There are soooo many places to grab free stock images for your blog/site/social media these days that the choice is almost overwhelming. And people STILL get it wrong!
Firstly, remember that if it’s free, there’s probably going to be a heap of other folk using exactly the same photo. Secondly, like any of the places that you can find free stuff, there’s a ton of junk to sift through before you get to the good stuff.
Also, what you use on your website and social media says a lot about you and your brand. What mood are you trying to convey with those images? Are they projecting your true business personality? Are they interesting to your ideal audience? Or are they just there to fill a gap?
NOTHING says ‘bland’ quite so much as a website full of sterile stock photos.
It’s those manicured hands hovering over a white keyboard, it’s those artificial smiles. It’s all the equipment on the desk arranged in a unbelievably neat grid. Seriously – whose desk is like that??
Yeah, I know not everyone’s a photographer, and we all use stock photos from time to time. But please choose wisely.
Get outside of your box
It’s a big wide world out there, and the number of Public Domain image providers is growing exponentially. Like many ‘free’ versions of things, they make their money through advertising, and/or links to a paid, higher quality version of what they do. Some sites have a subscription service where they’ll send you new photos every week; some are bit overwhelming in the amount of advertising that they have – have a look around and bookmark a collection of sites that suit you best.
Also, just a time tip – you will most likely spend a heap of time trying to find photos you like, so start up a new folder on your computer now, and set aside an hour or two to find and download a bunch that you like (10-20 at a time) so that you always have a stockpile of photos that you can dig into when you need something in a hurry.
So here are some of my fave sites (there’s a ton more – just google “Public Domain images”, you’ll come up with a big list of sites for you to investigate. Some of these sites are searchable, although many of them are not and require a LOT of scrolling. But there are still some gems in there, so it can be worth your time).
http://thestocks.im/ The Stocks is a collator of sorts, linking around 15 of the most popular Public Domain and CC sites, including Pixabay, Unsplash, and New Old Stock. It also gives you a preview of what images are on each site. Because it’s a collator, it’s popular and tons of people tend to look here often – which means that you’ll find most of the images you like on lots of other blogs and websites too 🙁
https://stocksnap.io/ StockSnap has a bit of personality to it, with contributors adding everything from their own travel photos to highly styled food photos, and it’s searchable by tag and by popularity too.
https://picjumbo.com PicJumbo is another searchable site with some great images, especially of architecture and food (although there is a LOT of advertising on the site).
http://publicdomainarchive.com/ PublicDomainArchive has a big collection of both vintage and modern Public Domain pics. They’re not searchable, but the images are lovely, often featuring gorgeous symmetry.
http://nos.twnsnd.co/ New Old Stock is an absolutely fascinating collection of vintage photos, sourced from public archives throughout Europe and around the world. There’s lots of photos of the US space program, as well as Victorian-era images of buildings and people, old maps, and a bunch more things. Be prepared to spend some time scrolling – and not only because it’s not searchable.
https://freestocktextures.com/ is great for textures that you can add as an overlay to your image to give it age, or grunt, or sass etc – just adjust the transparency. Brick walls, greenery, concrete, rust, graffiti…
http://kaboompics.com/ and http://freestocks.org/ are both sites I came across recently, and both are searchable. They appear to be fairly typical subject matter (people in landscapes, flowers, flatlays of office setups etc), although they do both seem to have a bit more personality.
If you’re after free vector graphics, you might try http://www.freepik.com/ – although they do require attribution and you’re not allowed to use them as your main design element.
Keep searching, there’s plenty more!
(Psssst…. you might even like to try some of my small collection… 😉 )
But there’s still more to watch out for…
Free stock images can still have strings attached. They might be free, but if they’re licensed under Creative Commons, then you might be obligated to credit the image’s author at the very least.
Creative Commons is great for both makers of work (because you can get your work out into a huge audience, and it grows as users spread it around) and users of work (so much more beautiful work to access!). CC has a range of different licences, which range from CC-BY (basically, you can use and edit/manipulate the work in any way you want for both commercial and private use, as long as you credit the original author), right throught to CC BY-NC-ND (you must attribute the author, you can’t use it for commercial purposes, and you can’t alter the work in ANY way).
Public Domain pics on the other hand require no attribution, and you do whatever you like with them!!
Now it IS tricky, because in a global marketplace the thing is that different jurisdictions have different laws around copyright… and so what might be considered Public Domain in one jurisdiction may still be under copyright in another… and so Creative Commons (a wonderful organisation AND search tool – you can find them at creativecommons.org) has created a kind of ‘anti’-licence – CC0 – so that authors can choose to waive all rights to their work. Because whenever you create a work, basic copyrights around intellectual property exist automatically (in most jurisdictions). CC0 is a way of stating that you waive your rights and place your work into the public domain completely for people to do whatever they like with. So that’s part of what Creative Commons is for as well – to try and make things a bit simpler for us creative folk.
Google is NOT the place to go searching for images. Google simply collects and archives what’s out there – it doesn’t check the validity of any licensing or credits or image attachments or ANYTHING. Right now, if I put up an image of the Mona Lisa and put my name on it, that’s the information that Google would archive. So, do your own research, and find images in reputable places – for instance, you can also find lots of CC0 images in Flickr too, direct from the original photographers.
If you get caught using an image (or other work) incorrectly, it can be a big headache – even a financial one, if the owner of the work chooses to come down hard on you. At the very least, they’ll ask you to remove the image – and you’ll have to find another one anyway, so why not choose a Public Domain image in the first place!?
Don’t get caught out – always check.
Have you heard any gruesome stories about people getting in trouble for using images that weren’t theirs? Share it here! It’s important to let others know that this is SERIOUS.
Because the upshot is, we want our artists to get paid AND acknowledged for all their beautiful, amazing contributions to the world. Don’t we!?
Have you ever stumbled across a website and thought, “hmmm… this has potential!”? That’s exactly how I feel about this offering from photographers.com.au.
Essentially, it’s a directory site. So, if you’re a photographer yourself, you can put your own details up there, and depending on what level of support you choose, you can be found through the search bar which sorts photographers via category (product/studio, wedding, food, nature, portrait, etc), and via location. The basic listing is free, and it ranges up to $32AUD/month for a Professional Plus account. If you have a paid account, potential customers can pick you up from seeing your work featured on the home page. When they click on your link, they’ll be taken to your profile page on the site, which has more examples of your work that you’ve uploaded, a short “About” section, any testimonials you’d like to include, and various other sections for listing awards, high profile clients, and contact details.
If you’re a member of the public, You can search by category and location, although you can’t search by name (but then there’s always Google, if you’re looking for someone you know 😉 ). Then once you’ve found a few potentials, you can request a quote from them; and after you’ve used one, you can leave a review and a star rating for the next person too.
The site is very easy to find your way around in. For photographers who’d like to join, it’s easy to set yourself up with a directory listing (and a teensy bit amusing as well). There’s a fab blog to boot, covering lots of the issues that are common to creatives – several years worth of posts such as “How should you respond when a customer asks you for a discount?”; “At what point does creative photography become misleading?”; and “Is imitation the best form of flattery?”
Having said all of that however, the site does have a few issues. The clunky branding for one. For a photography site where the image should be king, there’s just too much going on on the home page. From the patterned background, to the drop-shadow on the edges on several of the boxed areas, to the inclusion of the map of Sydney. Then there’s the tiny writing in the menu, the very generic blue search box, some boxes with rounded corners and some with square, and the ‘Meet Some of our Members’ section laid out like a real estate showcase (not to mention the techy glitch of weird characters showing up where there should be quotation marks). Aesthetic things, to be sure – but I think that if you’re dealing in images, the aesthetics have to be top notch. Make it cleaner, make it neater.
Overall however, I think it’s worth having a look at – it seems to be well-populated already, which means that there’s lots of good, dynamic stuff happening. If you’re a photographer yourself, or even if you’re someone who needs a photographer for your next profile shot or product shoot, maybe this is the place to investigate.
This post was supported by photographers.com.au; but please rest assured that my opinions are honest, and entirely my own.
I only ever share things that I think will benefit my readership.
Surviving a PR Nightmare
Guest post by Matthew Quinn
All businesses work hard to build their brands; often startups work tirelessly just to get noticed when they are starting out.
Despite all of the measures that businesses take in order to protect their company’s name, mistakes do happen. And, in the digital age and social media revolution, a simple tweet or Facebook update could be detrimental to the company’s image.
Public Relation nightmares come in varying degrees. For example, in February 2016, McDonald’s faced a lawsuit over their “deceptive” mozzarella sticks that lacked cheese, and this was extremely damaging to their brand. On the other hand, some companies experience small controversies whenever their employees say something damning on social media, which usually leads to said employees’ termination.
Regardless of the degree of a PR nightmare, here are some things that you may want to keep in mind in case your business, no matter how small it is, faces adversity in the future.
This may seem like something rather trivial but this is quite possibly the most important piece of advice documented in this list. When you see something unfolding before your eyes, compose yourself. Don’t respond immediately – think about how you need to provide constructive feedback.
For instance, if it is a review from a journalist or another industry expert, take the criticism on board and thank them for their feedback while looking to resolve the issue professionally.
Responding quickly will help to minimize the damage. A day without responding is too long, and people, specifically consumers and the industry on a whole, want to hear your side to the story. By not replying quickly, you might as well as admit liability. After all, if you’re not at fault, and you haven’t done anything wrong, why would it take so long to respond? In short, you should prioritize matters such as these.
You can use social media to respond to customer feedback. Most companies use Twitter in order to provide quick responses to issues. Oil and gas construction firm Unaoil, for example, used Twitter to respond to the biggest scandal that the firm has faced since its inception. They even left the tweet a pinned tweet at the top of their wall so people could see it. Using social media to respond to controversy is a good way to get the message across to the world from your company’s point of view.
Launch a positive campaign
Bad PR doesn’t stick around forever especially if you try and counter it with something positive. Try doing something for the community or supporting causes that benefit the world. Remember the Coca Cola ad that was under fire last year because many saw it as “white people handing out soda to poor Mexicans?” Coca Cola didn’t intend for the ad to be interpreted, so they needed to act quickly to turn a negative into a positive. So, they launched a positive campaign about wellness titled ‘Coming Together’.
It’s important to make sure that you always take into consideration the feedback you receive from your consumer base as it could affect future business. Your target audience is your business’ lifeline, so make sure to always keep them happy and reply in a polite manner, and use the feedback to improve the way you do business.
Disclaimer : tractorgirl collaborated with Matthew Quinn to bring you this post. But rest assured I only ever share things I genuinely believe in, and that I think will be useful for you!
Me, hanging out with a few friends at the Artful Business Conference – Jess, Dominique, Tash, Jayne, Karen, and Stevie <3
What WAS the 2016 Artful Business Conference like? Perhaps I don’t even have to say the words. Of course it was fabulous.
I got to actually MEET and give hugs to Jess Van Den, who I’ve known online for about a gazillion years. Too too beautiful! I got to dance with a room full of 80 or so women and laugh. I got my soul stirred by the hauntingly beautiful voice of Dominique Oyston. I got to play with paper and glue and textas, and draw on the table. I was lucky enough to get an Indian head massage from Shalini. I got fed SO much incredible information and I have written pages and pages and PAGES of notes of things to implement (oh!!!!). Hugs hugs and more hugs with gorgeous people I met IRL at last year’s conference – Tash Corbin, Karen Gunton, Jess May, Katie Wyatt, Jayne Traeger-Bliss and so many more…. and of course ELLE and her team – Meg, Kellie, and Jodi. And even more hugs from new friends I’ve only met online since last year. So many laughs, and tears too – of joy, of resonance, and connection (and not as many tears from overwhelm like there were for me last year, haha!!).
There were some fabulous quotes too.
“Focus on one thing” – Katie
“You’ve got to fill yourself up from the inside out” – Melanie
“You can never live the life you want without disappointing some people” – Felicity
“Focus on the long game” – Tash
“Don’t tolerate. What’s the biggest thing you’re tolerating in your life right now?” – Sylvia
“Tell yourself, ‘It’s a practice’. Give yourself permission to make mistakes” – Tash
“It’s not Artful unless there’s tears” – Jayne
“A keynote speech is an emotional journey.
You need to get your audience to feel why it’s important.” – Dominique
That last one is particularly important for me. Because I’ve got a little announcement to make.
I’M GOING TO BE SPEAKING AT NEXT YEAR’S EVENT.
Hooley freaking dooley. Yes I am.
And I cannot wait. Book your ticket here, and I’ll see you there.
(***UPDATE*** – The link above is an afflink, so I may receive a bonus if you buy through me – BUT the cool thing is that you ALSO receive some fab gifts from me!! If you purchase a virtual ticket through my afflink, you’ll receive a copy of my ebook viz biz – small business branding worth $35; or if you purchase a full ticket, you’ll receive the ebook, access to my Design School Workshop ($50), PLUS a 1 hour of 1:1 with me ($120) – you can talk branding, or you can talk Canva – total value of the bonuses is $205.
Seriously, I can’t wait. See you there.
Big love, Julie x
Customer service is part of your branding too.
You know all those pretty visuals you’ve got for your branding? It ain’t worth a scrap if you don’t treat your customers right. Yeah yeah nup; in the last few days I’ve been witness to some fairly unpleasant interactions.
Like at the takeaway counter when a customer queried his change, and the embarrassed sales assistant spent a silly amount of time fluffing over a calculator, then finally and hurriedly shoved the money into his hand and simply looked away.
He was polite, she was SO not. Not even a quick “sorry”.
Whaaaat!? Seriously, good manners cost nothing, and will vastly improve your chances of repeat business. (I doubt that customer will be back, even though the food is excellent.)
Like when I was at another business waiting for something to be finished, and they kept telling me, “won’t be much longer” and it ended up taking HOURS. (At least I got a brief apology.)
I mean, let me know how long it’s actually going to take and I will happily organise my life around that – I have plenty of things to do. Don’t coddle me along with a vague half-truth (because of course, hours are less than days and in that sense, no it’s not a long time). But now, I’m peeved because they weren’t straight with me, and made me late.
Always, always, put yourself in your customer’s shoes and think what they’re thinking.
And yes, the same goes for me.
I had an unhappy customer a short while ago. I was mortified. I wrote to her, explaining what we’d done and what she’d achieved, offered a couple of ways to rectify the problem, and sent her a copy of my e-book. But she was dismissive and fairly ungracious about the situation, and demanded a refund.
Ouch. That REALLY hurt. Not the refund of course, but the fact that I had disappointed someone so badly. Was I really so hopeless at delivering the service?
But after going through some angst and thinking about what the actual problem was, I realised that it boiled down to the fact that her expectations of what she was getting didn’t match with what I was offering. And so in that sense, yes it’s my fault because I didn’t make it clear what she would get. When I delivered something different to what she was expecting, she got cranky.
(And just a sidenote here: Always be gracious. Whether you’re a customer or a business owner, good manners work both ways.)
Now, I’m re-writing my sales copy so that there’s no mistaking what’s on offer. I’ve already re-written my intro to this service so everyone’s clear from the get-go. Everybody wins from this – I get the right customers, and they get exactly the service they’re wanting and expecting.
So the moral of these stories is, at EVERY interaction with your customer, try and think what they’re thinking. Because if you don’t… unhappy customers. They won’t come back. And they’ll tell their friends about their bad experiences.
And these interactions start early – not when they’re actually putting money on the counter, but when they first clap eyes on you. When they first see your website. When they see your happy, smilin’ face in your profile shot. When they read your About page. When they read your sales copy. When they read your testimonials.
Those interactions continue throughout the transaction.
How easy is it it for them to contact you and ask questions? How clear are you about what exactly it is that you’re offering (is there anything you’re specifically not offering?) How easy is it to buy something from you (what’s your cart system like?) How long do they have to wait for delivery? What should they have at the end of the transaction? (This last one’s especially important for service-based businesses.)
And at the end – how can you delight your customer, so that they become repeat customers and raving fans? So that they talk about you with a happy face, and recommend you to their friends?
To know what’s in their heads at every turn of the transaction might seem like an impossible task.
But it’s so much easier if you know exactly who your ideal customer is.
Who are they? What are they looking for? What are they aspiring to, and how can you help them achieve that?
Talk to them. Ask them.
And remember, every unhappy customer is a chance to learn, to improve, so that your next customer experience is a wonderful one.
Spread the love.
The Artful Business Conference is only THREE weeks away. Why is this important, you say? Well, you know how I said after my review of last year’s conference that I thought it might be life-changing but I’d let you know?
I’m pretty sure it was.
Thanks to Karen Gunton, I’ve found my ‘thing’. (It’s Beauty. My purpose is to put it out into the world, in whatever form that takes. And yes, it’s a massive shift for me.)
Thanks to Sylvia Chierchia, I’ve got a MUCH better handle on my money, and my money situation has improved drastically.
And thanks to the founder of this beautiful conference, Elle Roberts, I’m facing my fears and doing it anyway. (F’rinstance: before, I struggled to find photos of me that I even liked. Now, I’m the selfie queen, and I’ve got a good dozen videos under my belt (yeah yeah, I know they’re short, but it’s a start!)). And I’m pushing myself out there in lots of other ways – new products, and a (ahem) webinar in the planning stages.
Soooo, I totally admit I’m not where I want to be just yet, but I feel like I’ve changed so much for the better, and I’ve pushed forward to that place bigtime.
What’s in store for the 2016 conference?
ArtfulBizCon 2015 – and yes you can bring your baby!
This is going to be the fourth year in a row that I’ve attended, I would LOVE it if you joined me there. If you’ve been hiding under a rock, this is THE two-day creative conference for small business owners – whether you’re a maker, or business coach, or anything in between. It’s about practical knowledge, mindset work, plus gorgeous, gorgeous women all believing in each other and helping each other step up – what’s not to love!?
This year’s speakers including host and founder, Elle Roberts, talking about Personal Branding & Tribe Building; the amazing and dynamic Tash Corbin speaking about building your biz with passive income; artist and psychologist Felicity O’Connor telling us about building a business as a creative artist and addressing the particular set of parameters and problems that artists have; Katie Wyatt talking about building your biz with podcasting – and a WHOLE BUNCH more wonderful speakers. There are also workshops, VIP breakfasts, and a whole host of other fun things planned. It’s on the 28th and 29th May at Rydges in Melbourne (so it’ll be swish, and I’m totally frocking up for it!).
(here’s me with Jacara and Lyn last year)
Once again, I’m a super duper proud affiliate (why wouldn’t I be!?) and I’ve got a super duper bonus if you buy through my link. Not only do you get all the wonderfulness of this beautiful business conference, you also get a free 1hr 1:1 brand coaching session with me PLUS 2 x branded graphics that you can use for social media or anything else you need (my package alone is worth $240 – way more value than the cost of a Virtual Access ticket).
Book your ticket here and I’ll see you there!
Don’t miss it.