Canva is an essential tool for all small business owners. With both free and Pro options available, Canva gives you everything you need to make graphic creation and your business branding look great! It’s one of my top go-to tools and, even with its shortcomings, I think it’s one we can all benefit from – and in today’s blog post, I’ll show you why.

As part of my repurposing mini-series, I’ve been giving you some in depth help around repurposing content. [Haven’t caught up with it yet? Check out the first in the three-part series: How To Repurpose Blog Content For Social Media]. Content creation can take up so much of your valuable time, so I wanted to highlight how you can get maximum bang for your efforts and, in the process, highlight some of the awesome and essential tools I use in my business. So let’s jump straight in with the first one I recommend – Canva. 

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What is Canva?

Canva is an essential tool for any online business owner. Whether you’re a blogger, social media manager, Virtual Assistant or small business owner, Canva will help you create visual graphics quickly and easily. 

So what is Canva? In layman’s terms, it’s a drag and drop graphic design tool. Canva gives you everything you need, to create a beautiful brand for your business, including:

  • Templates for everything – from social media graphics and business cards, through to eBooks and posters. (An estimated 8,000 templates are available for you to choose from!).
  • Access to a huge variety of fonts for your projects, as well as font combination ideas.
  • Elements – grids, frames, shapes, icons and illustrations, to name a few.
  • Short videos you can use in your projects.
  • Access to a huge stock library of photos.

This graphic design tool enables you to quickly create what you need, to help you stay visible and on brand with your business.

Canva has two account options – Pro and Basic

If you’re on a shoestring budget, it can be frustrating having to pay for the tools you need. Luckily Canva has a free account option for you! Yes, having a free account does limit certain usage aspects – but the good news is, it doesn’t limit essentials. 

It’s so annoying when you opt for a free account, only to find you’re either unable to download anything or your creations are plastered with branding that isn’t yours! Canva DOESN’T do this – there are no download restrictions and no Canva branding on your designs. Instead, Canva have taken a much more sensible approach. If you have a free account, you pay $1 for any photo you want to use from their stock library. To be clear, you can still upload and use your own photos, as well as those from free sites (such as Pexels and Pixabay etc) in your free account.  

Another restriction is in the amount of storage you have. With a free account you only get 1GB of storage for your designs, as well as 2 folders to sort them into. This is a complete hassle if you create graphics for others, as you have to trawl through all of your designs to find your client stuff. Luckily, the Pro account gives you 100GB of storage and unlimited folders – which is great for sectioning off different client projects!

But the free account restrictions that have the biggest impact on me personally, are 1) You cannot upload your own fonts and create a branding palette,  2) There’s no transparent background usage in the free account, and 3) You cannot use the magic resizing tool!

So how much is the Pro account? It’s £10.99 a month, if you opt for monthly payments, or £8.99 a month, if you opt for the pay annually option. They also have a free 30-day trial, as well as an entrepreneur pricing plan.

Do I need to pay for a Pro account?

Canva hit gold with the magic resizing tool! It’s a complete pain, having to recreate graphics for the different needs of your business, from scratch. The magic resizing tool enables you to create your perfect graphic and, with a simple button click, you can copy and resize it for other purposes. This is gold, if you’re creating content for different social media platforms! To clarify, you can still recreate your graphics in different sizes within Canva, but if you have a free account, it means you do have to recreate it from scratch. Every. Single. Time.

So, is there a real need for you to have a Canva Pro account? Not really – unless your needs are as follows:

  • You create content for anyone other than yourself.
  • You need to use custom fonts and/or a transparent background (essential if you’re creating a logo for your business).
  • You don’t have access to a stock photo library and would like to use the one in Canva.
  • You need to resize any graphics you’ve created, so you can easily use them on other platforms.
  • You’re planning on creating a lot of graphics and need either a bigger storage facility or a way to file your creations.
  • You don’t want to pay for any of the extras you want to use and you want to stick to a set monthly costs, so you know where you’re at.*
  • You find yourself using more than a total of 8 paid icons, graphics or images each month.
  • You have a team who need access and/or you want to create templates for others to use.

*It’s important to note, (and if Canva want feedback, here’s mine!) although most things are included in the Pro account, there are still some photos and icons etc, that aren’t. They are clearly marked, but it can get a little annoying when you find something you want, only to find that you can’t use it without shelling out more money for the rights!

So what are the shortfalls of Canva?

For me, the biggest shortfall is the inability to use glitter and foil overlays and colours on your creations. If you want to create a logo and are looking to change the font colour you’ve chosen to a glittery colour, you can’t. Canva lets you use glitter backgrounds and you can upload glitter icons etc. They even have basic shapes and alphabet letter frames, that you can add your shiny backgrounds to. But you can’t add glitter to anything that isn’t a frame. If you want to use glitter, foil or shine in your creations, you need to do that part in PicMonkey – and then upload that graphic into Canva, to continue working on it. Incredibly frustrating. Especially as you then have to pay £9 a month for a PicMonkey subscription (£14, if you want to use custom fonts), if you want to download anything you’ve created in there!

I understand that not everyone will need to use custom font and/or transparent backgrounds in their creations. So for me, the other biggest shortfall is the fact that you still have to pay for certain elements, when you are already paying for the Pro account features. I have a Pro account and there are certain photos and icons that Canva will charge me 0.99p to use. And what makes it worse, is that you can only use them in one creation! (There is also a multi-use and extended license option available at checkout, though). On the plus side, you can use the fee-charging graphics or images in your design to see how they look, prior to handing over more money, but it is still frustrating that you have to pay extra.

In Summary

Despite the shortfalls, I still think Canva is an essential tool for any business owner. If you use a lot of glitter or foil in your creations, you may be wondering if it’s worth bypassing Canva and opting for just PicMonkey – and I’d have to say no, it isn’t. The problem with PicMonkey is, it isn’t as easy to use. It has a big learning curve and it simply doesn’t have the ease and functionality of Canva. Plus it makes my PC go on a massive go slow! 

You could, of course, save yourself a monthly fee and opt for the free account in Canva. This is a smart move if your budget is tight or you only expect to use it occasionally. However, if you create blog graphics as well as social media ones, or want to create eBooks, content upgrades etc, take the £10.99 a month hit on your finances. The amount of time you’ll save is worth the minimal cost. Not only do you have to factor in how long it would take you to recreate graphics in the different sizes you need, there’s also the time spent looking elsewhere for free graphics and icons, and then uploading them into Canva.  

My recommendation would be to opt in for their free 30 day trial and see how you get on. You have nothing to lose and, if you’re anything like me, you may well end up cancelling it when it’s not needed. But I’ll lay odds you’ll find yourself opting back in when you do have something new to create in Canva

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