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Stop stealing stuff

Places to Find Legal Images on the Web

It’s a common occurrence: You’re looking for a cool photo for your blog, and within seconds, a Google search brings you a ton of images to choose from. You drag it, download, and most likely forget about the photo’s origins. Happens every day, but unfortunately, you probably just stole an image without knowing it.

Don’t just rely on Google’s image search engine to take you there. That could become costly. Sometimes, a company such as Getty Images might contact you demanding payment for usage of their image. So, make it simple; avoid the impulse. Why risk it when you can find a variety of sites that give you free access without legal issues?

Free Image Sources

With a little patience and endurance, you’ll find exactly what you are looking for. Here are five popular choices.

Creative Commons

Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that encourages creative people to share across the Internet by using free copyright licenses. It’s also a place to find some of the best images for your projects. Creative Commons has thousands of images to sift through. Simply type in what you’re looking for and wait for the results. As with most searches you have to do the grunt work to get the job done. Creative Commons images usually require a link back to the original source, so read the licensing information carefully.

MorgueFile

Part of a group of free sites devoted to giving creative people a voice across the Web, MorgueFile has the distinction of being not just completely free, but a throwback to times past. MorgueFile takes it name from the old newspaper days of a file that holds “past issues flats,” according to the site. Of course, you’ll have to wade through some things that won’t quite fit your expectations, but that’s always the challenge. In pretty much all cases you’ll be required to credit the photographer or artist when using the image.

stock.xchng

Stock.xchng works best when you know exactly what you want. The website will work to narrow down the best choices. The images are typically very high quality, and if you’re an artist, it actually works as a great site for

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exposure. The browse categories cover abstract, nature, people, streets and cityscapes and more.

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons is a product of the Wikimedia Foundation (the folks responsible for Wikipedia), so you’ll find a wealth of information on their site. The site makes it easy to find license-free material, including not just photography, but drawings as well. Use it to deepen your search.

Advanced Google search

While it’s not ok to simply use whatever image Google discovers from your search you can certainly use Advanced Google Search. By going under the “advanced search” drop-down menu, you can find copyright-free images. Although Advanced Google Search is a reliable source, you might want to try using TinEye, a website that uses reverse image search to find any copyright issues before they spring up.

Step It Up: Paid Services Worth the Price<

Once your website or blog takes off, you’re going to want to stand out – and that means not using the same, average-quality free images everyone else is using. After all, how many times have you seen this free image of social media icons on an iPhone? You may not realize it, but it’s probably more times than you can count.

The solution are royalty-free photography sites where you pay a modest fee in order to license an image that will ultimately be far more unique and most likely higher-quality. Here are five options:

iStock Photo

iStock is a royalty free photography and illustration collection by Getty Images. Start looking for the perfect image using the category collections on their homepage, or using their great advanced search. Pay as you go if you just need a single image, or buy credit packs starting at 30 credits for $49.99.

Shutterstock

Shutterstock’s massive collection features over 30 million royalty-free photos, illustrations, vectors, and videos, with over 10,000 new items added daily. Choose to pay as you go or get a subscription in order to download 25 images per day for $199 per month.

Thinkstock

Thinkstock may not have the biggest collection out there, but it pulls some of the best images from Getty Images and iStock into its catalog. It’s cheaper than many services, with a 5-image pack for $50 or a monthly subscription at $139 per month to get 25 images per day.

Fotolia

Fotolia is a great choice if you regularly need images for projects. Pay as you go for as little as 74 cents an image, or choose from one of the subscription options to get between 2 and 1000 full-size images per month.

PhotoXpress

PhotoXpress is a great paid stock image site to use if you need a small number of unique images for your projects. Their credits don’t expire as long as you continue subscribing, allowing for a design schedule that may be busy at times and slower at others. Single images start at $1 and subscriptions start at $9.99 per month for five images.

Whatever your needs, taking the time to find copyright-free images will potentially save you money, and allow you to focus on what matters most: having a powerful and unique website that stands head and shoulders above the rest.

 

Adrienne Erin is a freelance writer who covers trends in social media and social marketing. She has written for Content Marketing Institute, MarketingProfs, and Search Engine People, and is always looking for new opportunities. To see more of her work, follow her on Twitter or check out her blog, Pongra.

Establish Your Personal Brand and Find Success Through Your Blog

Whether you’re looking to start a career, change jobs or increase visibility, a blog is a way to establish your personal brand. There are 6.7 million people posting on blogging sites and 12 million blogging on social media, according to Social Media Today. Almost 77 percent of Internet users read blogs. Get your name out in front of the masses, and build your brand with these tips for managing your personal blog.

Who is Going to Notice?

It’s no secret that nine out of ten companies do online research of candidates. This includes personal websites and blogs, social media sites and professional sites such as LinkedIn. Recruiters stated they find better candidates this way. Just having a blog, website or social media page doesn’t guarantee you a new job. How you present yourself in those spaces will be a big

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factor. These places define your brand, which is most important to the recruiters.

Your Blog is You

People will evaluate you based on what they read in your blog. What you say and how you say it represents you. Read it back to yourself as if you were a visitor who

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knew nothing about yourself. How would they visualize you after reading your post? What would a recruiter think of you?

Your blog creates a level of authenticity about you, as well as your brand. You can become known as a passion-filled opinionated writer, a high-tech guru or a persistent problem solver just based on your blog. Blogs have been called the “new resume,” because people will decide they know you once they’ve read your blog.

Keep in mind that as recruiters and hiring managers read your work, they will be asking themselves if you will fit into their culture. If you are not being authentic in your writing, such as adding a little drama to make it more entertaining, it could keep you from getting into a lot of companies.

Blog as an Expert

Write with the intention of being seen as an expert in your field. Recruiters do look for this. Write about your experiences, what you have learned and how this has helped you in your field. After many blog posts and followers to read them, you will develop the reputation of being an expert in that area. Whether it’s baseball, Egyptian history or event planning, come across with confidence in your posts.

Make It Easy to Blog

Create a space in your home where you can do your blogging undistracted. Pick a time of day when you can focus for two to three hours at a time. You will do a lot of research, so make sure you have a fast Internet connection. Check various bundles available at verizonfiosdeals.com to get the best plan for your budget. Your blogging will become drudgery if you have to wait for every page to slowly load on your computer.

Don’t Try to Have All the Answers

Your blog can create a network of resources you could tap into by leaving people with some questions. This gives the astute of your followers a chance to respond to you. It also creates a more loyal following when they feel you are listening to them.

“I see how smartphones are becoming smarter, but I wonder what influence Google Glass will have on their future…” is a way to engage with your readers. You may learn some useful tips for future blog posts and, perhaps, something that will help you in your career

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direction.

Turn Your Hobby Into a Small Business

The way you set up and manage your business can have a greater impact on whether you succeed than the merits of the business idea itself. The businessman who takes a mediocre idea and implements it effectively will succeed far more often than the creative genius that doesn’t know the difference between a 1099 form and a payroll tax. The late Steve Jobs exemplifies what it takes to succeed perfectly; he took a hobby he was working on out of his parents’ garage and turned it into one of the most profitable businesses in history: Apple.

The first step for many is to make a profitable hobby out of what they love. If you’ve done this already, congratulations! You are on your way to turning your passion into a business. Before you quit your day job, there are some questions you need to ask yourself to determine if your hobby is truly ready to become a business and transition into a full-time endeavor.

Can It Really Be A Viable Business

The first question you must ask yourself is whether or not your hobby has the capability of sustaining you and your family. The IRS has a list of categories to help you determine the legal status of your business. It’s one thing to make side income from a hobby, but ask yourself “could I survive and maintain an acceptable quality of life using only the profit from this business?” With a hobby, a month in which you make no profit is offset by your regular income. When the hobby is your full-time business, you must have enough money set aside to handle

a bad month or three.

You should have a minimum six to 12 months of living expenses set aside in addition to enough money to operate your business for that same length of time before making it a full-time business. You want to be able to focus on making the company grow, not worrying about the rent payment or how you’re going to buy groceries that week. Until you’re at that point, keep the hobby as a part-time venture and use the money to build the nest egg you need to take the big leap. CNN has some additional tips, such as speaking to actual business owners to get a realistic estimate of startup costs to help prepare you for making your business a full-time venture.

Structure For Success

Should you operate as a sole proprietor or form an LLC or corporation? Should you bring on partners or investors, or fund startup costs with savings? These are all questions you must know the answer to before starting your business. It is not enough to have knowledge and passion for your craft; you must be a savvy business owner as well. The U.S. Small Business Administration has a number of resources that can be critical to the success of your business, including:

  • How to write a business plan
  • How to register your business and obtain licenses
  • How to hire employees
  • Countless other tips and tricks

These resources are there to help you succeed. Use them!

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Financing

Depending on the type of business you run, you might need capital to take you to the next level. American Express cash back credit cards are a great way to get the early financing you need while providing the benefit of cash back on your expenses. Do your homework, and find out what solutions work best for your unique business.

How To Promote Your Business On Facebook

Using Facebook to promote your business these days is more fun than ever! Companies can promote their brands and products in completely new ways thanks to the number of options that technology offers to the world of marketing. Expensive marketing campaigns are a thing of the past – now you can advertise, often entirely for free, right on your Facebook page.

Keep in mind that your customers will want to see constantly shifting content. You want to keep your Facebook page fresh and exciting so that your clients will stay engaged. So what should you be doing to keep your online persona timely and interesting?

If your business does e-commerce, you probably have a good idea of how much Facebook can help you promote your business and increase sales. But even the masters of social media activity run out of ideas once in a while. Here are six tips to keep your Facebook posts exciting and click-worthy and your engagement high.

Engage your Followers with Questions

Try to start a conversation and keep your customers engaged in your brand and services. If you are in the clothing industry, you can offer links to information and articles about design trends and ask your audience about their opinions. Put up photos of different outfits and ask people how much they would pay for them or which ones they like better. There’s no real science to getting people engaged so bring your own personality into it. Consumers love to feel like there is a real human behind all the messaging.

Offer Discounts and Giveaways

This is one of the oldest rules of marketing and it still holds true today – people love to feel like they are getting a deal. Try offering “limited time only” specials one day a week, or “first twenty buyers for product A get product B free.”  You’ll be amazed at how much traffic this can drive to your site.

Host Contests

In addition to freebies, you can run contests that get your customers more engaged. These can be anything from games like “caption this photo” to having followers submit pictures of people using your product. You could even hold a Fan of the Week contest for the person who has bought the most products or posted/shared the most on your page.  One example of this strategy in action is Victor Electronic Mouse Traps. They hold a trivia contest every other month on their Facebook and give away gift cards to their winners. If they can get their fans excited about mousetraps, imagine how excited you can get fans about your business!

Advertise

It isn’t free, but it is effective: Facebook offers some of the most targeted advertising money can buy. Promote your page either to your existing audience, their friends, or an entirely new group of people to build engagement and your number of likes. You can promote your wedding service to single (or even engaged!) women in their early to mid 20s, for example, or target your line of pet products to people who name “dogs” or “cats” as interests. This is especially useful in combination with some of these other tips – promote your contest or specials to exactly the right audience.

Offer Advice

Everyone loves free advice from experts. If your company specializes in a certain field (i.e. sports equipment, massage therapy, housecleaning supplies, etc.), post some helpful tips or information that’s relevant to what you do. It will start conversations and also make your customers think of you as a go-to source for info on the topic.

Link your Instagram to Facebook

You may want to consider getting an Instagram account if you don’t already have one. It’s a great way to share photos with customers and strengthen your brand identity. Take photos of people using your products or of your office space and employees. Upload them using Instagram and publish them straight to your Facebook. Photos are always an eye-catching way to engage your followers and get them excited about your company.

 

Facebook is a great way to promote your business. Using these tips, you can start working on new and exciting content today.

 

Adrienne Erin is a freelance writer who covers trends in social media and social marketing. She has written for Content Marketing Institute, MarketingProfs, and Search Engine People, and is always looking for new opportunities. To see more of her work, follow her on Twitter at @adrienneerin.

How to Get Your Small Business Started on Pinterest

By now you have probably figured out that social media is not just here to stay, but is the way of the future. People of all ages can now be found clicking and scrolling all day long through their Facebook and Twitter feeds. But this isn’t just good

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news for the high school socialite – it’s also an incredible opportunity for small business owners, who have access to an increasingly wide-ranging audience.

Pinterest

is one of the most rapidly growing social networks out there, with over 70 million users. It is entirely based around visual imagery – users collect and share images of food, art, products, and any number of things; the common thread is that everything that grows “viral” on the site is pleasing to the eye.

How to get started

Because you cannot change your username once you have set up your account, be sure to use the name you have used across all over social networking sites, if it’s available, for consistency’s sake. Next, add a short profile of your business and a URL to point users towards your products.

Now, you should verify your website to have access to Pinterest’s free analytics tools to track the success and reach of your pins. Make sure to add the “Pin It” button to the products on your website, which will allow users to share your items and increase your visibility.

Be sure to find the audience that most pertains to what you are trying to sell. If your audience consists of twenty-something fashionistas, target them with boards and pins about trends, seasonal colors, and your statement products. Remember that not every item you pin should be one of your products; on social media, people can smell when you’re trying to sell them something, and they’ll be quick to run the other direction! Instead, curate the resources, images, and videos (yes, you can pin videos!) that best suit their interests, and sprinkle in your products organically.

As you might expect, on the other hand broadening your audience too far will disrupt your focus. Pin too randomly, and anyone who finds you won’t know whether you’ll be pinning things they consistently enjoy or not. Don’t pin a picture of a puppy to a board about cookies, unless it’s about homemade dog biscuits. Don’t pin something about heavy equipment to a board about wedding cakes, unless it’s a construction-themed cake. You get the idea.

Pinterest is a network devoted to compelling imagery, and your business will thrive there if you have stunning product shots or images of what you sell in use. However, if you don’t have beautiful images or your business isn’t the most photogenic, there are still ways to attract an audience. If you have a blog, you probably are already aware that you should be using compelling imagery; encourage your readers to pin these. You can also use online tools like Pinstamatic to create pinnable and repinnable quotes, memes, and sayings, or stitch together photographs to create a simple infographic-like tutorial. When it comes to pinning, you will need to be creative – again, this is when you need to best know your audience and what kinds of posts they would find compelling.

Some Dos

  • It’s important to remember that, during the day, most people are busy and not checking Pinterest religiously. Internet traffic is highest on weeknights and on weekend mornings. Shoot to post during those peak hours.

  • If you’re selling a product, be sure to put the price, marked by a “$” (or whatever currency you use) in the description. That will ensure that it is listed in the Gifts section, for free, and will certainly ensure it reaches the proper audience.

  • Pinterest doesn’t feel like a social network per-se, but remember that it is. You can comment, favorite, and re-pin, allowing you to interact with other users and further increase your visibility.

Some Don’ts

  • If you tend to pin a million things at once, break the habit for your business’ Pinterest. Don’t spam your followers with pins – spread it out by pinning two or three things at a time, and make an effort to log in more frequently.

  • Many marketers make the mistake of posting too many of their own products, and not enough other images. In order to ensure you are reaching a wide audience, and maintaining their interest, it might be good to adhere to the 25% rule: 1 out of every 4 posts should be something of yours.

  • Pinterest’s web analytics allows you to analyze the success of your pins and re-pins, but too often people ignore them. You have the data in front of you, so it wouldn’t hurt to use it to your advantage.

 

Adrienne Erin is a freelance writer who covers trends in social media and social marketing. She has written for Content Marketing Institute, MarketingProfs, and Search Engine People, and is always looking for new opportunities. To see more of her work, follow her on Twitter at @adrienneerin.