Today, I’m sharing some of my favourite mostly free digital marketing tools and training resources. I use these day-in-day-out in my PR consultancy business. Perhaps they could be just what you need to boost your photography business?
Whether you’re just starting out as a pro photographer and are looking for free digital marketing tools, or whether you are ready to up-level and make some savvy investments to help you grow your business, you should find something useful in this list.
Free digital marketing tools I recommend
As you’ll discover in this blog post, I’m suggesting tools for:
- Productivity & Planning
- Email Marketing
- Graphic Design
- Online Diary Management
- Online Meetings and Consultations
- Research & Data Collection
- Media Research and Media Monitoring
- Social Media
- SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)
- Content Curation
N.B. Some of the links in this article are affiliate links. If you choose to purchase a tool or training resource via my links, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. I only recommend products I love and use in my own business.
Productivity & Planning
Trello is definitely one of my favourite free digital marketing tools! I organise my working week and have all my client projects, to-do lists, shopping lists, general brain dumps on there. My entire life is on Trello! 🙂
It’s completely free to use (although a premium version is also available) and is basically a digital noticeboard with lists and entries within lists. It has a simple drag-and-drop functionality. Personally, I found it quick and easy to learn. I think you will too, but if you do get stuck there are lots of online tutorials available.
Here’s an introductory video I recorded showing how you can use it to plan your marketing content:
The reason I love using Trello is that it’s a to-do list that doesn’t get lost! I no longer make notes or scribble down reminders on scraps of paper.
If I want to add something to a list within Trello at any time of the day or night (which I often do – why is that ideas come into your head just before bed?), I can tap the free Trello app on my phone and quickly add it to the relevant list.
My Trello account then gets synced and updated instantly.
It’s a simple to use personal and work organiser that keeps all your to-do lists in one place. It’s super-flexible, allowing you to move things around, assign dates and generally just make you more organised even while on the go.
Mailerlite is my email marketing software of choice, having switched from MailChimp earlier this year.
It’s completely free to use (if you have an email list of up to 1000 subscribers) and is widely considered to be one of the best solutions for small business owners who are looking for an affordable email marketing solution. It’s easy to use and looks good too!
The reason I love Mailerlite is that you can send automated email sequences within their ‘Forever Free’ plan (something that MailChimp stopped offering a while back to those on its own free plan). This is essential if you have a free download or ‘lead magnet’ and you wish to automatically deliver this to new email subscribers, along with an automated series of ‘welcome’ emails.
What’s also great about Mailerlite is that you can send up to 12,000 emails per month for free – that’s a LOT of emails!
You can also create landing pages, pop-up forms and forms to ’embed’ into your website, plus everything you create within Mailerlite can be customised quickly and easily. There are also handy features like the ability to segment your audience for more precise targeting with your email campaigns, and more advanced features like the ability to A/B test your email campaigns in order to determine the best performing content, and in-built survey tools too.
Personally, I also love the fact that there is a Mailerlite app, making it easy to track your email marketing performace and subscriber growth stats at a glance. Plus, there is so much helpful content provided by Mailerlite to help you if you get stuck using any of its features. There seems to literally be a video tutorial for every possible scenario (so useful!).
Once you’ve outgrown the free Mailerlite plan, there’s the option to upgrade with prices from just $10 per month.
Yes, there are other paid tools such as Active Campaign and ConvertKit which offer more bells and whistles. But, if you’re just getting started with email marketing, I think you’ll find Mailerlite perfectly adequate for sending regular newsletters and updates to your list of subscribers.
Truth be told, I procrastinated on switching over from MailChimp for far too long! If you’re not loving the tool you’re currently using for email marketing, then definitely consider giving Mailerlite a try. When you sign up, use this link. You’ll not only get a 14 day trial of its premium features but also a $20 credit into your Mailerlite account. 🙂
I send out my weekly ‘Connect Connection’ emails containing PR and marketing tips, articles and news updates using Mailerlite – sign up here if you’d like to receive these for yourself.
Canva is a free graphic design tool that allows you to quickly and easily create social media graphics, presentations, invitations, and much more. For a small investment (around $10 per month) the Canva Pro account (highly recommended) unlocks tons more functionality, features, photos, graphics and scheduling tools too.
As a professional photographer, you’ll likely have access to Photoshop which offers far more sophisticated functionality. But I think Canva still has its place.
It’s ideal for those situations when you need to create graphics quickly. The in-built templates for everything from A4 presentations to posters, flyers and business cards can easily be adapted and you can incorporate your own brand colours, fonts and imagery. So, in very little time and with minimal fuss, you can create something that looks great!
Plus, the Canva app is also really handy for creating custom graphics on the go.
There are hundreds of things you can create with Canva! Here’s a tutorial on how to use Canva to create infographics:
Creative Market is another resource that is invaluable if you are looking to create beautiful graphics, workbooks, presentations, fonts, styled stock images and more. On there, you can purchase templates and design assets from creators based all around the world.
Plus, every week Creative Market offers products for free so you may want to join their mailing list to receive updates on what the free goodies are each week.
While the above two resources are invaluable, sometimes you just want to be able to create e-books or lead magnets quickly and you may struggle to find exactly what you’re looking for in the free version of Canva. This is where paid templates come in.
I use e-book and lead magnet templates to create professional-looking digital documents in Canva. These are a major time saver and well worth investing in if you find creating lead magnets a chore.
There are also lots of other templates available to purchase – you can view the full range here.
Online Diary Management
Rather than send emails back and forth to my clients and prospective clients to agree a mutually convenient day and time for a consultancy call, I now use Acuity Scheduling which takes all the hassle away.
I pre-populate the calendar with my availability and block off any times that I am not going to be available. I create appointment types (for example, 1 hour client calls) and then share the scheduling link with my client.
It’s quick and easy for them to then choose their preferred date and time from my available slots. They complete a simple form and, because it’s integrated with my online calendar, then the appointment is confirmed and automatically scheduled into my diary.
I use the paid version of Acuity Scheduling (approx. $10 per month) in order to take advantage of the extra functionality such as being able to set up multiple appointment types.
The paid version also allows you to take payments but the free version may be all you need if you simply want to take away the hassle of scheduling client sessions, calls or viewing sessions.
I also rate Calendly for its sleek, minimalist look and easy to use interface for online appointment booking.
As with Acuity Scheduling, the free version is great but for more advanced features you’ll need the pro version.
Online Meetings and Consultations
Zoom Video Conferencing
I love Zoom for the fact that it allows me to connect with my clients, prospective clients and others via free video conferencing calls.
With a free subscription to Zoom, you can host 40-minute video calls with multiple participants. Plus, you have the option to record the meetings and playback both the video and audio-only versions.
This makes it a really handy tool for me. I can record client consultations and also record online presentations that I’ve hosted. Playing these back is a great way to recap on points discussed. And, there’s nothing like watching yourself on camera if you’re keen to identify ways to improve your presenting style!
Zoom Webinar is a paid tool which allows you to host live virtual events and broadcasting for up to several thousand people.
Unlike a standard Zoom meeting, a Zoom webinar is a view-only platform where the host can’t see the attendees and they cannot see each other. It could be ideal for any photographer offering online group training as part of their services.
Research and Data Collection
Typeform is a “versatile data collection tool” that “turns data collection into an experience”. It’s my go-to tool for when I need to create online surveys. It makes data collection a doddle and will impress the end-user because it has a sleek interface that not only looks really professional but is really easy to use.
It’s quick and easy to set up a survey (literally you can set one up in less than one minute).
Whenever I begin work with a new client I ask them to complete a survey so that I can gather the information I need to get started. I also use Typeform surveys to gather data from photographers who I don’t work with – it’s a vital tool in my market research.
(Photographers – if you’d be happy to complete the short survey, I’d be very grateful!)
Typeform used to offer a generous free plan although they have limited this recently to just a few free surveys per account. However, it’s still a great tool and well worth checking out. There is a paid version available if you want to set up multiple surveys and if you need more advanced functionality.
An alternative would be Survey Monkey.
Media Research and Monitoring
If you want to be able to read, follow and research multiple newspapers and magazines, without the expense of buying subscriptions for each of the publications, then Readly is a brilliant tool and well worth checking out.
For a small monthly fee, you can access thousands of newspapers and magazines, all in one app.
It’ll help you keep on top of breaking news, help you research publications you’re planning to reach out to for PR purposes, and give you access to valuable journalist contact information.
If you’re based in the UK, signing up to Readly via this link with give you 1 month’s free access to Readly so do check it out!
I always recommend that it’s worth regularly ‘googling’ yourself or your business name to ensure that you are aware of any mentions online.
Google Alerts is a free tool that helps you keep on top of your online monitoring. You can set up an unlimited number of alerts for free, for example, your name, your business name, and also for keywords such as “newborn photographer”.
When it comes to monitoring press coverage, Google Alerts can prove useful although it’s far from perfect. It’s best to use Google Alerts in conjunction with your own searches plus other media monitoring tools if you are serious about tracking online mentions of yourself and your brand.
Twitter is an essential tool if you’re looking to connect with journalists and spot potential media opportunities. That’s because Twitter is what journalists use to share news and make connections with potential case studies, experts and to source story ideas.
Search for the #journorequest hashtag to find out what journalists are looking for today!
Within Twitter, you can also set up ‘lists’ (public or private) which are curated feeds that allow you to monitor the tweets of those in your list.
So, if you have particular journalists you want to follow, for example, simply add them to a Twitter list. Then, check that list regularly to avoid potentially missing their latest posts among the thousands of other Twitter posts in your newsfeed.
Twitter can be overwhelming, so Twitter lists help you to navigate through the dross to the content that you’re actually interested in.
Related reading: Twitter Chats for Photographers
Planoly is my favourite tool for Instagram scheduling. It allows you to “visually plan, manage and schedule your Instagram posts”.
I love the fact that you can use Planoly for free if you’re managing one Instagram account and only posting once per day.
It has an attractive minimalist interface, and the drop-and-drag functionality allows you to plan and change-up the look of your Instagram feed before you publish, helping you to arrange the look of your Instagram feed and to help you ensure that you maintain a cohesive look.
Later is a similar tool to Planoly and is also free for one user who posts up to 30 posts per platform per month.
I also love Later’s blog. Their inspirational articles and how-to guides are essential reading for small businesses using Instagram and other social media platforms to grow their business.
I use bit.ly to shorten otherwise very long URLs to blog posts and other website links. It’s a free and easy to use tool that creates a short version which looks better when sharing links online.
Bit.ly also monitors click on your shortened links so that you can track performance over time – important if you are measuring your marketing (as I suggest you should be in this blog post – How to do an Annual Review of your Photography Business).
There is also the option to customise the bit.ly link that is generated – for example, my bit.ly/PRSavvyPhotographers link directs people to my sign-up page for my Facebook group.
If I hadn’t have customised that link, it might have otherwise been something like bit.ly/2J8PHcM. So, from a branding point of view, being able to customise the links is a great benefit of this free tool.
Tailwind is an incredibly powerful tool which I have used to schedule and automate the publishing of ‘pins’ onto my Pinterest account.
Pinterest is widely acknowledged as an important source of website traffic. If you aren’t pinning your content onto your Pinterest account regularly then you’re probably missing out on a large amount of traffic that you could be attracting to your website via Pinterest.
The training I recommend on Pinterest and Tailwind is by Pinterest Principles. This is an incredibly useful course for anyone who is keen to up their Pinterest game!
Search Engine Optimisation
Yoast SEO is an essential tool if you have a WordPress website. It’s the number 1 SEO plugin for WordPress that helps you to optimise your web pages and blog posts.
Using a simple traffic light system as your guide, you can see how well (or not) your web content is optimised for search engines. There are many things you can do to optimise your website and, thanks to Yoast SEO’s simple to follow instructions, you can boost how well your site ranks.
The free plugin will suffice for most people’s needs but there is a premium option too, offering additional functionality and features.
SEO Edge is an iOS app which I have used to keep an eye on Google rankings for my own site and my client’s websites.
There is a free version which allows you to track a limited number of domains and keywords. But, for a very small investment, you can upgrade to the premium version of the app and monitor unlimited domains and unlimited keyword phrases.
SEO Edge allows you to track how websites are performing against keywords that are being actively targeted.
The tool tells you if you have gone up, down or remained the same in Google rankings for each keyword phrase. And, you can click through to view the search engine results page (SERPs) for each keyword so that you can see who is ranking higher.
This is invaluable information if SEO is part of your digital marketing strategy.
Chances are you are interested in a wide variety of topics and it can get overwhelming trying to follow a lot of blogs and information sources online. Which is where Feedly comes in. You can curate content via Feedly, helping you to find and read the information you are most interested in.
It helps you to organise all your trusted news and information sources in one place, and scan through all the latest content quickly and easily.
Feedly is a really useful tool for getting quickly up to speed on the latest news, articles and industry insights. Plus, if you’re managing a social media page or group, Feedly can help you to find relevant articles to share with your online audience.
Which are your favourite free digital marketing tools, apps and training resources?
I’m always keen to discover new tools and apps which make life as a business owner more efficient and hassle-free! Please do share with me and other readers of this article which free digital marketing tools you use in your business in the comments below.