In the age of information technology, everyone has a website. Great Uncle Stu is on MySpace; Grandma Molly has a veritable online empire selling her special recipe chocolate chip cookies through her own internet store. Not only that, but animation sites like JibJab, Weebl's Stuff, and NewGrounds dominate the web with fresh, fun content that you can only find online. The internet is a whole new stomping ground where everything goes, and anyone can see you - anyone. There are numerous reasons to take advantage of that:
Having a website allows you to reach a broader audience.
You may be in Cleveland, but your animations can reach people in Pago Pago in seconds, when they might not have had any idea who you are otherwise. Optimize your website properly, make sure it's keyed towards search engines, and you could find yourself climbing the Google charts as more and more people worldwide find what you have to offer.
A broader audience means a broader client base.
There was a time when networking was limited to whom we could call and whom we could meet face to face, and beyond word of mouth and paid print and media advertising, those were the only ways to obtain new clients. Even then we were often restricted to the local market, and couldn't branch out very far due to the expense of getting our message into the next town, state, or country. The internet makes your animation business available globally, and when you can reach out and touch someone across the sea, you can find yourself raking in not just dollars, but pesos, euros, yen, and anything else you can think of.
Websites can hold more content than portfolios or demo reels.
How many times have you spent hours agonizing over just which pieces are good enough to take up limited time and limited space in your demo reel and portfolio? No longer. Your online web host may limit your space, sure, but you've still got a lot more room to work with online. While I wouldn't advise putting your entire collection up if some of your older work just isn't up to snuff, you can still add dozens of quality images that wouldn't fit in your portfolio, and include animation clips that didn't make it to the demo reel or offer full-length viewings of the animations that were cut to fit the reel's time span. You can also include other pages with more information about yourself and the history behind each project, which you wouldn't be able to fit on your resume or leave-behinds.
People are more likely to visit a website again than try to view your print or reel content again.
Portfolios and demo reels require a lot of effort to update, and generally aren't done so often - and few people would make the physical effort to view yours again when you do change them. Users love checking their favorite websites for updates, though, and are far more likely to become repeat visitors who surf over to catch a look at the latest animation you've uploaded.
Websites allow you to build a sense of community.
If you maintain a blog with comments allowed or install a forum, you can not only allow people to view your work, but also allow people to offer feedback and share their own projects, building a sense of community that will lure even more to your site.
Your web presence allows a single universal point of contact.
Although unlimited long distance plans and cell phones are making non-local calls less of a problem, there are still some who'd rather e-mail rather than call outside their area code to make contact with an animator they're considering hiring - and don't forget those international viewers and high international calling fees. Your website is a one-stop portal that anchors you in one place, easily accessible no matter where your users and potential clients are, with contact information always up front and ready.
Websites are cheaper than portfolios and demo reels.
My portfolio cost over $300 to put together, after paying for the leather-bound portfolio itself and paying for high-quality glossy prints at Kinko's - and I spend about another $25 on new prints when I update it. My demo reel averages about $50 every time I go through a periodic edit and have to produce a new batch of video tapes, CDs, and DVDs. The expenses add up into the triple digits over the course of a year.
My website cost $4.95 per year to register the domain, and $4.99 a month for 10GB of space and unlimited bandwidth with unlimited potential. That alone speaks for itself; my website is an online version of my portfolio that costs me nothing extra to update, allows me to display an exponentially broader range of work, and costs me less than a day's lunch on a monthly basis. It's worth the few extra dollars for the amount of freelance animation and design business that I gain from having a web presence.
Have you stopped wondering why you should have an animation website and started wondering how, instead? Then wonder no longer; head over to Jennifer Kyrnin's WebDesign@aboutguide.com, where she has everything you need to get you started on creating your own basic website. You don't have to be a master designer to create your own online presence, and make your animations accessible to the world wide web.