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6 Things You Must Do Before Emailing Your Subscribers

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer! These are simple tips to protect your blog or business in the world of digital marketing. If you have additional questions, touch base with a lawyer specializing in your niche to help protect you and your business.

Some of the links on the blog are affiliate links. This means I may receive a small commission - at no charge to you! -if you click on a link and make a purchase. These affiliate links help us keep things running!


 
6 Things You Must Do Before Emailing Subscribers - 835 Creative
 

 

Did you know there are laws regarding how you should manage your email list for your blog, organization or website? Before you start sending emails to your list (or if you already have!), be sure to review the highlights of what you can and can't do with your email subscribers.

Why is the CAN-SPAM Act important?

The CAN-SPAM Act was passed in 2003 and helps protect consumers (or in this case, email recipients) from spammers. You're probably thinking, "But I'm not a spammer!" I know. Me neither.

You can accidentally step into dangerous territory in the email marketing world without even realizing it, which can lead to some serious ramifications, like having your email address/domain blacklisted. Yikes!

In no fancy words, the CAN-SPAM Act helps keep businesses honest in their marketing practices and helps keep your inbox sparkly clean.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when emailing your subscribers, whether you have 5 email subscribers or 500,000:

Always get permission to email your subscribers

If you have a subscribe box or landing page (thanks, ConvertKit!) on your website or social media, your subscribers have opted-in, or given permission, for you to send them emails. This is the safest way to add subscribers to your list.

By having several places on your website where people can opt-in to your email list, you're allowing them the option - and opportunity! - to invite you into their inbox.

That being said, there are a few ways to add subscribers to your email list when they don't subscribe directly through your website.

If you'd like to add subscribers manually to your email list, you can ask them directly via email for permission, send them a survey about your services and add an opt-in checkbox at the bottom encouraging them to sign up for your mailing list or in the case of businesses that are at trade shows at events, have a sign-up sheet where people can add their email.

Here are some ways you cannot add people to your subscriber list:

  • Add people who email you for any reason
  • Add prospective clients who use your website's contact form
  • Add clients who have not formally opted-in
  • Add people who have commented on your blog or website
  • Add people who interact with you on social media
  • Use email harvesting or bots to gain subscribers

Keep your subject lines honest

It's 2017 and you're using the internet, so you're probably familiar with the term clickbait. More and more social platforms and news outlets are cracking down on the use of clickbait, where the title of an article encourages you to click on the website, but the website is either irrelevant or lacks the information it promised in its title.

No clickbait in your emails. Don't title an email "This is the best deal ever created!" and then only offer 10% off your services or products. Make sure that the title of your email is directly relevant to what's inside.

That's not to say you can't have fun creating clever, click-worthy titles to your emails. They just have to be relevant. If not, you could 1) be flagged as spam and/or 2) get a hefty fine.  

Keep your "From" lines honest, too!

By law, you're required to be honest in who your emails are being "sent" from. That means you can't place Justin Bieber's name in the from line of your emails, unless of course, you work in the Biebs' marketing department, sending emails out to his mailing list.

Here are a few examples of what you can place in your subject lines:

  • Your organization's name (or any abbreviation)
  • Your name (First only or first and last or first, last and business name)
  • The name of a current employee of your business or organization
    • As long as it is relevant to the email and the employee approves it

Add a mailing address to your emails

This rule is probably the most broken... but don't do it! You must have a mailing address in your emails. In fact, some email marketing platforms won't let you send a single email until you've filled out your address. While you can add your home address, it is highly discouraged for obvious safety reasons.

Pro tip for online business owners: Sign up for a mailbox at a local UPS Store or a PO Box at your local post office. You can buy the smallest and/or cheapest option and ta-da! You have a business mailing address.

If you take advantage of a coworking space, many offer a mail service, which allows you to receive mail from that location and use the coworking space's address as your email marketing contact address.

Place an unsubscribe link in every email

If you're using a credible email marketing platform, an unsubscribe button or link is something that cannot be edited or removed from the emails you send. If not, make sure you're placing a link for your subscribers to easily opt-out of your emails.

Depending on your email marketing platform, you can also link to a page that allows subscribers to choose how often they receive your emails, as well. 

The unsubscribe link must be placed at the bottom of every email and cannot be concealed so it's difficult for your subscribers to find. I personally moved from MailChimp to ConvertKit about a year and a half ago and I've been incredibly thrilled with it since day one! Click here to sign up for ConvertKit.

Remove unsubscribers from your list within 10 days

If you're using an email marketing platform, this is most likely on autopilot and you don't have to worry. Websites like MailChimp, Constant Contact and ConvertKit take care of unsubscribes through the handy link that's at the bottom of the emails you send.

However, if you're sending your marketing emails and have a 'Reply to' email address, sometimes you'll get an email from someone asking to remove them from their mailing list. No matter how many clients, big or small, I've had, it still happens. You'll need to make sure they've been removed from your mailing list, stat! Okay, not 'stat,' but within ten days, max.


What are some of your biggest email marketing struggles? Let me know in the comments below!


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The Best Social Media Management Tools For Online Business Owners

Please note: Some of the services listed below are affiliate links. By clicking on the links, I may receive a small commission at no extra charge to you, which helps keep the blog running!


 
The Best Social Media Tools for Online Business Owners
 

The Best Social Media Tools for Online Business Owners

Tailwind for Pinterest

Do you wonder how online business owners are able to post dozens of useful, engaging content on Pinterest on a regular basis? No, they don't spend hours upon hours browsing specific keywords and repinning everything that comes across their feed. They use Tailwind.

Tailwind has completely changed how I use Pinterest.

You can easily choose how often you'd like to post to Pinterest and Tailwind will create a schedule based on the most popular times people are online. Bonus: This changes every day of the week and Tailwind adjusts the schedule accordingly.

 
 


For instance, I prefer to post 15-25 times per day. So for my audience, Tailwind schedules NO morning pins for several days of the week - like Mondays, when people are most likely to be catching up on work - and splits up the morning, afternoon and evening pins on other days of the week. They're constantly updating their algorithms, so it is always automatically varying when your content is posting daily and weekly based on what works best for your audience.

Another cool thing about Tailwind is its ability to easily share content. You can download the Tailwind extension for Chrome and if you're on a blog that you'd like to pin, rather than copying the URL, uploading a photo, or logging into Pinterest, you just click the Tailwind button on your toolbar, choose the board you want it to appear on and boom, scheduled.

Another favorite of mine is the ability to visit boards or profiles on Pinterest, clicking the Tailwind's extension button and a window will pop up to allow you to click and choose multiple pins on a board or profile to schedule at once. While I don't recommend pinning/scheduling more than 3-4 pins from a person's profile or board at a time, it's a great resource if you see several pins at once you'd like to add to your queue.

You can also discover new content through Tailwind as well. They're always showing recommendations that similar to content you've already posted if you use the Chrome extension; however, you can visit the drafts folder and if you have no content in your drafts folder, you'll find tons of suggestions that are similar to things you've already pinned. 

What if you've already pinned something? Tailwind takes care of that, too. There will be a little notification if you attempt to pin something that has already appeared on your board. You can choose to pick another board or keep moving with scheduling the pin to the board again.

They have several plans based on the size of your business, how often you'd like to pin and what analytics you'd like access to. Personally, I use the Plus account for myself and clients. It offers up to 400 pins to be scheduled per month, seven days of analytics that far exceed Pinterest's native analytics, plus the ability to submit your content and website to be featured (and more than likely, it will be approved).

Also, their customer service is by far the best of any online service I've used for my business. They're quick to reply to messages and emails and if there are ever any issues or questions, they're typically on it within an hour or two.

They offer a free account, but it is limited to 100 scheduled pins total - with no time limit. After you've scheduled 100 pins, your trial is complete.

Click here to receive a $15 credit toward your first month of Tailwind, plus a free trial for your first 100 pins. Pssst - it's only $15 a month, so you'll receive your first month of a Plus account for free!

Buffer for Twitter

I've tried many, many different schedulers for Twitter. Some free-but-very-limited, some used-to-be-free (cough, cough, Hootsuite) and some that are budget-busters. Even after I had tried Buffer's free version and paid version and jumped around to a few other platforms to "see what's out there," I always came crawling back to the ease of Buffer for scheduling and publishing content for Twitter. In my opinion and after almost a year of use, it is the most easy-to-use, comprehensive scheduling tool for anyone who may not have a full-on love relationship with Twitter OR anyone who feels overwhelmed when trying to find dozens of pieces of content every week for their online business. 

Like Tailwind's scheduling tool, Buffer offers a similar solution: Tell them how many times per day you'd like to post and they'll choose the best times based on your audience. Buffer's works a little differently than Tailwind's and it's for the better: You can choose how many times per day of the week you'd like to post. This works wonderfully, especially for those who prefer to keep their content light on weekends or certain days of the week.

I'm a visual person, so Buffer's calendar view is heavenly for me. If every social media scheduler could do this, I would be SO happy. I can easily see how many posts, what content is scheduled and a quick hover to see the full post in one place. You can also view your scheduled content weekly or with the list view, showing your upcoming Tweets in chronological order. I'm the biggest fan of the calendar view.

 
Buffer for Twitter - Perfect for Online Business Owners
 
Top Post Screenshot from Buffer for Twitter

I can also click on older posts and "Re-Buffer," meaning schedule it again for a future time and date. This is an especially great feature paired with Buffer's featuring of your Top Tweets, signified by a lovely little star. This is presented when your Tweets perform above average in terms of likes, retweets or replies and make it easy for you to repurpose your most popular (and engaging!) content. Yay for social media hacks!

Buffer's Content Inbox makes it suuuuuper easy for me to find content to fill in the blanks on Twitter, especially since compared to other platforms where you may post only 1-5x a day like Facebook and Instagram, Twitter's daily quota may be much higher! For the Content Inbox, you submit the sites and blogs that you prefer to source your content from and it produces a handy little RSS feed of everyone's most recent content. Click on the content and ta-da! You have a ready-to-go Tweet that just needs to be scheduled.

Much like Tailwind, Buffer also offers an simple Chrome Extension where you can click a simple button on your toolbar and instantly schedule content and add it to your queue to be published.

Buffer offers scheduling for Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and Pinterest; however, I've found that for me, it works best for scheduling Twitter for my clients. I recommend not using it for Facebook due to Facebook "punishing" outside publishers. You've probably seen studies that either confirm or deny the hit posts can take in reach and engagements when a non-Facebook publisher is used. Me? I can definitely confirm that. Case study is coming soon!

Buffer's free version has a limit of 10 scheduled Tweets at one time and only allows one account per platform - a bit of a bummer if you have more than one client other than yourself. However! Buffer's Awesome Plan is a much better deal than Hootsuite's new lowest plan (yep, Hootsuite now has MAJOR limits on its "free" accounts) at $10/month.

The Awesome Plan allows up to 10 social accounts on any mix of their offered platforms: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google+ and Pinterest with a max of 100 posts in your queue at any one time per social account. The Awesome Plan allows access to the RSS feed (Content Inbox) and calendar view, which isn't available on the free plan - and those by themselves are worth it!

Buffer used to be a better deal with a higher max of posts, but as the competition and demand rise in social media management solutions... so do the prices, as we've seen across the board in the last few months. 

Buffer is still the best bang for your buck for easy social media scheduling - and I'm even saying that without there even being an affiliate or referral program! That's just how awesome Buffer is. 

Canva

Sure, you have all of your tools to schedule content... but how are you going to create the content? With such visual social media platforms, it's hard to get noticed without branded, eye-catching graphics! Here's where Canva comes in. 

Whether you have never even heard of Photoshop or InDesign or you have a degree in design but no budget for professional tools, Canva has you covered.

You can created branded, custom graphics - complete with your logo - for free with Canva. They make it easy to customize graphics to your heart's desire... or you can work with the dozens (or more) of templates designed to make it quick and easy to create graphics for all social platforms. Yes, even Pinterest templates at the ideal size!

 
Canva Templates for Social Media
 

I typically create several Canva templates for my graphic design and social media clients - it helps them save money on a on-demand graphic designer and gives them the skills to design! I highly recommend creating a few templates of your own to match your brand identity, whether you create them from scratch or start with a pre-made template.

How do you save something as a template in the free plan? When you're working on a graphic, before you make any changes to your template, click File > Make a copy. A new window will open and the new graphic will be called "Copy of [Whatever you originally named it]." You can then work away and save it as a new image and your template will remain the same!

Canva's free plan is incredibly comprehensive; however they offer FREE Canva for Work plans to registered non-profits. How cool is that? If you plan on using Canva on a regular basis, it's also worth the $10-13 per month to access the ability to save your brand colors and fonts, resize a design for use on all social platforms, an advanced way to save templates, upload your own fonts, transparent backgrounds (great for .png files!), more folders and an advanced search.

Facebook Publishing Tools

No, it's not pretty, flashy or premium, but Facebook's native scheduler with analytics is powerful. If you're relying on Facebook to share major information about your online business or blog, stick with Facebook over a scheduler. Why? Well, if you manage a Facebook Page (not a personal profile) you're probably aware of all of the changes in algorithms and the "pay to play" changes that have occurred over the years. 

While some haven't seen it happen to them, time after time, I've seen my clients' posts get minimal reach and engagement when using an outside scheduler, which means that essentially, Facebook is rewarding those who stay on their platform. Hey, I don't blame 'em.

It was a huge leap in technology when Facebook announced the ability to schedule posts in 2013. It has come leaps and bounds since then, especially with the ability to upload videos to your video library, create drafts of posts, set expirations for posts and share your content ahead of time with other Pages (great for collaboration and marketing campaigns!).

Facebook's native Insights continue to be the most powerful, easy-to-use and translate analytics for the platform. Sure, it's lacking aspects of audiences and how they interact with posts, but for the small business owner, it's great information that's easy to track and see progress. 

Honorable Mentions


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Quiz: Should you hire a professional designer for your brand?

 
Quiz: Should I hire a professional designer to brand or create a logo for my blog or business?
 

Are you ready to hire a professional designer for your logo or visual brand?

 

Plus, read the tips below if you're on the fence on one of the most important investments for your blog or business. 

 

Do you have a business name?

Before you can have a graphic designer create a logo for your blog or business, you must have a business name. It's difficult - read: impossible - to create a logo of any type without the letters that make up your brand name. Make sure you've done the research on other companies with the same or similar names, make sure the website and social media handles are all available as well!

Is your blog or business set up legally?

Laws vary by state, but in some states, if you make more than $400 in one year from your business or hobby, you'll need to legally register your business, trademark your business name and get set up to pay quarterly taxes. Disclaimer: I'm not a lawyer or tax professional, so be sure to work with a licensed professional for advice on getting your business set up!

Are your services defined?

Let's say you selling engraved wedding invitations on Etsy, but a friend asked you to make her a website, so you decided to do it for the first time. Then you received a random email that asked if you create tutus for children, so you went for it, too. Maybe you decided to start walking dogs as a little extra money on the side. 

It's important to develop a solid foundation for your business before branding it visually. Would you go into a store and let a sales associate dress you without telling them a bit about your personality, comfort level and style? After all, a super feminine personality and style might not fit too well in black leather and skull motifs, am I right?

Unfortunately, you can't brand all of those services and products under one umbrella. You'll need to focus on a defined set of services or products before hiring a designer to create a logo or full brand. That's not to say you won't eventually create an engraving, website design, tutu, dog walking media empire under one umbrella business, but... start small and focused and brand each service or product category separately.

Who is your target audience or client?

This goes hand-in-hand with defined services. While it is possible to market to everyone, everywhere, even massive brands like Coca-Cola and Pepsi have a defined target market. Ever notice how their commercials always seem so... hip? Yes, even with a little controversy. It's not by some mistake! It's branding.

Consider professional programs, like business coaching, before hiring a designer for your brand. Working with a business coach can help you narrow down your ideal client or customer, set the basics of a marketing plan and give you the next steps of making it legal before you formally hire a designer to develop a visual brand or rebrand for your business.

Are you ready to invest?

Ah, this one can be a big one as to whether or not someone hires a professional designer. Always know that you get what you pay for with a designer. A $5 (or even $100!) logo may not be original or research done specifically for your business, audience and services or products. A smart guideline to follow when considering hiring a professional graphic designer for your brand is 10-20% of your annual business income for the year. Keep in mind this isn't every year! A great designer will create a brand that will last several years.

Why is it worth it to invest in a professional? A good brand identity designer will walk you through the process to help narrow down your audience and services. Most designers worth their weight are knowledgeable on basic marketing and branding principles and can help guide you in the right direction for your brand.

A great designer will also often do everything they can to learn about your business before starting the design process, whether that's through a detailed questionnaire, coffee chat or Skype sessions. Each designer works differently, but come prepared with questions on their design process, timeline and portfolio when interviewing designers.

But how much do graphic designers typically cost?

A comprehensive brand identity design or rebrand can start at $1000 if you work with less experienced designers for a full package including a logo, mood board and collateral items like social media graphics, brand style guide, blog graphics, business cards and more.

Larger agencies can charge upwards of $10-20,000 or more; however, this price range reflects established, large-market companies or national brands.

By working with a small design agency with several years of experience, you can expect to pay between $1,500-$5,000 for a complete brand identity design.

What if you're not "ready"?

Hey, there's not a thing wrong with that - we all started somewhere, pal! There are lots of options if you aren't quite ready - legally, financially or business plan-wise.

Here are a few more ways to start branding your business, DIY-style:

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How to Avoid Instagram's Shadow Ban

 
How to avoid Instagram's Shadow Ban, shadowban, shadowbanning. Avoid the shadowban and grow your Instagram!
 

instagram has made some big changes

You've probably been wondering why you've seen a major drop in your engagement on one of the most popular social media platforms, Instagram. It's not just you - it's everyone! Instagram has implementing a few... ahem, changes regarding how people can find and view your content on the app and it's hurting everyone from small bloggers to big businesses.

On average, most accounts have seen a drop in engagement from 30-70%. What does that mean? Less likes, reach, comments, video views and a big kick in the confidence of social media managers and users everywhere - ha!

The good news is it's happening everywhere. The bad news is this is one of the biggest changes - and challenges - to a social media platform's algorithms in quite a while. But don't fret! There are ways to minimize the impact. Let's talk about 'em.  

What exactly IS a shadowban?

Depending on the social media platform, the definition of a shadowban varies. It's been around for quite a while (over ten years!), but has only jumped into the spotlight with the extreme measures seen on our favorite image-sharing platform. It began as a way for a platform to "soft" ban a post, image or user temporarily as a way to cut down on abusive or spam-like content.

Typically, if you've been shadowbanned, you won't know it or be alerted by the platform or app, and your content will not be publicly found in searches under certain keywords or hashtags.

With Instagram's shadowban, your content may not show up under certain hashtags by people who do not follow you. This is a big deal. Why? People use hashtags to be found by new audiences!

This varies from post-to-post. If you've been shadowbanned, the likelihood of ALL of your posts not showing up in search is very, incredibly slim. If you use a hashtag Instagram finds to be frequently used by abusive or spam accounts, your post will be penalized (shadowbanned) and will not show up in the "Top Posts" or anywhere within any of the hashtags you used for that post.

All around, Instagram is placing priority on natural (and let's be honest: paid) engagement, especially with business accounts and is discouraging a reliance on using hashtags and automated services to reach your key audience.

Instagram's response to shadowban

How to avoid a shadowban on your account

first, Check if you've been banned

While at this time, there isn't a way to directly check individual hashtags, a sweet little site called the Instagram Shadowban Tester makes it easier to find out if you've been banned and how narrow down the likelihood of using banned hashtags in the future.

Type in your username to see if your most recent post has been shadowbanned or copy and paste the URLs of any of your posts to see if they're showing up in the public hashtag search option.

If any (even one!) hashtag has been zeroed in by Instagram for a shadowban, your image won't show up in the public searched for any of the hashtags you've used in that post.

If you use the same hashtags for every post, it may be difficult to narrow down how you've been banned. We'll talk more about how to use hashtags wisely down below!

Avoid using apps & bots 

As a convenience factor, many Instagram users sought the help from outside apps to boost engagement, whether it was by using apps or paid services to automatically follow accounts within their niche or ideal customer avatar or automatically liking/commenting on posts within a targeted hashtag or set of hashtags.

In 2017, that's not an okay practice, according to Instagram, no matter how ethically you use these apps and programs. To avoid being placed within the crosshairs of Instagram's TOS and avoid the risk of being shadowbanned or banned completely, pull your subscriptions from any apps that post, comment, follow or like on your behalf. Consider pulling any apps you've used in the past to track your followers, too!

Instagram has a limit to how active you can be within an hour as well:

Instagram suggests you don't exceed more than:

  • liking 120 posts per hour
  • following 60 accounts per hour
  • commenting 12-20 times per hour
  • 5 @ mentions per post

And do not follow a user, then unfollow once they follow you back! One, as a way to gain new followers, it's pretty shady. Two, Instagram's gonna find ya and ban ya.

however!

There have been lots of questions about whether Instagram schedulers are part of this risk of being banned. As of May 2017, there is no issue with schedulers that do not automatically post like Planoly, Buffer and Later.

Schedulers that simply send you a push notification as a reminder to post, then copy the caption and image to Instagram are a-okay for now. The ones that post FOR you - without a push notification that guides you into the app to post - are getting banned left and right each day.

Use hashtags carefully

Watch out when using popular hashtags or those that are borderline abusive or spammy, such as those that are used to primarily gain likes and followers, super popular topics or hashtags that encourage a "like for like" or "follow for follow" engagement.  

Don't exceed more than 20-30 hashtags in your captions or comments. More than 30 hashtags in a caption or comment will have that content automatically banned and put your account at risk of being 100% banned.

Sometimes even innocent hashtags can fall victim to a ban if it suddenly becomes compromised with spam or abusive posts. Yep, even your #supermom, #halloween or #foodiefriday posts could suddenly be banned.

Check out this list of hashtags from The Data Pack that have been or are currently banned on Instagram - warning, some hashtags on the link may be offensive and/or nsfw! After all, they're banned.

Switch up your strategy

You may have notes or autofills to help you with pasting your hashtags in your posts depending on subject... And you may want to rethink it.

Try varying the number of hashtags you use per post. Using a number of popular hashtags for your niche? Break them up into two categories, varying which ones you use for each post. Post 3-5 hashtags for one post and 10-15 for the next.

Post 1-3 times per day, varying the times you post during the day. It's enough to get you seen in searches and your followers' feeds, but not enough to alert Instagram of any TOS-breaking actions. Most strategists recommend no more than 5 posts a day - more than that in 2017 and you're at risk of being flagged to be banned.

How to remove a shadowban

There isn't too much you can do to remove a shadowban from your content; however, if you know which hashtag Instagram has banned, you can remove the offending hashtags from your captions/comments and within a few hours to a day, your content should be searchable once again.

If you find you've been shadowbanned, remove the hashtag(s) that's caused the ban, take a break from Instagram: Log out for a few days before diving back in again. Slow how often you're engaging with content if you're on Instagram for several hours every day. Essentially, you're giving Instagram's algorithms a chance to realize you're a person, not a bot.  

All-in-all, the best way to remove a shadowban is to follow the above tips to avoid a shadowban in the first place! It's a chicken-or-the-egg approach, but by keeping an eye on the most recent trends and how your account is appear in searches, you'll start to see your engagement increase once again.

Has your content been shadowbanned on Instagram? Know of any other techniques to help with engagement in the "shadowban age"? Comment below and talk to us!

 

 

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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!

 
 
How to pair fonts in graphic design like a professional - Design tips for bloggers and online businesses by 835 Creative
 

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 entrepreneur 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!