Blogging on a Budget: Ultimate List of Tools

StefanoBlogging, Money saving Comments

Blogging on a Budget: Ultimate List of Tools

We have all been there, dear bloggers. We want to start a blog, we have plenty of wonderful ideas. Maybe you have already written a couple of blog posts. You just need that thing: money. Good for you (better, for us), there are many tools to use for blogging on a budget.

Keep in mind that not spending a dime on your blog can be counterproductive, in terms of audience and, most importantly, time. A lot of tools just do the dirty job to automatize all the actions you would do daily, weekly, etc.. Blogging time is important, furthermore if it’s still your part-time job or hobby. Having said that, after 6 months of blogging with very, very limited financial resources, I feel like to give a bit of advice on blogging on a budget.

Setting up your blog

And here we have some costs we cannot really avoid. Unless you want to have your blog hosted on a platform like WordPress.com or Blogger, which is also going to own your content, you will have to pay for a hosting plan. I suggest Siteground. After hours of research on what’s the best hosting, I found Siteground to be a good compromise between price and quality. Their customer service is just amazing, never had the website down and any kind of problems so far. It’s a bit more expensive than other hosting services, though. But I think it’s THE thing we have not to spare on. Different plans with different benefits are available. I personally have the GrowBig Plan. I can host multiple websites, have 20 GB of webspace and support 25000 monthly visitors (definitely enough to start).

You have also to buy a domain. If your blog is hosted on platforms like WordPress.com, Wix, or Weebly, again you don’t have to pay. Godaddy.com and Namecheap.com are good places where to start – they have .com domains starting at 0.99 per year. Cool! Remember that domains have a recurrent yearly cost.

For domain and a good hosting, expect to pay no less than 100/year.

Once you have picked your winning domain (for a case study on how to pick a kickass domain, click here!), it’s time to choose a theme. You don’t really need to pay for a theme. However, there are pros and cons in using a free theme: of course, it’s free of charge, but it usually comes with poor customer support and it is not updated constantly And if you are not a kind of experienced web developer, you will surely need it.

Where to find a free theme? There are many repositories:

Personally, I decided to invest on my theme, called X-theme. It’s expensive like hell, but it’s one of the best on the market right now. It’s constantly updated, SEO-friendly, a plethora of different stacks to choose from, there’s a support forum with hundreds of already-answered questions and an amazing Facebook group.

Social Networking

The good news: social networks are all free!

The bad news: using them drains a lot of time and most of the tools to hack them, and the time you spend on them, are paid.

All bloggers try to use their time wisely. Unfortunately, social networks are many and we should be present on at least three of them – Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Add YouTube, Snapchat, Pinterest..the list goes on and on. In a few words, our goals are: growing our following, engage people and publish constantly.

To grow our following and keep it engaged, there’s no much to do if we don’t want to spend a dime: inviting friends to like our page (maybe using this faster way instead of ticking each box!), be present on a number of groups (this accounts for Instagram and Facebook – I’m really not into Twitter, as I started blogging when its time was already over. I have a profile, though. Follow me!), and participate to promotion threads. That’s the cheapest, but also the longest way.

Coming to our scheduling duties, here we have two great free tools: Hootsuite has a free plan to implement up to 3 different profiles, providing basic analytical report. It’s a bit difficult to get used at the beginning.

I’m currently using the free plan of Buffer, which I found very intuitive – much more than Hootsuite. However, you can’t schedule more than 10 posts per social. Not bad anyway.

Keep in mind that Instagram doesn’t allow external service to publish directly, while rumors are that, although it is possible to do, Facebook doesn’t really like external services and might penalize your number of views.

Instagram is slowly decaying due to the massive use of bots that automate the follow/unfollow procedure, likes and comments. I’m not using it constantly as I don’t like this whole disloyal and unfaithful thing. There are many tools to automate Instagram, but I strongly suggest NOT TO USE THEM. Furthermore, these tools are not free and usually come with a monthly plan.

Writing

I use two essential tools when it comes to writing: Evernote and GrammarlyBoth of them have free and paid plans.
Evernote is simply amazing. I use it many times a day to catch impressions, thoughts, prices, locals, telephone numbers. The optical character recognition translates images into words – if you don’t fancy to write, take a photo. You can order your notes in different notebooks, and I have different ones which more or less reflect the categories I have on The Travel Bakery. Some people say it is a simple word editor. In my opinion, it’s much more than that. If you want to get an invitation, leave a comment. 🙂

Evernote_logo

Given that I’m not a native English speaker but I decided to blog on this language anyway, I use Grammarly to ‘clean up’ my drafts from mistakes. The free version does an excellent job, while the premium has some extra features. I definitely recommend the use of it to avoid what I personally call ‘grammatical blunders’, which may cause your visitors to leave as soon as they realize your poor grammar.

Mailing List

Mailchimp is, along with Aweber, the most used email platform for WordPress. Beside having an excellent interface and being quite intuitive, it’s free up to 2000 subscribers, which are more than a lot.

Getting free stuff

Subscribe to the free Envato market newsletter to receive monthly freebies. Sometimes they give away 100$ of things at once, including themes, images, tracks, and plug-ins. I always download everything, just in case. If I don’t use it, I can give the licenses to friends.
Blogging on a budget is for many of us essential. I hope you found these tools and tips useful enough to lower your blogging expenses. And if you use or know some other tools, please share with us!

Stefano