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And So She Researched...
For a professional artist - or any professional really - few facts are as universally agreed upon as that your website needs it's own domain. A short, unique URL that'll stick in potential client's minds and drive traffic. It seemed to be the next logical step in my journey to becoming a successful freelance artist. And as such, I was gonna take the decision very seriously. And stressfully!
I spent hours looking up all the options available to me for website building platforms, and for domain providers. I compared features and prices until my eyes were sandpaper and my nerves were frayed. I HAD to make the right decision, because I knew I'd be locked into it. Not just for the time period of the domain, but maybe forever, since I would rather stick with the devil I know.
As far as website building platforms, I've been using Weebly for a couple of years. I've made several websites using them, including two websites commissioned for clients. I like it for it's slick drag-and-drop interface, ease of use, and being surprisingly robust on a free plan: 10 free sites per account, no limits on the number of pages, and plenty of templates to choose from.
My two most important websites made using Weebly were my portfolio and my blog. And therein lies the issue that made me consider leaving Weebly for greener pastures: Weebly have no method for transferring pages between websites, or for merging sites (aside from manually copying and pasting each element on each page, which would take foreverrrrr). So my fear was, if I were to get a Weebly plan and domain, I'd only be able to afford it for one Weebly site, thereby losing all the blog posts, page views and goodwill I'd amassed on my existing sites.
So, I compared other options, and weighed all the pros and cons. Wordpress stood out as an option for building my website. I read posts by people singing the praises of really 'doing it yourself'. They talked about downloading the program, setting up a website, purchasing not only a domain but hosting as well.
And here's the kick: I was not ready to do that. Despite my progress on completing a Diploma in Web Development, I was not emotionally or mentally ready to try and build a site using this almost completely unknown software, and learn + buy + use hosting technology. It just made me freeze in fear. Maybe in the future I’ll reconsider, but not now.
I returned to the safe, familiar arms of Weebly. I resigned myself to just work around Weebly's shortcomings and start a brand new website, to display my art and perhaps do some blogging.
Give Me A D! Domain! Domain!
That led me to my next question: would I use a Weebly domain or purchase an external one? The research was, as I stated earlier, deep and tiring. This process was teaching me about things I didn't even know I needed to think about, like WHOIS and domain security. (Lazy explanation: If you buy a domain, your personal details go into a very public database, and could be seen by people that would use it for unwanted purposes, like spamming.) So, little old me suddenly has to weigh my data privacy into my decision too!
It seemed like the easiest decision to go with a Weebly domain. I only have to deal with one company. Don't need to make new accounts with anyone. Not to mention the possible, and very appealing, 21% cashback through Cashrewards. [If you click that link and sign up, you'll get a nice $10 in your account straight away, in addition to supporting me :) ] And at first, that just seemed like the cherry on top of their very competitive rates. My research said $19.95 per year for a domain, with the first year free. 19.95... in my native Australian Dollars, that would be a really great deal! That's what I thought it was, AUD. But I misunderstood. It was actually $19.95 USD, which converted to about $30.00 AUD.
Speaking of Things Going Wrong...
This was just the first of several misunderstandings. The other two were...
#1. I thought that there was an extra Weebly plan option, called 'Starter' between the Connect plan and the Pro plan. I had seen mentions of it on other sites like Hosting Advice. That was the plan I was drawn to, because it had the benefits of Pro like no Weebly advertising, but at a more affordable price of $8 USD per month. However, I discovered that this was an old plan that was no longer available. It was just extra unfortunate that I only made the realisation while going though the checkout process, meaning I had to quickly recalibrate and make a new decision.
#2. I thought you could connect a domain without buying any weebly plan. Some site, which sadly I can't find at the moment, led me to believe this was an option, and an enormously appealing one at that. Maybe I should have figured that this was false when I saw there was a plan called Connect. Still, disappointed to have that option struck out. In short, you must have a paid plan to add a domain to your Weebly website.
I reached the frustration point where I was like, "Fuck it! I'm buying the Weebly Connect plan for $5/month! (USD)"
So, I was on the fishhook. I'd purchased the plan. Now, would I get the $30 AUD domain provided by Weebly, or test my luck with an external domain provider?
GoDaddy was a company I’d hear of since they advertise everywhere. And with a $16.95 AUD yearly rate for my desired domain, it seemed to be a good way to go about things. Half the price of Weebly's domain, plus I could get 7% off with Cashrewards!
...Except I couldn't. My stress manifested into my world as a big, stupid roadblock in front of me. I got a redirection error when trying to use Cashrewards on GoDaddy. And to add salt to the wound, the error continued to occur in different browsers, and when using a different cashback website!
So that's when I just burst into tears. It was all too much for me and my general anxiety disorder. This led me to my 2nd 'fuck it!' moment. I pushed aside GoDaddy all together and settled for buying my domain through Weebly.
And, like a horrible repetitive nightmare, I ran into another issue. Even though my purchase of a Weebly plan was stated to include a year of domain for free, the checkout screen was showing the full price for 2 years!
So I had to send a support email to Weebly about that. They were prompt in correcting the issue, giving me the appropriate credit to my account. A small win!
So I attempted to purchase the domain again...
One Last Indignity Before Bed
And you guessed it! Another problem! I got the following error message after filling in the domain information form:
Domain registration failed.
This transaction has been declined (error: 471-domain).
My first guess was that this was due to insufficient funds in my account. Nope. A successful withdrawal was made, and immediately refunded. I retried, same error, same money out and in.
Resolving this issue took a bit longer. A three-day period of waiting for Weebly to get back to me. But then, they resolved the issue somehow, and I could finally breathe easy.
I, Jessica Amber, have a domain now! jessicaamber.com.au. Hooray!
Following Up, Several Months Later
I am mostly satisfied with Weebly. My site looks clean and as professional as possible given the fact I'm still learning all this professional-ness and marketing hoo-haa. I haven't needed to contact Weebly about any issues since that last problem.
I am very with the features Weebly offers. I like that I can edit the CSS of the website freely. I like that, when some features are missing, I can usually find an app to install for it, or write/copy HTML from elsewhere to embed. A lot of great code for my site has come from EditorTricks, including how to add a slogan under my website logo.
And I like that through doing all this, I am learning and growing, as an artist, coder, and general human being. Which I hope is a continuing pattern.
(Oh, and thanks to Cashrewards I got $19.62 AUD off my $66.00 AUD Weebly plan purchase :D)
I hope my journey in getting this website and plan helps you feel not alone in your quest to be a freelance artist. We all out here on the leading edge, doing it hard, but doing it nonetheless.
If you have any questions about what I went through, on using Weebly, or just want to chat and make an artist friend, plonk a comment in the box below.
✌ Peace, ❤ Love and ☀ Sunshine,