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  • How I got an almost perfect web page performance score

    With Google’s shift to a more user-centric way of ranking, a perfect web page performance score becomes increasingly important to get great rankings in search engines. 
    However, these ranking factors are about a lot more than increasing speed. 

    Wrong configurations or decisions will slow down your website. A faster server won’t automatically help you achieve a perfect webpage performance. In this post, I will share some of the things I did to (almost) hit that perfect score.

    What is Web Page Performance, and Why is it Important

    For those that are new to this, it might be helpful to give a little background information. I have other posts that provide more detailed information, so I will keep it short.

    With the introduction of Core Web Vitals, Google started to factor in many things that influence the ranking of your website. In short: if you have an excellent web page, but it performs poorly and frustrates your visitors, you will rank lower. No matter what keywords you used.
    Core Web Vitals and SEO go hand in hand.

    To understand what these Core Web Vitals are, I would like to encourage you to check another post I wrote: What are Core Web Vitals.

    The short version of that article is: You need to make sure that visitors can view your content fast and without distraction.

    How to Perform a Core Web Vitals Audit

    You can test your current Core Web Vital score for free here: PageSpeed Insights.

    Core Web Vitals Audit

    After entering your URL and clicking on the button, it will analyze your web page and return with a score for desktop and mobile. It will also provide you with details about specific web vitals.
    See that score as a sort of web page performance benchmark. 100 is the highest score.

    Further down the report, you will find tips and information on how to fix or improve Core Web Vitals that return poor results.

    Of course, speed is an essential factor. You control the things that influence that speed up to a certain level, depending on your personal preferences and skills. Some sites help you check that speed/performance.

    How to Check the Performance of a Web Page

    You can check your web page performance score at WebPageTest.
    It provides free performance insights in detailed yet technical reports. 

    WebPageTest Performance Audit

    Enter the URL of your page and adjust the settings.
    Make sure that you check the advanced settings when testing for mobile. The default for speed is set to cable instead of 3/4/5G.

    If you are looking for a single magical solution to improve your web page performance score, you are heading towards disappointment. 
    WebPageTest returns a lot of web page performance metrics and related data. You have to pick bits and pieces of information from these reports and work on that specific performance factor.

    As with a lot of things, the better you start, the less work is needed afterward. And remember, it is not only about making websites faster.

    My Performance Improvement Starting Point

    Overall I started pretty well, but I made a few mistakes that brought my performance down. 
    I wrote about it in Introduction to Website Performance.

    In that post, I tackled a low-security score.
    One of the spearpoints of Google is that websites should offer a secure and safe experience.
    I fixed that within the time I wrote that post.

    It also took way too much time before the browser received the web pages it requested. After removing one of the plugins I use, I saw a significant improvement.
    I ended there with good scores, but there was a lot of room for improvement.

    My Current Nearly Perfect Performance Score

    As proof, before I give you my optimization tips, I want to share my current metrics.
    Let’s start with the Core Web Vitals:

    Web Page Performance Score - Core Web Vitals

    I am thrilled with those scores! I know that I can still tweak up the score for mobile, but this is very rewarding for all the time I spend on it.

    Solving some of the remaining issues with images and javascript should improve my Largest Contentful Paint metric.

    Let’s move on to the WebPageTest web page performance score for desktop:

    Web Page Performance Score - WebPageTest desktop

    And as they are pretty alike, let’s do the mobile scores also:

    Web Page Performance Score - WebPageTest Mobile

    Sweet! These scores were already excellent a couple of weeks ago. But, after Hostinger (my hosting provider) moved me to a new server, I ace it!

    Web Page Performance Score - WebPageTest Waterfall View

    The waterfall view shows me excellent scores for the time it takes before the browser receives the page. Awesome!

    What I Did to Improve my Performance Score

    You have come to the part you were probably looking for: How to improve web page performance

    Let’s start with the fact that there is no magical performance setting. It is a combination of things, starting with your own decisions, making a website perform well.

    I list all optimization techniques I used in order. The first tips are fundamental, then onwards to the significant improvements and finally some expert tips.

    You can perform them in any order, selecting a couple, or work on one single aspect, but keep in mind that they all contribute.

    #1 Mindset

    In the category fundamental improvements, it is all about the way you think.

    I have three rules that describe my ‘performance’ mindset:

    1. Go for an optimal mobile-friendly experience. Everything you do to improve your mobile web page performance score also improves desktop performance.
      Many things you do to enhance the desktop experience hurt your pages’ performance on a mobile device.
    2. Everything has a price. That price can be in dollars, but most likely, you will pay in a performance currency like loading time, render time, or file size.
    3. In terms of price and currencies: Be frugal! Don’t fall for the traps like: ‘it’s not that much slower,’ or ‘this plugin does not add a lot of CSS to the styling.’

    You will find that you have to compromise a lot. That’s okay, but make sure that you know what the impact of a decision is.
    If you aren’t sure, test your performance before and after implementation.

    #2 Hosting

    Hosting is also a fundamental factor of your web page performance score.
    Optimizing a website hosted at a poor-performing server is like improving the aerodynamics of a car with an inferior engine.

    From experience, I can recommend Hostinger. They also have excellent customer support, which might be helpful if you get stuck with technical improvements

    Registration of domain names is easy as pie, as is installing a website.
    Depending on the payment period, you can have a solid and feature-rich plan for $2.59 a month.

    #3 CMS

    If you would create a website in pure HTML, your performance would likely be excellent.
    But maintaining it would be an absolute time-consuming pain in the butt.

    That is why we use a Content Management System or CMS for short.
    The most popular CMS among bloggers is WordPress. Thanks to the built-in flexibility and ease of use, users can do almost everything they want to do.

    The fact that the default installation has default settings that fit most users’ needs is why you need to optimize some of it to your specific preferences and circumstances after installing it.

    Blogging platforms

    If you host your blog on a blogging platform, the administrators of that platform have done a lot of that for you, but they need to restrict you in the things you are allowed to change. You wouldn’t want your blog to go down due to an error on another website. Everything has a price.

    My advice would be to self-host and install a CMS that suits your preferences and then optimize it for your specific situation.
    If you have no clue about which CMS to pick, then follow the majority and install WordPress.

    You can imagine that the level of control you have over the functionality and settings of your CMS is a fundamental performance factor.
    Changing these settings can get very technical fast. That is why there are a lot of plugins that do the hard work for you.

    I make sure that I update my CMS to the latest version frequently to benefit from all improvements.

    keep your CMS up to date

    #4 Plugins and Add-Ons

    Now that we have the fundamental basis of our website, it is time to optimize and go for that perfect web page performance score.

    Most bloggers lack the technical skills to adjust the working of their CMS, and plugin developers recognize this. 
    I recommend plugins that deal with:

    • making and restoring backups,
    • handling security settings,
    • tweak performance settings.

    I also use these plugins, although I disabled some features that I like to change manually.

    Plugins that are great for changing security preferences

    You will find a lot of them at the WordPress site: Tagged with Security

    I tried a couple myself, and with minor differences, most do their job well. I like this one in particular: All in One WP Security and Firewall.
    It has a lot of features, and you will find explanations with most of the settings.
    Your current security ‘health’ is presented in a nice dashboard.

    Performance related plugins

    Plugins tagged with Performance

    I can recommend installing one of these:

    The price of plugins

    Again, I am not talking about money.
    There are plugins for almost everything, and a plugin might make it easier for you as a blogger. Still, it will cost you performance credits. 

    Good plugins will cost you less, but nothing is free.

    An example
    Imagine that you have a plugin that manages and inserts ads for you. Super useful!

    The developer of that plugin needs to make sure that the plugin will work and looks good on your website and others. All the HTML, styling, and scripts have to work on all websites, or the plugin is useless.

    The chances are that it inserts many scripts and CSS classes that do not apply to your website.
    Still, the browser your visitor uses has to load all those unused lines of code, and sometimes the rest of the page even has to wait until they are loaded.

    Back to the Mindset tip:

    1. Find out what the ‘cost’ of the plugin is.
    2. Test and analyze the results if you are unsure.
    3. Decide if you are willing to pay that price or if you need to look for another plugin or another solution.

    Update

    auto update your plugins

    I keep my plugins up to date to the latest versions, test the performance before and after installation, and remove plugins that I don’t use immediately.
    Plugins that I customized in the code are set to manual update because I want to test if changes don’t conflict when there is a new version available.

    #5 Optimize

    It isn’t easy to summarize all optimizations here, and I probably forgot to mention some that I did ‘on the fly,’ but these are good to start with.

    When I created The Side Gig Longlist, I had no clue what to optimize, so I relied upon the performance reports and investigated every problem area, one by one, that they showed me. 

    I prioritized what I had to fix based on the urgency, and the time it would take me to learn about it and fix it.

    The performance plugins I mentioned before will take a lot of work out of your hands. Still, it is a good idea to try to understand what it is they fix for you

    I’ll go through them as non-technical as I can.

    HTTP/2

    HTTP/2, in layman’s terms, makes your server handle multiple requests at the same time, instead of one by one. This will significantly improve your performance.
    You need an SSL certificate as secure traffic is mandatory for this protocol.

    Tip: Hostinger offers a free SSL certificate with their shared hosting plans.
    If you haven’t already buy an SSL certificate from your provider.

    enable http2 push

    Enable HTTP/2 push to send files before they are requested. You will find this setting in most performance plugins.

    GZip

    You know that when you zip a file, it becomes smaller. Gzip does this for websites. It reduces the number of bytes sent. Enable GZip compression for your website.

    You can do this by modifying the .htaccess file or use a plugin that does this for you. Both WP Rocket and W3 Total Cache have settings for this.

    Web Page Performance Score improvement - enable gzip

    Minify your HTML, CSS, JavaScript

    HTML is what holds your content like text, images, videos, etcetera together. 
    It is the basic layout of your page and tells the browser what the headings are, where to place pictures and what part of the content is a link. I’m sure you get it. 

    It also holds many spaces, tabs, comments, and other things your browser doesn’t need. 
    The process of removing all that unnecessary stuff is called minifying.

    The same applies to your stylesheets (CSS) and JavaScript files.
    Some suggest combining different CSS files into one single file (and JS files in another), while others recommend against it. I can’t tell you what is wise to do as I haven’t tested it.

    Enable minification of HTML, CSS and JS in your performance plugin.

    Web Page Performance Score improvement - minify HTML, CSS and Javascript files

    I have not enabled the combining of files because I want them to be loaded only if necessary. The price I pay is that I have to write code to do this.

    Whenever possible, I will strip away things that aren’t necessary.
    You won’t see me naming an object ‘super-effective-email-input-form.’ It will probably have a name like ‘cfm.’

    If you use a theme then this is hard to do, but try this is you need to write some custom CSS. Check reviews to see if a theme is optimized for performance before installing it.

    Preload, defer, lazy-loading.

    Another important thing is to control when resources like stylesheets and scripts are loaded.

    Browsers ‘read’ your page from top to bottom.
    If they see that you need a script, they request that from the server. 

    You can tell a browser to preload the file, defer the loading of scripts, or load images when they are in the browser’s viewable area. The latter is called lazy-loading.

    WordPress V5.5 (remember what I said about keeping up with the latest versions?) implements lazy-loading of images by default.

    Manipulating this flow gives you control over how fast the content of your page is available to the visitor.

    Most of my CSS is preloaded. I included a small part of the essential styling directly in the HTML. The rest is preloaded and split into pieces that are loaded if necessary.
    Styling that is essential for a desktop view is absent on a mobile device. And some styling is only loaded if a page contains certain elements.

    The same applies to some of the JavaScripts.

    There seem to be some plugins that do this for you, but I don’t have any experience with them.
    I modified the header.php and functions.php to achieve this. Let me know in the comments if you like me to write about how I did that.

    Enable Caching

    By enabling caching, you will tell your CMS to create an HTML copy of your page, and as long as it doesn’t change, it will serve this prerendered page, thus reducing the time it takes to create that page from scratch. 

    The price you pay for caching is that some changes may take time to become available. You can force refreshing the pre-rendered pages by purging the cache manually.

    purge all caches
    Browser Cache

    You can also direct the browser to hold some files in the browser cache, reducing the need to request them from the server. Typically, you tell the browser how long it should wait before requesting a new version.

    As changes to those files are only loaded once the ‘old’ version expires, you might need to find a way to force a page to get a new version from the server before that time runs out.
    It’s a bit too technical for this article, but I add query strings to files affected by the browser cache settings.

    Just keep in mind that enabling the browser cache might cause unexpected issues.

    Both serverside and browser caching can be enabled in WP Rocket and W3 Total Cache

    #6 Images

    The use of images and video, or multimedia in general, often makes a page more attractive. Yet, it also adds to the page’s weight.

    One tip is to be selective when adding multimedia to your page. Use images that support your content.

    At first, my posts had a big image at the top, until I realized that its only function was to make a page more attractive, hoping that visitors would stay and read. 

    I removed them and now I focus on the title, the first paragraph but mostly on delivering what I think my visitors expect of my post. 

    I also added a couple of preferred image sizes to my WordPress theme. 
    Showing images in the right size is an effective performance measure.

    Optimize images

    Next, I installed a plugin that optimizes the images in several formats. It’s called Smush and it does a great job.
    Optimizing, without going into details, reduces the file size by removing information without degrading the quality of the image.

    Better image formats for websites

    I also have a plugin that converts the JPG and PNG files to the web-optimized WebP format. Older browsers do not support this format, but the plugin takes care of that by offering a fall back JPG or PNG version.

    Web Page Performance Score improvement - serve images in web optimized formats

    The Pro version of Smush does all of the above at once. I’m waiting to see which plugin will support the even more effective AVIF format before deciding on a paid plugin.

    #7 Dynamic Data

    A plugin called W4PL generates the collections I show on the longlist pages.
    This plugin does an excellent job, but as I mentioned before, everything has a price.
    I know that it consumes server time, but I am willing to ‘pay’ that price.

    Every bit of data that is generated instead of being written will take time on the server to be processed. Make sure you know what it costs.

    I run performance tests before and after I use a new plugin to make sure that it doesn’t affect my performance to much.

    #8 Popups, Ads, and Changing Layouts

    One of the Core Web Vitals is called Cumulative Layout Shift, or CLS.
    It checks if the layout of your page changes after presenting the first content to the visitor.

    I’m sure you came across a page before that had a button you wanted to click.
    Yet, when you clicked that button, it was in a different spot because an ad or image got loaded.

    This negatively affects the user experience and therefore your Core Web Vital scores.

    The same applies to popups blocking the content, requesting you to sign up or show you an ad.
    Check your pages if this happens and if so, remove the culprit.

    Don’t use popups.

    #9 Use Content Delivery Networks

    A CDN, or Content Delivery Network, stores copies of your pages on several servers and delivers them to visitors based on proximity to and load on those servers.
    Simply put, it is similar to caching but over multiple servers.

    This mechanism is an effective way to increase performance.

    I use Cloudflare.
    My provider, Hostinger, has made it very easy to integrate it if you lack technical knowledge.
    If you want to do it yourself, then their tutorial will guide you through the process. Cloudflare has a free plan.

    #10 Expert Tips

    My first expert tip would be to read the part about the first fundamental improvement, the mindset part, again.

    The second tip: You are going to make changes. Backup! Make sure you know how to backup and restore your website.

    Here are some more tips:

    Keep collecting data, make modifications and test again. Become familiar with how your website is performing in general so that it is easier to spot if something is off.

    Don’t waste time by trying to run all optimizations first and then test. Changes are you wasted time on some aspects that did not influence your web page performance score.
    It’s tedious, but do your improvements one by one.

    Learn to code. You don’t have to become a developer, but getting a better understanding of how things work will make your life so much easier.

    Some of the changes I made were as small as changing a single line in a specific file. The alternative was installing yet another plugin.

    Of course, you can follow a tutorial and perform the steps without knowing what you are doing, but I’m sure you feel a lot more secure if you did.

    Trust me. Find some introductory courses about PHP or coding in general. It will be worth it.

    A list of quick tips for WordPress users

    • Remove unused themes.
    • Remove WordPress Emojis.
    • Disable unused stylesheets and scripts.
    • Check if you need the Heartbeat API. Disable if not.
    • Learn how .htaccess works.
    • Learn how functions.php works.

    Bonus tip for Cloudflare users

    You can create three free rules.

    Performance set Cloudflare rules
    • Create a Cache Level rule caching everything.
    • Create a Cache Level rule to bypass previews.
    • I used the third free rule to elevate security on admin pages.

    Free Performance Audit

    An idea started to form into my mind now that I reach the end of this article.
    I wonder if I would be able to do performance audits as a service and if anybody would be interested in this service.

    To test this idea, I came up with the following:

    I would like to know if you would use this service if I were to offer it.
    Follow this link and complete a small questionnaire for a chance at a free audit if you do.

    The first responder will get a free audit. This way, I can test if I like to do it, and you get the opportunity to see if it is valuable to you at no cost.

    I will leave the form open for a month.
    The second and third free audits will go to two randomly picked responders.

    Conclusion

    As with many things, optimizing performance or improving your Core Web Vital scores will require adaptations to different parts of your website.

    The better the foundation is, the less you have to improve or fix and the easier it is to get a good web page performance score.

    I believe that a frugal mindset, in the context of performance, will benefit you enormously.

    Picking the right hosting provider and CMS is also fundamental.
    From there, you should collect data, make changes, and test to see if there is any improvement. It worked for me.

    What do You Think?

    Do you have tips that I forgot to mention here? Or have you read things that you would like me to do a follow-up?

    Let me know in the comments!

    What’s Next

    If you like this post, I would appreciate it if you shared it on your social media.

    Thank you for sticking with me on the long article! You are awesome!

    Recommended Reading

  • How to start as a newbie

    Starting a blog is a great way to share your thoughts and stories while building a source of income on the side. It might seem hard, and frankly, it can be, but with a little help and guidance, you really can have your own blog out there in no time.

    I would like to help you get your own blog online, which is why I wanted to write this blog post.

    More about ‘How to Start a Blog as a Newbie’ here
  • what are core web vitals

    What are Core Web Vitals

    May 9, 2021 |

    As Google focuses more and more on rewarding excellent user experience, it is time to start looking at more than just some performance indicators.
    This post will explain what core web vitals are, what user experience has to do with it, and what they mean for the SEO ranking of your blog or website. 

    I know that this isn’t the sexiest topic and that it looks very technical as you scan this post, but as always, I will do my best to keep it understandable for non-techies!

    More about ‘What are Core Web Vitals’ here
  • How long does it take to increase domain authority

    Like a lot of other fairly new bloggers, I struggle with the question of how to increase traffic to my blog. I get that it takes good content, time, and effort concerning SEO and driving traffic from social.
    At a certain point in time, however, you will find yourself researching what factors influence that traffic. One of these things is called Domain Authority.

    It’s not hard to find out what Domain Authority is. But what I actually wanted to find out was a reference. How are other bloggers doing? How long does it take to increase domain authority? What is the average domain authority for blogs? And what factors actually influence that magic number?

    In this post I’ll walk you through my research and the conclusions I made concerning domain authority.

    More about ‘How Long Does it Take to Increase Domain Authority’ here
  • introduction to website performance

    An important key factor in the success of your blog is the performance of your website. It affects how visitors experience your website, but it also has an impact on your ranking in Google.
    In this post, I zoom in on how The Side Gig Longlist performs, give you an introduction to website performance, and show how you can improve it while doing so.More about ‘Introduction to Website Performance’ here

  • Where to find free stock photos

    Bloggers, and more, bloggers that are on Pinterest, know how important it is to have appealing visuals to attract visitors. But finding out where to find free stock photos is very time-consuming, especially if you want your images to be original and in the same or right style.

    This is why good, high-quality stock photos, or better, stock images are so important.

    Now, before I continue and show you where to get the best free stock photos, I have to explain a bit more about stock images and the right to use them.

    Sage Media free stock photo

    About Stock Photo Licenses

    I’m sure that you have visited a page once and saw an image, photo or illustration, that was perfect for your post.
    Some people can’t resist the temptation to download that image and use it.

    DO-NOT-DO-THAT!

    I actually know people that did this, often based on the assumption that everything on the internet is free. They aren’t ill-willed, just a little naive. It’s safer to assume that nothing on the internet is free.

    Although I am not a lawyer, I can tell from the experience these same people had that naivety will not be seen as a valid excuse when you receive a claim from a legal department representing the photographer.

    They ended up paying 4-figure fines.
    If you have images on your blog and you are not sure if you are entitled to use them, remove them immediately.

    I’m not kidding, do it now!
    But this picture is used by everybody…” – No!
    I used Google’s Usage Rights filter…” – No!
    It’s not the original, just a thumbnail…” – No, no, stop!

    Trust me, don’t take the risk. It is not worth it and there is a good alternative available.

    There are literally millions of high-quality stock photos that you can use for free. You just need to know where to find them.

    Finding Free Stock Sites

    The first way to get free stock photos is to download them from free stock photo sites. Often you don’t need to register, but it helps if you do. Some will keep a history, which may be usefull if you want to see when you downloaded an image.

    These sites offer high-quality stock photos that you may use for almost any purpose, without paying for them.
    Quality is important, and you will find that the best sites are pretty selective in what the publish.

    Make sure that you do read the terms of use, as some require attribution to the photographer (which is a small price to pay for being allowed to use somebody’s labor).

    Other terms that may apply consider the use of images with identifiable people or selling unaltered pictures. Take a little time to find out what you are allowed to do with an image. It’s free, you can spare a minute.

    Consistency

    The biggest advantage of a free stock photo site is also its biggest problem. There are so many photographers and artists that upload their images and they all have their own style.

    Next to your logo, the typography, and colors you use, images contribute heavily to the perception of your brand.

    You want to maintain consistent styling in the images you use in your posts and on social media, in order for your readers and followers to immediately recognize it as yours.

    Therefore it’s not just the question of where to find free stock photos, but also which stock pictures meet your styling requirements.

    Finding images in the same style may be time-consuming, so following a couple of artists or finding resources that already match your style will save you time.

    Styled and Feminine

    At the moment my main audience is on Pinterest.
    Understanding your audience’s preferences is incredibly important. If you want to connect with them, you need to speak the same language, in words, but also in styling.

    Pinterest offers you a lot of tools to analyze your audience and it tells me that 75% of my audience is female.
    About half my audience is between 18 to 34 years old.

    Chances are that, forgive me the generalizations, unfiltered images of garages or cars will not be appealing to my audience.

    The ‘Categories and interests’ also tells me that health, food, design, education, entertainment, fashion, and home decor are topics that my audience love.

    Unless you have great psychological insights or are a natural trendsetter, the best course of action is to follow the lead of others and see if you can optimize or tweak what you learn from them.

    So, researching these categories learns that styled and feminine images seem to fit best and are also used by a lot of other Pinners.

    1. Unsplash

    Unsplash free stock photos

    I love Unsplash and I use it a lot for all kinds of things.
    When I first started this blog I used Unsplash for a lot of posts.

    In the past months, I started using fewer photos for my blog posts and I made a shift towards a certain style of photos for my pins. Sometimes I experiment a little, but I believe that the more feminine visuals are better suited.

    Unsplash has some amazing feminine images that are definitely worth checking out: the Unsplash website.

    2. Pexels

    Pexels free stock images

    To be honest, I just recently discovered Pexels while doing research for this post.
    It’s not that they are that new or small, on the contrary!

    Pexels has been around since 2014 and they have an amazing collection of beautiful stock images you can use for all kinds of purposes.

    If you happen to be a Canva user, you will recognize a lot of the images as Canva has acquired Pexels.

    I particularly like their collection of styled images. Take a look at them at Pexels.

    3. Pixabay

    Pixabay free stock pictures

    Pixabay definitely deserves a place on this list.
    With 2 million+ stunning and free images, this is a great resource for everybody that wants to find professional free stock images.

    Together with Pexels, they were acquired by Canva, so you will recognize a lot of these photos in Canva too.

    If you like to edit your images, then design elements can’t be missed in your workflow. Check out their collection of design elements: Pixabay

    Here is a shortlist of other high-quality free stock photo sites:

    4. Reshot – Authentic curated collection of free stock images
    5. Styled Stock – A smaller, but stylish collection
    6. Kaboompics – Find the right stock photo in the right color!
    7. Burst – Powered by Shopify
    8. StockSnap – Beautiful free stock photos
    9. Picjumbo – Get the new photos mailed to you

    Getting Stock Photos from Freebies

    There are a lot of artists and agencies that offer free samples of what they have in store for you.
    I really like this way of exploring what they have to offer. Often you will find bonus material in your inbox after the first weeks or month and I do like to read the extra tips & tricks in the newsletters.

    It is also a great way to get to know their style and the type of images they offer.
    If it matches the styling you are looking for then becoming a customer may save you a lot of time!

    Here is a small list of fantastic sites that offer you free, styled, feminine samples to use.

    1. She Bold Stock

    She Bold Stock stock photo freebies

    Jasmine is dedicated to your success. She will give you tips on branding and even on lifestyle topics.
    And of course, there are images. Lots of images! And they are gorgeous!

    Don’t believe me on my word, sign up for their newsletter and get 20 images for free to see for yourself!
    Take a look: She Bold Stock.

    2. Ivory Mix

    Ivory Mix freebies

    20 free images sound great, but how does 550 sound?
    Kayla Marie Butler has created an amazing site with gorgeous and consistent-styled images that will make a great asset for your posts.

    If you subscribe to Ivory Mix you will get access to over 550 free photos and more! She also has free guides and marketing resources.

    Go check it out, you won’t be disappointed, I promise! Here’s the Ivory Mix website.

    3. Haute Stock

    Haute Stock free stock photos

    Just by taking a look at the website, you will know that Haute Stock fits all the right styling preferences.

    After signing up you will receive free stock images, but also additional visual branding and marketing tips.

    Grab it here: Haute Stock

    4. CreateHER Stock

    CreateHER Stock freebie images

    While searching for authentic stock photography that featured women looking more like her self, Neosha Gardner founded CreateHER Stock to fill in this gap.

    The result is a beautiful collection of images that have an authentic and personal feeling.

    There is a set of ‘older’ freebies containing over 180 images, but I’m going to let you search for it yourself. And while you are on her website: join her email tribe to get updates on fresh freebies!

    Check it out: CreateHER Stock

    5. Styled Stock Society

    Styled Stock Society free stock images

    I am going to end this freebie list with a link to Styled Stock Society.

    Be careful! These images are really gorgeous and you risk losing track of time by browsing through the collection previews.
    This awesome website has thousands of styled and feminine, stock photos that are incredible.

    Grab a sample of 20 free ones to see for your self: Styled Stock Society

    More freebies can be found on these websites:

    6. The Stock Boutique – sign up for free images
    7. Sage Media – free kick-starter pack of photos
    8. Pixistock – free photos, graphics, and a content plan
    9. A lot of paid stock sites have weekly, monthly, or new subscribers freebies. For instance: Shutterstock, Dreamstime, and 123RF

    Paying to Get Free Stock Photos

    I know, I know, worst title ever, but I couldn’t come up with a better description of what this category is.
    What I basically mean is that upgrading to a paid plan on design tools you already use may come with some additional benefits.

    If you run a blog, you are going to use tools to edit and create visuals for your posts and social media. And most tools already include a lot of stock images in their free plans.

    The real gems however are often part of a paid plan and these apps offer access to a bigger volume of images when you go pro.

    Now, don’t upgrade just for the images. If that is the only reason, you will probably be better off subscribing to a paid plan or buying credits on a stock site.

    However… If you want to use these tools to the fullest, then these plans will give you additional access to insane amounts of high-quality stock images that you can use.

    It also reduces the need to know where to find free stock photos as you have everything in one spot.

    1. Canva

    Top of the list, without a doubt.

    Canva already has hundreds of thousands of awesome free stock images (remember I wrote that they acquired Pexels and Pixabay?), but the Pro plan will give you access to an ‘infinite’ (75+ million) supply of images, videos, audio, and graphics free-to-use!

    Now, this post is about free stock photos but I must mention that the pro plan comes with 100GB cloud storage to store your visuals.
    If you work with graphics or audio a lot, you know how important this is.

    Sign up and try Canva’s full potential for free over a period of 30 days.

    2. Tailwind Create

    Tailwind is amazing. It will help you save time by automating your pinning process and to expand your reach with Tailwind Communities.

    They also have a great tool aboard to create pins, called Tailwind Create.
    The ‘Free’ and ‘Starter’ plans will give you access to 1 million stock photos, but if you create a lot of pins (around 100 a month) then upgrading to the ‘Advanced’ plan give you access to 5 million high-quality stock photos.

    Not familiar with Tailwind already? Sign up here and get 100 schedules (and 15 Pins with Tailwind Create) for free!

    Conclusion

    The above sites are just a few of the resources where you can find free stock photos to use in your blog or social media posts. There are a lot more out there, making it absolutely unnecessary to take risks using images that you are not entitled to use.

    I cannot emphasize it enough: don’t use images without the explicit consent of the artist that made them!

    Finding images in a consistent styling can be hard and time-consuming. Try to find platforms or artists that have consistent styling and enough volume.

    Using tools that incorporate stock photos might save you extra time. It sure helps to keep all your resources and tooling together, reducing time to switch between tools or platforms and helping you to stay ‘in-your-flow’ while creating visuals and Pins.

    What’s next?

    I hope that this post gives an answer to where to find free stock photos.

    If you liked this post and would like to be notified about updates on this blog, then sign up to join my email list and you will get a notification in your inbox.

    Tell me, would you like me to find more free stock image resources? Or do you know sites that I really should mention?

    Drop it in the comments below and I will update this post if the site fits!

    And of course, sharing is caring!

    Thanks for reading, you are awesome!

    Recommended Reading

  • create pins like a pro using Canva

    Canva

    May 3, 2021 |

    There are a gazillion images that you can buy or download for free, but when it comes to that picture you need for your blog…
    No problem, I hear you think; there are also hundreds of photo-editing applications available, so let’s get one.

    But when you start them and take a look at all the tools the user interface offers you, you feel the first signs of frustration growing in the back of your mind.

    And then there was Canva!

    More about ‘Canva’ here

  • where to find infinite content ideas for blog posts

    Don’t know where to start? No inspiration? Too much inspiration? Then you probably recognize this: You have a blog, and the niche you chose is something you know a lot about or is dear to you. You know what topics fit that niche, but when you need to start writing, your head is either empty or so full of ideas that the effect is the same: no words.

    What you need is either inspiration, a way to organize your ideas, or a sort of editorial backlog. If there just was a source for infinite content ideas…

    More about ‘Where to Find Infinite Content Ideas’ here
  • course review free blog traffic boost challenge

    If you, like me, started a blog without any experience, then the chances are that you missed some of the basics that are now refraining you from growing. Not that I don’t believe in learning by doing, on the contrary, but there are downsides to this approach. Eventually, you find something that you missed in the beginning.
    One of the courses I believe to be very useful to bloggers is the Free “Tweak & Peak” 7 Days Blog Traffic Boost Email Challenge For Bloggers created by Ana from the She Approach.

    In this email course, which will take 7 days, Ana will teach Bloggers what they need to do to improve on their blog to increase traffic.

    More about ‘Free Blog Traffic Boost Challenge Review’ here
  • collection of free blog related courses

    These free blogging courses may get you a headstart if you are a new blogger or help you boost your existing blog to the next level.

    Blogging is a great way to both express yourself and create a (passive) income stream.

    I deliberately placed ‘passive’ between parentheses because blogging takes a lot of hard work. Passive refers to the fact that your posts may remain on the Internet forever, and its ads or affiliate links will generate income accordingly. Now. Back to the hard work. 
    Even if you are a natural and writing doesn’t take you any effort at all, there are a lot of different factors that can contribute to the success -or failure- of your blog.

    More about ‘Free Courses to Boost Your Blog’ here
  • how to organize your blogging workflow

    How to organize your blogging workflow? Great question! One of the things I am struggling with from the start of this blog is organizing my workflow. How do I keep track of ideas? Where can I store my keyword research so that I can use it later? What drafts are ready to edit or need more research? Where can I store images related to the post?

    I tried a couple of things. And I even tried a paper notebook, which is quite out of character to me. Alas, none of these tools worked for me.
    Until I dug deeper into how I could integrate Trello into my workflow, let me show you what works for me.

    Tip: Want to skip the reading? Get the Big Blog Backlog now!

    Why I Use Trello

    Well, I am one of those persons that are not organized by nature. But to be honest, I don’t consider it to be a problem.

    It is just how my mind works and most of the time I love it.

    Sometimes, however, this accepted chaos gets in the way of my productivity.
    I get distracted a lot, following thoughts that come up while working on one thing, leading me, associative, to another.
    This is great for exploring, learning, and investigating things.

    For getting things done… Not so much.

    That is why I rely on tools that help me regain a little order.
    And you might have guessed it already; this is where Trello fits in.

    I have tried a couple of methods, like keeping drafts in WordPress, Editorial Calendars, keeping notes in OneNote. Heck, I even tried a paper notebook. None of them were compatible with how things work in my head.

    What is Trello

    If you put it very, very simple, then Trello is a digital whiteboard. But this definition doesn’t do it, as this whiteboard has some awesome features that will help you get things organized in a way that fits your personal preferences. Let me talk you through how they might help you organize your blogging workflow.

    Boards, Lists, and Cards

    With Trello, you can create what they call ‘boards.’
    I like to think of a board as my project’s dedicated workspace.

    On these boards, you can add lists of cards (see them as notes or tasks). These cards, in their turn, have a lot of features that help prioritize tasks and collect ideas and data.

    Some of the lists in the Big Blog Backlog

    I treat a Board as a project’s war room, and I use lists as a way to create dedicated work spots for specific topics or simply for breaking down a project into smaller sub-projects.

    Creating a workflow

    If you look at other board templates, you sometimes see boards that have lists representing a certain stage, simulating a virtual workflow. Cards are moved from one list to another based on the status of that card.
    For instance, a card representing a chore can be moved from a list ‘To Do’ to a list ‘Done.’

    I use it slightly differently, but the advantages of moving cards remain the same. You can customize Trello so that it effectively helps you organize your blogging workflow.

    This is the beauty of Trello. It gives you a set of tools and the freedom to shape it to your personal needs.

    Using Cards as Mini-Boards

    So lists are made up of cards, but what are cards?

    When you add a card to a list, it doesn’t look like much more than just a sentence or a word, but cards are power tools!

    I like to treat the cards as mini-boards, using them to store everything I think of, gather, or create in one precious spot.

    Let’s go through some of the most important card characteristics.

    Title, description and checklists

    The title of the card, obviously, reflects the topic of the card.
    Once opened, you will see a description field. You can type whatever you want there.

    I use it to store all the research, ideas, and data in a predefined format.

    This cards content

    Recently, I started to write out the first version of a post in the description, but I’ll get back on the how and why a bit later in this post.

    You can also add checklists to a card. This is particularly handy if you use a card as a sort of mini-board, creating a list of todos. Can you see how this may help you organize your blogging workflow?

    Due dates

    Now, I’m not much of a planner, so I don’t use the function to set a due date a lot, but if you are one, then this is a great feature.

    You can use the date in combination with a ‘Calendar’-power up to create your Editorial Content Calendar and plan out your content ahead for years if you want.

    Tip: Cards can have due dates, but checklist items can have too!

    Attachements

    Another really surprising feature is the attachments option.

    How can something obvious as adding attachments be surprising, you ask?
    Well, keep reading!

    The obvious thing, of course, is that you can add files as an attachment.
    But you can also copy a URL in it, creating a list of links that may refer to important sites you use as a reference.

    Not impressed yet? Read on!

    What I personally found to be brilliant is the pasting of images.
    I like to collect screenshots when I install a new plugin or tool or follow a certain process.

    Later I may use these screenshots to illustrate a “how-to” post, and I found it easier to make them in advance instead of repeating the process when I decide to write that post.

    I encountered the problem that I need to store and organize these screenshots on my computer somewhere to find them back.

    In Trello, if you made a screenshot to your clipboard, you can paste it into a card, and it automatically adds it as an attachment. Brilliant!

    No extra distracting steps to save and upload, but available in my natural workflow. Love it!

    Comments

    These are awesome if you work with a team, enabling you to incorporate review rounds or gather ideas from your team, but if you, like me, are a one-(wo)man army, then the comments feature can still be handy.

    I use them to gather notes that I want to reflect upon later, like ‘shall I split this post into two?‘.

    Using the comments to keep notes

    Labels

    Labels are a great help to organize your blogging workflow. They help me to have a quick overview of the status a card has.

    When a card is collapsed, the information is limited.
    By adding labels to it, I can quickly determine what ‘stage’ a card is in, for instance: ‘Keyword Research.’

    Custom defined labels

    Label texts and colors are fully customizable to your own preferences.

    Card Templates

    Since you need to create a card for a new topic, it might come in handy to create a template card.

    I created one for the generic template card, the brainstorm template card, and a list-post template card. This way, if I click on the little icon at the bottom right of a list, I can add a card based on a particular template.

    The Generic Template for a post

    My Generic Template Card, for instance, has a section for Pinterest and SEO Keyword research, a checklist, and a raw document outline.

    Trello App

    Trello is also available as an App, and it is awesome.
    The interface is simple and non-distracting, and since I always have my smartphone with me, I can access my boards wherever and whenever I want!

    Even if I’m offline, I can work on my boards. Trello will sync with my boards automatically as soon as a connection is available again.

    My Big Blog Backlog

    When I look at my workflow, then there are a couple of stages every post goes through, but not always in the same order.

    I finally managed to give all those stages a place in, what I call, my Big Blog Backlog Trello Board.

    Let me talk you through the steps to set up a board for yourself with this information if you want to try it out yourself. Or…

    Tip: If you like my method, all you have to do is subscribe to the Side Gig Longlist, and I will make it available in your inbox. I will include all blog post ideas (over 150!), all templates, and even the preparation of this post!

    Sections (Lists)

    As I wrote before, a board contains lists.
    I have lists for topics like ‘Blogging,’ ‘Pinterest,’ ‘Side Hustles,’ ‘Tools,’ and more.

    The first list I added contains references and things I use a lot.
    For instance, it has a card about ‘Deleting Cards’ containing the steps to delete a card in Trello.

    It’s a list of Useful Things, which happens to be the title of that list too.
    This list also contains my Template Cards and references to Markdown (I’ll get to that in a minute).

    The Useful Things list with the Markdown reference card

    As I don’t want to create lists for every single or generic idea, I also added a ‘Generic’ list to store miscellaneous or general ideas.

    Ideas

    Do ideas about new posts pop-up in your mind all the time?

    Often it is not more than a concept or just a title, but the funny thing is that they seem like the best post ever as they enter my brain.
    But when I try to recall it days, weeks, or months later, it is gone…

    I add a ‘Brainstorm’ card to every list I create. The brainstorm card is basic, and it just contains a checklist.
    Every idea that pops up will be added to the checklist.

    example checklist

    That’s it, very simple, no fuzz. This is how I keep a list of ideas to write posts upon.

    I have thought of creating a card for every idea, but that would clutter the list too much.

    As soon as I feel like starting to work on a selected topic, I create a card for it, not sooner.

    Tip: Although you can convert a checklist item to a card, I have not found a way to do this based on a template card. I suggest you copy-paste the title and ‘check’ or remove the item from the list as soon as you created a card for it.

    Keep feeding the list

    These brainstorm lists start to become more and more valuable to me, as they provide a great resource for the times that I’m not inspired.
    That is why I cherish them, and I constantly feed them with new ideas.

    How to never run out of ideas again

    Every time I get an email, see something on Pinterest or read an article that catches my attention, I add a topic to the checklist. It doesn’t matter if I want to write about it right away or keep an idea. See it as a sticky note.

    You will never run out of ideas this way!

    Starting with a Post

    Sometimes I start a post by just writing what comes to mind. Sometimes I start with researching a topic. And sometimes, I only want to collect screenshots while following a tutorial.

    No matter how it starts, every post goes through a couple of predefined steps at a certain time. These include researching for the best keywords, outlining the post, adding visuals for the article or social media, etcetera.

    Stages of a New Post

    I gave these different stages a section in my template card, and to make sure that I follow them, I also added them to the templates checklist.

    My collection of labels also reflects these stages, enabling me to mark a card that is in a certain stage.

    When, for instance, I finished doing some Keyword Research on Pinterest and Google, I add the results to the designated sections and mark them as complete in the checklist.

    Suppose that I start researching the content, but for some reason, don’t complete this at that time. I add the label ‘Do Content Research’ to the card as a reminder.

    Now, if I take a look at the board, It is immediately clear what I need to do next for this card.

    An example of a label added to a card

    Adding Visuals

    Like I wrote before, you can paste your clipboard to a card, and Trello will automatically convert this to an attachment.

    So while researching a post, I can create screenshots of whatever I write about. Next, I can store them together with the research data or content in one single spot.

    Images are pasted as attachement

    Sometimes you can use the screenshots out-of-the-box. Usually, you will have to edit before you can insert it into the definitive version of your post.

    I never find myself looking for where I stored the graphics anymore with this!

    Pinterest

    As you can upload quite a lot, even with the free account, adding the visuals for Pinterest and other platforms seems like a good idea.

    Adding visuals for Social Media

    Outline a Post

    The template card I use has a generic outline.
    While working on the topic, I start to fill in the titles, sections, and paragraphs.

    Trello enables me to do this very fast and easily as the card description accepts Markdown.

    What is Markdown?

    I would love to do a small introduction on Markdown in this post, but it is already becoming a huge post.

    Practicing what I preach, I added ‘How to Use Markdown to Write Distraction Free’ to the ‘Blogging’ brainstorm checklist, so check back later; I will write about it.

    In a very, very short version:
    Markdown enables you to format your text while writing more naturally, reducing the distraction of styling your content while writing.

    As an example: Instead of typing your text, selecting it, and then convert it to a header, you can use text to mark up your content on the fly like this:

    # The Hashtag turns this line into an H1 Heading
    ## Two will create an H2, etc

    Creating the first versions of content in the Card

    Before I continue, I have to say that I don’t know if this is a good idea yet, so don’t follow me blindly.

    By creating content in the card itself, I mean that I started to work out the basic version of this post, completely in Markdown, in the description area of the card. Maybe it works, maybe not.

    I added the WP-Markdown plugin for compatibility in WordPress, but I now discovered that the default block editor accepts Markdown when I paste it. No idea how this dark magic works, but I’ll take it!

    Switching back and forth between the classic editor and the block editor turned the text into raw markdown, so I can’t do that for now. Maybe I need to get used to the block editor…

    Hopefully, it will enable me to work more focused, but I’ll get back on that.

    Note: Next to the things I like, I also found one disadvantage of working this way. It seems that Trello has a limit to the text a description field can have. It seems to be at 16384 characters. This post was about 2500 words as I ran into it:

    Limited size of description field

    How to Use the Big Blog Backlog

    As I wrote before, I will make my Trello board available to my subscribers.
    It contains some template cards and all blog post ideas I have gathered so far. I will even leave the preparation of this post to give you an idea of how I work.

    The Master List download

    Grab Your Copy of the Big Blog Backlog

    With over 150 blog post ideas, blog post creation templates, preset labels, and an example post.

    Conclusion

    Trello is Gold!

    I believe that I have found something that helps me organize and structure my routine. And more importantly, without training myself to become more structured or organized.

    This is important as I don’t like to adapt to a tool. I want my tools to adapt to the way I work.

    What is great about it is that Trello helps me in all the different stages of creating, researching, and organizing my blog content.

    I can use Trello to

    • Keep track of blog post ideas.
    • Plan out my blog content.
    • Prepare a blog post.
    • Manage my content as long as it is in the ‘draft’ stage.
    • Manage the visuals and resources belonging to that content.

    If I wanted to, I could even set up an editorial content calendar and plan my whole content in advance.

    I don’t know if my ‘flow’ deserves the name workflow, but Trello enables me to keep a sort of editorial content workflow, helping me stay productive.

    It also prevents losing work done in the pre-publish stage due to not finding my notes back.

    What about you? Do you think that Trello can help to organize your workflow?

    Next Steps

    I hope that you learned a thing or two from this post and maybe even start to use some of the tips I gave.

    If you would like to create your own copy of the Big Blog Backlog, subscribe to the email list. I will drop a link to the instructions in your inbox.

    I would love it if you shared this post or left a comment!

    And as always:

    Thank you so much for reading! You are awesome!

    Recommended Reading

  • Tracking Affiliate Links with Google Analytics 4

    Finally, I found time and a topic to write another Fix-It Friday post about. Today I want to implement tracking affiliate clicks with Google Analytics 4. 

    There are many ways to track if visitors clicked your affiliate links, and plugins like ThirstyAffiliates make it very easy to do.

    I want to have these reports appear in my Google Analytics dashboard without depending on the implementation of a third-party plugin, so I can switch plugins without losing information.

    More about ‘Tracking Affiliate Clicks with Google Analytics 4’ here
  • create board covers for Pinterest in minutes

    Would you like to give your Pinterest boards a more professional look? Then keep on reading as I will explain in this easy step-by-step mini-tutorial how you can create Pinterest board covers in minutes!

    More about ‘Create Pinterest Board Covers in Minutes’ here

  • 8 great passive income ideas

    Great Passive Income Ideas

    April 27, 2021 |

    Are you looking for great passive income ideas to earn money without having to work for it? Then I am afraid that you landed on the wrong page.
    Passive Income actually requires work, but it is more complicated than that.

    Would you like to find out what passive income is all about? And get some tips and ideas along the way? Let’s go then!

    Investment

    No, I’m not going to talk about buying stock, building a portfolio, and more of that. Although investments may be mentioned in a passive income article, depending on the type of investor you are.

    I, however, know little to nothing about financial investments, so I am not going to write about it. But if it is something that holds your interest, by all means, explore that possibility.

    What I mean with investment, is that creating a passive income requires you to invest time, money, or both, upfront.

    Time, Skill, Money, and Passion

    Money and time are the currencies of the investment you need to make to create a passive income. Skill and passion are the secret ingredients to make it a success.

    Did you notice how I mention create or make a passive income? That is because it is an activity, and that brings me to the first ingredient: time.

    All activities you undertake require time from your side. You will find that time and money are often interchangeable.

    If you have less time available, you can buy it or buy someone else’s time. And if you have less money, you will have to invest more time.

    Activities that require skills may need an investment of time, so you can train or acquire those skills.

    If you have money, you can shorten that period by hiring professional trainers, or hire the skills of others.

    See how it fits together?
    There is also a ‘secret’ hidden inside this balance: Anyone can start a passive income stream.

    For some, it will take longer, depending on their financial situation or level of skills. Still, except for people living in extraordinary situations, nothing is holding you back. Just pick the currency that you are willing to invest in.

    The Secret Ingredient

    So how does passion fit in?

    Try to see it as a seed of a fruit-bearing plant you want to grow.
    If you neglect it, and you will if you have no passion for the act of growing plants, it will fail to become big or old enough to provide you with fruits.

    This calls for another secret: don’t depend on the possible fruits of just one plant. A lot can happen to that plant, and it might even die.
    Creating multiple passive income streams will reduce the risk of losing your income

    Of course, passion will make anything you do better.
    But unlike that, possibly, dull 9 to 5 you might have to take to pay the rent, this is something you choose yourself.

    Don’t commit yourself to something you don’t really, really, like to do.

    Means to an End

    Why would you want to create a passive income stream?

    If you think that the answer lies in making more money, then you are not digging deep enough.

    What should this money bring you?
    Do you want a bigger house or an expensive car?

    Passive income will not get you there fast enough.
    Working more, harder, better, or faster will probably get you there faster.

    Passive income is an investment and investments may fail or even cost you money. No guarantees there!

    But I know a blogger that has bought a huge house from her passive income!

    Ah, now you are mixing things up. You confuse success with passive, freedom with income, and wealth with money.

    You can have a very happy life, in a small house, without having a job, enjoying the freedom to do whatever you like.

    If you want to be able to buy whatever you want, you will have to become successful. Passive or active income makes no difference.

    The end goal is to unlock time and create the freedom to do with that time as you please. This is often referred to as FIRE, which stands for Financial Independence, Retire Early.

    I have a post about that topic in my drafts, so follow me on Pinterest or subscribe to my email list to get a notification as soon as it is published. 

    8+ Great Ways to Create a Passive Income

    There are far more ways to create a passive income, and I will probably write more often about them, but in this post, I would like to highlight those methods that I know or have experience with. Hopefully, these great passive income ideas will inspire you!

    Let’s start with the obvious one:

    1. Blogging

    This one is great as it gives you a lot of freedom to share your passion.
    And you can start it with very little to no investment of money.

    Although there are free blogging platforms out there, I would recommend finding an inexpensive but good hosting provider.
    It will give you more freedom to make technical modifications to your blog.

    While researching Domain Authority, I learned another thing about blogging platforms concerning SEO ranking. Check it out!

    Concerning the ‘time’ part of your investment: You set your own pace. Simple.

    Your blog can grow with you as you grow your skills to write, learn the technical aspects and find a way to monetize it.

    There are a lot of (free) resources out there that can help you gain or train the required skills.

    I also wrote an article on How to Start a Blog that is very beginner-friendly. Do check it out if this is something you would like to try and need a guide to get started.

    You can generate passive income from ads and affiliate links.
    These will ‘live’ as long as you have your blog.

    2. Sell Your Photos Online

    This one is also dear to me. 

    Of course, it requires a passion or interest in photography.
    Never mind the skill, that is something you can train.

    I started with this, knowing nothing about photography, but I loved it.

    To grow my photography skills, I used stock photo sites to submit my work to. So, again, time is the investment.

    Of course, I got many rejections, but I turned the reasons for these rejections into goals and learned all I could learn about it to get the next batch accepted.

    I stopped contributing years ago (I could only invest my time in a couple of things at a time), but I still get paid

    As I was more interested in photography than making money, I invested what I earned in new hardware and, of course, in photo editing software like photoshop.
    I also traveled to other countries with it to take new pictures to sell.

    One of my favorite longlists is The Ultimate Sell Your Pictures List, where I have collected over 35 sites that allow you to become a contributor.

    If you like to draw instead of taking pictures, you should also check that longlist, as many sites are looking for illustrators!

    3. Sell Prints and Printables

    I haven’t tried this one myself yet, but it is close to the previous one. 

    The whole idea is basically the same. You invest your time into creating a product that can be printed or downloaded.

    Let’s say you have an awesome image that would be a perfect fit for a canvas that someone can hang in their living room. Or maybe you drew a great illustration to print on a t-shirt.

    Print-on-demand stores will let you upload your design, select the products you want to include, and set a price. They will take care of the whole sales, printing, and shipping process. Awesome right?

    You can also create printable planners, checklists, posters, door hangers, wine labels, holiday decors, and the list goes on. People are making a lot of money with it on sites like Etsy.

    So if planning is your passion, turn your own planners into downloads. If you love to create paper games, why not sell them?
    Making coloring pages for your kids? Others might love them too!

    Does it require money: it depends.
    You can start without a financial investment in software, courses, or fees.

    And how about time?
    Well. Those creations won’t draw themselves, so, yes, it takes time.

    As for the skills: If you are not used to software like Illustrator or Photoshop, the learning curve is quite steep. I would recommend going pro with Canva to let you create illustrations in a very user-friendly way.

    This article will give you a good impression of the user-friendliness of Canva: Check it out

    4. Affiliate Marketing

    I mentioned using affiliate links in the paragraph about blogging, but affiliate marketing is much more than placing links in a text.

    There is a certain finesse required. You can’t throw links all over the internet and expect them to generate income.
    In fact, it might even make you look like a spammer.

    I personally liked this course that Ana Skyes made about affiliate marketing. It made me change some of the ideas I had about affiliate marketing, especially when it comes to the concept of value.

    Ask yourself why your visitors are going to click on that link.
    You will have more success if it is valuable to them.

    A link to a great BBQ book on Amazon will not hold much value to the visitors of a gaming blog.
    But if you write about amazing BBQ recipes and you show your audience why this book has the most awesome recipes, you highlight the value it has for them.

    Affiliate marketing isn’t limited to blogs. On the contrary!
    Think of all the ways you can connect to an audience. For instance: Pinterest, Twitter, YouTube, newsletters, ebooks, courses, etc. 

    I have selected a couple of affiliate programs here. I would recommend ShareASale if you are starting and want to find different affiliate programs.

    If you have a blog, make sure you start creating an email list and sending out newsletters ASAP. Newsletters are perfect since your subscribers clearly are interested in your content. 

    It might seem a lot of work managing those subscriptions, but plugins like ConvertKit or MailChimp can make this easy.
    Both have a free version, but you might have to level up to a paid plan if your mailing list grows.

    (Don’t forget to sign up for mine. hint, hint)

    5. Sell Digital Products

    If you find this looking a lot like the previously mentioned selling pictures and creating printables, you are correct. Those two are really popular, but there is so much more.

    Digital products will not run out of stock. You can sell a digital product indefinitely, and the best thing: you can create a lot of different products around your passion. Let’s name a few:

    (6) Courses and eBooks

    If you manage to find a way to ‘digitalize’ your knowledge, then you can sell that over and over again. This sounds more complicated than it is.

    This may sound scary, but you don’t necessarily have to be in front of the camera. And you don’t have to shoot a full-featured video either!

    You could save a Word or Powerpoint file to PDF and sell it, or you could use platforms like teachable.com to create courses.

    Most courses I took were a mix of an (introduction) video, some written content, a downloadable ebook, or resource files. 

    (7) Software

    Games, apps, tools, plugins, you name it! 
    Now, doesn’t this require some skills? Yes, it does, but depending on what you want to do.

    It is possible to do this at a beginner’s level with software that helps you with that. Don’t expect to create the next WhatsApp with an app maker, but if you find a niche and demand, then it is possible.

    Learn to code.

    If you are passionate about this, then learning these skills is just a matter of time. CodeAcademy offers free courses for over 10 different programming languages.

    I am a developer myself, and truthfully, I love to create things that come to life from just some lines of code.
    Although I am more web / online minded when it comes to programming projects, I have made and sold a genealogical tool long ago.

    Like other digitals, you can make an app or game once and then sell it as often as you can.

    A lot of the tools you are going to use to do this are free. Microsoft Visual Studio is a very versatile tool for lots of development projects, including apps.

    For game creation, Unity and Unreal Engine will get you started.

    Nothing is really free though. You will have to invest time to learn how to use them.

    (8) 3d Models

    Girl using Virtual Reality

    You won’t often find this activity in passive income listings, but I personally believe that this might become incredibly popular in the next years.

    I admit, 3d is hard. The learning curve for most 3d studios is steep, but I think it is worth it.

    Why do I think that it is worth learning? 
    Games are hot, VR is hot, 3d Printing becomes more popular every day, 3d models are being used everywhere. The demand for original 3d models is growing fast.

    One of the largest 3D model stores, TurboSquid (where I sell a few models), was recently acquired by one of the largest photo stock sites, Shutterstock (where I sold 3d renders along with my photos).
    That does say a lot.

    If you want to start exploring 3D, then Blender is a free and incredibly complete 3D studio. Fair warning ahead: it is hard as hell if you are starting. Take some time to follow some basic courses or YouTube tutorials.

    Creating something, bringing it to -digital- life, is so very satisfying!

    More, more, more

    Try to find a link between your passion and a digital product, so you can sell it over and over again.

    Love gardening? You can’t sell a plant twice, but you can sell an ebook with the best gardening tips from your own experience.

    Are you an amateur barista? Create a course and sell it! 
    I’m not kidding: Become a Coffee Expert: How to Make the Perfect Cup.

    Blogger? Turn your list of ideas into a sellable product: One Year Of Blog Content In One Month. In fact, a lot of bloggers share (sell) their experiences in courses and ebooks.

    Conclusion

    Before we come to that: the examples of great passive income ideas I have given are digital, online passive income streams. There are other examples, like investing, renting out things, provide loans, etcetera.

    I chose to give you examples of things you can create from behind your computer (or camera) and market them online. This is what I like to do myself, and I have done most of the above.

    Passive income takes a lot of work, but if you balance the ingredients money, time, skills, and passion for fitting your lifestyle and resources, that labor can result in a long and frequently recurring pay-out. 

    Even if after you stopped putting time and energy in it.

    What’s Next?

    If you liked this post and would like to be notified, not too often, but frequently, about updates on this blog, then sign up to join my email list, and you will get a notification in your inbox.

    And of course, sharing is caring!

    Thanks for reading, you are awesome!

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About

Hi there!

My name is Jip, and I created the Side Gig Longlist to learn all I can about blogging and making money online.
Having decades of experience in information technology, I decided to explore all the non-technical aspects of blogging, marketing, and promoting.
I also happen to like sharing the things I know and learn with others.
This blog is my platform to experiment, learn, and share.

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