10 Cheap Blogging Tools I Use Everyday To Make My Blog Better

10 Cheap Blogging Tools I Use Everyday To Make My Blog Better

Maintaining a blog and social media presence can be overwhelming. We’re only one person and yet we’re supposed to be experts in multiple fields and online in multiple places, all at the same time.

For ages I thought I could handle it without any help. I was reluctant to get my head around what seemed like complicated blogging tools and frightened to sign up to ongoing payments for sites I might use only once.

I was stupid.

Because, make no mistake that running a blog & social media strategy requires investment – I’m talking time and cash, cash, money, money.

For all those years I was trying to use free and rudimentary tools to run my blog I was often working harder and longer on things that could have been managed easily with one little subscription.

Eventually I got clued up and I started to invest in some key blogging tools, apps and programmes. Sine then I’ve fallen in and out of love with some tools and there are some I’ve been married to from this blog’s humble beginnings. (Metaphorically speaking!)

So, I wrote this post for the me of 5 years (*coughs* months) ago, to help guide her through all the noise.

These are 10 blogging tools I use on a daily basis that genuinely make my life easier and my blog, I think, better.

For anyone out there thinking twice about what to invest in, take it from someone who got there eventually, that these 10 are worth spending some money on.

10 best blogging tools – according to me, who genuinely uses all of them & thinks they are worth every penny

Note: This post does contain some affiliate links but also includes brutally honest opinions on what is and isn’t worth spending money on. I use everything I’ve mentioned here and have included things that don’t have an affiliate programme just coz I think you should know about them. 

Blogging tools that are worth the money

1. Tailwind

I was way behind the trend on this one. I wrote previously about how I missed the point of Pinterest for a long time and now that I finally get it I have Tailwind to thank for making my pin life organised and strategic.

For anyone who doesn’t know (are you even a blogger lol), Tailwind is a pin scheduling tool that makes it easy to upload pins in bulk and schedule them for optimised times of the day/week.

My favourite feature is the interval button which allows you to post your pin to several personal and group boards spaced out over a period of up to 90 days. Another handy feature is that you can see the engagement rate of group boards – so you know which ones are worth pinning or ditching.

Tailwind also offer something called Tribes, it’s like their own version of a group board where you have to repin the same amount of content as you post. I’ve had limited success with Tribes so far but I am only a member of 3 and perhaps they are not the best for my niche? Consider this a work in progress.

How much? It’s free to use Tailwind for your first 100 pins on Pinterest, and 30 posts on Instagram. (Yes, they do Instagram too, more on this below!) If you decide to go ahead with a Plus plan the fee for bloggers is USD $15/month or $119 for the year.

Sign up

 

Best blogging tools - Tailwind

2. Social Warfare

My favourite new plugin of late is Social Warfare. I initially installed this plugin as I wanted a share bar with Flipboard on it (more on why this is important in an upcoming post) and favour ones you can customize to fit the look of your website.

I soon realised, however, that the Pro version has a few handy features which have really improved the user share experience around here.

My favourite thing is the ability to pre-fill the Pinterest image and description that pops up when readers click the pin button. This means I’ve done all the work for anyone pinning my posts and they’ll be no more of my pins bobbing around with empty text or img654.jpg as the description!

Hit the Pin button on my share bar to see what I’m on about 😀

You can also overwrite the title and description that comes up when people share your posts on Facebook and LinkedIn, using something catchier than the SEO garb that comes up as standard. (You can test that out too if you want, hehe. All the shares please!)

FINALLY Social Warfare Pro can recover share counts if you lost everything when you switched to https. Find out more about all the pro features here.

How much? Social Warfare Pro is $29 USD for the year

Go Pro!

 

3. Buffer

Buffer is what I rely on to schedule my Tweets as I like the way it makes it easy to add images and you can quickly reschedule popular content to go out at peak times. (Remember to tweak the text now that Twitter is cranking down on duplicate content.)

I had a pro account for several years but recently downgraded to the free account, which allows you 10 queued posts at a time. The reason for this is I’m trying to spend more time being active on Twitter rather than relying on pure automation.

Blogging bad habits & mistakes I’m guilty of

If you’re more of a bulk schedule type of person though, the pro ‘Awesome’ account costs just $10 USD a month and allows you to queue up to 100 posts across 10 social accounts. (Buffer also has Facebook and LinkedIn integration – find out more about the features.)

How much? Free for Free Plan (obvs) or USD $10 a month for Awesome Plan. There’s a 7-day free trial to play with.

Get Buffing

4. Canva

I’ve been going on about Canva, a free graphic design tool that’s like InDesign for dunces, for eons and I still use it daily, mainly for creating Pinterest graphics.

Canva have a tonne of free templates and ready-made design inspiration with just some pro features, such as extra images and icons, charged at $1 per use.

Aside from Pin graphics I’ve also made my Media Kit on Canva using their free templates and it’s easy to update it regularly using the desktop programme.

How much? Free mostly

Check it out

 

Bonus tip: Use Unsplash for free (and royalty-free) professional photos that you can upload to Canva and use on pins.

Best blogging tools - Canva

5. KeySearch

I’m a relative newbie when it comes to keyword research but I find KeySearch straightforward. (Especially as Sharon Gourlay at Digital Nomad Wannabe has so many helpful guides on the topic.)

I’m going to be straight and say I first signed up for KeySearch last year and then cancelled a few months later as I thought I could use free sources like Google Webmasters instead. A few months later I realised I was an idiot and subscribed again, with my (long)tail between my legs. (Groan, bad joke, I know.)

Aside from using this programme to research keywords for articles it also has a handy way of tracking your keyword performance, so you can see at a glance if your optimisation is paying off and what positions you’ve gained. (Or lost – boo).

See also: 7 ways I doubled my traffic in 2 months

How much? The KeySearch Starter plan costs $17 USD per month and includes 200 Daily Searches and 40 Rank Tracking Keywords. Get a 20% discount with the code KSDISC.

Sign up

 

KeySearch Rank Tracking

6. Planoly

My tool of choice for planning my Instagram grid is Planoly. I like to see to how my grid is going to look in advance and plan ahead to post at certain times of the week.

You can enable auto posting with this app although personally I upload manually so that I can fill in and double check all the details such as tagging brand accounts and the photo location.

One of the handiest features is the hashtag tool that lets you save groups of hashtags and add them to your caption with 1 click.

How much? The Free plan lets you upload 30 photos per month. The Solo plan is $9 USD per month for unlimited uploads including videos. Find out more about pricing and features.

Start planning

 

Heads up! Tailwind also offers Instagram scheduling, which I use alongside Planoly, as they have a clever hashtag finder – check out the demo below.

7. FreeAgent

Since going freelance in 2012 I’ve used FreeAgent to manage my accounts. There are many functions to this programme that I’ll admit I don’t fully utilise/understand but the things I make use of on a daily basis are:

  • Client database – Contact details of every client I have ever worked with are saved here. Including the all-important contact details of the person in charge of payments!
  • Generating branded invoices – FreeAgent includes an invoice template that you set up once and can easily adapt to invoice all clients. If, like me, you bill in multiple currencies you can also save multiple bank details/billing preferences.
  • Logging expenses – I log all business expenses as they happen here in FreeAgent so I don’t have a nightmare come tax time. You can also upload documents to attach receipts and set expenses to occur monthly.
  • Monitoring cash-flow – As all my invoices and expenses are logged in the one system I can see at a glance my cash flow for the month.
  • Chasing overdue invoices – FreeAgent also flags up how many days until your invoices are due and which are overdue and need chasing. (It can send reminders for you but I prefer to manage that myself.)

How much? FreeAgent costs $20 USD per month or if you pre-pay it’s $200 for the year (a saving of $40). If use my referral link we both get a 10% discount. Your tax agent will thank you, trust me!

Sign up

 

8. PicMonkey

You may wonder why I have 2 design tools on this list and it’s because PicMonkey steps in when I want to create photo collages for my articles.

They’ve also got some cool templates for social media graphics and blog banners so if you feel like you’ve exhausted the ones on Canva go check these guys out.

How much? A Premium account – which you’ll need to access the features I’ve mentioned – costs £12 AUD per month or $107.88 AUD for the year. You can do a 7-day free trial to test it out.

Try it

 

9. VSCO X

Because I lack photo editing skills as well as graphic design I use VSCO to edit all my pics. I have a VSCO X account which gives me access to multiple fancy film filters plus 100+ classic presets.

I also like that I can save my exact editing steps and apply them with 1 click. (I have a few different edits saved for different photo styles.)

How much? VSCO X is $19.99 USD per year. You can try it free for 7 days.

VSCO it

 

10. Transferwise

Being a UK blogger in Australia who has key clients in at least 3 different countries I couldn’t get by without Transferwise. These guys offer a cheap and easy way to move money between international bank accounts. I have all my Aussie and UK bank details saved securely on the site so if I’m paid for a UK project it can be in my Aussie debit account within days.

How much: A flat & fair fee per transaction.

Check it out

 

And a bonus recommendation: Dreamhost

I’ve included my host as a bonus as it’s technically not a blogging tool but I wanted to shout out how amazing the Dreampress – dedicated WordPress hosting – offered by Dreamhost is.

I’ve been a Dreamhost customer for 8 years and haven’t had a single problem since moving to their Dreampress option which offers daily site backups, seamless service upgrades and email/chat support - even on their basic package.

I find their customer service team very responsive and they send excellent advice about how to prevent against hacks/malware attacks. (Like that time I uploaded a dodgy plugin and broke everything and they sent me a very kind email saying, ‘Heads up you’ve got a problem and here’s how to fix’ without a whiff of finger-pointing.)

Compared to what I’ve heard other bloggers pay their hosts, Dreampress is incredibly well-priced and (the Holy Grail for bloggers) I’ve never experienced any outages for exceeding limits.

The basic solution is $17/month for 10k visitors – very reasonable for beginners – and next one up is $25 per month for 30k visitors or $36 per month for 60k visitors.

Get hosting

 

Phew that was a bumper list of recommendations - congrats if you made it to the end. I'd love to know if there is anything on this list I've helped you discover or if you think there's something not in here that I should get involved with!

You may also like:

7 fast ways to boost your page views

How & why you should audit your blog

6 quick tips to improve your blog in 15 minutes 

Making a living from travel blogging: 15 things you need to know

All other Blog Tips!

Featured image thanks to Mikayla Mallek on Unsplash.

This article may contain affiliate links. This means that if you make a purchase after clicking on the link, I may receive a small commission. Read disclaimer for details.

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7 Comments

  1. March 21, 2018 / 11:38 am

    This is such a useful post, Jayne! Like you I feel like my blogging tools change all the time as I learn more/find new ones, but I use Canva and Unsplash a lot as well, and Snapseed is my version of VSCO.

    I’ve been thinking about getting Transferwise for ages, but I didn’t actually know anyone who used it so I was a bit wary – but now I know you use it all the time I’ll have to look into it again! Free Agent also sounds brilliant… maybe it’s a time for a step up from my spreadsheets?! xx

    • Jayne Gorman
      Author
      March 21, 2018 / 10:35 pm

      Yay, glad you found this useful. I have used Transferwise almost every month since they launched and never had a single issue. They are releasing more features, like an international debit card, which I haven’t looked into yet but for moving money between international accounts I honestly think it’s the best. Same with Freeagent, couldn’t live without that one! It’s nice and straightforward so suits my simple accounting skills haha.

  2. April 2, 2018 / 7:17 am

    Love this Jayne… perfect when you’re starting out.Thank you!

    • Jayne Gorman
      Author
      April 2, 2018 / 7:40 am

      You’re welcome! Hope it comes in handy.

  3. April 2, 2018 / 4:06 pm

    Great list! Canva is one of my favourite tools. I used to use PicMonkey but was gutted when they stop offering it for free. I use Buffer but should probably invest in another tool, like Tailwind!

    • Jayne Gorman
      Author
      April 2, 2018 / 11:47 pm

      I tried to keep the list of sites I use lean so was thinking about dropping PicMonkey but I struggle to make collages on Canva so have kept it for now. Tailwind is super handy for Pinterest though, I love that I can set up the intervals and leave them to go out over several weeks.

      • Vlad
        April 3, 2018 / 8:53 am

        In this case, have you ever tried Pixteller for your designs? It can be used with a free account, has many templates and is working faster than other tools I used. Maybe you have time to give it a try.

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