Addendum added 5/8/18: At this point in time, I pretty much stick to two (and soon to be three) websites that have proved themselves pretty safe to use: Pixabay, Unsplash, and now, Pikwizard. Pikwizard contacted me directly to take a look at their website, and there are some gorgeous photographs to use there! I suggest – no, i insist – that you read their User Agreement carefully.
Addendum added 6/15/17: After reading this article, I’ll be very careful, and you should too! Make sure you screenshot whenever you’re downloading from a photo site. It could save your tail!
I’m a huge Rob Brezny fan – and when I say huge I mean it like this: I’ve been reading his horoscopes for decades, enthusiastically. He might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but he’s mine, that’s for sure. One of the other reasons I’m such a massive fan is for his promotion of the concept of Pronoia: How the World is Conspiring to Shower You with Blessings.
For the moment, I am going to step outside of discussion on privilege and pollyannaism and I’m just going to say, “believe this.“The internet is conspiring to shower you with blessings... Click To Tweet
Totally free resources for your blog
If you are lucky enough to find yourself in the position of feeling like you can create your own reality and that the world is pretty much parting its waters for you to do so, well then, carry on reading this. Go ahead and bookmark it, too, because I’ll be adding to it regularly. The internet is conspiring to shower you with blessings, as well as a ton of free tools to fatten up your blog in all the right ways.
Free, royalty-free stock photos and graphics
Yeah, you can (and should) take a lot of your own photos. Your social media deserves them! In fact, take tons of photos, and then you’ll have a database to draw from when you’ve hit a boring spot and there’s nothing current for Instagram (Latergram? Yep, totally a thing).
But for those times when you need a generic graphic or stock photo? OMG there are TONS of places to get them for free, and they’re yours to do what you wish with thanks to the gloriousness of Creative Commons. Dropping a photo credit, linking back to the photo site source, or at the very least commenting with where you’ve used an image, is always welcomed, and some of these sites have their own standards and requests. READ THE FINE PRINT AND BE COOL.
Right now, these are the places I currently sniff out images I can use without guilt (the above was downloaded from Pixabay, one of my favorites). As noted in the 6/15/17 addendum at the beginning of this article, i also now take a screenshot every time i download a photo from one of these sites, to cover my butt.
Memes and social media graphics
These days I’m really into using my Chromebook whenever possible. It’s easy to type on and weighs even less than my iPad (plus, if someone stole it I wouldn’t be nearly as pissed off – my Samsung 3 Chromebook cost under $200. My iPad cost considerably more than that, of course).
For working via Chromebook (or not using graphics software), it’s a toss-up: Pablo or Canva. They’re both fairly similar, and you can use your own images or backgrounds provided to create fun images for social media. If I feel like modifying one of my own images I can use these too, and on my Chromebook I also use Sumo Paint. On my Windows laptop, I’m a huge fan of Paint.net (check it out – nope, NOT the Paint program from Microsoft, but sophisticated and stable freeware that, unless you’re seriously into photo editing, can replace more expensive photo editing software for almost anyone). If you need even more sophisticated (and free) photo editing, Gimp is your friend (or can be – a lot of people hate it, but I’ve finally started really finding my way around, and it’s actually pretty amazing once you just let yourself go there).
Piggybacking on the “social media/memes” thing, quotes are always fun graphics and they tend to get shared quite a bit. If you’re an inspirational speaker, life coach, or writer, using some of your own quotes is a really good idea. Brand the things so people can find you even if you posted it to Instagram and it got shared on Facebook – but in the event you don’t have your own quotes and you’re just looking for something on-topic, here are two that I use extensively:
As with all things, FACT CHECK (running a chunk of the quote through google, for example, will bring it up elsewhere so you can at least see that it is consistent) – and of course, make sure you attribute the quote properly. People like me get really fussy and angry and will probably call you out if you post a quote without giving proper credit (above is one of my favorites, ever – and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen it passed around without due credit).
These things are entirely too much fun, and especially so when you’re writing a blog entry about content. Create a list of words and paste it in, or provide a file or URL you’d like to suck words from, and Wordclouds will create one for you. You can change the shape and make all sorts of groovy modifications.
Content and Keyword Inspiration
One of the things I do is keep an ongoing Google doc of “concepts” for my blog. I get ideas more often than I actually have the time to sit down and write about them, and I’m completely a Virgo when it comes to making and maintaining lists. In addition, I’ve found that most SEO and “keyword research” tools are just dry and boring – all but this one.
Dude, this: Grammar.ly is all you need. I’m absolutely that person who snaps pictures of signs with typos and posts them to Facebook for all my fellow grammar nuts to mock with me, but you don’t have to be my victim. Yeah, there are plenty of editors for various word processors and such, but Grammar.ly can follow you around on everything – Outlook, your browser, WordPress… everywhere. And, they’re fans of the Oxford comma. So am I.
I’m not a fatalist, at all (swear it), but I’ll wager to say most of my clients don’t have a need for extensive SEO software packages. I use a combination of SEOquake, Google Analytics, and SEMrush’s free features and accomplish pretty much everything I need to for my clients, and I don’t generally even use all the features these tools offer. And since 99% of my clients also use WordPress, I make sure we’re all loving Yoast.
These are all tools I use regularly, and I am happy to share them! Like Creative Commons likes to say, “When we share, everyone wins.” Dunno about you, but everybody winning? That sounds like a world I want to live in.
If I’ve missed any, or if you’ve found any really amazing ones, let me know!