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! Be sure to check out more of the features at Western Digital’s website and share this story with other small business owners, this knowledge is major!

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.

Free and Affordable Stock Photo Sites That Don’t Suck

Free and Affordable Stock Photo Sites Great For Bloggers

I think by now we all know the importance of using great imagery, whether it be for blog posts, design projects, social media or anything else where you are trying to look professional as well as capture your audience’s attention.

While I’m a huge fan of completely custom imagery, we don’t always have the skill set, time or budget to do that. But that shouldn’t stop us from having great photographs. For me, those classic cheesy stock photos are not an option, I like stock photos that don’t really feel like stock photos! While I’ve been searching for the perfect, affordable image time and time again, I’ve also been bookmarking those image source sites, and today I’m sharing my favorites!

Free Options

Affordable Options

Any other ones that I missed out there? I’d love to hear about them!

Please check the licenses before using photos from any of these sites.

The Meetup Guide: How to Create, Plan and Host Your Own Local Event Series

The-Meetup-Guide-Presale-Image

Ever wish you could get together with inspiring, like-minded people right in your city? Maybe you’re looking to network, collaborate, or simply make some new friends. If that perfect local event doesn’t already exist, how about starting your own?

Sounds like a lot of work, right? Well, there’s no need to start from scratch.

I’m sure y’all have heard me talk about The Made In Mind Social here on the blog before. If not, it’s a local event series that my sister and I created last year. Every other month, we gather creatives from around the area to meet and mingle, celebrate and connect.

Prior to founding Made In Mind, I didn’t have any experience with event planning. I had to ask a lot of questions, do tons of research, and learn through my own experiences. I really wished I had some kind of how-to guide to lead me through each step of the planning process.

So after a year of hosting events, I created an e-book to do just that! The Meetup Guide: How to Create, Plan, and Host Your Own Local Event Series, walks you through the who, what, when, where, why, and how of starting your own local meetup.

The-Meetup-Guide-Overview

The book launches in July but pre-sales are open now at a super discounted price! It’s over 50 pages packed with actionable information, valuable insights, tried-and-true tips and worksheets to help you get organized and make things happen! It even includes tips and interviews with other creatives who have started events like Chelsea Foy of Lovely Indeed and Shauna Haider of The Blogcademy!

Simply put, if you’re looking for a resource to guide you through the process, this is it! Ready to plan your own local event?

Purchase The Meetup Guide

Don’t want to deal with naming and branding your event? Starting a Made In Mind chapter in your city may be a great option for you!

The Made In Mind Social Chapters

 

Tips & Tricks for Your Email Newsletter

Tips and Tricks for Your Email Newsletter

An email newsletter is a tricky thing when you own a small business. While having an email list and sending out emails on a regular basis keeps you top of mind to your subscribers, knowing what you should send out and how frequently is a question that many small business owners struggle with. In a previous post we discussed why the email list is so important and a few different ways you can get emails from your customers and readers. Today we’re going to discuss some tips and guidelines for sending emails out to the list of emails you’ve gathered.

Getting Started and Setting Up

There are lots of great email newsletter platforms out there – some you can pay for and some are free. While you can pay for a service like Aweber or Constant Contact, I’m particularly fond of MailChimp’s free options. They make it easy to set up a newsletter and have great template options.

Once you sign up for a free account, you’ll need to import your email addresses or type them into your account. When you have them set up in a list, you’ll want to choose a template or design your own within the site. To make your newsletter cohesive and consistent, try to use the same template for each email and have it match your current website and branding design. Now that you’ve got your emails imported and your template designed, you just need to add in some content!

Deciding What Content to Email to Subscribers

No matter what line of business you’re in, you’ll want to send out content you think is most important or helpful to your list. If you have got a giveaway coming up or have a post that’s getting lots of comments, these would be wonderful things to include in your email newsletter to get more entries or visits to your website.

If you sell products, you could share some best sellers or featured items in your email, or if you’re a web designer think about sharing some of your recent work or progress on a current job. Updates give your readers a chance to see what you’ve been up to if they haven’t visited your blog or website in a while.

Some other things to include are:

  • Recent guest posts on other blogs
  • Links to a few of your favorite new posts on your blog
  • Your social media links
  • A question for your subscribers to answer or an invitation for them to comment on a Facebook or blog post.

Whatever content you choose to send out, use your own unique voice, and write it like you’re emailing an old friend. Your subscribers will feel like you’re emailing a little note written just for them!

The Dreaded Question: How Often Do I Email Out My Newsletter?

Frequency of emails can be tricky because you don’t want to send out so often that you’re getting a bunch of unsubscribes, but you want to email out enough to stay top of mind and in their inbox.

Personally, I cringe when my phone or inbox alerts me when I have an email waiting for me. Because of this, I try to send out newsletters sparingly – once every few weeks or once a month.  But frequency will depend on the type of business you’re in as well. If you’re a social media marketer, it might be a nice service to your subscribers to send them a short, actionable social media tip each week. Or if you own a retail store you could blast out your weekly sales or a product of the week.

Send your newsletter out as often as you feel comfortable. Try out different schedules and then choose one you feel that isn’t too intrusive to your subscriber’s inbox but still keeps you in their mind. Go with what feels right to you!

Email newsletters are wonderful way to get your work in front of potential customers. Consistency and respect for their inbox is key, but once you get a schedule figured out, they’ll be excited to see your email in their inbox.

Do you send out an email newsletter? What tricks have you found helpful? Share in the comments!

Twitter Tips For Bloggers

Twitter Tips For Blogging

I joined Twitter in 2009 shortly after I started blogging and I’ve been tweeting away ever since! Back then features such as retweets and hashtags were created by the user base, not the developers and could be a bit confusing for a newbie to figure out. They have come a long way since then, lists and built-in retweets were introduced and they have made their features even easier to understand and use!

Twitter is a great way to promote your content whether it be the services you offer through your business or new blog content. It’s also a great way to share your expertise and connect with like-minded people. Here are a few easy Twitter tips from what I have learned over the years:

Fill Out Your Profile

First things first. Make sure you write a clear description in the section for your bio and don’t forget to include a link back to your blog! I can’t tell you how many super vague profiles I see on Twitter. This should be similar to your elevator pitch, let me know why I should stick around!

Be Yourself

Keep your tweets fun and interesting. People want to connect with a real person and your readers will love you for being yourself. When tweeting, use the same voice and tone that you use on your blog.

Tweet Regularly

Since content flows so quickly on Twitter, it’s okay to post multiple tweets about the same thing. Just make sure you are not posting the exact same tweet over and over. Switching up the intro to a link helps to keep your followers engaged and interested in your content.

Schedule

Tweeting regularly is time-consuming so using a service like HootSuite can help. I don’t recommend scheduling ALL of your tweets, but it can help push out some content while you are working on something else. There are also some WordPress plugins that will automatically tweet posts from your blog archives for you, I use Tweetily.

Explain Your Links

Be sure to give a short description that’s intriguing and will entice your readers to click on the link. Your followers should trust your twitter content, so give accurate information.

Interact

Interact with people instead of just following. I love being able to connect with all types of people all over the world! Trust me, most people out there would love to have a little twitter convo! Make sure you are asking your followers questions, and try to answer questions as well. This helps build your reputation and credibility, which can lead to more followers and retweets.

Share the Love

Don’t only promote yourself. In addition to tweeting your own blog posts, post articles from other sources with similar content. If you mention someone on Twitter or in a blog post, make sure to tag them so they know.

Create and Follow Lists

A list is a curated group of Twitter users. You can create your own lists or subscribe to lists created by others. This is a great way to keep up with your favorite users, or people who have content you may want to share in the future.

Pictures

Twitter is becoming more and more visual so take advantage of this! They recently added inline images to tweets which is a great opportunity to tease a photo of your new content.

Find Relevant Hashtag Streams OR Tweetups

Hashtags categorize tweets and automatically group keywords or topics and help to get your tweets out to a larger audience than just your followers. Hashtags are an excellent way to track conversations about a specific topic and to take part in those conversations. Look for active hashtag streams relevant to what you blog about. For example, I love to participate in the #altchat every Tuesday and occasionally check out the #design and #fonts hashtags.

 Have Fun

While I do use Twitter to promote my biz, I also use it for fun! Hashtags and Twitter in general can be quite entertaining! I love to follow along with TV shows that I’m addicted to and sporting events. I also use Twitter for advice, like if I’m looking for a place to eat or need a suggestion for a photographer etc.

Twitter has been very helpful to me in promoting my blog and I hope these tips help to make it work for you too! If you have any questions or tips feel free to comment here or tweet me!

Blogging With Intention

Quality Over Quantity - Blogging With Intention Tips Plus Free Worksheet

With the new year comes a new set of goals you promise yourself you’re going to reach this year – you’re going to simplify, organize your life, grow your business and make time for what matters most. 

But when you’re trying to expand your small business, you can get stuck in the everyday muck of catching up on emails, putting together proposals, planning your blogging calendar and putting the finishing touches on that blog post you wanted to have up yesterday. It’s hard to keep up with the everyday stuff and make time for the big things you want to accomplish too. 

While blogging is an important aspect of growing your small business, blogging without passion just to have a post up on your site is the wrong way to go about growing. Lucky for us, there’s a trending idea in the blogging world: blogging with intention. 

It’s writing posts that contain all original content, it’s researching the topic and coming to your own conclusion and it’s blogging only when you devote the time and passion it takes to write a great post, even if it’s only once a week or once a month. 

Here are some ways to craft a quality, well thought out, intentional blog post: 

1. Do Your Research

When planning out your posts, draw up an outline and schedule in time to do some research behind the topic you’re writing about. The more you can share with your readers, the more they’ll feel like they got something out of your post.

For example, if you’re featuring a certain artist on your blog, do some research on their story – share how they got started, the idea behind their brand and what their design process is. If they use a particular technique with their work, research the technique and share that with your readers as well. Reach out to them to get the answers to those questions, or do your own research to find those answers.

Anyone can share an image of the artist’s work, but if you can get the story behind that particular piece, you’ll add more value to your post. Make sure you cite where you found your information and give credit wherever you can. 

When you add research to your process, the quality of your posts will increase and you’ll be providing your readers with real information they’ll want to bookmark and share. 

2. Only Write About Topics That Inspire You

If you’re not inspired by the posts you’re writing, it’s time to take a look at the type of content you’re blogging about. One way to fix this is to go back to the beginning of your business and ask yourself some questions. Why did you want to get started? What inspired you back then? Has that inspiration grown or changed at all?

If you go back to the root of why you started and what inspired you most back then, you might be able to come up with some great blog post ideas that won’t leave you procrastinating to get the post written. Focus on just writing about topics you like to talk about or are interested in exploring more, and go from there.  

3. Use Your Own Photos

One way to really slow down and take your time with blogging is to create an entirely original post – sharing both your own ideas and your own photographs. While throwing together recap posts or inspiration boards with other people’s images or post content (while properly crediting them, of course) is still very popular, when you create an original post you’re putting something out on the web that hasn’t been seen before.

I’ve noticed that the posts I’ve provided original content for have been pinned and re-pinned more times than any of my themed inspiration boards or style posts – pinned DIY projects and design projects I’m working on bring more people to my website than just about any other source. 

THE WORKSHEET

Download the blogging with intention worksheet here to help you get started!

 Coming up with all original content for your posts definitely takes more time, but your readers will be able to tell that you spent more time on the post and it will hopefully bring some additional traffic back to your website after it gets shared around the web.

When you’re blogging with purpose about topics you really want to talk about, you’ll add value to your brand, contribute some amazing new things to the internet and save yourself the stress from trying to throw together 5 posts a week.

The first few months of the new year are a great time for starting new habits, slowing down and focusing on what you really want to accomplish this year. If you’re blogging with intention you’ll have better chance of accomplishing your goals, and you’ll enjoy blogging even more.

What are your blogging goals for this year? How will you slow down and blog with more passion and intention? Share your ideas in the comments!