6 Simple Ways to Brainstorm Blog Post Ideas + A Free Worksheet

Free Worksheet to Brainstorm Blog Post Ideas

Blogging can be a great tool for small business owners. It provides a way to connect with your audience, share your expertise, and even help convince people to work with you. It can also be a fun creative outlet or provide a needed break in your daily routine.

While the pros are easy to count, that doesn’t mean it is always easy to come up with new blog post ideas! Especially if you’ve been blogging for a while, you may feel like you’ve hit a wall with new post ideas. Luckily, there are several simple ways to generate some quality post ideas.

Why do you blog?

The first step for any blogger is to identify who you are trying to reach. Many bloggers get overwhelmed or feel unfocused when they aren’t sure who to write for. If you are a business owner, you might be writing to attract potential new clients. If you have a personal blog, you might be hoping to connect with fellow fashion lovers or food connoisseurs. When you identify this, it makes your focus that much clearer and the ideas easier to form.

What are some of your favorite blogs?

Think about the blogs you read, and make a list of ones you can’t wait to dive into when you see a new post. What about their posts attracts you? Perhaps they share knowledge, share personal stories, or use a unique voice to tell their story. When you identify what attracts you to your favorite posts, it will help you write your own!

What is a problem you recently had and then solved?

People love reading free tips and learning from their peers. A great way to connect with your readers and contribute to your community is to share something you learned. Not only might you help someone with the same problem, it helps you relate to others by showing you are human and don’t always have all the answers right away either.

What is a question you get asked all the time?

Do you find yourself receiving similar emails, tweets, or queries often wanting to know the same things? Make the answer a blog post! Not only will this help position you as an expert with the answers people are looking for, it will make your responses oh-so fast by simply directing people to your post for an answer.

 

What is something you wish people knew about your business, industry or passions?

Is there a misconception about the industry you are in? Share your perspective and experiences! Do you find yourself running into the same problems with clients or customers? Write a post sharing your advice on dealing with the issue. Instead of feeling frustrated, use the energy to share a positive post and help others who might be fighting the same battles.

What resources or tools that you’ve found could help someone out?

Making a list of helpful resources is a great post generator. You could include tools you use to run your business, people in other fields that could be resources for your clients, or even podcasts within your niche that you love. As with many of these points, being generous with your knowledge not only builds trust with your readers, it will bring them back time and again.

To make this even easier, you can use this free brainstorming worksheet to get your creative vibes flowing. There is also space for those moments when you have a post idea and need to jot it down somewhere before you forget! Try setting aside a small amount of time each week to knock out your ideas, and writing will become even easier.

Download the Free Brainstorming Blog Post Ideas Worksheet

While blogging can seem overwhelming, it is a great tool for connecting with others in your industry, with clients, or with your community. When you look at it as a way to share and have fun, it won’t seem like a daunting chore anymore! Need even more help getting started? Check out Ciera’s new e-book, Blogging With Intention.

 

Laura is a graphic designer who loves working with small, creative businesses to build thoughtful brands at her studio, Dotted Design. 

How to Create Color Palettes in Adobe Illustrator

How To Create Color Palettes

When working in Adobe Illustrator, I find that shortcuts help streamline my process, and make for a more efficient use of my time. I love discovering useful productivity tips, so I thought I would share one that has helped me stay both consistent in my brand and save production time. Here are three essential tips for working with color palettes in Adobe Illustrator.

Create a Color Palette

There are several resources online to help create unique color palettes, including Design Seeds, Kuler/Adobe Color CC and Pinterest. By far, my favorite tool to use is searching through color inspiration boards on Pinterest! They provide a great starting point for developing your color palette.

To create a color palette in Adobe Illustrator, you will first need to create a color swatch for each specific color. Select the color you want to add to your palette, and then select the “new swatch” tool in the swatches panel. After you have added each of the color swatches, you can select all of them at once (by clicking shift or command + clicking the swatch) and then select the “new color group” button on the swatches panel. Now you have your color palette in its own group!

Save the Color Palette for Future Use

Once you have your color palette established, you might want to save this palette and reference it for future Illustrator projects. This is especially handy if you have a blog or a brand that uses the same specific colors throughout multiple projects. I even have a color group of semi-neutral colors that are great for muted background tints. The possibilities are endless!

To save your new color palette, first edit the swatches in the swatches panel so that it only contains your color palette you want to save. Select “save swatch library” from the swatches panel menu, and you are good to go! You can edit this swatch library anytime you want by choosing File > Open, and locate the swatch file in your library (by default this is located here: Illustrator/Presets/Swatches folder). Edit the swatches, then click save.

To reference your swatches in a new file, you click “swatch libraries menu” from the swatches panel, and then select “user defined.” There, you will find the swatch palette you created in any future Illustrator file.

Convert Color Swatches to Pantone

When working with logo files, or large print runs, you might need to convert your color swatches in Illustrator to Pantone swatches. To do this, simply select the objects you would like to switch to Pantone. Then select “edit” > “edit colors” > “recolor artwork”. Select the swatches icon to limit the colors to a specific Pantone color group, and select the specific Pantone color book to limit your illustration to spot colors. Click “ok” to close the dialogue box and convert the CMYK colors to Pantone colors.

Speaking of shortcuts, Ciera and I are both sharing our favorite keyboard shortcuts over on Brigette Indelicato’s blog!

Jamie is the designer and blogger behind Spruce Rd., an independently run boutique design studio specializing in crafting brand identities and websites for creative entrepreneurs. When not collaborating with awesome people, she can be found whipping up a new dish in the kitchen, or exploring local coffee shops. She loves all things chocolate, Wes Anderson and Rifle Paper Co. 

How To Start A Local Event Series

Starting A Networking Event

I’m a graphic designer. I’m a content creator—a blogger, a crafter, a photographer. I had no experience in event design or planning until I created The Made In Mind Social a year and a half ago. Now, every other month, I plan a meet-up for creatives of all kinds to gather, meet, mingle, connect and collaborate.

In the beginning, I faced a million questions and more than a few challenges. The good news? I learned a lot about how to plan and host a successful event—and I’m ready to share that knowledge with others who hope to do the same! Like many strategies, you need to start with the 5 W’s (and 1 H) – Who, What, When, Why, Where and How.

 

WHY: Purpose, Passion, Goals

It’s not what you do but why you do it that matters. By creating a vision and setting goals upfront, you will be able to maintain a focus throughout the planning process and more easily define the event itself. A clear vision will set you up for success—and concrete goals will allow you to measure that success.

WHO: Partners, Attendees, Marketing

This process—planning and executing—is not a solitary one. Of course, you’ll want to think about attendees, who you’ll be inviting. But you’ll also want to consider who you want to work with.

WHAT: Event Format, Branding and Design

Now it’s time to get started on designing the event itself. This part of the process involves two aspects: deciding what type of event you want to host and developing the branding.

WHEN: Date and Time, Frequency, Planning Timeline

The type of event may dictate when or how often it happens. Or, if it doesn’t, your next step is to select when the event will take place and how often it will occur.

HOW: Budgeting, Securing Sponsors

Next think about the components that will make your event possible—your budget and your sponsors. Managing money and getting sponsors on board may seem intimidating, but with a little organization and a professional demeanor, you’ll be able to make things happen!

WHERE: Venue, Vendors, and All the Details

Now, you’ll want to nail down the very important question of “where” (the venue!) and make sure you plan for all the elements of the event itself—the décor, entertainment, food, photography, or anything else you want to include.

 

If you want to start your own local event, you don’t need to start from scratch. This list is just a taste of the insights and information I’ve collected in my e-book, The Meetup Guide: How to Create, Plan, and Host Your Own Local Event Series. It’s 60 pages of actionable advice and tried-and-true tips, including 10 worksheets to help you get organized and make things happen. Simply put, if you’re looking for a resource to guide you through the process, this is it! You’ll learn your own lessons along the way, but the great part about hosting an event series is that you have a chance to improve the event each time.

Still too overwhelming? Here’s the good news: The Made In Mind Social is now accepting chapter applications! Our one-time chapter fee includes use of The Made In Mind Social name, logo, website template, design elements and more.

A 9 Step Guide To SEO

At the end of every year, I really try to evaluate my business, this blog and my website to see what improvements I can make. This year, SEO is something I want to improve so today I have a special guest post and infographic from Jeanette at Create The Bridge. Remember that each person will have to find the right balance for them, your focus should always be your readers and then SEO. Take it away Jeanette!

Any website or blog owner must understand that if you are doing SEO (search engine optimization) the right way, it is not instant and there’s actually no guarantee. But if you do it wrong, you may get quicker results, but your blog will look spammy while attempting to maneuver the search engine traffic.

To make an optimized blog, focus on the main category or theme of your blog. The topic you promote will, to a massive scale, dictate your ranking. There are high competitions when it comes to SEO for say “real estate” or “weight loss”. Focusing on your geographical location in addition (for example, “real estate in Fort Lauderdale, Florida”) can really help. This is only one part of creating an optimized blog for search engines, check out the infographic to see how you can do more.

9-Step Guide to Creating an Optimized Blog for Search Engines

Let’s wrap this up with a little overview shall we…

Your blog post should be long, containing at least 2,000 words. According to Serpiq, the longer the content, the higher you rank. Your title tag makes all the difference. If the right keywords are missing from the title tag, how will your targeted audience find you? Second to the title, the content in your blog is KING. You should write quality content and post often using long-tail keywords. Research shows that 40% of people will respond better to visual information than plain text. Simply put: it’s all about the images. Having a powerful social media strategy and having a presence on all major social media sites will also affect, positively, your search engine rankings. Pay attention to design. A well-structured site is a crucial element when it comes to building a SEO friendly website. The design of a website is important because it affects how quickly visitors can find what they are looking for. Last, but definitely not least, your blog must not contain misspelled words or grammar errors!

4 Signs That Your Visual Branding Needs A Facelift

Visual Branding Mockup

As we head into November full speed ahead, now is a great time to pause for a moment, step back and take a look at your business. Does your visual branding need a refresh or maybe even a total overhaul? Is your brand identity making a good first impression on your potential clients? Not sure, here are four signs that your identity design may need a facelift:

1. It no longer represents your business

Maybe you’ve decided to offer different services, have expanded or maybe you have done a complete 180. Sometimes your businesses can slowly evolve over time and you don’t even realize it’s happening!

2. You don’t feel proud

Your branding conveys the quality of your business and should reflect your values. Your website, business card, and printed materials are often the first interface that a potential client has with your business. You have a few seconds to make a good impression and you should be proud to hand out cards and send people to your site.

3. You are attracting the wrong client or your target audience has changed

Your visual identity should accurately represent your brand’s personality. If people keep contacting you looking for a style or services that you don’t offer, then it might be time to revisit your brand identity to focus on attracting your target audience.

4. Your current look is dated, poor-quality or non-existent

Your visual branding should be timeless, not trendy. With so many platforms these days, clients should be able to recognize you at a glance through your brand identity. Are your website, printed materials and social sites cohesive? They should be.

Still not sure if you are ready? Read Sprucing Up Your Branding and download the free Questions For Rebranding Worksheet to help you figure it out. Still confused about what is right for your business? A consultation is a great place to start. Sometimes you just need to talk it out!

P.S. Helping people is my passion and I’d love to help you create a successful brand identity for your business so get in touch as there are limited bookings available before the end of the year!

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Why Small Businesses and Bloggers Need Private Cloud Storage

Why Small Businesses and Bloggers Need Private Cloud StorageCiera-Design-Studio-DeskCiera-Design-Studio-DetailsCiera-Design-Studio-Computer Ciera-Design-Studio-Workspace

Today I want to tell you about why you should set up your own private cloud for your home office or creative business, but first a story.

My business has been going through quit a bit lately. Some good, some bad. Let’s get the bad out-of-the-way. I have been having some serious computer issues. I limped it along for months but finally had to send it off for repairs. As y’all know, my computer is a major part of how I make a living and it’s really not possible for me to get much done without it. Luckily I was able to borrow a computer but it still hasn’t been easy. I had to save all my files to a drive making sure I didn’t forget any fonts, graphics, working files, estimates, etc. Not fun.

Another challenge is that I’ve always worked from a laptop. I like the versatility but it’s not ideal as my only computer. I have been contemplating getting a desktop but I wasn’t sure how I’d work on both without constantly sending files back and forth.

Now the good! Something else going on behind the scenes right now is that I’m bringing on some part-time help in the design studio, exciting but scary! I’m so used to working alone. Everything is organized in my head but having employees means that everyone needs to be on the same page. So I’m working on some new processes and implementing some new technology. We all need access to the same files, otherwise things will get very confusing.

I wasn’t really sure how to achieve all of this seamlessness that I was after. Then with absolutely perfect timing WD, a Western Digital Company saved the day by providing me with a My Cloud EX2 to use and review… serious dream come true. This is what I was looking for and I didn’t even know it. Personal cloud storage! Basically, it is a physical hard drive connected to your Internet that you can access from anywhere. Totally ideal for small office and home office businesses.

 

Why I Love Private Cloud Storage

  • one-time cost – unlike many public cloud options, the My Cloud EX2 just has a one-time cost, purchase the drive and you’re done. You can also add as many users as you need!
  • easy setup – plug it in and go through the simple setup and you’re up and running with an intuitive interface
  • security – allows you to set up permissions-based folders so you can give an employee or family member limited access to access or upload files
  • peace of mind – knowing your data is backed up and secure with cloud storage for small businesses makes it easier to focus on other things to make your business successful
  • wireless back ups – the drive gets plugged into a power source and your internet during setup but never directly to your computer so your backups happen without you even thinking about it
  • file sharing – easily generate email links for files or folders. When a client clicks on the link they are given a zip of the files you selected. This allows you to send files that are too large for emailing.
  • anytime, anywhere access – with mobile and desktop apps you are not limited to what you can fit on your phone – if you download the app you can view all files from your drive at home. You can connect multiple computers and devices for seamless integration.
  • automatic transfer via camera – you can connect your camera directly to the My Cloud EX2 and it copies files automatically
  • storage space – photos from my blog take up a lot of space and I NEVER delete client projects. Luckily the My Cloud EX2 provides several capacity options, up to 8TB, to choose from.
  • speed – files load much faster to the EX2 than they do to a remote cloud.
  • working remotely – I want to be able to travel and I want employees to work from anywhere.My Cloud EX2 is such a huge benefit when working in multiple offices, computers or on the road.
  • streaming – stream videos and photos to connected TVs, media players, gaming consoles

If you have a small business, you really need to get one of these systems! I can’t believe I’m only now setting one up!

Many thanks to WD for letting me try the private cloud with the EX2. Thank you for supporting this blog by allowing me to post occasional sponsored content. All sponsored posts feature products or services that I truly feel would be of interest to you and all opinions are my own. The two photos of me are by Hannah Hudson Photography.