;)

The Comparison

Exhibit A

Exhibit B

Pretty close, huh? A is the freebie, hard earned Blogger version. B is the Squarespace. To me, they're pretty close. And they both pretty much do the same thing at the end of the day.

Websites Used:
Check out the breakdowns of each below.

Host -
Hosting is a chore. It can be super expensive too. I had my own hosting somewhere for years. I had I did that whole schpeal until I wondered why I was paying so much, even $10/mo for something when I could get it for free. This really hit home for me when my GrumpyCat image got really big for a minute and my website crashed a few times. Super lame. For all they're faults, at least Blogger sites don't crash due to traffic. And you don't have to pay more if you suddenly get a lot of traffic. So... win/win.

Gallery -

I searched far and I searched wide. There are so many crappy gallery widgets around. Trust me, I tested the vast majority of them. They either look bad, they're costly or they look bad and they're costly. I wouldn't want to spend money on most of them, even if I was rolling in the dough.

The one I did find though was free, looked good and the watermark/credit was minimal and not disruptive. Admittedly, it wouldn't work great for art directors since you can't link to the images individually, but the goal of my site is to aim it toward potential customers, not getting potential contract work, so it's something I was willing to sacrifice. I put it front and centre to show people art quickly, since people tend to get bored within the first 3 seconds after visiting your site and will click away if you don't catch their attention. I just want them interested enough to scroll.

Store -

If they scroll down far enough, then they get to my store. Then in a couple clicks, theoretically, they could BUY something. You want this process as pain-free and fast and easy as possible. I also spent an inordinate amount of time trying to find a decent widget/blog based store set up that looked good, didn't require monthly fees (you could easily rack up $60-100/mo just on $10 charges, a storefront here, a social media icon set there.... yeah, no) and it needed to be easy to use. I checked out several. was a contender for a minute, but it was clunky, ugly, didn't catch the viewer's eye and required way too many clicks. So, Squareup it is.

I set up a Squareup store, to be used with the Square card reader, way back when. After enough searching, I refound it and even found my old abandoned store. The backend is a little confusing, there's a lot of stuff you have to click through to find what you need. Pro tip: You'll find most of what you need under Orders -> Online Set-up. Set up some items, give them Categories and bam, you have yourself a fancy little store you can embed. It's not perfect. It only allows you to upload one picture and it crops it without your control. Also, it mentions something about shipping only within the US for no real reason. Not sure what that's about, but there's ways around it, mostly by offering international shipping options.

Squareup may not be the most ideal if you are offering a LOT of products for sale as there is no real option to customise the widget in pixel-conserving ways. Perhaps if you knew HTML really well, but that is not I. But for a few things, I'd say 9-12 items, it still looks pretty good and I don't feel it detracts from your site.

Instagram -

Kind of the second gallery of the site. I figured it would be a good way to show more of the rough stuff, WIP's and experimental sketches that I may not want to put front and centre in the main gallery. It's engaging, interesting (hopefully) and gets people to keep scrolling down. Snapwidget is a super easy way to go from instagram account to copy+paste widget in just a few customisable clicks. Looks snazzy and might help you get more followers too.

Newsletter -

Tasty, tasty emails. Supposedly, getting emails on newsletters eventually gets you customers and money. It's still a working theory for me, but as it costs nothing to try it out, might as well give it a shot. Long time user of Mailchimp and I love it. It's easy, fast and you can do nifty things like embed a newsletter on your website to help collect those elusive emails willingly :)

Forms -

There comes a time in every artist's life when you need to make a form for your website. Maybe a contact form, maybe a little questionnaire, maybe just a small little bio blurb. Jotform is where it's at. They allow you to make a buttload of forms and unless you get some insane amount of people submitting to you, it's all for free. I've been using them since 2012 and the customisable form building has been invaluable for me. I like that the embed codes are just a couple clicks away, so you can just copy+paste into oblivion.

Social Media -

I guess .io domain names are all the rage now. Getsocial is nice because they offer a decent product for the price of free. They also are the kind of social media link bar that you can add YOUR Facebook, Twitter, Instagram accounts to- not have people share your content TO those sites. Don't get me wrong, easy sharing is great (yay), but if I have icons out and about on my website, I want it to be linking to my social media sites. Unfortunately, when you type "social media widget" in a search engine, it mostly comes back with the wrong (imo) kind of widgets. Of course you can pay for more customisability, but you can also hand code it, so the free Getsocial offering works for me.


I looked into a BUNCH of different options. I seriously considered Storenvy, but ultimately decided it was just a little too much hassle on the backend and wasn't nearly customisable enough for my liking without getting into paid-for templates and a bunch of backend, possibly tricky copy+pasting. Looking at HTML for too long kind of makes me angry. However, if it doesn't bother you, by all means, it's also a feasible, free option.

I went with the one page scrolling web design for now. I want as few clicks as possible to get the customer what they want from my site and I feel a lot of pages are mostly dead ends and will possibly make people close out the tab entirely without buying anything. Not everyone minds 37 open tabs like I do. I'll see how it goes and report back with info.

I realise the site is kind of a mobile nightmare at the moment. I'm not sure how to fix that other than hoping that people click "View Web Version" at the bottom. Blogger does not handle customisation very well automagically. There might be a way around this, but I need a break from website hell for a bit before I go looking into it.

Find any cool, free things to add to your site? Tell me about things you've found or ask my opinion on them. I've probably experimented with it at some point if it doesn't use much coding.

Hopefully this post was helpful to you and I'm happy to help more if needed!

Thanks for reading :)

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the info! You deserve a pile of kitties.