A New Beginning : Following My Dreams


I really don't know how to begin this post! I  feel a whirlwind of emotions inside of me as I wrap up my full time job as a computer engineer to pursue a career in the creative industry as a web designer. Today's post is more of a letter to you about my story so far, my reflections and my dreams!

I grew up in a city called Bangalore - the silicon valley of India. Pursuing a career in computer science came by naturally due to my interest in the subject. After completing my masters, I chose to work for a data analytics firm in my hometown. A couple of days into the job, I knew it wasn't the place for me, I just did not like the corporate environment and the restrictions that came along. I decided to apply for a research internship and was super happy when I got the opportunity to pursue my research in the United states. I moved to Pennsylvania 2.5 years ago - I loved my work, the academic environment, the flexibility to call in my own work hours and the freedom to work on my own ideas. During this time, I started PinkPot as a place to share my thoughts about my hobbies and life in general. 

Last year same time around, I got married to my highschool sweetheart and moved to Seattle. Wow, this city is breathtakingly beautiful. I love the buzz of the city, friendly people and the charm of the place. My research job was going pretty well. Meanwhile, I developed an interest in creative businesses online. I became more intentional with my blog and spent hours honing my photography skills. My blog started to grow and I got serious about starting my own online business. 

The period between October to December last year was kinda difficult - my internship period was going to end July 2015 and I had 2 options. I could either extend my internship or look for a new software job. I didn't want to extend my internship as I felt the need to move on. But at the same time, I was half-hearted about pursuing a job in the corporate world. I wanted to start something on my own and work for myself but there were so many questions and ambiguity - what about money? What if I don't like what I do? What if I fail? What if I never find a job again? I struggled to make a decision. After a lot of thinking, frustration and tears - I decided to not apply for a job and figure out things on the way 'cuz sometimes the best thing to do is to just follow your heart.

Web design was my major subject during university and I love designing and writing code for websites. Since starting my blog, I was toying around with the idea of starting my own design shop. I finally went for it and started a design shop on Etsy this February. The shop took off in a surprisingly positive way and has brought in a world of opportunities for me in the past 4 months. It has given me the confidence to go after my dreams of creating my own business.

The end of July has finally come! My job as a researcher is about to be over in a couple of days and starting August, I am going to be pursuing my web design business full time along with other fun and creative projects. The next one year of my life is reserved for doing the things I enjoy the most - whether it is designing, photography, water color painting, hiking, running a marathon - whatever may be, I am just going to do it without letting anything stop me! After 1 year - you ask? We can never have everything figured out, and that's just the beauty of things - so I am just going to roll with it making sure I am putting my 100% into doing all those things I want to do. I know being your own boss comes with its own set of thrills and uncertainty, however I am super excited to start off a new journey from here.

Thank you for being a part of my journey, for being supportive and encouraging always - I love you! 

Let the adventure begin! 

Do you have a story to share - tell me all about it in the comments!
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The 4-U Formula For Crafting Killer Headlines [Infographic]


Ever wondered why some blog posts get a lot more click-throughs than others? According to Copyblogger, 8 out of 10 people read the headline, but only 2 proceed to read the content. No wonder experts suggest spending 50% of your content creation time coming up with the headline.

Surprising right? But when you think about it, it shouldn't be 'cuz we all filter our emails based on the subject line, Isn't it? The internet has way more content than we can consume - and we are forced to make a selection based on the headline. So then, the secret lies in writing attractive headlines which piques the reader's curiosity to come and read your content. 

Writing catchy headlines can be tricky, as it is important to be authentic and attractive while not sounding too sales-y. To make this easier, Michael Masterson came up with the 4-U formula for writing attractive headlines. The key to using the 4U formula lies in asking the following four questions while writing your headline:

Is your headline Unique?
Is your headline Useful?
Is your headline Ultra-Specific? 
Is your headline Urgent?

In my opinion, the 4U formula provides a great framework to generate magnetic headlines and here's how:

Unique: 

If the reader has already come across a headline like yours, why would they click to read your content? Even if you content was unique, there is limited to grab your reader's attention - so its important to make your headline unique.  What is it that makes your content exclusive?  What is it that your content offers to the reader that nobody else has - make sure to include it in your headline. For instance, I initially chose the headline "Why you need a responsive blog design" but posts with the same headline were all over the web. So in order to make it unique, I altered it to "Why a responsive blog design is important for SEO".  The "for SEO" part made the headline unique. 

Useful: 

If there is one thing that I've learnt from blogging, it is that readers come to a blog when they find the content useful and beneficial to them. Is your content offering something that is useful to your readers? Mention in the headline the biggest takeaway of your content for your audience. It is important that the reader believes you will solve their problem just by looking at the headline. Of course, you must also deliver on that promise.

Ultra-Specific: 

Consider these two headlines :

H1: 5 ideas to decorate your home
H2: 5 ideas to decorate your home using indoor plants

The first headline, although useful, is slightly vague and open-ended. It doesn't mention exactly what the reader can expect from the blog post. Whereas the second headline mentions the exact benefit of the content to the reader. If there are any specifics that you could add to your headline to make it more interesting and trust-worthy for your target audience,  use it.

Urgent:

Include a sense of urgency to your headline if possible. Depending on your content, this may not be possible always - so if there is one U that you could leave out of your headline, it is the urgency factor. But if your content is time sensitive, highlight it. Why should the user read your content right now? What is it that they are going to gain/lose by reading/not-reading your copy right now? Make sure to imply this in your headline to make it more compelling!

Let's examine a few example headlines to see the 4U formula in action, shall we?

H1. How to earn a living as a freelancer this year
This headline is unique, its useful for freelancers who are trying to make a full time income, its ultra-specific to freelancers, its urgent as its targeting this year which will definitely make freelancers click on it at one sight.

H2. 7 simple tricks to cut the bounce rate of your site in half
This headline is useful as it teaches you how to cut down the bounce rate of your site, its ultra-specific about cutting down the bounce rate by half and also specifies that the tricks are simple. It doesn't have an urgency factor to it but its pretty unique in the information it imparts to the readers which is definitely attractive!

H3. 10 Ideas to refresh small spaces under $50
This headline is ultra-specific as it is sharing 10 ideas to refresh your spacing using less that fifty dollars. It is super-useful, offers unique ideas and although its not urgent, its definitely attention grabbing!

Its so simple yet intriguing, right? This formula can be applied to all sorts of headlines - emails, blog posts, sales pages, e-books, e-courses, you name it.

This was my first time creating an infographic, do you like it? I would love to hear your feedback in the comments :)

Do you invest time in crafting attractive headlines for your blog posts? 
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How To Fix Underexposed Photos In Photoshop


Do you have those times when you realize the photo you've taken for your blog is dark/ underexposed in a few areas when compared to the rest of the photo? You try increasing the exposure to fix the dark areas, but as a result the other normal - bright areas get blown out and look ultra white. Ugh! Don't worry, I have an easy fix for you using the Dodge Tool in Adobe Photoshop - and it does it in less than 60 seconds, ssh!

In the left photo below, you can see how the area in the bottom-right looks dull and dark when compared to the other areas in the photo in the left photo. You can see the results of using dodge tool in the picture to the right.
Please click on the picture to enlarge
Okay so let's dive into the tutorial - essentially it is just two steps, easy!

Step 1 : Open your photo in Photoshop by going to File > Open > Browse your file location. If your toolbar isn't open, locate it by opening Windows > Tools (select). If your layers panel isn't open, locate it by opening Windows > Layers (select).

Please click on the picture to enlarge
Step 2 :  In your layers panel, right click on the background layer and select Duplicate layer. You could change name of the duplicate layer - background copy or leave it unchanged. This is to prevent the original photo from saving the changes while you are still editing.

Please click on the picture to enlarge
Step 3 : Keep the cursor clicked on the newly created duplicate layer. Select the dodge tool from your toolbar and start brushing over the areas that you think are underexposed in the photo. And as you continue doing that, you will see the dark areas brightening up! Continue to do it until you feel the exposure in the photo is balanced. You can alter the size of the brush for the dodge tool in the toolbar at the top. For large areas you can use a large brush size to fix it quickly, but to get it into intricate, small areas make sure to use a smaller brush - whatever suits your needs the best!
Please click on the picture to enlarge
It literally takes less than 60 seconds and is one of the best tips I've learnt in photoshop. 

What are the common photo editing problems for you?
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5 CSS Tricks To Transform The Look Of Your Blog


The other day I was designing a template for my design shop, and I was trying out a few fonts for the body text; I just wasn't able to find a font that was clear and matched the overall style of the template. Then out of boredom, I started changing a few CSS properties of the font and voila! the font suddenly seemed a lot more appealing. Aha! I realized how a small thing like letter-spacing had changed the entire look of the font. 

CSS may be intimidating at first, but it is a powerful tool that can alter the appearances of web elements in a large way. So here are 5 CSS tricks that you can use to transform the look of your blog :

1. Letter Spacing: This property is essentially the spacing between the letters of the text. I have seen how changing the letter spacing in a text can make an otherwise 'blah' font look exotic! You can change the letter spacing for any piece of text in your blog by using the code in the example below:



2. Alignment: I have always used justify to align my body or post text, but I have seen many websites and blogs follow left alignment as it is perceived to be more friendly and approachable. Whatever may be the case - friendly or formal - it is important to maintain consistency in the alignment. Left alignment in one place and center in the other will make the style of your blog look inconsistent.



3. Borders: Adding borders to certain elements in your blog will help to highlight and distinguish it from other elements. In my blog, I have used borders to highlight my sidebar headings, to separate posts from each other and also for my quote boxes. Using a quote box can be particularly useful to highlight and present content in a neat and organized way. For eg. if you want to post a food recipe, you can present the recipe neatly using a quote box. You can check out this in action in my Choco-almond recipe here.


4. Padding & Margins: White space! The best way to make your blog look neat and clean is by using white space. A good way to emphasize white space is by using ample padding and margins for your design elements. For example, you could use padding for your post footer to increase the spacing between two posts or use wider margins in your sidebar to make it look less cluttered. 


5. Color: My favorite element of design is color. There are an insane number of ways to use color to spruce up your blog, but it can also be tricky; using color in the wrong way can mess up a design. I specifically use color on my blog to emphasize my logo, highlight links, headings and icons. You can easily pick the hex code of  color you want to use and set it in the CSS code for the design element you want. 


These simple changes can transform the look of your blog quickly and make a significant difference to the design. I am currently working on rebranding my own website and I have found these properties to be very helpful! 

What are some of your favorite blog designs?
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How To Start An Etsy Shop


When I wrote - 8 Reasons To Start An Etsy Shop - I was surprised by the amazing response I received for the post. So many of you seemed to be interested in starting an Etsy shop but weren't sure where to begin. If you have a hobby that can spark a wonderful product idea, then why keep it a secret - share it with the world! Etsy is a great starting point to launch your business as it provides you a ready, buzzing marketplace, an easy interface to set up your shop and helps you develop the confidence and skills required to run a business. 

If you want to open an Etsy shop and are wondering where to begin, here are a few key points that will get you thinking in the direction:


Find out what you can create 

The burning question is - What do I sell? If you already have a hobby that you invest a lot of time in, then you already know the answer to this question. If you are an artist, you could sell your paintings; if you spend your weekends knitting, then you could sell your crochet work. Whatever maybe your hobby, there is always a possibility of taking it to the next level by sharing your creativity with the world. If there is nothing that pops to your head immediately, think hard. Dig in - what is that one thing that makes your heart sing and forget the world? What are you awesome at? 

You can sell almost any creative good on Etsy - it just has to be handmade, vintage or a craft supply. Etsy has sellers in almost every category you can think of, check out the list of categories here  and see which is the perfect one for you.

Do your market research:

Now that you have figured out what you want to sell and which category your shop fits in best, what next? You need to research your market. Who are your target customers? Is there a market for your products already? Who are your competitors? What are the current selling trends? A clear idea of the current market scene will help you prepare, create and sell your products to the right audience. 

Creating an inventory: 

Imagine walking into a very sparsely stocked shop, would you buy from there? It is difficult to trust a shop with just one or two items. To open a shop, you need to have your products ready to sell. Make a list of products you want to launch your shop with; set aside time to plan, design, develop and refine them.

When I decided to open my design shop in February, I spent all my free time in January creating pre-made blog templates that I wanted to launch my shop with. When I opened my shop, I had five pre-made designs that gave the customers a peek into the kind of designs I could create, my capabilities and my skill set. You may want to spend some extra time and thought in planning and creating these initial products for your shop as they are the ones that are going to attract your first customers - and remember, first impressions matter!

Logistics: 

Once you have the products ready to sell, you are ready to open an Etsy shop. Although Etsy makes it super easy to set up a shop, there are a lot of details to be taken care of. In future posts, I'll be diving deep into it, but here are the important things to keep in mind:

Name: You need to decide a name for your shop. Coming up with a name for your business is exciting, but can be super exhausting if you have to choose from many options. Etsy allows you to change the name only once, so you may want to carefully choose a name that you will stick with for a long time. 

Set up shop: Etsy provides a super easy interface that guides you step by step while opening a shop. You will need to create listings of your items, upload product photos, fill out shop details, set up payment options etc. as a part of shop set up. Its a very simple process and what more, it costs nothing. Make sure to open your shop by clicking HERE as it will give 40 listings free to you (and me!)

Product Photographs & descriptions: While selling in a virtual environment, you have to be quick and clever in grasping the customer's attention. Since the customer cannot see, touch or feel the product for real, the best way to gain their trust is through your photos and descriptions. Hence, when you create product listings, its important to use attractive and clear product photos along with detailed product descriptions.

Packing & shipping product: If you are creating digital goods like me, there isn't much to worry in the packaging and shipping department. Just zip all your files together and make them available for instant download or take an order request and ship the files separately to the customer. However, if you are creating physical goods, you may want to take extra care in packaging and shipping your items. You know the joy of receiving a beautifully and carefully packed parcel at your doorstep? Make sure to recreate that for your customers, and they will remember you always!

Click here to open your Etsy Shop today and earn 40 free listings for you and me!

What are your thoughts on Etsy? Happy Sunday :)


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