5 Free Stock Photo Sites that Don’t Suck

December 1, 2014

Thanksgiving is arguably my favorite week of the year. It’s short. It’s festive. It’s a three day parade into the official holiday season. (Though, if I’m being perfectly honest, I’ve been excited about “the holidays” since roughly September 1.) In the spirit of week in which the working world is scrambling to cram five days worth of work into three while visions of food comas dance in our heads, I thought it would be nice to keep today’s blog fun and food-focused (with a generous side of what-the-hell?)

Not too long ago, Buzzfeed posted a list of 50 Completely Unexplainable Stock Photos No One Will Ever Use. Apparently Totino’s pizza took this as a challenge. (A really, really weird challenge.)

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This is just a small sampling of the complete set of images. Check out the rest over here.

In the off chance you’re actually looking for beautiful stock images that are completely usable, here are a few free favorites. An early holiday gift from me to you:

Upsplash
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Death to the Stock Photo*
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Splitshire
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Life of Pix
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Little Visuals
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12 Things of Christmas

November 30, 2014

1 BRAG-WORTHY OHIO PRODUCT

Ohio+Witte
Tavern Vinegar


2 SPLURGE-WORTHY FINDS

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Gold-rimmed Agate Coasters

knitted hot water bottle
Wool Water Bottle Cover


3 READ-WORTHY BLOGS

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The Homesteady

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Art of Doing Stuff

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Be Up and Doing


4 CHEERS-WORTHY COCKTAILS

Nick Carbone via Time
French 75

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White Sangria

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Champagne Punch

grapefruit mimosa
Grapefruit Sage Mimosa


5 SHOP-WORTHY SMALL BUSINESSES

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Brim Papery

carver junk co
Carver Junk Company

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Crave Studio

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Knack

poppy soap co
Poppy Soap Co.


6 YUM-WORTHY CBUS EATS + DRINKS

bakersfield
Bakersfield

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dirty franks
Dirty Franks

jeni's
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams

kittie's
Kittie’s Cakes

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Pasquales


7 USE-WORTHY FREE FONTS

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Get them here


8 GIFT-WORTHY DIYS

board butter
Board Butter

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DIY Lip Balm

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Peppermint Foot Scrub

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Tiny Pots

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Lemon Sugar Scrub

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Christmas Potpourri

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DIY Bitters

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Tea Towel Heating Pads


9 SWOON-WORTHY WRAP JOBS

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 10 PONDER-WORTHY TIDBITS

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11 VISIT-WORTHY DESTINATIONS

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Perini’s Ranch | Buffalo Gap, TX

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Midnight Cowboy | Austin, TX

Nestled amongst the curiosities and crazy of 6th Street in downtown ATX, you’ll find this unsuspecting door. Don’t be fooled by the shady exterior. Behind that door you’ll discover an oasis in the chaos, and what I would consider one of the best speakeasy bars in the country. Be forewarned, house rules are strictly enforced and reservations are a must. There is a two drink per person minimum and a two-hour maximum. All of which, combined with the building’s seedy past and stellar cocktails, makes The Midnight Cowboy an absolute must-visit.

BrokenSpoke
Broken Spoke | Austin, TX

If you’re looking for live honkey tonk, real Texas musicians and a more local crowd than you’ll find on 6th Street, head over The Broken Spoke on Lamar The drinks are cheap, the enchiladas are amazing and the people are fun, friendly and anything but shy. Come prepared to practice your two-step. This place can make a country music lover out of just about anyone.

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Shirley’s Tippy Canoe | Troutdale, OR

Once in awhile you stumble across a place that feels so perfectly perfect you’d swear you stepped into a movie set. Shirley’s Tippy Canoe is one of those places. We stumbled across this gem along the Columbia River Gorge scenic route, and I couldn’t have dreamed up a more picturesque mountain town roadside stop. If quaint charm isn’t your thing, then let’s talk about the food. Because…this club sandwich. Ask for a seat on the patio (it’s amazing!) and enjoy.

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Indian Beach | Ecola State Park, OR

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Robledo Family Winery | Sonoma, CA

A few years ago, we took a trip to northern California. By chance, we stumbled across the Robledo Winery — and decided to check out their October harvest festival. I could write for pages about what a rare and wonderfully special experience it was, but instead I will simply say this: go there. Eat, drink and be merry in the company of people you love. Raise a glass with people you are meeting for the first time. Let the wine and the moment reconnect you to history and the land and the story of all of us. Skip the big name wineries. Head down the rural road to Robledo. You’ll be glad you did.

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Timberline Lodge | Mt. Hood, OR

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Main Street | Greenville, SC

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Chicago Fine Arts Building

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Louisiana Bayou

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Piazza del Campo | Siena, Italy


12  STOCKING-WORTHY STUFFERS
 (under $20)

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Lily Oval Skinny Bangle ($12)

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Poe-ka Dot Pouch ($12)

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Forged Iron Sheers (Small $10, Large $14)

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Screenprinted Tea Towel

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14k Gold Hex Studs 

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Custom state stamp 

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Hammered Copper Earrings

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Books Print

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Pine Root Hair Stick

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Fireside Candle
(This closely replicates the scent of my much more expensive Henri Bendel Firewood candle)

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Safari Ring Dish

What the Heck Is a Ghost Writer?

November 14, 2014

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I got my marketing start in copywriting. Despite what Mad Men would have you believe, it’s a role that requires a great deal of humility in addition to creative talent. (Think Peggy Olson in the early years.) There is very little room for recognition as a copywriter. Even in an agency, the majority of what you do remains cloaked in anonymity, with credit going to your client. As someone once pointed out, Nike’s “Just Do It” is one of the most famous slogans in the world, and the only person that knows who came up with it is that guy’s mother.” (Actually, there is a story behind the slogan, but you get the point.)

What is a ghost writer?
While most people are aware that agencies and freelancers are often the masterminds behind marketing strategies and advertising campaigns, what many people don’t realize is that there are thousands of ghost writers flying under the radar as the public voices of CEOs, thought leaders and industry influencers. In its most simplified form, a ghostwriter is someone who writes books, articles, stories, reports or other texts that are officially credited to someone else. (Surprise! That social media guru you follow? That CEO whose witty post you saw in Fast Co.? Entirely possible someone else wrote their posts.)

Whoa, whoa, whoa. What!? Yep. It’s true. But it’s not as icky as you might think — and I guarantee it’s a heck of a lot more common than you could possibly imagine.

How does ghost writing work?
Demian Farnworth compares ghost writing to being a hired assassin in The Brutally Honest Truth about Ghost Writing. I prefer to compare it to the lifecycle of a really good meal. The farmer puts in the time and energy to sow, grow and harvest food. It is then trucked off to a restaurant where the chef uses her special blend of culinary creativity, vision and artistry to turn raw ingredients into a menu-worthy symphony of deliciousness.

Ghost writing works in pretty much the same way. Business leaders are busy people. They’ve spent years of their lives sowing the seeds to grow their companies, and their minds are packed with knowledge, advice and insights. In some instances, they are self-professed “crappy writers” and simply want someone to make them sound as intelligent on paper are they are in person. (And who can blame them?) In almost every instance, taking a few hours out of their day to write an article is not a good use of their time, especially when they could simply hop on a call, answer a handful of questions and let someone else do the heavy lifting (or at least the lifting of the pen). And that’s where a ghost writer comes in.

Is ghost writing ethical?
One of the biggest questions surrounding ghost writing is whether it is “entirely ethical.” Is it wrong for a CEO to outsource thinking and writing to a ghost writer, then get on stage at TEDx to present those thoughts and words as her own? Is it ethical for a social media guru to give advice on how to blog when his posts are created by a team of ghost writers? Does the simple exchange of money for services make this all okay?

I view my clients as people, not a means to a paycheck, and I don’t work with anyone I wouldn’t want to be friends with in my personal life. I’m of the opinion that there are different types of ghost writing — and all are not created equal. For me, the true deciding factor is a matter of partnership. Should writers be selling their independent thoughts to the highest bidder? That feels a little weird to me. Using their skills to polish the thoughts and experiences of others, however, makes perfect sense. The crux of my role as a ghost writer is taking the raw knowledge and expertise a client has amassed in order to turn it into something smart, inspiring and shareable. By working together, I get to help send their ideas out into the world to educate and inspire the masses. And you can rest assured, I sleep well at night knowing I’ve saved my clients valuable time, energy and money.

Need a pen-for-hire? Let’s talk.

Storytelling for Non-Sexy Brands

November 13, 2014

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I do a lot of thinking and talking about brand storytelling, because a big part of what I do entails helping brands tell the stories of their who and their why — not just their what. For some brands (like nonprofits) the story is a bit clearer from the start. For other brands, however, it takes a little digging. But once the story reveals itself, you get a whole new perspective on an old thing.

Case and point: the humble pay phone.