Finding Morgan

Make Your Own Blog Graphics Part 2: Affordable Graphic Design Tools for Blogging

designMorgan Taber1 Comment

One of the most stressful aspects of blogging for me has always been the graphics. I am not a great photographer and I am mediocre at best when it comes to Photoshop. My early graphics were a bit...rough. I thought that I had to use Photoshop to make my blog and my post graphics look professional and I ended up with just the opposite. Flash forward a few months and I found out about stock photos, PicMonkey and Canva. My blogging life was forever changed. 

You can check out the first post in this series all about stock photos HERE.

blog-graphic-tools

PicMonkey

PicMonkey, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. Seriously, I am in love with PicMonkey, it is by far my favorite online graphics tool. I do pay for their premium-- or "Royale" subscription, but even their free version is AMAZING. I use PicMonkey for everything from post graphics, printables and social media shareables. One of my favorite features of PicMonkey is the ability to use your own fonts (this applies to the paid and free versions), any font that you have on your computer will appear as a choice in the "Yours" section under the "Add Text" option. The only thing that I really don't like about PicMonkey is the inability to save your work as you go. There is nothing worse than working on something and losing all of your work due to an internet outage or your internet browser closing.

Once you start playing around with PicMonkey you will find all kinds of sweet tricks and uses for it. 

Check out some of my posts about different ways I've used PicMonkey:

The Super Simple Change That Increased My Blog Traffic

How to Add a Post and Image Gallery to Your Blog

My Favorite Free Chalkboard Fonts + A Free Printable

How to Create a Watermark or Logo Using PicMonkey


Canva

Canva can be used in many of the same way as PicMonkey, but it has a lot of its own unique features. There is a huge database of free and paid stock photos and graphics that you can incorporate into your project. I have made some gorgeous shareable social media quotes using Canva. As you can save your work and make multi-page projects, it's also a great way to make short eBooks. The main con of Canva for me is a limited font selection and the inability to add your own fonts.


Logoist 2

Logoist 2 is a graphic design app for the Mac, currently $29.99 in the Mac App Store. It is made for designing... you guessed it: Logos! I purchased it initially to create the Finding Morgan logo that you see today and decided that it was way too awesome to use only for logos, so I started exploring the program and learning how to use it. While it's not quite as simple as PicMonkey, it is fairly easy to use and well worth spending a little time with.

90% of my blog post graphics are now created with Logoist. I love how sharp fonts look in my designs created with Logoist. After never feeling fully satisfied with the category boxes in my sidebar because of the "blurry" way that the text looked, I remade them with Logoist.


Honorable Mentions

Pixelmator

GIMP

Skitch by Evernote

Acorn

Do you have a favorite graphic design tool that you use for blogging? What do you like and/or dislike about it?

*This post contains affiliate links





Why I Switched From WordPress to Squarespace

blogging, designMorgan Taber9 Comments

If you've been reading my blog for a while you may have noticed some changes. After agonizing over the decision to move Finding Morgan from WordPress to Squarespace for months and months, I finally took the plunge.

I want to start by saying that I absolutely love WordPress. It is fairly simple to use, the most customizable platform EVER and just all around awesome. But for me, it was time to try something different and Squarespace was just the change I was looking for. Here are just a few of the reasons that made me fall in love.


why-i-switched-from-wordpress-to-squarespace

SIMPLICITY

As much as I absolutely love the customizability of WordPress, it was getting to be a little bit overwhelming for me. I felt the need to constantly check for new plugins to make my site better, faster and more visually appealing. With every post I wrote, I was spending even more time optimizing SEO and tweaking code. I felt like I was losing valuable time that I could be spending time doing what I love: writing and teaching. 

"ONE STOP SHOP"

So many fantastic features are built right into Squarespace. When you are checking out your blog, you can simply press the Escape key on your keyboard to be whisked away to the backend of your site. It doesn't sound like a big deal, but I've saved an estimated 7,234 seconds this way.

  • Squarespace offers built-in SEO. I still recommend choosing a focus keyword for your blog posts and naming all of your images.
  • I no longer have to login (or remember the passwords) to both a hosting company and a blogging platform, Squarespace does both. You can also get a domain name with Squarespace, but I choose to use a 3rd party for security purposes.
  • Analytics (or Metrics) are built in. You can check out stats on traffic, popular content, search queries and more right within Squarespace. Google Analytics users fear not, you can still use it with Squarespace
  • Every template is mobile responsive. This is a huge plus considering Google's "mobile-friendly update" 
  • Google Author Rank is built into member profiles, increasing your search engine exposure and site indexing.
  • If you sell a product, physical or digital, you can integrate your shop seamlessly and on any Squarespace template.
  • Check out the Squarespace mobile apps for posting to your blog, checking your Metrics on the go, showcasing your portfolio and more.

BEAUTY

I was initially drawn to Squarespace for the simplistic beauty. You don't need to be a designer to make a site that looks professional, clean and unique.

Squarespace offers their own templates that are included with your subscription. While you may not have the hundreds (thousands?) of options as WordPress, they are all well designed and can be used for just about any type of brand or business. There are so many simple design tweaks you can make to make the template unique to fit your brand.

USER-FRIENDLiness

As someone who isn't a super coder, it has been a breath of fresh air. I have been able to make my site look the way I want without having to spend hours researching, testing and implementing. I have found that it has been much easier to take the vision I have of my blog from my head to the web much, much simpler since moving to Squarespace.

If you want extra white space, you can just add it in with the touch of a button. Newsletter fields are simple to customize, add to any area that you'd like, and are super easy to integrate with the email marketing provider of your choosing.

Squarespace offers custom CSS for users who want to get a little bit more involved in the customization of their site.


As a blogger I feel it's important to keep current with WordPress, so I still run a couple of WordPress sites. But Squarespace has been a wonderful and fun change for Finding Morgan. Which platform do you use for your blog? What do you love about it? I'd love to hear your feedback!







7 Ways to Treat Your Blog Like a Business

bloggingMorgan TaberComment

Whether you want to start earning an income from your blog or just start taking it more seriously, there are a few things that you can do that can get you to where you want to be.

treat-your-blog-like-a-business

BECOME AN AUTHORITY

You don't need to have an advanced degree in your blog topic, but you should be able to speak confidently as an authority. Since starting my blog I've realized that I am a lifelong learner. I try to set aside at least a couple of hours a week to learn something new. Sites like Skillshare and Udemy are great and affordable options for continued learning.

MAKE A PLAN

Like any successful business, having a business plan is a must. It doesn't have to be something that takes you hours to draft up. A simple and clear outline of your mission statement and where your blog is going and how you plan on getting there is a great place to start.

GET ON A SCHEDULE

Once I started sticking to an editorial calendar, I noticed huge changes in my blog. Set a schedule and stick to it. I use an editorial calendar for my long term post plan and then I plan out each post individually. 

INVEST IN YOUR BRAND

You don't have to spend a ton of money to make your blog professional, but sometimes even small investments can be very rewarding. Whether it be a site revamp with a designer or things that make your blogging life easier, like social media automation. Check out THIS post about some of the small investments I've made in my blog.

NETWORK AUTHENTICALLY 

Social media is such a valuable resource to get to know other bloggers and people in your industry. Twitter is a great place to track your topics and ask questions. I love using Hootsuite to set up different dashboards to track different hashtags and get involved in conversations with other bloggers.

KEEP TRACK

Keeping track of your expenses, income, advertisements and all of the other important aspects of your blog can help you look back to see what has worked for you and what hasn't. For instance, if you pay for ad space to increase your blog traffic, keep track of your stats for a set amount of time. If you aren't seeing any increase in your traffic in that timeframe, you may want to rethink your plan.

WRITE A GREAT BIO

No matter what the topic, the most important part of your blog is you. When I visit a blog I almost always look at the bio or about me page. Take the time to write an awesome and well written About Me page to let your readers get to know the person behind the curtain.


Do you have any tried and true tips for taking your blog more seriously?


SIGN UP TO RECEIVE A FREE PRINTABLE EDITORIAL CALENDAR TO ORGANIZE ALL OF THOSE EPIC BLOG POSTS!

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Make Your Own Blog Graphics Part 1: Where to Find Stock Photos + Graphics

branding, designMorgan Taber1 Comment

If you're a blogger, chances are you have at one point or another created blog post graphics using stock photos. You have probably also noticed that finding quality photos and graphics that aren't already flooding Pinterest isn't always the easiest task. Sometimes it takes a little digging to find an awesome graphic for your post, but the end result of having a unique, beautiful graphic makes it worth the search. With a little creative editing and a simple font pairing, you can make something that clearly represents your brand.

where-to-find-stock-photos

Make sure you always read the fine print on all of the stock photos, graphics, patterns and any other media that you didn't create to ensure that you are following any terms and conditions that may apply.


FREE STOCK PHOTOS

Unsplash/Gabriel Santiago

Unsplash/Gabriel Santiago


PREMIUM STOCK PHOTOS

Dollar Photo Club/折り鶴

Dollar Photo Club/折り鶴


STYLED STOCK PHOTOS

Shay Cochrane

Shay Cochrane


MOCKUPS

Creative Market

Creative Market


PATTERNS

The Pattern Library/Natalia De Frutos

The Pattern Library/Natalia De Frutos


ICONS

Icon made by Freepik for Flat Icon is licensed under Creative Commons BY 3.0

Icon made by Freepik for Flat Icon is licensed under Creative Commons BY 3.0

 

Don't forget to bookmark and pin this post as I will be updating it regularly with more fantastic resources!


If you'd like to be notified when Make Your Own Graphics: Part 2 is published, please sign up below. You will also receive my list of blogging resources that helped me level up my blog on a budget.

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5 SIMPLE + ELEGANT FONT PAIRINGS

design, brandingMorgan Taber3 Comments

I'm not going to lie, when I first started blogging and designing my own graphics, the words "font pairings" kind of made me cringe. Like bloggers don't have enough on our plate, now I have to worry about which fonts I use and when?! No way! After I did some research, I realized that it wasn't nearly as agonizing as it sounded and it actually turned out to be kind of fun.

Now I am a total font junkie, I could search the internet for different fonts for hours. I am a sucker for script and handwritten fonts mixed with bold, plain lettering. Here are a few simple font pairings that look beautiful together and can be used for almost any purpose. Skillshare has some fantastic courses about design and branding (as well as everything else under the sun) that have really helped me overcome my fear of my graphics looking like a disaster.

font-pairings

A few of my favorite places to get free fonts are Font Squirrel, DaFont, 1001 Free Fonts and Urban Fonts. I use Creative Market and MyFonts for almost all of my premium fonts. Every Monday they offer a handful of freebies and often include a font. I have gotten some awesome digital goods this way.

I linked each of the fonts below the images, but you may already have some of them on your computer (like Helvetica). Some of the fonts are premium (not free), but you can usually find a similar free version (for example, American Typewriter has lots of free doppelgangers).

Be sure to read the licensing information for fonts before you download them to ensure that you are using them correctly and legally.


Do you have font favorites? Do you have a signature font pairing for your brand or do you just go with the flow?

* This post contains affiliate links.