Sunday, July 12, 2009

Free Web Exposure for Woodworkers

There are many on line opportunities to find new customers for woodworkers who don't have their own website, and even for those who do. Social networking is the new advertising for many individuals, the trick is to have an understanding of the rules and find out what works best for you.

Even if you don't have time to learn or the money to hire a professional to build a website, you can still have a web presence for little or no up front cost.

Free photo hosting sites are one of best way to get your work out to the world, assuming you have good photos that represent your work. Bad photos do more harm than good, so be sure any images you put out to the world wide web represents your work at its best. Your images may be the first exposure someone has to your work, make it a good one.

One such free photo and networking site is Flickr.com. But be warned, Flickr is explicitly for non commercial uses, any outside links or sales verbiage in your photo's descriptions will have you removed from the site, often with no warning beforehand. You can however put your website or contact information in your profile so people can find you. Do read the terms of any site before becoming a member.

Flickr allows you to upload up to 100 MB worth of photos and videos for free (and unlimited if you pay their small yearly fee for Flickr Pro). If you consistently use relevant tags for your images, they will end up in search engines such as Google images. Paying for Flickr Pro also gives you access to statistics, so you can see how people find your images.

You can't just post an image and run with Flickr, or any other social networking site for that matter, if you want a lot of exposure. Flickr has groups and allows others to comment on photos. You can add your images to relevant groups and comment on others' photos, as well as following other people as "contacts".

Even if you are not interested in doing the leg work, Flickr and other photos hosting sites such as Picasa and Photobucket, allow you to have a site url or address to point your customers to if they ask to see your work on-line.

Another option is a free blog site such as blogger.com, where you can upload images with text, and whatever widgets you like. The learning curve may be a little steeper than Flickr but it's also free. Blogs also give you a url to point customers to, and if you like to talk about what you do, it gives you a platform in which to explain the nuances of one wood lathe over another, if you so desire. For best results, include keywords, labels or tags (all the same thing, depending on which blog site you use).

Another way to get out there on line is to join a forum. It doesn't have to be about woodworking, it can be pretty much about anything that strikes your fancy. When posting on line in a forum, be sure to put your web address (url) in your signature, if the forum allows it. This actually gives you a lot of free exposure and will help search engines recognize your website.

Finally, one option if you don't have a website is to simply buy a domain name and forward it to your free site on Flickr or Blogger or wherever site you wish. Now a domain is different from a website, think of it as the address in a phone book, rather than the location of your business. You can buy a web address that is simple to remember like 100woodworkers.com and point it to an existing website. A domain usually point to a website that you own, however it is standard practice now to point to other sites as well. You can even have multiple domains point to the same site. Before you rush out and buy domains, be sure to check with the company if they offer free domain forwarding like GoDaddy.com. Some hosting companies do not offer this, or charge a fee.

If you have time and inclination, more free sites to look into are Myspace, Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter and the selling sites Etsy.com, 1000markets and Artfire.

When in doubt, remember to find the best professional you can afford to help you with your site. You may be able to build a cheap site using a template driven company, but often times these sites look like they were built with a template, and don't inspire confidence in the content. Remember to always put your best foot forward on line.