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  1. Blogging, Image Copyrights, and You

    February 25, 2013 by Lily

    photos

    This scene happens every day all over the internet. A blogger comes up with a great topic, writes their blog post, then hops on over to Google Images to find that perfect photo to add to the post.  But did you know that grabbing a random image off the internet can end up costing you big bucks if the image is copyrighted?  Google Images is a great way to find a certain photo or graphic, but the vast majority of these photos are owned by someone and not available for use by others.  At best you may get away with using the image and no one knowing. At worst, you can find yourself contacted by a lawyer informing you that you now owe their client upwards of a $1,000 for stealing a copyrighted image!

    Using random images from the internet is not something to be taken lightly. Owners of the image can and will legally demand payment for use of those images. So what can you as a blogger do to make sure that you don’t end up as an “image thief?”

    There are sites available where you can find just about any image you need, and allow you to use them within certain restrictions. Some websites are pay sites, which may charge you a monthly fee to download from their image archive, and some which charge by the image. Be sure to read the Terms, as some images may be a one time purchase, and some may have an expiration date on their length of use. If you have a limited image on your blog and it expires, don’t be surprised if you are contacted to pay to continue its use or be requested to remove the image.

    There are also websites that host totally free images. Some have restrictions for personal use only, and some allow business use.  Some images may also require the user to link back to the website you downloaded it from, or may require you to state somewhere on your blog or site who owns the copyright to the image.

    Always be sure to read the fine print and look over the Terms and Conditions of the websites where you find any images you plan to use.


    clkr.com
    – Royalty Free clip art.  You may download and use the images for free from this site, but be sure to look over any specific rules the artist may have added for using their graphic. Below are a few good, safe sites where you can find many images and photos to use on your webpage or blog.

    stock.xchg – Lots of great FREE stock photos available here.  *Please Note: when searching for a particular subject, make sure the photo you download is under the “Results for “XXXX” on SXC.hu” heading. Some of the results are Premium photos from iStockphotos.com and they are NOT free for use.

    iStockphotos.com – A great premium stock photo site with a very large collection of high quality photos.  Prices depend on quality and size. You can pay for your purchases individually or buy credits to use toward purchasing images.

    Gettyimages.com - Purchase stock photos, royalty free photos, videos, and music to use on your blog or site.

    There are many other great sites on the web to find free images to use on your blog. But always remember to read ALL the fine print, the Terms for using any images, and follow the rules.

     


  2. Business Banking

    November 26, 2011 by Lily

    I’ll say it right from the start, I am not a fan of big banks. With this recent economic fiasco, and the controversies of some of the big banks imposing so many fees, small and local seems to be the way to go. Personally I keep my business in credit unions and small community banks.  This article will cover all the major choices, however, and  you can choose which one is best for your business.

    Bank Line

    One of the hardest things about running a small business at home is keeping your business life separate from your personal life.  When handling finances in your business, it is very important to have an account separate from your personal accounts. It is easier to keep track of your income and expenses, and you won’t be tempted to use your business income toward personal bills and spending. Also, the IRS requires businesses to keep accounts separate from personal finances. I find giving yourself a “salary” (either a specific amount or a percentage of your gross business income) and paying yourself weekly or bi-weekly, then putting the rest of your gross business income back into your business is the wisest choice.

     

    Deciding on where to open your account can be a daunting task. Here are the major choices, along with the pros and cons of each.

    Commercial Banks – Major banks offer various business accounts, including interest bearing, rewards, online banking and fee free accounts (with minimum balance). The upside to major banks is convenient hours and locations. The downside is many big banks are heavy on the fees and penalties, and some have a habit of merging with other banks and changing the rules. Pay attention to the fine print and always read your statements to make sure you’re not being hit with fees you didn’t know about.

    Community Banks – These banks are based in a certain area, and usually are smaller, more personal and offer back to the community they serve.

    Credit Unions – Credit Unions are  owned by the members/customers, which is you. Rates for business accounts are typically lower than the commercial banks, and they also offer online banking, and some offer rewards points and debit cards.  Some Credit Unions require that their members are affiliated with a certain organization to join, but many just require you to reside in the state or area where they are chartered.

    Online Banks – A fourth type of business banking option which is increasingly popular due to the Internet is online banks. These banks offer some attractive options, such as free accounts, very low fees and incentives. The downside to these banks is that everything is done online, so if you prefer face to face banking, this is not the way to go.

    It is also a good idea to open a companion savings account in order to earn interest on funds that you put aside for taxes and other expenses. Also ask about their offerings for a business credit card account. Don’t use your personal credit card for business purchases. It is much better to have a separate credit card for business purchases to keep your finances in order.

    Whichever you decide, do your research and compare all the options from each of the financial institutions you are considering. Read all the fine print and ask questions.

  3. Advertise your business… for free

    November 13, 2011 by Lily

    Letting people know you exist is the first step to attracting customers to your business. Advertising doesn’t have to be expensive, and in some cases, it’s absolutely free.

    Here are 10 ways to advertise your business for free, both online and in the real world:

    1. Community Bulletin Boards – post your biz cards and/or flyers on community boards everywhere you offer your goods or services.
    2. Business Cards in Books – Slip a business card in library and bookstore books relevant to your business.
    3. Be a Human Billboard – Have your logo, business name and phone number put on a tee shirt or tote bag and wear it out in public. Having them printed at vistaprint.com is free (or nearly free, for just the price of postage.)
    4. Social Networking – Facebook has a Pages feature that is perfect for advertising your business, and G+ has just rolled out their business Pages feature too. Be sure to include a lot of interesting content, including photos, and update frequently to keep people visiting.
    5. Email Signature – Have your name, business name and link to your website at the end of all emails.
    6. Forum Taglines - Join forums & mailing lists related to your business and set up your tagline with your business contact information. Be sure, however, to read the rules of the board or list to make sure you are complying. Some have strict rules to the content or length of taglines.
    7. Google Search & Maps – Search to see if your business is already listed. If so, claim it. If not, add it.
    8. Free Online Directories and Networks - Do a search for your business and you may find directories that allow you to add to their searchable directories for free. Also be sure to join LinkedIn and MerchantCircle to help network and spread the word online about your business. Websites such as Yelp are great, too, especially if you have current satisfied customers to write reviews for your business on these sites.
    9. Write Online Articles – There are many websites that allow you to write and submit articles for free, and some will even pay you if your writing skills are up to snuff. Interesting and informative articles that attract readers show that you are an expert in your field, and will draw customers to your business.
    10. Start a Blog - A well written, informative and frequently updated blog site is a great way to increase customers and lets them know you know what you’re doing. WordPress and Blogger are excellent free online blogs that are easy to set up and use.