blond girl is worried♪♫ Bad girl bad girl, ah-what-ya-gonna-do, ah-what-ya-gonna-do when they come for you? ♫ ♪

So many of us have done it: Used copyrighted photos without permission, posted an image online without crediting the photographer, and risked inviting stock photo companies and photogs alike to come after us with copyright infringement suits and who-knows-what other legal troubles. (Yikes!!)

You might think that being a “small fry” in the large world-wide-web makes it highly unlikely you’ll be caught, but as detailed in this article, any website—even a ten-visitors-per-month site in the farthest corner of the internet—can still be targeted for a very expensive (read: messy, pain-in-the-beehind, even business-ending) lawsuit.

I know you don’t want to get cornered into paying out $5,000 of your hard-earned dollars for an easily avoidable copyright infringement suit (I don’t either!), so here are two simple steps you can take to ensure that the photos you use are legally and ethically sound.

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Disgusted woman in red making a funny faceWould you believe, I once thought that branding, marketing, and advertising— all the things that allow us as small businesses to connect with our customers— were despicable?

In college, my heart’s desire was to be a greeting card designer for Hallmark…because I thought it would be a fun career where I could really make a difference, as opposed to working for some ad agency where I would be responsible for churning out billboard ads, sales brochures, or other things that I as a consumer traditionally found annoying and obtrusive.

But, as you might’ve already guessed, I warmed up to branding over time…choosing to design for small biz’preneurs like yourself, because you’re awesome and a blast to work with! What’s more, becoming a small business owner myself has helped me understand the need for, and role of, branding. In fact, I had forgotten there was a time when I thought it was despicable…

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email marketingIn the online business ’sphere, e-mail marketing is KING.

You hear it all the time: build your list, build your list, build your list. It’s uber-effective for getting clients, keeping your customers up-to-date, getting repeat business from people who’ve purchased from you before, and so forth.

Hopefully, you’re doing just that, and are ever on the lookout for new tactics to gain more new subscribers.

You’ve got a juicy opt-in offer to entice your prospects to sign up for your list.

You’re getting plenty of traffic to your website, and you want to know…“How do I get more of those folks to become subscribers, without being all up-in-their-faces?”

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What’s your flavor? (Sell it!)

strawberry ice cream from SXCYes, I’m totally going to go there…

…it’s the old ice-cream flavors analogy.

When it comes to the cream, everybody has their preference. Lots of people swear by vanilla…others love chocolate…then there are the picky ones, who have to have their rocky road, cheesecake-flavored with graham cracker bits, or mint chocolate chip. (That would be me, for the latter two flavors…actually, red velvet cake-flavored with swirls of cream cheese would be freakin’ awesome. I wonder where I could find some of that?)

NOW: What flavor is your business? What “vibe” or “atmosphere” will your ideal peeps totally love at first “bite”, and how do you give them that experience? Maybe you’re a strawberries’n’cream brand (read: light, friendly, nostalgic)…or you might be a niche brand like my aforementioned red velvet + cream cheese fantasy (read: exclusive, decadent).

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designer overwhelmDon’t get me wrong…I LOVE being a designer. But, design just doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process, sometimes frustratingly so!

Alas, design doesn’t become “great”, or “beautiful”, or “effective”, with the flick of a magic wand, either. It takes effort on both parties (designer and client), to get fantastic results.

So, say you’re going to hire a designer (like yours truly) to create your new business logo/trick out your website/make your e-book beautiful /whatever…

…You’d really like have your SHINY NEW THING completed in a reasonable amount of time, right? And, even more importantly, you want it to BE the fantastic design that piques more interest among your tribe, converts more customers, and creates more love & loyalty, among other things! (Right? Right!)

So, here are some things you can do on your end, to scoot things along faster, and get better results too…

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colorful water I love being a creative person. And, I love being an entrepreneur. (Holla’ if you do too!)

But, we entrepreneurs are far from perfect. For one thing, sometimes we’re so full of ideas and new ventures and general creative excitement, that we want to just “get this show on the road” already—even when we really shouldn’t.

If you’re a newly-minted entrepreneur building your brand from the ground up, or a seasoned ‘preneur in the midst of a major re-brand, you might be anxious to get your brand “out there” already. You wish you could have your website up, or commission that new logo…like, yesterday. Because the sooner you’re LIVE—running with all that brand personality and alluring products and services your peeps will love—the better, right?

dollars versus hours

Now, wait just a darn minute here. You’re looking at investing your hard-earned dollars (and/or your priceless time) to bring your brand to life via your website and other marketing channels. So doesn’t it make sense to wait until you’ve got your brand like you want it, before you hire a designer to bring it to life? Um, yes!

Look at it this way…

Building your visual brand identity is like building a house.

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successWith any new endeavor, you have to learn as you go along, right?

No matter if you have a degree in that subject, or you took a class/read a book about it, did an apprenticeship with a master craftsperson, or whatever… as the saying goes, learning happens on the job. So…

Back in March/April 2013, I took a fantastic course called From Mags to Riches, which (you guessed it) taught me the basics of publishing my own digital magazine. (Hooray! A marketing tool that’s right up my alley! Easy, right? Okay, so maybe there’s still a learning curve in some regards…)

It has now been over a year since I published my first ‘zine…and with four issues now under my belt, and a brand-new one due out this fall, I’ve learned my fair share of “lessons on the job”.

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I know you’ve got tons of files crammed into that computer of yours! And I bet sometimes you get frustrated, trying to find the ones you need—especially your all-important business files.

My own computer is brimming with so many files…it’s really kinda scary…

…or it would be scary, if I didn’t have a fun trick for navigating this vast and tangled web!

Beyond basic organization (designating a folder for business, one for personal files, and many sub-folders within like “marketing” or “client projects”), I love to use ICONS to make my frequently used file folders easy to spot. The result: faster clicking, and quicker access to the file I happen to need at any given moment. And, okay, it’s also just fun to decorate the otherwise-boring “My Documents” folder!

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Put Your Business Name in Lights!

eyes with purple makeupWhen you land on a new website, where’s the first place your eyes go?

To the header, right? You’re looking for the company name, maybe the tagline too—because that’s where you’ll get the first hint at what that business is all about.

Now, think about your own site header—specifically, your business name. Obviously, you want it to stand out in a good way. You want your site visitors to see it, and get that lovely first “taste” of what your business stands for.

And one of the simplest ways to do that, is by displaying your biz name in an excellent font that’s all YOU! There are literally thousands of fonts out there—way more than came pre-installed on your PC or Mac—so you have no excuse not to be totally, fabulously unique—even surprising, mesmerizing, or awe-inspiring.

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Fairy. Beautiful Girl in Blowing Dress Flying. MagicIn the last year, I’ve used a lot of stock photography. Much more than I ever had before. (If you’re a regular reader of Designed2Flourish magazine, you know where most of those photos end up!).

And the more time I spend searching for and acquiring these photos, the more surprised and delighted I am by all the other cool graphics and goodies that are readily available on most stock photo websites.

What goodies are we talking about?

You might never realize this stuff is out there—but it IS, and it’s super-useful! Maybe you’ve been wishing to find a specific item (for example, a color-coordinated “Buy Now” button for your website, to replace that generic yellow Paypal button), but you didn’t know where to look…

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