Within the jewelry industry, I often hear about jewelry designers who take a break and put their business on hold while they reconsider their artistic direction or go back to school for additional training. Although it might seem like a simple idea to put a business on hold, how you present yourself online during your hiatus could have positive or negative ramifications on your future livelihood.
I've spoken to many jewelry designers who had a rough start with their business and took a long time to discover their unique design voice. There always seems to be a sense of nostalgia when designers look back at their early work and recognize their early ideas (and flaws) that they've since improved upon. We can all experience that sense of nostalgia by scrolling back through our social media accounts.
I've also met jewelry designers who struggled so much with their design voice that they simply wanted to throw out everything they had and start over, including deleting their entire online identity, which I consider to be digital suicide.
Don't Subtract, Just Add
Don't be embarrassed by your early work; that's just your personal embarrassment getting in the way of your future progress. Many of the new customers who discover your jewelry will be interested to see your earlier work and track your history. That history is part of your story.
Your story also creates a digital footprint that can be traced back through time. That time also indicates experience, which in turn helps build your reputation that will attract new customers.
Putting aside the customer point of view for a moment, I have to turn my attention to Google. It takes quite a while for your website to gain any type of positioning in Google search results. It could be weeks or months of adding product information and blog posts to your website before it appears for the keywords you'd like to target. Achieving that ranking is not something you should quickly throw away, yet some designers are willing to do just that when they deactivate their website during their hiatus period.
Deactivating your website won't immediately remove it from Google search results. It takes some time for Google to double check every page of your website before they permanently remove it. I've seen it take more than 4 months before Google removed deactivated websites from search results, but it does eventually happen. Once that happens, you have to start all over again with the content building process and getting recognized by Google again.
It's best to leave your website active during your hiatus so all your previous work can be on display, just not for sale. It's also a good idea to add new blog posts to explain your new progress of what you're learning or the new design directions you're moving in. That new activity will help maintain your Google ranking rather than having your website appear stagnant.
If you really hate your previous work, then I still strongly suggest that you move all photos of your previous work into a single online photo gallery, and then refocus your website on who you are as a designer. With that new focus, you can explain what inspires you and tell a new story detailing your current direction. This strategy will help maintain and build your reputation as a designer.
If you deactivate your website during your hiatus, you are robbing yourself of the continued exposure you can gain. As a business owner, one of the worst things you can tell a customer or business contact is "Sorry, I don't have a website." Once you get your website built, don't ever turn it off because you're taking a break.