For Bloggers: WordPress Plugins

My Favorite WordPress Plugins

I’ve been asked a few times what WordPress plugins I use to do certain things on this site, so rather than respond to individual emails, I thought I’d share with all of you guys!

First, a few notes on plugins in general: they are super easy to install and great for adding features to your blog even if you don’t know how to code BUT they can slow down your site. To prevent this, only add the ones that are necessary and delete plugins if you decide not to use them. Sometimes a plugin can cause conflicts within your site so always install one at a time and backup your site regularly.

Comments

I try to reply to every comment left on my blog to keep the conversation going so using Comment Reply Notification is a great way to make sure that the commenter sees my reply. It automatically sends an email to anyone who has received a reply to their comment. 

Pin It Button

You’ve probably seen this in action a lot by now, a pin it button that hovers over images making it convenient for readers to pin images. I use jQuery Pin It Button For Images for my pin it hover image. The reason I chose this plugin is because of the customization options and that you can use a custom image to match your branding.

Post Footers 

You may have noticed that at the bottom of each of my blog posts, I have the same call to action that points my readers to Facebook, Bloglovin etc. Instead of pasting this content separately into every post I write, I use WP Post Footer which allows you to create a library of code snippets and easily include them at the bottom of posts.

Editorial Calendar

I am a visual person so this plugin is one of my favorites to keep my posts organized. The WordPress Editorial Calendar makes it possible to see all your posts on a calendar and drag and drop them to manage your posting schedule.

Backup

This one is huge because you MUST backup your site! For backup, I use the WP Backup to Dropbox plugin, because it drops my files from scheduled backups right into a folder in Dropbox!

SEO

I’m pretty lazy when it comes to my SEO but the All in One SEO Pack makes it a little easier on me. It has fields at the end of each post for you to fill in to help optimize your WordPress site for Search Engine Optimization.

 

These are just suggestions and what works best for me. There are usually several plugins that do the same thing, so do your research and some testing to see which works bests for your needs!

I hope this was helpful! Do you have any favorites that weren’t mentioned here? Please share!

plug icon designed by Ben Johnson from the Noun Project

10 Ways To Expand Your Small Business

10 Ways To Expand Your Small Business

For those of you who don’t know how I made the jump, I’ll give you a little background. I got a job right out of college at a great advertising agency and gained a lot of experience in my four years there. However, a time came when I was no longer growing or enjoying the type of work I was doing so I decided it was time to move on. Rather than looking for a position at another agency, I decided to go freelance and pursue the type of work I was interested in. I started getting connections by doing pro bono work while I still had my agency job and it transitioned into full-time freelancing in 2010.

Over the years, I have been slowly branching out and really trying to perfect my dream business. First of all, I don’t want to have all of my eggs in one basket. If I happen to have a slow month with custom design clients, I want something else ready to supplement my income. I’m also not just going to sit around and wait for people to come to me with work. Each year I continue to branch out and expand my business. Here are ten things that can help you to expand your small business:

1. Grow your offerings, products and services

Think of new and different ways can you serve your customers. Maybe you can add entry and advanced levels to your current options. Think of logical extensions of what you currently offer. You want to keep your clients coming back for more, so what else can you offer them?

2. Take a class

I am continuously learning about design and striving to be better. Taking local classes also doubles as networking but if you don’t have access to any, there are some amazing resources online! My favorites are Skillshare and Lynda.

3. Create a passive income stream

It’s really great to have some income, with little effort required to maintain it. You could sell products on Etsy, use affiliate marketing, sell digital files, downloads or ebooks.

4. Start a blog or new blog post series

Blogging not only helps with SEO but is also an amazing way to get your business out there and position yourself as an expert in your field. Guest blogging is also a great way to get your name out to an expanded market. Not convinced? Read Why You Should Have a Blog For Your Business.

5. Network and collaborate

While online networking is great, you should also really get yourself out there and network in person! Attend a conference or find a local meet-up. Networking is also a good way to find people to collaborate with. If your city doesn’t have a local meet-up, see how to start your own here!

6. Do Pro Bono Work 

As I mentioned, I started my business by doing pro bono work. This made me realize that I love helping my community, small businesses, creatives and entrepreneurs. So I continue to work with clients that I stand behind and that have a positive impact on the community. Not only has this given me a great deal of personal satisfaction, but also so many new connections!

7. Step out of your comfort zone

If your client work doesn’t allow you to do this, start a personal project to spark your creativity. I use my blog freebies to explore design techniques and new ideas. Take on a project that may be out of your comfort zone if it’s something you’ve been wanting to learn about. Remember that you don’t have to add everything to your portfolio just because you did it.

8. Ask for help

You can’t do it all, hire people to do certain things for you and learn to say no to the things you are not interested in. This gives you the time and energy to do the things you love!

9. Teach

This could be as simple as writing a blog post or a more extensive option like writing an e-book, teaching a Skillshare class or even speaking at a conference.

10. Expand client base

Your small business may have great brand awareness in your community, but what’s involved in expanding that awareness to a much larger market? Getting new customers is essential to growing your business. One of the easiest ways to do this is to ask your current customers for referrals. Testimonials from clients are important because without them, potential clients don’t always know your credibility or what you’re like to work with. It’s someone’s outside perspective that gives them the confidence to buy from you instead of moving on to the next website. Here are a few ways to get really great testimonials.

Tell me in the comments below how you are thinking about branching out your business.

Sprucing Up Your Branding

With 2013 coming to a close, you may want a fresh start for the new year, one with new ideas, new goals and new looks – including a spruced up look for your brand. An updated look for your business can give you the new beginning you are looking for in 2014, but rebranding (even when you don’t have a huge following) can be a lot of work.

Sprucing Up Your Branding Worksheet

Before you invest on a new logo, website, web copy, professional photos and business cards and set up meetings with designers and copywriters and photographers, take a moment to ask yourself these few questions and write your answers on this worksheet I created for you.

1. Why do I want to rebrand?

A fun new logo is always exciting, but ask yourself why you want to rebrand. Are you adding new offerings? Are you trying to reach a different target market that your brand doesn’t appeal to right now? Or do you just need a freshened up look?

Knowing why you want to rebrand is one of the most important things about the rebranding process. Knowing the goals you have set up for your new look will help your designers and developers with their job, and you’ll have a better idea of what you’re looking for in your redesign.

2. Is my customer changing?

If you’re doing a rebrand because your customer is changing, you’ll want to do a profile on who your new customer is going to be. Get to know everything you can about your new customer so you can direct your rebranding efforts specifically to them.

For example, if you’re a photographer who has mainly worked with babies and seniors in the past and you want to rebrand to target brides specifically, you’ll want to find out everything you can about your new ideal customer – what types of photos she likes best, what blogs she reads, where she finds most of her wedding inspiration. When you know all of the specific details about your ideal customer, you’ll know exactly how to talk to her, how to form packages around her wants and where to market your rebranded business.

3. What do I want my new look to say about my brand?

Having a clear idea of what you want your look to say about your brand will always help your designer when you’re getting the branding process started. Having a few examples of brands you admire can help your designer and developers envision the direction you want your look to go.

One way to paint a clearer image of what you want your brand to portray is to start a pinterest board full of brand inspiration. Include pins of colors, patterns and styles that inspire you in your brand, along with images of your ideal customer. This will give you a reference point for all of the design and branding decisions you make in the rebrand process and also comes in handy when making branding decisions down the road.

THE WORKSHEET

Download the Questions For Rebranding Worksheet to write your answers out!

Asking these questions about your new brand image are important in creating a brand that lasts – the more you know about where you want to go in the future will help you with your rebrand right now.  And if you’re all ready to start the rebranding process, make sure you check out Ciera’s great packages – check them out here.

Are you thinking about a new look for 2013? Share how you want to update your brand in the new year!

Four Ways to Spark Your Creativity

Let’s face it – as people with creative businesses, there are times when we feel a lack of vision and innovation. Whether it’s because we’re working on projects that leave us uninspired or we just simply can’t get our creative juices flowing, it’s a slump we don’t want to be stuck in for long.

Four Ways to Spark Your Creativity

It’s something I’ve been struggling with lately, so I’ve come up with four ways to get re-inspired:

1. Try to remember the time when you were feeling the most creative or inspired.

There are moments in our lives when we feel like nothing can stop us and we can’t stop coming up with great ideas. The key to reliving those moments is to figure out what made those moments so special. Where were you at? What were you doing? Who were you with? What were you feeling? Try to recreate that moment as best as you can and you’ll be on the right track to getting your creativity back.

2. Take a class

We’re often inspired by new adventures and meeting new people, so taking a class or doing a workshop will help kick your creativity back in gear. Make something by hand, learn something new and connect with other creative people and you’re sure to get inspired. Some courses to check out are the Alt Summit Classes, Skillshare, Nicole’s Classes and sign up for workshops like BlogShop and Anthro Events.

3. Visit Your Favorite Places

Our surroundings are one of the things that inspire us the most, and we all have places where we feel most inspired. When you’re feeling less creative than normal, it’s a no brainer to visit your favorite places to get yourself going again. Whether you’re influenced by the displays at your favorite store or by a landscape or park you love the most, take time to visit those places, enjoy them and let them motivate you.

4. Spruce Up Your Resources

Just like buying new workout clothes might help you to get back to the gym, new creative resources can help amp up your inspiration. Download some new fonts, explore new color schemes, try out a new program or let a new design book help you dream up new ideas. Something as simple as a new font to play with can totally transform your mood and your work.

 

What do you do when you’re feeling uninspired? Share your tips in the comments!

On Generosity and Selfless Giving

I have introduced Dedra from Prettiful Designs to you all a few times in the past and she is here today talking about her experiences with generosity and selfless giving. Check out Dedra’s shop, blog and Facebook.

 Open your eyes to the possibilities around you.

I’ve been thinking and thinking what amazing topic I could share on Ciera’s blog. I’m so grateful she keeps letting me blog hop. I think I post more on her blog than my own! I had several ideas to write about but the one that sticks with me the most is generosity, or selfless giving.

My daughter had her first school fundraiser recently. She was so excited to help out her school (I don’t even think she understood that there are prizes for the best sellers). She just really wants her school to be a better place….but, no one will buy anything from her. It’s $1 for a chocolate bar or a jerky stick and you get it immediately. C’mon, it’s $1. I got to thinking a lot about this experience. What does it tell a child when they are trying to do something and no one will support them? How does it feel when adults only say “No” Or I can’t afford that? What does that teach them about money?

We went through some pretty darn hard times in our not too distant past. We lived on dry food storage for a year. It was miserable. Our family knows what tough times are but I still found ways to be generous (even if it was only a dollar here or there) because I’m not just buying a candy bar or donating to pay for someone’s medical fund. I’m investing in people. Real live human beings that need a chance and they need to feel loved.

When I started my Etsy shop I asked friends and family to simply put in a plug for me on Facebook or my blog. I even offered some pretty sweet things in return. They didn’t even have to buy anything but NO one would help me! It was pretty disheartening and it took a while for my shop to get started because getting those first few sales is really the hardest. So, I now make it a point to try to buy something from my friends when they start new endeavors. Sometimes money is too tight and I take a rain check but sometimes I give up something else I want so I can help them and then we are both the better for it.

I wasn’t always this generous. I met a new friend about 7 years back that showed me what generosity means. Often times I found people commenting on something awesome she had like a necklace or a bag and she would say, oh I’d love for you to have it and while they blinked she would hand it to them. When we went to parties, instead of sitting down to enjoy herself, she would go straight to the kitchen and start pitching in. She even gave her car away instead of trading it in because she said the kid needed it. Wow. I was the one turning down every school kid that came to my door and here my friend is giving cars away. She really helped open my eyes.

Money can’t buy everything. We all know that. But we CAN use our money to do more and to serve instead of only being a slave to it. I don’t have any specific agenda here. I’m not going to ask you for any money or tell you a charity to donate to. I just hope that the people who take the time to read this will open their eyes even more to the possibilities around them–The possibilities of the amazing things a little bit of money or a helping hand can do.

How to Get Great Testimonials

How-to-Get-Great-Testimonials

You know how when you’re on someone’s website trying to decide if you want to work with them or buy from them and you see a group of really great testimonials that convince you that you must have their product? You can have that too.

Testimonials from clients are important for your website because without them, potential clients don’t always know your credibility or what you’re like to work with. It’s someone’s outside perspective that gives them the confidence to buy from you instead of moving on to the next website.

 

There are a few ways to get really great testimonials:

Reach out to past partners, customers and coworkers

While it’s not always easy to reach out and ask for testimonials, it’s the first step in getting great feedback, especially from clients and coworkers who love you and your work.

To do this, write them a short note on why you’re reaching out to them and what you’re hoping to accomplish from getting this testimonial. Tell them how much you’ve enjoyed working with them and would love to share your experience with future customers.

Then, provide a list of questions for them to answer – questions that will bring out the types of phrases you’d love to include on your site about how the two of you worked together and what was accomplished.

I’ve compiled a list of questions for you to choose from – download the testimonials worksheet here

It’s best to reach out to clients while your work is still fresh in their mind, so as soon as you’ve wrapped up your work with them, send them a testimonial request – if they’re happy with your work they’ll most likely fill it out right away!

 

Pull from Social Media

Another really great way to get testimonials for your website is to pull quotes about your work off of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Lots of times when someone is excited about a new product or service they’ve purchased, they splash it all over the web. If one of your past customers has done this about your offering, ask them if you can use their quote for your site. Since they shared it with everyone they know, there’s a good chance they’ll let you post it on your site too.

 

Once you Get the Testimonial

When you get your testimonials, there are a few effective ways to display them on your website.

First of all, make sure they fit with the product you are selling or are general enough to be displayed on your site. I work with lots of different types of clients – from brides to small businesses to antique dealers, so not all testimonials from everyone will work on my wedding site. Choose the ones that you think will be most beneficial to future clients.

Then, decide where you want to place your testimonials. Good practice is to have a page devoted to praise, display them on your sales page or have them scrolling in the footer or sidebar.

Also, consider including a picture and a location of the person you received the testimonial from. People make connections with images and locations, so the testimonial will be more credible and believable if there is a face and location to associate with it.

And that’s it! Follow these steps and be on your way to getting great testimonials from past customers that grab the attention of new customers!

 

The Worksheet

download the testimonials worksheet here to help you get some great feedback from your customers!

 

Have you received a great testimonial in the past? Share a link to it in the comments!