Carrie Swails

I’m a serial entrepreneur. Owner at Photography Awesomesauce, Rock Your Weird and Made in the Lab and I photograph offbeat weddings. In other words, I’m crazy. I have a birthmark in my armpit, and am a terrible mathematician. What I lack in understanding of complex theories such as Pi (clearly a food item – apple is my favorite) and invisible numbers (if I can’t see them, why should I care?) I make up for in awesomesauce. I believe there is no right way to put the toilet paper on – I’m just happy it’s available. I believe there’s no such thing as a bad fortune in a fortune cookie. I believe we only live life once so we should wear costumes as often as possible. I believe wine is like the force – it has a light side and a dark side and it holds the universe together. I howl with my basset hound every morning, call my brother to beat video game bosses for me, and love eating fried cheese.

12 Things I Learned About Moving a Thriving Photography Business

It’s been just over nine months since I moved my business. While I only moved it across the state, it’s five to six hours away from where we used to live and is only a few miles away from being in a brand new state. It’s so different in my new location that it might as well be a foreign country. I’ve learned a lot over the time since we’ve moved about moving a business and what to expect. Some people may think, oh here’s Carrie moving a successful business to a brand new place; she will be totally fine. She is not struggling. Well, you’re wrong. There are things I thought I knew and then there are things I’ve learned recently. There are lots of mistakes I’ve made that have affected my business this year, and I’m hoping you can learn from them if you ever have to move.

Business has slowed down for me with the move, but I’ve decided to be grateful for it. Not only did we move, but we created an entirely new lifestyle. If you are friends with me on Facebook or know me personally, you know that my husband’s old job was a tough place for us to be. Since the day I met him almost ten years ago, he has worked at least 70 hours a week. I can’t exaggerate about that. For him to make ends meet and work toward the job he wanted, he took on a lot of opportunities to build his resume. It took longer for those to pay off than we wanted, but we’re so grateful to be a place where now he has a regular work schedule. He used never to have a day off. Maybe a morning, or an evening, but never a full day. Especially never multiple days in a row. He was managing restaurants and country clubs on the weekend and working as an adjunct professor during the week. If you know anything about the US college system and how professors make ends meet, you know that adjunct professors make less than a college or university janitor does in many situations. They can take on a full schedule of teaching courses and still walk away with pennies. It’s kind of like working for free, but he was working toward a full-time lecturing position as a professor for a long time. Those are few and far between, where adjunct positions are part time and plentiful.

So, he got a job as a full-time professor in a tiny, very remote town and here we are. We’re going from busy people living in a metro area working all the time to small town people with a good sized yard living life at a slower pace. All this is to say, that now my husband isn’t working so much I’ve been grateful business slowed down because of my move. It gave us a big chance to adjust, and it gave me a lot of time to reflect on what methods helped my business when moving and what didn’t. We needed the time to adjust as a couple to see each other so much too. Our nearest grocery store is 1-1.5 hours away, so we had to adjust how we shop, and eating no takeout. I could go on, but it’s been crazy around here for us. Now we finally feel like we’ve settled and you know what? This girl will be an underpaid adjunct teaching art at the college in our small town in the Fall. If you don’t know anything about my background, I have my degree in Art Education, so getting to teach things like painting, drawing, and pottery sound like a fun way to spend some extra time in the wedding off season!

Now that you’ve had some background on the big changes for us I want to dive into a few things that I wish I had done sooner and tips I think will help anyone who may be making a huge move to an entirely new area!

  1. SEO is number one. If you don’t know what SEO is, it stands for Search Engine Optimization. It’s the practice of going to your website and optimizing it with language in the titles and pages so it can be found for specific terminology when a potential customer is searching for you. Doing your SEO will help you get found in Google searches. I’ve always read how important SEO is from other articles online about moving a business. I tried my best to make some adjustments as soon as I knew we were moving, but I was not as thorough as I could have been, so the SEO I did wasn’t very effective. If you only do one thing from this entire list with your move, do this. SEO is the one thing that, if you spend time on, can pay off sooner rather than later. It’s been an entire year to this day since I went and did my first initial SEO change as soon as we knew we were moving and I booked my first more local wedding just now. I could have booked it sooner had I been more dedicated in my research of terminology and applying it to my website better back then. If you need some help with SEO, I recommend you chat with my friend Fuse at Get Found with Fuse. She has tons of great free blog posts and classes online which can help you get your SEO started for a big move. I didn’t know Fuse well at the time I was planning my move, but having her involved in my life since has changed my SEO approaches!
  2. Find local wedding resources and advertise. Whether you are moving to a big town or a small one, find the biggest town in your area and search for local wedding resources. Maybe there is a boutique that connects couples with wedding vendors, or a local wedding blog that accepts advertisers. Connecting with local resources will not only boost your SEO locally but help connect you to local vendors and the local wedding community.
  3. Change your location on social media. As soon as possible, change your location on your social media accounts to your new area. Since I live in such a small town where I’m unlikely to get clients, I chose my location as the biggest town within a couple of hours of where I live. That way I’m more likely to be searched and found.
  4. Be willing to travel. This first year has been exhausting because I kept my contracts with clients who had already booked with me, even if they were at a distance and I had to travel to be there. There was lots and lots of driving. Because I like getting paid and I had the means to do so I continue to book for where we used to live in addition to where I now live. That way I kept my income flowing, but it took many pricing adjustments to find a way to ensure payment for my time spent traveling. Don’t just stick to only your new local area. Branch out to other towns nearby, and if possible keep some bookings where you used to live if it’s not too much of a travel drain. That way you still keep steady income for your family during a time of change.
  5. Market in the nearest large city, not just in your small area. It can be tempting to focus only on your local area at first. However, take some time to look at the maps and see which areas are most populated or most searched for various services and see if you can do some marketing there. Even if you aren’t willing to travel, you never know if your clients aren’t. They may be willing to travel to you for sessions if they love you and your work.
  6. Follow local vendors online. Once you know where you’re moving, head to social media and start following other local vendors so you can connect with them and see the trends, hashtags, and discover other info about your area. It’s likely they’ll follow you back, and from there you may develop a good networking relationship so you can refer each other.
  7. Do some free shoots in local areas to build up your portfolio. You may be asking how this helps, but it’s an excellent way to help build that local SEO. If you do some shoots for free for your portfolio not only will you have the chance to boost your SEO so you can blog these shoots, but it will help you discover your favorite new locations to photograph.
  8. Remember, it’s kind of like starting a new business over. If you think back to those days when your photography business was brand new and all the hustling you did to make it this far you know what I mean. When you move, it’s kind of like starting your business over. While you might be currently living in that safe space with regular clients and you’re nervous to start over, look at it as a fresh start. Part of the fun of owning a business was the challenge at first. I remember what a challenge new marketing methods were. Sometimes it’s easy to get into our comfort zone and never leave. A move means you’ll have to leave that safe space and venture out again, challenging yourself. However, unlike last time you started a business, this time you can get to where you want to be much faster because you have all the past knowledge of your mistakes at hand. You won’t have to go through all the same mistakes you went through to get to where you are today. It’s sort of like you’ll be able to have a fresh start with a shortcut thanks to your previous experience.
  9. Re-evaluate your current marketing strategies and make some changes. Update your website portfolio, take your Instagram game to the next level. Create an email funnel. Try something new! This move may not be just a fresh start for your family like it was for mine, it was also a chance to make some big changes in business. If you’re going to spend the time working on your SEO and doing some things from scratch, you might as well try a few new marketing methods you always wanted to do, but never had time for, right?
  10. It will take time, so have a savings to fall back on. Only the rare person is going to make a move and still have an entirely thriving business right away. It’s going to take time to get your business back on its feet. Don’t expect it to happen right away. I did, even though I should know better, and then I stressed myself out with having such high expectations. Luckily I had a savings to fall back on during the transition period while business slowed and before it sped up again back to normal. It takes time for all your new marketing methods to kick in and for clients to realize you have a new location. Try and set aside some extra money anticipating the worst, that way you will be surprised how much your hard work pays off in the end.
  11. Prepare in advance as much as you possibly can. Having time to prepare is easier said than done. If you can try to do as much SEO and work before you move, it will pay off sooner. However, I speak from experience when I say how difficult it is to prepare your business for a move, try and sell your house, still meet all your current clients’ expectations, buy a new house, pack and move. It’s nearly impossible. I prioritized my current clients over my move because I wanted to ensure my personal life did not affect the quality of their experience or delivery of their photos. That said, if I had to go back and do it again, I would try to spend as much extra time as I could on trying to prepare my business for the move. I had the spare time here and there, but I didn’t use it as wisely as I could have.
  12. If you profit from the sale of a new house, invest some of those profits in new gear and upgrades. Investing in new gear is just a suggestion for those of you who sell a house when you move. If you manage to profit from the sale of a new house, see if you have some wiggle room to use some of those profits to reinvest in the business. It’s always helpful to have your upgrades and new gear taken care of and ready to go while you focus on getting your business back to where you want it!

Here’s hoping these tips and my story help you out some. I’d love to talk more about the business changes brought on by moving and will probably continually update and blog about the things I learn as I get further out and figure them out on my journey, but if I can save you some time then I’m happy to help!

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10 Things You Didn’t Know You Could do in BlogStomp

blogstomp review, stompsoftware reviewWho needs BlogStomp anyway? You can just do all of the resizing and watermarking inside Lightroom, right? What’s the point? These are the questions I’ve often heard asked and even asked them myself. I was a user of BlogStomp a long time ago. Maybe around 2012 and let me tell you, its features were not always as robust as they are today. It was just convenient for creating collages for my blog, making the images smaller and putting my watermark on them because I was too lazy to bother dealing with it in Lightroom. Eventually, I strayed away from watermarking altogether and BlogStomp did not get used as much, if at all.

Something changed for me though. I had the opportunity to meet the faces behind BlogStomp at WPPI in February. I really liked them. I loved their commitment to providing an even better level of customer service. I also just loved their personalities. I thought, now these are the kind of people I want to invest my time and money in. Between BlogStomp and AlbumStomp (their companion album automation software) they really want to make their products affordable and accessible for photographers new or experienced. I love that being affordable AND amazing is something they want for their customers. I love it a lot. So I gave BlogStomp another go and let me tell you…I’ve totally been missing out all these years. In a nutshell. BlogStomp makes life easy. It is SO MUCH MORE than making collages and adding watermarks. Sure you could do all that in Lightroom, but what if you could prep images for multiple types of social media, blogging and even post those things on your social media or blog and do all that without even leaving the software program? This is amazing. Here are the 10 things a lot of us didn’t realize they could do inside BlogStomp.

Before you dive in, pay attention. If you use the coupon code: ONEDOESNOTSIMPLYSTOMPINTOMORDOR you can get 20% off any individual purchases in the StompSoftware store. If you purchase something that’s already bundled then it’s already discounted, but if you just want to pop in and buy BlogStomp, use the code!

  1. Write a blog post and publish it to your blog from right inside BlogStomp. Okay I’ll be honest here. I’m a blogger. I have been for years and years. It’s hard for me to write blog posts. I find going directly to WordPress incredibly distracting. I just open a new tab and peruse Facebook or get lost in Jimmy Fallon videos on YouTube. Then suddenly, three hours later I realized I’ve wasted half my work day. Since then I started using the software, Writeroom, a Mac app I downloaded. It just blows up and takes up the entire computer screen and I type. I can’t format anything I type and it’s completely plain looking. It is the only way I’ve been writing lately. It gets rid of all my distractions and temptations. But now? Now I can just type everything right inside BlogStomp, which is also a downloadable app that doesn’t make it easy for me to go shopping on Modcloth when I should be working. With BlogStomp you can connect your blog with a variety of different platforms, not just WordPress. Then you can start writing, add your pre-formated “stomped” images and either publish right now or upload it as a draft, where you can then log in and schedule for later. That’s the option for me since I’m one of those people who likes automating things and scheduling them in advance. This is so good!!
  2. Share albums directly to your Facebook. If you’re like me and you dread logging into Facebook because it’s such a huge distraction, you can just upload your freshly “stomped” photos from BlogStomp straight to your Facebook business page. That’s right, you won’t need to worry about logging into Facebook and seeing depressing political posts on your feed as you navigate over to your business page and wait for Facebook to slowly upload your photos. You can just do it all in BlogStomp and avoid Facebook like the plague it often feels like.
  3. Send tweets with the images you just prepped. Connect your Twitter account and start tweeting those pretty new photos! Who needs to actually send a photo to your phone and then upload it and write a tweet there, or log in from your desktop? Just do it straight from BlogStomp and don’t worry.
  4. Upload a gallery directly to Shootproof, Smugmug, Zenfolio, or Photoshelter. If you use one of these gallery software companies (Shootproof is my favorite), you can upload a gallery directly from BlogStomp. Just one more convenient feature making BlogStomp a program that does a lot more than just collages and watermarks. If you’re interested in Shootproof you can use my exclusive code: SWAILS25 to take 25% off any annual plan when you sign up. Seriously just do it. Shootproof has so many amazing features. You can find more information about Shootproof on the blog!
  5. Crop images for a Facebook timeline cover and upload directly inside of BlogStomp. I’m forever looking up the size of a timeline cover because I don’t change mine often. Instead of worrying about looking it up, opening Photoshop, which uses a lot of memory and slows down my computer I’m just going to do it in BlogStomp and make my life simple.
  6. Create collaged images with a colored box and text. Did you know you could basically use the collaged images to create invitations, marketing announcements, sales, and other fun stuff? You can make a collage where instead of it being all photos, one of the squares can have color, or maybe multiple do. Then you can drop in text with any font you have saved in your computer and make whatever you want. I can absolutely see using this to throw together blog post graphics, quick ads for social media when I have a sale, or anything I might need in this realm. It’s so freakin’ cool you guys! You can even pull colors from the images in your collage and make the boxes those colors. You’re not stuck with only primary colors, you can make things with an exact color match and it’s so easy!
  7. Save custom image frames to use again. Did you make a collage frame you love and may want to use in the future? That’s cool, just save it and use it again. Done.
  8. Prep images for Instagram and have them emailed to you. I love Instagram, but they do not make it easy to upload images, am I right? You have to email them to yourself, crop them…bleck. The whole process could be easier. Sometimes it’s hard for me to decide a good crop on my little phone screen too. Now I’m just going to use BlogStomp’s Instagram prep tool to make my square crops and have the software just automatically email the photos, and then I can upload from my phone without all the hassle. It’s simple and easy. It makes sense too. The images you are typically running through BlogStomp are the highlights from your sessions and weddings. These are the ones most likely to end up on social media anyway, so why not have these kinds of tools all in one place? You could prep a bunch of your highlight reel images and have them all emailed to you, then post them throughout the next week to boost consistency and engagement on your Instagram account.
  9. Put the software into day and night mode so it’s easy on your eyes. This is pretty cool. You can turn the “backdrop” black or white in BlogStomp, just to save your eyeballs from being overwhelmed. Day or night mode. LOVE IT!
  10. Add alt tags and title tags to images when you use blog with WordPress. Saving you tons of SEO time. If you’re a WordPress user, like many of us are, now you can add your alt tags and title tags to images when writing your posts inside of BlogStomp. Isn’t that crazy simple? It uploads with all your search engine optimization (SEO) ready to go for your images. Now you don’t have to go in and input your SEO one image at a time inside of WordPress.

Basically, BlogStomp is not just here to help you create cute little collages and watermark your images. It is now this hugely robust software with all kinds of gadgets to simplify your life and automate some processes that maybe you didn’t know about! I’m so glad I came back to BlogStomp and found out about all these cool features that I had missed out on. You know what else happened recently? I did a wedding expo and in the big move we had recently I lost my booth sign with my logo. I looked everywhere for it and felt completely frustrated. I had no time to get a new sign printed. I also didn’t want to make a crappy one on my printer or with poster board from a craft store. How lame woud that look? So I ran my imags through BlogStomp and did the “white tab” option for a frame, put my logo pretty large on that white tab and batched all the photos I was going to run in a slideshow on my iMac. Now I could just use my slideshow as my “sign.” Worked out perfectly and totally saved the day!

I am also diving into StompSoftware’s album designer, AlbumStomp. Looking forward to writing a post and telling all of you about it. If you want affordable album design software that has specs for all kinds of print labs built in, and even an automated design feature? You should just get the whole package of StompSoftware. Don’t forget the code for 20% off any non bundled purchases in the StompSoftware store: ONEDOESNOTSIMPLYSTOMPINTOMORDOR

How about more awesomesauce?

Subscribe to get awesome free stuff and emails full of useful business information that you’ll probably ignore. Watch me fail miserably at Twitter. Repin stuff I pin on Pinterest because I said so. Love me on Facebook even though numbers don’t matter, and Facebook is dying. Join the Facebook group to see my shenanigans up close and personal.

Two Reasons to Add a Photobooth to Your Wedding Photography Business

This month I traveled four weeks out of the last 5.5. It wasn’t my intention. A lot of it ended up being last minute. Let me tell you what I learned from it. One, it’s expensive. Two, it’s exhausting.

During that time I did have the pleasure to attend both WPPI (Wedding and Portrait Photographers International) and Mystic Seminars. I had very different experiences at both, which I won’t get into, but first I have to start my story with what I thought was going to happen. Last year on Black Friday I sold all my Canon gear and switched to Nikon. So I had spent big money. Then I had major computer issues in January, so I ended up spending thousands upgrading both a laptop and desktop. The very last thing I needed regarding expenses was to buy a freakin’ photobooth. I went to Mystic in January sure I wouldn’t’ spend a dime outside of yummy food in Portland and time with my friends. But they had a small trade show. And I walked by the Gifyyy booth.

I have this thing where I like to walk by tired looking expo people and ask them to tell me what they do. It’s fun to try and hear people explain what their businesses do in a few short sentences. Some people are excellent at it, and others are terrible. So I asked them to tell me about Gifyyy and damn those guys for selling me a freaking photo booth. If you decide to buy one, you can get $100 off by using my exclusive code: AWESOMESAUCE2017. It also sends me a little kickback too, which I appreciate. If something here helps you, these things help keep the lights on around here!

Here are the two reasons I bought one.

One, I like money. You can book your photobooth as an entirely separate entity outside of your wedding photography bookings. It’s an easy way to make some extra cash.

Lots of photo booths will sell you on that aspect, though. They can all make you extra money. But Gifyyy is extra awesome for the simplicity and easy of use, so I encourage you to watch the promo video below. When you buy the booth, you can upgrade, and they’ll send you some awesome promo videos, tools, photos, and contracts to make booking super easy right away.

The second reason you’re going to want this in your business though is the data collection. Data collection is everything. I wrote a blog post over on Rock Your Weird today about how data you own is more important than social media likes. That’s why Gifyyy is extra awesome. You can use it to collect phone numbers and emails and then you can use it to market to all those people, sell them a booth for their own event, book them for wedding photography, upsell them on prints…whatever you want. You have the data so you can follow up afterward and sell, sell, sell!

When Ben and David, the owners of it told me about the data collection features, I was sold. I wasn’t planning on spending thousands more on a photo booth. In fact, that was the last thing on my mind. It was something I never foresaw myself doing, but I did it, and I am not sorry at all. Clients are already booking it.

Here are a few of the other awesome things I think people will love about it.

– It’s way more affordable than similar photo booth selling companies.
– It works off an iPad. Easy and straightforward.
– It’s small and compact so that you can travel with it. If you’re a destination wedding photographer, you can bring it with you to any wedding across the US.
– It does gif files AND regular photos.
– You can customize the finished gifs or photos with a watermark. That could be something the event organizer provides for you, a client’s hashtag, or your logo.
– The owners are always making updates. The product is new, and these two dudes want to make it the best option out there. So I feel I invested well in the long term.
– You could bring it to a wedding or bridal expos…and use it as a way to collect all the data from people visiting your booth!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’re interested in buying one the but the price tag is killing you, you can do their payment plan instead (easy peasy, right?) Just email and tell the guys you saw my blog post and that you want to buy one! Update: Since this post they opened up a store so you can just drop in and buy one. If you use the code: AWESOMESAUCE2017 you can get a $100 off.

I can’t wait to report back on how it will change my business by the end of 2017.

How about more awesomesauce?

Subscribe to get awesome free stuff and emails full of useful business information that you’ll probably ignore. Watch me fail miserably at Twitter. Repin stuff I pin on Pinterest because I said so. Love me on Facebook even though numbers don’t matter, and Facebook is dying. Join the Facebook group to see my shenanigans up close and personal.

3 Reasons You Need to Know Tax Basics as a Business Owner

I’m prepared to sense all of your virtual eye-rolling on the other side of my computer screen with this blog post. Photographers AND taxes. What the heck am I thinking? Nobody wants to read crap this boring. Here’s the truth, though. If you read only one blog post about taxes, make it be this one.

Look, I feel you. I KNOW taxes are scary. I KNOW you’re bad at math (you’re a creative, so it’s obvious). I also know you just want to avoid this topic altogether because it sucks. Taxes suck. Business stuff I don’t like to do sucks. But you know what sucks more? Convincing you that you need to know about this stuff. Trust me, that’s my job.

Let me tell you a little story about a girl who worked entirely regular crappy paying jobs up until she owned her own business. That girl is me. I got my one W-2 form every year. I was motivated to fill out that super easy tax form and send it in so I could get my big refund and feel luxurious. Those were the days. Sometimes I feel pretty nostalgic about them because now taxes are a massive shit show. Or at least they used to be. Somewhere in between my beautiful nostalgic world full of tax refunds and today’s taxes.

When I started my business taxes were the last thing on my mind. They should have been first. I never really understood how they worked, what all the terminology was, or why any of it even mattered. I just filled out my forms and got my big check and ran out and bought fancy things. My first couple years in business were lucky because I was in the hole and didn’t owe anything. Once I started owning though I was just not prepared. I never understood how the expenses worked, or what would I do if I owed money and couldn’t pay it.

That’s when I decided to sit t down and tackle this stuff and learn it all. I can’t tell you how lifechanging that was, event though it took me immense amounts of motivation to get through it all. Learning tax basics completely changed me as a business owner. It taught me so many things that made me become a better business owner overall. I just had to be willing to set aside my fears of numbers and the IRS and just do it. I have absolutely no regrets. When I see other photographers and creatives struggling, asking questions and getting terrible answers in Facebook groups or on social media it just made me incredibly grateful for the opportunities I had to learn all this stuff. Here are a few things that a basic understanding gave me.

1. Learning the basics of business taxes gave me a much better understanding about how I was spending my business money. Understanding how expenses worked within the tax system let me make much better investments when it came to business expenses and deductions. Now I can make much better-informed decisions before purchase, knowing how it may or may not benefit me in taxes is a helpful tool.

2. Understanding taxes gave me a much better idea of how my self-employed income may affect future financial decisions like retirement, buying a house or purchasing a car. When people check your credit or need to refer to your income for something like health insurance knowing where to look for the numbers and what they mean helps immensely. Tax forms are full of lines and numbers and having a basic understanding of just how my self-employed income affects everything else for my family helps me budget too.

3. Opening the door to learning taxes also gave me the opportunity to learn a lot of other things about stuff like credit card fees, business entities, licensing and more. Today as a business owner I look very different from the meek girl that dared to start a photography business. That girl had no idea what she was getting into, and this girl can act as her fiancial planner and investor in the future.

Because learning about this stuff has helped me so much I also believe it can help other photographers too. I promise it’s not that scary. I’m a very cautious person by nature, so the fact I stepped out of my comfort zone to try and figure out something that was very intimidating speaks volumes to my family. So I took all the knowledge, classes and experience I’ve had over the last several years and put them into a course. Some of you may remember my smaller Get Legit courses. This one is similar, however, on my new classroom platform you can enroll and watch at any time. Plus it’s interactive. So if you have questions, you can ask right inside, and I can answer. Then I can add things like downloads and helpful links. As laws change, I can also go in and add new video content. The new course is called “Legal Crap You should Probably Know, but are Too Afraid to Learn.”  There are only a few coupon codes for the opening of the class to get $20 off. UJse the code TAXESSUCK. It’s not a huge investment, but this class is for the long haul and should help you and be available for you beyond the initial videos, keeping you updated and informed. It also includes contract template downloads, and an image use agreement template. Each of those templates also has a model release too. So there’s tons of content and good stuff for you!

How about more awesomesauce?

Subscribe to get awesome free stuff and emails full of useful business information that you’ll probably ignore. Watch me fail miserably at Twitter. Repin stuff I pin on Pinterest because I said so. Love me on Facebook even though numbers don’t matter, and Facebook is dying. Join the Facebook group to see my shenanigans up close and personal.

5 Tips for Protecting Your WordPress Website

The truth is, WordPress, while one of the most flexible and fantastic website platforms is also one of the most vulnerable at the same time. Every time that question pops up in our Facebook Group about what website platform is the best I usually answer with WordPress. Regarding affordability and customization, it has it all.

However, there are some issues with WordPress that keep people away or make business owners, like me, incredibly frustrated. If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram at all, you probably saw all the chaos surrounding the website being down last week. First, let’s start with an apology. I know it sucks when something goes offline, but it was truly out of my hands. That said, it did inspire this useful content I’m about to share with you. In the past, Photography Awesomesauce had little things happen here or there regarding WordPress vulnerability, but last week’s was a big one. Without going into the nitty-gritty details and using all sorts of website terminology like FTPs, servers, and who knows what else, basically the site went down and recovery took several days.

For now, I want you to imagine what it would be like if your WordPress site went down and they couldn’t recover all the blog posts you’ve written and content you’ve created. Or what if they could, but the most recent backup was over a month ago, and you’ve lost a bunch of blog posts that were sending loads of traffic your way? It could get ugly. Even though WordPress has its vulnerabilities, there are lots of ways to close the gap too, and that’s what I want to go over today.

  1. Do Your Website Updates ASAP. You know when you log into WordPress, and up at the top, it has that little arrow circle with a number in it? Those are updates, my friend. I know from working on the back end of photographer’s WordPress websites in the past that we are extremely notorious for not doing the updates. Those updates are usually for plugins, themes, and the WordPress platform itself. DO THE UPDATES. When you aren’t updating, you’re leaving lots of holes for creepy crawly things to get in and take over your website.
  2. Select Your Plugins Carefully. What’s a plugin? Well, WordPress works a bit like a smartphone does. WordPress itself is the platform which converts the complex code into something viewable for people coming to your website. Then on top of WordPress, you can install a theme which makes your site look a specific way. Then you can install plugins. I like to consider plugins the “apps” of the WordPress world. Plugins are apps made to help you customize your WordPress website. Third parties make these apps. Plugins can be a vulnerability to your site because of who makes them, they are often not updated by the creators, or because they don’t mix and match well with other stuff you’ve got going on behind the scenes on your website. So, select them carefully. Look for plugins made by reputable companies that you recognize. For example, if you use Mailchimp for email marketing, they make their WordPress plugin to help your website and email all jam together. Mailchimp would be a reputable creator that probably updates their plugin often. However, it’s those plugins by lesser known people that may come with more risk. When considering a plugin, check it out, research it online, and check to make sure the creator keeps it updated with every new version of WordPress that comes out.
  3. Clean Out Unused Junk – Have you ever downloaded a plugin, activated it and then found yourself not using it a year or two later? Or maybe you have old themes on your website you’re no longer using, but they’re sitting there in the back of your WordPress still. If you’re no longer using a plugin, theme or something else you installed on your WordPress, get rid of it. Old themes and outdated stuff are an excellent way to find yourself hacked.
  4. Back Up Your Site! Did you know you can backup your WordPress website? So let’s say that creepy crawlies do get in, and they mess everything up. You go back to the basics and re-install a new version of WordPress. You’re thinking you’ve got to start over and what a nightmare this will be. Well, that’s why backups are awesome. There are a few different ways you can backup your website.
    – Through your hosting (like GoDaddy). Different hosting plans have different backup rules so call whoever your host is and ask them what yours is. Some hosting plans do backups up daily, some monthly, some only back up a few things, but don’t back up the database (which is the core of all the things). You need to know what is being backed up and when. Make sure that your host, at the very least, is backing up your website once a month. You could still loose info though if anything ever happened, which is why I recommend multiple backups.
    – Backup through a plugin! Yes, there are plugins like VaultPress which do a full backup of your website daily. I have to tell you that after this thing last week, I’m super grateful to have VaultPress, plus their customer service was top notch when it came to helping me figure things out. It’s $9 a month to start, but so worth it when you get into blogging and worry about losing all your information someday!
    – Backup the database. We don’t only want your website backed up on a basic level; we also want the database of your site to have backups too. A lot of hosting companies have this as an extra option for around $24 a year. It can save you some hassle if something went crazy wrong, but it’s not necessary either. I feel pretty confident that with VaultPress I could just install a fresh version of WordPress and then do a quick backup and voila, the site would be up and running in no time. That would work on most issues, but you never know.
  5. Block Brute Force Login Attempts. Some super cool plugins can help block brute force login attempts. That’s where someone makes multiple login attempts quickly and tries to take over your website. There are plugins like Jetpack which do automatically block some of these out. If you read my Facebook last week, you’ll know that Jetpack was part of the reason my website went down, but thanks to an update they just released and some fixing on my part on the back end it doesn’t appear to be a problem anymore. When these brute force login attempts happen, the system catches it and blocks the person trying to log in permanently. That’s the simplest explanation I can give for those of you who don’t want to get into the techy side of things. You can also set up your WordPress login to only allow a specific number of login attempts before someone is blocked from the website altogether. I recommend doing this, but make sure you are very clear on what your password is so you don’t lock yourself out.

I hope this gives any WordPress users some real insight on how to protect your website from crazy vulnerabilities in the future or just techy things that can cause your site to crash. It’s a good idea to invest some time on the backend of your WordPress site and make sure you have a system set in place.

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