Free stuff is the best. Right?
Of course you’d love to buy lots of exciting books and training courses and whatnot, but you haven’t got a ton of cash to spare.
That’s why you’re here, learning to make money from your blogging services. And while you learn, freebies are awesome!
But… sometimes freebies aren’t awesome. Sometimes free stuff is just junk that sucks your time, clutters up your memory, and ends up in the recycle bin.
This list is not about that kind of free stuff.
This list is solid. I checked out every single thing myself, and if it sucked, it got cut.
So here are the survivors, the worthy, the genuinely useful… 52 totally free resources for freelance blogging success.
If they cost anything, it’s your email address or maybe a tweet – no money involved. You’re welcome.
Some of the freebies on this list also offer stuff you can pay for. That’s your call. I’ve marked affiliate links with an asterisk (like this*). Cool? Cool.
The list is so big it started giving me scroll blindness, so I’ve split it into a few sections for different purposes:
Free Resources to Get You Hired
The one thing you want more than anything is to get hired for good pay and published on well-respected blogs.
I’m creating an ultra-effective new training resource for you on how to find and win those higher-paying gigs, but until that’s ready, here are four ways to get yourself work on paying blogs:
1. The Ultimate List of Better-Paid Blogging Gigs: 45 Blogs That Will Pay You $50 or More – Yep, this one’s mine and it’s exactly what the title says it is: a list of blogs that pay freelance contributors at least $50 per post. Help yourself!
2. This free report and video series on guest blogging* by blogging superstar Jon Morrow will help you get accepted by editors, build your portfolio with bylines on famous sites, and break into new blogging markets.
3. Alexis Grant’s database of freelance bloggers is open to anyone with professional blogging experience. Fill in a short application form to get added to the database, and Alexis will email you when she has a suitable gig available.
4. 10 Query Letters That Rocked is a resource from The Renegade Writer that’s intended primarily for writers pitching to magazines, but it’s equally useful to freelance bloggers who want to boost their pitching power.
Free Ways to Improve Your Blogging
To get the highest-paying gigs, it helps if you blog like a superstar! There’s a ton of information out there about how to blog, so I’ve picked out just a few of the best free “better blog writing” resources for you:
5. Headline Hacks* by Jon Morrow gives you 52 headline templates that you can use for any kind of blog to get your posts noticed, read, and shared. [Jon's own posts go viral almost every time!]
6. Unleashing the Ideavirus by Seth Godin is about getting your audience’s attention and how ideas go viral – deeply relevant to bloggers, especially if your work involves content strategy as well as writing.
7. Why Headlines Fail by Psychotactics’ Sean D’Souza teaches you how to write headlines that get results (and avoid writing ones that don’t). Killer headlines are vital if you want to make money blogging, so grab this guide to make yours rock.
8. The (Nearly) Ultimate Guide to Writing is a free ebook from Write to Done, with writing tips suitable for bloggers and freelance writers. If you want to pick up some A-list blog writing tactics, this is a good place to look.
9. HubSpot’s Free SEO Crash Course explains the basics of on-page search engine optimization, social media, and Google’s algorithm changes in 3 simple videos to help you write and promote your posts in a way Google likes.
Free Marketing Resources
If you want to get paying gigs, you’ll need to market your services. And if right now you’re thinking ugh, I don’t like marketing, then you also need to redefine what marketing means to you!
Long story short: marketing is the difference between a hobby and a business. This is important, so here’s a stack of resources to help you develop marketing strategies that work for you and with you.
10. Google Authorship is one of those things you might have heard about, but may not have set up yet. If you want to see your photo and byline appearing next to your work in Google search results, this is how to do it. [UPDATE: Google has withdrawn Authorship elements from search results, so these tips don't work anymore.]
11. This series of posts on Copyblogger gives you a detailed explanation of what all that Google Author stuff is about, how it changes Google search results, and what it means for you. [UPDATE: Google has withdrawn Authorship elements from search results, so these tips don't work anymore.]
12. The Naked Marketing Manifesto by Firepole Marketing’s Danny Iny is an awesomely clear guide to marketing your services by being yourself to attract your ideal customers, instead of chasing after jobs that aren’t even right for you.
13. Marketing 101 for Freelance Writers is an easy-to-follow course by Carol Tice of Make A Living Writing. It’s delivered by email, no complicated tech stuff, and it teaches you how to promote your services to clients. Check it out!
14. Internet Marketing for Smart People is a free 20-part course from Copyblogger that teaches you marketing principles as well as the content know-how that separates the expert bloggers from the hobbyists.
15. The Get More Cash video series from Firepole Marketing was one of the first things I found online that really made me believe there was an easier way to freelance. Since then, I’ve increased my hourly rate by more than 200%. I strongly recommend watching the whole series!
16. International Freelancers Academy has a huge pile of useful free stuff –from blog posts and training videos to full-day live events online– that helps you get to grips with marketing your freelance business.
17. The Social Triggers newsletter covers the psychology of engagement and why readers or customers respond. Derek Halpern explains it in simple terms so you don’t need psychology or marketing experience to understand.
18. Chris Brogan’s newsletter is something I look forward to every Sunday, sitting down with a hot Ovaltine to read his friendly email about how business, marketing, and people work. His down-to-earth stories bring the insights home.
19. Conversion Psychology by Gregory Ciotti is a free ebook that summarises a stack of psychology studies and explains their relevance to the way people make choices. Apply this knowledge when you deal with clients and when you write!
20. Find the Core of Your Value Proposition is a short worksheet by copywriter and conversion expert Peter Sandeen that will help you pinpoint your unique value as a freelance blogger.
Free Images and Editing Resources
When you blog a lot, you tend to use a lot of images to accompany your posts. Some clients will want you to source great images from their paid stock libraries, which is always fun.
But whether it’s for your own website or for a client, there’ll be times when you need an image you can use –or create– for free. Here are a bunch of free ways to find and make the images you need.
21. Flickr’s Creative Commons search lets you limit your search to images under different types of Creative Commons licence. Be sure to give an appropriate credit and link back to the source!
23. You don’t need money to get professional quality images from places like iStockphoto, Bigstockphoto, Fotolia, or Dreamstime. They all offer one or more free photos to download each week. iStockphoto also gives you free illustrations, audio tracks and video clips. [That's at least 4 resources in one list item. Score!]
24. Morguefile gives you a range of free images that are meant to be used as source material by creative artists. To use a Morguefile image unaltered with a blog post, contact the photographer.
25. Recite makes simple yet effective images out of your text. Type a quote or phrase into the input box, then choose a look with one click. You can save the image to your hard drive or share it straight to Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks. Here’s an example that took me about 30 seconds to make.
26. Pixlr is an online image creation and editing service that’s free to use. It can do most of the things Photoshop does, from adding text and creating layered images to applying filters and effects.
27. Easel.ly helps you make your own infographics. It gives you ready-made templates you can customise with your own text –and if you want to, you can change any element of the template to suit you.
28. Gravatar is a free online service that lets you associate your email address with a specific photo of you. Then, when you post or comment on a blog, your photo can be automatically displayed next to your name. An image makes your text more convincing, and a vast proportion of the blogosphere is Gravatar-enabled, so get yours set up today!
Free Research Resources
As a freelance blogger you need to research all kinds of stuff, from statistics that help prove your point to the names and contact details of specific employees at big companies. These good people all provide freely accessible and searchable information online:
29. LinkedIn has a useful search engine that will help you find and contact editors, marketing managers and PR people for the blogs and companies you want to target as clients. Plus, a LinkedIn account is part of a professional freelance blogger’s online portfolio these days, so keep your own profile up to date!
30. The United States Census Bureau is a one-stop shop for statistical info on all kinds of stuff from population to economics and lifestyle in the USA; very handy if you need a couple of quotable stats to give your blog post some authority.
31. If your post is focused on another region, there are plenty of useful sites that cover other countries, like the UK National Statistics Publication Hub or Eurostat for European Commission statistics.
32. BrainyQuote is an easy-to-browse, easy-to-search site full of pithy quotes on a huge range of topics. It’s great for finding that perfect quotation to highlight your post’s key message.
33. Wikipedia may not be perfectly reliable, but a good Wikipedia entry includes references to the supporting evidence. So don’t base your post on the entry itself, but follow up those footnotes to find the original sources.
Free Tools and Technical Resources
I’ve tried a vast number of tools to boost my productivity. Some of them worked and some of them didn’t work for me. These are the ones that did.
34. Online Stopwatch is a very simple website with two tools: a stopwatch and a countdown timer. If you’re not ready for a full-featured time tracking system yet, this is a good way to keep an eye on your work hours.
35. Time and Date gives you time conversions around the world. Whether you need to know the time right now at your client’s location, or find out how many days there are until your next deadline, you can do it here.
36. Word Count Tool is a website where you can paste or type in your text to get an instant word count. Handy if you’re working with a content creation tool or content management system that doesn’t count words for you!
37. MailChimp is an email service provider that you can use to send group emails to your clients and leads, or to create a newsletter for your blog. Their “Forever Free” plan lets you email up to 2,000 recipients.
38. Evernote saves all your notes-to-self and articles or URLs of interest in one place that you can access online. Useful as a swipe file for all the interesting stuff you come across, and for works-in-progress.
39. Trello lets you drag-and-drop your task lists into order. It starts with 3 lists (To Do, Doing, and Done) but you can add more, give tasks deadlines, and create separate boards for different clients if you want to.
40. WordPress.com isn’t what I’d use for my own professional blog or website, but it’s a completely free way to start your own blog and gain experience in the basics of WordPress without anyone watching when you screw up. When you need to use WordPress.org for your clients or for your own blog, you’ll find that the interface is similar enough to give you confidence.
41. HTML Dog teaches the kind of basic HTML you might need to know if your client wants your posts marked up in code, and you can continue studying right up to advanced coding for fancy websites.
42. EchoSign is a service from Adobe that you can use to email your client a link to an in-browser document (for example, a contract) that they can sign digitally using their mouse or stylus, or by typing in their name.
43. Harvest is a simple time tracking and invoicing app that lets you start and stop timers on different projects, send invoices and receive payments (via Paypal or by giving other instructions in your invoice).
Free Business Inspiration and Motivation
44. The Traffic Toolkit from Think Traffic is much more than a guide to getting blog traffic. There’s a whole bunch of useful stuff in this kit, from the “6 Ways to Earn $1000 a Month Online” video to the business plan template for bloggers.
45. How to be Legendary is an awesome manifesto by Johnny B Truant that’s full of ideas to get you working towards something and reaching your goals. Essential reading for, well, almost anyone!
46. A Writer’s Bucket List by Dana Sitar at DIY Writing gives you “99 things to do for inspiration, education and experience before your writing kicks the bucket”. Check out the career section in particular.
47. Love the Grind is an email newsletter I read every time it arrives in my inbox. Rob Hatch shares tips to make you more productive at the essential work of your business: sticking at the less-fun tasks along the way to greatness.
48. LittleZotz Writing Adventures in Freelancing by Lauren Tharp is an awesomely entertaining and educational guide to freelance writing as a job and as a lifestyle. With hand-drawn comic book images!
49. How to Influence All the Right People is a fun guide to marketing against the grain, by Gary Korisko of Reboot Authentic. If you’ve ever worried that you don’t fit in or you need to “tone yourself down”, this is your kick in the pants.
50. The Everyday Courage email challenge series from Jen Gresham at Everyday Bright starts with a video on courage-building, then gives you a small, simple bravery-boosting challenge to complete each week.
51. 20 No Bullshit Ways to Make at Least $30 Tomorrow is an instant-income resource from Megan Dougherty at Paying For Life, showing you ways to fill small income gaps quickly and keep your head above water.
52. Me. I’m your freelance blogging resource, and you can ask me anything. Email me or leave me a comment, whatever works for you. It’s free. [If you want more than free tips, you can also book a live one-to-one mentoring session.]
Look at that: now you’ve got 52 free things to help you rock the freelance blogging world.
Don’t waste them!