5 Free content tools for the short-staffed and underfunded
There are two types of people in the digital content creation world: either you’re artistically challenged, or underfunded. Sometimes both. (Okay, usually both.) Some people are hired with a silver company card and a Wacom tablet in their hands. The rest of us have had to learn to hack the system like half-baked digital magicians, producing quality content using figurative smoke and mirrors. The ever-present bane of the content creator’s existence is a lack of tactical or financial support. And yet, here I am -- currently employed -- to tell you it’s totally possible to fake it ‘til you make it, my friends.
In my extensive encounters with content creation challenges, I’ve tried and tested many tools -- some more useful than others. Last minute creative request? Zero-budget campaign? Designer out sick and nobody else has Photoshop? My short-staffed, underfunded brothers and sisters, I have been there.
To save your precious time and bottom line, check out my top five picks for on-demand design tools:
There are so many typography resources out there, but I personally know and love Dafont. Despite its ridiculous name, the font library is quite extensive, easily searchable, and most of the fonts are my favorite price: free. Simply search for something specific like “chalk” and compare similar fonts side by side. The best part? You can preview a specific word or phrase to see how it will appear before you download.
All tech people clap your hands, because Placeit is here to save your SaaS. Arguably the simplest tool around for marketing online and mobile products, it's as easy as uploading a screenshot and downloading the asset. Unfortunately, almost all of the options are not free, but I promise it's easier, faster, and cheaper (as low as $8) than trying to execute on your own. You can add text and graphic treatments for some extra pizzazz. E-commerce store owners can join the celebration, too, because Placeit also offers apparel and merchandise templates.
Branding & Social
Definitely one of my favorites, Canva is probably the most versatile tool on this list. It's a fully functioning platform, meaning you can invite up to 10 teammates to collaborate online for free, designate brand colors and fonts, and save and organize designs into folders for easy re-purposing. They have dozens of templates to help you design anything from a Facebook ad to letterheads without ever worrying about pixel dimensions or aspect ratios. Canva is a freemium service, but the free plan does have excellent options for hardcore penny pinchers. However, if you feel like splurging their stock templates, icons, fonts, and images are only $1.
Quick & Easy
Recently launched in collaboration with Google, AutoDraw is an AI experiment project that is incredibly useful for the artistically challenged. It uses machine learning to interpret your chicken scratch and suggest an image made by someone with actual talent. A seamless user experience and massive image library means you can create just about anything for free across all of your devices to download or share. You can adjust the image size and colors or add text, shapes, and fills. If you're feeling saucy, you can also draw freehand. However, it is a new tool and relies on artist contributions to stock its library. That, or my unicorn drawing was so horrendous even AI couldn't help me.
Infographics are an extremely valuable visual tool. Brands that use infographics see higher traffic, longer visit times, better SEO rankings, and increased engagement. TL;DR: If you aren't using infographics, you should be. While Canva supports infographic design, Vengage is definitely better for this type of asset. Vengage has better customization options for data representation in charts, graphs, and icons. Admittedly, their free plan is a bit limiting in terms of templates you're allowed to start with, but it is totally possible to make it work. If you are willing to pay, their individual pricing is $19/month.
What are your favorite content creation tools? Let me know in the comments!