One of the great things about blogging is that it is very accessible to anyone with internet access. There are some fantastic tools around that are completely free that mean you can have a blog up and running within minutes of deciding to start a blog.
Free tools range from hosted blog platforms like WordPress.com and Blogger through to a myriad of plugins and themes around the web that can make blogging a breeze.
Of course while there are many many free options out there, sometimes to take your blog to the next level there can come a time when you need to spend a few dollars. I bit the bullet early in my blogging and did this first by paying for my own hosting and moving from Blogger to Movable Type (and later to WordPress.org). I also paid fairly early on for a custom design.
These days I continue to have a variety of expenses including hosting, design, paying a small team of writers (on dPS), paying for some admin support and some development costs.
There are also a number of paid tools that have become indispensable for me which I’d like to feature today. While there are free alternatives to some of them, I’ve found them to be of a standard that I’m more than happy to pay for.
Perhaps the single most important decision that I’ve made in the last few years of blogging was to add newsletters to my blogs (particularly my photography blog).
I’ve outlined how I use newsletters to drive significant traffic and make money and have written previously Why I use Aweber so won’t rehash it all again – but this is a tool I’m more than happy to have invested in as it easily pays for itself and has been a key part of growing my blogs over the last 4 years many times over.
This is the latest tool that I’ve invested in. It wasn’t particularly cheap at $199 but enables me to take my video streaming sessions up a notch and do things like have more than one camera angle, do live screen capturing, add a logo to my ustream sessions, import movies and audio into them, have extra transitions, do picture in picture etc.
Some of this is in the free version and you might find you don’t need to upgrade unless you want a few more bells and whistles.
3. MindNode Pro
I’m a big fan of mind mapping. I used to do it without having a name for it on whiteboards and note pads but when I saw online tools that could help me with it I was in heaven. I’ve tried a lot of the Mac based tools (both free and paid) and the one that suits my workflow best is MindNode.
Their free version is brilliant and you might not even need to upgrade but I’m willing to pay for the Pro version simply because it adds the ability to fold down sections of your mind map and do things like add images to it.
I’ve not ever really paid money for SEO before until I came across the Market Samurai tool but it’s excellent. I may not use it quite to its fullest potential (yet) but have touched on how I find it useful for choosing a niche to blog about as well as optimizing a single post on your blog for search engines.
The cool thing is that they have a free trial of the tool which will give you access to its great features to try before you buy – you might find that that’s all you need to do some research and get your blog optimised pretty well.
This is a mac only tool which allows users to do great screencasting. I’ve used it more for private resources that I’ve developed for a couple of companies in consulting but it is a very cool way to show what’s on your screen in video as well as insert a view from a camera. A few videos I’ve made with it include –
- How Leaving Comments on Blogs Can Drive Traffic to Yours
- How I Use Social Media to Promote my blogs
- How to Use Google’s Wonder Wheel to find topics to Write about
Note: I am an affiliate for Market Samurai and Aweber but am both a user and a fan of both.