Best Tools under $20 (or free) for your blogging business

Best Tools under $20 (or free) for your blogging business

When running blog by yourself, you are the writer, editor, social media manager, VA, graphic editor, web designer and salesperson. You are many things, but you are only one person. To help you wear your many hats (or juggling many balls), I want to share the best tools I have found and use every day in my blogging and business.

The best part? They are all under $20 or free!

Who wouldn’t like great useful tools that are super affordable? Raise your hand if you’re with me!

Thought so.

Here they are for your consideration.

Best Tools under $20 (or free) for your blogging business

Organizing/Planning tools

  • Trello

    • You can think of it as a virtual whiteboard. Trello allows you to create many boards that hold lists and each list holding cards (virtual sticky notes). If you have ever used SCRUM method or Backlog/Doing/Done for working on your projects and tasks, you would be in love.
    • Trello is much more than just a whiteboard where you can create stickies with your tasks on them and move them around. You can color code your tasks, you can copy, move and archive your cards, duplicate entry lists, create checklist that can be reused over and over again (great for blog-related tasks you do for each post!). You can attach images and links and link tasks to each other
    • It offers a list and calendar view and integrates with Box, Drive and DropBox
    • Fantastic for creating and managing your blog content calendar. Create lists where you hold future post ideas, posts in draft, posts in edit, VA tasks, published and shared on social media post. Then move that post through the lists as that stage is completed.
    • Great for you alone and with a team as you can tag and assign other members to tasks
    • Desktop and phone app version
    • Cost: Free for everything you really need or $9.99/mo for team collaboration and more integrations like Mailchimp and Evernote
  • Workflowy

    • A bullet list on steroids, Workflowy is simple, clean and super intuitive
    • Create your to-do lists, brainstorm, record ideas, plan trips, record your website’s properties, collect blog post ideas, flesh out your talking points, your sales page, sky is a limit
    • You can create lists, lists within lists, you can expand and collapse them, isolate them, share portions of the list without other person seeing the rest of your items and the other person doesn’t even have to have an account
    • You can complete the items, view all items or only incomplete items, copy, move and delete items
    • You can include links, tags and reference other members to assign the task
    • Desktop and phone app version
    • Cost: Free for 250 items, or $4.99/mo for Premium that gives you Unlimited lists, backup to Dropbox, password protected collaboration, offline editing, theme & fonts, and premium support.
  • Evernote

    • Magical note taking tool that is loved by many
    • Use to take notes, create presentations, capture images, take photos of text (that then can be searched in!), clip web pages, easily share text documents, interface with multitude of other apps
    • Note down your blog post ideas, draft the posts, share them with your editor, snag your inspirations and create a collection of swipe files
    • Create a note that will contain your blog post, the text, all the links, images, attachments that you need, all in one document
    • Desktop and mobile app version
    • Cost: Free for all mentioned above, or $3.99/mo for offline editing, support and ability to email your content into your Evernote
  • Asana

    • Amazing project management, task management, scheduling and team collaboration tool
    • Plan out your blogging strategy weeks a the time, schedule when every post is dues, create tasks and sub-tasks and assign them to yourself or team members
    • Lay out your whole product creation path including creation, promotion and launch with every step and tasks having time and place
    • Assign tasks and have conversation via chatting with team members
    • List and calendar views
    • Team collaborations
    • Email reminders of tasks due
    • Desktop and mobile view
    • Cost: Free for teams up to 15 members, or Premium at $8.33/mo which will give you everything unlimited plus private groups and priority support

Graphics/Images

  • Canva

    • Professional grade quality graphic tool for free
    • Canva offers you endless possibilities to create any visual collateral that your business needs: social media graphic, e-book, flyer, menu, business card, business letter, greeting card, poster, resume and on and on
    • With Canva you can create images from scratch or use their predesigned layouts that can be completely customized with variety of colors, fonts, designs, vector images, photos, frames, shapes, etc.
    • You can create a graphic or you can upload your own photo and use it as a part of the design
    • Your creations can be exported as PNG/JPG images or PDFs, they can also be emailed or shared on social media right from the app
    • Desktop and now mobile app version
    • Cost:Free for all that you really need, or you can upgrade to be able to save your brand colors and fonts to have them as defaults, collaborate and more
  • Picmonkey

    • Great tool to create quick images that are unique and look good
    • Easy to use, has a ton of options, like stickers, frames, text overlays, color treatments, social media-ready sizes, a bunch of preset themes, red-eye reduction and more
    • You can create new images for your blog posts from scratch, or upload your own images and correct/embellish them
    • Create your image and save or share it
    • Desktop and mobile app version
    • Cost: Free or Royale for $4.99/mo for extra features

Social Media Sharing

  • Hootsuite

    • One of the well known apps on the market, Hootsuite been around for a while and continues to develop and improve its offerings
    • Easy to use social media monitoring and scheduling tool, Hootsuite allows you create feeds for your social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Latergram !!!!-confirm full list of platforms) where you can monitor your scheduled posts, posts where you are mentioned or retweeted, posts where a certain term is mentioned and more
    • It allows you to schedule your posts in the future during specific times or auto-schedule and let Hootsuite choose the best time to post
    • In paid version Hootsuite allows you to grant access to social media managers that can have various level of access without ever needing to have your password
    • Desktop and mobile app version
    • Cost:Free for 3 accounts, or $9.99/mo for advanced features including up to 100 social profiles and up to 9 team members
  • Latergram.me

    • Recently rebranded as Later.com, it’s a great tool to schedule your Instagram posts (and seeing the rebranding, they will be venturing into other social media platforms)
    • Use your desktop or laptop to create your images, think up the right captions and research your hashtags, and then use Later to put it all together and schedule it out just on the days and times you want in a thoughtful, deliberate way. No need to type on a tiny screen with limited visibility or scour last minute for images. You can plan out your posts to happen when and how you want them
    • Later has an image library where you can store all your photos and image quotes, etc from where you can post the images when you need. Once posted, they images (along with your captions) go back into your library where you can reuse them in the future
    • Later also allows you to search and repost great posts from others, hashtag and all
    • Desktop version that works with a companion app on your phone
    • Cost:Free for 1 post a day/30 a month, free repost from others, or for 100 posts/mo for $9.00, 250 posts for 19/mo
  • Tailwind

    • Great tool that Pinterest lover adore. Tailwind is a Pinterest-approved app for scheduling pins
    • Allows you to schedule your pins in advance on yours and group boards. Plan out once a week and let the tool work for you day after day
    • Smart pin scheduling and measurement of pin success, board metrics and website insights
    • Desktop app version
    • Cost:Free for first 100 pins, after it’s $9.99/mo when paid annually and this gives you unlimited pins, or $15/mo with 400 pins
  • BoardBooster

    • Board Booster has its users raving. It’s truly a Pinterest VA in a “box”
    • Board Booster doesn’t just post the pins that you’ve scheduled, it re-posts them from your secret boards onto your active boards and also from one public board to another, deletes duplicates and recycles your older posts until you tell it to stop
    • By sitting down once a week and filling up your secret boards, Board Boosted can post hundreds of posts a day for you without you ever logging in during that time
    • Cost: Free for the first 100 images, after starts at $5/mo, it’s priced on a sliding scale based on how many images a month you want to pin
  • CinchShare

    • Facebook maven’s paradise
    • CinchShare allows you to handle your Facebook posts in a cinch!
    • You can post to your feed, pages, and groups
    • You can post into parties (that’s a biggie) and thus run an awesome party all by yourself
    • It has a library of post where all of your posts are stored and can be reused
    • It has a snippet library where you can keep your most often used snippets of text and links, etc
    • It allows you to schedule your posts in advance at the time you need and the day you need with pure ease
    • Desktop version and a mobile app version
    • Cost: Free to try, then $8.34/mo  
  • CoSchedule

    • Coschedule is a dream, I love it!
    • It’s a blog editorial calendar, blog post sharing, social media management and scheduling tool all wrapped in one
    • CoSchedule can operate alone or integrated into your blog. When integrated, it becomes your blog’s editorial calendar where the ideas and drafts can be created, blog posts completed, scheduled and continuously shared, all from the same place
    • In addition to that, CoSchedule is also social media management and scheduling tool. You can share your existing current and old blog posts immediately, or schedule them in the future, but you can also create regular text, image or link posts and schedule them as well
    • CoSchedule works with Twitter, Facebook feeds, pages and groups, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Tumblr and Google +
    • Cost: Free for 14 days, then $15/mo

Keyword research and Analytics

  • Open site explorer

    • Trusted tool by entrepreneurs everywhere.
    • OSE lets you see things behind the scenes: domain authority and page authority ranks, where their backlinks come from, how trustworthy their blog is, link-building ideas and any negative links
    • OSE is part of MOZ.com family and allows you several searches a day for free
    • Cost: Free for few searches a day, create an account and you can have an unlimited number of searches a day.
  • BuzzSumo

    • BuzzSumo is a neat tool for when you need ideas for blog posts or want to validate the ideas you already have
    • You can use it in several ways:
      • enter a term or topic in its search bar and it will give you top most shared blog posts out there for that term – now you can get some ideas
      • enter web address of the blog you admire in the same niche and it will give you their top 5 most shared blog posts – now you can get more ideas
      • enter web address of your own blog to see what your top 5 shared blog posts are – now you can really get some ideas
    • Desktop version
    • Cost: Free for a few searches a day
  • Google Keyword planner

    • Google Keyword Planner is one of many great tools Google offers
    • It comes as a part of your Adsense account, so make sure you have that (it’s free)
    • Enter a keyword or phrase you have in mind or a website (yours or competitors) and keyword tool will go out and fetch other keywords that are like the one you have entered or top keywords for the blog along with stats on home many views this keyword has, how much people pay to advertise it, how hard is it to get ranked with that keyword
    • Find related keywords and then search for them to find even more long tailed keywords for your blog posts
    • Desktop version
    • Cost: Free
  • Google Webmaster tools

    • Another great Google tool, enjoy!
    • Monitors your blog’s backend and keeps an eye on the indexing of the pages, dead links, crawl problems, ways to improve searchability
    • Monitors searches that bring readers to your blog: gives your the search phrases they use, how often, how many times the actually click through and how high each term ranks on Google pages
    • Keep an eye on the best performing searches and write more blog posts on related subjects to give your readers what they are searching for = rank higher on Google
    • Desktop version
    • Cost: Free
  • Google Analytics

    • Probably most known Google tool for stats and such
    • Provides a large variety of statistics such as: how many visitors you had, how many were new and how many repeated, how many pages they viewed, how long they stayed, where they came from, how they moved around on your side, what age and gender they were, were they on mobile or not, Windows or Apple, what your top visited pages were and so much more
    • To help Google Analytics ‘see’ your site, create an account, grab a code and plug it into your blog
    • Desktop version
    • Cost:Free

 

Hosting

  • SiteGround hosting

    • If you want to grow your blog into business, self-hosted blog is the way to go and that means you need hosting services
    • When you just starting out your want hosting that is reliable as well as affordable and SiteGround is place to go
    • Reliable, great customer service, SiteGround offers pricing plans that can start you off painlessly and grow with you
    • Cost: $3.95/mo to start
  • Namecheap hosting

    • Namecheap in my favorite place to buy domains.
    • Great pricing, bulk name search, and off-the hooks hosting price of $9.88 per YEAR!
    • Great customer service, smooth transactions, easy, easy, easy!
    • Great place to start your site
    • Cost: $9.88/yr for hosting, $0.88 and up for domains

Products and courses

  • Teachable

    • As a blogger you rely on multiple streams of income. Courses are one of the most lucrative sources of income online
    • One of the complex sides of running an online course is the tech part: the membership and logins, the payment gateway, the sales page, the menus and course progression, etc. Teachable handles it all for you easily, conveniently and makes you look good
    • In Teachable you can set up you whole school inside of which you can create multiple course that will all appear under one umbrella. You can have an address of yoursite.teachable.com or you can have a standalone doman name
    • Within each course you can set up a sales page, author page, course curriculum of modules and lessons
    • In each module you can attach learning materials in various formats: text with images, PDFs, audio and video
    • Each module leads to another and so the student can progress and mark lessons as done and Teachable will move them forward to the next lesson while updating their progress bar
    • You don’t have to have a separate video hosting provider, Teachable hosts all your content for you, it’s all included in the price
    • Cost: Free for the Basic Plan which will start you off just fine and Teachable will keep 10% of your sales + 3% will got to PayPal for payment processing  
  • Gumroad

    • If you offer digital products like e-books and printables as a part of your blogging income stream, Gumroad is a great way to go
    • Gumroad hosts your content for you, allows you to create a sales page and a button embed code you can place on your website
    • Gumroad will create a membership, process the payment and send your product to the customer
    • Gumroad also offers a recurring payment model which allows you to accept payments for a simple membership
    • You can use services like Zapier to automatically add your new customer’s email to your email list
    • Your products become part of Gumroad’s shopping place you can be found that way as well
    • Desktop and mobile app version
    • Cost: Used to be free, now $10/mo plus 3.5% of sales

Email

  • Mailchimp

    • I don’t know if you’re sick yet from hearing how email list is the king and how you have to have one, but yeah, you do. And to have an email list, you need an email services provide. Like Mailchimp
    • One of the most attractive features Mailchimp offers is a free basic plan up to first 2000 subscribers. I think it’s an amazing deal for someone who’s just starting up or watches those sneaky business expenses
    • Mailchimp offers you to create multiple list as you see fit, you can import existing subscribers as a file or add them one by one manually, you can create groups to better identify your subscribers
    • Highly customizable sign up forms and emails make you look professional
    • You can host Mailchimp on your website or blog or have a stand alone signup form (on desktop or mobile)
    • For its paid plans Mailchimp also offers automation, like email sequences and email based courses, segmenting, targeting, A/B testing and more
    • Desktop and mobile phone version
    • Cost: Free for first 2000 subscribers for Basic plan, or $10/mo for advanced features
  • Aweber

    • Aweber is another great affordable and easy to use email provider that its fans swear by
    • You can create lists and forms that you need to gather email addresses
    • You can choose to have a double or single opt-in process
    • Their form design features are not as flexible as Mailchimp, but you can have more than one form per list
    • Aweber allows you to send email to more than one list at a time
    • Automation is included with all plans
    • Desktop and mobile phone version
    • Cost: Free for 30 days, then $19/mo for first 500 subscribers

Schedules and Appointments

  • Acuity

    • If you are a blogger that also does coaching or any kind of consultation, a great scheduling app is a must
    • There are many great scheduling apps out there, but I really liked Acuity
    • It allows you to schedule your clients’ appointments, it allows your clients to schedule their own appointments within the time slots that you specify
    • You can incorporate it seamlessly into your website
    • Once appointment is scheduled you are notified and so is your client, additionally, they get reminders without any involvement from you
    • The best part – if you enable it, your clients won’t be able to book an appointment until they pay for it – Acuity handles that too
    • Built in questionnaire so you can onboard your client right there and then and be prepared for the appointment
    • Acuity allows you to create gift certificates, group deals and more
    • Desktop and mobile app version
    • Cost: Free for a basic scheduler, but if you want to accept payments, send reminders or embed, $10/mo. There is also a 14-day free trial to test drive it
  • Google Calendar

    • If you are not ready to be all fancy with embedded appointment calendars, but you still want to be organized and track all your tasks, appointments, to-do’s, Google Calendar is your best friend
    • Just as you would expect from a calendar, it is great for creating appointments, marking down important dates with reminders, recurring features, all day events, etc
    • In each appointment you can include text, phone number or link to a web event
    • You can have more than one calendar, color code them and display them in the same view
    • You can schedule an appointment and send the link to it to your client, employee, etc
    • You can set up a daily agenda to be emailed to you from your calendar if you wonder what appointments you have without having to look in the calendar itself
    • You can initiate a video call via Hangouts straight from our calendar

So there you have it! Fantastic tools, all under $20 or free. And these are just to scratch the surface!

 

*Some of the links on this page are affiliate links.

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Comments

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