Free tools and tips that help me blog
As I mentioned in part 1 of this blogging series, people have asked me for a lot of advice regarding blogs, blogging and all things blog-related. The idea for this series came about because I wanted to show that blogging doesn’t need a lot of technical expertise or money which is what most ‘how to blogging guides’ are extolling on the internet.
I also want you to know that you don’t need to pay ANYONE for their advice on blogging or purchase eBooks or go on a retreat just to learn to be a better blogger. I am so tired of these influencers trying to scam people out of their money. Anything you want to learn about, you can learn on the internet FOR FREE.
Side note: I made the mistake of signing up for emails from whose advice was going to transform my blog. All I did was get spammed with useless and obvious information. Yes I am still bitter about it.
Polar is probably rolling his eyes now because I go on and on about how any type of education should be a right and not a privilege only afforded to those with money. I keep my advice free so that its accessible to everyone. Why you should you be excluded just because you don’t want to part with $20?
So this post is a collection of frequently asked questions if you’re curious about what principles guide my blogging process and what tools help me. I’ll start with some tips:
1. Select a time for dedicated blogging
Whether you are blogging for business or blogging for pleasure, you will need to decide how much of time you can dedicate to blogging. I am going to be honest here, I have dedicated MANY hours to this blog and if I had spent all that time learning a language, I would probably would be fluent in Arabic. For most people that will depend on your schedule and commitments. I personally dedicate AT LEAST 4 hours a week to my blog. That includes writing posts, choosing pictures, tweaking the layout and all that other jazz. If I have more time or am more inspired, I double up one week and then take a break the next week. Some posts are easier to write than others for example, I can sometimes write an entire post in 1 sitting (2-3 hours) but most times I write a few paragraphs occasionally.
I URGE you to not go with a “I will see what I can do attitude” and actually set a realistic number of hours to get things done. This will make it a lot more viable for you to do those tasks if you have a specific number of hours to work toward.
2. Ask for ideas
“Where do you get ideas about what to write” is my most asked question and I won’t lie- I struggle with this. There are often weeks where I go by without having anything to say and this is usually affected by emotional state- if I am stressed then I have no creativity at all.
However, asking for ideas usually helps. I have been known to ask people around me, “What do you think I should write about next on my blog?” or “What would you like to read about on my blog?” If you’re going to ask people you don’t know I usually would choose a topic and then ask, “What aspect of traveling would you like me to focus on in upcoming blogs?” While the discussions don’t always yield exact material or titles for upcoming blog posts, they do get the creative juices flowing and I usually find my way from there. Don’t be shy to ask, you’d be surprised at how people would like to have an input in what they read and what you create!
3. Create a schedule and stick to it
You read that and now you’re having flashbacks to when you were in school and you had to follow a timetable. That isn’t what I mean. Create a posting schedule and be consistent about it. For example, if you can only post a month, that is absolutely fine. Create the best content possible and publish it once a month. If want to post twice a week then go right ahead! In this way, readers will know exactly when to expect content from you and you keep yourself focused on meeting that deadline. I am very flexible with myself and aim to post a MINIMUM of twice of a month but I usually average 3 or 4 posts in a month.
Your schedule can evolve to suit the needs of your readers and your lifestyle. When I first started blogging, I was posting twice a week… that sounds insane to me now however I wanted to get as much content as possible out there and since I had just moved to the Middle East, I had a lot to say. Now though, I don’t need to publish as often and my time is tied up elsewhere so I publish less. No matter how frequently you post, try to remain consistent which will also encourage you not to give up!
4. Interact with readers
People always underestimate how important this is but this is actually a really important facet of being a blogger. Its basic etiquette really. If someone takes the time to leave you a comment, reply to them! Whether its on your blog or any other blog-related social media.
Sadly, this is not the case with most people nowadays. I myself have commented on things and given the comment a lot of thought before posting because it was a topic I was invested in only to receive no response. My own personal rule is that if you don’t respond to comments, I wont bother to engage with you no matter how famous or busy you are.
It’s like giving a presentation to a group of people and not responding to questions and comments from your audience. It just seems discourteous, but for some reason it has become standard for bloggers not to reply to comments made on their posts.
But isn’t the whole point of having a blog to interact and engage online? This is how you make friends and readers! You find out things you have in common with total strangers and people from around the world. You make friends and connections that you wouldn’t otherwise.
If you aren’t replying to comments, I suggest you start. You will increase traffic to your blog. When someone comments, they are interested in your blog. Responding to comments (almost) guarantees they will come back or follow you in some way. Try it if you don’t believe me… people are 100% ore likely to return to your site if you respond to their conversation.
If you aren’t willing to do that, just disable commenting on your blog or social media. It will save people a lot of wasted time.
Panda’s blogging tools (all are free)
Tools can help you to plan, order and structure your blogging process. While there may be some people trying to sell you awesome blogging planners/spreadsheets (along with their eBooks), I personally don’t believe you have to spend money if there are things that help you to get the job done for free.
To keep track of ideas
I was recently introduced to Google Keep by Expat Bee and it has helped me a lot. Its better than just plain old notes because it syncs across your devices and you can access them anywhere. I jot down blog topics and ideas here along with notes for my PhD and other projects.
To schedule posts
Google Calendar is basically my life bible and has saved me from missing many engagements and appointments. Polar and I swear by it to schedule in quality time as well! I also use this to map out when I will publish posts because I like to plan in advance.
To design graphics
I’m not sure how and when I stumbled across Canva but its literally THE BEST THING EVER. You can design all sorts of things on this incredible website (FOR FREE) from wedding invitations to flyers. I personally use it for blog banners and infographics. You are welcome.
Now its time for you to go and do as you are told. I mean that in the least bossy way possible!
Seriously though, these are my tips and tools. You probably have a few of your own if you’re a blogger. And that’s wonderful, because I’ve realized that everyone needs to approach blogging in their own way… it adds to the fun. Feel free to add to this list in the comments below!
This is part 2 of my series: Panda’s Blogging Bites. Also read:
If you enjoyed this post, leave your address below so that you can get an email every time I publish a new one!