daily routine

The Rule of Five: The Building Blocks of a Leader’s Daily Routine

It’s funny how things change! In this post from October 12th, 2010, I mention going to an LTD Leadership convention. I imagine it was either in Kansas City, MO or Louisville, KY. I’ll tell you, I loved being a part of that group! I was motivation junkie. I was sucking it all in and had been for 4 years straight at that point. It had been over a year since I had graduated, but I had little to show for it – in fact, this was when I was just about to start teaching at Ivy Tech.

At that point, who would have guessed that I would soon become a John Maxwell Team member?

Woah. Life is truly amazing in its twists and turns.

Anyhow, I wanted to share this post after last week’s 100th session of the AoL Podcast. One of the things that I mentioned is that John has this Rule of Five when it comes to learning and filing those things away. Well, as you’ll read below, those 5 steps have helped him write numerous books over the years. However, this does come at a cost – he calls his regular life pretty boring!

I can relate. That’s why I don’t really use social media to share what I’m up to. Because most of the time it’s spent in front of a computer creating content!!

– JC

What a Great Weekend!

Over the weekend I went to an LTD leadership conference – Summit 2010. As usual, the quality of the speakers was great. The two keynote speakers completely blew my mind: Frank Luntz and John C. Maxwell. For those of you who don’t know, Frank is a pollster that has probably been on every prime time and morning news show imaginable. And Dr. Maxwell, well – let’s just call him the guru of leadership. He’s someone that I’ve learned quite a bit from in the last couple of years through my grad work and LTD itself.

One of the things that I share with you guys today was something John pointed out that he does on a daily basis that I thought was really noteworthy. Doing this little thing has lead him to write over 50 books over his career and still gives him more to share. This little thing is called the “Rule of Five”.

Essentially the Rule of Five is a habit you start that consists of 5 different actions that lead you to your goals/dreams. For example, Dr. Maxwell wanted to become an in-demand writer and motivational speaker. Of course, there are multiple ways to do this, but since he’s a great writer, he thought that it’d be better for him to go in as a writer.

Rule of Five:

So, his five things that he does to achieve this are:

  1. Read
  2. File
  3. Think
  4. Ask questions
  5. Write

Doesn’t seem too bad, does it?

Well, there’s a catch. You have to do this everyday. No excuses. Do you want to be a novelist? You will write every day. Do you want to be an painter? You will paint everyday! Simple, right?

As part of his presentation, he said, “your success is determined by your daily agenda.” This is so true, because it is! To accomplish you have to be productive! However, he worked intelligently. You hear so much about people being busy all the time and not successfully going anywhere – it’s typically because they’re not focused in their work.

And since he was there talking about his writing, you can see that he was successful in what he set out to do!

John wasn’t born rich. He didn’t attend a prestigious school or grow up with children of people in power. He got to where he is by doing.

So. Five things a day, everyday. That’s all it takes to fulfill your dream.

Just a note to add here. Since starting work on New Inceptions full time, I started implementing my own Rule of Five. While I started from his, mine varies slightly due to the different content pieces that I’ll make in a given week.

For creating content, mine are:

  1. Explore – Find out what’s going on in the world around me and in the online entrepreneurial/creative industry.
  2. Study – Are there any interesting crossings of the two worlds? What does it mean and how does it apply?
  3. Connect the Dots – Ask those questions! Who needs to know this information? Is this something I need to bring up in future content?
  4. Take Action – Synthesize new content, share, and help others where needed.
  5. Reflect – Ask myself, “Did that have the desired effect I was looking for? What could I have done better?”

Action Steps:

One thing I want to make clear is this: the Rule of Five can be applied to anything that you want to master. What do you want to master?What are you working on that you can break down into 5 steps? Let me know below!

If you want a post about this in John’s own words, you can check one out here! Also, if you haven’t done so yet from session 100, check out this post by John. In this post, besides his Rule of Five, he also talks about his 12 pledges. Now, I can’t say that I have pledges, I do use Joe Markiewics’s 21 Standards to this day, I wouldn’t necessarily call them pledges – although they seem to be very similar.

Leveraging LinkedIn for Business: 11 Tips to Get More Social on the “Professional” Platform

Ever since my interview of Mirna Bacun back in session 18, I’ve been a proponent of folks starting groups on LinkedIn if they thought that their clientele would sooner be found on there than on Facebook.

Another reason that you might want to start a group on there is that it has a few more functions than groups on Facebook have these days – including a digest of activity.

There’s other reasons, but you can find out more about that in my interview with Myr here.

In the meantime, everyone that does business online SHOULD have at least a profile on LinkedIn. You never know who’s going to run across your account – and frankly, you can share things over there just as easily as you can on Facebook.

In this post, which was originally posted back on September 30th, 2010, I went over how you can make your account easier to find for those looking to fill a position. Back then, I was still trying to get hired by a startup – so I wrote it in that perspective. Eventually, I did land a position through that old advice – but I think it’s time that this post get’s a bit of an update! – JC

What is LinkedIn, Really?

Since graduating, one thing has definitely been on my mind as I’ve been looking into professional networking: LinkedIn. To those of us not familiar with it, I’ll just say that it’s basically a Facebook for professionals. It has many features that Facebook has except without all the personal clutter that makes Facebook is known for.

Here’s a review of the new LinkedIn User Interface in 2017 by Paul Wilson to get you up to speed if you’ve never made an account on the platform before:

If you’re a professional or business owner and you DON’T have a LinkedIn account, then you might be missing out. Sure, you can make plenty of noise through having your own Facebook Group these days, but if not everyone uses Facebook for business – yet. So having an up-to-date account on LinkedIn pointing to your account on Facebook (if that’s where they can find you most often) might be the best solution.

Tips on Using LinkedIn

That being the case, here are a few things that you want to focus on when getting involved with LinkedIn:

1. Make sure you Create a 100% full Profile.

This includes getting 3 recommendations and a nice (professional) picture for yourself.

2. Use Keywords in your Profile.

For me I try to use terms related to online business development, brand development, and social media consulting. The more often you use particular keywords in your profile, the easier it is for LinkedIn’s search engine to find you. This makes it easier for others to find you if they look for that particular term.

3. Update your Profile Regularly.

Just like other social media platforms, people take interest in you if you post more frequently. One way to do this is by linking your profile to your other social media accounts. That way, whatever you post over there will be seen on LinkedIn. However, if you’re posting super personal information regularly, you might want to reconsider doing this. The best course of action is simply posting native material to LinkedIn.

4. Find and Participate in the Groups You Care About!

Just like groups on Facebook, Groups in LinkedIn can be a great place to meet liked minded individuals that can help you get to where you’re trying to get to in your career.

5. Add anyone you meet in Business and Life

Just like adding people to Facebook, don’t be afraid to ask them to be LinkedIn! Just like in Facebook, the more people you’re connected to, the better off you are in networking. Those are selective in whom they select to be part of their list aren’t doing themselves any favors. (When inviting them on LinkedIn, be sure to use a custom message.)

6. Get familiar with Browsing your Connections’ Connections.

You never know who knows the people you know. As David Anderson said, “You’re only one person away from having everything come true that you want in life.”

7. Start following particular companies that you might enjoy working with.

When you do this it will be announced to people in your network. Answering questions in groups does wonders to get you noticed as well.

8. Don’t be afraid to leave Recommendations for people.

In fact, when you leave recommendations for people – more often than not, they’ll return the favor. This makes you look hella awesome!

9.  Share What You Know

If you know something about a company such as an event or the fact that they’re hiring, let others know!

This is another way of building rapport with members of your network. What goes around, should come around!

10. Use that Search Feature!

On many websites this feature gets overlooked as it tends to be somewhat frustrating to use. Not the case at LinkedIn. Use it to find potential clients or groups that you want to work with.

11. Create Your Own Group

As mentioned at the beginning of this post, having your own group is a great way to develop a following. Myr was ahead of her time when she created her formula – so if building a following on LinkedIn is key to building your business – don’t hesitate and get educated!

Action Steps

With it’s update this past year, LinkedIn is stepping up its game. It functions more and more like Facebook, which, in general, makes it easier for people to navigate. Again, the big difference is that the audiences are completely different. Even though you can do business on Facebook, it’s still the exception and not the norm.

If you haven’t been on LinkedIn for awhile or feel you have to spend a lot of time there to make it worth your while – think again!

How to be more productive

Work Smarter, Not Harder – How to be More Productive In Your Day Without More Discipline with Lisa Crilley Mallis (AoL 090)

We’ve all heard the phrase Work Smarter, Not Harder. But for many of us that’s much more easier to say than actually do.

The prevailing advice that’s out there is that there’s only certain ways to get stuff done. To be successful, you must:

  • Race the sun
  • Crush it
  • Find the schedule that best suits you
  • Exercise first thing in the morning
  • Answer email first thing in the morning
  • Tackle your least desirable tasks first
  • Knock out simple tasks as they come in.
  • Disconnect from technology
  • Automate and systematize

These are just some of the solutions that are out there when you google “entrepreneur productivity hacks“.

It might be me, but some of them seem to conflict with each other. For example, if you’re racing the sun, that means that you’re a morning person and you work until sundown. Well, what if night is your best working time? Can night owls make the transition to morning birds so easily?

I know for me, it takes me a bit of time for my mind to fully boot up in the morning. Usually I spend an hour just seeing what’s new on the web, having breakfast, and working out (yay for home gym equipment you actually use!).

This is completely different than how many people approach their days – and frankly when I approached my days like that back in high school, I was always a zombie until 3rd period.

Apparently, there’s nothing wrong with that, according to this session’s guest, Lisa Crilley Mallis.

People do have their own schedules and processes when it comes to being creative and getting things done.

She also acknowledges that many people’s day to day work life doesn’t allow them to actually be efficient in their own zone. While it might be expected of them, it’s by no means healthy or really productive for that matter.

In our conversation, we talk more about her mission, some of the things that she helps people with in her practice, and how you can keep focused in what’s important in your daily routine.

Thanks for listening, and enjoy the show!


  • What was Lisa doing before she started Impactive Strategies? 7:32
  • Was owning her own business something she always saw herself doing and how did she end up starting it? 11:21
  • What kind of material did she study as she was starting the foundation of her business? 16:46
  • What’s the secret to getting more done in a person’s day? 20:15
  • How can someone battle the busy work in their day? 24:11
  • What’s Lisa’s definition of true busy work? 30:04
  • How does she know when to say no about a opportunity? 34:40
  • What’s a simple way to keep people focused on what’s important? 40:23
  • What’s going on the rest of this year for Lisa? 43:24
  • Who are Lisa’s favorite teachers? 45:45
  • Something she wishes was still a thing? 46:25
  • What is the smallest decision that has had the greatest impact on her life? 48:08
  • Something she believed in her 20’s but now knows is completely inaccurate? 49:21
  • How can someone be a difference maker in their community? 51:16
  • … and MUCH more!

Right click here and save-as to download this episode to your computer.




How to Start and End Your Day with Routines:

Learning About WHAT You Can Delegate:

Lisa’s interview with Marc Mawhinney:

Lisa’s interview with Erica Duran:

how to be more productive

Thanks for Listening!

Thanks so much for joining us again this week. Have some feedback you’d like to share? Leave a note in the comment section below!

If you enjoyed this episode, please share it using the social media buttons you see at the top of the post.

Also, please leave an honest review for The AoL Podcast on iTunes! Ratings and reviews are extremely helpful and greatly appreciated! They do matter in the rankings of the show, and we read each and every one of them.

If you have any questions feel free to email them over via the email mentioned in the show or by our contact form.

And finally, don’t forget to subscribe to the show on iTunesStitcherSoundcloud, and/or Google Play Music. It’s absolutely free to do so.

A huge thank-you to you guys for joining us!


business practices

5 Business Practices You’re Probably Doing Wrong… and How to Fix Them

The last couple of years have been a heck of an experience for me. I’ve been learning a ton. Many times through mistakes and many times much later than I would have liked to.

One thing that I’m glad I do regularly is reflect – specifically weekly, monthly, and yearly.

And since we’re just about to hit halfway through 2017 already (dannng!) I thought now would be a good time for me to hit you with a few things that either I’ve struggled with or business friends of mine have.

So here are 5 things you just might be doing wrong in your business:


You’re Not Prepared for Scaling

I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt here – and just say you’re a workaholic. Whether you’re still in a 9 to 5 and work on your business at night, or you’ve gone full entrepreneur mode and having no problems finding customers – there’s a really good chance you haven’t prepped for scaling.

What do I mean by that?

Well, for one, if you’re doing this thing on your own and have full blown superman syndrome – how do you plan on getting out of your own way?

Sure, you can hire help to do certain tasks – but what good is that help if they have to spend a year watching you do their work?

Wouldn’t it make sense to have systematized everything so you can hand over the reigns of particular job in a week to a month’s time and not worry about if it’ll come back right?

Start documenting what you’re doing on a regular basis so that when you are ready to hire someone, it’s much easier to do and you’re not completely saturated with work.

Here’s a good SPI Podcast session on this topic.


You Don’t Think You Need to Market Your Business

This weekend, I had to go to the vet. I asked one of them if they thought that they needed help with Facebook Advertising. Since this is something that I know a lot of businesses struggle with, and I’m just recently learning about it, I thought I’d reach out and see if they’d be open to simply testing the waters.

Their response to me was, “Oh, we have pretty good customer traffic as it is now. We’re always busy!”

That response kinda took me back a bit. I’ve never been the type to believe that the best way of working is to fill out all your working time with as many clients as possible.
Sure, it’s one way of measuring success – but I’ve always been a “pay me by the job not time” kind of guy.

If you’re this type of business owner, you might want to reconsider doing marketing – and what that actually means to you.

How are you doing when you reach out to customers you already have? Did you know that repeat customers are worth up to 10 times more than new customers? Is YOUR online presence consistent and up to date? If not, might be time to make that something you get help on.


If You Are Marketing Your Business, You’re Probably Not Using Social Media Correctly

Facebook is not LinkedIn and Twitter is not Instagram. All of these formats have different ways of engaging its users.

First off, if you want to get more out of social media – you’re going to have to figure out which platforms work for you. Trying to do more than 2 well isn’t really feasible as 1 person. So remember this before you spend anymore time on a platform you have no business on:

Here’s a short quick run down of each platform according to Luan Wise.

  • Facebook – Business to consumer and peer to peer content sharing.
  • Twitter – If your business is about ‘In the Moment’ news and topical discussion, Twitter is a great place for you. It’s all about trends here!
  • Google Plus – This is a great platform if you want people to find your products or services through SEO. (Not sure what SEO or backlinking is? Here’s a great resource.)
  • Instagram – Do you have an image-friendly business (like Laila’s?) or have quotable guests on a show? Then Instagram might be a good way to get your message out!
  • LinkedIn – If you’re looking to get your current business circle up to date on what you’re doing, LinkedIn is the way to go. However, don’t go adding everyone like you would on Facebook – LinkedIn isn’t meant for that.

Need more help here? Be sure to get Gary Vaynerchuk’s book, Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook. Much of it still applies to today.

Your Business is Flying Under the Radar

Even if you’re a freelancer who barely gets any work, you should really consider giving your business some legitimacy.

First of all, make your business at least an LLC (Limited Liability Corporation). There’s a couple of reasons to do this.

  1. If your business ever gets sued, you can’t lose your personal assets if it’s incorporated.
  2. If you’re considering doing any kind of affiliate marketing work, there’s a good chance they’re going to ask you what your business name is and if you can’t prove that you actually own one, you might have some issues.

Another recommendation here – make sure you find an accountant for tax purposes.

Doing a 1040EZ through H&R Block online is one thing – but when you start looking to start keeping track of deductions and all of that… Get someone that knows how to do this.

In fact, this is probably the first “hire” you should DEFINITELY make for your business.


You’re Not Networking As Efficiently as You Could

There’s a saying I heard recently that keeps resonating with me. It goes something like…

“It’s not what you know, it’s not who you know. It’s who knows you.”

Here’s the thing. You need to know people. You need to be a connector. And frankly, if you’re not helping other people find business, then the favor isn’t going to get returned.

The more you help others get what they want, the more you’ll get back yourself. Karma is a real thing – especially in business.

Want to network more? First off network with me, other fans, and guests of the podcast here.

Be sure to check out Ascension Mentorship – I can introduce you to the founder Albert Winks if it sounds like something you’d like to know more about.

Get a book called “Coffee, Lunch, Coffee – a Practical Field Guide For Master Networking”. Find out more about this book via Joe Crane’s podcast, Veteran on the Move.


Action Steps

So, yes, these are just a handful of things that we all might do when we’re starting out in business. Maybe you have a few years under your belt and you never had the need to do one of these items.

Would it help?

That’s for you to think about.

Personally, I’ve implemented all of these with New Inceptions.

I have systems in place, I’m marketing (better and better all the time!), NI is legit, AND I’m networking.

How about you? What are some things that have bit you in the past before? Let me know!!

free phone apps

Freebies to Use for Your Business: Free Phone Apps For You and Your Biz

In the blog this month, we’ve been looking at freebies (or very inexpensive items) which will help you build your business. They are all things that I’ve used myself and will continue to use in the development of my content and in the content itself.

Again, this all came about when I posted a piece about working with others through the cloud – efficiently and for FREE. It primarily discussed cloud storage apps such as Google Drive, Dropbox, and one I use that not many Americans know about: MEGAupload.

In this post, the freebies we’re looking at are apps. Phone apps and web apps. 

Like most apps, most of these will have a free version and premium version. However, just like the cloud storage apps, you can get by with just the basic version.


Applications – Not Just on Your Computer Anymore:

Applications are not all on your computer these days. The days where you’d buy a CD or DVD and install your new program on your hard drive for it to completely work on your computer are, for the most part, long gone. In fact, when I don’t have an internet connection, it’s almost a chore for me to remember which applications I can actually use during that down time.

These days, most apps have an online portion – especially if they have a free tier. How else can they collect your data and emails? That’s essentially what you’re paying when things are “free”. But hey, that’s a pretty small price to pay to get all of this good stuff to help you out, right? 🙂

Anyhow – here’s a list of business apps that you can use mobile and on your pc or Mac.


Business Apps:


If there’s one app that I want you all to know about that I believe will save you a ton of time it’s IFTTT. IFTTT (pronounced like “gift” without the “i”) stands for “if this then that” — is a service that lets you create different recipes for streamlining your online activities. For example, you can create a recipe that saves all the tweets of a particular person and saves them on your Google drive in one spreadsheet. Or, if you want to transition your pics from Instagram to Twitter, you can do that too. Ta-da! Countless squinty-eyed hours saved scouring the Internet.


Social Jukebox:

Social media can be a pain in the rear – especially if you’re busy making things! Let Social Jukebox help you out. Just like a music jukebox holds and plays music randomly, it holds a bank of messages you can send out via social media. Its free plan will post to your Twitter up to 4 times a day. And if you subscribe to the premium membership, you’ll get to post to Facebook and LinkedIn as well.

Scheduling 1 on 1 calls and/or meetings is pretty straight forward with something like But what if you have multiple people you’re looking to get together for a meeting? You can’t use calendly for that (at least I don’t think you can). So what can you do? You could start an email thread and waste half a day tracking replies, or you could use Doodle. Doodle helps you effortlessly set up polls for scheduling. And one big awesome thing to me is that respondents don’t even have to join to answer a poll. Doodle cuts down on needless email and streamlines scheduling big time.


Slack & Ryver:

Here’s a couple more tools you can use to remove a ton of the emails that you regularly have to make if you’re part of a team. I’ve used both of these in the past on various projects and I’d say they’re about the same in what they do. And what they do, they do well. If you’re familiar with the old chat rooms that were made popular by AoL, Yahoo, and numerous other sites up until social media came around, then you’ll understand how these tools use channels to contain certain conversations between your team’s members.


Personal Development Apps:

Not all apps are geared towards making a business in itself. Sometimes they’re geared in developing you.

I mean, a mechanic can only upgrade his tools so much to do a certain job – because eventually, those tools might go outside of his current ability. In that case, the mechanic needs to get better to keep up with the tools themselves.

There are plenty of apps out there which will help you become a better version of yourself. Here are a few of my favorites:



There’s so many habits that we want to develop to make ourselves better in our craft. But the catch is that you have to put in the work to get it done. That’s where Habitica comes into play. It’s a habit building and productivity app that treats your real life like a game. With in-game rewards and punishments to motivate you and a strong social network to inspire you, Habitica can help you achieve your goals to become healthy, hard-working, and happy.



If you’re looking to learn how to meditate and the price tag on the Muse is a little out of your reach, then I’d say Headspace might be your next bet. It’s first level is entirely free and includes 10-minute sessions for each day that will help you get into the habit of meditating regularly. There are reminders, and you can choose to focus on aspects like foundation, health, and performance. If you want to go deeper, you can with the premium service.



In AoL session 79 with Barbara Ireland, we talked about how important it was to get rid of your negative thoughts. Part of doing that is to start developing an attitude of gratitude – focusing on what’s good in your life. With the happier app, you can start collecting happy moments throughout the day to add to your mental journal. (I use this because the 5 Minute Journal still hasn’t come to Android yet. If you’re a iPhone user – pick that up here.)



A lot of us who are in the the creative space work from home. So sometimes we don’t get out and about our own cities like we should. I mean, all work and no play doesn’t make anyone any better, right?

What’s cool about this app is that it features “incredible experiences on demand,” which is a trendy way of saying it has “the best activities, events and tours happening in town.” You can find and book last-minute deals if you’re feeling spontaneous. Paired along with Field Trip, you should always have new things to discover.


Reddit Is Fun:

Ok, so this one is kind of a cop out, because it’s a reddit browser. Reddit is the front page of the internet – so that means that pretty much everything that you can find online is on there. However, that said, there are subreddits that you can use to make your life better. Download the app and then check out these subs to get an idea of what I’m talking about: r/stopgaming, r/selfimprovement, , r/entrepreneur, r/getmotivated, r/iwanttolearn, r/lifeprotips, r/productivity, r/zenhabits and r/selfhelp.


Action Steps:

Ok, so there you go, guys. Ten apps that I use on a regular basis for my business and to improve it. I recommend checking them all out and seeing which ones fit you. There’s a few other ones that I could have added, but these are the ones that I’ve used the most. 

If I’m missing any that you think should have been on this list because YOU use them all the time, I’d love to hear about it. Drop the name of it below and I’ll check it out!

habits of success

Clay Green: Make it Happen – 3 Habits To Help You Get What You Really Want (AoL 078)

Many of us have heard many times the actual steps to being successful. In fact, I’ve wrote about many of these topics in blog posts here at New Inceptions. They include:

  • Reading and/or learning from others who have what you want regularly.
  • You should plan regularly to get what you want.
  • Reflect as much as possible – Daily, weekly, Monthly, Yearly.
  • Appreciate what you have because doing the opposite is what we’re used to and it’s a big reason why so many of us have negative attitudes.

The list goes on.

In today’s episode, co-host of AoL and founder of EnthusiatiCLAY, Clay Green, shares with us his three top habits. These habits include much of what we need to do to achieve long term success.

And we’ve heard people talk about them before.

In this podcast, however, he takes it to the next level. He actually shares proof in why we should be doing these three things.

I also ask him some in depth questions that lead to a great conversation as well.

This is his silver edition, so if you want his background, you can find out more about him in session 46.

As always, thanks for listening, and enjoy the show!


  • How we got started in this talk. 6:25
  • How’s his trek going throughout the country going? 8:15
  • What’s the first step to building your own belief? 12:16
  • How do you build your belief circle? 18:02
  • How do you start listening to your own internal voice of what you actually want? 26:50
  • The three habits which can change your life. 21:30
  • Why meditation is important to so many successful people. 31:40
  • Why gratitude is essential to long lasting success. 43:14
  • The hardest thing he’s ever had to say no to. 46:46
  • One thing that cost under $100 that has changed his life. 48:41
  • What’s the smallest decision he’s made that has had the largest impact on his life? 49:30
  • What is one thing all high school students must know? 53:31
  • How can someone be a difference maker in their community? 56:58
  • … and MUCH more!

Right click here and save-as to download this episode to your computer.



First Tour of Clay’s Trailer:

View of the Garage of Clay’s Trailer:

Followup thoughts on today’s interview:

Enjoying Life:

meditation is a habit of success
belief is a huge part of success
get anything you want
to get what you want you need to think selfishly

If you enjoyed this episode, please share it using the social media buttons you see at the top of the post.

Also, please leave an honest review for The AoL Podcast on iTunes! Ratings and reviews are extremely helpful and greatly appreciated! They do matter in the rankings of the show, and we read each and every one of them.

If you have any questions feel free to email them over via the email mentioned in the show or by our contact form.

And finally, don’t forget to subscribe to the show on iTunesStitcherSoundcloud, and/or Google Play Music. It’s absolutely free to do so.

A huge thank-you to you guys for joining us!


best free stock photo sites

Freebies to Use For Your Business: Best Free Stock Photo Sites

Last month, I wrote a piece on free cloud services that we can use to host our files. I mentioned that I used three different services because I use them for different tasks.

That triggered a number of questions from various folks asking if I knew of other free services that new online creatives could use while they were growing their business.

Here were the 4 main requests:

  • Free stock images
  • Free music
  • Best free business advice (if they couldn’t afford Fizzle at $35/mo)
  • Free apps I use to make my life easier and more productive.

This week, I’m going to start with discussing free stock images.

I’ll be visiting three vital things to know when you’re dealing with free stock images:

  1. What they actually are.
  2. How to know if you can use them in your project.
  3. And, where you can find them.


What Are Stock Images

Stock images are one of those necessary evils that many of us will have to use for our projects one time or another.

Stock images are images that are created by a photographer or illustrators in order for them to be used in commercial content.

Most of the time, they’re available in a huge libraries such as Shutterstock, 123RF, and iStockPhoto.

However, not all images that are used with commercial content are stock. Stock simply means the image is generic and people can use it for pretty much anything.

For example, Pat Flynn opts to use images that are illustrations of the topic, whereas I personally tend to use stills from real life.

types of stock images

Different types of Stock Images used in Blogging and Posts Today


In fact, most of the time I’m using images of people doing something. In my mind it makes it more relatable.

Again, don’t confuse images that were created generically with images that were made specifically for a certain purpose.

For example, even though they might look like they’re stock shots, the cover images of the Unmistakable Creative look like generic outlines, but in reality, they play a vital part to their marketing and brand.

How to Know if You Can Use a Stock Image In Your Project

There’s two things you want to consider before using an image for your next project.

  • What kind of license does it have?
  • Does it have a watermark on it?


Licenses for stock images are generally divided into two types:

  • Royalty free
  • Rights-managed

Royalty free means that once someone has purchased a license to an image, they can use the image multiple times without having to pay again to do so. If the image is free (like we’re talking about in this post), then that means that you’ll be able to use it as many times as you’d like.

Rights-managed images are generally restricted in terms of usage – limitations may include industry, geographic location or the duration for which the image can be used.

If you’re going to be paying for a license (which I’m not sure why you’d do that after today’s post) and/or you’re unsure what type of license you’ll need to purchase for a particular image, be sure to contact the company who owns it and ensure you’ll be covered.



The easiest way to identify a stock image is to look for a watermark on the image itself. This watermark will often indicate the source of the image.

Here’s a ridiculous example of watermarking vs what you’ll normally see:

Examples of Watermarks that you might see on the web today.

Neither one you’d want to use in your work. Let me repeat that…


It doesn’t matter how small the watermark is. If it’s showing that’s a huge no-no.

That said, it can be difficult to determine if images are stock. One way to check is to use reverse image search platforms like Google Images or On their native sites, they  allow you to upload the image and search it against billions of others. (If you use Chrome like me, though, there’s a plugin you can use that will allow you to check with a single click.)

If the image doesn’t turn up, chances are it’s original.

Alternatively, if it’s used everywhere, there’s a good chance that it’s royalty-free. It’s up to you to find the source of the image though.

This may sound like a lot of work, but in reality, it all boils down to just a few extra minutes of your time. And with all of the effort you put day in and day out into making your business a success, it’s certainly worth it to ensure you’ll be able to use your new design, hassle-free, for years to come.


Where Can You Find Free Stock Images

Ok, now that I got that legalese part out of the way, here’s the meat of this post.

What sites do I use to find my royalty free images?

Here are the top 3 that I use:

Pexels tends to have some of the coolest shots I’ve seen, but have somewhat of a limited selection. If I can find an image there, I’ll often use it.

If I can’t find something at Pexels, I’ll use the other two to find what I’m looking for.

And if that’s not enough sources for you, then here’s a good list provided by

14 Amazingly Free Stock Photo Websites

One by Bryan Inness over at Who Is Hosting This

Free Stock Photos: 100+ Free (& Nearly Free) Libraries

And another one of “Non-Stock” Photo Sources:

The Free High Quality Non-Stock Photo Sources You’ve Always Wanted

Make sure you give credit if it’s required!

Action Steps:

Ok guys. So there you go. If you’re ever in need of an image again for your content and don’t want to or can’t take a good image yourself, there’s really no reason why you should have to pay for a good one.

In fact, there’s a site that’s all about killing stock photos altogether: Death to the Stock Photo (they’re not exactly 100% free, so I didn’t use them in the list above).

However, if you do find yourself paying for image that you simply must have for your work, then make sure you abide by the rules of the license. You could be slapped with a huge fine if you don’t.

Also, just for bonus – here are some good do’s and don’ts when it comes to finding good images for your next project:

10 Do’s and Don’ts for Using Stock Photos in Your Marketing