My website is now a month old. Several months in the making I was daunted, nervous, excited, anticipating, a little tired, and pretty scared!
[Apologies if this post appears a little self indulgent. One of my goals is to chart my progress, perhaps helping those walking a similar path now and in the future. I think building, launching and maintaining a website is a pretty big deal for most people - not just photographers - so I'd like to share my experience to help give people some idea of what to expect.]
The thing I was most scared of was apathy, of no-one caring. Why pour your heart into something that no-one looks at? Apparently there's something like 700 million websites on the internet. Why on earth would anyone want to come and visit my website? But then, being a photographer is pretty daunting anyway. Last year there were a reported 6 billion images on Flickr. 6 billion! Just on Flickr. Why would anyone want to come and look at my photos?
I think the answer is if you've got something to say, either through words or pictures, you will always find people that are interested. It may not be millions, it may only be 2 (one of whom is a dog), but it's an audience, someone that is interested in what you do. To me, that's pretty damn cool.
Of course, we should not pursue our art for other people. We all want some acknowledgement, some enouragement and even some adulation but if we're only in it for that then we're probably on a pretty short road to disappointment. Regardless, knowing that someone other than yourself enjoys your creative output is pretty uplifting. And one of my ambitions for this site was to try and help people in my own little way. I hope I've done something that someone finds useful.
I thought I'd share some stats from the 1st month with you:
- Blog posts written: 23. Some of these were written pre-launch (11 of them to be precise), but that's still more than 2 posts a week.
- Words written: 15,682.
- Images uploaded: 17. Not all of them shot within the month of course.
- Total views: 2,217. Wow!
- Busiest day: 30th August with 456 views. This was the day Bruce Percy shared my workshop review and I also posted my Guide to Long Exposure Photography.
- Average views per day: 59. I haven't had a day where I've had 0 views (thanks mum!).
- Geography: visitors from 35 different countries, including Luxembourg, UAE and Estonia.
- My most popular posts: 1) Bruce Percy workshop review, 249 unique pageviews. 2) 10 Ways to Improve Your Landscape Photography, 90 unique pageviews. 3) Guide to Long Exposure Photography, 82 unique page views.
- Mailing List subscribers: 5.
- Total comments: 19. Thanks to those who have contributed!
- Total spam comments: 128. Where on earth do they come from and why? Thanks to Akismet for blocking all of them! My personal favourite "You are taking a risk unless Marijuana has power" - ok...
- Total number of prints sold: 0. If you look at my Prints page you might understand! I've had several friends enquiring about large prints for their houses though. I think the website has helped me look more "serious" or "professional".
- Total number of eBooks sold: 1. Yay!
- Total sales: £1.19.
- Total profit: £0. Profit? You're kidding right?! :)
What Have I Learned?
Quite a few things:
- Launching a website is relatively easy. If you have WordPress and a bit of tech nous it's pretty straightforward. If you want one, there's no real reason to be put off.
- Launching is the most important thing. Things will always evolve over time and things will never be perfect. It's better to get something good enough and change it as you go than to wait for it to 'be right' (it never will be). Don't launch something half arsed but don't over invest upfront. Why build Old Trafford when you've only got 13 people coming to watch you play? Get it good enough and then show it to the world.
- I enjoy writing. I was worried (and still am!) that I would start out with a flurry of activity and then run out of steam when the initial enthusiasm wore off. I'm still in the honeymoon period, but I'm genuinely enjoying writing posts, thinking things through (teaching - or writing - is the best way to learn things yourself), thinking of interesting topics and getting the voices out of my head.
- People will find you. Sure the interweb is a big place, but as long as you've got something to say and act like a decent, social being then you will find an audience for your work.
- It's not a competition. You always worry that people will beat up on you for not being good enough. I dreaded getting a deluge of "u n00b" and "your images suck" comments but I've had nothing but support. On the whole you should believe that people - even strangers - want you to succeed. Sure there will be assholes, but that's life so don't stress about it.
- Although photography is a pursuit of isolation, I've found sharing and engaging with other photographers very rewarding. I do like spending time on my own whilst out shooting, but the website has given me extra encouragement to get involved in the wider photographic community. I've made new friends in real life and online through Twitter, etc that make my photographic journey all the richer.
- My expectation of not selling any prints has been realised. On the plus side this wasn't for "you suck" reasons. It may have been a self-fulfilling prophecy. I didn't expect to sell any so I didn't invest time in a shopping cart (and my Prints page kinda sucks) or pushing prints on people. I'm cool with that for now, I think it will be a slow burner anyway. However if I expect to make any sort of money from photography I'm going to have to get serious on the business side soon, so that's something to work on over the next few months.
- It's given me ideas. I've got ideas of things I want to do to the site, for blog posts, for images, for locations, for ebooks, for future business that the website has helped me realise. I think it's to do with my RAS (Reticular Activating System), the more aware and alert you are to things the more you see them. It's kinda been a little like 'waking up' and seeing the wider world and its possibilities.
- It gives me somewhere to channel my creative energy when I'm not shooting. I can't shoot and edit all of the time, but I'm always thinking about photogaphy. This gives me somewhere to put those thoughts. Sometimes I feel conflict between 'doing photography' and 'working on my website', this was especially true with the work going in pre-launch. I tell myself that my website is a window into my photography and hat without my photography I have nothing (or at least no website!) so the photography always comes first.
- My writing is getting better - I think, or at least hope! I'm certainly becoming more aware of when I'm rambling without a point. I'm still trying to transition from my "matter of fact" teacher/manager voice to a "funny" friendly, coaching voice but that will come with time I'm sure.
In short it's been a promising start to my little corner of the internet. I've enjoyed it, I've learned stuff, I'm more engaged with fellow photographers and I feel I have a reason to be here. The stats above will surely suck relative to other sites, even similar sites to this, but the fact that anybody is interested in what I have to say here is surely encouraging. I'm actually pretty happy with how many views the site has received. I'd like to say a big thank you to everyone who has visited - both pre and post launch friends - and hope to share more good stuff with you in the future.
To anyone that wants to start a website and is in some way scared, don't be. You will find an audience and there will be people that will support you. It may not be an overnight success, it may not make you money (ever) and at times it will probably feel like an onus or commitment you'd rather not have, but if you feel the need to put yourself out there then just go and do it!