22 free tools to build and market your side project

(Updated June 2020)

The age of the side hustle/project seems to be booming at the moment and it looks like it’s just getting started as more people look for ways to unleash their creativity outside their 9-5 or maybe even break free from it by creating more revenue streams.

Of course, I am one of those who is using my creativity for other outlets such as this website you’ve kindly visited and in my time of doing all of this work, I’ve come across a number of great tools that have helped me build and market all of my work.

In the spirit of paying it forward and helping my fellow humans, I’m going to share a number of great tools that have helped me build and market my work to the rest of planet earth.

To get you started on whatever it is you’ve decided to create, I’ve built a list of the top tools that have been invaluable to me below (quick note, this is not a paid post or an advertisement, I receive no money from recommending these tools).

Now you may not need use of all of these tools, yet I hope that many can help you in your own work. You’ll find a bit of everything from website design, social media marketing to simple but beautiful video editing.

WordPress

If you’ve ever tried your hand at website design before, then you’ve probably heard of WordPress before.

Lots of ordinary people and big brands use WordPress as their platform of choice to create their website and blogs. You can choose either the self publishing wordpress.org where you’ll need to pay for your own hosting or you can use wordpress.com as I do for this site, which is a modified and somewhat simpler to navigate version of wordpress.org.

Either way, getting a website, blog or both off the ground is pretty quick and simple with WordPress.

Recent data shows that 60 million websites are powered by WordPress and that 30% of today’s online bloggers use WP as their publishing platform – so that’s gotta mean something.

Hootsuite

This service is a real time saver for me.

Once you’ve set up your home base of a website, you’ll no doubt want to start telling people about it and the great service or content you have. In the digital age, there seems to be no better way of doing this than utilising social media.

What you don’t want to be doing is spending all your time posting across loads of different social channels about your cool side projects, so we need to be smarter in our approach to manage our time and energy, this is where tools like Hootsuite can help.

Basically it’s what the industry calls a social media management tool and I would add a sanity saving tool too as no one wants to be on social media posting all day long. You can easily schedule and post updates to any social network in advance with it’s simple to use features and dashboard.

I use a free account at present which gives me 30 slots to use in scheduling updates across my various networks. There are paid features but dependent on the nature of your side project, you may never need to purchase them.

You can get a full overview of HootSuite in this article.

Twitter

I must say that I am very very late to the Twitter party.

As someone who writes a lot, I use this platform to engage with mostly writing communities and those who share my interests. I will admit that I’m not a massive user of twitter so far, this is because I mostly use it to push out content from other platforms to engage people, but I can see it’s worth if you put the time in and of course if this is where your audience hangs out.

Knowing where your core audience hangs out is crucial in understanding where to invest your time and energy, so make sure the platforms you post to are where the people yo want to engage with hangout.

Medium

I used to be a power user of this platform, but not so much since the paywall went up and the fact that every article is about 10x your life, morning routines or telling you the latest 99 reasons to quit your job.

However, don’t let my cynicism put you off as it can be a great engagement tool for those of you or are writing content or wanting to showcase a new technology service/product.

I always enjoyed sharing my work on here and it has led to great engagement at times too.

LinkedIn

Unlike some of the social tools I’ve mentioned so far, I am a power user of LinkedIn.

I am a power user because this is where my audience hangs out. It’s important to understand where a large base of your audience go for their information and mine just happens to be this platform. For any of the social tools I’ve covered so far, these are the ones that work for me so they may not be right for you and you will need to do some research to find the best channels for your work.

What I can say is that Linkedin is a growing platform and one which I feel is underused by many. If you have a created a side project which offers a service or product then you should be marketing on this platform.

MailChimp

A fantastic and easy to use email marketing tool.

You can quickly create a newsletter and many more types of email marketing with this tool. It surprised me, just how quickly you could create a professional looking email and start building your audience with their simple signup forms.

An invaluable tool for me as a big source of my engagement is through my weekly newsletter (which you can subscribe to here btw!) and one I believe can be crucial for those wanting to create a connection with your audience.

Canva

You don’t need to be a graphic designer to create professional and eye catching designs with this this free tool.

I have been using Canva for years to create amazing visual content for my site, newsletter and more. With everything from posters, magazines, ebooks, blog pictures – this graphic design tool has so much to offer and for most of the features, it’s all free.

You can easily make you side project look visually stunning with Canva, it is an essential tool for all part time creators.

Shotcut

For Windows users the ever simple movie maker tool was the holy grail for editing videos, but what do we do know that it is gone?

Shotcut is a free video editing tool that I’ve used a few times and is starting to get popular. It has far more feature than movie maker and has a steeper learning curve for sure, but it’s the best of the free video editing tools that I’ve used which will actually get the job done to a high standard without investing in the expensive premium suites from Adobe.

iMovie

If you are a IOS user like myself than your device will come pre-installed with Apple’s own in-house video editing tool.

This is the main tool I use for editing all of my videos that I create. It’s free, simple to use and I feel most people could pick this up in a hour and create some good content. I would recommend iMovie over Shotcut for its simplicity and time investment, it’s truly amazing what you can create on your phone.

Apple Clips (phone only)

Another bonus app for iOS users and one you may not be aware of.

This app is great for shooting videos for social channels, with lots of cools features includes filters, adding text and music, plus you can add your own subtitles too. The subtitle feature is a really important one as many apps charge a premium for a feature like this and although the clips app can be temperamental from time to time, it’s a great feature.

Recent studies have shown that 80% of video shared on social channels today now has subtitles included as standard, so it will be crucial to have this option at your disposal.
You can see some examples of how this app works from my own work here and here.

InShot (phone only)

Another free video editing tool for IOS and Android with some paid features if you need them.

This is a popular tool for those posting videos to most social channels but mainly Instagram. InShot allows you to do a lot in it’s free version, including scaling any video for different social channels and screen sizes. Once more you can add text, blur backgrounds, add music and so much more.

Again, another handy tool to have in your video editing suite and one where you can add your own personal visual touch to any content.

👋 Want to learn how to easily film and edit videos with free apps? check out my full step by step guide here.

Unsplash

You need some visually stunning images, but don’t know where to get any which you won’t get sued for using – I have a solution for you.

For years now I have been using a great website called Unsplash which curates thousands of photos from photographers all over the world and the best bit? They are all royalty free. Unsplash hosts so many amazing photos covering many categories, so you are spoiled for choice.

Use of all photos is royalty free for business and personal use, but you can give back by crediting the creator wherever you use the image or donate every now and again to Unsplash.

Pexels

A royalty free media site which is very similar to Unsplash but with one added benefit. Alongside a vast library of beautiful pictures you can also get free video clips to use for any of your projects. Super useful for social media videos and to splice into your Youtube videos.

Nounproject

For the longest time I’ve been looking for a place to get my hands on a library of beautiful icons to use in my work and break free from the limits of powerpoint.

I finally found the holy grail in the Nounproject who offer over 2 million free royalty-free icons. You just need to give credit to the artist in your work for each icon you use or buy individual icons if you prefer not to have to give credit.

Photoshop camera

A new free photo app that has entered the fray in 2020 and provide lots of options to create high quality photos and videos with all the high standards you come to expect from the team at Adobe.

Adobe launches Photoshop Camera, a free app with tons of elaborate ...

Anchor Podcasting

Thinking about venturing into the world of audio and starting your own Podcast?

Recently purchase by this good people at Spotify, Anchor provide a seamless and easy experience to record and distribute your podcast. If you’re looking for a service that’s going to help you get up and running on the world’s largest platforms then Anchor is your best choice.

It’s also my personal choice and powers the Steal These Thoughts! Audio Experience aka my podcast.

Zoom

Need a simple video conferencing tool to connect with people around the world? look no further, Zoom is here to save the day.

With both free and paid plans, Zoom offers a host of great features for users including the ability to record both audio and video to convert conversations into podcasts, webinars and online classes. The free plan gives you unlimited access for one to one calls and a limit for 40 minutes on group calls (more than 2 people). Unlike Skype, your participants don’t need to install anything. Just send them a link and they can join via their web browser, voila!

Calendly

A simple way for you to share your availability for engagements has arrived.

Again Calendly offers free and paid subscription but you should be ok with the free version for most scenarios. I use this to book my podcast guests, public speaking events and consulting sessions with clients. Super easy to use and saves the annoyance of email tennis to confirm a time all parties can meet.

YouTube

Looking for somewhere to store videos and share in your work or perhaps you want to turn your hand to vlogging.

YouTube provides a platform for you to share your own videos to the public or keep them private for only members of your classes and newsletter to view.

Headliner

A perfect app for podcasters to turn segments of their episodes into social media ready posts. The free version offers 10 video creations a month, which gives you more than enough to use your audio to create short videos to use across all your platforms.

Audacity

A free tool with a simple learning curve to allow you to create top quality audio for your podcast and videos. Even if you’re using the cheapest of audio equipment, Audacity can do wonders with your audio. You’ll need to invest about an hour to learn the ropes but once you’re done you’ll be able to take your audio game to the next level.

Pinterest

Yes another social media platform but perhaps one you overlook.

Pinterest allows you to pin images onto lots of boards and generate ideas, so at first glance it may not seem right to market your side project (dependant on your topic). But, did you know lots of bloggers (including me) have been having success with thousands of visits from this platform by creating bespoke pins? I wasn’t sold at first either but the results have been encouraging.

And there’s even more…

Instead of changing the title of this post with a new number update every 5 mins. I’ve included recent discoveries below.

Linktree

Labelled on the site as the only link you’ll ever need and it’s probably true. You may have seen these cropping up on Instagram bio’s recently to get around the fact you can’t add much in.

The beauty of Linktree is that it allows you to direct your audience to one page full of all your content and contact links in one place. The best part? you can do all of this for free.

Linktree - Connect audiences to all your content with one link ...

About.me

With a similar offering to linktree above, About.me allows you to drive your audience to a specific call to action. Whether that’s signing up for your newsletter, visiting your blog or checking out your podcast. About.me has you covered.

Take a look at an example of my page below:

Hotjar

A growing insight analytics tool recommended to me by one of the lovely readers of my newsletter. I’m still testing this one but in a nutshell it allows you to track the behaviour of users on your sites and make changes for better engagement.

What Is Hotjar? 4 Reasons Why You Should Use It

Enjoy

That’s about all the tools I can think of in this moment.

As I’ve said, most of these have been invaluable to me and the best part is that of them are free to use.

I’ll leave you to go forth, embrace the enormity of the possibility in what you can create with the support of these tools and have fun building your side project.

Before you go…

If you like my writing and think “Hey, I’d like to hear more of what this guy has to say” then you’re in luck.

You can subscribe to my newsletter here or below.

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