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Almost a Newsletter logo Issue 293

Happy New Year! Happy New Year!

Welcome to all our new subscribers and welcome back to everyone else. It's a little late for the Happy New Year's wish, I suppose, but I started this issue back in December and didn't want to waste a good wish for you. :)

Be sure to read the Bullet Points if you want to keep getting this newsletter. The Bullet Points also feature a "download first, pay what you want" product. You should probably check it out.

For the first time ever, I think, The Tips Jar features a video tutorial. I've made video tutorials as part of products, but as far as I can recall this is the first time using a Tips Jar video tutorial.

Lots of good stuff below, so I'll let you get right to it.

I wish you well, signature

Bullet Points: News and Notes

Important—Please Read If You Want to Keep Receiving Almost a Newsletter!

Part of the restructuring I'm doing is that I'm changing my mailing list host. Sometime soon you'll receive an email detailing how to get on the new mailing list for this newsletter. It just doesn't make sense for me to pay for two mailing list hosts when one will do.

You will be rewarded! For making the change, you'll be receiving some free gifts from me. It will be quick and easy for you to switch lists, but I still feel better about asking you to make the change if I compensate you for doing so.

I'll have more on the gifts when the time comes to make the change.

Reminder: Almost a Newsletter is being published less frequently while I'm rebuilding the member site and restructuring much of my business. I am not going anywhere—just setting things up to make what I do easier for me and better for you!

Watch Out

A while back I started getting emails that looked like they were sent by the company who makes my antivirus software. Only thing is, they weren't from them.

The sender spoofed the email address, but the link I was supposed to click didn't go to the vendor's domain. It appeared cryptic, so I thought maybe it was an affiliate link, so I plugged the link into a link tracer and it didn't go through any redirects. Good chance the page it went to hosted a drive-by virus, but I wasn't going to follow it to find out.

While I don't know for certain the sender was up to no good, that's what I'd guess.

So, be wary of this type of email, folks—and not just from antivirus vendors, but unsolicited email from anyone. If you want to see where a link goes without actually following it, go to Where Goes and paste the link into the text field and click the "Trace URL" button. You might want to bookmark that page, too.

Product Experiment: Pay What You Want AFTER You Download!

This shouldn't require much sales copy at all, so I'll make this short and simple.

You get to download and review my new product at no cost to you. If you want to keep it and use it, come back here and pay whatever you want for it! Seriously.

Here's what's included:

  1. 300 Background Images - Use these as web page backgrounds, desktop wallpaper, meme backgrounds, infographic backgrounds, or anything else you like.
  2. Video Tutorial 1 - This tutorial shows you how to make your own memes using free software. You can use these on Facebook, Pinterest and other social media sites, and of course, on your own site.
  3. Video Tutorial 2 - This tutorial builds on the previous video and shows you how to make your own simple infographics.
  4. Video Tutorial 3 - This tutorial shows you how to change the hue of the backgrounds. If you like a design but not the color, you can easily change it!
  5. Video Tutorial 4 - This tutorial demonstrates how to change the size of the backgrounds. Changing the size can create a much different look. With this video and the video about changing the hue, you can literally turn the 300 backgrounds into thousands of different looks.
  6. Video Tutorial 5 - This short tutorial shows how to tile these backgrounds as your computer's desktop wallpaper. There are many styles to choose from, so there are sure to be many you like. Believe me, these look GREAT. You could even say some are works of art in their own way.
  7. Background Browser - You'll get a web page that makes it easy to browse the backgrounds. A small menu on the right side of the page has links to all the backgrounds and you just click a link to see that background tiled across your screen. You'll see it demonstrated in the video below.
  8. Sample HTML5 Template - Few people use backgrounds behind text anymore, and these images weren't meant to be used that way. This HTML template will show you how to use these backgrounds to add visual pizzazz to your page while keeping your text clean and easy to read.
  9. Template Browser - This is cross between the Background Browser and the HTML5 Template. It looks like a normal web page, but you can change the background, change the border color and width, and change the header—all with the click of a button! The video below opens with a demonstration of the Template Browser.
  10. Meme Tip Sheet - This infographic has crucial tips about making meme's to help them go viral. One image that goes viral can flood your site with traffic.
  11. 20 Great Fonts - I personally selected these fonts especially for creating meme graphics.
  12. Generous Rights - You can use these graphics on any and all your site, on social media sites, and on clients sites. You can even sell the graphics you make from them. You could add a sideline to your business, that of making custom memes.

That's a lot of good material that can help you promote your website or just make your desktop nicer to look at—and you get to pay what you want! Whether it's $1 or $100, or anything in between, it's your choice. Who else would do that for you? If you know of anyone else, tell me who it is, I want to do business with them.

There are two links below. With one you can download this entire package—nothing is held back. The other is a Paypal link you can use to pay with Paypal or a credit card. Just type in the amount you want to pay and submit it.

» Download this Package | » Pay What You Want Here

PS - Click the blue download button on the right side of the download page to download this package. Also, as a gesture of good will, you'll also get a copy of the video tutorial in this issue's Tips Jar. It's yours to keep even if you decide not to keep the package.

The Tips Jar: HTML and CSS Tutorials

How to Optimize Images for Search Engines

Why worry about optimizing images for the search engines? Because optimized images help your web pages to download faster, and the download speed of your web pages can help them to rank better...or worse. See this article at Google's Webmaster Central if you want to confirm that for yourself.

The video tutorial below will show you how to use free software to optimize JPG images. Optimizing PNG and GIF images are topics for a future video.

Before watching the video, check out the sample images below that I optimized for this tutorial using the same free software I demonstrate in the video.

unoptimized

Unoptimized Image: 78.7k

optimized

Optimized Image: 15.9k

Of the images above, the one on the right will download almost five times as fast. Do you see any meaningful difference in visual quality?
unoptimized

Unoptimized Image: 15.77k

optimized

Optimized Image: 3.58k

The optimized alien head will download over four times as fast as the unoptimized image. Again, do you see any meaningful difference in visual quality?
unoptimized

Unoptimized Image: 8.11k

optimized

Optimized Image: 3.61k

The optimized boy will download almost 2.5 as fast as the unoptimized boy. Sounds harsh . . . an unoptimized boy. Poor kid!
unoptimized

Unoptimized Image: 31.6k

optimized

Optimized Image: 8.60k

The optimized door will download over 3.5 times as fast as the unoptimized door.
unoptimized

Unoptimized Image: 40.75k

optimized

Optimized Image: 10.18k

The optimized "squirkey" will download over four times as fast as the unoptimized creature.

In the first part of the video below you'll discover how easy it is to optimize your images. In the second part you'll discover how to optimize the image code.

For your future reference, here's a quick recap of the steps for optimizing your JPG images:
  1. Open the image you want to optimize.
  2. Assuming you aren't making any changes to the image, click File > Save As after you open it.
  3. Change the name or save location to preserve the original image.
  4. Click the Save button.
  5. In the dialog box that opens, adjust the slider in the top left corner. Start with it on the right and move it to the left slowly while watching the image for signs of visual degradation.
  6. When you see the visual quality of the image start to deteriorate, move the slider back to the right just a bit to be on the safe side (in case you missed some deterioration).
  7. Ckick the OK button when you've got the image optimization set like you want.
This will optimize the image to improve its download speed while maintaining its visual quality.

In addition to improving the download speed via a smaller file size, smaller file sizes are also gentler on the server resources. Using fewer resources can also help improve the download speed.

Note: You can also reduce an image's file size by making the actual image dimensions smaller. In many cases, trimming a few pixels off of each side using a crop tool won't deter from the purpose for the image, but can make a useful impact on the file size. You wouldn't want to trim a background image though, as that will likely create seams.

You can also simply resize/resample the image to smaller dimainsions without cropping it to create a smaller file size. Combining cropping and/or resizing with the optimization technique shown in the video and you can drastically reduce an image's file size.

Now, if you'd be so kind, please answer me this...

Would you like to see more video tutorials where it makes sense?
Would you like to see how to optimize GIF and PNG images, too?

Drop me a line and let me know.

P.S. Here's the link to the software download page: GetPaint.net/download.html.

Webmaster Q and A

Lucky Number Generator

Q: I want to have lucky number generator on one of my web pages. I'd like it to say something like "Your lucky number today is X. Come back tomorrow for tomorrow's lucky number." I don't want them to have to do anything like like click a button or whatever, I just want a random number printed on the page. I do want it to be a random number, different for everyone. Can you help me out?

- Amber C.

A: I offerend a JavaScript that would do that way back in issue 55 (December of 2001). Here's YOUR "lucky" number...

If you reload the page you'll probably get a different lucky number. I say "probably" because it is a random number, so occasionally the same number could be generated.

Of course, this code is really a random number generator. The numbers it prints won't necessarily be lucky, although I suppose they could be. There's no such thing as a true "lucky" number generator.

Here's the code:

<script type="text/JavaScript">
var maxNumber = 100;
var randomNumber = Math.round(maxNumber * Math.random());

document.write("Your lucky number is " + randomNumber  + ". Come back tomorrow for tomorrow's lucky number.");
</script>

Note that lines five and six should be on one line. It copies and pastes as one line for me using Opera, but I don't know if it will in every browser. It's OK if the line wraps naturally when you paste it into your code, you just don't want a hard return in the code. If you get one, just backspace it out.

As is, the highest number this script will generate is 100. You can change that by changing the maxNumber in line two. For example, if you wanted a number from 1 to 10, change the maxNumber from 100 to 10.

Place that code on the page where you want the lucky number to show. If you want the text more promiment like show above, just code a heading tag around it, or place the script inside a paragraph or division tag and style it as you choose.

This site is happily hosted by...

This site has been hosted by Bluehost since 2005—that's ten problem-free years!

Life's Little Goodies

Seven Tips for Getting and Staying Motivated

When we feel motivated and inspired it's easier to be creative, to innovate, or simply to get our work done. While it would be nice to simply flip a switch and turn the inspiration on when we need it, the truth is, there will be times when we just don't feel it.

That's when work can be a drag. In those times, it can be tempting to take the path of least resistance and lower our standards, thus producing inferior work.

Zig Ziglar wrote, "They say motivation doesn't last. Neither does bathing, that's why we recommend it daily." Fortunately, there are things we can do to stoke our motivational fires.

Relatively few of us jump out of bed just burning with enthusiasm for our daily work. Here are a few things we can do to optimize our daily focus.

  1. Keep inspiring pictures and messages around your home, especially in places where you'll see them often. A few good places include near your desk if you work from home, on the bathroom mirror, on the fridge, and anywhere that you will see them often.

    The trick to using this method is to change things up on a regular basis. You get used to seeing the same things all the time and begin to ignore them. When you change things up your mind pays attention because it's different. Once you realize your mind has gotten used to it, when the picture or message no longer inspires you, it's time to change things up.

  2. Use positive affirmations every day. You can choose one or two that you repeat to yourself over a period of time. Or, you can choose a new one each day, but I think there's power in repetition.

    If you can't think of any on your own a quick visit to your favorite search engine will help you find all you need. Favorite quotations that inspire you are a good substitute, or a mixture of both could be ideal as long as the ideas they offer complement each other.

    Like with the pictures, you may want to change this up now and then to keep from getting bored. Your mind does need repetition, but if you're saying basically the same thing in different words, it will grasp the concept or idea you're trying to instill, and you won't be as likely to grow tired of the same message if used too much and too often.

    A good way to keep things fresh and fun is to pick a new themed affirmation each week. This gives you time to use the repetitious phrase, but not so much time that it becomes a drag.

    Another idea is to have a series of affirmations, one for each day of the week, for example, and cycle through them week after week.

  3. Give yourself daily reminders of why you want to be motivated. Is it because you feel better when you're motivated, or it helps you be in a better mood, or because you're working on some goals that are important to you?

    Whatever the reason, keep it in mind with daily reminders. Working towards goals can get overwhelming at times, but if you remind yourself of why you're doing it, it's much easier to stay motivated.

  4. Write down your expectations. This is similar to the previous list item, but with this strategy you write down what you plan to achieve by staying positive and motivated.

    It could be to attract better friendships or better business opportunities, or it could be for self-development. Whatever you're trying to accomplish, be sure to write it down and create a very vivid image of it in your mind. Remind yourself of this often and visualize it often as well.

  5. Talk to yourself in the mirror. I know it may sound silly if you've never been taught this, but many people have success by giving themselves a pep talk in the mirror each morning. It may feel awkward at first, but over time it becomes natural.

    Sometimes we have to be our own best cheerleader. Daily pep talks can set the mood for your day and make it more positive. You can also do this throughout the day if you start to feel a low moment coming on or things don't seem to be going well.

  6. Get a motivation partner. If you struggle to keep yourself motivated and in a positive mood, find someone who inspires you. This should be an upbeat friend who seems to always be in a good mood, but it doesn't have to be. Perhaps you have a friend who wants to be in a better mood more often, but is also struggling with it. You can team up and send each other daily positive messages to keep each other motivated.

    Even though this person doesn't have to be the most upbeat person, you definitely want to steer clear of a negative person as a partner. Although they may mean well and want to work at it, it's far too easy for their negativity to creep into their words and sabotage their effort and your purpose.

  7. Reward yourself for progress. One reason we get bogged down is because we're working hard but, having not yet accomplished our desired goal, the results we want still seem far off. By giving ourselves small rewards for steady progress, and better rewards for reaching predetermined milestones, we have tangible proof of our efforts that can help pull us along.
It's hard to stay constantly motivated, but if you use some of the tips mentioned here on a regular basis, you'll find you can get motivated more often and stay motivated far longer. In doing so, you'll accomplish what you set out to do.

Remember, any change takes time and effort. Stick to it and before you know it, self-motivation will be second nature to you.

Motivation will almost always beat mere talent.
- Norman Ralph Augustine

InkyDeals
Daily deals for creative professionals
Off the Cuff

10 Tips for Becoming an In-Demand Web Content Writer

If you enjoy writing, you're lucky to be alive right now. The Internet has created a massive demand for content writers.

Someone has to write all the web content. While many do it themselves, it's probably never been easier to earn money, or even make a living, as a writer.

Not only is the demand for writers higher than ever, but there are tools like spell checkers and grammar checkers to help you. Furthermore, most content for the web is written in a less formal and more conversational way than for traditional print publications, so the grammatical skills for content writers are often not as exacting as those for print media.

All you need is a passion for writing, an Internet connection, and a knowledge of the subject matter (or a willingness to research it).

Here are 10 tips for becoming a successful online writer.

  1. Write Everyday

    Like with any skill, you'll get better at writing through practice. Even if you consider yourself a good writer, writing on a daily basis will keep your skills sharp. Even if the jobs aren't rolling in, practice. A good way to do that without making it a tedious chore is to...

    Create a blog - or several blogs - about topics you like. When you have downtime between writing gigs, write blog posts and indulge in your interests. You can make a name for yourself in the niches you like and the blogs you do for fun can sometimes bring you paying clients, advertising revenue, and affiliate sales.

  2. Learn about Keywords

    Keywords are at the core of SEO (search engine optimization). Many clients will want you to use keywords in the copy you write for them to help with their site's search engine placement.

    It's good to have a basic understanding of how keywords work to attract search engine traffic. As a writer, you may not need to do keyword research because your clients will often have keywords they want you to use in your writing. However, understanding how they work will help you create better content for them.

    If you actually do the keyword research for them, or assist them in compiling relevant keyword lists, you could charge extra for that service or use it as an added value to justify higher writing fees.

  3. Read Web Content

    You're probably doing plenty of this already, but pay attention to how writing web content is different from the writing that appears in magazines or books. As I mentioned, it's more conversational, but you'll also notice how writers use smaller paragraphs, short sentences, and attention-grabbing headlines and sub-headings. Read enough web content and you'll develop a knack for it.

  4. Know the Target Audience

    Learn as much as possible about the target audience(s) you're writing for. Once you start publishing content, pay attention to comments, shares and page analytics to get a feel for your audience's tastes.

    Visiting popular forums in your niche will help you discover the buzzwords, problems, opportunities, products, popular ideas and more in the industry.

  5. Self-Publish

    It's incredibly easy to self-publish today. You can publish your work as an ebook, a Kindle book, or there are websites that will print actual hardcopy books for you at incredibly good prices.

    As long as you're going to be a writer, you might as well start putting out books. Even if no one buys them, they'll help establish you as a published author and authority in your niche.

  6. Don't Be a Perfectionist

    When you're writing, turn off the inner critic and just let the ideas flow. Get everything down while your creativity is flowing. You can go back later and read through your work to jazz it up.

  7. Specialize

    Choose one niche to be your specialist niche. Blog in this niche and look for jobs in this niche. You're much more marketable as a niche-specific writer because you'll have insights and ideas in that niche which regular writers won't have.

    Incidentally, specializing in one niche doesn't mean you can't write for other niches. A chef who specializes in steak also makes potatoes, soups, and other items—it's just good to have a specialty.

  8. Add Skills

    In addition to writing, offer other services that go along with writing. For example, offer to format ebooks. This way, a client can hire you to write the ebook, and to also format it for them. This makes your work more valuable for them. You can offer service-by-service pricing, and bundle services at a discount to make buying a package more attractive.

    Other skills you could offer include creating illustrations, setting up payment processing, product and/or website promotion, setting up accounts at social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and others (and posting content to them), doing keyword research, creating infographics, press releases and more.

  9. Grow a Social Media Following

    Besides offering this as a service to your clients, you should build a social media following of your own who read and enjoy your work. Many websites want to hire a writer who can help them promote published posts by sharing to their social media fan base.

    You can not only promote your existing clients via your own social sites, but you can get new clients this way as well.

  10. Practice Smart Avoidance

    What is smart avoidance? It's simply avoiding topics that will alienate a significant portion of your potential customers.

    For example, according to a recent Gallop poll, roughly 60 percent of Americans identify as democrats or republicans, with just over 40 percent defining themselves as independents. So, unless your niche is politics and you intend to appeal to one side or the other, posting political comments that favors one idealogy is to risk alienating a significant number of your readers who do not lean in the same direction—and if you haven't noticed, there seems to be less tolerance these days for the "other" side.

    And remember, you not only risk alienating the members of one party, but also the independents who do not share your ideology. That's why I rarely mention politics here.

    Of course, political topics aren't the only polarizing issues you may want to avoid. There are a multitude of hot button issues, which is why, as I mentioned in item four of this list, that it pays to know your target audience. A topic that triggers an unwanted response in one group may not cause a ripple in another group.

    The Caveat

    If you don't mind the flack that comes with the territory when you choose sides, being controversial can be lucrative. Sure, some will hate you, but those of the same idealogy will be enthused by you. Think about it before going in that direction, though. You'd better have the stomach for it because some in the "hate you" crowd will go way over the top in their response. Intelligent, reasoned responses aren't in everyone's bag of tricks.

Concluding Tip

When you write online, don't be afraid to let your personality shine through your words. People love a personal touch. Share short stories—and do keep them short unless you're a very gifted writer and know how to keep your readers' interested.

Don't be afraid to give your opinion on topics either. This is what makes your writing stand out from all that generic web content that's online. Just remember to practice smart avoidance unless you intend to be controversial. Most rational people won't think less of you if you prefer Coke over Pepsi, but go against their deeply held convictions you draw a line of separation between yourself and them. Very few profits will come from the other side of that line.

Reminder

If you really want to be an elite content writer you really should pick up a copy of Content Master.

Free Graphics

My Gift to You

Each issue will feature different free graphics. You can use these on any site you own, including commercial sites. Business graphics will be unbranded.

Here are a couple graphics you can use on your web sites or sites like Facebook and Pinterest. Download it and link to it on your site or upload it from your computer, please don't link to it on my server.

universe in a mind

creativity meme

Enjoy! By the way, you can discover how to make graphics like this if you download the product experiment mentioned earlier.
Miscellanea

Featured Website: Playing for Change

Playing For Change is a movement created to inspire and connect the world through music. The idea for this project came from a common belief that music has the power to break down boundaries and overcome distances (and differences) between people.

Playing For Change was born in 2002 as a shared vision between co-founders, Mark Johnson and Whitney Kroenke, to hit the streets of America with a mobile recording studio and cameras in search of inspiration and the heartbeat of the people. While some celebrity musicians have performed in some of the videos, they mostly use street musicians.

The music they produce isn't always the type of music I like, but it is always very good. The featured video below was the first "playing for change" video I saw, which was several years ago. They also sell albums and accept donations, which funds music schools (among other things) where none existed, providing music training (and hope) to many.

» Featured Site: Playing for Change

Featured Video: Playing for Change

Reader Feedback

Reply: You are most welcome, Andy.

Reply: If you join now you'll have access to the current member site, AND you'll get a full year in the new member site, AND you'll be grandfathered in at a lower price. However, if you wait a little while I'm going to make a special offer. I was going to make the offer in this issue but I didn't have time to set it up.

One more thing . . . while I told you about the main features, I didn't tell you everything that will be in the new member site— far from it! I'm not ready to spill the beans yet, but all the stuff on the inside is going to make you say "WOW" ...and that's all I'll say for now. :)