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The current economic conditions of the past year has put a general slow down on illustration-related businesses. I think artwork in general is viewed as one of those “unnecessary” things during rough economic conditions, and is often the first to be cut out of a budget. In talking with colleagues, I’ve found that some of the larger studios are barely “weathering the storm.” Many of them have had to lay off employees, cut down on spending, and in some cases switch their primary services to fit other categories and needs. One large architectural rendering company (which I won’t name here for sake of privacy) managed to get by this past year by moving more towards the Visual FX industry – getting involved in commercials and film. And another large firm (the biggest in the industry) had to cut their staff in half. And as for general illustrations and advertising, a lot of “traditional” papers and magazines have made a larger push to the online community – advertising revenue from their traditional sources have been cut in half.

To complicate matters, there’s a continual rise in outsourcing that adds additional strains to an already tight market. That’s just the way things will be unless other countries economies improve or the US government starts to put restrictions on international trade (which probably won’t be happening any time soon given all the other tasks they’re preoccupied with.) For now, all you can do is hope to provide the best service possible to the community and at reasonable prices – and hope that your clients and potential customers recognize and realize that you’re trying the best you possibly can.

But I’m not writing to complain about current conditions and bleak forecasts. In fact, I think that the economy has turned a page this past summer and things look better day by day. I know that I’ve had an increase of inquiries since the summer began – so much in fact that I’ve seen a reduction in job applications and in increase in project inquiries on a daily basis.

However, where some people see gloom, I see potential opportunities. Since things were slower than usual this past year, I took the time to work on various projects and improve my own skills.

At the top of the list was to redesign my main website, Lunarstudio. I had the following goals in mind:

  1. Improve search engine optimization and rankings.
  2. Improve the user experience by making less pages to navigate through.
  3. Add additional categories.
  4. Employ some of the newer gallery lightbox features such as Lightview.
  5. Add an additional row to my expanding portfolio.
  6. Relabel all images in a more intelligent manner.
  7. Improve upon older images and update additional content.
  8. Further clean up the code behind Lunarstudio.
  9. Make the option available to more easily view larger images.
  10. Relabel the directory structure in a more cohesive, search engine friendly manner.

This was done over the course of late May and early June, squeezed in between some architectural rendering projects I had done for some clients. As much as I haven’t been paid to redo my website, the results have been nothing short of amazing. Traffic for the website saw an increase in over 80% and continues to climb daily. My website is now listed in the top 10 of Google for over 100 search terms and keywords which drives additional traffic.

Now, you might ask yourself why the emphasis on search engine optimization? Well, I feel that a website is largely useless if people cannot find it in the first place. I don’t mean any offense by saying this, but plenty of website designers and owners don’t know the first thing about search engine optimization. They often think, that if you simply make a website then people will be able to find it on the web. That’s not true unless you send thousands of emails or stationary with your website stamped on it. And even then, it won’t improve your search engine ranking. In order to be found, you need to market yourself properly online. The other alternative is to simply rely on ‘word of mouth’ which can be a very slow and tedious process. However, when I started out, I wanted to make sure that my website would be seen and get noticed without having to resort to hiring marketing professionals.

But lets say that you did get listed in the top 10 for over 100 categories – you still will need a portfolio, a quality service, and the content to back yourself up. And I hope that’s where my attention to revising my portfolio comes into play. If you have a spare moment, please head on over to my Lunarstudio website and let me know what you think. Your feedback is always appreciated.

Time will only tell how good of a job I’ve done on the Lunarstudio revisions as well as my other ongoing projects. In this economy, I find that there is no excuse to sit still and wait for work to come walking through the door. That’s unfortunately not how the world really works unless you’re already famous. There’s plenty of things we can all do in our down-time – whether it’s looking for more work or trying to improve our own skills.