5 Great Sites to Get Free Stock Photos

These days there are endless sites to get amazing free stock photos. There are so many sites offering royalty-free images there is no longer any reason to take any old image from the Internet and use it on your website.

5 Great Sites to Get Free Stock Photos

Hey, do you love this stock photo in my blog header image? It’s available exclusively from Sage Media & Marketing and free for your personal or commercial use.

What are royalty-free images?

There’s a difference between stock photos and royalty-free stock photos, although they can be one and the same. At times. A free stock image means you can use it free-of-charge. Royalty-free means you can use the image however you want but you may have to purchase it.

When you’re on a stock photo website, take a moment to review the terms and conditions. Sometimes you can download a free stock image but there are restrictions in how you can use it or you must credit the source and/or photographer. Some sites allow you to use an image once for free and require you to purchase a license to use it again or in another way. Some free stock image photo sites are also royalty-free and allow you to use the images for commercial use.

There are some great commercial use, royalty-free free stock photo websites out there. And that’s important to us because we’re writers, not photographers. We need the help! While I do purchase stock images and take my own photos from time to time, I mix in a good amount of free stock photos on my website and social media.

Places to Get Free Stock Photos

Sage Media & Marketing

These images are a customized mix of flat lays and lifestyle, perfect for bloggers and small business owners alike. There are 10 free stock photos available from Sage Media & Marketing with more promised in the future. The best part about these stock images is they aren’t available on any other stock photo website so there’s a good chance you haven’t seen them around.

Pixabay

I’ve talked about Pixabay before and I still recommend it. It’s a great place to go for general images. The free stock photography site offers more than a million images and videos including illustrations and vector graphics. It’s worth checking out.

Unsplash

Unsplash is the hipster mecca of free stock photos. These beautiful, free photos are gifted by the world’s most generous community of photographers, according to the website. All photos are licensed under Creative Commons Zero, meaning 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.

Gratisography

These quirky, creative, always free photos are toted as the world’s quirkiest collection of free high-resolution pictures. According to the website, these free stock photos are comprised of the world’s best, most creative images and are free of copyright restrictions.

New Old Stock (this is such a cool free stock photo site)

This site curates old photos for personal and non-commercial use, at minimum. Links to the original image location are provided for users to check the licensing details for themselves. Most or all of the images available on this site are in the public domain, which means no permission is required to use these free stock photos at all.

These are a few of my go-to sites for free stock images and I hope you find great images from them.

But if we’re taking free stock photos, how do photographers get paid?

I wanted to address this objection because this freelance lifestyle isn’t easy. And, if you’re like me, you’re friends with professional photographers and you want to support them whenever possible.

And you may be wondering if taking free stock photos is a bit hypocritical since many photographers are freelance and we work so hard to not work for free.

When you use free stock photos you’re not stealing from the photographer. Many of them are trying to make a name for themselves and are gifting their images to the community as part of their long-term strategy. Once they gain a larger following they’re able to make money from their photography through bookings, selling images to their follows and fans, and many other income streams. They’ve decided by offering some things for free it will help them reach their career goals.

Hmm…free stock photos are much like offering free advice on blogs….

Here’s the bottom line: if you don’t feel comfortable using free stock photos then don’t. Take your own or purchase them. There are upsides to not using free stock photos. Not only will your conscience be clear, you’re images will be unique and customized if you take them yourself. If you purchase stock photos your images will likely higher quality and less “all over the Internet.” So there are there’s that.

Once you have great photos, here’s how to make them even better.

These days there are endless sites to get amazing free stock photos. There are so many sites there's no excuse not to have great images on your website.

One more thing. You may be interested in my free resource library. This is where I keep my files, downloads, ebooks, worksheets and whatever else I manage to create. I love sharing what I learn and want to keep adding to this library so it becomes a wealth of helpful goodness.

This is a free resource but I do require a password to access the library itself. You can get access by popping your email address into the form below.

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These days there are endless sites to get amazing free stock photos. There are so many sites there's no excuse not to have great images on your website.
These days there are endless sites to get amazing free stock photos. There are so many sites offering royalty-free images there is no longer any reason to take any old image from the Internet and use it on your website.

Going Viral: Creating Contagious Content

Have you ever wondering what makes something go viral? Is there a secret? What do viral-video makers know that you don’t? Learn the what and how of going viral and a few tips for what you can do to make your content more contagious.

Going Viral

Going Viral: Creating Contagious Content

It was my niece’s first birthday and her mother threw a party, inviting the whole family to join in on the celebration. Everyone was excited to share in the festivities but the morning before the party, people began cancelling saying they weren’t feeling well.

But this was my niece’s first birthday! A big O-N-E!

With much pressure on, the family came together to save the party. Those who were feeling sort of better were encouraged to show up anyway and give my niece the party she deserved.

So they came.

And it was a lovely time. Good food, good conversations and good feelings all around.

Later that evening…

I haven’t vomited from being ill since I was a child. But vomit I did, from midnight till 8 a.m. the next morning. Who was the culprit? No real idea, since there were a few people at the party who weren’t feeling 100 per cent and we spent the day switching children, changing seats, and grabbing snacks from the same bowls.

And I learned I wasn’t the only one. Most of the other non-sick party-goers spent the next day beside the toilet.

It all happened so fast. One moment we were minding our own business, living life like normal, and the next we were swept up into a wave of vomit-filled illness by no fault of our own except for attending the party and enjoying ourselves.

What happened? Our party went viral.

Going Viral: The What and How of Creating Contagious Content

What does “going viral” mean?

Sans vomiting, going viral in Internet terms is seen as a good thing. It’s what happens when a piece of content (article, photo, video, etc.) is shared, copied and otherwise spread across social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

How many shares does it take before something is considered viral?

I’m sorry to say, there isn’t an exact number. Viral status is achieved when the proportion of people seeing the content and then sharing it increases over what’s usual.

I know, could it be more vague?

Think of viral sharing like a secret. If you share a secret with someone, and that person shares it with someone else and then another, and another. Pretty soon everyone knows your secret. But if the person keeps your secret, that’s where the sharing ends. It’s safe and no one knows about it.

The simple math of virality

Viral content is relative. When you share a piece of content on social media, how many shares is normal? If you see your shares go up from normal on a couple posts, you can consider those viral. However, if your shares go up and stay up then it’s the new normal. Not viral anymore.

The more complicated math of true viral content

Of course, a few extra shares here and there doesn’t make a big impact. We want to know about the life-changing kind of viral content like Chewbacca Mom’s laughing video or Mandy Harey’s deaf singing audition for America’s Got Talent. How do you get those?

The next level of viral content

When you level up on going viral this is where stuff happens. On day one a piece of content is shared and you receive your regular likes, shares, and website visits, plus a few extras. This (according to ShareProgress) is called “first generation.” From there, a few of these first generation people share your content on their social channels and some of their friends check it out. They’re called “second generation.” By the second generation there should be more likes, shares and website visits. Now it’s on the second generation of visitors to share your content. If a few more than the first round do this, then the third generation of visitors should be seeing your content. If this continues then you’ll see exponential likes, shares, and website visits. This is where things get crazy.

In the simple viral example, you’ll have a bump of activity and then things will go back to normal. In the next level of going viral, the momentum grows and keeps growing and, if you’re prepared for it, sends your life in a new direction.


How do I make something go viral?

Yeah, sorry. I don’t know how. Actually, I don’t think anyone does. No matter how many terms I Google, all I come up with is “there’s no formula, there’s no secret.”

But here are a few things you can do to help your content be ready for going viral.

Here are some reasons people are most likely to share something.

  • If they have a strong reaction to it
  • If they have a positive emotional response to it
  • They are more likely to share if they feel inspired by it
  • If they are surprised by it
  • If they find it practical and useful
  • People are more likely to share something if they think it will help someone

Where to go from here

Before you write an article don’t think about what will or won’t make it go viral, instead think about what will help and inspire your audience. Think about what they’d like to read/watch/hear and then create it. Be genuine, be real, and be positive.

Here’s how Derek Halpern says it.

Positive uplifting content always gets shared. Remember, there’s a lot of unhappy people in the world, and while there are different reasons for being unhappy, content that is uplifting and inspirational helps people get out of their rut…even if it’s only for a few seconds.

I don’t know about you, but I’d sure like to help someone out of their rut today.

If you need help coming up with content ideas or don’t know who you’re audience is, that’s where I come in. Drop me a line and let’s start a conversation. I’m here to help!

Have you ever wondering what makes something go viral? Learn what going viral means and a few tips for what you can do to make your content more contagious.

One more thing. You may be interested in my free resource library. This is where I keep my files, downloads, ebooks, worksheets and whatever else I manage to create. I love sharing what I learn and want to keep adding to this library so it becomes a wealth of helpful goodness.

This is a free resource but I do require a password to access the library itself. You can get access by popping your email address into the form below.

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How to Create a Blog Content Calendar

There’s so much value in a good plan. I built my content calendar last fall and I’m keeping to it today. Here’s what I did and how you can do it to.

Content Calendar

A content calendar helps you out!

  • It take the guesswork out of what to write
  • It keeps your blog on track with relevant content
  • A content calendar sets you on a strategic plan that moves you forward
  • It helps you avoid burning out
  • It aligns your blog with your core goals

I’ve been a professional writer for a long time, but up until this year I didn’t put together a blogging content calendar.

Why?

A few reasons I suppose. First, because I create content calendars for everyone else so my blog was the last thing I touched in an average freelance day. Second, because I was a bit paralyzed in overwhelm. So many ideas. Too many things to write about. You know, the usual blogging problems.

#bloggerproblems

But I knew the value of a good plan—there’s nothing like a calendar to tell you what to write and keep you on track.

Long story short, I told myself to quit stalling and created a sweet content calendar. I built it last fall, I implemented it last January, and I’m keeping to it today. Here’s what I did and how you can do it too.


How to create an editorial calendar

  1. Get clear on who you’re talking to (your ideal reader) and what you offer (what’s your goal? what are you trying to achieve?)
  2. I spent a few months figuring this out. Here’s what I came up with: My ideal readers are creative freelancers. I help busy people do marketing.

    To get clear on my blogging goals I took tips from people I trust but I found the most practical help from Denise Duffield-Thomas’ Planning Process. In this post she outlines her step-by-step planning process and links to her simple business plan. I filled it out and used the plan I came up with as the foundation for my content calendar.

  3. Decide what your topics are
  4. Once you know what you offer, it’s time to brainstorm what topics you want to cover. For example, my ideal reader struggles with time management, marketing/digital strategy, organization, and overwhelm. Look at that, I have four main topics.

    I used these topics as headings, then brainstormed blog post ideas for each one. From a short session I had 17 ideas. If I decided to blog once per week I all of a sudden had 17 weeks of posts lined up. Wow. OK maybe I could do this.

    And third

  5. Put everything into a calendar template

There are a lot of options when it comes to editorial/content calendars, everything from paper planners to cloud-based task systems. You need to use what works for you. After some trial and error I found Trello works for me. If you haven’t heard of it before I’ll give you a little overview of how it works and how I used it.

Trello is a cloud-based visual project management tool. It took me a while I understand how to use it but after a few video tutorials (I watched how other people used Trello) I figured out a system.

How I plan content using Trello

First, I started different boards: Content Calendar, Goals, Article Ideas, Articles in Progress, Blog Post Planner, Newsletter, etc.

Next, I populated the boards with lists. In my Content Calendar board I started with my four main themes and put them on a list of their own. I have found this keeps me focused on my big ideas when I’m brainstorming individual blog posts. In my Article Ideas board I created 12 lists for the 12 months and put 10-20 ideas/prompts under each list. For example, my August prompts are back to school, Labour Day recipes, beach crafts, scheduling, planning, gardening, canning, autumn, etc. These aren’t topics I’ll write about per se, but it’s a place to start.

I have different lists in each of my boards. Some are tasks with due dates and some are just lists of ideas, links to articles I want to come back to, or goals for this year.

This is what is working for me. Having a visual plan laid out holds overwhelm back. In fact I haven’t sat down and wondered what to write in months. Months! I also like my content calendar because it keeps my blog ideas separate from my freelance work or anything else I’m working on. Oh yeah, and it never gets lost on my desk.

There's so much value in a good plan. I built my content calendar last fall and I’m keeping to it today. Here’s what I did and how you can do it to.

Here’s how I plan each month of blog content using a content calendar

I try and plan at least three months of content at a time. When I say “plan” it’s not like I have draft posts written up, but I have a blog topic and maybe a few notes of the direction I want to go with it. I also have coloured labels for my different types of content and I label it right away.

All the blog topics go in a list I’ve called Articles in Progress. Then when I go to plan a new month I create a new list with the month name and pull the different brainstorms from Articles in Progress to the month blog lineup. From there I look to see each theme is covered (easy to tell when they’re colour-coded!) and assign dates.

Of course, none of this is set in stone so if a sponsored post comes up, I’m able to swap my calendar around to make room. Oh, and how awesome is it to actually know when you can post something when speaking with a client? I mean, how pro!

Once a month is over I archive the list and set up the next month of content, so I always have a rolling three-month plan.

And when I have a new idea? I add it to the Articles in Progress list. A sponsored post comes up? I figure out when is the best time to post and move my calendar around. It was a lot of initial set up but now that it’s rolling I don’t know how I blogged before this. Not only am I keeping on track but it is an enjoyable experience. No more stress!

If my story isn’t enough to convince you to build and keep to an editorial calendar, I don’t know what will. You can’t be strategic without a good plan.

By the way, if this is something you want to set up I’ve outlined my process in a short (super short) video in case it’s helpful.


To create a content calendar you’ll need:

  • Some sort of calendar template
  • Themes
  • Monthly topics
  • Blog post ideas

One last thing.

Before I could plan what to write I decided how often I would write. I decided I’d post each Tuesday at minimum. I want to write more, but deep down I knew once per week was even asking a lot. My blog hadn’t been priority for a long time and I needed to get back in the habit of posting with consistency before I could do anything grander.

I also made posting on Tuesdays the priority over posting on topic.

Weird, I know. I spent all that time coming up with what and who and why and how and all that. But here’s the thing, all the topics I came up with were things I’m also struggling with. Some of them needed to simmer on the back burner while I figured out what I have to say about it. Some ideas needed testing. Like this topic for example. Can a blogging content calendar help a busy writer who doesn’t have time for a personal blog? Six months ago I wasn’t sure. Now I know.

So sometimes my posts aren’t 100 per cent on topic. And I’m good with that. Because I am still posting every Tuesday.

Need help cutting through the paralysis of analysis in order to get focused on what you want your blog to do for you? Let’s chat!

There is so much value in a good plan—there’s nothing like a calendar to tell you what to write and keep you on track. I built my blogging content calendar last fall, I implemented it last January, and I’m keeping to it today. Here’s what I did and how you can do it too.

One more thing. You may be interested in my free resource library. This is where I keep my files, downloads, ebooks, worksheets and whatever else I manage to create. I love sharing what I learn and want to keep adding to this library so it becomes a wealth of helpful goodness.

This is a free resource but I do require a password to access the library itself. You can get access by popping your email address into the form below.

Get Access to My Free Resource Library

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10 Reasons to Start a Blog

If you’re thinking maybe it’s time to start a blog, I hope this overview helps you decide one way or the other. I’ve seen many benefits from blogging so recommend it if you’re willing to put in the work!

Start a Blog

Why Start a Blog?

Blogging is one of those things people hear they should do…and then hear they shouldn’t do. So you may be wondering if there’s any merit at all in it.

There is. Merit that is. However, it’s not something to be taken lightly. Before deciding to start a blog think about your goals. What are your reasons? What do you want to get out of it? Is it something you can commit to?

If you think blogging will make you an overnight success or you’ll be discovered or some other get-rich-quick dream I’d take a step back and adjust your expectations. Sure, that could happen but the chances are low. However, there are still other excellent reasons to start a blog.

10 Reasons to Start a Blog

  1. Regular blogging improves your writing
  2. By managing a blog you can also improve your tech and design skills
  3. A blog is a great way to share your ideas and passions with others
  4. You can blog any day or time, no restrictions
  5. Blogging helps you find your voice
  6. You can help people through your blog
  7. Blogging helps you express yourself
  8. There are a lot of networking opportunities in the blogging world
  9. Publishing a blog helps you put your writing out there
  10. Blogging helps you gain confidence in yourself and your writing

In my opinion, blogs are brilliant. And for those just starting out in freelance writing, you blog can be an excellent source of writing samples (until you build your own portfolio). It can also give you a ton of useful resources to share on social media to help build your platform.

Of course, launching a blog is only the first part. The real secrets to blogging success are proper positioning and consistency. Over time you’ll carve a nice little space for yourself and build a community.

If you want another perspective I thought this article from the Unveiled Wife about why start a blog was insightful.

If you're thinking maybe it's time to start a blog, I hope this overview helps you decide one way or the other. I highly recommend blogging!

Other helpful Articles

One more thing. You may be interested in my free resource library. This is where I keep my files, downloads, ebooks, worksheets and whatever else I manage to create. I love sharing what I learn and want to keep adding to this library so it becomes a wealth of helpful goodness.

This is a free resource but I do require a password to access the library itself. You can get access by popping your email address into the form below.

Get Access to My Free Resource Library

* indicates required

SEO Tips and Tricks for Freelance Writers

While we may understand the importance of search engine optimization on an intellectual level, these SEO tips and tricks will (hopefully) help freelance writers understand how to vet a keyword to give their articles the best chance of being discovered.

SEO Tips and Tricks

SEO Tips and Tricks for Freelance Writers

Finding keywords is just the first step. Next is to figure out if it’s a good keyword or a bad keyword. But what does that mean?

Here’s how I like to think about good versus bad keywords. A good keyword means if I use it my article will have a chance of being discovered on the Internet. A bad keyword means it’s too competitive so don’t use it.

Keyword vetting to me means this. If I write an article about the keyword I’ve selected, will it have a chance to hit the first page of Google?

How to vet a keyword | SEO Tips and tricks

Once I’ve brainstormed my keyword ideas I take my top ones to KWFinder and do a quick check for difficulty.

It’s a simple keyword research tool to use—you pop in your word or phrase into the search bar and then click “Find Keywords.” A few seconds later your results populate and you can consider your options.

I thought I’d include a couple screenshots from my research for this post. After doing my initial research I was down to two key phrases for this post: SEO tips and tricks or keyword research tools. My results? The keyword “SEO tips and tricks” is possible to rank for with a difficulty score of 39 out of 100. The keyword “keyword research tools” is hard to rank for with a difficulty score of 61 out of 100. You can see these results on the right-hand side of the screenshot.

On the left-hand side of the screenshot you can see variations on the keyword and the difficulty associated with it. It helps you see what people are already ranking for and helps you come up with a strong direction to go with your article.

Final thoughts about seo tips and tricks

If you want to try KWFinder out there is a free account, which gives you five keyword searches every 24 hours. It’s a commitment-free way to try out the tool and decide if it’s a good fit for your writing flow.

You can make search engine optimization as complicated as you want. And you can make keyword research as expensive as you want. There are a lot of shiny objects in this world. But until you’re ready for that level of SEO, I suggest taking a simplified approach to vetting keywords.

Do you have a process for vetting keywords? I’d love to hear about it!

SEO Tips and Tricks: At some point in your writing career you'll be asked about finding keywords or SEO (search engine optimization). To be clear, SEO is a marketing skill, which writers may or may not have. So you're off the hook there. That said, it's a good idea to become acquainted with the concept as it will make you more valuable to your clients.

One more thing. You may be interested in my free resource library. This is where I keep my files, downloads, ebooks, worksheets and whatever else I manage to create. I love sharing what I learn and want to keep adding to this library so it becomes a wealth of helpful goodness.

This is a free resource but I do require a password to access the library itself. You can get access by popping your email address into the form below.

Get Access to My Free Resource Library

* indicates required