Like many of my readers, I like to blog. If I didn’t, this article would not exist to be read. Problem is I have no money. Seriously. Sure WordPress and other blog hosting services have free options, but what about all of the other bright and shiny tools? There are many useful things that I have found for free, and I share them now with you.
Just a few words of warning. All of the tools and software presented are not mine nor are they associated with me or my blog. I just use them. I am not responsible in any way for your results as results do indeed vary. Also, pay attention to the installation wizards. While I have not encountered any malware with the listed items, there is some junkware that the wizards will ask to install. The default answer is usually yes, so uncheck the question boxes associated with those questions during the installation procedure(s).
Punchy logos and headers attract attention. There are loads of opportunities for graphics on a blog. This is especially true for art and photo blogs. Graphics software can cost a bundle. But don’t go grabbing any pirated versions of suites like Adobe, all the software you could need is free and legal in the open-source community.
Try the GIMP in lieu of Photoshop. Do you know the difference between vector and raster graphics? No? Then you’ll need a graphically inclined buddy to assist you in all graphic endeavors. If you either know the difference or have a buddy who does and needs to use your computer, and you find yourself in need of vector graphics, reach for Inkscape rather than Illustrator. Going to self-publish a book collecting past posts? Don’t fret if you are missing Quark or InDesign, just get Scribus. You’ll generate a PDF ready for print through most any dead tree publishing service. Have a tablet, e-reader, or smartphone? Wanna generate a QR code? I have QR Code Generator Pro on my Kindle. I can’t remember whether it’s normally free or if it was the free app of the day on Amazon. It’ll allow you to enter in a URL, then it generates a QR code you can save as a PNG on your mobile device. You can then upload it to your computer and use it like any other image file.
Many bloggers type directly in to WordPress or other blog hosts, but others type up a document first. That way they can copy and paste, saving an extra copy of the post. I really don’t have any choice, I don’t have home or mobile internet. Yes, I am that broke. I take my typed files to the local library and post using their free internet combined with the wonderful scheduling features of WordPress. If you type in advance as I do, then you probably use Microsoft Works or Word. Don’t have a decent office suite on your computer? Try OpenOffice. Not only do I have a full-featured word processing platform at my fingertips, but I can replace any entire office suit with it. I don’t create slideshows, but I could with OpenOffice. I can track expenses and income from my affiliates with the spreadsheet capabilities. It can create text documents, drawings, spreadsheets, databases, and presentations.
Do you know HTML, XML, CSS, etc.? Do you like to write your own code and monkey around with your blog on such a level? Sure, you could use Notepad. But I prefer Notepad++. It can recognize various languages and alert you when you forget to close tags. Also, it has plugin functionality for adding new features.
Some prefer to install new browsers to surf the web. The good news is that most of these are free. I like to use Mozilla Firefox, but Google Chrome is a great alternate. Still use an email client, but tire of Outlook? Try Thunderbird.
One must always protect their tools. Avast! has great free home and mobile antivirus editions. They’ll try to sell you other products, like a firewall, but at least pick up the free antivirus.
Of course, WordPress and the various social media sites have free official apps as well.
Word of mouth is still the best free advertising and social media is an extension of that. But have you tried a flyer campaign? I designed a flyer smaller than a bumper sticker. It has my logo, blog title, byline, URL, Twitter handle, and QR code. I can fit 5 of them onto one sheet of letter paper and cut apart. Check for community message boards and ask if you can post your flyer. Be warned, some establishments will only allow for non-profit postings. Never post where it is unwanted.
Affiliate programs are often free to join, but have you considered selling prints of your work? Last I checked DeviantArt has a free basic print on demand program available to all members. It’s been awhile since I checked, I have a free premium account for life (timing is everything).
What free or low-cost tools do you use? Any free ways to promote or monetize your blog? Tell me in the comments!