15 Free Blogging Tools Every Blogger Should Use
One of the best things about blogging is that there are zero barrier to entry. If you want to be a blogger, you can buy a domain right now and get a website up and running in less than 24 hours if you wanted to.
But what about after you create the website? There's a lot of hidden expenses that people don't tell you about when you start--i.e. networking events, email systems, e-courses, designers, etc. It can really start to add up!
Luckily, there are still tons of great, free tools out there that bloggers and creatives can take advantage of so they aren't breaking the bank! I'm all about saving money and I've done some work to find the best blogging resources that won't cost me a penny. Here are 15 of my favorite FREE blogging tools that you should start using today if you aren't already.
I really don't know how I've lived my life without Canva. Canva is a free graphic design tool that allows you to create beautiful images and designs all on their web-based platform. You can drag and drop images, add text overlays, create presentations, produce infographics... Ugh! There is so much you can do with Canva. I know absolutely NOTHING about graphic design, but Canva makes it look like I do. They even have templates with set dimensions for different types of graphics, or you can customize your own!
If you take away 1 blogging tool from this list, let it be Canva.
For those of you who need to make a simple video, a screen flow, or record something from your mobile device, look no further than QuickTime Player. QuickTime Player is a free tool that's already included on Mac computers, and is easy to download on other PCs or computers. It's really easy to use and the quality of the image is great.
I actually created my entire Instagram E-Course using QuickTime Player because I didn't want to have to pay the money for other programs that did screen flows (aka a video of what is happening on your computer screen). It was super easy and efficient and I recommend this free tool for anyone who needs to do those types of videos. *You can even plug your mobile device in and record a screen flow from there!
In case you've been living under a rock, Gmail is a wonderful email system to use for people of all ages. While I do believe that you should eventually get an email address with your proper domain (email@example.com), there is absolutely nothing wrong with starting out with a regular firstname.lastname@example.org email address. You can set it up in seconds and it's very user friendly.
Once you start to get more serious with your blog, you can upgrade to the 'Gmail for Work' suite of products, which is just a small monthly fee. I actually still use both addresses.
4. Google Drive, Docs, Calendar, etc.
Along with your Gmail account, you will get access to the entire Google Suite of products: Google Drive, Docs, Calendar, etc. All of these tools are super useful when it comes to your blogging business. Google Drive is awesome because it allows you to easily store, share, and upload information, pictures, documents, or downloads; Google Drive makes it easy to create and share Word Documents on their web-based platform; and Google Calendar can integrate seamlessly with your smartphone so you can always keep up to date. Definitely take advantage of these products with your account!
5. License-Free Stock Photo Websites
For those of you who didn't necessarily come from a background in media, it might be worth noting that taking images straight off the internet can lead to pretty serious repercussions if not done carefully. Laws these days are pretty strict when it comes to intellectual property and it would be really sucky to find yourself in a situation where you're faced with a lawsuit because you grabbed a picture that someone else owned.
To avoid this issue, use license-free photos from websites like:
- Creative Commons
- Flickr -- Just make sure it is the Creative Commons License and you're allowed to use it
- Negative Space
When you're browsing these sites, most of them don't require any sort of attribution...but it's always good to double check! Usually photos from Flickr require a small attribution, so always read up on the details.
Bloggers hosting webinars is a big thing right now. When I first began hosting my webinar on Instagram, I spent hours trying to find the right webinar platform to use. I kept seeing a ton of different platforms that were familiar, but they were all so expensive! Since it was my first time, I didn't want to dish out the money and invest in something that I wasn't sure I was going to do again.
Luckily, I stumbled upon a blog post about webinars that said Google Hangouts On Air was a great FREE alternative to use. Plus, it's already included in your Gmail package! It was super easy to use once I messed around with it for a little bit. You can share your screen, share a live link with your audience, embed it into your website, and even send a replay of your webinar afterwards since the broadcast automatically records ands saves to YouTube. It's a wonderful alternative for people who want to do webinars while saving a little money.
If you don't have a Skype account right now, go sign up. Skype is a great way to be able to connect with people worldwide at any time. I've had job interviews, stayed in touch with friends, and even helped some of my blogging students via meetings on Skype. It's a great communication tool to have as a blogger--especially if you're a digital nomad or frequent traveler.
If you want to add a little more time into your week, or you just hate constantly updating your social media, consider using a social media scheduling tool like Hootsuite or Buffer. You can connect your social accounts to their platform and schedule out your social media for days in advance. Both platforms offer free options, but there are also paid options if you have multiple accounts to juggle around (good for Virtual Assistants or Social Media Managers).
Any blogger who is serious about their blog should have a Google Analytics account. It's the industry standard to report your blog's statistics, demographics, and analytics. It doesn't take too long to set up and is really important to know if you want to get partnerships of any sort down the road.
SEO has become quite the buzz word with bloggers in recent years. Maybe you're wondering, "What's a good way to improve SEO?" Plan ahead! Google Keyword Planner is an awesome free tool that's included with your Google account and it allows you to see what words are receiving great traction on the internet.
For instance, if you're going to write a blog post about healthy desserts, you can use the keyword planner to figure out what your best combination of keywords should be according to Google's stats. When you go to write your post, you can try to strategically include those keywords throughout your post as best as possible for good results. Voila--your blog post is now more SEO friendly!
Another alternative to Google Drive is Dropbox, which is a great way to share and transfer files with other people. Their initial plan is free, but you can upgrade your storage plan for a small monthly fee if you need to.
For those of you who'd like to have a place where you can take notes and keep track of your projects, check out Evernote as an option. While I personally prefer the old fashioned way of pencil and paper, a lot of people love Evernote for it's user friendly interface and cloud integration. Their free plan offers a limited amount of storage, but you can easily upgrade if you need more for your account.
As far as payment systems go, Paypal is far from perfect...but it's easy to use and it's free to get an account. For people who need to set up a payment system--whether you're offering coaching services or even receiving payments for partnerships--Paypal is a good system to have. It's a global platform on only takes a few minutes to set up and link to your bank account.
Placeit is a really interesting creative tool I recently discovered. It allows you to take an image and place it into a mockup on a smartphone, computer, or tablet. It's great for people who have an e-book, a PDF download, an e-course, or anything else that you want to show off how it would look on a screen. You can download the smaller images for free, or purchase really large ones if you need for a small fee.
If you're just starting out as a blogger and looking to keep costs low, I recommend using Mailchimp as you build your email list. The interface is pretty easy to use and set up, and it's free up until a certain amount of subscribers. Once you're ready to take your blog to the next level, there are other email platforms that might suit your needs better, but Mailchimp is a good place to start so you at least have something in place without spending a ton of money.
BONUS: FREE Resources, Guides, E-books
There are tons of websites and bloggers out there who offer free resources, guides, downloads, e-books, trainings, etc. that you should ALWAYS take advantage of! It's free! Why not? Usually all you have to do is exchange your email address for the downloads, so it's worth checking out for tidbits of information that can help you take your blog to the next level. HINT: You can sign up for The City Sidewalks' Free Resource Library RIGHT HERE! I also offer free trainings and other special goodies to my subscribers :)
What other free tools do you recommend or use? Comment below with more resources that bloggers can take advantage of!