5 fantastic websites for free stock photos

5-of-the-best-stock-photography-sitesRemember my post a few days ago about the essentials of using stock photography in your marketing material? I’ve had a couple of messages to ask where I find my photos for the work we do at Ditto. I love iStock and Fotolia for client work, but there are some fantastic websites you can get your hands on free images that are ideal for blog posts. Here’s my top 5 (which I’ve whittled down from this fab list at bootstrapbay.com):

1. Unsplash – beautiful, artfully shot images. Subscribe to their list and have 10 free images emailed to you every week.

2. Death to the Stock Photo – 10 free images per month, with the option to go pro for a wider range. Completely cheese-free images

3. Splitshire – quirky images which are totally free for commercial or personal use

4. Picjumbo – an eclectic mix of images, with new photos added every day

5. New Old Stock Photo – a beautiful collection of vintage images from public archives (I could spend hours looking at these!)

Do bear in mind that you should always double check the licensing (most of these sites contain images free from copyright restrictions, but you should always be certain of this before you use them) to ensure you’re not breaking copyright law by using them. And if you weren’t sure, pinching images from Google is never ok!

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Why be the same when you can be different?

why-be-the-same-when-you-can-be-differentI met with a fabulous independent business owner a couple of weeks ago. This entrepreneur was feeling threatened by their (much larger) competitors, who were typically chains or franchises with deeper pockets, bigger voices and more resources to plough into marketing. And unsurprisingly, my client was feeling the pressure to fit in with what the competition was doing, yet felt they could never measure up. In an effort to fit in, their branding and website looked exactly the same as everyone else’s in their industry. That’s mistake number one.

Why would you be the same when you can be different?

On the whole, people who buy from independent businesses make a very conscious decision to do so. They love the individual approach, the fact that the people who run them are nimble and able to react quickly rather than being stuck to a rigid framework set out by the ominous Head Office. So why on earth try to look like a big corporate chain when you’re a family run independent business?

Celebrating your strengths and turning your back on your weaknesses

So you’re not a household brand name? You don’t have a 6-figure marketing budget? Don’t fret! As independant business owners, we do a different dance from the big boys. We pride ourselves on our ability to accommodate our clients requirements’, and the relationships we build along the way. We love the freedom of not having to work within a parameter determined by someone else, and the ability to go the extra mile for the people who really value what we do. Put yourself in your clients’ shoes: doesn’t all of this sound like a pretty attractive proposition?

Turning perceived threats into very definite selling points

First of all, it’s essential to remember that you simply cannot be all things to all people. Those who love to buy from big, well known names may not ever represent a good client to you – their values are probably out of synch with yours, and working with them will be tricky. The ones who value doing business with someone who has the prestige of owning scores of offices across the country is going to be a tough win for those of us who operate from a single location away from the glitz and glamour of the big cities. But that’s ok. I highly recommend taking some time to ask your clients why they chose you. I’ll be it’s because they heard great things about you, or love the fact you’re able to do things a little differently to fit in around them.

Sell the benefits

Remember that sales course you attended ages ago, that gabbed on about selling benefits rather than features? They were right. Tell your client why buying from an independent is a good idea. Educate them on what you can offer that the big boys can’t, and why that matters to them. Give them a good reason to buy from you rather than your competitor. It’ll make all the difference.

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Business Essentials: 5 tips to help you answer enquiries (and win new business) faster

Business-Essentials-Dealing-with-EnquiriesI was speaking to a client the other day who told me she dreads checking her inbox, as wading through various enquiries is a job that she simply doesn’t have time for. This frightened the living bajeezus out of me! I completely get that replying to endless emails while churning out bill-paying work is a tough task, but when you consider that enquiries generally come from people who want to work with you, why on earth wouldn’t you respond to them? An inbox full of enquiries is as good as an inbox full of cash. Your job is to convert those enquiries into paid-up clients as quickly as possible – and here’s how.

1. Create a pdf brochure. A beautifully designed pdf that introduces your services, products and most popular packages will save you hours. Simply attach it to your email (along with a note to say thank you for the interest), and you’ve got an instant sales pitch. And to really save time…

2. …Write an email template that you can edit to suit each enquiry. Chances are that you respond to most enquiries in the same way, so you’ll be able to put together a draft response that can be quickly editted, rather than writing a fresh email each time.

3. Quickly get to the bottom of the reason behind each enquiry. What does this lovely person want you to do? Are they interested in using your services, are they seeking a collaboration, or is it something else?

4. Track each enquiry in a dead-simple Excel database. Ok, this will take you more time in the short term to enter the relevant details, but it’ll really help you to understand where each new client has come from, which services they’re interested in, how they found you and whether you converted them into a client. I run a simple Excel file each month which I colour code to track the nature of each enquiry and schedule follow up calls. I highly recommend you do the same.

5. Allocate a slot in your day to blitz your inbox. I have a confession – I need to take my own advice on this one. As my laptop is within reach for most of my working day, I have a bad habit of firefighting my emails which results in a very bad use of my day. This year, I promised myself to allocate a dedicated slot to answering my emails, and it really has helped in fighting that overhwelming feeling you get when you have more emails than spare minutes.

Image credit: image sourced via Unsplash.com

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