You may have heard the phrase “Content is king” – which means content is where it is at if you want to grow and promote your business.
Which sounds awesome and its easy to remember, right?
But the challenge business owners have is this:
When are you supposed to have time to create the content to attract clients who will fall in love with what you?
My goal with this blog post (and the accompanying podcast) is to take some of the stress and overwhelm out of the content creation process by showing you how much you probably already have and how to reuse and repurpose it to save yourself time.
The first step is to pause and think about all the content you've already created.
You might be muttering “Gwen, I don't make content because I don’t have time.”
Here’s the thing – I think you probably have more than you think you do!
Here are some examples of content you’ve probably already written:
Once you start making your content list, you’ll probably discover you have much more than you thought! You may have even just remembered some things you’ve created and put aside. We’re so busy working on our businesses, serving clients, and juggling everything that it can be easy to forget what we’ve already done.
The next step is to divide your content pieces into different areas so you can keep track of where it is and how you’d like to use it.
I suggest you create a list of written content, audio content, and visual content. Using this method also helps you see how you can reuse the content you already have.
Now that you know what you’ve already created, let’s look at the types of content your audience wants. No, its not magic or mind reading – it is just paying attention to what they are already asking for and being aware of where they are struggling.
Look at the common themes that come up over and over again. If you are answering the same questions via email or messenger or in groups or wherever you're spending your time then that is content that your audience wants – so create something you can share easily.
You can also use your FAQ to lead your audience. Sometimes an FAQ will have an odd or unexpected question. That is usually written because the business owner (or copywriter) wants you know that specific bit of information. What kinds of questions do you wish your audience would ask? What information do they need know that they don’t know yet?
Next, look at ways you can repurpose what you’ve already created:
Whatever piece of content you have, you can probably repurpose it five different ways (at least!)
When you approach your content this way, you’ll find that you always have something you can use, and instead of starting from scratch every time, you’re building on work you’ve already done.
How to Promote Your Content
Of course, just creating content isn’t enough. The next step is promotion. If you aren’t promoting what you do/create, nobody will see it.
In addition to your list of content you’ve created and how you can repurpose the different pieces, I’d also like you to create a list of ways you can promote what you create.
This can mean creating ads around it, but it is so much more than that!
How will you share what you’ve written or recorded in what way is will you make your audience aware that you've created this really cool thing?
Ways you can promote your content:
Finally, there is one more step to this content audit.
You need to create a plan to share what you’ve created again. And again. And again.
The content you share won’t always land the first time. Maybe the timing was off, the algorithm gods were having a bad day, or what you created didn’t resonate with the right person at the right time.
That’s why making a plan to reshare is so important.
There is so much information and content flying around that if you only share it once, you’re not doing yourself any favors. However, if you share something three or four times over the course of a month, you’ll start to see people understanding what you are sharing and responding to it.
Which brings up another benefit of knowing what content you’ve creating and making a plan to share it – You give yourself LESS work!
By creating several pieces of content and sharing them on a regular basis you won’t need to create as much since you’ll be filling your content calendar with reshares and repurposed content.
For example, creating 15 fresh Facebook or Instagram posts a month for 12 months means you need to create 180 new posts per year. That’s a lot.
However, if one third of what you share is brand new, one third if reshared content, and one third is repurposed content then you have far less work and stress.
You’ll also have several buckets of information to pull from to create content that looks new and feels new but is actually something that you've already done most of the work!
When you put yourself "out there," you are making yourself vulnerable.
It is hard enough at networking events that are limited to a set number of people. But putting yourself "out there" on the internet with a potentially much larger audience is even scarier.
You feel open and exposed.
What if someone is mean?
What if someone thinks you aren't talented?
What if someone thinks you are making it all up?
Does changing and hiding to appease "someone" out there bring you closer or further from your goals?
Does knowing that someone out there won't like what you are doing make you want to quit?
Is blending in with everyone else your goal?
I talk about pricing with my clients often. Some are happy with their prices, but a large number are undercharging to the point of not making any money at all. Which is a weird way to run a business, right?
What I'm going to say next can apply to lots of businesses, but this post is especially for photographers.
Your $50, all edited images included package is not sustainable.
Please, please, please look at your actual time investment in these sessions - travel time, editing time, communication time with the client - how many hours of your life is that $50 session costing you?
Let's be super conservative and say you don't have to pay to rent studio space and your drive to and from the location is only 10 minutes each way (lucky you!)
And, again, being conservative, let's say you only spend ten minutes (total!) in communication with your client.
Finally, let's say your session is exactly thirty minutes, no more, no less. No one is late, the kids are photogenic angels, the weather and light cooperate.
Congratulations, you're making $50 per hour!
But before you break out the bubbly, remember that 20% or so needs to go to taxes. So you made $40 per hour.
That's not bad, right?
But what about getting the photos from your camera to editing?
How much time does that take? Just a few minutes? (I guess? I'm not a photographer)
Great! But watch out, those minutes add up.
How much time do you spend selecting the best photos?
Doing some light editing?
Maybe an hour total? (I suspect it is more - photographers, educate me!)
Now you've made $20 hour. Still better than minimum wage, right?
Not so fast.
Do you pay for editing software?
Do you pay for a website?
Do you pay for insurance?
Do you pay fees for a business license?
Do you run ads?
Do you seek ongoing training?
Do you pay to belong to networking groups or attend functions?
What about your camera? How much did it cost?
How frequently will you need to service it? (or replace if it is damaged?)
Camera-related equipment? Bags, stands, flash, all of those things.
All of the above are part of your cost of doing business and you MUST understand that and factor that
into your pricing.
Let's go back to that $20/hour you are taking home at the end of the day.
You aren't making $20 every traditional working hour of the week, right? You don't have 40 hours paid at $20/hour.
Sure, there may be some times when you are able to book 2-3 people back to back, but that is the exception, not the rule.
You aren't booking four hours of photography work 5 days a week, every month.
And more importantly, that $20/hour doesn't come close to touching on the value of your unique skill, client connection, or producing great photos - it just addresses (poorly) your base time.
I just called a national chain store that offers photography services.
Their sitting fee is $10 PER PERSON.
No photos included.
No thirty minute session in a beautiful spot.
Most importantly, none of that special something YOU bring to your art as a photographer.
Look at your pricing.
Look at how much it costs you do to business.
Respect your skill and talent so others will, too.
Where should you spend your marketing time?
Where the money is.
Done. Good talk. Thanks for coming.
Ok, but really….
You know this. You need to be where your people are creating content your people care about. How, when, and what that looks like depends on your business, but the why should always be the same – you should be following an overall measurable marketing strategy to reach your goals (whatever they are) instead of posting because you forgot to do it this week.
But you also need to be aware of how much time you have, where your strengths are, and your personal tolerance for managing your own marketing. In my experience, some people loathe all forms of marketing, even if they understand the concepts. Others can tolerate it once they know how the pieces work together. And the third group finds they even enjoy marketing and have fun with it once they’ve had some practice.
As a marketing strategist, I can create a strategy for just about any business on any platform. However, I also need to know when it doesn’t make sense for a client to spend time on an activity. In my business I take that a few steps further and take my clients’ needs, personalities, and comfort levels into consideration because unlike some big businesses that have multiple departments and staff, my clients are usually one-woman shows. I feel a special obligation to them to make their marketing accessible and not scary.
But let’s step back from specific platforms for a moment and look at the various marketing tools that make it possible for you to show up in different ways and what kind of time you can expect to spend on them.
Do I have to have an email list?
Nope. But if you want to be able to reach your audience on your terms and on your schedule whenever you want, then an email list is the best way to do that. Or get all of your clients’ phone numbers and call them one-by-one. Whichever one sounds like less of a headache to you – do that.
The time it takes to set up your email list depends on how well you work with the tools. Let’s say one to two hours to set it up the first time and one hour per month (assuming you are sending one email per month) after that.
I send out an email once a month and it takes me about 30 minutes. Why is my time less that what I estimated? Because I’ve developed a workflow that works for me and I’ve gotten faster at it over time.
Do I have to have a blog or write blog posts?
Nope. But if you have great information to share or want people to find you via SEO, a blog makes a lot of sense. If you don’t care about SEO at all and just want your website to be more of a basic business card, then you can likely skip blogging entirely.
Related: How often do I have to blog?
Good news! It is completely up to you! Your blog, your choice. If you occasionally want to share something you can do that whenever you want. If your focus is more on bringing traffic to your website, building an audience, and maybe having a following then you’ll want to blog more often and with more intention.
Also related: Do I have to write my own blog posts?
Nope! You can outsource it! Whether or not you should depends (again) on your goals. If you aren’t a writer or don’t have time and just need basic posts with the proper punctuation and grammar outsource it.
If you want a blog that is more “you” and 100% reflects your voice….either work with a great ghostwriter long term, be very selective about who you hire, or be prepared to spend time writing blog posts.
There really isn’t a wrong answer – it just depends on your needs, your goals, and your time constraints.
This will vary greatly by person. Most of my blog posts take 6-8 hours to write, so I only write one per month. If you are a faster writer than me (which isn’t hard), yours won’t take as long. My blog posts also tend to be on the long side.
Start by giving yourself two hours per month and see how far you get. Or don’t blog at all use that time somewhere else.
Do I have to create videos?
Nope. Did you just breathe a sigh of relief? Although you’ll find plenty of articles and blog posts about how HOT video is and how everyone should be hopping on the video train, many people still don’t feel comfortable with showing up on video.
You DO NOT have to make videos for your business. You can. They can be a neat part of your marketing. For the right personality – they are a fantastic tool. But no one will take away your business or laugh at you if you don’t show up on video every week.
Here is even better news – there are businesses you can hire to create your videos for you! They have all the fancy equipment, skill, and resources you don’t have. In exchange for money they’ll create videos that make you look good – you may not even need to appear on video yourself!
If you're not sure whether it is time to hire someone to create your videos, read my interview with Jessica Clark - she creates videos for local businesses.
If you just do a live video off the cuff with almost no preparation – however long it takes you brush your hair, hit record, and do your thing. If general, unless you have a background in doing this, the more complicated it is, the longer it will take you to do. Don’t forget about the time it takes you to learn editing tools, lighting set up, which microphone to purchase, and so on. Your time commitment to make videos could be anywhere from 10 minutes to ten hours per month (or more!)
Do I have to be on Instagram?
You don’t. It may seem as if everyone else is, but whether or not you should spend your time there depends on what you want to get out it.
If, for example, your audience spending time on Instagram in ways they might connect with what you do? Then it makes more sense to spend time on Instagram.
On the other hand, if your audience isn’t on Instagram in ways that make sense for your business – you will either need to do something extraordinary to get and maintain their attention or get used to lower results that you might be hoping for.
Again, this is hard to estimate because there are extra factors – Do you need to create or find images? Do you find it easy or challenging to write captions? Are you posting to Stories? How stylized are your photos?
You’ll also need to include time for hashtag research, responding to comments, and interacting with other Instagram users.
If you are creating graphics, it makes more sense to do several at once rather than one or two a week. It also helps to create a content calendar ahead of time so you know what you are posting and when.
As an example, I recently created an outline for four months of content in about an hour – 6 concepts/ideas to talk about and 10 subtopics under each of those 6 concepts equals 60 unique posts.
I spent another hour creating the images and a basic copy outline for those 60 posts.
The way my Instagram is set up, I need around 15 of those per month (the rest of my posts are regular images). In total, I spent around two hours setting this up. I’ll still need to expand the copy a little bit and change hashtags, but the two hours I spent means I’ve greatly decreased the time I need to spend on Instagram tasks for at least the next four months (longer if I reuse posts I’ve already created).
Plan for one hour of big picture planning per month, 30 minutes of posting/scheduling time per week, and 5-10 minutes per day for interacting with other accounts and responding to comments.
Do I have to have a head shot?
If there is a chance you’ll be speaking, presenting, or otherwise be featured anywhere – then probably. This company has a fun, on-brand (and possibly brave!) approach to head shots (link to green cooking show thing). But their choice might not be your choice.
So, yes, in many cases you need a head shot. Find a photographer whose work you like and do it.
Some photographers do basic mini sessions that can be as short as 15 minutes while others take longer.
Do I have to have a Facebook business page?
This one is a little tougher just because Facebook is such a HUGE entity. But, no. There are businesses without Facebook pages doing just fine. However, if your alternative to skipping the Facebook business page is to treat your personal profile as a selling platform, please be aware that this violates Facebook’s terms of service (that agreement you probably didn’t read when you first signed up for Facebook). They can (and do) shut down/delete profiles for violating their rules.
Similar to Instagram, it depends on how involved your process is, posting frequency, and how much you need to do before hitting “schedule”.
If you decide to also publish your Instagram posts on Facebook, your time commitment can go down even further.
Try giving yourself 45 minutes per week to schedule week or more of Facebook posts.
If you schedule something interesting this month, it makes sense to schedule it again in a couple of months. You can also look through your past posts and re-post something that did well for you. Not only will this cut down on the time it takes you to create a post, you’ll also have a good chance of your post doing well the second time, too.
Do I have to go to networking events?
Absolutely not. For the right person in the right time of their life networking can be a fab and fast way to build connections and meet people. But it isn’t required. Plenty of business owners never attend networking events and their business still grows. (mob link)
Excluding travel time, an hour or two per event.
Do I have to send out cold calls, emails, or postcards?
It depends on your business. For some business models this is a standard method of getting in front of new people, and it works for them. For others, it isn’t a good fit. You know your business best.
It depends on your business and what this project looks like to you. Are you calling random numbers and hoping for the best? Low time commitment. Are you designing a post card? Crafting a thoughtful email? Higher time commitment and then less since you can reuse what you’ve written.
The Next Step
Now that I’ve covered some tools and given you some loose time frames – what is your next step?
Determine how much time you can set aside for your marketing and stick to it for a month (Does this sound like going to the gym? Yes!)
Keep track of how much time you are spending and what tasks you are working on. If you deal with a lot of interruptions, I suggest setting a timer that you can pause and restart as needed.
At the end of the month, look back over what you did and determine if it was a good use of your time. If it was, keep doing it. If it wasn’t, look at why and decide if you need to focus on something else next month. If you discover there are some tasks you recognize need to be done, but you don't want to do them, then outsource the work and use your time on something else.
Before we get started, I’d like to draw a line between your marketing strategy and the tools you use to execute that strategy.
Facebook is a tool, not a strategy.
Facebook ads are a tool, not a strategy.
Instagram is a tool, not a strategy.
Instagram Stories are a tool, not a strategy.
Your website is a tool, not a strategy.
SEO is a tool, not a strategy.
Your copy is a tool, not a strategy.
Your fonts and logo are a tool, not a strategy.
Your new headshot is a tool, not a strategy.
Your email list is a tool, not a strategy.
Get the idea?
You’ll notice I talk a lot about tools here on my blog, other places online, and when I speak. That’s because “How do I….?” questions come up frequently. In my mind, I’m always tying it to strategy (which is why my intake form focuses so much on goals), but I wanted to write a blog post just on strategy because I see so many people get so stuck on specific tools they forget they should be looking at the bigger picture.
Step 1 – Set a Goal
What is the goal of your marketing strategy?
Is it more sales?
More traffic to your website?
Are you focusing on just awareness right now?
Is it visibility and reach?
Do you want to get people to your physical location?
Do you want them to sign up for your email list?
One place I see business owners get stuck is the idea that posting once on social media or showing up once at a networking event will automatically mean a sale. Sometimes it works that way, but it isn’t standard.
If your answer to my question above is “I want to make a sale,” then you need to think about all the steps someone would need to take to feel comfortable buying from you.
Those steps? That’s your marketing strategy.
Someone must be aware of you before they can buy from you.
They have to feel connected enough to you or your product to want to buy it.
They need be engaged in the process of wanting to buy something.
They have to be in the position of allowing you to make a sale to them.
When you are considering which business goals to pursue, make sure they are your goals and not someone else’s. This isn’t the time to let family, friends, podcasts, or articles you read online tell you what you should want in your business.
Your goals should be reasonable and attainable for where you are in your business now (not where you wish you were) or you are setting yourself up for failure. It is one thing to set a goal to sell 50 items this month when you are already selling 45. It is a completely different thing to set a goal to sell 50 items this month when you don’t even have product yet.
If your goal is make a sale, add 10 people to your email list, and get five shares on a post – you are closer, but for this process, stick with a single goal instead of several so your stay focused and your marketing doesn’t end up scattered.
Step 2 – Define Your Difference
Get clear about how and why what you do is different from others who do what you do.
To be clear, there are likely thousands (if not more) people who do what you do. Your challenge is setting yourself apart.
It is easy to say “I care more” or “I work harder,” but that isn’t something someone outside your head can grasp onto.
Go deeper. Be specific – what are the benefits someone gets from working with you? What are the wonderful things you do for your customers? How do you meet your clients’ needs? Why is your approach different or better? How do you show those differences through every step of someone working with you?
I also suggest looking at where you can make yourself stand out. If, for example, you say you have great customer service, but you drop the ball and don’t return calls or messages – that creates a disconnect for your customers because you aren’t living up to the level of service, they expect from you.
You need to know not only why and how you do what you do, but also be able to share it with your potential clients. This goes far beyond a tag line – it is every interaction they have with you before, during, and after the time you work together because you are creating an overall experience for them.
Step 3 – Know Who You Want to Work With
This might be the place where you expect me to start dropping terms like “client avatar” and “buyer persona” – but I’m not going to do that.
Instead, I want to ask you who YOU want to work with?
If you are thinking “I want to work with everyone!” – you are thinking too broad. Not everyone needs your services/product. Even if you are selling mops not every person needs a mop, and even those that do only sometimes need a new one.
Instead of thinking “Anyone who will buy from me!” think “Who makes me love my work?”
What kinds of clients/buyers make you think “I wish I could work with them every day!”
Who has made you so excited you can’t wait to meet with them again?
Which clients make you happy when you see their email in your inbox?
Conversely, which clients do you think about and shudder?
Who made you want to turn off your phone and move to another country rather than deal with them one more time?
I have had both (and everything in between). I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather work with someone who makes me happy to do the work with them and is excited about working with me, too.
As my business has progressed, I’ve gone from needing to take every possible client and hoping for the best (even when there were alarm bells!) to being able to be selective about who I work with and when.
Step 4 – Know your People
Now that you have a goal in mind, you’ve thought about how you stand out from the crowd, and you have a good idea of who you do (and don’t) want to work with – let’s talk about where to find your people.
This is where you have to put yourself in your client’s shoes and determine:
Where they spend their time?
You need to be where your people are and sharing information in a way that makes sense to them.
If, for example, your people are primarily on Linked In – then you need to be there.
If, on the other hand, your audience doesn’t use Linked In – then you probably don’t need to be there.
I can say, in a very general way, that most businesses need to have a professional presence on Facebook (and it is a must if you want to run ads). But I can also think of businesses who have no social media presence at all and seem to do fine because they are focusing their efforts in other places.
If you aren’t sure where your clients hang out ask yourself where your last five clients came from – chances are you’ll see a pattern. If your last five clients came from referrals – where did you meet the people who are referring you?
Step 5 – How Do You Help?
I’ll be honest, I loathe the term “pain points” – it is a mean phrase meant to push people in a direction they may or may not want to go in – all so someone can make a sale. Its yucky. So let’s flush that term and focus on where you help people instead (hey! Let’s make “Helper Points” a thing!)
Again, put yourself in your clients position:
What they care about?
What do they need to hear from you?
What problem do you solve for them?
When they have a problem you can solve – what makes them decide to seek help?
When they are seeking help – what do they think the solution looks like?
Approach it from a place of compassion and lessening someone else’s struggles and frustrations. You’ll have a great place to start and you’ll be able to sleep at night, too! Win, win!
Step 6 – Video and Email and Phone Calls, Oh My!
You know where your clients are and what they care about, but have you thought about how they take in information and how they prefer to communicate?
Do they want to see video?
Are they likely to sign up for email lists?
Do they prefer photos over text?
Do they want to talk to you on the phone or do they prefer to be contacted via email?
Do they only move towards making a purchase after meeting someone in person?
Meeting your clients where they are is an important part of your marketing strategy because it helps to build trust and make your interactions easier.
Step 7 – Create Work Flows
The earlier steps focused on finding clients. This step is all about the systems you need in place to keep in touch.
First, no spam. Do not spam people via Facebook, Instagram, or email. You will not be making friends or earning clients if you go in that direction.
Second, think of creating work flows when clients reach out to you.
Always respond promptly – someone is trying to give you money so don’t make it hard for them!
If you’ve responded to an email, message, or phone call and don’t get a response within a week – it would be reasonable to follow up because we all get busy. Maybe they meant to respond to you but got distracted. Maybe they thought they sent an email but didn’t. Maybe they were waiting on something else before they responded to you.
If someone says, “I’m not ready now, but I want to revisit it in a couple of months.” For the love of fluffy bunnies, follow up in a couple of months!
Beyond that, think of where else you can set up work flows and reminders for yourself.
How are you using tools like Instagram, Facebook, and email to stay in touch with clients and potential clients? Is that schedule and plan written down somewhere? If not, write it down and stick to it for three months.
Step 8 – Marketing on Purpose
In Step Four I asked you where your clients came from and at the end of Step Seven I asked you to stick to using tools in a specific way for three months.
Knowing this information and planning to act on it is marketing on purpose.
Instead of “throwing everything against the wall and see what sticks” over and over (random marketing often from a place of panic because you don’t know what to do) – start paying attention to the stuff the sticks and do more of that (marketing on purpose).
You have several measurement tools at your fingertips via Facebook, Instagram, and the other marketing tools you use – start using them.
Step 9 – Adjust as Needed
Be prepared to adjust and tweak.
Several years ago, multiple photos on Facebook almost guaranteed you more reach than a single photo. Then it was video. Then it was video, but not YouTube video. Then it was Facebook Live.
The marketing world is always changing and what worked last year probably won’t work as well this year. Thanks to Step 8, you are measuring what you are doing so you’ll be able to clearly see when things change.
Your goals and desired outcomes may change, too.
Instead of being frustrated and giving up, start experimenting, and stay flexible.
Step 10 - Outsource
At some point in your business you will reach a place where spending your time writing social media posts isn’t cost effective because when you look at the time expense – you make more money meeting with a client or creating something you can sell.
Or maybe you are on a deadline and you need groceries – it makes more sense to pay the delivery fee and tip than lose an hour shopping.
Or maybe your inbox and calendar are a mess and you need someone to triage emails and schedule for you.
One day (or maybe today), you will look at your business and realize that if you had two hours back per week you could make real progress – and you’ll hire a house cleaning service. Or meal delivery.
You can’t do everything, so hire out where you can.
Bonus Step – Reevaluate
Something else will happen as your business grows and changes – your focus will shift and you’ll need new goals.
Be aware of when the old goals you were working towards aren’t serving you anymore. I recommend checking in with yourself every couple of months to make sure the goals you are currently working towards are still matching up with your long-term business goals.
To recap – you need to think bigger than your next Facebook post because if you are focusing just on the tools instead of the marketing strategy behind the posting, you are missing a big piece of the puzzle.
Instead of starting with the tool, start with the strategy and use the best tools available for your goals to get there.
If you're ready to create your marketing strategy and would like some help - get in touch!
You’ve decided to start your business and need a website.
Or maybe you’ve had a business for a while and have been using Etsy, Facebook, or Instagram to sell your products or services but have decided it is time to create your own website.
First, relax. You aren’t alone. This is a common issue and stumbling block for many.
Second, yes, the options can seem overwhelming.
So let’s look at the question “Which platform should I use to build my website?” and realize it may not be the best question to ask first.
Instead, ask yourself:
What is your website’s job?
Do you want it to bring you customers or be there as more of an online brochure where you can send people?
Do you need it to easily integrate with other marketing and online business tools? If so, which tools?
How much customization to you want your website to have? Are you ok with a basic template where colors, fonts, and layout are generally already decided for you with just a few options to change, or do you need your website to be more custom to reflect your brand and your business?
Where do you want your business to be in five years? Be realistic. If you have semi-secret plans to add e-commerce or a membership level with passwords, plan for those changes now.
How comfortable am I with tech things? Does the idea of being responsible for keeping plug-ins updated freak you out? Do you feel comfortable searching for answers online if something stops working on your site?
Do you want to add a blog? Ok, this is actually a trick question – you can have a blog on any of the builders I’m talking about below.
Do you plan to add an e-commerce aspect to your site? Ever? If so, what kinds of things will you need your e-commerce pages to do?
How important is SEO to your website? For some businesses, SEO is a vital component of their overall marketing strategy. For others, it isn’t as much of a consideration.
Speaking of SEO, do you know how to optimize your site for SEO? Some website builders make SEO a little harder, but it all starts with what you are capable of doing or are willing to hire out for. If can be easy to bypass a website builder because you hear it isn’t great for SEO, but if SEO isn’t that important to you it shouldn’t matter. (Read more about SEO at the end of this blog post. I’m trying not to get sidetracked, but there are some overall SEO things I want to mention).
And, possibly the most important question, how much time do you have to learn how a website builder works? How easy do you need it to be?
Now that we’ve explored some questions, let’s look at how the different platforms answer those questions.
You are likely familiar with some of the names I’m going to list and may have already played around with one or two. I highly encourage you to play with the free versions of different sites. In my experience, I’ve noticed that some people really “get” some site builders and clash with others. For example, lots of people love WordPress and couldn’t imagine working with anything else - but it tends to frustrate me.
On the other hand, I know more than a few who have moved from SquareSpace to WordPress because they felt as if they were always fighting with Squarespace.
Whatever you choose, know that you can move to another site builder, if necessary (although it may be a challenge).
I want you to love your website builder. Why? If you don’t like it or don’t feel comfortable using it, you will put off updating your site or adding to it.
The four biggest options are Wix, Squarespace, Wordpress, and Weebly. Those are the ones I’m going to mention here.
If your business is purely ecommerce, then Shopify or Big Cartel may be a better option for you.
This is pick your template, drag and drop builder.
Wix has a history of being a not great option, but has worked hard to overcome that in the past couple of years. The biggest criticism I hear about Wix is that it isn’t great for SEO – which can be true, but they’ve come a long way – even adding an SEO Wizard to their platform – but you still need to know what to do with it.
There are plenty of templates and options – but if you want to go more custom, you may run into issues.
If you think you might outgrow what Wix can do, be aware that you can’t easily move your site to another builder. You’d need to copy/paste everything piece by piece. If your site isn’t large, it won’t be an issue, but it is something to think about.
This is pick your template, drag and drop builder.
Weebly is what this site is built on. I’m generally happy with it, but if I had the chance to do it all over again, I’d probably go with Squarespace. I won’t lie – I picked Weebly because I was seeing a lot of Weebly ads around the time I needed to create a site and what they offered was a huge improvement over what I had been using.
Like Wix, Weebly has worked hard to make their platform flexible and user friendly. In the past, I needed to go into the coding of my site to tweak things that can now be done via a drop-down menu. Yay for progress!
Also like Wix, moving your site from Weebly isn’t an easy task.
This is a pick your template, figure out where things are and how they work builder. It makes sense once you understand how they’ve organized it, but it isn’t necessarily super intuitive.
Squarespace is fast, flexible, easy to use, and has lots of options. One of my favorite things about Squarespace is exactly how much you can customize it – which can also be a downside.
If you aren’t a designer, just go with a template you like. One of the benefits of these kinds of website templates is that nearly anyone can have a clean, beautiful site. The downside is that everyone’s sites tend to look the same. If you are tempted to start changing fonts and colors, be aware that your lovely site can get ugly fast if you don’t know what you are doing.
Squarespace is a great middle ground between easy and secure site builders like Wix or Weebly and the more feature-rich, but also more hands-on option of WordPress.
WordPress is considered the absolute best website builder by many – but I believe there can be an element of snobbery hidden in that opinion that overlooks the fact that not everyone needs a Cadillac . Some are perfectly happy with a trusty mini-van that gets them where they need to go.
There is probably nothing you can’t do with a WordPress site. It is incredibly powerful, flexible, and highly customizable.
Depending on how your brain works, you’ll either love it or find there is a steep learning curve.
One of the great things about WordPress is how many “extras” you can add to your site to make it more functional and amazing. Just be aware that those extras (called plug-ins) can become outdated and put your site at risk. WordPress also has a history of being hacked through outdated plugins. The solution is easy – just make sure you keep it updated or hire someone to do this for you.
In the end, there is no one absolute right or wrong answer among these four choices. It really depends on what you need and what you want your website to do for your business.
A couple of notes about SEO:
I’m an SEO nerd, but I also realize that the people I work with, by and large, are not techy so these recommendations are focused on the do-it yourself person who may struggle with updating a site or troubleshooting website issues. I’d rather someone create a website they aren’t scared to touch over something that has all the bells and whistles and is never updated.
If you are choosing a website builder using SEO as the MOST crucial factor, then WordPress is likely the best choice because of Yoast and other SEO plugins you can use. They won’t do the work of adding SEO to your site, but they do act as a handy on-board checklist & guide.
A lot of the SEO issues with Wix & Weebly come from how fast their websites load (something Google considers important and something you can help by optimizing your site) and how mobile friendly they are (something Google considers extremely important and something you can help by making sure any template you use has a good mobile version. If your template doesn’t have a mobile version, switch).
However, if basic on-site SEO is a part of your strategy, you’ll be fine with Wix, Weebly, Squarespace, or WordPress. There are many elements of SEO that make your website more user friendly and can attract more traffic to your site – which is a win all around, so don’t be scared of SEO…it doesn’t bite.
I'm a huge fan of Canva, SparkPost, WordSwag, and other image creation options, They are fantastic tools for busy entrepreneurs looking for easy ways to improve their branding.
However, they aren't the perfect solution for everyone.
First, you may have noticed similar images and layouts used over and over across different social media platforms - which makes your images less unique. Maybe you're ready to explore fresh templates and elements. Many of the fonts, graphics, and elements you'll find at the links below can be used in Canva and other platforms and some can only be used with Adobe Photoshop.
Second, you simply may not have time to learn, tweak, and deal with your own images. It would be faster and easier for you to outsource your image creation to someone else so you can focus on other parts of your business.
This collection of resources will give you more options for your own images as well as some pre-made, yet still customizable, templates for social media and more.
Before you fall in love with a font, background, or other item, be sure to review the license. Attribution may be required, and some may only be available for personal use.
You may be tempted to download everything once you start browsing. But before you get too carried away, create folders for the different items and clearly label (or otherwise track) what item came from which site and when. It gives you a "paper" trail, helps keep you organized, and if you want to go back to look for something similar in the future you'll know where to start!
The Hungrey Jpeg - Sign up for the weekly design freebie, but check out the huge selection of social media templates, presentation templates, fonts, graphics, illustrations, and more. You can unlock a bundle of fonts by sharing the link on social media. They also offer a selection of items for $1 each month.
Design Bundles - There is a nice selection of freebies here. You'll also find bundles and deals for all kinds of templates including ebook covers.
Vecteezy - You can search by license, orientation, and type of element. There is even an editor that allows you to edit before you download.
Deal Jumbo - Wow. There is a lot here! You'll find pages of freebies of all types in addition to paid and discounted options.
Creative Fabrica - Another good selection of freebies from this membership site. Several membership levels are available starting at $19/month.
Font Bundles - If you are on the hunt for the perfect font, you may find it here. Free and paid options.
Original Mock Ups - Although most of the other sites offer some mock ups, this site is nothing but mock ups - including a nice selection of freebies.
Creative Market - One of my favorite emails to open every week! There are SIX freebies each week and an opportunity to unlock more.
Ready for more resources?
Lists of places to find free photos here and here.
Free audio resources here.
Free stock video here.
Whether you are looking for background music for your videos or adding intro and outro music to your podcast, you'll need high quality audio options.
The most important thing to be aware of as you browse stock audio is the licensing. Just like stock photo or stock video, stock audio has licensing that will determine when, where, how, and how often you can use it. For example, some stock audio can be used for video, but not podcasts.
Most of the sources listed below require attribution - that usually means crediting the artist in the credits and/or linking to the artist from your site, video, or podcast. Read over the attribution requirements since some are different than others.
To help you remember where you found the audio clips, when, who the artist was, and what kind of attribution is required, I suggest putting that information as the file name. You can also keep a document in Google Drive or on your computer to reference.
Videvo - In addition to stock images and stock video, you'll also find stock audio that you can use for any project as long as you include attribution.
Free Stock Music - You can search by mood, type of music, and tempo. Music is free with attribution.
YouTube Audio Library - Here you'll find music as well as free sound effects. The music can be sorted by attribution required or no attribution required as well as genre, mood, instrument, and length.
Free Music Archive - Curated music of all kinds. Attribution required.
Audionautix - Select from mood, type of music, and tempo. Attribution required.
CC Mixter - Both paid and free audio resources are available.
Looking for other resources?
Check out my posts about free stock images here and here.
You'll find free stock video resources here.
Ready to make your graphics and presentations stand out? I've got you covered!
Pretty much everyone in the marketing world agrees videos are hot. But not every small business owner has access to an in-house videographer or wants to appear on camera. This doesn't mean video is always the right choice for you, but if you'd like to explore your options stock video may be useful to you.
You can use stock videos mixed with your own product photos or interviews to give viewers a richer experience and help your brand appear more polished.
Before we get to the free stock video resources, let’s look at some tools you can use to create your videos.
iMovie – free, for iPhones
Power Director – free for iPhones and Android
FilmoraGo – free Android and iPhones
Androvid – free for Android
Video Maker Pro – free for iPhone and Android
Video Show - iPhone and Android. One of my favorites. TONS of functionality. Free and paid versions.
Adobe Spark Video – free and paid versions. You can also use this on a computer.
Filmora – I liked this one so much I bought it. (not an affiliate, I actually like it)
Lumen 5 – a quick and easy way to make simple videos with lots of text overlay. Free and paid levels.
Windows Movie Maker – Windows
iMovie – Mac
Animatron Studio - If you've wanted to play around with created a little animated video - this is a good place to start. Free and paid levels.
Now that you know which tools you can use, let’s get to the stock videos!
As always, when using this kind of stock, please pay attention to licensing. Just like stock photography options, some videos will be completely free, some will require attribution, and some will need to be purchased before use. You should also be aware of where and now often you can use a video clip – some can only be used for a single project, not reused over and over.
Pexels – In addition to stock photography, you’ll also find stock video.
Pixabay - Just like Pexels, you'll find stock video along with stock photography.
Cute Stock Footage - In addition to stock video, you'll also find video for transitions and other effects.
Vidsplay - All videos on the site are free with attribution.
Coverr - Videos for your home page.
Motion Places - Stock video from around the world.
Some Free, Some Paid
Clip Canvas - You'll find both paid options and a page full of free stock video.
Videvo - Free videos as well as a two-tiered subscription plan that starts at $14.99/month.
Videezy - The search option lets you choose from several different licenses.
ClipStill - This one is a little different because the videos are short with just a little movement. There are free videos to download each month.
Motion Elements - Lots of search options to make it easy to find what you are looking for!
Video Blocks - This is a subscription service. Plans start at $19 if billed monthly or $99/year if billed annually. The basic plan ($19/month) allows 5 downloads each month, and the other tiers allow unlimited downloads as well as other options.
If all of this seems like way too much and you’d rather hire a pro to create videos for your website and social media, check out my interview with RedFred Pro owner, Jessica Clark. She shares tips and insight about when, why, and how to hire someone to do your videos.
Need other resource guides? Check out my two posts about where to find stock photos – here and here.
View my guide to free audio resources for your podcast.
And, finally, a fun collection of freebies you can collect regularly to help your brand stand out!
One of my most popular blog posts was 8 Places to Find Free Images. I’ve intended to update it for longer than I’m going to admit.
I’m especially excited to revisit this topic for a couple of reasons. The rise of stock photography and the desire for quality images means there are more options now than there were then. There are also more options for diverse photos that go beyond the standard slim white lady doing yoga in her light filled home studio. Although there is still so much room for improvement, I’m excited to share these new free stock photo resources!
Before you jump to the list
Let’s get some common issues out of the way before we dive into the list.
First, just because a photo is on the internet, doesn’t mean it is ok for you to use. That means you can’t do a google search and save images you like to use on your own blog or website. You also can’t go to someone else’s website and take their photos.
Second, because there are so many stock photo sites, you may see the same photo on multiple sites. Let’s assume positive intent and say the photographer who owns the rights to the images uploaded the images to the different sites. But let’s also protect ourselves and make a note of which site you found which image on and when. The easiest way to do this is to make the photo site and the date as part of the image file name you save on your computer.
Third, be aware of licenses and what you can and can’t do with the photos you download. Stock image websites clearly layout the licensing and restrictions – either on the individual photos themselves or on a “Terms and Conditions” page.
You can learn a little more about different licenses here.
Fourth, when I compiled the first list of free stock photo sites, I excluded any that charged money for photos. This time, I’m including a few paid sites because the popular sites are so popular, I’m seeing the same photos used by different businesses. I’d like to encourage you to look at different sites and consider purchasing photos to reduce the risk of choosing an over-used photo, and support the image creators.
This guide is organized into sections of All Free, Some Free, and All Paid. Some sites, even the paid sites, offer free photo packs in exchange for your email address and I’ve made a note about that where applicable.
Unsplash – In addition to a standard search feature, you can also browse “Collections” of topics curated by users.
Pexels – Modify searches in both Pexels and Unsplash by adding a color or other term to your search.
Stock Up – This is a neat newer option. Instead of searching sites individually, you can search over 30 stock photo sites at once from Stock Up. All photos should be free and usable, but always check the licensing.
Nappy – Their tagline is “Beautiful, high-res photos of black and brown people” and they deliver. The photos cover a range of topics and ages.
Public Domain Review - You won't find glossy fashion photos, but you will find thousands of images from across the centuries that are now in the public domain. Side note: 2019 is a big year for items coming into the public domain after a 20 year pause (yes, 20 years!) - read more here and here.
Foodies Feed - If food is your game, then you'll want to check out these free food photos.
Inspired by all these photo options, but stuck about what to write?
Get my 30 blog post prompts delivered to your email!
Some Free, Some Pay to Use
Pic Jumbo – Plenty of free photos as well as a premium membership option starting at $10/month.
Every Pixel – Similar to Stock Up, Every Pixel searches multiple stock photo sites for you. Over 51 sites are searched and results are both free and paid photos (or modify the search to just free or just paid images). Image results can be streamlined by color and image orientation (vertical or horizontal) as well as by photo, vector, or graphic.
Death to the Stock Photo – There is a $12/month annual membership or a $15/month membership. You can join their email list to get occasional free photo packs via email.
Envato Elements – Offers stock photos, stock video, music, templates, and fonts. $33/month or $98/year. You can find monthly freebies on their freebie page.
Stocksy – I love the search features here. You can search by location, ages of people in the photo, number of people in the photo, gender, and ethnicity. You can also search by photo orientation. Images start at $15.
Diversity Photo – The photos feature a variety of people in different situations. Photos start around $25
Eye for Ebony – Photos are sold in very reasonable bundles focused on a single topic. Prices start at $10 for 25 images. Sign up for their email list to receive a pack of stock photos.
Representation Matters – This site offers body and ability diversity as well as ethnic diversity. Photos start at $5. You can sign up for their email to get monthly packs of photos.
Tonl – You can search by topic or browse categories. Photos start at $20 or a monthly plan of $29 for 15 images.
Create Her Stock – Focusing on women of color. Membership starts at $10 month. You can sign up for the email list to get access to previous collections of photos.
SC Stock Shop – Highly stylized flatlays and object photos. Prices start around $19/pair of photos or join the membership for $25/month. You can get a pack of free images by signing up for the email list. I love the option to shop by color or collection.
If you have a favorite place to get diverse and unique stock photos, please let me know!
And if you are looking for free stock video resources, free stock music resources, or a collection of resources to make your brand stand out - follow the links to check out those blog posts!
Musings about marketing, social media, and small business.