3 Ways to Improve Your Email Campaign Strategy

More than any other social media marketing, email marketing campaigns achieve the best results in terms of responses from new and ongoing clients. They deliver focused content to recipients who want to know more about you and your products and services.

Continue reading “3 Ways to Improve Your Email Campaign Strategy”

Best Ways to Use Canva and Stencil for Business

Diving in deep on how tools can help business owners is kind of my thing. I tend to research and test things out to check on all of the tool’s capabilities for a lengthy time. When it comes to Canva and Stencil, it’s no exception. I’ve tested and worked in both visual marketing platforms for several years. There are quite a few differences between Canva and Stencil. People always ask which app they should use for their business. I’m going to take you on a tour on how I use both and maybe it will inspire you to create images in a more productive manner.

Continue reading “Best Ways to Use Canva and Stencil for Business”

A Social Media Marketing Tool for Sharing Visuals – ViralTag (An In-Depth Review)

A Social Media Marketing Tool for Sharing Visuals - ViralTag Review

For small business owners and entrepreneurs, social media becomes a fast friend and/or foe. Social media can open up avenues to so many potential customers, that you can’t help but fall in love with the enormous possibilities to market a business. However as soon as a business hits a stride and obtains impact from social media, they find they need help quickly to keep up with posts and create consistent messaging. The best social media tool that’s been invented is the social media scheduler. Social media scheduling tools make marketing so much easier! Finding the best tool for a business is the best investment of time and money a business owner can make. Today I’m introducing you to ViralTag!

A Social Media Marketing Tool for Sharing Visuals – ViralTag

My favorite social media scheduling tools are ones that take care of visual marketing within their product. Visual marketing has an incredible impact to a business. If images and photos are not within your social media posts, then you’re losing value and customers.

[tweet_box inject=”Visuals make a difference in social media marketing! @tigerlilyva11″]Visuals make a difference![/tweet_box]

There are basic needs of a social media scheduling tool: queues, feed access, evergreen/recycle post capability, and automatic/upload images. These are basic areas that a social media marketing tool must have, if they don’t have these capabilities then they’re not worth looking into. ViralTag offers the basics plus some intriguing intermediate marketing tools. Let’s review them!

Queue

ViralTag queue
ViralTag’s queue is easy on the eyes and user-friendly.

The ViralTag queue is where the scheduled posts are set, as you can see with the above image, it’s clear what posts are going out to which platform with the copy and image accordingly. If you need to move things around, it’s a simple drag. You can set your schedule or use their recommended time schedule.

posting schedule in viraltag
Click on the star to get recommended times for posting!

You’ll notice that the Home toolbar is all about the posts: Scheduled Posts, Drafts, Recent Posts, Evergreen Content, Failed Posts, and Posting Schedule. This is where all your posts live. These are all self-explanatory but let me dive into Evergreen Content a bit.

Evergreen Content

Evergreen Content is so very important to a blog. This is content that never gets old and can be used over time. Here are some examples on evergreen content:

Business Blogging

Successful Elements to Blogging

When you find a blog post that’s worth sharing and doesn’t have an expiration date, then simply click on the Evergreen Content button while you’re scheduling. It will then automatically post in your queue and you can designate how often you’d like to share it within days. Remember, you don’t want to annoy anyone with the same post over and over again!

Evergreen Content Button in ViralTag
Just a click of a button!

It’s a click of a button to recycle content. This comes in so handy!

Curating Content

To curate content into your social media schedule, you can use the Feeds access or the Chrome extension. What I love about the Feeds section is that you can see the images that go along with the post. I have to admit at times I had issues with the feed, however ViralTag has awesome customer service. You can contact them with the little chat box on the lower right hand corner of the screen and they check into the situation immediately. Feeds can be act quirky anyway no matter what tool I use.

/Users/lilliandejesus/Downloads/Feeds in ViralTag with chat help.png

The Chrome extension is amazing! When you find an article you’d like to share just click on the ViralTag icon, and it will present the images for the post to schedule. Super fast and easy.

Let’s Explore

The Explore section of ViralTag is the most intriguing section, as it’s where you can find tons of popular images to pin.

Explore in Viraltag to pin images to Pinterest.
Find images on every topic to pin directly from the scheduler.

This is pretty neat since typically you’d have to use another tool for Pinterest pins or go directly into Pinterest to pin. ViralTag is a one-stop shop to post to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. The images that are in the Explore section can easily be scheduled to all the platforms (of course, be selective on what you share on LinkedIn, since it is a professional network site).

Reporting

Another bonus on ViralTag is the reporting system. It connects with Google Analytics and provides a traffic report for all platforms. It will also let you know what the best times are to post. There is a special section just for Pinterest analytics and a main Analytics area for all platforms. Since I recently started using ViralTag again, I haven’t had a chance to really analyze my data with the reports but it looks impressive.

Images

This is main visual marketing aspect of ViralTag! The import capabilities of images into the system to use on scheduling posts.

Import images into ViralTag
Take a look on the left side! Import images from Dropbox, Drive, Facebook, Instagram, etc.

Once you have selected images for your post, you can crop them with the Enhance option if needed, otherwise it’s ready to share.

Scheduling images in ViralTag
Click on the star to enhance the image to crop it (if need be).

The only disadvantage I’ve found with their scheduled posts, is that you cannot change the image once it’s in the queue. That’s the only sticky part of scheduling that I’m not too crazy about. I’d like to be able to switch out images quickly. So in order to test out multiple images, you have to create separate posts for each image. It’s not that big of a deal but there are some programs that allow that image access during the edit process, which really smooths the process.

Recap on ViralTag

Let’s review the pros and cons of ViralTag! ViralTag does provide a rich visual marketing experience to schedule social media posts. It really depends on the needs of an individual or small business owner. If Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter are all part of a business’ social media strategy then ViralTag is definitely a wonderful tool to use.

Pros:

  • The user interface is appealing and user-friendly.
  • Access to different image sources.
  • The queue is easy to access and self-explanatory.
  • Evergreen content can be recycled with a click of a button.
  • Management of schedule is easy.
  • Super easy access to curate content with the browser extension.
  • Feeds access with visuals.
  • Pinterest images readily available to pin or schedule to other platforms.

Cons:

  • Feeds area was a bit quirky (that happens with other programs as well).
  • Scheduled posts cannot be edited to switch out image.

Overall, I feel ViralTag is a top-notch social media scheduling tool that would work great for bloggers of all niches, small businesses, and solopreneurs.

Have you tried ViralTag yet? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Take care,

Lillian De Jesus blog signature

 

 

 

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post, however ViralTag has provided me with a free trial period to provide an honest review.

Time to Kick Off the New Year with Inspiration

Time to kick off the New Year with Inspiration with tigerlilyva

Inspiration isn’t something that comes to you, you have to find and achieve it. This year I’m starting things off with inspiration, and success! In quote form, of course, but I also want these quotes to mean something. I want them to motivate you (and me) this year. Let’s go!

Kick off the New Year with Motivational Quotes

You did not wake up today to be mediocre.
Here’s a bit of motivation for you!

You see how powerful words can be! They can motivate you, cheer you up, bring a positive light into the day, and that’s what makes quote images so intriguing. Here’s another to motivate you!

Try me!
This quote will get you pumped up!

You should never give up on your dreams; another quote that comes to mind is from Babe Ruth.

It's hard to beat a person who never gives up.
It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up. Ain’t that the truth?!

Are you pumped and motivated yet?

Kick off the New Year with Inspirational Quotes

Inspire greatness in others and it will be easier to inspire greatness in yourself.
I suppose this quote was inspiration for this post. 😉

Do you believe you when you inspire others it becomes easier to inspire greatness in yourself? I’d like to believe that. Here’s a quote from my ultimate inspiration – the Holy Bible.

God's will that by doing good
The Holy Bible is my source for inspiration and advice on life.

I’m inspired by doing good and it should be a source of inspiration to you too. Life is only good when people work together for a better community and build quality relationships.

 

To act justly and to love mercy and humbly with your God.

Kick off the New Year with Hope Quotes

Sometimes we feel a bit lost with every day tasks. We’re filled with doubt and fear. That’s when quotes about hope, dreams, success, and moving forward in our lives will help us along the way.

hope itself is like a star
Love this Charles Spurgeon quote!

When I think of hope and dreams, I think of Martin Luther King Jr. He was filled with love and wanted so much good in life. Here’s one of my favorites of his.

keep moving forward quote
Martin Luther King Jr. quote

[tweet_box inject=”When you feel like you’re failing, a hopeful outlook is key. @tigerlilyva11″]When you feel like you’re failing, a hopeful outlook is key.[/tweet_box]

 

https://sdk.canva.com/v1/embed.jsI have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work. by Lillian De Jesus

For days when you’re feeling sad and wonder how everyone else seems to get everything done on their to-do list on a daily basis. Remember these words – Don’t let anyone dull your sparkle.

dont let anyone dull your sparkle

You’re doing the best you can!

Wishing You Motivation, Inspiration, and Hope for the New Year

Blessings to you and much success for the New Year. Don’t let anyone bring you down. You can excel and accomplish whatever you may hope for.

The above images were made with love in Stencil except for the ‘I have not failed’ quote, which was made in Canva. I used Canva’s newest share feature – Embed. It will now allow you to embed an image onto your blog or website. I always like to try out new features in the graphic design tools. Not sure if I like it but it’s interesting.

Would you like to share your favorite inspiration quote? Share in the comments.

How to Make GIFs for Visual Marketing

How to make GIFs for visual marketing your business. Not cheesy cat GIFs but helpful and instructional GIFs about your products or business.

Many people think of GIFs as silly memes and offbeat humor, however GIFs can be such a powerful visual marketing tool for an entrepreneur or small business. Although videos are the ultimate visual marketing tool, GIFs have become the next best thing in presenting quick demonstrations and are especially useful in how-to blog posts. I’ve been using GIFs since I started blogging a few years ago, and now I’ll show you how to make GIFs for visual marketing and my “amazing secret” tool.

 //giphy.com/embed/sW1dXQkNFZM76

via GIPHY

Yes, I just used a cheesy Puss in Boots GIF… I couldn’t help myself, sorry. Seriously, you’ll be amazed at how easy it is to create GIFs for your blog posts that will help educate your audience. I’ve selfishly kept this tool as a secret and I will reveal it later in this post. First, I want to quickly let you know what a GIF is. GIF stands for Graphic Interchange Format, and it’s a lossless format for image files that supports both animated and static images. Just like the Puss in Boots image above.

Of course, I can’t talk about GIFs and not talk about the outrageous geeky pronunciation debate of calling it a JIF or GIF (with a hard ‘G’). Although the creator, Steve Wilhite, declared at the Webby Award show that it’s pronounced JIF, there are some die-hard hard ‘G’ GIF fans.

Enough of that debate, back to more useful discussion of visual marketing aspects of GIFs! I’ll first reveal my amazing secret GIF tool, how to make a GIF, and how to use the GIF on social media. Let’s get to it!

How to make GIFs for Visual Marketing

Amazing Secret GIF Tool

I love creating GIFs with Screencast-O-Matic (SOM), and no I’m not an affiliate! You can do a screencast and save it as a video or GIF. There’s a free option to try, however their watermark will be on the GIF or video you create. To use the platform without the watermark, it’s a crazy $15/year rate for the Pro version. For the past few years, I’ve been using SOM and I still can’t believe they have it at that inexpensive price. It does so much and it’s excellent for visual marketing.

Okay so… I’ve revealed my amazing secret tool.

Let’s make a GIF!

When you have SOM, it opens up to a screen for recording (image below).

record-with-som-to-create-a-video-or-gif
Click on Record to create a GIF. Once recorded they will be shown below the button.

When you click Record, it will give you a sizable frame that you can move around the object to record. There is an option to use your microphone and webcam for video recording, however when creating a GIF you’ll want to turn the microphone and webcam off.

Setting up to record a GIF with SOM.

The key in creating GIFs is to keep it super short however providing value. It could be used for instructional purposes and an example of how to do something online. I’ve made many GIFs for my how-to posts and other blogs as well.

Create GIFs with Screencast-O-Matic.
Here’s an example of a quick instructional GIF on changing post sizes in Stencil.

When you upload a GIF to your website it may be too big and you’ll have to shrink down the GIF. While your GIF may seem short enough, there are size limits on website uploads. The sizes varies depending on the website theme. If you come across this issue, then you have to speed up the GIF.

Edit recording on Screencast-O-Matic
Edit the recording to slow down to downsize.

When you edit the recording, there will be a set of tools that you can use and you’ll want to click on Speed Change.

Edit the speed in Screencast-O-Matic to decrease the size.
Changing the speed will decrease the size.

Once you click on Speed Change it will take you to this screen:

Speed change to x2 slower to decrease the GIF size.
Speed change to x2 slower to decrease the GIF size.

If it’s extremely large, then you can choose other speeds to see which size will be able to upload. Sometimes you have to play with it to see what will work but it’s worth it to have a little demo GIF.

How to Use GIFs in Social Media

Not only can you use GIFs in blog posts but you can also share them in social media. People love to get GIFs as thank you tweets or a teaser for a blog post. You can share them through your social media scheduler like Buffer or Edgar and share on Twitter. You can also share your GIF on Pinterest although it would have to be super short. Facebook is a bit trickier and will need an additional step (listed below).

Twitter

Animated GIFs can be up to 5MB on mobile, and up to 15MB on web.

Facebook

Animated GIFs need to have a URL so the best way to upload is via GIPHY. Upload and share through GIPHY, otherwise if you upload to Facebook the GIF will stay as a static image.

Pinterest & Google+

Animated GIFs can be shared quite nicely through Buffer and GIPHY.

Instagram & Vine

Animated GIFs can be a little tricky as well. Once you create your GIF you can upload to GIPHY then GIPHY will email you an mp4 version so you can upload to Instagram.

Ready to Create GIFs for Visual Marketing Your Business

As much as video has become one of the most popular visual marketing tools, GIFs have become underrated in its potential to demonstrate a product or business services instruction. Remember some people won’t stick around to see an entire video and would rather see snippets to get fast results to their problems.

Womens Health Magazine does an excellent job with their FitGIF Friday where they demonstrate a fitness tip.

Use a tool like Screencast-O-Matic to help create the GIF to upload to a blog post or social media platform. When you provide these small snippets to your audience they appreciate the extra effort in showing them something new. Keep GIFs in mind for you visual marketing strategy and no need to use cheesy GIFs with cats, use GIFs to your advantage for business.

Let me know if you use GIFs for visual marketing your business in the comments

Take care,

Lillian De Jesus blog signature

The Good, the Bad, the Ugly About Business Blogging

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly About Business Blogging via tigerlilyva

 

Everyone keeps saying, “You must blog for your business!” However is it really for you? Will it really make a difference for your business? Finally someone (that someone is me) is going to tell you the good, the bad, and the ugly about business blogging and you can decide if it’s right for you.

Then the next person who comes along and shouts from the rooftops that you must blog, you can answer them with confidence on what your decision is. There’s enough advice to small business owners and entrepreneurs as it is for all kinds of business tools so let’s break business blogging down.

Ready? Here we go.

What’s so good about Business Blogging?

Oh my! There are so many good aspects of blogging. First, the relationships you build with blogging stems from social media, other businesses in your niche who are there to support you, blog comments, and email subscribers. These areas all help build relationships for your business to grow. Let’s look into these areas further:

Social Media 
When you have a blog, you get to share your posts on social media and there’s some real potential in getting your business out there in the world. Love it or hate it, social media can do a blog a world of good. Do you know how many people are on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.? These are potential customers looking to buy from you and the second they see your blog headline or the copy you use on the social media post, it could be the answer to their prayers. They could click on the post, read your blog, and find an answer they’ve been longing for to fix their computer or create a beautiful garden party. The information online is overwhelming, and people are always searching for an answer to their problems.

Social media is a good aspect of blogging.
Social media works for bloggers.

Other Niche Businesses
You can look at people as competitors or as collaborators. What would you rather have? The best thing to have is an ally. Someone you can count on to share your content and you can share theirs because both audiences would benefit. Your providing valuable content and even if it’s not yours, the readers will be inspired and so grateful you’re looking out for them by curating amazing content.

Many times this is where you can guest post on each other’s blog for extra exposure and get double the value. As a guest poster, your website will be linked in a brief bio about your blog and new readers will click through to your site. The site owner will share the guest post on their social media platforms and via email to their subscribers (more about that soon). It’s a total win-win.

Collaborate and win when you blog.
A collaboration is a great win for your blog.

Blog Comments
Some people may not realize this about blog comments but you can get the best feedback. Most people leave comments when it hits a chord with them, it inspires, or if it enrages them. They become passionate and want their voice heard. This is when you know you’re on the right track when a person feels the need to leave a comment about how great the blog content is and it helped them.

Most people who comment are bloggers and they know how powerful it is. This is when you use a plugin like CommentLuv, so if they do have a blog it will list their most recent post and you can visit them to comment on one of their posts. It’s blog etiquette… it’s the nice thing to do.

Another great point on blog comments is that it can help another reader. Perhaps someone adds a new site or tool that’s related to the post, and the other reader has never heard of it. That’s new knowledge to the reader and your blog has become more enriched with content.

Blog comments are a great source of feedback.
Blog comments are a great source of feedback.

Email Subscribers
People say ‘the money is in the list’ but I say the relationship is the list. Email marketing is a relationship builder. Readers will learn more about you via email and this is where you can be candid. Be yourself to build a relationship. Don’t use the emails to sell, sell, sell… there’s more to it than that for businesses. It’s the Know, Like, Trust factor. People will feel more comfortable giving out their money to you if they like you and trust you.

When you have a blog, you can dive deeper into the reason of why you wrote the blog post and email it to your subscribers. People love to go “behind the scenes” and be a part of that. That’s kind of like friendship, right? You have a friend that you can confide in and you have that connection.

[tweet_box inject=”Email marketing is a relationship builder. @tigerlilyva11″]Email marketing is a relationship builder.[/tweet_box]

Email marketing is a relationship builder.
Email marketing is a relationship builder.

 

These are parts of “the good” that are not relationship builders but they’re still good:

Monetization 
Another good aspect to blogging is monetization. Monetizing with advertising or selling a product can be good. You don’t have to have your own products and can sell an affiliate product through Amazon or a trusted collaborator. It may not bring in a lot of money but it’s nice to have trickles of cash coming in.

You can offer services and products of your own, which is where your main cash stream can come in. Whether it’s your product or not, you can write a blog post about it and allow the reader to purchase immediately from the blog post. This is good.

Monetize your blog.
Monetize your blog.

Authority
When you have a blog for your business, it allows you to express your expertise on a subject. When a person is searching for flower cakes, for example, and you’re a baker that specializes in flower cakes how will your website come up or will it come up on Google. I’m telling you now, that if a baker who has a simple website with no blog will have a far less a chance of popping up on Google’s search. When a business has a blog, they’re writing about their flower cakes and all the details that are related to flower cakes, which initiates keywords that most readers will be keying in on Google search.

Why does this matter? When people see a site ranking high on Google with certain keywords, it shows authority. It means this person means business on flower cakes and the likelihood is that they will be clicking on that blog to learn more about that business.

Show authority for your business.
Show authority for your business.

Products or Services 
What better way to show off what you’ve got with a blog! Even better is if you have professional photos of your products to display with an explanation of how awesome it is and why you came up with it. People love that! Then you can link directly to your product for purchase.

Services can be done the same way but it’s a bit more work for people to buy. First, they’ll need to contact you for more details and see if they’re comfortable to work with you. The blog can be a great resource to display your talent and provide testimonials of work you’ve done.

For services, it’s a bit different since there isn’t a product image that’s when great graphics come into play. In a study from Buzzsumo, you should include an image after every 75-100 words.

Show off your products and services.
Show off your products and services then link to the purchase page.

[tweet_box inject=”In a Buzzsumo study, you should include an image after every 75-100 words in a blog post. @tigerlilyva11″]In a Buzzsumo study, you should include an image after every 75-100 words in a blog post.[/tweet_box]

What’s so bad about business blogging?

When I say ‘bad’, I mean, crappy and lame, not awesome and cool ‘bad’ like Michael Jackson. Just in case you were wondering… because there are some bad aspects about blogging, unfortunately. Let’s get to them:

Social Media
You may be asking, “Wait a minute… wasn’t that in the good section?” Yes, it was. Let me explain. If you don’t like social media and you don’t think it does anything for your business, then maybe blogging isn’t good for you because social media is a huge aspect to blogging. They go hand-in-hand; they’re the best of buddies; so if you’re not digging social media then you’re probably not going to like blogging.

Here’s the thing, you don’t have to have thousands of followers on all the social media platforms to make it work for you. Really, you don’t. You can be super good on one social media platform and get a whole bunch of people to subscribe to your email list or have them buy directly from your online store. Many people don’t have patience for social media and if they don’t see the money immediately they quit so essentially if you don’t think social media works for you then don’t bother with blogging.

Blog about what? 
This is a big blow for many business owners. They have no clue what to blog about. They may write about seasonal items or trending items that give value for a short while, however those types of blog posts do not last and quickly dwindle on the Google search list.

It’s hard to come up with solid blog post ideas all the time. Sometimes business owners get stuck and they’re not sure how their product looks in the bigger picture. So if they can’t come up with blog post ideas then they stop writing.

Which leads me to…

Inconsistency 
There are a couple of things to keep consistent on a blog. The timeframe between posts and relatable post ideas. If you do plan to blog, it has to be in a consistent manner however it is a commitment. Don’t say you’ll publish a blog post every day when you know it’s not going to happen with your schedule. Take the time to review your schedule and make the commitment to once a week or twice a month. Don’t push yourself to do multiple posts a week when you’re juggling a busy schedule.

Also keep consistent on relatable post ideas. You may be tempted to write a personal rant or divulge a personal experience however it’s a business blog. Write about your business ideas, experiences, products, and resources. Keep on topic.

You’re not going to get ton of money from the blog 
Never go into blogging thinking you’ll get a ton of money. It’s not going to work out that way especially in the beginning.

Bad Images of Products/Services 
It’s really important to have professional photos of your products. If you want people to buy a product, then give them the best image possible along with great copy. A bad image is an absolute turn off.

Bad Copy 
When you have a lifestyle luxury brand and the copy is more of a DIY how-to style post, the mismatch can create a negative feel for the blog. The copy has to match the brand. Imagine going to the Four Seasons digital magazine to find a Buzzfeed-style article. It would be disappointing and the reader would not come back.

The Ugly on Business Blogging 

Blogging is hard. It take dedication, late nights, and lots of coffee. You should have your branding implemented into your writing. You should have images and graphics that can help carry the article along to keep readers reading.

There will be a sense of comparisonitis or social comparison. Wondering why someone’s blog is better than your own and how they’ve gotten so successful. That’s definitely an ugly thing to have but it happens to most bloggers. It’s easy to get into this rut when bloggers are claiming to earn $20,000 in a month in blogging. Everyone starts somewhere and it takes time for a blog to get noticed. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Try not to compare your blog to others.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly about Business Blogging Recap

When you have a business, there’s lots to think about when you have blog, and you have to consider all areas to be sure it will be a good fit for you. It’s definitely something not to rush into however the benefits are great with business blogging. If you’re able and willing to use social media, start collaborations with other businesses in your niche, understand the importance of blog comments, and build relationships with email subscribers then business blogging will be great for you.

Tell me, what areas of business blogging make you a bit fearful and what areas are easy for you? Let me know in the comments.

Take care,

Lillian De Jesus blog signature

 

 

Top Business Tools Freelancers Need to Succeed & Grow

 

Business Tools Freelancers Need to Succeed & Grow - Just as a gardener needs tools to grow their garden, a business owner must have basic tools to grow their business to succeed. via tigerlilyva.com

Listen to the audio file of this article!

Just as a gardener needs tools to grow a successful garden so does a business. When you start out on your own as a business owner or freelancer, you’ll find the next best course that will help you succeed with your niche or sign up for an ebook that will answer most of your business questions. We all need tools and systems for business, however we should focus on the basics to really move our business forward. There are some top business tools freelancers need to succeed and it’s not that shiny sparkly object that you spend $2,000 on and wonder why you needed it in the first place. Tools that make work and life easier!

Without the essentials, you’ll find your freelance business wandering out of sync and that’s the exact opposite of what you want for your business. Business tools that will keep track of business essentials, such as: contracts, email communication, website, design, social media, project management, day-to-day communication, scheduling, invoicing, and online payment solutions.

Yes, we’ve got lots to go through so let’s get to it!

Top Business Tools Freelancers Need to Succeed & Grow

Contracts

Early on in my virtual assistant business, I found that contracts are extremely important for both myself and the client. Contracts set boundaries and provide details of what is to be expected by both parties. You can find many different types of contracts suitable for freelance work online, however you may find that some need additional clauses depending on the kind of work. I found my contract through a business coach and I only had to make a couple of changes, and it’s worked wonderfully. You can get the contract here.

When you do have your business contract ready for a client, how do you have them sign it? Gone are the days of faxing or emailing a contract for a signature. Everything is done electronic and there are many tools that can get this done quickly.

Here are a couple that are best for freelancers:

17hats (aff. link) is an amazing business tool and it doesn’t just help you get those contracts signed (you’ll learn more about them as you read on). This tool is an incredible time saver! It’s integrated with your email. Clients look at the contract and can sign immediately. Meanwhile you look like a genius!

17hats for freelancer contracts

 

HelloSign is great for freelancers, especially starting out, it’s free when you have 3 contracts to sign (per month) and then it’s $13/month for unlimited documents. It integrates well with Gmail and Google Drive.

 

Email Communication

Email is your lifeline. Not too many people pick up the phone to hire a freelancer and would you want to list your phone number out on the internet anyway? So yes, email communication is crucial. This is how you’ll get your gigs and market your business. First, make sure you get a personalized email address as your_name@businessname.com. This can be done through your website host or you can check these tips to learn how to do it a couple of other ways.

Once your custom email address is set, then you’ll need to start an email subscriber list to communicate with potential clients that are interested in your services. People love to receive free tips and advice! Be sure to provide valuable tips within your emails. You’ll need tracking and reporting on the emails you send out, this can’t be done with a Gmail or other typical email account. You’ll need to sign up to an email marketing provider such as these:

MailChimp (aff. link) is great to start off with as it is free, then when you’re ready to use more robust features like automation or your subscriber number increases then it’s $10/month or more. It provides tracking and reporting of who opens and clicks links on the emails.

mailchimp business tool for freelancers

Mad Mimi is also great to start off with because it’s free but then there’s pricing while you gain subscribers. It does the job of email marketing and you can track the campaigns. Colleagues who use Mad Mimi are devoted fans.

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AWeber is a bit more of a monthly expense at $20/month but I hear a lot of people use them and love them.

AWeber_WeArelogo_blue

There are so many email marketing providers and if you’re a new freelancer, these 3 that I mention would be the best to use until you’re ready to upgrade.

 

Website

I’ve heard many freelancers state they started out working without a website but it doesn’t stay that way. You can’t rely just on social media to market your business. You need to have an online home. Think of it as your storefront. Eventually potential clients will want to know more about you to learn if you’re the person they’d want to work with. A website helps them make that determination. That brings me to your domain name. Be sure to grab your domain name of your business as soon as you can. GoDaddy is the most popular site to get that set up.

Here are a few website providers that can get you started:

WordPress.org is quite popular and customizable for any type of website. You’ll have to pay for hosting.

wordpress.org freelancer business tool

 

SquareSpace is a great option as well. Most people who are in fashion or lifestyle branding seem to choose this provider.

squarespace freelancer business tool

Wix is also popular and there’s no additional fee for hosting.

wix freelancer business tool

Take advantage of having your own website to display your portfolio, your services, and blog about your expertise.

 

Design

You may be thinking, “What do I have to design?!”. Well… there’s quite a bit that you’ll need to design because the online world is a visual one. You won’t need to be a graphic designer but be able to do simple social media designs to market your services.

Here are a few design tools that will make you feel like Picasso:

Canva is incredibly popular with more than 10M users and counting. You can create flyers, business cards, social media posts, brochures, social media banners, and so much more. It’s an amazing tool! Here’s a post to give you a little more insight on what you can do with it. Canva is free to use but the premium feature of Canva for Work has awesome tools to help keep designs organized thus more efficient and productive.

create a design in canva
Click on the + More button to access more designs.

Pablo is not as robust as Canva but it sure is easy to use especially if you use Buffer as a social media tool (which we will go over in the social media section. 😉 ) It’s free, it provides quotes, and photos. Of course, it allows an option to Buffer the image into your queue.

Photos in Pablo
I recently updated my Beginner’s Guide to Pablo – Click the gif above to read about it!

 

Snappa is also really easy to use, it is free to get started and you can upgrade to premium to create unlimited designs each month and connect up to 10 social media accounts. It provides photos, templates, and also integrates to Buffer.

Snappa is a social media design tool

 

Stencil is an easy and FAST social media design post tool! It provides quotes, high-res photos, and icons to choose from to create an amazing looking social media post for Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram. You can share them directly to social media platforms, Buffer, or download them. I go through the details on Stencil in this post.

search quotes in stencil
This is just 1 amazing feature Stencil has – the quote search. Learn more about Stencil by clicking on the image.

 

Social Media

Buffer… I know I’ve mentioned Buffer quite a bit and finally I can let you know how it works. Buffer is a great social media tool that you can use to share all your blog content and other source content. The app has a web extension, so when you see an article of interest and it’s of value to your audience then you can click on it to add to your queue of shared content. It takes all the articles and can be shared by their suggested times throughout the day or whenever you’d like to schedule them. You can share content through Google+, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. It’s free version does great however it’s limited to 10 posts per platform at at time. The upgraded version, Awesome, is… awesome at $10 per month, you can schedule up to 100 posts per platform, which is such a timesaver. The analytics are great, you can see how each shared piece of content is performing.

Buffer logo-dark

Edgar is another amazing social media platform! Edgar works a little differently in that it uses a library of content. You can fill up a category like all your blog posts then several other categories that you can label that your audience would find valuable. You can keep adding articles by using their app extension while on the article you’d like to share or add it directly into Edgar. You’ll keep a calendar of scheduled posts according to category.

The library keeps its stock and all you need to do it keep adding new and fresh content into it. Edgar does all the rest and it’s wonderful to share old pieces of content that may never get shared ever again however Edgar takes care of that by sharing it all over again. Your audience may not have seen that blog post more than a year ago and they may need that information at that very moment, so how cool is that to provide relevant content years after. I highly recommend this tool to all my clients as well. However if you’re just starting out you may want to upgrade to Edgar when you can, the monthly fee is around $50 per month. You can use Edgar to share to LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.

Edgar_horizontal_logo

 

CinchShare is another great social media platform that really focuses on the images (I like that!) because images are most likely to get clicked. The user interface is quite appealing and easy to understand. Posting to Facebook groups and events is a breeze. The monthly fee is $10 per month for posting to Facebook and Pinterest.

 

cinchshare is a great social media tool

 

Project Management

Getting work done on your own is easy but collaborating with a client can be a little tricky in making sure all tasks are organized. This is when a project management tool is best and there are several that are easy plus free to use.

Trello is amazing for project and brainstorming! I think of it as a big white board with notecards on it. You can invite team members or clients to the projects. List each card according to it’s category and list away all ideas that you have and tag fellow team members for their thoughts. There are color labels for organization and attach links for further details.

trello-logo-blue - great project management tool

Google Drive is quite helpful since all documents can be stored within the Drive. Comments and links can be used on all documents. You can have a specific folder for a client with all projects and tasks within spreadsheets and docs. It’s easy access and it’s live editing, meaning you can both be in the project to go over changes.

google drive logo

Asana is great also and I know many people who can’t live with out it! It focuses on the tasks and completing one to get to the next task. Again you can invite and tag people in the tasks for collaboration. Link to details needed for ideas.

Asana Logo-Horizontal-Color

Basecamp is another great business tool and they offer a free trial. However it’s actually $29 a month and it’s gotten quite an improvement over the years. It’s more organized with sections for reports, to-do lists, message board, docs and files, and chatting.

basecamp-full-standard logo

Speaking of chatting…

 

Day-to-Day Communication

Okay so email is great but you already have about a billion emails in your inbox… and now you’re trying to find an answer to the quick question you had for your client. This is a complete time waster. That’s why you need a day-to-day communication tool that you can quickly ask a question and get an answer. This is where chatting or messaging tools are amazing!

Skype™ has been around since for a long time and it’s easy to use. If you need to do a screenshare it can be done quickly with Skype. If you need to share a quick file, link, or a happy note it can all be done through Skype messaging. Easy peasy.

Slack is becoming HUGE. Everyone seems to be using Slack now. It’s a bit different from Skype since it integrates with Google Drive, Dropbox, and other productivity tools. It’s all about channels. You can use private channels for clients and message them directly plus share files.

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Scheduling

Getting a scheduled interview on Skype or phone call is wonderful! What can go wrong, right? Your potential client has to change the call and you’re going back and forth with dates and times. Or you call the potential client and it’s the wrong time since you had the wrong time listed on your calendar (Doh! That’s never happened to me… okay yes it has.) These things happen! Well to avoid all of these mishaps. You need a reliable scheduling tool. Here are a few to check out:

Assistant.to is awesome! Love this scheduling tool. It integrates with Gmail and Google calendar so everything scheduled is perfectly on my time and it integrates with the potential client’s calendar. They select the times that are available from your calendar, which are automatically inserted into your email. It’s wonderful. If the potential client needs to reschedule they can go their appointment email and click on reschedule. Super easy. It also works great if you have Outlook.

Calendly is another great option. Very simple and sleek, you pick and choose what times work best for you and it offers it to the potential client.

 

Invoicing

This is a very important business tool for any freelancer because we’ve got to get paid! Here are a few invoicing tools to take a look at:

17hats… yes, I mentioned this tool in the contract section earlier! It’s quite versatile and has many features to help any entrepreneur. Since it handles the contract portion, it functions as a CRM, organizing clients with invoicing and workflows. You can have a questionnaire completed and once that’s done, a contract can be sent to the client and when that’s signed, an invoice can be sent to client automatically. Nice, right? The annual plan comes out to about $24 per month.

Freshbooks is a cloud accounting software and can be used mobile or on desktop. It has time tracking, customizable invoice to include a logo and professional look, tracks expenses as well. It starts at $12.95 per month and increases as you grow your client work.

freshbooks-logo-rgb

Invoice2Go is a wonderful mobile and web invoicing app. This is great for freelancers who meet with customers or are on the go quite a bit. The invoices can be customized with a logo and sent to the client directly via email. It has Apps2go which carries additional features for receipts, time tracking, mapping, electronic signing, scanning, and statements. The Starter plan is $49 per year.

invoice2go logo

Online Payment Solutions

This is SUPER important because obviously you’re looking to get paid!

PayPal is probably the most popular source to gain income directly to your bank account. People feel secure when using PayPal and clients will most likely use this tool to pay on invoices. The fees for selling is 2.9% plus $.30 per credit card charge.

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Stripe is also a popular payment tool and can be integrated with invoicing. They charge 2.9% plus $.30 per credit card charge.

stripe Logo

Square is a mobile friendly payment tool that accepts payments through a tablet or phone. They charge 2.75% per swipe or invoice.

 

Over 27 Business Tools That Freelancers or Entrepreneurs Can Use

Wow! Let’s wrap this up. This list of business tools seems overwhelming however I like to give several options for each topic. Not all tools are for everybody. I can talk with one colleague and find they don’t like Trello or one person may not like Cinchshare because they do a lot of tweeting so it’s not useful to them.

Basically you need to find the best business tools that will work for you and not what everyone else says works. Hopefully this list will provide a stepping stone into the right direction to choose the basic tools needed to succeed as a freelancer or entrepreneur.

Which of these tools do you like or would you like to learn more about? Let me know in the comments!

Take care,

Lillian De Jesus blog signature

3 Incredible Updates for Canva for Work Users

Incredible Updates for Canva for Work Users that will help organize designs and get creating designs faster via tigerlilyva

As a part of the Canva Inner Circle, it’s wonderful to learn about the new features Canva comes up with every month. They are constantly evolving and striving to make Canva as easy as possible for everyone, no matter if they’re a designer or not. What amazes me is their openness to feedback of Canva users. They will do whatever it takes to please their customers, when I say customer, I do mean loyal customer. The amount of love and care in the Canva Inner Circle is quite evident with the helpful comments and advice everyone gives each other. I want to share with you these 3 incredible updates for Canva for Work.

Hopefully it can give you some insight to see if the premium feature is for you. If you haven’t had a chance to check out my review of Canva for Work please check it out here. Today I’ll be showing you the design folders, presentation mode, and search option in your designs area.

3 Incredible Updates to Canva for Work

Design Folders

When you first login to Canva, all of your wonderful designs that you create will be displayed below the Create a Design layouts area. After some time creating designs this area will get a bit full and if you are doing graphics for clients or projects, the folders will come in handy.

Canva for Work Design Folders
Add a new folder and organize folders with names.

Click on Add a New Folder on the left side of the screen. It will immediately pop up an area to name the folder. Depending on the project or client, you can name accordingly so you can organize your designs.

Add New Folder in Canva for Work

Once you’ve named the folder, you can then drag the design to the folder. Take a look below:

drag to folders to organize designs
Click and drag the design to the appropriate folder.

The Canva Insiders have mentioned to Canva that it can be a bit tricky to drag the design into the folder wanted, even with careful maneuvering the design can slip into another folder. There is a drop down option on each folder to trash the design, which makes it a lot simpler than dragging. We’re hoping the same functionality to have the drop down provide a list of folders for easy placement.

Presentation Mode

Canva users are using Canva for presentations all the time especially for webinars. If you have a regular account in Canva you’d have to download a presentation as a PDF (if you want to learn more about presentations you can get more information here) to present it on your computer. It really is no problem to have that done. However Canva has made a new functionality with a presentation mode. It actually does not need to be a presentation design layout and can be used with any design. Take a look below at a Facebook post design using the presentation mode button:

presentation display
Double click on the screen on the bottom right corner and click it again to exit the presentation mode.

Simply double click the icon on the bottom right of your screen next to the zoom option. It will be shown as full screen on your computer, instant presentation! This is perfect for when you need to do a quick presentation or webinar, get your slides ready and you can stay in Canva. There is no need to download it.

Search Option in Designs Area

In addition to the design folder area, Canva has included a search option area to search for existing designs. Not only can you organize them into folders but instead of searching for that design that was created 2 years ago and scrolling through a billion (a bit of exaggeration but hey who’s counting, right?) designs you can now type in a name of the design. Oh, that’s if you named your design properly! Yikes, if you haven’t started then you really should start now.

Search Design field in Canva for Work

No worries! I found even if you don’t have a specific word in the title of the design but it’s within the text of the design or it’s the type of design it will pop up. For example, if I type in infographic, it pulled up my infographics along with the worksheets and presentations that I created related to infographics.

searched for infographic in designs
After you type in what you’re looking for, you can scroll down the list of designs you created to choose from.

The search option is definitely a needed option for avid Canva users.

Final Thoughts on These 3 Incredible Updates to Canva for Work + Bonus News

Canva has always taken the feedback from their users seriously and that’s one of the reasons why I love Canva so much. When a company is able to listen to its followers and take action, it means the world to the customer. These 3 incredible updates to Canva for Work, is of course, just the beginning as they have so much more to make Canva more intuitive and easy for users to create designs.

Bonus News! Canva is so needed around the world and they realized early on that they would need to have it in more languages to serve the needs of Canva users. Canva is now available in an additional six languages for all users: French, German, Polish, Italian, Spanish (European), Spanish (Latin American) and Brazilian Portuguese. Check out their video in this post. Awesome news!

If you’re on the fence about Canva for Work, hopefully these updates will help you decide on upgrading. I look forward to more updates in the future and I will certainly update you, so be sure to sign up to the newsletter to stay up to date!

What’s your favorite update? Let me know in the comments.

Take care,

Lillian De Jesus blog signature

4 Elements To Make Blogging For Business Successful

4 Elements to Make Blogging for Business a Success - Take a look at how you can implement these elements into your blog via tigerlilyva

Blogging for business can be difficult and many entrepreneurs aren’t sure what to blog about and if they should blog. I’m here to tell you blogging is an amazing asset to a business. It amazes me when people all over the world contact me or comment on my blog about a specific article. In many ways, it becomes a free marketing tool and you’re providing value with quality articles.

First of all, marketing a business is hard work. Having a blog on your business website actually eases the pressure of marketing and services or products become instantly relatable. Seriously, if you’re having trouble finding out what to blog for your business, you’ve got to take a look at your products or services that you offer. That’s where all the blog content lies. All the content is in your lap and ready to get organized into bite size pieces for customers to devour.

When I started blogging, I had no clue what to write about but after time it got easier and you’ll find a pace that suits you. You don’t have to go off the “leading blogger’s” schedule of articles, you just need consistency. I know you probably hear that a lot especially in the branding area but it absolutely works. You can’t push articles out that you aren’t confident about and you want to establish authority in your niche.

Let’s talk about some key ways to make blogging for business successful!

Blogging for Business with Evergreen Content

Evergreen content is content that never expires and always stays relevant. Let’s review what types of articles are not evergreen, some times it’s easier to go through things backwards.

If you’re writing about Facebook algorithms, that’s definitely not evergreen because you may realize Facebook changes continuously, therefore you’d have to update that content quite a bit. It may not be worth the time to constantly update an article to stay relevant with the times. Evergreen content will help you save time in the long run because you don’t have to worry if the content gets outdated and needs changing. Another piece that’s not evergreen content is holiday or theme related, for example, a business has Christmas decorations and you wouldn’t want to share that article throughout the year because it’s seasonal. You’d want to wait when Christmas was around to share it and if there are no dates or deadlines within the article. Those are a couple of examples of non-evergreen content, so what are some examples of evergreen content?

Michael Hyatt creates SO many wonderful articles that are about leadership, blogging, and online influence (all of these areas are around us all the time in our lives). It really is amazing how many articles he has that are evergreen.  He calls blogging a leadership tool and I absolutely agree.

Take a look at some of his evergreen blog post headlines:

HOW TO SYNC UP YOUR TEAM FOR SUCCESS

7 STEPS TO GAIN MORE CONFIDENCE NOW

10 REASONS EVERY LEADER NEEDS A BLOG [PODCAST]

ARE YOUR FRIENDS AND COWORKERS KILLING YOUR ENERGY?

All of these headlines give you an idea of how the articles can provide value regarding work, confidence, leadership, and personal development. All of those categories are evergreen because they never get out of style. The categories are  what many people primarily have trouble with. Of course, that’s the main idea when writing a blog post, creating content that will help your audience with helpful and actionable tips.

Evergreen Content via tigerlilyva

Another example is HubSpot, they create wonderful marketing articles and most of which are evergreen because marketing isn’t going anywhere. It’s part of business and you have to have marketing skills. HubSpot has many great evergreen articles, take a look at the headlines below:

What Makes Content Compelling? An Analysis of 3 Top-Performing Articles [Infographic]

The Power of Visual Storytelling: 15 Stunning Examples to Inspire You

How to Have a Super Productive Weekend: 12 Helpful Tips

The ABCs of Compelling Visual Ads [Infographic]

Again with these headlines, you can see there are all about content that can help people for years to come. This is evergreen content. It allows readers to come back multiple times and you become a valuable resource. Michael Hyatt and HubSpot are two of my favorites resources.

[tweet_box inject=”Content that can help people for years to come is evergreen content. @tigerlilyva11″]Content that can help people for years to come is evergreen content.[/tweet_box]

Blogging for Business with Quotes, Testimonials, and Case Studies

People love to see great articles with statistics, testimonials, quotes, and case studies. You’re looking at a scientific and emotional perspective with this type of article. This also establishes you as an authority with your business. Being able to collect data and provide the results will help others see what type of business you have and most importantly if they’d want to do business with you.

A client recently asked how they can use quotes or testimonials on her blog, this is probably the easiest way to market your business on your blog. Rather than have a testimonials page, write an impactful post about your services. Highlight what you’re doing to bring value to your clients and add the quote or testimonials of your clients within the article.

For example, you have a complimentary service and a client sent you an email letting you know how brilliant you were on the complimentary call. This call had a huge impact on their business even though they didn’t pay a cent, they found actionable tips to improve their business because of you. Here are a few ideas with the example given, work that up into a blog post:

  • Why Complimentary Services Can Highlight A Business’ Strengths?
  • The Free 30-Minute Strategy Call That Can Change Your Business
  • Strengthen Your Services With Complimentary Services

The testimonials or quotes that you’d like to post within the article would then be segued or streamlined into the article like a good storytelling. When you bust out testimonials, you really want to make it seamless and not just list the quotes. Really take the time to write a personal story into it and it will become easy to segue into the quotes, testimonials, and case studies.

Another important factor in blogging for business is to display your case studies in a visual manner. Infographics and charts are an awesome way to show off the case studies along with an explanation of the research and results.

Quotes, Testimonials, Case Studies via tigerlilyva

Blogging for Business by Contributing to Other Sites

Contributing to other sites or guest posting is a wonderful way to get eyes to your business. When you guest post, be sure the company is in line with your niche and/or target market. When you contribute in your niche, people in your industry will find you in many areas on the web basically bringing more eyes to your site and social media profiles. This also establishes authority. Kissmetrics has an excellent post, which is appropriately called The Ultimate Guide to Guest Blogging.

The wonderful part of guest blogging is that you get to share your thoughts, experiences, and value to another set of people that might never see you in the first place. When you guest post you get to include your author bio where you can describe who you help, link your website, and social media platforms so readers will then get to see your site and follow you if they like your guest post. It’s actually quite fun to meet new readers this way.

Adding a special page just for the readers of the guest post is a great way to invite them to subscribe to your list. You can offer a special freebie with the opt-in and create a specific note to the readers to thank them. Take a look at Ramit Sethi’s subscribe page for a few ideas to get started on your own thank you page.

Contribute To Other Sites via tigerlilyva

Blogging for Business with Visual Content

As I mentioned previously, the information you provide in your guest post can be shown in an infographic or chart so readers can scan the image and remember the info quickly.

Did you know?

Articles containing relevant images have 94% more total views than articles without images.

This is why I’m a huge advocate of blog title images! Not only blog title images but other images within the blog post that are relevant to the subject are extremely important. You can learn more about blog title images for your brand here. Depending on which social media platform you’re on, the size will matter. For example, my blog post title image is vertical which is great for Pinterest as I have a lot of traffic coming from that platform. If your target market is on Facebook most often, then using a horizontal image would be best.

[tweet_box inject=”90% of the information sent to our brain is visual… so get images on your blog, silly! @tigerlilyva11″]90% of the information sent to our brain is visual[/tweet_box]

You can use images to give a call to action, just like you see so many sales pages with people pointing at the form to fill in your email information or they may use their eyes to point in the direction they would like for you to go. It’s the same principle, showing you what to do next and it works. Take a look at the examples below:

dyob optin page
Marianne Manthey shows of her opt-in freebie with pointing and positioning her eyes towards the prize.

 

leadpages sign up
This is a Lead Pages template. Cute puppy eyes towards the Sign up Now button. How could anyone resist?

 

Mari Smith Opt in
Mari Smith, Top Facebook Marketing Expert, has her eyes towards her opt in.

Now you have a few examples of how to use images to get readers clicking on your free gift or freebie opt in (and yes you should have a free gift for your readers!). Other ways to use visual content is the simple use of arrows or buttons that state Get it Now! or Pin it!. Case in point where I talk about using a branded Pin It button for your blog, you can check out the tutorial here. In many blogs, you’ll see the social share buttons with the call to action “Sharing is Caring” with an arrow or they’ll have a CTA in the conclusion of their article to share if the content was of value. You can create your own graphic to encourage the share.

Visual Content via tigerlilyva

Let’s bring these key elements together

Blogging for business can be difficult but as long as you bring these elements together it will make blogging a lot easier and fun. So what are the key elements for blogging again?

  • Evergreen Content
  • Quotes, Testimonials, Case Studies
  • Contributing to Other Sites
  • Visual Content

It’s your turn now! What element of a blog seems to help you and make it easier to spread the word about your business? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Here comes the CTA…

Leave a comment below and share if this article was of value to you. 😉 Oh yea! Please feel free to embed the infographic or share on Pinterest.

Blogging for Business Infographic via tigerlilyva

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Take care,

Lillian De Jesus blog signature