Thursday, July 23, 2015

Illustrator, Cartoonist and Marketer

We do various types of Illustration and Cartooning, amongst other work as can be seen at our website Art & Technology.

But marketing has always been an issue.  We do this work as an independent freelancer and are not part of any type of agency and so mostly rely on our website. That means that the people that work with us have gone out of their way to find me, or have been referred to me by another satisfied customer.

In some cases it is a printing or marketing company that has seen my artwork from one of their clients and then followed up with me for their own projects.

What this has taught me over the years is that there are a lot of potential clients out there that haven't looked for us, don't know how or haven't even considered the idea of looking for us.

If that is the reality, how do you do something about it? They call it Marketing.

Website Find-ability
Our first approach has always been to show up in a web search for text and for images. That has meant presenting images on our website with reasonable image file names, surrounded by related text on a high ranking page.

First page of Google Web search and our results

But an issue here is what do potential clients search for?  The above search for "Car Caricature logos" gives a few sample images and our site in web search.

First page of Google Image Search and our results
And we show up for Image search too.   But why those images? They aren't the best sample on our site.  No idea, Google selects what it wants!

If you change from car, to bike , to truck, to dragster to muscle car, you get similar types of results, but this changes over time, and I believe what country you are in, related to your location.

In the case of what we do, our location is irrelevant, as we work all with email anyway, but we cannot stop Google from favouring a nearby service, and not us.

But the search problem for a possible client is still "keywords".  I can only guess as to what people search for and kind of rely on Google understanding a search for "custom car shirt designer" as what we do too.
We do show up for that as well, but not as the first choice.  Is that a better phrase? Maybe, the problem is that there are dozens of them, and putting them all in is bad, as it is a scamming technique, and Google doesn't like it.  The press about keywords is that you try to "own" some of them in search, but that seems unlikely in what we do.

Ok, so if a client searches on the Web or YouTube, they may find an image from us that catches their eye.  Maybe...  I'm not the only game in town, but try to have a unique look and niche.  Our images may also show up from a Skimmer site that steals images from other sites. I have to make sure anything I put on the internet NOW has our url, and a watermark that cannot be removed.

If you don't watermark your stuff, like I didn't at first, this happens;

People take and use your non watermarked images!
At the least, you want people to contact you about something they would like to use!

Can a niche be too small?  Yes! 

Means not enough people need your services, but at the same time it isn't worth while being a "Business Logo Designer" as there are millions of them with starting prices at $5!  Costs me more than that to win any project......

The 2015 changes by Google for Mobile search, and then another change related to "HOW TO" sites really impacted us from April till June 2015.  It seemed they cleared their search caches or something that took many months to settle down again.  As the above shows, we are back in search results at the end of July, but I think they have made searches more location specific. It is just difficult to test.   I feel this because most of the recent requests have been from within Australia, which is very different from the historical trend.

Our YouTube Channel  has also been the source of a couple of contacts. But I only know this as the email has had a video screen grab in it.  Google has redefined view statistics and we have seen our channel hit with a steady, linear, decline (some 35% compared to the previous month , which just looks like a code algorithmic effect to me) in views over the last 12 months and now I don't consider it a significant source of discovery for us.  That of course may change as we monitor the Analytics of all these things. Nothing stays constant for too long... not even the color of the page they are using....

Our website and Youtube channel do have a few how it is done type articles and we think these have helped what we do.

Social Media
The other thing that gets talked about a lot are Blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest  and Twitter.  Now we also have a presence on all of these, and can say pretty simply we have only ever had 2 requests come through Facebook, only one of which become a customer.

So I think Facebook is a complete and utter waste of time, but I could just be really poor at it. We have a Business Facebook page with some number of likes, but a post to it only results in like 2% of those people that liked that page seeing the post!  That is just not good enough. Even the posts in our personnel page only go to 20% of your "friends". That is a REALLY POOR communications channel. And really, your friends are not your customers, at least that is the way I approach it all.  I have seen other artists collect thousands of likes to their pages..... I may be missing something.

We have gotten more artwork and site views through Tweets, but don't know if any customer came of it. Same can be said of this Blog, where any contact comes via our website anyway.

LinkedIn is even worse, were it is all really for the benefit of Human Resources people. Now most HR people are in companies for regulatory reasons, and don't read CVs  and don't understand what it contains anyway least that has been my experience with all I have ever talked with.  HR people aren't my customers, and the LinkedIn news groups are also just full of SPAM. A pretty ugly place....  an ex colleague referred to it as the Ultimate Anti-Social Network and I think that is pretty close to the truth.   But I have had a fair few customers later connect with me at LinkedIn.  So maintaining a connection , not finding contacts seems to be what it does.

You might think our PInterest stuff might be worthwhile. Haven't seen that to be the case. Only our NCIS ABBY image gets re-pinned, and the demographic there doesn't really seem to correspond to what we do..... or again, we just aren't any good at social media.

So we continue to be very wary of wasting time ( and thus money) for any promotion on Social Media.

Pounding The Pavement
Most of my customers have been from overseas.  Countries other than Australia for the most part. So visiting isn't a practical thing to do to places that historically like what I do.

In our local area we have distributed a services post card with samples to various printing and sign making places and have had a truly terrible response, due to the very conservative work these places do 99.9999% of the time.

We have contacted car parts companies, magazines, car and kart racing papers and suggested cartoons and other material to the owners and editors.  But, it is very much a right time right place type of thing, so unless you are in their face when something comes up, you don't get the job.  It is also REALLY REALLY hard to get anyone to actually answer the phone and not just send it to voicemail!

And no freelancer can afford to spend their time doing that.  Have a broad enough range of work to cover should help, but I have yet to see that help...  I get asked to do rather specific things in my styles...

We come up for Concept Art too, but those search words are tricky

I have done a fair number of Car Show Posters and that type of material. Each one is kind of an Advertisement for your own work as much as it is for the Show.  Has it helped?  Maybe is all I can say.

Traditional Advertising
If your trying to get the attention of people that would love to use your service, but aren't actively looking for you, then you end up considering traditional advertising.
That would mean Newspapers, Magazines, specialist Media  or things like paid Banner advertisements, Adwords or even pay Google to put you result at the top of search results for some keywords.  Buying a booth and sitting at a car show seems to work for some. We have looked into these things but have found the fees to be too high for us.

Marketing is a significant part of freelancing and what we do..... and we need more..... it is all a bit hit and miss. I'm sure we could do things better as far as the people that aren't actually looking for us are concerned.

Getting a Custom Logo Or Illustration Booklet
But when they do we make the process simple to understand, which helps.

We produced an Amazon eBook on our Cartoon work, and you could say that is kind of a marketing thing as much as it is a creative product.  To support that we also did a series of single panel Heavy Metal Garage cartoons,  such as this

and this

which we would have loved to go viral and get our name out there, but they don't get many views.
We are still adding some sometimes, recently a series of 7 water colors (and we may auction off the original artwork) but when something doesn't get noticed, it really kills the buzz to do more....

Have only just discovered that CAR-toons Magazine is coming back, and maybe that is something we should explore..

We have many samples of our work and can be contacted at our website Art & Technology.

We also have our eBook on Amazon!

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