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You can afford to get the full picture. For Free!

If you run a business, blog, or website, or just need some images for promotional material, you don’t have to pay for everything. Below is a list of 10 sites that can offer a free resource to give you a solution. Not only can you save money, but you can avoid being robbed of your valuable time in searching for what you want.

1. Unsplash

Fantastic images, with 10 new ones added every 10 days

Can I search images? Yes .   Is attribution required? No, but appreciated

3. Picjumbo

22 year old photographer, Viktor Hanacek, has put together a great site with top class images used by millions across the world.

Can I search images? Yes . Is attribution required? No, but check

4. Pixabay

Over 970,000 images on a CC0 basis. Also they have videos.

Can I search images? Yes.  Is attribution required? No

5. Gratisography

Ryan McGuire has a fantastic collection of his work for use free of copyright, and new ones added weekly.

Can I search images? Yes . Is attribution required? No, but appreciated

6. FreeImages

High quality resource of digital stock images.

Can I search images? Yes . Is attribution required? Yes

7. Free Range Stock

The site was formed with the goal to provide quality stock photos for commercial and non-commercial use.

Can I search images? Yes . Is attribution required? No, but check CC0 status

8. New Old Stock

Vintage photos from the public archives. Free of known copyright restrictions.

Can I search images? Yes . Is attribution required? As per origin site.

9. Pexels

Free, tagged and searchable CC0 images with good filters for selection. Also a video clip section.

Can I search images? Yes . Is attribution required? No

10. Public Domain Archive

100% free stock photos, with new items weekly, taken from the public domain.

Can I search images? No . Is attribution required? As per origin site

Attribution and licenses explained. 

REMEMBER! In a Google Images search, photos may not be ones that you’re free to immediately use. Usually they are still covered by photographers’ copyrights.

You need to make sure that you check the source websites to keep yourself out of copyright trouble, and check for the particular image you want to use.

Two types of licence are:

Creative Commons zero (CC0) allows use of the images in any way you like, no need to ask for permission.

Creative Commons with attribution is as above, but you need to credit the creator of the image.

Attribution should include the name of the creator, and a link to their website if available. It’s not just legally sound, it’s polite! Always be safe by being sure to check each website’s licence page for specific details.

Can “FREE” ever give true value?

It will not have escaped your notice that there are many products and services out there that are listed as “FREE”. You are also familiar, I’m sure, with the adage that “You get what you pay for”. Are these statements always true? Assuming that you are not fully ready to spend all of your hard earned pennies on having the best known software tools in the current climate, here are a few of the opportunities to get what you want in a way that may not cost you any cash. (I should say here that I am not an affiliate of any of these organisations, and I gain no financial advantage from you visiting their sites and links below.) Whilst not the best solutions for the fully established entities that are surging towards domination of our planet, these options can be life-saving (and life-giving) for the small but growing business in a global age. There are some overlaps in the examples below, but I am sure you are more than able to recognise what works well for your challenge and might provide a good, and almost always free solution.

So, in no particular order whatsoever, here we go…!

Aha! A product strategy tool. This has simple and clean approach, and will be helpful for putting all your thoughts and projects in order for specific and ongoing timelines. Good function for launches of products and services, with a clever gantt style calendar view. It gives a free trial period, and is free after that for up to 5 users.

Zoho Business applications in a well integrated package for easy use. They call it “an operating system for business”, and they’re not far off. All areas from people, customers, projects, finance, and many more are covered by their wide-ranging and growing suite. they are a huge partner of Google, and have the integrations to prove it. Their plans have a free option for almost all apps, and their small accounting function is great to use when mobile.

Mailerlite Automated email marketing software that can save hours and cement relationships. This is in a competitive arena, and performs well to allow replies and follow-ups to be easily managed to keep your subscribed customers and prospects engaged over an extended period. The use of landing pages is made simple, and the plug-ins for use on a site are straightforward. This is free for up to 1,000 subscribers.

Canva design tool to assist with graphics that you might need on your website and promotional materials. Not able to afford Photoshop? This provides a good spread of resources and flexibility, which allows you to build your design from scratch. You can use your own or stock images as well as screenshots and presentation slides to create punchy and vibrant graphics to use for targeted or longterm purposes. Free to register to use.

WordPress. Very widely used content management system, for easy and fast access to changes needed on a blog or website. There are two flavours, “.com” and “.org” If you use the first, then it is truly free to start off with. There is a huge community of support, and it really is simple to tweak your site to what you want. There are over 74 million WordPress sites out there, and around half are on the .com platform.

G Suite. The latest incarnation and wrapping from Google for an alternative to MS Office. If you want to keep legal, then this is the one that does have a small monthly charge of $5 per month for a user, but you get a lot for your money.

So there you have it. Some options to get free value in a monetary world. There are of course others that may meet the brief above, but these are some that I think are worth a look. If you use any of these already, or you find the examples interesting, please leave me a comment.

“Born in Birmingham”, “Made in the Midlands”, or “Bred in the Black Country”; how do you sell yourself?





We all of us have roots. Some of them reach deeper than others. I have come across many people over the years that are driven by origins which give a strong message; the only problem is that it’s not always clear whether the sentiments conveyed are good or bad.

It is innate in the vast majority of the population that they are fierce defenders of the area where they were born and often made their way in life. There is nothing wrong in this attitude, and it is rare that an individual takes against their regional background. This value system can be a major part of one’s upbringing, and it can be enlightening to see how far this permeates into areas such as business and commerce, as well as wider community-based pastimes.

Yes, I have met those from the Black Country who would not do deals with a Brummie unless it were the last – and only – possible alternative on a very, very, long list of options. It sounds harsh, but there is a consistency of approach if you reverse the roles as well. The main factor here is incredibly irrational, emotional, and often illogical: it is Pride. (For the purposes of my subject matter in this article, I am referring to the wider concept as it is understood, and not the more strictly drawn but popular rainbow terminology familiar today.)

Pride is an emotion that lurks within all of us. Its noticeable presence can vary across time, but it seldom disappears altogether. We want to do business with all good people but, building a deal with something that allows us to feel proud, well, that makes us feel warm inside, and bright outside. Doing a piece of business from our vibrant conurbation that reflects on what our geography has given us, permits a flush of satisfaction, and a more enjoyable glass of wine or beer at the end of a long work day. Sure, it’s always nice to help a Brummie “get one over” on a Black Country cousin, but Banks’s and Bathams can sup respectfully with erstwhile fans of Brew XI. In regard to that particular tipple, there is still the question of allocating ownership of the Mitchell and Butlers brewery. “Yam Yam” or “Brummagem”? I’ll leave that one with you and the comments section… (I’ll ignore the growing Burton-based web of US parent corporates!)

Even when such local rivalries are put to one side, the opportunities still arise to classify what you are doing as “Made in the Midlands”. Can we beat the Soft Southerners, or No-Nonsense Northerners? You bet. (To clarify, Eastern, Western and other parts of this Sceptered Isle to make gratuitous fun of are freely available…)

Back to the topic. How do you sell yourself and your organisation? Does heritage and tradition help? I am curious to read what you think. Let me know in the comments. I have worked all over the UK, but being who I am, from where I am, shapes what I am. Me? I was Bred in the Black Country, lived as an incomer Brummie, and still try to spread the word as much as possible, that great things are Made in the Midlands.

You can find out more about what that means to me here.

Birmingham – it’s come such a long way

I was born and brought up in Birmingham and, after a few years of wanderlust, I found myself drawn back to my roots like some homing pigeon unable to fight against a mystical GPS instruction embedded in the sat-nav of my brain. What did I find when I reached my destination?

Well, it makes more sense to start by referencing the time before I left. I am a child of the sixties, and when I was growing up the good times were there, but subtly hidden beneath the skirts of the second city. My dad used to take myself and my sister out regularly on a Sunday, and we frequently gravitated to the city centre to find something to do with our time. There were many and varied attractions, but the most vivid memory I have of those times is that we would generally take a different route each week, not out of some wish to add variety to life, but due mainly to the roadworks that were ever-changing and never ending. We parked on the old curved multi-storey on Snow Hill, and walked to the Science Museum or other such cultural landmark. The alternative of an art gallery, or a trip to see Gas Street Basin (where Wilf Harvey from Crossroads had his barge) would be possible, but the chance of an ice-cream or bar of chocolate often diverted us to one of the very few cafes that might be open on the day.

That really covers the bigger picture for how Birmingham was. It had enormous potential, yet was desperately missing the opportunity to punch its weight in an effective way. An unruly teenager, struggling with its hormones. But now? Strap yourselves in guys, wave bye-bye to puberty, and realise that this is becoming a hell of a ride…

Roadworks are still hated like the spawn of the devil, but now endured for short periods of time, in the true recognition that there will be a positive outcome of all the effort. Proof of this can be seen in how The Metro has snaked its way into the central areas, and gives a valuable link between Birmingham and Wolverhampton, bringing Brummies and the Black Country together. New Street station has been developed into a thing of beauty, and its all-seeing oculus screen above the entrance watches over the busy commuters and visitors to the metropolis.

Those visitors can now enjoy some retail therapy time in vibrant and pleasant facilities such as the Bullring and Grand Central. Can anyone honestly say shopping was enjoyable in the brutal concrete old versions of these edifices? If you prefer more sympathetic traditional surroundings, then pop over to the Jewellery Quarter for some diamonds and pearls.

Culture also abounds. Millennium Point and the Thinktank allow wide-ranging use of spaces to learn and experience the heritage of Birmingham, as well as a chance to see what innovations and developments are being incubated for future success. The Central Library complex is an iconic symbol of what the city can achieve, and is only just beginning to explore its full capacity for use by the community it serves. Galleries and museums are growing again, and the concentration of so many facilities in one place gives chances for co-ordination of day and night events that can utilise the ICC and the NIA.

The echo of too few places to eat and drink in Birmingham has now faded away, and there are countless cuisine and budget options available all across the city. Whether you fancy a coffee, juice, burger, or sitting down with cutlery at a Michelin starred establishment, all is on offer. Traditional pubs and new bars mingle, catering for lovers of Bathams and Bollinger alike. Pork sandwiches or paninis, you won’t be left wanting.

Business is stronger than ever in the region, and the Midlands Engine is well placed to support the needs of projects such as HS2 and Eastside. The makeover of Digbeth is planned for the coming years, and will bring even more commerce and industry to the city. Hotels are being constructed and renovated to service the needs of a wide demographic, and the opportunity to spend a weekend city-break in vibrant and exciting surroundings has become more attractive to a growing market across the country as a whole. Businesses now see Birmingham as a viable location for their expansion and communication requirements, and Jaguar Land Rover continues to demonstrate the commercial excellence that can be achieved in and around the city.

As the home of the biggest population hub in the Midlands, you may have your own favourite attractions in a region that uses words such as “Bostin”, “Bard”, “Balti”, and “Bab”, but there’s one thing that cannot be denied.

Birmingham is Booming!

Writer’s Block and the effects it has

writers blockEveryone reaches a point at which the creative flow slows, and eventually stops. This has been forever known as Writer's Block. The effect this has is variable, but some of the points below might be familiar. The positive way to see this, is that things can only get better once you have moved past the dreaded state. The need to write is more powerful than you might think, and the output of your labours will be an overpowering driver to pull you through the darkest of times. Be strong and you will be successful.

Frustration

How many windows have been broken by the impact of a laptop, PC, or typewriter, as the mind of the author is pushed to its limits?

Sadness

This is an emotion that is well known by authors seeking to not quite let go of their newly formed work. If that is not difficult enough, the inability to finish those final few pages, or lines, can make the sense of impending loss all the greater.

Dejection

For a work that has been going well, the reaching of a point involving Writer's Block is not pleasant. The temptation is to give up on the work, and never try to achive the goal. Doubt Questioning one's own ability and worth as an author can arise at any time. Not being able to get past a sticking point is dangerous, and must be avoided.

Solutions?

There are approaches that you can take to ensure that the example scenarios above are prevented from coming into being (and costing you the price of a new PC and pane of glass) Take a view and consider the following:
  • A walk
  • Listen to music
  • Look back on an old project
  • Read a book
  • Coffee and chocolate
  • The pub

As Douglas said…

writeHow do I write?

Douglas Adams answered the question by saying “he stared at the blank screen in front of him very hard until his head began to bleed”

Sounds familiar doesn’t it? Inspiration is that most elusive of goals. The prize just out of our reach. The next level on the game. How do we achieve it?

Clarity of purpose and a certain adhering to a plan, that we thought was brilliant only a short while ago? Do we succumb to the biscuit break and another shot of coffee, or raise our self esteem by attacking the pile of ironing before us? My personal approach is to work to a specific point in the hour on the clock to take a 3 minute break for nature and a cuppa as a reward. If I look up and find the time has passed beyond my target – good news!

What do I need to write today, this week, this month? I like to know who has a deadline for me as it gives me a focus point for my anger engendered by my ineptitude. Before long, I am into the second chapter of the ways in which I will wreak vengeful retaliation on this object of my misery. Great, my brain has written 200% of something I do not need. Will I ever vanquish this foe?

After the 3rd coffee of the morning I reach my finishing line. Another 1500 words. Another month of the mortgage paid. Gleefully, I can look forward to the same exquisite process tomorrow.

Bring it on de Sade, you will never beat me……………