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Free tools and tips that help me blog

August 8, 2019 15 Comments

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.

Screenshot 2019-04-24 at 14.49.35

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.

Screenshot 2019-04-24 at 18.25.50

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.

Screenshot 2019-04-24 at 18.23.19

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:

Part 1: 4 Things I Wish I Had Known about Blogging Before I Started

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  • Unishta August 8, 2019 at 1:55 pm

    I have been following you for quite a while as I love your travel posts and graphics ( the cartoons) . This series of your is really helpful as I spend hours over my blog ( my kids say I love my blog more than I love them ! ) and am still swimming in the sea.
    I think I really need to PLAN . Looking forward to other tips

    • expatpanda August 27, 2019 at 5:47 pm

      Ah Unishta I found another comment you left me! I wasn’t joking about investigating! Thank you for the heartfelt compliment about my blog 🙂 Planning is essential but what stumps me is moving up with things to write about because I want tone consistent! I am glad you found this post useful 🙂

  • Kelly August 8, 2019 at 6:53 pm

    Great post Aneesa, I’m certainly going to look into Google Keep, that’s such a great idea! Never even knew that existed to be honest, thank you!

    • expatpanda August 27, 2019 at 5:48 pm

      I didn’t know it existed until a few months earlier and I like the clean interface! Hope it helps you!

  • josypheen August 9, 2019 at 1:39 am

    Great post (as always) Panda! I have noticed far fewer bloggers chat on each others posts these days (especially with travel bloggers) BUT it is the nicest bloggers that still do. I feel like a get a better connection and want to come back to read more when folks chat in the comments.

    By the way, I didn’t visit for a while, but I LOVE the new look of your blog. 🙂

    • expatpanda August 27, 2019 at 5:50 pm

      I think people underestimate the importance of replying to comments and creating a connection. I know that we have had some interesting chats via our blogs which has led to a meaningful connection. Thanks so much for the compliment, I like to change up the layout once a year!

  • Emily Adams The Planking Traveler August 9, 2019 at 6:05 am

    Thank you for the info on Google Keep – I use so many other Google services but didn’t know about that one!

    • expatpanda August 27, 2019 at 5:51 pm

      It seems to be a hidden gem with quite a few people saying they had never heard of it! I am glad I am exploring it to more people 😀

  • Kat August 11, 2019 at 7:31 pm

    Thanks for the tips. Just downloaded Google Keep. I am just starting my blog to keep track on the process of trying to get a job in the Middle East, and then hopefully will continue as a blog of working there. Found your blog while searching for one’s of expats in Saudi. Will start following now. Thanks again.

    • expatpanda August 27, 2019 at 5:44 pm

      Thanks so much for the follow and I am glad you have found my blog useful! All the best with your journey to the Middle East 🙂

  • frannnelli August 19, 2019 at 10:03 am

    I’m going to look into canva thanks!

    • expatpanda August 27, 2019 at 5:43 pm

      You are most welcome, I hope you find it as useful as I do!

  • Flavia Vinci October 24, 2019 at 3:57 pm

    Very nice article. I have enjoyed it a lot. Thank you for sharing these tips. Keep up the great job👍😘

  • Bob Patrick June 14, 2020 at 5:06 pm

    Really very interesting post. Congratulations.

    • expatpanda June 14, 2020 at 5:27 pm

      Thank you!

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