No-Cost Content: Free Alternatives to Content Creation Tools

Who says creating content has to be an expensive endeavor? In the spirit of celebrating all things free this July Fourth weekend, here are no-cost alternatives to popular content creation tools to help you become a more independent (and frugal) content marketer.

Image Sourcing

Popular Pay Options: Getty, Corbis, etc.
Free Alternative: PhotoDropper
For WordPress users, PhotoDropper makes finding and inserting images into blog posts as easy as a few clicks. It pulls photos from Flikr’s Creative Commons collection and includes the credit for the images automatically, so you don’t need to worry about attribution on your own.
Fair warning: The selection isn’t always the greatest, and sometimes the search results can leave you scratching your head (especially when searching by “Interestingness,” which can sometimes seem to translate into NSFW-ingness), but you’ll almost always find something you can use, and there’s no beating the savings in terms of time, effort, and licensing fees.
Note: PhotoDropper does offer a pay option that provides a slightly better selection of images, but honestly the quality doesn’t typically appear to be leaps and bounds above the free option.

Image Editing

Popular Pay Option: Photoshop
Free Alternative: Pixlr or Pixelmator
Pixlr photo editing services offers several options. Pixlr Editor mimics many of Photoshop’s basic features while Pixlr-o-matic allows you to add vintage, retro, and other photo effects.
For those willing to spring for the next level up there’s Pixelmator, which provides additional image editing features in addition to slightly better usability. The 30-day free trial can be perfect if you’re looking for something quick for a one-time project, but you can also grab the whole shebang for a one-time cost of $14.99.

Infographic Design

Popular Pay Options: Graphic designers such as the acclaimed JESS3
Free Alternatives: Piktochart or Easel.ly
Screen Shot 2013-07-05 at 1.01.32 PM
Infographics continue to be a hot commodity, and in many cases the cost of getting them designed has shot up along with the demand. Translating your data into a nice, visually stimulating package can run you anywhere from $300 to thousands of dollars, depending on the designer/agency. That can obviously discourage many companies from venturing into infographic territory, especially those that are simply looking to try one out for the first time.
Fortunately, a handful of free/low-cost options have cropped up, with Piktochart, an online, design-it-yourself tool, leading the way. With easy usability and over 120 themes to work from, Piktochart is definitely worth checking out (if for nothing else then for coming up with sketches and testing your audience’s reception to early concepts before handing them off to a designer).
The downsides are that only seven themes are available in the free version, and you also have to live with having the Piktochart watermark on your infographic. The tool is also curiously offered on a subscription model. Pricing starts at $29 a month, so unless you’re planning on cranking out infographics on the regular, you may want to try out Easel.ly or another competitor, instead.

Podcast Recording

Free Alternatives: Skype and Garage Band
The majority of the costs of podcasting come from investment in recording devices such as microphones. Luckily, you can do the recording and basic audio editing for free using Skype and GarageBand (comes standard with most Macs). The following links provide step-by-step how-to instructions:

Video Editing

Free Alternatives: iMovie, CamStudio (Windows), Camtasia (free trial)
As with podcasting, you can typically expect to plunk down the lion’s share of video costs in recording equipment. When it comes to editing your raw footage, there are plenty of freelancers who can make your life a lot easier while giving your videos a professional touch, but if you prefer to spend a little time instead of money you can always choose to take on the editing yourself with a variety of software tools.
There are plenty of no-cost options to choose from, but if you have a Mac and your needs are basic there really aren’t many reasons to look beyond iMovie.
To record screen presentations, you can take advantage of either CamStudio (Windows), or the free trial offered by Camtasia. See a step-by-step guide to creating screencasts with Camtasia here:
8 Tips for Using Camtasia to Make Simple, High Quality Screencasts

Newsletter / Email Marketing

Free Alternative: MailChimp
A Love Letter to MailChimp
If you’re just starting out building your mailing list, MailChimp is a fantastic option — it’s free to send 12,000 emails a month up to 2,000 subscribers. With the company’s focus on simplicity, usability, and customer support, it’s also hard to find another tool that’s more beloved by its users.
 
What free content creation tools have you been using? Any great options to add to this list?

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