FREE Tools for Creating Social Media Graphics and Videos

FREE Social Media Tools for creating standout visuals and videos! Learn more via @HighleyDesigned

One of the things I have the most fun doing as a social media manager is creating graphics and videos! Most of the apps I use are absolutely FREE, so I figured I’d pass along the savings and share some of my secrets.

Canva

If you use PostPlanner you are probably already familiar with Canva, but if not that’s okay. For newbies, PostPlanner is an awesome tool for finding viral content to share on your social networks and it has an integrated Canva app so you don’t even have to leave the PostPlanner website to create a custom graphic. If you’re not using PostPlanner, simply visit Canva.com to get started. You can create a free account and all features are free but some designs contain special elements (fonts, backgrounds, layouts) that do cost extra. The good news – the extras are all $1 a piece so the most I’ve ever paid for a not-free graphic is about $3. And most that aren’t free use only 1 or 2 paid elements so you’re looking at $1 or $2 for an awesome, professional custom graphic.

What sets Canva apart from other apps is that they have pre-designed templates for almost any social media site! This includes templates designed to the right dimensions for posts, ads, cover photos, you name it. This is a huge time saver for me! I use Canva for custom Facebook and Twitter posts, blog graphics, ads, and even full page flyers and more. I typically use InDesign if I have a big project that requires lots of detail but what’s awesome about Canva is you can download your designs as JPGs, PNGs or PDFs. So, if I need to create a simple flyer to print copies of and I don’t have lots of time, I can create something with Canva and download it as a high quality PDF. See below, a flyer I recently created for a client of mine.

Beautifully designed flyer using Canva free elements!

Not only could I download a JPG for online use, with Canva you can download high quality PDFs for print!

 

PicMonkey

PicMonkey is very similar to Canva but it does not include all of the pre-designed templates. PicMonkey is great if you want to edit or add effects to an existing photo or use their awesome overlays and themes to create something original. I like PicMonkey for creating custom images that feature quotes and original photos. The site is really easy to use and that’s part of what makes it so great! You can download JPGs and PNGs but no PDF feature (at least not yet!). Also similar to Canva, PicMonkey does have a “Royal” plan which allows you to use any premium features for a low monthly price of about $4. So if you are using sites like these a lot the cost is comparable.

Legend

Legend is an awesome app for creating short GIFs and Videos. Simply take a quote or expression, select a photo and then choose from tons of awesome animations that bring it to life! This is an app for mobile only so it’s great for making videos that stand out on Instagram. You can download your animation as a GIF or Video so keep in mind you can now upload GIFs to Facebook and Twitter but for IG you need to download your animation as a video.

Filmora

Filmora is an awesome app for desktop that allows you to create professional looking amateur videos! You can create a full video or use photos and simply add background music or text overlay. I am not a filmmaker but video is such a big part of social media, and apps like this allow you to compete with the big guys that do have a budget to hire the professionals. Filmora allows you to create standout video shorts for Facebook and I find them especially effective as ads! Have you tried a video ad yet? What are you waiting for? Video isn’t a luxury anymore, it’s everywhere and with the tools at your fingertips it’s time to dive in or be left behind.

The only downside to Filmora is that it isn’t free, but for just $29.99 you can download the software and start making your own videos! Below is a simple video ad I created for Facebook using Legend and Filmora. It performed really well and I spent about 50 cents per page like during the campaign which is awesome! Enjoy and have fun creating custom graphics and videos this week. For more tips be sure to subscribe or like my Facebook page!¬†

 

 

Work From Home Mom, Tip #21: Get Outside

 

Getting Outside for a Walk

Tip #21 – Make time to get outside

It’s easy to get wrapped up in what you’re working on or to feel bogged down with laundry, dirty dishes, a fussy baby etc. There are days I feel overwhelmed and realize I’ve hardly accomplished anything on my to-do list and I just need a “reset” so I can clear my head and focus. On days like those¬† (and today was one of them) it’s so helpful to get outside and take a mental break.

Not only is the fresh air good for you, but studies show Vitamin D can also be a mood booster. I know this is true for me, especially this time of year when it’s getting dark by 5 pm. If I don’t have time for a walk I’ll check the mail and play fetch with our 100 lb labradoodle for a few minutes – he loves the attention and I love the way a little time spent outdoors can help me clear my thoughts and refocus on writing or design, whatever it is I’m working on.

If you’re struggling to build a routine or stay motivated working from home, try getting outside on a daily basis and see how much better you feel – and how much more focused you can be. It’s worth it!

-Rachel

Holiday Pinterest Board Ideas for Your Ecommerce Business

Holiday Pinterest Ideas

As the holidays draw near it’s more important than ever to begin promoting your products! Pinterest is an awesome social media site for eCommerce sellers that lets you do just that. By creating Pinterest boards that others want to follow, your products can be viewed by countless potential customers – the key is to get creative with your boards! The most popular categories on Pinterest are as follows:

1. Home (17.2%)
2. Arts and Crafts (12.4%)
3. Style/Fashion (11.7%)
4. Food (10.5%)
5. Inspiration/Education (9.0%)
6. Holidays/Seasonal (3.9%)
7. Humor (2.1%)
8. Products (2.1%)
9. Travel (1.9%)
10. Kids (1.8%)

These are the kinds of things people are pinning, so think of ways to get your products in the mix. Holidays are the perfect time to create new boards with seasonal themes. You can do it with food, home decor, fashion, quotes, you name it – the list goes on! Successful pins have well-written descriptions and with the introduction of Pinterest ads – you no longer need hashtags. If you’re selling on Etsy you don’t need to change your product links because when you renew a listing the URL stays the same, but if you’re selling on eBay consider linking your pins to the appropriate category within your store instead of the exact item. This can be tedious but it’s worth it – you don’t want to send people to a link that says the product is no longer listed or the item has been sold.

Now, the fun part – creating holiday boards! I have clients in a variety of industries so I thought I’d make a list of some ideas that have proven successful. I love getting ready for the holidays, don’t you?!

Clothing and Jewelry

  • Fancy Holiday Party Outfits
  • What to wear: New Year’s Eve
  • Holiday Hair and Makeup Tips
  • Ugly Christmas Sweaters and Themed Party Ideas
  • Gifts for Her

Homegoods and Housewares

  • Holiday Tabletops
  • How do you hang your Christmas stockings?
  • Curb Appeal Tips – Wreaths, Lights, DIY
  • Christmas Tree Ideas
  • Holiday Drink Recipes
  • Christmas Cookies, Pies, Novelty Desserts (Be specific – “Christmas Cookie Decorating Ideas” is better than “Holiday Desserts”)

Accessories, Handbags, Novelty Products

  • Stocking Stuffer Ideas (for men, kids, women – you can make multiple boards)
  • Packing Tips for Holiday Travel
  • Secret Santa Gift Ideas
  • Teacher Gift Ideas
  • Fun Ways to Say Merry Christmas
  • Gag Gifts or White Elephant Gifts

Vintage and Antique Items

  • Holiday Collectibles
  • Christmas Through the Decades

Books and Games

  • Holiday Family Traditions
  • The Best Books to Read this Christmas
  • A Book is a Gift You Can Open Again & Again

Kids and Baby Products or Clothing

  • Baby’s First Christmas
  • Family Christmas Photo Ideas
  • Baby Shower Gift Ideas

Happy Pinning!

10 Tips for Working from Home (with a Baby)

working from home

1. Create a schedule
When I first began working from home I had only a few clients and could get most of my writing done at the beginning of the week leaving me with a few “free” days for running errands etc. That is no longer the case so a schedule has become essential. My schedule doesn’t dictate what time of day I work on things, but it does tell me what needs to be done each day. Mondays – Pinterest, Tuesdays – Blogging, etc.

2. Make a to-do list
I keep a simple Excel sheet with a list of my clients, what needs to be done and when. I date everything when it comes to social media management so that I remember when I last worked on something and when those social media accounts will need to be worked on again. Being able to schedule posts ahead of time is a huge advantage but I try not to go more than two weeks out because a lot can change during that time and I always want posts to be relevant. For additional items like “Buy dog food” or “Pick up dry cleaning” I use the app Evernote. It’s FREE and a great way to remember things. It syncs between my phone and laptop so no matter what I’m working on I have access to my latest notes or reminders.

3. Plan ahead
I like to stay at least one week ahead when it comes to content creation – this way if something comes up it’s not the end of the world. When you work from home it feels like you have all the time in the world to complete tasks but at the end of the day with a fussy baby there are moments I find myself saying “What did I do today??” If you know your little one is acting fussier than usual, plan ahead and get an extra hour of work done when he or she goes to bed, so that if you lose time the next day it’s okay. I also make sure to keep Dr. appointments, meetings and anything else on the same calendar so that I can plan around things and be prepared.

4. Take advantage of nap time
This is a big one. I will make sure to save my most challenging work for nap time. I try to do things like vacuuming, folding laundry and household chores when baby is awake because it doesn’t matter if I’m interrupted a million times, but when it comes to writing, design or content planning – nap time it is!

5. Be willing to be flexible
I recently read the quote “Perfectionism is the enemy of Hustle.” I think this is perfect for remembering to stay flexible. When you have a baby toddling around nothing is ever going to be perfect and this has taken me a while to learn. I am seriously OCD when it comes to my home and keeping things tidy but at the end of the day that doesn’t get things done.

6. Schedule phone calls
When you have a baby the worst thing that can happen is an unexpected phone call during nap time or a door bell ring followed by incessant barking and chaos from your 100lb dog. (Maybe that’s just in our household haha) Regardless, nothing can mess up your day like an unexpected 30 minute conversation when you could have done a bunch of other more important things during that time. I ask all of my clients to email first and if they need to talk on the phone that’s fine but I schedule my calls in advance so 1. I can be prepared and 2. It doesn’t mess up nap time and 3. It doesn’t interfere with my other work.

7. Plan time to check and respond to emails.
Email can be a major time-sucker. Unless it’s urgent I don’t open it right away – this way it remains highlighted so I know I need to come back to it. I try to check and respond in the morning and again later in the day. As much as I want to be available to my clients, email can become a serious interruption to other work. I find I can write a better response when it’s not rushed and I’m not doing other things so setting a time for email checking and responding has proven valuable.

8. Designate a work space
I love that working from home means I can work wherever, but I like some stability so when I sit down I know, “okay, it’s work time.” We have an “office” but I hate it. It’s secluded and baby girl has no room to play. I have commandeered the breakfast bar in the kitchen as my work space instead – there’s ample space for me to spread out papers, drink my coffee and plenty of outlets for chargers. Plus I can put baby Kline in her walker or jumper and let her go to town, all within watching distance. Having a work space is great – even my dog knows when I’m sitting here I’m not to be bothered.

9. Limit distractions
Okay, we all have our lazy work from home days when we catch up on our favorite shows or watch the Today Show for an hour but when it comes down to it I cannot do my best work with the TV on. Even catchy music can get distracting for me so I limit myself to a few classical Pandora stations for some welcome background noise. I highly recommend “Piano Guys” radio to anyone that loves music – it’s all instrumental versions of your favorite songs so it’s fun but not distracting. I’ve also learned to successfully tune out Disney radio but sometimes when Frozen comes on I just have to belt out “Let it go!” for the world to hear. (baby girl thinks I’m a great singer!)

10. Enjoy your little ones while you can!
The best part of working from home is getting to spend time with your little one (s) so do it! They may be your biggest inspiration when it comes to your next creative assignment and when I’m stressed nothing is better than some quiet time nursing my baby girl. Don’t forget why you’re working from home to begin with. “Work” can always wait or you can catch up on something when the kids are in bed.

What are your top tips for working from home with kids? I’d love to hear them!

– Rachel