Last Updated August 23rd, 2017

7 Free Image Editing Tools To Make Great Blog And Social Media Graphics

Free image editing tools

The graphics you use on your blog and social media do a lot to bring attention to your website. A well crafted image will bring attention to your posts. Making great graphics is a challenge if you don’t know how. Fortunately, there are some very simple and free image editing tools to use to make appropriate graphics for your blog and social media.

Use these tools after writing your blog post or when you have something you want to say on social media and an image is appropriate. It’s hard to craft an image to match your message when you don’t have a message prepared.

To start with, use my post on finding free images to use on your website to locate the images you would like to use in your posts. Some tools make it easy to find images through their interface, but not all of those are free. I find it easier to import an image I’ve found elsewhere than to use the search function on these sites.

Online Free Image Editing Tools

Adobe Spark

Adobe Spark does a great job with images, but you can also make videos with it. I haven’t tried that feature personally, but it strikes me as very useful if you’d like to get into video.

When you decide to create an image with Adobe Spark, it first offers you a range of templates. You can pick one or start from scratch. I usually start from scratch.

Type in what you want your image to say. You can edit this later. Pick your graphic size. You may not be able to pick the exact size you want – these aren’t always clear, but you can resize them later, in Gimp if necessary. I usually shrink them, as Spark makes huge images for most things.

Even though you’re starting from scratch, it will present you with an image with your text on top. You can change this however you want, replacing the photo with one of your own, changing the layout of the text and so forth. You can add another section of text, use multiple images to form a collage, and more.

One of the tools I like on Spark is the Style Suggestions tool. Spin the dial and your text will change over and over and over. Stop when you see one you like. Even then, you can change the colors if you like the style, but the colors aren’t quite what you like. You can back up on the dial if you pass one you liked.

Spark has a bit of a learning curve, but overall I like the results I get from it best so far. As free image editing tools go, it’s quite good. The Share button is also where you download your image, which isn’t immediately obvious, but not too difficult.

One disadvantage to Spark is that it may add branding of its own to your images. If you share your images on social media, this is removed. This doesn’t happen much on the website, but may be more common on the app. The ability to remove the Spark branding.

Another disadvantage is the lack of an undo button. This can be spectacularly annoying.

On the plus side, you can create one image, and then resize it for different social media uses. I love this, because it becomes easier to be consistent across the different social media sites.

Website
iOS App
Android – coming soon

Canva

Canva can be used to make a wide variety of graphics, and the basics are free. There are parts you can pay for, but you can make some beautiful blog and social media graphics completely free.

I don’t like to search for images on Canva because a lot of them are not free. I prefer to upload a photo I’ve taken or something I’ve found on a site that offers Creative Commons Zero (CC0) images. Once they’re uploaded, there’s a lot you can do with them.

Canva offers templates for various popular uses, such as images for Instagram. Their template page has templates sized for Facebook headers, YouTube channel art, Twitter posts and more. Having a template when you’re making social media graphics is useful, especially if it’s something you don’t make often, such as a header.

I find Canva quite intuitive to use. It has a decent selection of fonts – not huge, but not bad. You can change the colors around easily.

As online free image editing tools go, Canva is my second favorite. I use it when Spark isn’t working out for what I have in mind.

Website
iOS App
Android – not available

PicMonkey

PicMonkey has a decent suite of tools you can use on images in the free version, but they push the premium version hard. You can edit your image, including crop, rotate, sharpen, touch up and more. You can make a collage with multiple photos. They even offer printing services (for a fee, of course).

Adding text is easy, as is adding other features to your images. Once you’re done, download it for whatever use you have in mind.

If you want to try the premium version of PicMonkey, they offer a free trial. I haven’t used PicMonkey as much as Spark or Canva, but I know a lot of people love it.

Website
iOS App
Android

Piktochart

Piktochart’s focus is on infographics. If you have an idea for an infographic, it makes a lot of sense to use a tool that is ready for that. I haven’t tried it personally, but when I read up on it, people like it fairly well. It has some great tools, such as a chart builder that can take your data and make it into a chart on your infographic.

Website
iOS App
Android – not available

Visme

Visme is more robust in many ways if you want to make infographics. You can use it to make animated or interactive infographics, something you can’t do with Piktochart. It’s a little harder to learn, from what I read about it, but it’s more powerful once you know what you’re doing.

Visme has a basic plan which is free and allows you to store up to three projects. So long as you aren’t storing a lot in there, I don’t think that will be a problem, since you should usually download your work once it’s done.

Website
No apps

Free Image Editing Software For Your Computer

Gimp

Gimp has an awful name, but it does a great job editing your photos. I often use it for final touches on projects I’ve worked on with an online tool. It has been my main tool for making graphics for many years.

Gimp has a lot of addons that make it extremely flexible. Many people compare Gimp to Photoshop. It’s not quite as powerful as Photoshop, but free is much easier to handle for most people than paying for Photoshop. You can do most of the same things.

Gimp is open source, so various developers had created plugins and more for it. You can find some interesting Gimp addons at the DeviantArt site. Pay attention to the terms of use for these. It can also use Photoshop plugins.

One of the big things I love about using Gimp is that I can keep some images ready to use. I have images ready to use to put my domain name on each image, so that where it comes from is apparent. You can use this for branding, creating a version of your logo that goes onto any image you create. Then it’s a quick copy and paste to add it to new images. Make it bigger than you need. It’s easier to size an image down than up.

Paint.NET

Paint.NET is much simpler to use when compared to Gimp, but can still do a good job. It was originally intended to replace Microsoft’s Paint, but it does a lot more. It has the ability to use layers and filters, for example.

If you want something on your computer that’s easy to use, this is probably the one.

If you’ve found it intimidating to make your own graphics for your blog and social media, I hope one of these will prove to be helpful. They won’t do the work for you, but the right one will make it easier. Are there other tools you like?

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated August 4th, 2017

How To Start A Blog, Part 7: What Else Would You Like To Know?

how to start a blog-what else would you like to know?

You’ve made it through the series, congratulations! I hope you’ve started a blog and have some good ideas to get things going. There’s still so much to learn, and you need to give yourself the time to do so.

Now it’s your turn. What else would you like to know about running your own blog that I can help with? Please post your questions in the comments section of this post. Sometimes I will answer directly in the comments; other times it will come up as a blog post all its own.

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Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated August 3rd, 2017

How To Start A Blog, Part 6: Should You Add Video Or Podcasting?

How To Start A Blog, Part 6: Should You Add Video Or Podcasting?

Video and podcasting are hugely popular options right now. Many people prefer video or audio content to written blogs. Fortunately, you can do these alongside your regular blog.

The reason to consider these options is simple: People like consuming content in their own ways. Giving them options will help you to stand out from the crowd. Some will listen to your podcast while doing other things. Others are visual learners and like seeing what you mean by watching a video. And of course, many people are just fine reading what you write.

These three options mean three ways to bring traffic to your site. Three ways to earn money. Yet you can use very similar content across all of them. You will probably need to make some changes as you go, since not everything translates well from one format to the next.

You’ll have to work up your courage if this is something you aren’t comfortable with. I still haven’t tried a podcast or video, but I have always been intensely shy. But I can see how others benefit.

Video

Most people have smartphones with fairly good, high definition recording available, making it easy to create videos. Cameras with better lenses are also pretty reasonable. You can go with the talking head style, write on a whiteboard, demonstrate how to do something, or just have fun.

For those who want to record something off their computer monitor, screen capture software makes that easy. You can decide whether or not to include your face in a corner. Screen capture software often include the option to use your webcam so that people can see you as you speak. You don’t have to show your face if you don’t want to, of course.

It’s really amazing what people earn money off of with video. My youngest daughter is a big fan of unboxing videos and videos of people playing with dolls. My older two like watching people play video games. Some of these people earn serious money.

What you have to consider with video is all the behind the scenes work. It can take more than one try to get things right. Your video will probably need editing. You have to figure out what the video is about in the first place, and plan all your shots. Lighting can be an issue. It’s not just grab a camera and go for the most part, at least, not if you want you videos to look good.

Most people will use YouTube to host their videos, and that’s a pretty good idea, so long as you don’t get yourself in trouble with them. You’ll get some traffic from there, and it’s easy to embed the YouTube video into your blog post. Just make sure you keep a copy on your hard drive. If anything happens to your YouTube account, you will want those backed up.

Within your blog post, there are a few things you should do. First of all, make sure you note in the title that the post contains a video, so that people expect it.

Second, embed the video early in your post, right after a very brief introduction to explain what it’s about. If someone wants to see your video, that’s pretty much what they’re after.

Third, transcribe the audio of the video so that if someone has the sound off for any reason, they will still know what was said. You can also use captions in your video if you have the software for it. YouTube has ways for you to do this.

Podcast

A podcast can seem pretty intimidating to start. Once you work your nerve up (if that’s a problem), it’s pretty simple, at least in terms of equipment and software.

I would recommend a good quality microphone to start. Many people like the Blue Snowball or Yeti. They’re not unreasonably priced, and are good quality. There are better microphones out there, but you probably shouldn’t spend money on something top of the line right away.

Audacity is free, open source software that can record multiple tracks of audio. It’s a simple choice for a beginner.

As with video, it’s probably not as simple as taking a blog post you’ve written, and reading it out loud. Most people don’t talk exactly as they write. It can be quite similar, but play close attention to how your words say when spoken versus when they’re read. You will probably want to make some changes.

Your podcast can be a part of a blog post. Don’t write a blog post, put it up on your blog, then make a podcast of the same post into a separate post. Put them together if that’s the way you’re doing things. Note in the title of the post that there’s a podcast in there.

As with video, the podcast should be early on in any blog post, and should have a transcription of it below if it’s not simply the audio version of the post already.

You can get your podcast made available on iTunes and other sites for people to download or subscribe.

Include A Call To Action

A call to action at the end of a video or podcast is a good idea. You can ask for comments, likes, follows, newsletter subscriptions and so forth. These are tools to build your following, and you should take advantage of that. More people will take a particular action if you ask them to. Come up with a closing phrase you can use at the end of all of your videos or podcasts that asks people to take action.

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Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated July 31st, 2017

How To Start A Blog, Part 5: How To Earn Money From Your Blog

how to start a blog-earn money from your blog

Most people want to earn money from their blogs. They’re a lot of work – it’s good to see some payback.

The first thing I want you to have, however, is a realistic view. Most bloggers do not make a living from their blogs. It is possible to earn a good living blogging, but most do not.

This doesn’t mean you won’t earn a living as a blogger. It means only that you should expect to have to work at it. You might be one of the people who does far better blogging than they ever did at a regular job. You’ll never know unless you try, and try hard. Some people make a very good living at blogging, after all.

Expect to need some time to earn a living as a blogger. Some do well after a few months. Some do well after a year or several years. Some will continue to struggle for a long, long time. If you pin all your hopes on immediate success, it will be harder to keep trying when it takes longer than you hoped. Earning money slowly isn’t failure, it’s progress.

There are several possible sources of income for bloggers. Don’t overdo your attempts to earn money at first – you can chase readers away if you do nothing but promote product after product or monetize your blog too heavily. There’s a balance between earning money from your blog and keeping your readers happy (and possibly willing to buy).

Here are some of the possible income sources for bloggers.

Adsense

Adsense is run by Google, and is one of the simplest ways to monetize your blog. You have to get approved for Adsense, and you need to have several posts up first for them to consider.

Once you’re approved, you need to insert your ad code into your blog’s theme. From there, Adsense will place the ads for you. Once it’s up and running, it’s very simple for you.

One huge caution with Adsense is that you can never fool around with clicking your own ads or asking for clicks. They are very quick to ban people for that. They’re good at filtering the occasional accidental click, but if you give them regular problems, you’ll be thrown out of the program.

Earnings from Adsense can be quite respectable, but usually not as good as promoting products on your own, once you learn how.

Adsense is not the only alternative. You can also check out networks such as BlogHer and Media.net.

Affiliate Marketing

I compare affiliate marketing with being a commissioned salesperson. That’s approximately what you’re doing. You recommend a product, and if someone buys, you earn a commission on that sale.

There are many companies with affiliate programs. Amazon.com has a hugely popular Associate program, for example. Pretty much everyone knows Amazon, and if someone clicks through your link, it doesn’t matter what they buy there – you might earn a commission. Their cookie duration is relatively short, but many people earn a lot from Amazon.com as associates.

There are also companies that run affiliate programs for other companies, giving you a single place to find a lot of companies to affiliate with. Commission Junction, Clickbank, ShareASale, Rakuten Marketing and JVZoo are all worth considering.

Please note that you must clearly disclose affiliate relationships on your blog.

Sponsored Posts

A sponsored post is a post you have been paid to create or post on your site. The sponsorship may be as simple as a link placement or may have to do with the entire blog post. Izea is a popular place for bloggers to connect with companies that want to get the word out about something.

Some sponsored posts include a product for you to try. They may also allow you to do a giveaway of the product, which can be hugely popular with site visitors. There may or may not be money paid in addition to the product sent for review. Products sent for review count as income if they are not sent back to the company.

Just as with affiliate marketing, sponsored posts and links must be disclosed. Don’t overdo the sponsored posts on your blog – they can be annoying to readers.

Selling A Product

You can sell products through your blog as well. You can write an ebook, create an ecourse, sell physical products, and more. You can offer services such as social media marketing, website design, graphic design and so forth. It’s up to you.

Digital products are very popular on blogs because order fulfilment is so easy. You can use a service such as Clickbank or JVZoo to fulfill your orders automatically. These services also allow affiliates to sign up to promote your product. If your product is a good one, affiliates can greatly increase your sales.

Your blog can be one aspect of your business, a place to bring attention to what you have to offer.

Premium Content/Memberships

If you’re doing well with your blog, you may want to consider adding premium content that is only available to paying members. You can form a community that discusses things at a more challenging level than what is posted on your public blog. Members can share tips and get more personal advice from you.

There are WordPress plugins, such as Memberpress which you can use to add membership features directly to your blog, or you can select a software to run separately from your blog. aMember is a popular choice which has been around for quite a few years. A good membership site will produce a regular income for you so long as you make it worthwhile for people to remain members.

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Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated July 27th, 2017

How To Start A Blog, Part 4: How To Get Traffic and Followers

how to start a blog-traffic and followers

It’s no fun running a blog and not getting any traffic or followers, especially if you want to make money from your blog. Visitors don’t just appear from nowhere. You have to put in the effort to attract them. There’s no magic key to getting traffic, but there are a number of things you can do that should attract it over time.

Write High Quality Posts

The better and more informative or entertaining your posts are, the more likely they are to attract visitors over time. Short and sweet rarely does the job.

Search engines seem to like longer posts better on average, but don’t drag a post out longer than it needs to be. You’ll drive your human visitors away, and they’re more important than the search engines. Ideally, you want your target visitors to consider you a valuable resource. Even better is if you can get other bloggers to see the quality of your work and consider you a resource they can link back to.

Try to post at least once a week. Don’t assume you have to stick to a certain number of posts per week – quality is better than quantity. If you have nothing to say at the moment, so be it. Just remember that every time you post is another opportunity to build traffic.

Learn To Write Interesting Headlines

The first thing people will see from your blog posts is the headline. Make it relevant and interesting. I don’t recommend the clickbait style headline. Too often those aren’t accurate, and many people find them annoying. Learn to write headlines that are relevant and get attention.

Ask Questions

Asking questions is a great way to get people to participate on your blog.

Invite Questions

Encouraging people to ask you questions will help you learn what people want to know from you, even if they email you the question rather than ask you directly on your blog. I’ve turned common questions into blog posts many times.

Tell Stories

People like stories. They add interest to what might otherwise be a dull post. Share personal stories as appropriate and let your visitors see who you are.

Promote On Social Media

Promote your posts on social media. Pinterest, Twitter, StumbleUpon and Facebook are popular choices. Instagram is another option, but they only allow you a link in your profile, so it’s more difficult to promote individual posts. Many find it worthwhile, regardless.

Post regularly, and do not only post self promotional items on your social media accounts. Share interesting things others have shared and interact with other users when possible. It’s called social media for a reason.

Make it easy for visitors to share your posts on social media with the Shareaholic plugin. If you can get others to promote you on social media, your work will spread much more quickly.

I like Hootsuite for sharing my posts. It allows me to schedule posts for Twitter, Instagram, Google+, LinkedIn, YouTube and Facebook. It can even handle Pinterest if you use Tailwind. For Twitter, it’s best to share each post multiple times over several days rather than just once. This is much easier if I can schedule my posts. It’s also nice being able to schedule everything at once rather than having to come back at what I think will be a good time to post something.

Network

Other bloggers, even in your same niche, are not just competition. They can become friends. You will each have your own takes on your subject.

Comment on their blog posts. Most allow a link in the form you fill out to make comments, and that may lead people back to your blog. Be informative – don’t just say “good post.” If you have something to add, not only will their readers notice you, the other blogger may as well.

You can also contact them on social media and offer to share each other’s posts. This will expose your work to another audience.

Guest Blog

Another reason to network is so that you can find blogs that will allow you to share a guest post on their site. You may be able to reciprocate and have them post once on yours. Once again, this exposes your work to a new audience, and can help drive traffic to your site.

Link

Make sure to link to relevant information in your blog posts. Don’t link only to your own work; link out to other blogs too. Linking to your own work is important to keep people reading on your website. Linking to the work of others allows you to give the best information possible and can bring you to the attention of the sites you link to. Search engines also like sites that link out to high quality sites – it helps show the quality of yours as well.

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Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

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Disclosure: Home with the Kids is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. I also review or mention products for which I may receive compensation from other sources. All opinions are my own.