Let’s hear it for free stuff!
Whatever you’re doing, you probably need some resources and tools to help you get it done. I know I use a ton of stuff for podcasting, making videos, blogging, and writing books.
The problem with all of this stuff is that it can be pretty expensive. And for most of us, at least when we’re starting out, there’s not a ton of disposable income lying around for buying fancy equipment and cool programs.
So here are a few of the resources I utilize (or have utilized in the past until I could afford the paid versions) to do my work. Keep in mind that, while there are always programs you can buy, some of these free options are so good that I’ve never felt the need to upgrade—maybe someday my needs will be great enough, but for now, I’m really happy with all of these free (or really reasonable) programs that I use.
Almost all of them are free, but the ones that you have to pay for will be marked with a * so you can quickly identify them. They’re not expensive, and I’m not getting anything for recommending them to you—I only make recommendations based on things I use, know, and love!
If you look up at the URL, you’ll see that this site is simply “hijackhighschool.com”. This is a paid domain. However, I know a lot of people who’ve had great success using the free version of WordPress. The only real difference is some minute limitations in what you can do (nothing at all that will stop you from doing great work and having an awesome blog!), and the only noticeable difference is the URL—if mine were free, for instance, it would just be “hijackhighschool.wordpress.com”. It’s not a big deal and it won’t hinder your credibility for having that there. Allie of Hyperbole and a Half still uses here hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com URL, and that sure hasn’t stopped her from being awesome.
There are plenty of free, and stunning, WordPress themes to choose from, and many are highly customizable. You can have a pretty amazing site or blog just by using the free tools available.
You can also use Microsoft’s One Drive, it’s much the same as Google Drive. The point is, these will give you a good word processor, as well as a safe place to house all your documents. I swear by this, because I have had computers crash. Heck, Scarlett’s (my beloved Alienware) hard drive crashed on me last year, and I had to install a completely new one. Thank GOD all of my books, notes, and business files were in the cloud. I’d probably have had a nervous breakdown if I hadn’t had everything backed up to infinity and accessible online.
A quick way to keep track of bookmarks, interesting sites, and your own personal notes is Evernote. Half of my blogs for this site are written on my phone at 2am on my Evernote app. I use it to save pages that intrigue me, make notes, write lists about what I need to remember, and jot down quick story or business note when I’m on the go. It’s free (there’s a paid version, but I have yet to try it and find the free version more than enough for me) and you can install and sync it across all your devices, so your information goes wherever you do.
Not a free program, but Scrivener only sells for about $40 (and there are always sales—I got mine half-off simply for completing NaNoWriMo one year). If you’re working on big writing projects, like books, huge reports, a thesis for school, screenplays, or any kind of lengthy research project, Scrivener is where it’s at.
Graphic Design Stuff
No, I’m not kidding. There is a way you can legally have Photoshop completely free. Sure, it’s a seven-year-old version of the program, but that’s what I use to do all my graphic design, and it works great. The best part is that Adobe has released it themselves, so this isn’t some sketchy site dominated by ads in languages you can’t read—it’s totally legitimate and very easy. You can get it here, toward the bottom.
This version of Photoshop works great. I remember wanting it so badly when I was a teenager, and hating the $500 price tag. I know the art I saw others creating with it blew me away, and so I’m perfectly happy to keep working with that version, even now.
Another great, free program is GIMP. I actually have both GIMP and Photoshop—sometimes I feel like using one platform over another (and also, half my graphics were already made in GIMP, so all my files were there already before, and it’s just easier to keep working on those same files.
In fact, I only really got Photoshop because I had some old files in that format, too. It’s really just a matter of what file types I had and what made it easiest to work on each of them—all in all, GIMP is a great program and can easily be your one-stop spot for photo editing.
Audio Editing Stuff
If you’re using a Mac, you might already have a program that’s great and easy to use. If not, or if you want something different, check out my recommendation.
Making music, or just recording audio tracks? Audacity has you covered. Free, powerful, and full of features, Audacity can do what most paid audio editors could do (I know, I had a few professional ones before finding Audacity).
Video Editing Stuff
Like the audio editing programs, most computers (especially Macs) come with some sort of basic “movie making” software, so if that’s enough for you and you’re comfortable with it, keep using it.
Adobe Premiere Pro
You can get this from the same spot you got Adobe Photoshop (here, in case you don’t feel like scrolling)—it’s the last program on the list. This is the whole package—tons of features, very powerful, and all-around awesome. There are tons of free tutorials online, and you can do just about anything using this program.
VideoPad Video Editor
Another, simpler program is VideoPad. It’s free as long as you aren’t using it for commercial business, but you can do some great free and promotional content, as well as fun, just-for-you stuff. It’s a great starter program, but it’s plenty powerful enough for you to use all through your video-making days.
Check out FreeImages, which provides you with a ton of free photography you can use in blog posts, videos, presentations, or whatever else. Some can be used freely, others request notification and an attribution (this is as simple as putting the link to the uploader’s profile as a little watermark on the bottom of the picture and leaving a comment on the picture’s page telling the uploader that you’re using it).
I’ll update this list as I go, and if you have any suggestions, please do share in the comments! You’ll get credit, and if you’d like to share your experiences with the program, I’ll add those to the post as well.