22 November 2014

The Rise of the Drones and Aerial Business Opportunities

Drones are opening up opportunities for creative businesses rapidly. The cost of buying a drone has dropped dramatically making them affordable for small, entrepreneurial businesses to offer services to domestic and business customers.

One particular business is providing aerial photography and videos for customers who want their property or business filmed from the air. Alternatively, a shipping company might want one of their vessels filmed while out at sea.

The instances of when and where a drone can be used to shoot a video or take high quality videos are endless.

One such 'drone business' is Airstoc. They have some amazing HD videos on their website as samples and they offer their services to take videos anywhere in the world.

Here is their promotion video:

17 November 2014

4 Unusual Publishing Platforms

It has never been easier to self-publish your own book, ebook or magazine. The days of being held back from publishing what you want to publish are gone.

The choice of tools to use to publish your 'content' to the world have exploded beyond the free blogging platforms like WordPress and Blogger which are widely used and still popular.

There are specific systems to help you publish ebooks easily. Systems which help you publish magazines, microsites and presentations alike. Some are free; some are paid for. Here is a selection of ten publishing platforms which you may not have seen before:

eBook Publishing


Liberio is a free, online ebook publishing system which connects your copy stored on Google Drive, Dropbox, One Drive, Github and your Amazon Kindle account to enable you to publish directly into formats which can be used on ebook readers (namely .epub, .mobi and .zip).

It has a very nice interface and it is very easy to use. When logged in, you upload content from where you have it stored into the 'creation' area of the website. From there you can set up how you want your ebook to be categorised on Amazon's Kindle store, insert keywords to help it be found more easily and upload a cover image.

There are more options for customising and preparing your ebook such as including an ISBN, inserting a table of contents and page breaks before headings.



If you want an alternative to WordPress, then take a look at Ghost. It is a very simple but elegant blogging platform which is a lot less fussy to set up than WordPress.

There are two options for Ghost, namely using their hosted system, or downloading the software and installing it on your web server. The latter might be a bit techie for most people but the process looks pretty simple for those who want it on their own web server.

Setting up Ghost is very simple (on the hosted version) and the interface is intuitive and focuses on getting the basics set up quickly. When you write your first post the interface is split vertically in two providing the raw post on the left and the preview on the right. You write the post in Markdown, which is easy to learn but might put some people off.

Changing the theme is easy enough by downloading a free or paid-for template from their marketplace and uploading it into the system.

Ghost provides a free trial (no card needed) for the hosted version. The Pro version starts at $10 a month for one blog. The self-hosted version is free.


Rainmaker is a relatively new blogging platform which is built on the WordPress content management system but which already comes pre-loaded with many of the plug-ins that make WordPress so powerful.

Rainmaker takes away all of the fiddling about with plug-ins and the installation of self-hosted content management systems.

Rainmaker is very easy to use and makes optimising your website straightforward. It is aimed at 'content marketers' and 'internet entrepreneurs' who are selling digital products, for example.

Rainmaker costs US$95 per month.

Magazine Publishing


Readymag is a 'simple to use' platform for creating online magazines, microsites and presentations.

Its user interface is very simple to use, allowing drag and drop design to easily add elements to your magazine or web page. A series of free templates make it easy to set up a good looking website or magazine quickly. Each of the free templates also shows you which devices it designed to work well on. You can also create your own templates.

Readymag has a free version for you to set up a magazine and test it out.

Make Money from Writing

It is good to have a platform to help you publish but, if you want to make some money from your creation, it is wise to learn how to do so.

Nathan Barry - Authority
Not so much a platform, but a tutorial on how to make money comes from Nathan Barry with his 'Authority' tutorials and book which is designed to help you self publish your books and understand how to generate some lucre from them or it.

15 November 2014

How well does your website perform?

Nibbler - website speed test
Nibbler's report screen
Understanding how well your website is performing is vital if you are to make it work for whatever you want to achieve. 

You need to understand what is working and what is not working on your site. You can easily see which blog posts, products or pages are working well in terms of how many visitors are looking at those pages. Google Analytics will help you with this information.

However, it is not just the content which will show you what is performing.

There are technical aspects of your website which will need to improved so that you can increase its visibility on search engines and, ultimately, in people's attention.

If you run your own website, then it is likely that you will be able to fix some of the items which need attention yourself. If the website you edit, or contribute to, is run by web team, for example, you will need to ask them to improve it for you.

Speaking the right language

But, how do you explain to the 'technical team' what you think needs to be done?

This is where free website performance tools come in handy. For example, Nibbler will analyse your website and report on what needs improvement so you can talk the same language as your technical people.

Just type in your website's address and click 'Test' and Nibbler will analyse your site. When complete, Nibbler provides a page which scores how well your website is performing overall and various details including how well your site is doing among social media websites, how well the code in your website is written and which are the top priorities for improvement.

The beauty with Nibbler (apart from being free) is that you can then understand why your website is doing better (or worse) compared to your competition. Then, you can speak more confidently with the people who manage your website about changes you need to happen to compete and work harder for you.

05 November 2014

Graphic Design on Your iPad

Canva - easy graphic designImages have always been important to use in blog posts, web pages and in print to support the article or news item you are writing. But, if not using a photograph in a post, for example, when you are out of your office and 'in the field' can often be tricky, if you are on your iPad. 

An iPad is incredibly useful as an editor, blogger or journalist. It gives you 'mobility' because you are not lugging around a heavy laptop. You can set up an ipad quickly and get working within seconds of you opening it up. But, what an iPad lacks in weight and bulkiness is often power to create graphical content. 

Easy Graphics

Also, unless you are a graphic designer already, creating good graphics was often difficult to achieve. Recently, I started using Canva (http://www.canva.com) when I was in the office to create graphics for online articles. It is very good online application for creating graphics for use in print and online. And, it is very easy to use. 

If you use your own images the service is free. If you want to insert 'stock images' into your designs, you pay $1 (about 60 pence) for each one. There a functions to create items for Facebook pages and covers, blog graphics, invitations or business cards, for example. 

Also, with Canva, you can create custom graphics using your own dimensions and images, which you can then download for use in print or online.

In a matter of minutes, it is easy to have a nice looking graphic to make your article or blog post more interesting. 

Mobile Graphics

That is good if you are in the office, but it was not so easy to create graphics on an iPad using their online version. 

Now, Canva has brought out an iPad app version (https://appsto.re/gb/hfFF1.iof its graphic design package. I had to use it for the first time to create an image in a hurry on my iPad for an online news item which was also going to be used in an email newsletter. 

The iPad version is just as easy to use on an iPad as it is online. The only problem I had was when trying to email the graphic I created to myself. It would not do it the first time I tried but, with a bit of persistence, it worked in the end. 

Overall, having an app like Canva on my iPad is going to make a big difference to being able to create more interesting graphics when out of the office at press events or conferences for example. 

Here is a screen shot if the user interface and some of the simple graphics I created for blog posts with it below.

Canva.com designs

13 September 2014

Meeting your readers

An Afghan man reads outside his market shop wh...
An Afghan man reads outside his market shop while waiting for customers. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Setting up a business is pretty easy in the UK. But, knowing your customers can be difficult unless you get out and meet them. 

In the early 2000's, I set up a small retail business selling delicatessen quality foods which I had imported from Italy and Greece, as well as from local producers. I set up a website (at great expense and which would now cost me a fraction of what it did then) and started to set up a stall in local food markets. 

My online customers were quite different from the customers at the markets. Online customers were looking for gifts including hampers. They were mainly men. My offline customers were mainly well-to-do females who were buying for their families or gifts for friends. I was soon able to spot customers at the markets just by the way they dressed, by their age and their gender. 

Getting out of my office and meeting people face to face is still the best way to know my customers or readers. 

For instance, last week I was in Sweden for three days visiting a manufacturer's factory along with 12 of installers they were aiming to have join their partner scheme. The installers were were from all over the Midlands, North and North West of the UK. None of them had even heard of the magazine I edit, which is aimed at them.

At first, I found their lack of awareness unsettling. But, all of them said they would like to be added to the mailing list and email newsletter list. twelve new readers is good. But, thanks to social media, the 12 new installers are likely to share my articles with their contacts. 

More importantly, last week I listened to my readers and realised how diverse they are with their solutions using the manufacturer's equipment which sparked a dozen ideas for new articles.  It is too easy to get stuck behind my desk. But, getting out and meeting my readers is priceless.