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Ask the Readers: The Best of Free or May-as-Well-Be-Free

questions-card

There’s a lot of cool stuff out there you can get for free, mostly for free, or initially for free.

Training, tutorials, information, software, services – lots of it, much of it high quality, and for nothing but the cost of your email address.

Some of my absolute favorite free things are:

WP Landing Pages, a free plugin for wordpress that let’s you create landing pages on the quick-fast.

The GIMP, an open source image editing software, that does most of what Photoshop does – but totally for free.

There’s a difference between these two free softwares.

The Gimp is straight-up free. It’s built on the philiosophy of non-profit, open source code. The people who work on the GIMP and other systems like it do it for love, for passion, from a sense of the common good, or to earn an income on a donation basis.

Now, WP Landing pages, on the other hand, is free – to a point. It uses the Freemium model, where a certain level of service is provided for free, and then extended features are available for a fee or a payment.

WP Landing pages works great for what I need it for at the free level – but let’s be honest – from a business perspective – that sucks!

Much better is something like Boomerang – which is a gmail extension that lets you schedule your responses to emails for a point in the future.

Boomerang was so hugely useful and valuable at the free level that when my amount of schedules for the month was used up, I couldn’t whip my credit card out quickly enough.

THAT’S the mark of a good Freemium product: it gives so much value that you are THRILLED to pay for it. (Honorable mention goes to BufferApp – a Twitter and Facebook post scheduler. The Free level is amazing, and if you have multiple accounts, the Premium version is a steal.)

Here are some other products that either start out free, have a free level of service, or are such a fantastic value that they might as well be free:

So those are some of my favorite free-or-almost-free products…

What are yours and why? How did you find them and how do you use them? Have you ever loved a Free version – but hated the paid?

Share the wealth and let us know in the comments. ๐Ÿ™‚

About Megan Dougherty

Megan Dougherty is an alumnus of Mirasee and is passionate about online education, small business and making a difference in the world. You can find out what she's up to and how side-hustles will take over the world at PayingforLife.com. Follow her on Twitter at @MeganTwoCents.

25 comments

  1. Victoria Chemko ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    One free tool that I realized I don’t think anyone has mentioned yet is Google Analytics. Such an in-depth tool to help with analyzing your website traffic, stats, conversions, and really so many things about your online presence!

    I second GIMP and also use Hootsuite regularly for my social media marketing and MailChimp for email marketing. Will definitely have to check out a few new ones on this list!

  2. Jessica Marie says:

    I noticed that there were a lot mentioned that I already use (Mailchimp, Hootsuite, BufferApp, Canva, and the newest being Gimp); it is good to know that great minds think alike. I have also found a few new ones that I am going to try(Boomerang, mindmapping tools, Rapportive).

    I am going to add Focus Booster http://www.focusboosterapp.com/ to this list. It is a downloadable app that has truly helped me stay focused. I set it for a certain length of time that I want to work, and a certain length of a beak I want to take. It then just runs and you can set it so it is on top or behind your windows. I like it on top because it lets me know where I am in my work and gives me a goal. If I really start to get into the flow, I will switch it to behind and just let it run. The best part is that you can insert any amount of times or time limits.

  3. Arthur Casey says:

    Since Google changed their Keyword research tool to keyword planner this free keyword research tool has emerged. Not as as detailed as Google keyword research tool previously but still helpful.

  4. Kerry says:

    Think paper.li is my new favourite online freebie… I love how it brings together all the relevant content from your chosen sources and turns it into a professional looking newsletter/paper that you can share with your contacts. The idea of simply bringing everything your readership want to see together in one place to save them a job is fab! I’m a fan of Hootsuite for scheduling multiple Twitter and Facebook posts and for a starter website on a non-existent budget I think the free level of Moonfruit is fab. If someone could combine Moonfruit’s design and shop hosting capabilities with the WordPress ability to get you noticed, I’d be in heaven!

  5. Leslie Malin says:

    I just came across this info in an email. If you write books, getting eyes on it is always a challenge. There is a neat website that will advertise your book cover for FREE.

    All you have to do is send a tweet to @coverscroll with a link to your book and they will add your cover to their website Cover Scroll.

    They also tweet a link once they’ve added it and their Twitter account has over 7,000 followers!

    Now, could that be easier?

    Thanks everyone for your great suggestions, Guess I better get me Evernote, so I can keep track, I am already swamped!

  6. Nina Patel says:

    Like Kim and Penny, I’m a huge fan of Evernote for clipping and creating folders of ideas. It’s a lot easier to search Evernote than try to remember an email or article that you may want to refer to.

    And although SANEBOX is not free (only a trial version for 2 weeks is free), I’m so glad I started using it to manage my emails. It has made a huge difference in the amount of time I spend processing emails. It is great for anyone who wants to be more productive and efficient.

  7. The free, or next to free, resources I like are in the vain of helping you create what you want and finish what you start.

    Trello: https://trello.com
    Handy for mapping out and moving forward on projects. Use it by yourself and/or as an excellent project collaboration tool. I’ve had clients use it to map everything from launches, books to dissertations. “Trello keeps track of everything, from the big picture to the minute details.”

    Freedom/AntiSocial: http://macfreedom.com/ and http://anti-social.cc/
    In my opinion, every entrepreneur should have one of these loaded onto their computers. It locks you offline for a set amount of time. There’s a small fee: $10-$15

    Write or Die: http://writeordie.com
    Thank Dr. Wicked for setting up a site. It helps to force you to write faster than your critic can process it’s objections. Great for getting a first draft out of your head in record time!

    Accountability Chat: http://pronagger.com/bookending-chat/
    Who doesn’t need a free productivity push now and then? This chat is a supportive environment where you sandwich getting tasks done in between two short check-ins called bookends. (full disclosure: this tool is mine)

    Speaking of a productivity push, here are two of my favorites.

    Meet Carrot: http://meetcarrot.com
    Meet Carrot will keep you on target and in action with it’s “heart of weapons-grade plutonium.” Carrot is a snarky app.

    Lift: https://lift.do/
    Excellent habit building tool!

  8. Aaron says:

    Nothing beats Gmail, with the options for free add-ons like boomerang. But LastPass comes close. I just upgraded that account happily.

    Lastpass may be the one web app that has saved me more time and struggle than any other.

    For business, Freshbooks starts out free. So does MailChimp. Both provide a lot for free, and a great value when you sign up.

    1. Arthur Casey says:

      Aaron ,I agree with you on Last Pass for sure, it has been the the best app i have ever invested in. Makes remembering passwords a breeze and secure without the need to store them on your computer. One password for all is so much easier ๐Ÿ™‚ with lastpass.com

  9. WendyStrain says:

    I don’t know if I could keep track of everything I do without Checkvist, a multi-level, multi-heirarchical, multi-list online list builder. it might have something to do with the way I use the program, but if you need to keep track of many spinning plates all at once, along with the juggling fire brands and the youngsters in the front row, it’s a life-saver.

    Other free applications I think I saw mentioned above that have been very helpful have been MailChimp, Boomerang and Hootsuite (although I pay for that one now because I’m handling multiple social media accounts).

  10. Shawn Ellis says:

    I’m a fan of Rapportive (http://rapportive.com/) myself – a free addon for Gmail that connects w/ LinkedIn, FB & Twitter so you can see profiles for your contacts/customers on the social platforms and connect with them there if you wish. You can even see a person’s recent tweets right inside your inbox, which often gives some good intel for crafting an email to them. Great post and conversation starter, Megan!

  11. jane gardner says:

    Here’s an easy one, all WordPress plugins that are free and that are compatible with current version of WordPress for anything you need on your blog. It amazes me the quality of the plugins that are for free. I use Prettylinks every day to make nice easy links for my blog pages and I am excited to install and use Editorial Calender WordPress plugin so I can create my calendar of blog topics. The WordPress community is great giving us the tools to do the jobs we want on our blog. Also, wanted to say Michael’s comment could be a blog post, thanks!

  12. For anyone who writes content or sales copy, I’d say you must check out http://hemingwayapp.com/

    This will score your content, tell you where its hard to read and provide you the “education grade level” that it’s written at. Copywriters are often seeking to write at the 6th grade level or below – Hemingway makes it easy to do.

  13. celia milton says:

    Echosign. I don’t do a lot of email signed documents, but when I get to the point that I do, I’ll absolutely pay for this one. It cuts down the lag time between my clients getting the contract and me getting it back. Combined with an online payment system like Paypal (not free), it makes the contract agreement and payment process almost instant.

    As far as free resources go, Pinterest is a vast source of everything from free fonts to templates to biz advice.

  14. Michael Bely says:

    Free stuff…
    This magic word FREE.

    Its power has been so incredible that the whole culture and mindset are based on a freebie and fremium model of the world.

    Open-source software, as well as fremium products become more and more popular in the highly competitive environment.

    So, my short list of free products to share:

    SEO TOOLS:

    Xenu was a great find for me. It totally free and allows to find broken links, scrape URLs (both internal and external) from the website with a certain level of depth.

    SeoSpyGlass – It has a free version that alows to find up to 1000 backlinks. It is supposed to be less precise than OSE, Ahref and Majestic Seo, but it has a cool set of functions (number of external links, page rank, dmoz, alza etc). Very convenient.
    The free version is cool but does not have an export function (although you can export links manually one by one).

    MIND-MAPPING TOOLS:

    Here is one of my latest finds – a great resource of free mind-mapping and diagram drawing softwares and web-based services – http://www.informationtamers.com/WikIT/index.php?title=Free_mind_mapping_%28and_related_types%29_software.

    I personally use Freeplane and Xmind (it is considered to be one of the best free version among professional mind-mapping softwares).

    And if you want to live in a world of free software products – welcome to Linux. Almost all programs there are free.

    However, there are some big caveat in free programs and services to keep in mind.

    1. Free products may have some restrictions. And even if you can use them basically for all your needs, it may be not that comfortable to work with (e.g. restriction on export functions that you need to do manually, limited anything).

    Thus, you just have to exchange your time for the money you saved.

    Anyway, you are welcome to upgrade though ๐Ÿ™‚

    2. Free products can be a bit buggy (anyone want to be a beta-tester?)

    3. Free products may be not very user-friendly.

    4. Free products may be not that beautiful.

    5. Free products usually don’t have free support (although there may be very helpful communities which give free advice).

    In general, paid products tend to be better (from functional or/and user-friendliness point of view) than free ones.

    So, if you have budget, go and choose paid product and enjoy it.
    If you are short for money – chose a free product to fulfill your needs. Be ready to spend more time on working with it compared to paid products. But anyway, it may appear, that you don’t need a paid product at all ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. Sue Brage ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Man this is a toughie…mainly because I’m cheap! And I love using the free versions whenever possible. However, I do pay for the ones that are truly worth it, such as Buffer. I had to upgrade to the paid version because I rely it so much to keep content flowing.

    I love Pic Monkey, and would probably pay to use it if I had to. I just learned to do Infographics on it. There may be better platforms out there, but it’s perfect for my skill level.

    The one free app I could not live without however is Trello. I use Trello to track all my projects and todos. I love the interface and how flexible it is. And the fact that you can include links, files, etc in the body of each Task (or card) makes it work for me. I just put everything I need in the card and then when I’m ready to do the project, it’s right there! It’s great for collaborating as well.

    Thanks for the great post Megan!

  16. Kim says:

    Evernote. I would be absolutely lost without it. I use it to store all aspects of my blog: writing ideas, technical stuff, ideas I want to implement. We moved a few months ago from NH to TN, and I used this simple and powerful software to track everything: quotes from movers, the numbers and contents of the boxes, apartment possibilities, etc. Plus, I can access it from any platform, at home or on the road.

    1. Penny says:

      Kim, I completely agree! I’ve had Evernote on my computer for years, but only recently started using it.

      It. Is. Amazing.

      I use the web clipper to capture the payment confirmation pages for bills I pay online, I upload interviews from sources for articles, I have an idea bank – the list goes on and on.

      The ability to use it on the laptop, kindle, iPad, and iPhone is a real life saver, too. I started using it because of an e-book called Master Getting Things Done the David Allen Way with Evernote, by Dominic Wolff, and I have’t looked back. A must have for busy people!

  17. I have used several free online products that are invaluable to my business productivity. I love Asana and Toggl for tracking projects and tasks and the time spent on them. I also love Buffer and Hootsuite for helping manage the scheduling part of my social media. A great SEO tool is Traffic Travis which is quite comprehensive but gives me heads up on things that need to be worked on. I’m sure there’s more, but those are off the top of my head.

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