How-to: Font Pairing for Beginners
 

Note: Some links in our blog posts are affiliate links, which means we'll receive a small portion of the sale at no cost to you! This helps us keep the blog running and deliver great content to you for free!

 
 
 

What makes or breaks a design? Is it the size of the graphic? No. How about the colors? Eh, sometimes. But what happens if you have 8 different fonts in different sizes and you have no idea where to look or what some of the things say and now you're totally overwhelmed and you're thinking in run-on sentences because that's what bad font choices can do sometimes? Bingo.

The fonts you use on your graphics for your website, social media and print materials can make or break or small business or organization. It can either make you look 100% professional, you have your stuff together and can provide awesome services or products... Or look like you're running an operation out of the trunk of your car part-time. Choose your fonts wisely!

First, let’s break down some of the font terms:

TYPEFACE

Another word for font! You may hear your designer use typeface and font interchangeably. Don’t panic: it’s totally normal. Now you are prepared and can join the ranks of pro designers who dare never use the word "font." Kidding, we all swap the two terms.

SERIF

A serif font or typeface that has lines attached to the endpoints or stroke of each letter. What does that mean? It means you’ll see little feet, known as a serif, on the bottom of most letters like the H, i, I, m, s, r and f in the graphic below. A terminal appears as a rounded end on some sans-serif characters, like a and f in the graphic below.

Examples of san-serif fonts are Times New Roman (below), Garamond, Bodoni.

Fun fact: Serif fonts have been proven to be more readable when used at smaller font sizes, such as large blocks of text since the serifs on each letter lead into the next letter more easily.

 

SANS-SERIF

Once you get the hang of serif, sans-serif is pretty self-explanatory. Sans = without. A sans-serif is a font without serifs, or lines attached to the endpoints. Examples: Arial, Helvetica (below), Museo Sans.

Fun fact: The font, Helvetica, has its very own documentary by Gary Hustwit. It’s not on Netflix Instant, but with a quick online search, you can easily find it online to stream or purchase.


While fonts can easily be broken down into even more categories under serif and san-serif, fonts are typically broken up into three categories: Serif, san-serif and script.

Here are some quick tips on pairing fonts for documents, whether you’re designing a logo, social media graphic, e-book, course or the hundreds of types of collateral for businesses.

USE NO MORE THAN THREE FONTS

This is a golden rule of graphic design, especially for smaller designs. It's usually broken up into three categories: Header, sub-header and body text. Keep in mind that using the bold and italics on the same font does not mean you're adding an extra font! Same font, different weight.

For social media graphics, I recommend only using two fonts. One can be your heading or a large, decorative text, and the other the body text (small-ish type that is often seen in paragraphs). Check out how I design my Instagram graphics:

 
You see two fonts in this graphic: The header and the body text. I repeat the header text at the bottom, in a different, complementary color for my brand to attribute the quote..

You see two fonts in this graphic: The header and the body text. I repeat the header text at the bottom, in a different, complementary color for my brand to attribute the quote..

 

On larger design documents like annual reports, media packets, brand style guides, etc. it's common to see more than three fonts, especially to represent different sections. And of course, this rule can be broken ALL OF THE TIME... as long as you're doing it right. Just starting out? Stick with this rule until you're ready to branch out and can find fonts that complement one another.

PAIR TWO TYPES OF FONTS

Just because you want consistency in your brand identity, it doesn't mean all of your fonts have to look alike! Pair a serif with a sans-serif, or a handwritten with a book font. Find a fun, script font and give it a modern, thin and sleek font to give it pizzazz. It's like yin and yang.

NEVER USE SCRIPT OR NOVELTY FONTS IN LARGE BODIES OF TEXT

A good rule of thumb is if it is more than 5-8 words, it shouldn't be a script font. It's not about being a party-pooper, it's about readability. You want your audience to know what important words you're telling them, quickly and easily. The longer someone has to spend deciphering words, the less likely they'll comprehend it and the less likely they're going to keep reading.

Script fonts are perfect for big, bold headlines and logos. Anything else, you might consider swapping it for another font. Try to think about someone who may have never seen that font before, rather than the fact you can read it.


My favorite spots for fonts: Google Fonts, Creative Market and Font Bundles, all of which offer free, discounted and paid fonts.

Adobe Typekit is a great resource for free fonts, some of which linked above, if you are an Adobe Creative Cloud member. If not, click here to get any (or all!) Adobe Creative Cloud programs starting at less than $10 a month.

If you're a current student, you can receive 60% off Creative Cloud, too.

Top Five Free Stock Photo Websites
 
 
Best Free Stock Photo Sites for Bloggers, Small Businesses and Non-Profits
 

Whether you're a new (or seasoned!) blogger or a nonprofit with a limited marketing budget, having professional photography done for each campaign, webpage or blog isn't reasonable. That's why I've rounded up my favorite stock photo sites that offer great, high-quality images for free. Yep, that's right: great photos for zero dollars, no strings attached.

PEXELS

Pexels is an incredible resource for free stock photos for bloggers across the board. They have everything from desk flat lays with coffee, notebooks and Apple gear and office shots to open plains and livestock. You won't find corny, posed images on Pexels either. Feminine or masculine themes, holiday photos, food images and everything in between sums up their giant library. They even have a massive fitness section, which in my experience, is hard to come by in the free stock photo world! 

Images are free for personal or commercial use and they even have a handy option to download different sizes of their photo, a feature that's especially great if you don't have access to Photoshop or time to spend resizing image after image.

No account is required to download photos, but if you do sign up, you'll receive 40 exclusive images you won't find on the website.

Here's a rundown of their license from their website:

It's hard to understand complex licenses that is why all photos on Pexels are licensed under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license. This means the pictures are completely free to be used for any legal purpose.

•  The pictures are free for personal and even for commercial use.
•  You can modify, copy and distribute the photos.
•  All without asking for permission or setting a link to the source. So, attribution is not required.
•  The only restriction is that identifiable people may not appear in a bad light or in a way that they may find offensive, unless they give their consent.

 

UNSPLASH

Unsplash has a similar aesthetic to Pexels but with a bit more limited library; however, it is a perfect resource for images with consistent style. Nearly any image you download from Unsplash will have the same look and feel in terms of how the image was shot and edited. You'll also find more images of people on Unsplash.

Unsplash's content has a distinct feel, yet offers vivid imagery and a wide range of subjects: lifestyle, fashion, food, offices, tech and outdoors are just a few of the most popular categories.

Like Pexels, an account isn't required to download photos, but by signing up, you'll receive 10 high-quality photos direct to your inbox each week.

Here's a look at Unsplash's licensing policy:

All photos published on Unsplash are licensed under Creative Commons Zero which means you can copy, modify, distribute and use the photos for free, including commercial purposes, without asking permission from or providing attribution to the photographer or Unsplash.

 

 

CREATIVE MARKET

 

While Creative Market isn't a free photo website, per se, they offer weekly freebies, which often include a pack of 20+ images with a different theme each week. And a major bonus: The weekly free goods from Creative Market include fonts, graphics, pre-made logos, Photoshop files and more!

Licensing policies depend on the week and artist, but most of the time they're 100% free for commercial or personal use. And don't forget to check out Creative Market's full library of images for more flexibility starting at as little at $2.

A fun little bonus from this site is the fact that you can sync the files directly to your Dropbox, which makes it easy to either backup your files, share them with clients or even save space on your laptop or computer!

 

BARN IMAGES

Yes, it's called Barn Images. No, they don't have only images of barns. They have a good selection of free images, which you can search directly for a subject or browse the 16+ categories. Barn Images also has a blog with great resources, which also comes up in search terms.

One thing to keep in mind, you'll find more ads on this site than the others, but they're not too intrusive and often closely related to blogging and photography.

Barn Images also has Premium Photo Packs, which gives you access to a library of a dozen or more themed downloads with up to 110+ photos in each pack for a great price. If you're looking for a ton of styled photography images and have a small budget for photography, the photo packs might be for you!

Check out their licensing policy:

You are allowed to use all of the images published in Barn Images collections (both Free Images and Premium Packs) for commercial and non-commercial purposes. You can remix, tweak, and build upon your work, without asking for permission or attributing the photos. However, we would appreciate if you could place a link to our website, or spread the word in social media.

 

835 CREATIVE

Wait, whaaaat? Yes, that's right. 835 Creative is in the process of creating a free stock photo library just for you! Each month, we're creating a photo pack of stock images perfect to promote your blog, Etsy shop or use on social media. We're talking about 10-20 images each month with a specific theme and photo style. You'll find flat-lay images, moody images, holiday images and more with room to pop into InDesign, Photoshop or Canva and add text, your logo and more... at no cost!

If you're signed up for the Resource Library, you'll get instant access each month, plus access to previous months' photo packs. Want December's free holiday-themed photo pack? Click here! And don't forget to visit the Resource Library to sign up for access to free templates, checklists and photos for your blog and website.


Looking for more recommendations for products and resources for your blog or website? Check out my top picks for online tools here!

 
Free Holiday Stock Photos for Your Blog or Online Shop!
 
 
 

It's December and officially the season of giving, which means I've got a special giveaway on the blog stock: free holiday stock photos for bloggers, small business owners, Etsy shops... you name it!

This pack is filled with 15+ photos perfect for your blog, Pinterest, Facebook or Instagram! Use the photos on their own with a fun caption promoting your latest sale or product or pop these pretty little things into InDesign or Canva, overlay some text and have the perfect image to promote your latest offering through the holiday season.

 
 

Here's a preview of what's inside:

Free stock photos for Christmas, Holidays, December for Solopreneurs, Etsy shops, Bloggers
Free stock photo for Christmas, holiday, December for small business owners, solopreneurs, etsy shop owners
Free stock photos for Christmas, Holidays, December for Solopreneurs, Etsy shops, Bloggers
Free stock photos for Christmas, Holidays, December for Solopreneurs, Etsy shops, Bloggers
Free stock photos for Christmas, Holidays, December for Solopreneurs, Etsy shops, Bloggers

As a special early holiday gift, these photos are 100% for your use, however you'd like. No need to credit, but if you're feeling extra giving, feel free to tag 835 Creative in your images and on social media!

With the launch of the Resource Library, we'll be back at the beginning of each month with a new (and free!) themed photo pack. Not a member of the Library yet? Join in now!

Ready to download the free stock photo pack? Click here! And don't forget to follow 835 Creative on Instagram!

 
 
 
Pinterest Tips: How I got 20,000+ Saves on a Single Pin
 
 
Pinterest Tips for Bloggers and Entrepreneurs: How I got 20,000 saves on one Pin!
 

Pinterest is, by far, my bigger referral source to my website. In fact, the growth since I essentially "re-branded" by Pinterest has been incredible. We're talking a nearly 1000% increase in my page views per month and the main source of how I receive my email subscribers. In fact, 60% of my referral traffic comes from social media and... wait for it... more than 90% of my social media traffic comes from Pinterest.

You're probably thinking "Wait a minute, back up. You re-branded your Pinterest?" Oh yeah.

Folks, if you are using your Pinterest account for both your business AND personal pins, you might want to rethink your strategy.

I started out on Pinterest as a casual, right-in-target-audience user. Female. Twenties. Saves recipes, outfits, occasionally hobby-related Pins. For the first six months after I started my full-time design and marketing business, I didn't even consider using Pinterest to post my own work or from my blog (I know, I had no idea what I was doing).

I thought I didn't have enough personal content.

I thought people would just show up on my website and blog and pin it themselves.

Boy, was I wrong!

After doing a bit of research, I started implementing strategies I had read from fellow bloggers and small business owners. Here were the key things I learned:

Stay on-brand

Pinterest, like any social media outlet for your business, should remain on-brand. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is my mission?
  • What is my niche?
  • Who is my audience?
  • What information do I want to provide my audience?

Your niche can't be a stylish tips, recipes and workouts for women ages 18-99. You have to narrow it down. Your mama probably told you that you can't make everybody happy. And you can't! You need to focus on your niche, your business and providing information relevant to your business. That's your ideal audience, that's who will buy your product and that's who will save your Pins and grow your reach.

Limit personal pins

Take a look at Melyssa Griffin's Pinterest: She focuses almost solely on business tips. The majority of her pins are related to providing information for her visitors and key audience. There are a few boards that aren't strictly business tips, but they're related: Home Office, Color, etc.

Going back to the tip before of staying on-brand, you'll want to stay on-subject, too. Would you watch a TV show touted as "the best home renovation show of 2016" if they talk about the newest discoveries in space 99% of time? Gotta stay on-subject and on-brand or you'll lose followers.

Does that mean I need to delete all of my boards?

No! Absolutely not. When researching my own Pinterest - hello, Analytics! - I looked at which boards were performing the best. Those were my business and creative tips, first and foremost, then photography inspiration, color theory and strangely enough, a "Tried and True Pinterest Recipes" board.

When I focused on "re-branding" my Pinterest, I went from more than 70 boards - I know! I had a problem... and liked for each board to be very specific - to about 20, not counting group boards or client collaboration boards.

Did I delete the unrelated boards? No. I made them private! I can still have my archive of favorite gluten-free recipes, my outfit ideas, DIY home repair boards all right there and easy to pin without logging in and out, but the majority of my followers, who are there for the biz tips, won't have to flip through pins that don't relate to their interests.

Make your pins pinnable

But if it is on Pinterest, doesn't that automatically make it "pinnable?" Nope! Sorry, Charlie. It isn't just a popular profile that can make a single pin explode and arrive on the popular page. Here are a few tips when creating your pins, speaking specifically for small business owners:

  • Do not use horizontal (landscape) images
  • Always include text on your image - yes, even for recipes!
  • The longer the Pin, the more room it takes up on the feed
  • Always create alt-text for your images (Tips on this coming soon!)
  • Link your original pins to your blog post - not your general blog URL or website

Want more tips like this? Download the Pinterest checklist for bloggers and entrepreneurs!

Here's an example of my best-performing pin - as long as we can ignore the old, original 835 Creative branding. As of November 2016, this Pin has more than 22,000 saves and has been my largest referrer of traffic:

 

Why this pin works:

  • Vertical image
  • Clear text - title, subheads
  • Contrast in colors
  • Address common problem
  • Helpful content for a specific niche
  • Gives enough content to save, but can click through for more information
  • Call to action to direct Pinners to website at the bottom, which will push them to click on the pin and visit the website for the full blog post

The proof is in the pudding

Let's take a look at what these small changes did for my Pinterest account.

In my first few months as a full-time business owner, I thought I was doing pretty good. After all, I was just getting into the analytics, verifying my Pinterest business account (learn how here!) and checking in every few weeks. I was posting everything publicly, not focusing on a real strategy. I would average anywhere from 1,000 people reached per month to at one point, 15,000.

Then I rebranded, made most of my unrelated board secret and posted my own original content more often and posted content that is in my niche (digital marketing and design tips) from fellow blogs:

Pinterest growth for creatives, small business owners and entrepreneurs

You can see exactly where I made that change: May 2016. It wasn't an overnight explosion in my reach, but day-by-day, as I posted more relevant content to my business, I noticed that people were pinning my original content (rich pins, leading to my website) more.

After going from an average of 1,000 reached one year ago, I now have an average reach between 350,000 to 435,000 (an all-time record for me!).

And bonus: I did it all without a single ad.

Pinterest strategy and marketing for small business owners, bloggers and entrepreneurs.

Getting lots of saves on your Pins isn't just about saying you have gotten thousands of saves on a single Pin. It does wonders for your blog, your website, your business or non-profit. For me, the traffic from Pinterest has made my email list explode. For you, it could bring you new leads for your services or products, whether you're selling e-books and e-courses or using affiliate marketing on your blog.

In addition to the tips above, I have a great checklist for those of you who are just starting out in Pinterest for your business or blog... for free! Sign up below to get the checklist on what to look for when you are revamping your Pinterest profile and creating a cohesive collection of content online.

 

Download the Pinterest Checklist!

Screen_shot_2016-11-11_at_2.09.21_pm

Fill out the form and instantly download the Pinterest Checklist with even more tips to boost your Pinterest strategy!

We hate spam. Pinky promise! Unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit
 
 
Why You Need a Brand Style Guide ASAP
 
 
Why You Need A Brand Style Guide for Your Blog, Business or Organization.
 

As part of my design services, I create one piece of collateral for my clients that's oh-so-important: A brand style guide. Different from a mood board, which often features images pulled from Pinterest, a color scheme and typography (font) ideas, the brand style guide is the be-all, end-all of your brand. The real deal.

While my style guides for clients vary from a one-sheet to a comprehensive ten-page style guide, it's important as a blogger, small business or organization to have a piece of material that sums up your brand at a quick glance both for a variety of reasons.

 

Who does a brand style guide benefit?

You! The business owner, head honcho, founder, creative director.

Whoever you are at the top of your business or organization, this is what sums up the face of your brand identity. If you're not design-savvy, your brand style guide is a quick and easy way to access your colors, your logos and fonts, whether you're creating a Facebook cover photo in InDesign or a blog post graphic in Canva.

Your employees.

If you're working with contractors for your social media or design projects or bringing on full-time employees, it's important to have a style guide to bring your brand style into the forefront of your employees' minds. Plus, it makes it a cinch for your employees to know your exact colors and other elements that help market and promote your blog or business. Because "light blue" just isn't going to cut it as a color description when you're dealing with designers or printing companies. Bonus: Have Pantone colors on your style guide.

The outside world.

I say outside world since it depends on your niche. At some point, you're going to be working with someone outside of your business or blog.

A brand style guide lets advertisers, sponsors, collaborators, fellow bloggers and the media know which logos are appropriate to use in print, on television or online, plus it will give them a quick idea of your style - both visually and your voice. You'll be surprised at how often even larger organizations can stretch your logo, recolor your logo or even call you by the wrong name! Providing a brand style guide nips it in the bud and makes it easier to approach any oops! that may come up when promoting your blog or business.

Style guide for MaggieGentry from 835 Creative

What should I include in a brand style guide?

As I mentioned earlier, a brand style guide can be as simple as a one sheet or be ten, twenty or even fifty pages long and go into specifics of your brand's voice, imagery and more; however, let's be real: the only ones with fifty-page style guides are massive corporations with many entities (Think: FedEx, Mars, Coca-Cola, etc.)

Here are a few ideas of what to include in your brand style guide:

  • Primary logo
  • Alternative logo(s)
  • One-color logo(s)
  • Brandmarks or icons
  • Colors - RGB, HEX, CMYK, Pantone
  • Patterns
  • Textures
  • Typefaces (fonts)
  • Tagline
  • Logo restrictions
  • Mission statement
  • Vision statement
  • Collateral examples
  • Catchphrases
  • Images & image style
  • Hashtags
  • Website URL & details
  • About/Biography/History
  • Partners or members

Are you just starting out and want to create your own brand style guide? Download the free template here!

Get the free template!

Screen_shot_2016-09-26_at_4.29.55_pm

Sign up to receive a free brand style guide template to easily customize for your blog, business or organization.

Powered by ConvertKit

Template includes InDesign files for Creative Cloud and .idml for
older versions of InDesign, plus a Quickstart Guide.

 
Cheatsheet: Adobe InDesign Keyboard Shortcuts & Commands
 
 
Work quickly and efficiently with the InDesign Keyboard Shortcut Cheatsheet with Commands on text, pages and more. Click to download the PDF cheatsheet!
 

When I taught graphic design to college students for the first time, I had been an avid user of Adobe Creative Cloud - then known as Creative Suite - for at least a solid decade. One thing I learned with my first students was that those commands I could do in my sleep by waving my fingers across a keyboard... Well, they didn't come naturally to anyone. Period.

That was a huge shock (ha!) when I went through my first tutorial in lab and within the first few minutes was greeted with, "Whoa! Slow down! How did you do that?" On the screen, it probably looked magical. The mouse wasn't moving to the toolbar on the left side of the screen, yet tools would appear, actions would happen and boom, tutorial complete.

That, my friends, is the magic of keyboard shortcuts and commands.

 
 

If you're relatively new - or haven't used it for a while! - InDesign keyboard shortcuts just aren't second nature. You've probably watched video tutorials online where they move so incredibly fast as they name off the steps, you have to watch it ten times.

These shortcuts will save you time when working on your blog graphics, business marketing materials and more. After all, saved seconds add up to minutes, minutes to hours and that's money saved in the long run, right?

 
 

tips on indesign shortcuts

Don't get overwhelmed. Jump to the bottom of this post and download the PDFs. Print them out or even half your screen as you work on projects in InDesign so you can reference your shortcuts. You'll be surprised how quickly they get burned into your brain!

  • The cheatsheets focus on Mac users, but Windows users, don't fear! Anytime you see the command symbol (),  press Control instead.
  • "Tools" shortcuts only use one letter or symbol on the keyboard. This makes the chosen tool active. You'll click as needed to use it, just as you would if you manually selected it from the toolbar.
  • "Command" shortcuts require you to press all designated keys at the same time. Don't get discouraged if you can't quite get the hang of the more complicated, three-plus key shortcuts.

Do you use shortcuts to expedite work in InDesign?
What is your favorite shortcut to use? Comment below!

 
 
 
Font Roundup: The Best Free Script Fonts

It's time for a font roundup! And what are the best kinds of fonts for creatives and bloggers on a budget? Free ones! Check out my current favorites below that go beyond the script fonts you see every day. You'll find some grunge fonts, some girly fonts, some proper fonts and even some great fonts for branding your next project - or your own business!

The best FREE! script fonts for bloggers and creatives. Some messy scripts, some girly fonts - all awesome fonts.
 

Want more tips, tricks and freebies like this delivered right to your inbox? Pop in your email below to join the 835 Creative party!

 
My favorite tool to keep my business organized
How I keep my business organized using 17Hats

I am a self-proclaimed disorganized nut. No, really. On the outside, everything looks cool, calm and collected, everything has its space. In fact, when I worked in the office world, it always remained one of the most pristine and organized space. Ha! If only people knew that I went on an organizing spree every six months when it got to the point that I just couldn't find anything anymore (or a Desktop folder was placed within six other Desktop folders in order to hold onto some sense of organization and a clean desktop). 

Granted, since I've moved to my own business full-time, I'm still a bit of a mess (hello, thirty "Screenshot-2016" files)... BUT! Organization is as important as it has ever been when it comes to keeping my client files, tax paperwork, contracts, meetings... The list goes on and on.

In comes 17hats. I read about it from Elle and Company more than a year ago and knew that if I was going to start my full-time business off right, I needed to get organized from the very get-go.

Catered toward creatives, 17hats is brilliant for those who cringe at the thought of doing paperwork for several days a month (or more). In fact, from the first contact with a client, this website (and now app!) keeps things running smoothly, whether you're charging by a per-project or hourly basis. It works seamlessly with any other programs you're using with the ability to import your email, calendar, contacts and more to integrating with QuickBooks, PayPal and Stripe to make payments easy as pie.

While 17hats has close to a billion features - okay, maybe not that many - here are a few of my favorite features I use on a daily basis(also known as those things that keep my head from falling off and rolling away):

Templates

Within my account, I keep templates for my quotes, whether it's a website design, brand identity, social media + website management and quotes individual designs (stationery, social media templates, etc.). As a designer, quotes are key to my business. Rarely does a client come in and say, "I want you to design my new logo. I'll pay whatever it costs" (if you are that client... hello, contact me!). 

Templates are also available for contracts, emails, invoices and questionnaires and the great thing is, the longer you use it, the easier it gets. After a year of using 17hats, I have templates that make it quick and easy to get a quote out the door, get a contract signed and countersigned, a deposit request sent and paid within minutes.

I'll get a post up soon walking you through some of the major tools of 17hats, but once you've created a template, you can email it directly to your client through the website. You'll get a notification once your client has taken action - accepted a quote, signed a contract, made a payment, etc.

Timer

While I usually charge on a per-project basis or a flat monthly fee for social media clients, the timer is helpful in making sure I'm keeping within the time restraints of a project, even for those projects I charge a flat monthly fee to make sure we're both playing fair and keeping up our end of the deal.

Through the timer function, you can choose the client or project for which you'll be using the timer. From there, you can enter your hourly rate and manually enter a time or start at 0:00 to start the timer from that moment. Work away and when you've wrapped up the project at hand, stop the timer and it will populate into an invoice for the project.

Also, it's a great tool to keep you focused when you're tempted to go down the Facebook rabbit hole. Just remember the timer is running and time is money, folks!

Payments

When I decided to take my business full-time, the thought of payment terrified me. Earning money? No way. Trying to figure out the easiest way to keep money straight, especially when it came to invoicing and taxes? Oh yes. Had me shivering in my boots. I'm a creative, not a numbers person.

The payment tools on the website are most likely my favorite. It works for those comfortable making payments online, those businesses starting out with only a PayPal account or the old-school or larger businesses that would still like to pay by mailing in a check.

Once a project is wrapped up, shoot your invoice over to your client and they can pay right away. You can choose to use PayPal (2.9% + $.30 per transaction), Stripe (also 2.9% + $.30 per transaction) and brand spanking new is payment via ACH - also known as eChecks - for a minimal fee of .8% or a max of $5, which is what I've moved over to for my clients. Clients can also send in a check by mail - since your business address automatically populates your quotes and invoices - and you can simply mark the invoice as paid through the website.

And! And even better, 17hats works with QuickBooks for small businesses, which makes taxes an absolute breeze. Once your accounts are connected, your history pops up automatically, making it easy to categorize your purchases, payments and even mileage. 

Some of the tools I can't wait to put into action:

Lifecycles

Lifecycles is a newer feature of 17hats and makes it even easier to push your projects along.

Lifecycles give you the pulse of your client projects from start to finish by dividing them into stages. Once a project stage is completed, the lifecycle will automatically move the project forward so you’ll always instantly know what the status of every project is.

For example, notice that a client has approved your work? You can check your lifecycle to see that the project has moved onto your Invoicing stage, and that your workflow has automatically generated an invoice for your client.

Customize your Lifecycles with as many steps as needed to complete an entire project.

To-do lists

I've been a big fan of the ol' pen and paper type of to-do list, but as my on-going client list grows along with individual projects, I'll be implementing 17hats' to-do list feature. Your to-dos pop up on your dashboard, along with your meetings, any outstanding invoices, emails and quotes, making it easy to log in and see what's on your plate for the day.

17hats also offers an extensive help section, both in the form of a FAQ and chat function, plus webinars to help you get started! Click here to see upcoming webinars to learn more about 17hats - you don't have to be a member to access the webinars.

When you sign up for 17hats, you're automatically signed up for a free trial and can cancel at anytime. Quick tip: Sign up for the free trial and once your trial is almost up, they'll give you discounted membership!

Do you use 17hats to keep your business running on the tracks? If now, what are your favorite tools to keep your business organized on the backend?

This post uses affiliate links, which may compensate me if you click and purchase/sign up. I only use affiliate links for products I genuinely endorse and use on a regular basis, so know that when you click on a link on my website, I 100% vouch for the product or service!
The Five-Minute Photo Fix - Plus $10 off iPhone Photography eCourse

Have you ever wondered how to get that crisp, clear, perfect image on Instagram? How some food photos look good enough to eat, while others look a little... ick?

In this week's quick tip of the week, I'll show you how to turn your food photo from "are you sure that's edible?" to "holy cow, get in my belly now!" in less than five minutes. That's no joke - it's THAT easy. Really, the most difficult thing about this tutorial is not eating the cookies before I finished taking photos. 

 
The Five-Minute Photo Fix. Turn your food photo from "are you sure that's edible?" to "holy cow, get in my belly now!" in less than five minutes.  Really, the most difficult thing about this tutorial is not eating the cookies while shooting!
 

what you'll need

Here's what you'll need to produce a studio-quality image in five minutes flat:

  • A spot near a window
  • Daylight (clouds or sunshine work!)
  • A sheet of white paper
  • Your object(s)

This little trick is all about lighting. By using daylight near a window and not in direct sunlight, you'll create the nice, soft shadows. Is it cloudy out? Even better! The after photo in this post was actually taken on a very overcast day. With sunlight, your shadows will be a bit harsher, but cloudy will give you just enough light, unless of course, it's thunderstorming.

the set up

The set up is so incredibly easy. Grab a spot near a window. Grab a sheet of white paper - even the simple, day-to-day computer paper works. As long as your object is smaller that the paper, you're golden. Here's a look at my crazy simple set up. It's almost funny how simple it is:

 
The Five-Minute Photo Fix. Turn your food photo from "are you sure that's edible?" to "holy cow, get in my belly now!" in less than five minutes.  Really, the most difficult thing about this tutorial is not eating the cookies while shooting!
 

I lightly fold the sheet of paper to more easily prop the piece of paper up against an object behind the subject (in this case, cookies). When you shoot, you'll be eye-level with your subject, which will give the image a nice, seamless background, much like a mini studio photo! There are more advanced ways to set up a lightbox for images like this, which I go into in my iPhone Photography for Bloggers eCourse, but this is the fast and easy, super budget-friendly method.

 
The Five-Minute Photo Fix. Turn your food photo from "are you sure that's edible?" to "holy cow, get in my belly now!" in less than five minutes.  Really, the most difficult thing about this tutorial is not eating the cookies while shooting!
 

See the above photo? The colors are off, the shadows are harsh, the background is dark. All-in-all, not a great photo. Do you know why? It was taken with the curtains drawn and flash on. The iPhone's flash is not your friend in most situations. Turn it off! Always! Okay, almost always. There's a time and place for everything, but when natural light is available, there's no need for it.

You can easily toggle your iPhone camera's flash: When your camera app is open, in the top right corner is a little lighting bolt. Tap it and three options appear: Auto, On and Off. Tap off and you're good to go.

 
The Five-Minute Photo Fix. Turn your food photo from "are you sure that's edible?" to "holy cow, get in my belly now!" in less than five minutes.  Really, the most difficult thing about this tutorial is not eating the cookies while shooting!
 

Here's the finished product with natural light. Open up that curtain, let the light in. Jump down to eye level and once your camera app is open, tap your subject on the screen to get that beautiful focus. With my final photo, I popped it into one of my favorite mobile apps, VSCO, brightened it up, sharpened just a bit and lightened the shadows. Easy as pie, right? Er, cookies.

Post in the comments your before and after photos using the 5-minute photo fix or tag me on Instagram @835creative. I'd love to see how you use this quick method to improve your photos.


Want to learn more about boosting your iPhone photos for your blog and Instagram? Early bird pricing is going on now through February 1 for the iPhone Photography for Bloggers eCourse. As a big thanks to my blog readers, click this link or use the code EARLYBIRD at checkout for $10 off!

Improve your iPhone photography plus free workbook!

Not sure why every single photo you take with your iPhone is blurry? Are you ready to kick dark, grainy images to the curb?

Here you'll find my favorite tricks to using your iPhone to produce professional-quality images for your blog and social media. Plus, snag the free four-page iPhone Photography Workbook for Bloggers and Creatives at the bottom of this post for even more tips!

 
The best tips to improve your iPhone photography for your website, blog or social media!
 

great lighting

A great source of natural light is the single best way to create sharp images with soft shadows. How do you find natural light? Indoors, find a room that’s well lit, but without direct sunlight (bright, but not harsh). Whether you’re shooting from above, from the side or eye-level, be sure not to stand between your light source (the window) and your object.

focus!

This is one of the biggest questions I'm asked: Why are all of my iPhone photos blurry? It's a bit of a hidden feature with your phone: tap to focus. That's it! Tap the subject on your screen and wah-la! You're in focus. If your images are still blurry, try giving your iPhone's lens a little wipe down with a soft cloth. Even with a case on, the lens can get a bit dirty, causing your images to be blurry and grainy.

burst mode

At a sporting event or trying to capture your cat sprinting around the house full-speed? Try the iPhone's burst mode, which takes photos in quick succession. Instead of tapping the shutter button to take a photo, press and hold. From there, numbers will appear (and continue counting!) until you let go of the button. The same works if you use the volume button to take photos, too. This is a great feature to capture high-speed motion at its peak.

try a new angle

Some angles work, some angles don't. Until you've nailed your brand style when it comes to your photos, experiment! Jump on a stool and shoot from far above. Lay down in the grass to find a new perspective. Get up close on your subject and try the same shot with the whole room. As you work on your photography, try each image in a variety of angles (and shoot lots!), which will help you figure out your own style.

use filters sparingly

Filters are popular! In fact, they're so popular that Instagram's filter names are showing up on top baby names lists in 2015. Unfortunately, slapping a filter on your photos won't make your image much better. Some of the top pros on Instagram won't even touch filters (shocking, isn't it?), instead opting for mild adjustments in VSCO and Instagram such as brightness, contrast and sharpen. With the right lighting, you'll never have to rely on Valencia again!

want more tips and tricks?

 
 

Don't forget to pick up your free four-page iPhone Photography Workbook for Bloggers and Creatives with even more detailed tips and tricks! Pop your info below and you'll receive an instant link to download. I can't wait to see what you come up with, so tag me in your new and improved photos on Instagram with @835creative!

 
 

Want to take your iPhone photography to the next level and learn tricks on how the professionals make their iPhone images pop? The iPhone Photography for Bloggers eCourse launches January 13, 2016! Click here to sign up for the mailing list to get exclusive tips you won’t find on the blog, plus exclusive early-bird pricing before the eCourse launches!