Get great pictures for your blog – a free and legal source!

Photo of wind turbines and sunset
Stunning photos like this are readily available for free. Just be sure to include a photo credit and link.

Pictures may or may not be worth a thousand words (depending on circumstances), but they have been proven to increase readership. Adding them to your blog posts can definitely spruce up your site and make it more attractive to visitors.

It’s easy to find pictures online. What’s not so easy is finding pictures that are both free and legal to use.

Now, I don’t mean to imply that purchasing photos is a bad idea. It can definitely be worth subscribing to a stock photo service such as IStockPhoto. The quality and selection is generally good and if you’re just purchasing a few small photos it’s very economical. However, a dollar or two here and there does add up over time.  Why pay for something if you can get it free for the same effort?

Copyright is another issue. It’s a really bad idea to just go swiping pictures willy-nilly off the web. While some people don’t mind (especially if you link back to their site), others take offense.  Using pictures without permission leaves you vulnerable to legal action.

A much better alternative is to use photos that are posted online under the Creative Commons agreement. The owners of these photos have given permission for their use under specific circumstances. Some even allow you to use their photos for commercial purposes. These are the ones you want if you need photos to help promote your business.

One of the easiest ways to find Creative Commons photos suitable for business use is the website Photo Pin.

Using Photo Pin is very simple. Just type your image keyword into the search box on the home page. The site will pull up all sorts of relevant photos which have been registered under the Creative Commons license.

Before you choose a photo, be sure to tick the box on the left hand side that says “Commercial.” That way you’ll be sure to only view photos that are ok to use for business.

Once you find a photo you like, click on “download.” You’ll be given the option to download the photo in many sizes, from tiny thumbnails to as large as the original photo size. Choose the one you want, save it to your hard drive and you’re almost done.

There’s one important step left.  The photo is free, but you are expected to include a photo credit. This can be unobtrusive and should not interfere with your use of the photo, but it’s very important to do.

Photo Pin makes giving credit very easy. At the bottom of the download popup for each photo, there is a block of HTML. Paste this into the HTML editor of your blog at the bottom of your post, and it will automatically show up as a photo credit with link. No fuss or bother required. (See the bottom of this post for an example.)

You can also use Photo Pin for articles and other online applications. So next time you have something to publish, make sure it looks as good as it reads. It could boost your response, and doesn’t need to cost you a thing.


photo credit: TumblingRun via photo pin cc

GoDaddy’s (hidden) sustainability initiatives

Here’s an update on my correspondence with GoDaddy. (My apologies to them for tardiness; I’ve been involved in moving the household from Wisconsin to Illinois.)

Godaddy’s Office of the CEO replied in a timely manner to my questioning about their position on sustainability, and it appears that they have implemented a number of sustainability practices. Here, in its entirety, is their response to my inquiry about sustainability in their company:

Dear Anne,

Thank you for contacting GoDaddy.com.  Your correspondence has been directed to the Office of the CEO.

GoDaddy.com is committed to the promotion of a healthy environment and we are working to make a difference through a variety of initiatives within our company.  These involve our employees, our customers and our facilities planning.

1.What effort has Go Daddy made to ‘go green’?

Currently, GoDaddy utilizes power from the two main power suppliers in Arizona, APS and SRP. However we do not have separate renewable energy at our facilities.  You will be able to find specific details about the renewable energy sources exercised by our energy providers on the following websites:

SRP- https://www.srpnet.com/Default.aspx
APS- http://www.aps.com/aps_services/apsservices.html
APS Green Choice- http://www.aps.com/main/green/choice/default.html

Additionally, Go Daddy has made several efforts with our hosting and data centers to ‘go green.’  We focus on finding and using the most power-efficient computer equipment wherever possible.  Go Daddy monitors the market for new products with improved efficiencies and continue to review powering our data center with alternative energy.  Another effort includes Variable Frequency Drives (VFD) for large motors, chilled water air handler units or A/C units and for our water chillers which use a cooling tower (using less power than air cooled condensers).  A VFD is a device that slows the motor down to the required speed for equipment.  The new Customer Care Center and development areas have been done with low energy lights and offices with motion sensors to shut off lights automatically.  We will also be placing a lot of those devices in the current buildings as we remodel.  Additionally, we use the heat produced from our datacenters for the climate control of the office space in the same building.  We also recycle communications cabling, computer equipment and packaging.  Other ways Go Daddy contributes to environmental efforts include: air conditioning air filters made from recycled material, energy efficient fluorescent lamps, new purchases of diesel generators that fall under the new EPA guidelines including purchasing low sulfur grade diesel for the generators.  When possible, we purchase high efficiency electric motors.

2. How is Go Daddy encouraging an eco-friendly environment?

Go Daddy provides employees with many benefits to encourage eco-friendly actions.  We promote employees involvement in the Maricopa County Trip Reduction program (TRP).  Go Daddy provides information materials about getting involved in TRP and in participating we offer employees complimentary bus passes, quarterly contests and preferred parking for Alternate Mode Users.  We also provide recycling containers for plastic and aluminum cans.

Finally, as Mr. Parsons is a member of our board, your correspondence will be shared with him. While we have no ability to govern his behavior while on vacation, Mr. Parsons has shared his thoughts regarding his trip to Zimbabwe on his personal Vlog at BobParsons.me should you wish you review them.

Go Daddy’s new CEO, Warren Adelman, previously served as our President and COO and remains committed to ensuring that we offer the highest level of customer service and the most innovative products in the industry.

We hope this information will be of assistance to you in making any final determination about your relationship with GoDaddy.com.

Sincerest Regards,

The Office of the CEO

While I’m still not impressed by the elephant thing, I’m very glad to know that Godaddy is making some effort to be responsible. I especially like the way Godaddy is getting employees involved in greener transportation. This indicates that someone at the company is pushing for some degree of sustainability as part of the corporate culture.

I wonder, though, why Godaddy is so silent about their green accomplishments?

I’m not suggesting that they should go blabbing all over social media about how green they are. Clearly, it’s not part of their branding. Doing so would compromise their integrity and would most likely backfire.

However, I’m not just some lone kooky earth freak. Sustainability is a major issue for a lot of people, many of whom are Godaddy’s customers or potential customers. Wouldn’t it be to the company’s advantage to put out a little quiet communication about their activities for those of us who think it’s important?

What do you think?

How to Use Your Business Credit Card to Help Save the Planet

Part of living sustainably is the wise and creative use of the resources we already have at our disposal. Today’s guest article by small business cash flow expert Liz Cutten reveals how you can use a resource you probably already carry in your pocket to do just a little more for the planet.

There’s a good chance that you have a credit card in your wallet right now, and if you’re a consumer in today’s market, I can show you how you can make your credit card not only work hard for your wallet, but for the planet as well.

If you don’t have a credit card, or maybe you have five already, let me first recommend the following cards that not only give you rewards, but help the planet as well:

  • Wachovia Platinum: For every point you get, you’re going to be able to exchange them for eco-friendly items such as cotton bags, solar powered lights and more.
  • Bank of America Sierra Club Card: For every purchase that is made, BofA will make a contribution to the Sierra Club, one of the largest environmental organizations.
  • Bank of America Nature Conservancy: For every dollar that you spend, they will donate a contribution to the Nature Conservancy.
  • Wells Fargo Rewards Card: For every dollar that you spend, you’re going to get points.  You can turn those points in for eco-friendly items, or you can donate points to support green power, and more.
  • American Express Business Gold Rewards Card: Purchases made with this charge card earn rewards points which can be redeemed for Terrapass travel carbon offsets and other eco-friendly items, or donated to your choice of over one million charities.

Now, what you’re going to find with the cards above is that some of them won’t require that you donate to a chartable cause, but as I mentioned, you will be able to purchase eco-friendly items such as a garden composter, etc.

How you can also help the planet with your credit card:

Go paperless: If you have a credit card already, or you’re thinking about applying for one, be sure to go paperless.  That way, the credit card company doesn’t have to mail out the bill to you, nor do they have to use paper.  Not only that, some companies will give you an incentive to sign up for paperless billing.

Use your rewards wisely: Again, if you get a card that helps groups, you will probably want to put your rewards toward it.  When you use your rewards towards groups, you will find that you won’t have anything shipped to your home.

Most of those cards up there are great cards to consider, when you’re looking to not only use a credit card, but get rewards as well.  Most of them have no fees, and shouldn’t cost you a dime, as long as you pay in full.  While credit cards sometimes get a bad reputation, it doesn’t mean you can’t use yours to make things better!

Liz Cutten is an expert on business credit cards and other small business cash flow options.  She offers tons of practical tips and helpful information for business owners on FindBizCards.com, a business credit card blog.


Tomorrow is Shutoff Day – you hip for it?

Sunday, Oct. 3 has been designated Shutoff Day – a day to turn off your d*** computer and get a life.  Get outside, read a real book with pages, look your loved ones in the eyes!  🙂

Yes, you can survive without your computer for one day. (You might even like it so much you decide to do it every week!)

Have fun!

Does Going Green Matter? Your opinion sure does!

You’re probably aware that Walmart and certain other mega companies have been wielding their substantial corporate clout to influence (dare I say force?) their suppliers to switch to more sustainable products, packaging and procedures.

But what’s the real reason for the move toward green supply chains? Do these companies really care about the environment, or are they just trying to win over consumers?

What do you think?

Software Advice market analyst Stephen Janisse wants to know.  He’s conducting a survey on his blog RIGHT NOW so you can tell the world what you think.  It’s short and sweet, so don’t worry – if you’re pressed for time you can easily finish it next time a customer puts you on hold.  (He’s also included nice big optional text boxes so feel free to vent your greenwashing pet peeves or make useful and ingenious supply chain suggestions.)

But don’t delay – Stephen tells me his survey will only be open for a few more days.

Take advantage of the opportunity to speak your mind:

Green Supply Chain Survey

How to find green promotional items for your business

Are you tired of junky plastic promotional items, or promotional products that no-one really uses or appreciates?

Choosing sustainable promotional products for your business doesn’t just help the earth.  It demonstrates the integrity of your business.  Choosing sustainable promotional products wisely can also keep you top of mind because they’re likely to be items your prospects really do use or appreciate.

Where to look for  eco-friendly products to promote your business

A good rule of thumb when you’re looking for earth-friendly items to promote your business is to start your search close to home and move out from there.   Five  places to look:

Bottle openers
These recycled bicycle chain bottle openers from Resource Revival are practical and sustainable – a terrific green promotional item.

1. Your own company.

  • If you produce items that are easily made into samples, your work is easy.  Nothing will do a better job of telling prospects how good you are than by giving them a taste! But if that’s not possible, don’t despair.  You may be surprised at what you can come up with inside your own four walls.
  • You may have fantastic promotional item possibilities hidden in your ownwaste stream.   Do you have scrap fabric, wood or other materials that are currently being thrown into the landfill or otherwise disposed of? In addition to offering ready-made Green promotional products,  promotional item company Greengiftz works with companies to turn their scraps into beautiful items they can use as promos.
  • What if your company doesn’t produce anything physical that could be used to make things?  Well, don’t forget that information itself is an incredibly valuable commodity!  Why not offer your prospects a book, report, informational video,  calendar, tip sheet or other written item packed with great information they’ll love you for? (Heck, you can – and-should- include information too, even if you’re offering a tangible item!)

2. Your own home. Look around your home and garage for practical items that – imprinted with your name and logo – might make good giveaways.  After all, if you’re using it, others will probably appreciate it, too.  Some ideas to start you off:

  • Funnel (for reclaiming used oil or other substances)
  • Pressure gauge (for keeping tires at proper inflation for energy savings)
  • Switchplate (Imprinted with your logo and a friendly reminder to turn off the light when not in use.)
  • Wooden spoon or cutting board (made of sustainable bamboo or local wood)
  • Imprinted wooden clothespins and clothesline
  • Beeswax or soy candles
  • Pot holders

3. Your local community. Keep a look out for interesting locally made or produced items that would tie in to your brand or message.  Good places to look include your local farmer’s market or artist’s co-op.  Or perhaps you can find natural items indigenous to your area that can be used to make unique and beautiful natural promotional items.

4. Your network of contacts. Ask around at networking meetings or through LinkedIn or other social networks.  You might uncover the perfect promotional item for your Green business – and you’ll be spreading the word about your business at the same time!

5. Online sources. Nothing wrong with searching the Web for green promotional product ideas.  Here are some good places to start:

The Green Logo

Eco Promos Online

EcoBrander Promos

Greengiftz

Green Promotional Items

Fairware

EcoProducts2Order.com

EnviroPromo

RecycledProducts.com

Green by Sky High

Resource Revival (items made from old bicycle parts)

Ecobags (all sorts of eco-friendly reusable bags)

The following are mainstream promotional item sources that carry a good selection of eco-promotional products:

EPromos

Iaspromotes.com

Garrett Specialties

Have you discovered a unique and sustainable item that you use to promote your business?  Let me know – if it’s a good one I’ll showcase it (and your business) in a future post!

Three Rules of Thumb for Choosing Promotional Items for Your Green Business

How can fences set you free?

girl pn playground
Structure is as important in business as it is on the playground.

Someone recently told me about a study which found that when a playground is surrounded by a fence, children tend to use the entire playground area.  With the fence absent, they are much more likely to restrict themselves to the playground equipment and do not use the full amount of space allotted to them.
 
Not something I ever thought about much, but I realized she’s absolutely right.  And the more I considered the phenomenon, the more relevant it seemed to be – both in terms of how we relate to customers and how we manage our businesses and personal lives.

It’s all about creating structure

People tend to think of fences as being limiting and constricting.  And of course they are.  But when you consider their effect on playground behavior, you begin to see the value of the fence in terms of structure.
 
Human beings, like most creatures, have an innate need for and appreciation of structure.  It’s reassuring to know that there’s some framework behind any given situation we may find ourselves in.  On the fenced playground, the monkey bars, swings and fences provide a quite literal structure which encourages and influences the children’s play.  Within the bounds of the structure, they feel free to run and explore.  Take away the fence and they become more cautious.  They draw in and restrict their activity to the known structure of the playground equipment.
 
Thus in a very real sense, the fence, rather than being simply an instrument of constraint, becomes one of liberation!

Using structure to create freedom

Now, some of you may be sitting there going “duh!” We all know things work better with structure.  But as an admittedly very right-brained freedom-loving person (traits I’ve noticed in many other entrepreneurs as well), the idea that adding structure can actually be less limiting came as a real revelation. 

Here are a few “fences” you can build around your own business and life that will help free up your time and energy for the things you want to do:

Corralling Yourself: Learn to say “No.”  It’s great to be enthusiastic. And the ability to take immediate action often separates successful businesspeople from their not-so-prosperous peers.  But when you find yourself jumping ahead with so many projects that you end up going nowhere, it’s time to build yourself a fence.  Sit down and honestly ask yourself which of your projects is the most important in terms of your health, wealth and happiness.  You will likely have multiple ones you feel very strongly about, but try to narrow it down to the most important one.  Then when a new opportunity presents itself, ask yourself if it will strengthen or weaken your pet project.  If you think this project fits in with your goals, next ask yourself what you’re willing to give up in order to take it on.  Lastly, if it still seems so important you’ve got to go ahead with it, don’t.  Sleep on it first.  The extra time will allow reality to set in, so you can tell if this project represents free play within your framework, of if it will just dump you out into busy traffic.

Fencing In Your Employees: Are your employees happily productive, or do they always seem to be either wasting time or pestering you for guidance?  If they’re not working effectively, it may be time to take a good look at the systems in your business.  Are all procedures well documented and easy to follow?  How do your employees hold themselves accountable for their work? What systems to do have in place to motivate your employees? Are the systems you have in place clear not just to you but to them?  When your employees know just what to expect and how to accomplish their tasks, they’ll be more confident and effective at what they do for you.*

Building a Chute for Sales:  Do you depend largely on “word of mouth” or hit-and-miss advertising?  Or do you have a well-planned marketing funnel which leads prospects gently and steadily towards the sale?  Are your sales procedures choreographed?*   When every piece of your marketing integrates with every other, and each is written or scripted with precise language to overcome objections and tell your prospect exactly what to do next, it sets your prospects at ease and allows them to more readily explore how, instead of whether, they will do business with you.  And when that happens, the sky’s the limit!

These are just a few examples.  Perhaps you’ve experienced for yourself how limits can be liberating.  How have “fences” led to greater freedom in your life?  I’d love to hear it!

The wording of your sales letters and promotions is a key ingredient in building profitable marketing systems.  Are your web pages, emails and promotional materials working in sync and effectively to funnel your prospects towards the sale?  Email or call me at 715-218-1373 for a free 30 minute consultation to discuss how we can improve your bottom line!

Anne Michelsen is a freelance writer who helps Green and renewable energy companies enjoy increased attention and greater sales through dynamic sales copy and insightful content.

Subscribe to Anne’s bi-weekly tips and insights into Green marketing and sales writing, and get a complimentary copy of her Green marketing report, Making Sense of the Green Sector: What Every Marketer Should Know About Selling Sustainable Products and Services.

How will the BP oil spill influence the U.S. solar energy industry?

Exploding oil rigger
Is BP's disaster an environmental 9/11?

It’s big, it’s bad and it’s ugly.  The BP oil spill fiasco is rapidly proving to be the biggest environmental disaster since… well, maybe since the dawn of human history.

The environmental and economic consequences of the spill are already proving dire.  And with 210,000 gallons of crude (at a minimum – some estimate are much higher) spilling into the sea each day, things can only get worse.  For many Americans it feels like a punch to the gut.

But the BP oil spill could turn out to be the wake-up call  – an environmental 9/11, if you will – that triggers real change in public sentiment and policy regarding energy and the environment.  A disaster of this scale will inevitably raise public awareness of the environmental consequences of energy use. While it’s unlikely that many Americans will be willing to give up the lifestyles they’re accustomed to, the gulf spill could be enough of a tipping point in public consciousness to cause more Americans to seriously consider the long-term consequences of their energy choices.

How will this affect the American solar industry?

Well, it may be too early to tell.  But here are a few possible consequences:

  • Rising energy prices. For the first time in recent memory, Americans are now more likely to oppose offshore oil drilling than support it.  And public concern over the safety of offshore drilling could result in legislation and restrictions on the practice.  Even some Republicans, such as governors Charlie Crist of Florida and Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, are beginning to believe that offshore drilling is not worth the risk.  The Gulf oil disaster could very likely influence legislators and regulators to limit offshore drilling and/or require safeguards that could raise its cost.  Either of these scenarios could contribute to rising energy prices.  Which, of course, makes the payback from solar much more attractive.
  • A stronger push for renewables. A May, 2010 poll by the PEW Research Center indicates that Americans overwhelmingly (73%) support increased funding for renewable energy, including solar, wind and hydrogen.  Federal and state renewable energy grants, tax credits and other incentives already abound.  But the spill may trigger even more generous incentives for renewable energy, as well as legislation requiring more energy to come from renewables – both factors that encourage growth in solar.
  • Greater public demand for solar and other renewable energy. The highly publicized BP disaster may get more people thinking harder about their own use of fossil fuel and its long-term consequences.  This could lead to  more demand for solar and other alternatives to fossil fuel – especially if prices and payback are favorable.  Given that solar currently supplies only a tiny fraction of the energy requirements of the United States, even a small uptick in demand for solar installations could result in hefty growth for the industry.

Next up: Will growth in demand for solar result in increased business for solar companies across the board?  What changes can we expect in the industry as a result?

Anne Michelsen is a freelance writer who helps Green and renewable energy companies enjoy increased attention and greater sales through dynamic sales copy and insightful content.

Subscribe to Anne’s bi-weekly tips and insights into Green marketing and sales writing, and get a complimentary copy of her Green marketing report, Making Sense of the Green Sector: What Every Marketer Should Know About Selling Sustainable Products and Services.

Blog Directory List

Want to promote your blog?  A good first step to take is to submit your blog to the blogging directories.  It only takes a minute or two and it will help readers interested in your topics to find you.  Plus, many of them are free!

Here’s a list I recently compiled to get you started:

List of Blog Submission Sites

  1. Best of the Web  http://botw.org/ – highly rated, $75/yr.
  2. Bloggeries http://www.bloggeries.com/ – $39.99 one-time fee, or $59.99 annually for featured links
  3. Eaton Web http://portal.eatonweb.com/ – oldest blog directory on web.  Free for the first two blogs
  4. OnTopList.com http://www.ontoplist.com/– human-edited, free
  5. Technorati http://technorati.com/ – free and essential
  6. Blogged.com http://www.blogged.com/ – free
  7. BlogCatalog  http://www.blogcatalog.com/– free
  8. Globe of Blogs http://www.globeofblogs.com/register.php– free
  9. Liquida http://www.liquida.com/submit_blog.liquida/– free
  10. Bloggapedia http://www.bloggapedia.com/submit.php– free; featured links $49.99/ year
  11. Blogging Fusion http://www.bloggingfusion.com/submit.php – Regular commercial: $12.99 + required backlink; Featured listing: $39.95/year
  12. Blog Listing http://bloglisting.com/addablog.html – free; Featured links $8.99/year
  13. Blog Explosion http://www.blogexplosion.com/signup.php – free
  14. BlogRankings.com http://www.blogrankings.com/ – free
  15. BlogBunch http://www.blogbunch.com/suggest/ – free
  16. Blogflux http://www.blogflux.com/ – free
  17. Bloghub http://www.bloghub.com/ – free
  18. Bloglisting http://www.bloglisting.com/addablog.html – free
  19. BlogIntro http://blogintro.com/submit – $.99
  20. Blogarama http://www.blogarama.com/add-a-site/ – free; featured listing $10 one time fee
  21. BlogPulse http://www.blogpulse.com/submit.html – free
  22. BlogSearch http://www.blog-search.com/blog-submission.html – free
  23. IceRocket http://www.icerocket.com/c?p=ping – free
  24. BlogTopSites http://www.blogtopsites.com/ – free
  25. Blog Universe http://www.bloguniverse.com/suggest-link.php?id=0 – free
  26. Blogz http://www.sarthak.net/blogz/add.php – free
  27. Boing Boing http://boingboing.net/suggest.html – free
  28. Crayon http://www.crayon.net/using/suggest.html – Free; popular-interest (non-local), U.S. blogs only
  29. iBlogBusinessDirectory http://www.iblogbusiness.com/add.html – $9.95; this appears to be a one-time fee but wasn’t really clear
  30. LSBlogs http://www.lsblogs.com/howtosubmit.php – free
  31. Aviva – http://www.avivadirectory.com/submit.php – $149.95 one-time fee or $49.95/ year;  human-edited, accepts quality sites with original content only
  32. RateItAll http://www.rateitall.com/s-4679-blog-directory.aspx – free
  33. ReadABlog http://www.readablog.com/AddFeed.aspx – free
  34. Small Business Blog Directory http://blogsforsmallbusiness.com/directory/add.html – $10 one-time fee
  35. The Weblog Review http://www.theweblogreview.com/submit.php – not currently accepting sites for review but might be worth looking back into at a later date
  36. WillsDomain http://www.wilsdomain.com/submit-site.php – free

Free RSS directories

  1. Chordata http://chordata.info/suggest.php
  2. Plazoo http://www.plazoo.com/en/addrss.asp
  3. Postami http://www.postami.com/rss_submit_service.php
  4. Pressrader http://www.pressradar.com/suggest.html
  5. RDF Ticker http://www.anse.de/rdfticker/addchannel.php
  6. RSS Network http://www.rss-network.com/submitrss.php

Anne Michelsen is a freelance writer who helps Green and renewable energy companies enjoy increased attention and greater sales through dynamic sales copy and insightful content.

Subscribe to Anne’s bi-weekly tips and insights into Green marketing and sales writing, and get a complimentary copy of her Green marketing report, Making Sense of the Green Sector: What Every Marketer Should Know About Selling Sustainable Products and Services.