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Comment spam sucks! It just does.

It slows your site down, takes up space in your database, takes a ton of time to remove and just plain sucks.

The best way to fight it is to prevent it from happening. There are several anti-spam plugins for WordPress. Over the years I used many of them. Some work, some don’t. Some work for awhile and need replaced.

Here are five plugins that you can install to improve your blog, because who has time to remove all those prescription drug comments?! These plugins do not add an ugly captcha to your site.

  1. Stop Spammers Spam Control
    This one is a bit complex with several pages of configuration settings. I like that I can see a summary of the spam it has stopped and there’s a simple link to report spam that made it through. I have it installed on one site and it’s doing a great job, but if you don’t have the patience to go through and tweak the settings I don’t recommend it.
  2. Growmap Anti Spambot Plugin
    G.A.S.P. is pretty easy to set up. It uses javascript to place a checkbox on your comment form asking users to confirm they are legit. While easy to use, this one does still let a few comments through. It does integrate nicely, much better than an ugly captcha.
  3. WordPress Zero Spam
    This one is easy to use. Install and activate. Can it get any easier? This one works well with Gravity Forms, Ninja Forms and Contact Form 7.
  4. Anti-spam by CleanTalk
    Integrates nicely with almost everything, that’s a big plus. This one also blocks spam registrations, contact emails and more. You can set this one to auto-delete comments marked as spam. Yay! While I haven’t used it yet, this is the next one I’m installing.
  5. Anti-Spam
    I use this one quite a bit. It does just the invisible fields by javascript method. It has worked quite well for the sites that I have it installed on. I have not seen any spam comments get through. It does not work on forms, so that is something to keep in mind (and why I will likely switch to Anti-spam by CleanTalk).

There are many, many options for controlling spam. Please use one. Don’t make me groan when I log into your site and see 4583 comments that need approved.

If it’s too late and you do have a ton of unapproved comments let’s get them cleared. I’ll remove straight from the database which is much faster than doing it via your admin area. I guarantee you will notice a difference.

 

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It’s Friday Five time!

I often get emails asking when it would be a good time to have a phone chat. I always reply that my preference is email only. I just don’t do phone calls, for several reasons. This is my work flow, it works for me.

I did this one countdown style because I like to be different!

5. I Have Kids

And I homeschool them. I work around my kids for the most part and I can guarantee if I’m on the phone, they need something important.

4. No Office Door

That’s been on my “home wish list” for quite some time – an office with a door. My office is out in the open  so find quiet time for a phone just doesn’t happen (see above). Maybe someday I will have a real office, but for now I’m quite successfully balancing work and family all in one.

3. Odd Hours

I do not have set office hours. I do not have set office days. I work when I can, and sometimes where I can. That may mean early morning, late at night or weekends. Aligning our schedules can be rather difficult.

2. Time is Important

I squeeze my work in when I can, sometimes in small spurts of time. A phone call during that precious time can disrupt my work flow and cause a setback. I want to get my projects done quickly and efficiently, interruptions (of any sort) kind of throw that off.

1. My Brain

I guarantee when we hang up the phone everything you say will be forgotten. Even if I take notes. I love having everything in email. I love being able to search my gmail inbox to find the things I need. I love the record of our exchanges that email provides.

I can decipher emails, I can’t remember phone calls. If words don’t work for you, we can do visual. Grab a screenshot, head to favorite editing program and draw notes. Is handwritten better for you? Grab a piece of paper and draw it out, snap a photo and send to me.

Written word keeps us from skipping the details which leads to a faster project completion.

What about you? If you had the option, I know some businesses require phone calls, phone calls or no?

I know, I know, it’s January, not February. What’s with the Valentine’s fonts already? Well, we have to do these things early you know. I have searched for 5 fonts that scream Valentine’s day to me. Use these in your marketing, or your Valentine’s cards, photo templates, etc, etc.

Do you hand out Valentine’s Day cards? Do you make them for your kids or buy them? If we do hand out cards, which doesn’t happen often as homeschoolers, I tend to buy a box as I  never have time to do these things myself. Oh, how I wish I did though. I’ve seen some really great ones on Pinterest to spark my creativity. Doesn’t really matter as my kids tend to rarely look at them past February 14th anyway.

As always, they are free for personal use, check the licensing before you use them commercially though.

valentine's fonts

You can download the fonts at the following locations. Be sure to check the usage license for each font before you put it to use.

Where to find these Valentine’s Fonts:

Xiamara @ dafont.com

Jules Love @ dafont.com

I Love What You Do @ 1001freefonts.com

Clicker Script @ Google Fonts

DJ Candy Heart @ dafont.com

Have you joined the adult coloring book craze? Not that kind of adult coloring book, this kind:

(You won’t be able to see this image if you have AdBlock enabled.)

I haven’t quite yet, but I’m about to. Why? Coloring is a great way to deal with stress, anxiety and it’s just plain relaxing. I actually carried around crayons and a coloring book in high school. It was something to do between classes, it was relaxing.

Think about it, it’s just you, a few black lines and a whole bunch of colors. What better way to tune the world out for a bit and reset your brain?!

Now, you can color on the go. I just ran across this great app and immediately downloaded it and colored my first picture. There are tons of images to choose from and it’s as easy as tapping the color you want and then tapping the area you want to color. When you finish you can easily share your image in many ways.

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The app is free and available on Google Play, the Itunes App Store and even Amazon Apps. It looks like only the basic colors are free, but you can purchase more if you really want. Basic works for me.

Take a break from life. Go color something.

Disclaimer: In most instances these links are affiliate links. That means that if you click the link here and complete a purchase, I get paid. I thank you much for using my link. In most cases, the only affiliate links I use are for products/services that I have used myself. I only like to recommend what I know and trust.

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It’s time for Friday Five! Each Friday I want to share FIVE things with you. It could be links, tips, secrets, resources, we’ll just have to see where it goes.

With it being the Holiday season, giving to charities is on my mind. There are many sites out there on the web where you can simply and your actions amount to donations. I put together a list of 5 for you to click through and show support.

How does it work? Sponsorship and ads. The sites make money off the ads that you see so please disable your ad blocker when you do these.

FreeRice

Each correct answer amounts to 10 grains of rice donated through the United Nations World Food Programme. I know this site has been around for quite a long time. About 19,200 grains of rice, that’s 1,920 answers, would feed one person two meals for one day.

Online game to end hunger

 

Stop Violence Against Women

At least one out of every three women has been abused in some way. Amnesty International works to protest the basic human rights of women. Money is donated from ad and click earnings.

end-violence-against-women

 

The Literacy Site from Greater Good

Greater Good has several different types of giving, but I chose The Literacy Site because they work to donate books to children. Children need books, children love books. You can also shop on this site to support various charities.
The Literacy Site

 

Global Warming

This is another Care2 site. The money goes to Carbonfund.org to help reduce carbon footprints and solve climate issues through education, offsets and outreach.

click-for-global-warming

 

The Animal Rescue Site by Greater Good

Each time you click, 100% of the money from the advertisers goes to charity. In this case, the money goes toward feeding shelter animals. A portion of sales is also directed toward various charities.

The Animal Rescue Site

 

I know this simple clicking doesn’t do a lot, but at least it’s something. If you time and resources, donate them when and where you can. Clicks are better than nothing though.

Enjoy your holiday season and the rest of 2015. I’ll see you again in January.

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A great WordPress Backup Plugin is essential to your website. You must backup your website. If you aren’t paying someone to do it then you need to set it up yourself. Life happens. The last thing you need is to lose your website. Can you imagine starting over, from scratch?! Not cool.

There are many plugins to backup your WordPress based site that you can pretty much set and forget. You should check and make sure your backups are being created occasionally. I highly recommend you set up the plugin to store your backups off site, Dropbox and Amazon S3 are great places for your files.

So, what are you going to use to get this process done? Free plugins exist and here’s a quick rundown on five of them.

WordPress Backup to Dropbox

This is my go to for a free backup plugin. It’s super simple. Install WordPress Backup to Dropbox and activate the plugin. Click the link to authorize Dropbox, click the backup button and that’s it. Your first backup is in progress. As for automatic, you can select the day and time, then frequency of your backups. You do have the option to skip files and folders in your backup if you wish.

Updraft Plus

I just used Updraft Plus for the first time this past week. It was pretty easy and quick. Like the one above you, you can choose manual backups or set a schedule. You are not limited to Dropbox as your storage, you can choose Amazon s3, Google Drive and many more. A nice feature this one has is the ability to restore your files. I have not used this feature so can’t comment on it, but a nice addition it is.

Backup WordPress

I’ve seen Backup WordPress used often. You can choose to backup only your database or your database and files. You set the schedule for how often you want the backups to occur. The backup is stored within your files and, if small enough, it can be emailed to you. You do have the option to manually download as well. The free version of this plugin does not support offsite storage.

XCloner

XCloner is a backup and restore plugin. I haven’t used this one so I don’t have firsthand knowledge, but I do know you can store your backups over at Amazon S3 and you can schedule the backups to occur regularly. You can run the restore script to move or restore your backup.

 

Duplicator

Duplicator does a bit more than just backups, it also allows you to migrate or clone a site. If you need to move a site, Duplicator can help you with that. Since this one has several functions, it isn’t recommended for beginners. I wanted to include for those of you that want to dig and learn more. It does have a lot of features for a free plugin.

 

 

I just downloaded my resources and I love this set! There is so much to choose from, you can’t go wrong at this price.

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download-a-free-sample

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The lazy days of summer are here, the kids are out of school, you’ve lost your desire (or time) to be productive. I get it. You’ve got things you wanted to do, but didn’t finish before the kids interrupted you and they’re just sitting there staring at you and haunting you. It’s easy to fall into a slump this time of year, but you don’t have to, you can beat it in one week with these easy steps. Let’s declutter your business.

Day One: Blog Posts

Get in there and finish those half written blog posts. Spend one day getting them all polished and scheduled to publish. It’s great to get a post started and leave it in draft mode until you finish it up, but you have to go back and finish it! It’s doing you no good just sitting there, waiting. Scheduling posts, if you can write more than one in a day, is a great way to free up some time. Spend a day or two writing when you can and you’ll always have content to post (ahem, a lesson I need to learn myself!)

Day Two: Client Contact

I know you have some clients you want and need to follow up with, but you keep putting it off. Following up and staying in touch with past clients is the best way to bring them back to you. Spend a day getting those follow up emails and calls done. You’ll feel much better, they’ll feel special and it’s one less daunting task hanging over you.

Day Three: Update Your Website

Grab a backup and update WordPress and all of the plugins. If you have someone doing this for you, kudos to you! This is an easy to outsource task and so worth it. Once you’ve got everything on the backend updated, look over your pages and see if any information or pricing needs updated. Have you been considering a facelift for your website, contact your designer (that’s me!) and get the ball rolling. If a new site is something you’ve been considering, it’ll make you feel much better once it’s done.

Day Four: Social Media

Spend today scheduling some Facebook and Twitter posts. Scheduling these ahead of time will lessen the amount of time you spend on those time-suckers each day. Some of the easiest posts for Facebook are image posts that include quotes, spend a little time today creating some quotes and get them scheduled. I just put one together, you can click through and share it on your page! Just click the image and you’ll be taken to my Facebook page where the image is already uploaded and ready for you to hit share. Need help scheduling on Facebook? There’s a blog post for that!

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Day Five: Straighten Your Desk

A clean workspace will leave you feeling much more productive and ready to tackle anything. Take a few minutes today to put away all of your markers and pens, throw away old sticky notes, carry dirty dishes to the kitchen. File away anything you don’t need anymore and sort through old mail. It’d be great to dust off your work surface as well. When all is clean and looking nice, take the kids to the pool. You deserve a little time in the sun after a productive week!

While this will get you back on track to productivity, it’s not a bad idea for it to become a weekly routine, at least for the summer. Doesn’t it feel great to be organized and no longer have those “things” hanging over you for you to keep putting off until tomorrow?

Sing that to the tune of “what does the fox say?”! Here you go, here’s the video (with my favorite Jimmy Fallon) in case it’s stuck in your head now.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=puHK73fMXmQ

I’ve had a few instances of confusion lately and I want to clear it up. I totally understand, no one wants to pay invoices they weren’t expecting or don’t understand. So, let’s break it down!

Hosting.

Your hosting fee, whether to me or another provider, typically covers the space your website takes up on a server and the bandwidth used to provide that site to the public. Some hosts (like me) offer free monthly backups to their clients. Beyond server space and traffic and some tech support (like ‘wordpress won’t install’, ‘I’m seeing a server error message’, ‘how do I connect to my site via FTP?’), don’t expect anything else from your hosting fee. Hosting doesn’t cover the look of your site or the work put into your site.

Design

When I charge you for web design, that is the install of wordpress, the look of your site and typically setting up content. I do my best to outline exactly what I am giving you when I give you a quote. What this doesn’t include is periodically taking backups of your website, updating wordpress or plugins, installing new plugins, making changes to either content or design, after we have agreed the site is complete. I do offer email support, you ask me anything and I will get you an answer. Forever. “Hey, how do I…”, not a problem at all.

Maintenance

That’s what I describe this other stuff as. If your email says “Hey, can you…”, then you probably need me to do something and for that I charge. It’s like having a virtual assistant, but we aren’t on contract and you aren’t paying me a monthly fee. Instead, you contact me on an as needed basis and I bill you on an as needed basis. Sometimes these things are small and I just keep track and then bill you $20 after a few things. Sometimes these things have set fees and I bill you after it’s done or within the month because I’m a bit slow at that stuff. Installing WordPress is a flat $20. I don’t use auto-installers, I don’t like them, I do it all manually so I charge $20 for the time I spend creating the database, uploading the files, hooking it all together and creating your login. I don’t typically bill right away for anything under $20. The paypal fees are not worth it. That’s why you won’t receive an invoice after every thing I do, I want to wait and make it worth the time and fees. If I billed for every little thing, I’d have to raise my prices and I don’t want to do that. (Shh, sometimes I totally forget to invoice, bonus for you!)

I do offer things like Monthly backups to my non-hosting clients and WordPress Monitoring and Updating (WM&U) to anyone. The Monitoring and Updating is simply that, I monitor your site for updates and then perform the updates for you. If you are not a hosting client, then I do back up your site before doing updates. I guess you could say that with WM&U you either need to be a hosting client or you are paying for monthly backups as well. This pricing includes the fee for monthly backups.

I will be spending some time in the next month or two trying to clarify all of this in my website copy. I wish I could do everything for free, but this is a business, just like yours. We are both in this to make money, big or small. A lot of what I charge for is time. Let’s face it, you contacted me either because you don’t know how or you don’t have time to do it yourself. That’s what I’m here for, I do the tech-y stuff so you can concentrate on your business.

cameraI have done a lot of work with several photographers. Many have come to me frustrated with their current host, the lack of support and constant outtages are frustrating to say the least. Up until now, I’ve been hesitant to offer a hosting package to fit the needs of the photography industry since the resources needed are so high, but times have changed.

When I first started out, my hosting and pricing were geared toward small work at home parents. That is, a small website that doesn’t need much space and a price to match. Being a photographer, you need images, lots of images, and images take up space and space costs money. As my business has morphed and grown, my offerings have as well.

I am now offering a Photography Hosting package. You get everything in my top level package, with an increased space of 10 GB and a bandwidth limit of 88 GB, for $20 per month (or $225 per year). I know you can pay less and get unlimited space at those other places, but what you don’t get is my top notch support. (As my clients will tell you, that is priceless!) Host unlimited domains, unlimited databases, unlimited email addresses, I personally make backups for my hosting clients each month. No set up fee and for a limited time, I will move your site for you!

Thanks to my (unbeknownst to them) beta testers, I am confident my server configuration and my tech support team can handle the high level needs of a top notch photography business and I’m ready to take my Photography Hosting package public and available to everyone.

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Black Friday – Cyber Monday Special!

Save $10 on your first invoice with code PhotoHost2013. If you choose to pay monthly, your first month is only $10. If you choose to pay annually, you’ll pay $215 which breaks down to $17.92 each month. Coupon valid for new clients only who register between 11/29/13 and 12/2/13 using the code above.