3 free infographics tools

3 free tools for infographics
“painter” flickr photo shared by Crystl under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license

Visme: Suitable for creating engaging content with numerous templates, shapes and icons. You can use and publish your own text by replacing the given. Moreover, the tool menu offers many possibilities to create an amazing visual presentation that may beat PowerPoint. They offer a free plan to start. You can read a full review of VIsme here.

Canva: If you need templates for social media, blogs, posters, business cards or invitations this is the right tool for you. You only need to import your own images and it is free except some Pro quality design assets.

Piktochart: You do not have to be a graphic designer experience to use this application. There are only three steps to follow: choosing a template, visualizing your data and publishing and sharing it. It is web based which means it can be seen online. Piktochart  is suited for creating reports, banners and presentation, therefore you can use it for your classroom, office or website. Also has a free plan.

And if you don’t want to invest time in infographics, you can take a look to…

Tagxedo: The application turns words into impressive word clouds with highlighting either the important words or the most frequently used. You can make shapes out of the clouds. Useful tip-you can turn your logo into a tagxedo.

Implementing information graphics in your writing

Information graphics are streaming all over the virtual world. They represent information in a graphic format which makes easy to understand the message at first sight. Infographics are used in fast communication to show a large amount of data, various patterns and presentations, as well as changes over periods of time.

Advantages of using infographics

  • Infographics are eye-catching. In some cases people get bored with reading long information and they would preferably use a shortcut to reach certain data. Adding colours and movement to the context increases the possibility of disseminating the information. However remember that when the thing to be bought is important, long texts are recommended.
  • Just like scan reading, infographics enable people to grasp the gist of the topic in a short time. This is beneficial since we tend to have less attention the longer the reading is.
  • Images can be remembered easier than words. A single graphic may present a whole sheet of words. This is why infographics is referred to as data visualization
  • Infographics can be easily shared. For example, using the embedded code on a website or a social media platform with infographics allows linking back to your own website.
  • An infographic with persistent colours, shapes and logos or web addresses gives importance of branding.
  • Infographics are easily made and tracked. People are attracted by visually well designed medium and by liking or clicking on them visitors multiple connections are created.

When you start your infographic you should consider some practical tips to avoid making mistakes. Effective colours with less contrasting combinations may be a good strategy. Focus on your idea, if you cannot come up with the right one, turn to a reflective image. Create a good design and include a clear and compelling piece of writing. Finally, you must not forget your audience, you need to know your objectives, so you should be aware who you are talking to while inventing your exclusive piece of visual message.

What is that bull seen on Spanish roadsides?

What is the bull in Spanish roads
“Fighting bull sign flickr photo shared by Steve Slater (used to be Wildlife Encounters) under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license

Many tourists may assume the bull is related in some way linked to the bull fights that Spain is so well-known for.  However, there is a long and interesting history associated with these gargantuan, artistic statues.

How it all began…

The bull is officially the “Bull of Osborne” or “El Toro de Osborne”.  The Osborne Group was originally a wine vineyard, but also produces brandy and runs a chain of restaurants and hotels.  It is one of the older family businesses in Spain, beginning in 1772.  Over the years, the company has grown and become part of the culture of Spain, largely thanks to unexpected results from a publicity campaign that began in 1956.  The company hired a publicity agency called “Azor”.  The director and artist, Manolo Prieto, created the plans for the famous bull to adorn highways throughout Spain.

The bull went through several transformations over the years, growing from 4 meters tall to a whopping 14 meters tall.  The final roadside billboard that has remained the same since 1961 is made of metal and weighs an impressive 4,000 kilos.  It is anchored into the ground by scaffolding that stands behind the bull.

Controversy

In 1988, changes in Spain’s highway laws ordered that all publicity be removed from state roadsides.  However, this law nearly caused a revolution.  Artists, cultural groups, municipal governments and the community at large banded together to request that the government allow the famous Bulls of Osborne to remain standing.  This large group of supporters insisted that the bulls were no longer simple advertising, but an integral part of the culture itself.  By 1997, a final decision had been made.  The Bulls of Osborne were allowed to remain on the highways in interest of the aesthetic and cultural attributes they contribute to the country.

The Osborne Bull Today

Although many consider it to be a symbol of Spain itself, it is still the intellectual property of the Osborne Group.  It is the company’s official logo.  Recent court rulings have determined that the it’s illegal to copy or reproduce the logo without authorization.

Currently there are around 90 large bull billboards distributed across the country.  However, the Bull of Osborne is also frequently seen on bumper stickers, keyrings, hats, t-shirts and other souvenir items.   The Osborne Group has made these items available, encouraging the spread of this popular symbol.

Despite the fact that the bull is widely accepted and appreciated in Spain, a small number of groups have vandalized the bulls to call attention to their causes.  One group painted the bull located in Mallorca with the colors of the gay flag.  In another instance, a bull in Galicia was painted orange in rejection of the symbol.

Nevertheless, the symbol is well-known on an international level and quite popular.  If you are going to visit Spain, you’re sure to see the Bull of Osborne somewhere, whether on the roadside or on a bumper.  When you do, now you’ll know the story.

Using free images for your blog posts

Where to find free images legally
Photo Credit: idreamlikecrazy via Compfight cc

Images are an important part of our lives. They represent captured moments, often impossible to reproduce. As such they enhance any context in which they are used for. When it comes to blog writing images can grasp the reader`s attention especially if the image is in accordance to the content of writing. Any post, regardless what it is about looks nicer with a photo than a plain text. Nevertheless, it is necessary to be aware of how to use graphics on the Internet that does not belong to you.

So, how do all these sites that offer using graphic images?

Compfight is a Flickr search tool that functions through filters and options which help to locate a particular image. It can be done with tags using keywords or with a whole text put in the search. It is recommendable to cite the name of the author to avoid unpleasant experiences. This is a suitable resource for students doing digital presentation.

Unsplash is another photo site offering high resolution photographs. They are quite frequently released and free to use. Just follow the `Download` button on the right bottom corner of the image and once the image appears in a new window you only need to save it with a right mouse click.

Fotor: A  free online photo editor where you can use the Edit, Collage or Design mode. You can also import your own photos and change them by using the variety of tools provided. Fotor is very similar to Photoshop since it offers a range of powerful tools for different effects and scenes, borders and many more.

Pixabay: In case you want to use videos apart from images Pixabay is the right choice. Interestingly attribution is not required on this site so that you may use any graphics without permission as it is a public domain. You only need to register to be able to upload or download material from the site.

Stockvault: Before you use this site make sure you carefully read the terms and conditions of using following the link.  It works similarly to Complight except that available categories are provided to ease the search.

Ownership of online photographs

Finding and using an appealing photo on the Internet may sometimes get you into real trouble. You need to ensure whether images may be legally used, otherwise you risk facing the severe copyright law which carries significant consequences. You are highly recommended that you read the regulations and make a difference between plagiarism and copyright infringement. You will go away with plagiarism if you write a disclaimer but it is not entirely safe and may not release you from copyright violation. The safest way to grab a picture from Google is to use public domains. There numerous images available as users are allowed to upload them and have agreed on sharing them publicly. In this case, you need to check the terms of use to see whether you should write a disclaimer and follow the instructions.

To sum up, we all understand the quote saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. Though, we should be aware that the possibilities we are offered in the cyber world with `like` `pin` and many other options along with the issues concerned are subject to alarming thoughts. Why not try to discover images by putting efforts and creating our own wok? Who knows, we can make a good photographer.

Do you want to know more? Take a look to this post about how to give attribution to images.

 

5 Reasons you should take the plunge and get your website done in Spanish

5 reasons to have a website in Spanish
“Fighting bull sign flickr photo shared by Steve Slater (used to be Wildlife Encounters) under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license

If you’re still on the fence about creating your website in Spanish, consider these reasons chock full of research that will show you why it’s worth taking the plunge:

  1. Audience. When it comes to numbers of native speakers of languages Spanish ranks second to Mandarin.  With over 400 million native speakers, it’s the official language of over 24 countries around the world.  The future of the Spanish language looks bright as the language only continues to grow and become more popular according to the Economist.   If you’re looking to reach a wider audience, the Spanish language is the way to go.  A note of caution though, although Spanish is a widely spoken language, there is much variation within the language.  What sounds good for Mexicans may be offensive for Central Americans and may not make any sense in Spain (or the other way around).  So, be sure to tailor the Spanish to your target audience.
  2. Complementary Language. Spanish is a language that is great to combine with your already existing website.  Consider the wide-reach of Spanish around the world.  It is heavily present in the Americas and also in Europe.  Spanish speaking immigrants are present on the other continents as well.  Wherever your website’s target country is, Spanish is a great complement to add numbers to your readership.
  3. Easy to do. As there are so many Spanish speakers, this also means that it’s easy to find and hire a great Spanish speaking copywriter.  The world has become a small place with the ease of the cloud and using online hiring platforms. Finding a great Spanish freelance writer is a breeze and it will make getting high quality content done in Spanish quite simple.
  4. Stand out in SEO. Spanish, although spoken by more people than English, has much less presence online than English.  This means that achieving a great position on Google or other search engines is much easier than in English.  Focus on your SEO development and you’ll be surprised how well you might be able to do in the Spanish language rankings.  This means that you’ll do better at reaching your target audience.  A skilled content writer can also assist you in making your website SEO friendly.
  5. Build Trust By creating a version of your website in Spanish, this extra effort will be appreciated by Spanish speakers, meaning that they’re more likely to trust in your company and products. If you create high-quality content that is appropriate for the country you’re targeting, your audience will appreciate your efforts.  By speaking to them in their language, you’ll connect with them on a deeper level.  You’ll have removed the struggle for them to understand your company and products.

A Spanish version of your website is a great investment in the future of your company.  It’s sure to increase your audience, traffic and overall company image.  Look for a Spanish freelance writer to start working on your website today!

Different types of reading

Reading is a skill that we improve throughout our lives. Having good reading skills is not about being able to read the content of a written text but the capacity of comprehension. No matter whether we read in Spanish or in a foreign language we need to possess the skill that will enable us to fully understand what is highlighted in the content of reading.

There are different types of reading methods depending on the final aim. Do we need to elucidate the general idea or some specific information? Is there a task we need to fulfill through reading?  Is reading our pastime? Bearing in mind the reason of reading we approach it in different ways.

Skim reading

When we need the basic information of the text we usually skim read it. It is not a thorough reading along the lines looking for the substance of the general information. This is a quick reading technique when we focus on particular parts in the text. For example, going through a newspaper or magazine looking for the news we are searching.

Skim reading is useful for inducing a general idea from a longer piece of reading. When dealing with more complex texts we do skim reading by looking for the main idea in each paragraph of the text which is usually in the first sentence of each paragraph. Skimming is a skill that can be improved by time reaching about 600-700 words per minute.

Scan reading

Scan reading is similar to skim reading in terms of speed though through skimming we are not looking for the main idea but for a specific piece of information. Imagine you are reading an article on global environmental pollution and you are interested in the rate of pollution of the Mediterranean Sea from the offshore production of oil. In this case you scan the text looking for key words looking for the details. Here, you are not curious about the general idea of the text.  You only need details about your topic of interest. During scanning you do not pay attention to unrelated words and information until you come across with what you are searching. You may have over ten paragraphs in a text but the information you need may be in the third one.

`In-depth` reading

Sometimes we have to approach the text with full attention and concentration. This is close to academic reading especially when we need to understand and get some knowledge of the reading source. This is a reading technique typical for students or people who want to gain a more comprehensive level in a given area of interest.

During `in-depth ` reading we read every word carefully, often going back to reinforce our understanding or to make some points clearer. Sometimes it is called intensive reading which indicates that this method involves the maximum of your concentration and focus. This type of strategy is often related to other tasks such as giving answers to raised questions, summarizing or giving a purpose, to mention some of them. For example, intensively reading an article on some issue, you may be able to discuss the topic with supporting arguments.

Extensive reading

Extensive reading is what most of us do when we decide how to spend our free time. Reading as a hobby is about extensive reading. In reading for pleasure there is a note of enjoyment and the more often we do it, the more we get excited about it. It also requires deep reading but the difference is we are really into the reading with the topic or content. While intensive reading may be obligatory for students, for example, extensive reading is undertaken by motivation. For instance, if you are keen on detective stories, each time you chose a book it is likely to be the similar genre.

Reading as a skill has multiple benefits for all of us regardless the reasons why we read. When it comes to learning Spanish, all kind of readings are a good practice. . We gain knowledge and build up or vocabulary. It also helps to improve our writing skills and helps to develop our critical thinking on many issues.

Story telling in learning a language

How to get a Spanish conversation
Open Air Dining flickr photo shared by Anne Worner under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

Story telling is most often associated with young children. We all remember the tales and narrations told by the elderly family members. When we read stories to children they are absorbed in the content and it helps them to master the skill of speaking and literacy. In a similar way, the great potential that story telling has for learning a language is widely used in learning a second language with both children and adults. Obviously it is not the same when you hear a story in your native language and in the foreign language you have just started to learn. This is why there are various approaches for engaging language learners.

Folktales and fables

Different types of stories may be applied to learning. The oldest form of common pastime was retelling folktales and fables. Long time ago when people did not have access to books and libraries, or were even illiterate, oral narrations were the usual way of listening to imaginative stories from cultures that passed through generations.  Nowadays, they are quite often used in language learning as they also present the typical culture of the language.

Short stories-Family stories and memories

Reading or listening about people, places and events may be a memorable experience in exploiting a new language. Often these types of stories come in simplified versions depending on the level of the individual. Thus, you may find stories beginning from the simplest basic level up to the advanced level. These editions always come along with exercises to practice the comprehension of the reading, listening or writing.  They may be vocabulary practice or grammatical structure exercises.

Benefits of using storytelling

There are multiple benefits of learning a foreign language through stories. First, it helps improving your verbal skills. Expanding your vocabulary, gaining effective verbal and spoken communication are important interpersonal skills we need as individuals to be able to maintain wise communications. Clarity of speech, focused and directed flow of interaction make you a more productive participant in every conversation. Not to mention the influence on writing skills. Storytelling can be a powerful tool for writing because it provides skills for identifying details and understanding important messages. Secondly, storytelling always provides a kind of imagination among the readers or listeners. It can empower individuals to develop new ideas, innovative ways of thinking or numerous solutions to problem solving. Last but not least, if storytelling is audio presented, it develops the listening skills of the learners as listening is also a key to effective communication. Without listening, messages may be easily misunderstood and communication may break down.

As we can see, storytelling as a method in language learning holds advantages necessary for comprehensive interaction, particularly now when the limits of various cultures have widely outstretched and influence our everyday lives. Most importantly, it develops language capacities regarding literacy in all language skills not only when learning a new language but in using your own mother tongue.

Where to find stories in Spanish

If you have a good level let’s say B2 or above the best way is to check some newspapers and magazines.

For instances:

Managing Your Workload while Working from Home

working from home productivity
After creative commons licensed ( BY-SA ) flickr photo shared by maurcs

Working from home sounds like a dream come true for many people.  Maybe they imagine waking up late, wearing pajamas all day and snacking at will.  Maybe they conveniently eliminate deadlines, stress and financial concerns from their imagined life working from home.  In reality, yes, there are some perks, but there are also some downsides.  One of the downsides is that as your own boss when you’re working from home, only you can and must manage your workload. 

Say “No” When You Need To

Working as a freelance writer from home can be stressful as you’re not sure where your paycheck will come from each month.  Although you may get some steady clients, it may not always be easy to tell if you’re going to make ends meet each month.  And even when you are making ends meet, it can be tempting to watch your monthly income increase and increase.  The trouble is, is that as you increase your income, so will your workload.  More is not always better.

When considering new projects and offers, remember the reasons that you decided to work at home in the first place.  Whether it was to manage more of your time, liberate yourself from a cubicle or to spend more time with your family, there was likely a reason.  Are you compromising it by saying yes, yes, yes to more and more work?  Will it mean you’re up late moonlighting instead of enjoying life?  While it may be acceptable to work late for a week to add a special project to your list, be sure that this doesn’t become the norm. When it does, you’re saying “yes” too often.

Use A Schedule and Stick to It

One helpful way to ensure that you are managing your workload is to use a working schedule.  Once you start to drift out of your desired working hours, you’ll need to stop accepting new clients and projects for a time.  Remember that your life may be flexible, but some structure can help make sure you meet both your professional and personal goals. For more ideas on structuring your time and life while working from home, check out this post.

Value Yourself Highly

The beauty of working for yourself as a freelance writer or other home-based professional is that the better you get and the more established you are, the pickier you can be about clients.  Remember, once you’ve established your reputation and are able to take on clients, you also have the ability to say no to those that aren’t able to pay enough for don’t provide work you’re interested in.

While working from home can be a dream come true, it will take maintenance on your part to make sure it stays that way.  It can easily become overbearing and tiring as you toil away to meet your clients’ deadlines and requests.  This is why it’s important to be picky about your clients and stick to your working hours.  Remember, you are the only one who gets to decide your workload when working from home.  Either you drive the workload, or it will drive you.

How consumerism affects our life style as freelancer writers

a tip to save money for freelancers
Money Down The Drain 2 by stockmonkeys

Consumerism has enormously influenced our lives in every domain. Acquisition of goods and services do not apply only to physical consumption but is widely spread in the virtual world as well. Redirecting the work online has shifted people towards the pursuit of better working conditions in the highly competitive market. Moreover, knowing how to provide and use the right freelance tools has become an imperative that increases the chances of success.

The virtual market place offers a wide range of implements necessary for freelance writers. We are facing a `mass production` of applications designed to utilize our work. But are they as useful as they are advertised by the designers? It may depend on your work load as a freelance writer. If you are a beginner in this business try to avoid getting messed up with everything that looks nicely packed as you may realize it might not fit your needs no matter how beneficial it is. You can always make a shift away and choose other commodities.

As a freelancer you should keep in mind that you have to work to your full potential. In other words, you will always get more work done if you eliminate the obstacles to concentration and improve the productivity of your assignments. Therefore, pick up time management tools that best suit the job requirements. Once you have made your choice check whether you need to invest money in certain apps or products-your life will be less cluttered if you are strict about buying anything until you actually need it. Well managing your budget is important especially if you are a novice and you just have your career started.

Software to boost the start of your freelance career

Word processor– If you do not use Microsoft Word there are a number of other free word processors.  

Portfolio- It gives you an excellent opportunity to show your work and abilities to potential clients. You are allowed to create a beautiful writing portfolio online easily.

Typing teacher– Progressing in your work means it is worth learning how to do fast typing in a professional manner. Touch typing on line lessons- free software which gives benefit to both pros and beginners.

Grammar corrector-When it comes to grammar it happens we hesitate about the right construction. Avoid grammar errors with some amazing tools that can detect your mistakes.

Dictionary/Thesaurus– A `must have` for every writer, it is free with plenty of tools on the site.

Word counter-Another free online tool for counting the number of  words and dealing with repetitions. It is practical and easy to use.

Software you can skip

Accounting software-Unless you have a lot of clients avoid buying services you will barely use. Using spreadsheet to keep a track of your interactions is quite convenient for the start.