Wednesday 31 August 2022

Free Stuff! 8 Free Tools that Will Make Your Creative Life Easier

Free tools that will make your creative life easier!

I couldn't get by without free tools that fast-track the production speed and improve the quality of my creative work. 

In this post, I review 8 platforms that I use almost daily including some free options I have used for many years.

Grand Expectations

Raise your hand if you feel intimidated by the creative expectations of others who expect you to create magical content that engages and blows the minds of your target audiences. You must be an excellent writer, exacting editor, outstanding designer, talented video performer/editor, audio performer/producer, multimedia expert, social media whiz or a fantastic brand and communication guru. 

If this sounds familiar, this post is for you. Your creative life is about to become more productive if you are a senior executive, community leader, student, brand specialist or are building your career.  

Why it's Important

In the past 5 years, the need for content creation tools has increased dramatically. More than ever, in-person presentations, websites, emails, and social media depend on professional-looking, sounding, or reading content. 

There are tools for designing engaging posters, cleaning up photos, transcribing meeting notes, recording podcasts, or shooting and editing a video in minutes. 

Previously, these tasks required hours of frustration and agony. As a result, many paid a pretty penny to hire freelancers to do the work needed. 

An ever-growing array of software makes the task faster and easier. In addition, they give you an edge in competing with literally thousands who come across looking and sounding professional. 

Free Stuff

While a free option may be all you need initially, once you try it, you may find the paid program makes sense. For example, soon after I started using Grammarly, I realized that their Premium option would significantly improve the level of my writing.  

  • Blogs
  • Social media
  • Websites
  • Emails
  • EBooks
  • Documents 
Beware of the word free! Free doesn't always mean free!

Think Before You Click

For some functions, there are many viable options. For example, design platforms like Canva, Vista Create (formerly Crello), and Adobe Express are all excellent choices. However, each is a little different, so you must research what is suitable for you. 

Create a checklist of basic questions. 

  1. What do you need to do? 
  2. What are your expected outcomes? 
  3. Which platform will do what you need them to do?
  4. Are there videos or written tutorials to guide you through the learning curve? 
  5. Are there bonus functions like photo banks, design templates or video animation? 
  6. What do existing users say about each platform?

What Does Free Mean

That's a good question! 'Free' can mean different things. Make sure you understand the obligations that come with each one. 

  • Free always requires the surrender of contact info
  • Free sometimes means free 'forever.'
  • Free can be for a designated trial period of 10, 30, or 90+ Days
  • Free for a specified period in exchange for your credit card number
  • Beware of the last offer. I feel this is rigged against users. 

The offer usually states there will be no charge against your card for the first 10, 30, or 90+ days of the trial period. 

Many people use the software once or twice, then forget about it. Then, monthly billings appear on your credit card before you know it.

My 8 Best Picks

Below are 8 tools that I use every week and sometimes daily. I couldn't do what I do without them. 


Grammarly is an equalizer. The program will improve your writing whether you are a high school dropout or a university grad. It also provides a document storage function. 

I had a client in the construction industry who couldn't write to save himself. His emails had misspelled words, incorrect use of words and broken phrases. 

That was why he hired me to write his corporate marketing material, internal documents, and some client proposals. 

The client had dropped out of school at an early age. He got a job in the construction industry and started learning a trade. He saved enough to buy an old pickup truck, a ladder and the tools needed for creating a roofing business. 

He grew the company into an international operator producing annual revenues in the millions of dollars. Then, he bought other companies.

He became good at hiring others, like me, to do the things he wasn't good at. Grammarly would have been an excellent tool for him.

The Write Tool

Grammarly is a writing assistant that proofreads and edits your documents. It checks for more than 250 spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors.

A snapshot of Grammarly analysis of this post

Grammarly will also eliminate stuffy words and phrases to make your tone more relateable. Sometimes that means exchanging $1,000 words for $10 that resonate with more people.

When you upload your work, it will tell you what level it's written at. So ask yourself, "Does my audience read at grade 7 or university level? 

This is not a matter of what grade level you CAN write at. It's a matter of what your audience READS at. 

Writers often forget that Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address is written at a grade 9 level. Further, it is only 276 words long, which is heartbreaking for freelancers paid by the word. Nevertheless, the impact and meaning of his simple but powerful speech have stood the test of time.

Check It Out

File Converter

Convertio is a fantastic program that lets you quickly convert documents, graphics, audio, and video files to other file formats.

Suppose you need to change your file to a JPEG, PDF, or a PNG. Do you need to convert a .WAV audio clip to a .MP3? It's easy. 

Wait! There's more! 

Do you need to convert an MP4, AVI, MOV, or MKV to a WEBM compressed video file? Convertio will do all of this and more. 

Check it Out

Transcription Made Easy

Does your job require attending umpteen million meetings per week? Many need accurate notes to pass on to clients, staff, board or committee members. 

  • Business
  • Politics
  • Law
  • Education
  • Not-for-profit

Why spend hours taking notes when transcription software will do the work for you in minutes? For example, quickly transcribe live presentations or webinars to text.

Why is transcription necessary? There are a variety of needs. 

When I would do a discovery meeting with a new client, I would record it. Most clients operated in narrow niches in commercial construction, the oil & gas, or manufacturing sectors. As a result, many industry-specific, process, or engineering terms and acronyms had to be unpacked so I could understand what the company did. 

My daughters, now in their 30's, used to hate doing manual transcriptions. Some recordings would take hours, and even days, to complete. 

Word or Google Documents

The latest WORD and Google Docs programs have dictation functions. 

With Microsoft WORD, click on the microphone in your header and begin speaking. Instant translation. You can also transcribe recordings but need to download an app to do that. 


Most people have a mobile phone that has a transcription function. The guide below takes you through the basic set it up for iPhone users ... 

  • Go to Settings, General, Keyboard
  • Turn on Enable Dictation
  • Go to your keyboard 
  • Tap the microphone option
  • Speak 

Using your phone makes sense for transcribing short conversations. However, it can be cumbersome for longer sessions. is an excellent all-round tool. You can dictate audio for real-time transcription or record a talk and upload it for transcripton later. The ability to import pre-recorded audio files means you can work with older files as well. It's amazing. 

When I gather information from videos, I stream it into Otter. The transcription replaces laborious note-taking. After, I go through the text and copy and paste the key points into another document.

And, get this! Otter also records the audio. You can click on any part of the text and it will play the audio for that section.

Otter also has o a document storage function which allows you to check previous work.

Otter works seamlessly with popular video conferencing platforms, like Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex and other programs. 

Check it Out 

Photo Background Removal

It wasn't that long ago that clients paid designers big bucks to photoshop pictures to cut out the background. As a result, many programs allow you to remove 100% of a photo background in 5 seconds or less. 

e was used to cut the background from each photo. Click for interview about body language of politicians during TV Debates
Global Talk Radio CJOB Winnipeg  

Upload your image, click remove, and the finished product is ready to download in seconds. It slashes editing time and opens creative options!

Some design programs like Canva or PowerPoint also offer a background removal option. However, I've found them to be limited or lacking in quality compared to software that only does one thing – remove backgrounds. (Note PPTs library of cutouts).

I recommend removebg. It is quick, easy and requires a minimum of technical skills – which is perfect for me. 

Whether you want to place an image of yourself on a white background with text exhorting your greatness or seamlessly place a photo of a pet kitten in a pride of fierce lions, you can do both of these tasks and much more with

Check it Out

Audio Recording

Not long ago imagining that you could produce studio-quality recordings at home with a free audio recording program was pure fantasy.  Then, along came Audacity. 


Audacity is a free, open-source, cross-platform audio software. It is an easy-to-use, multi-track audio editor and recorder for Windows, macOS, GNU/Linux and other operating systems.

I have used Audacity for several years to record voice tracks for TV and radio commercials, films, and podcasts. I will use it to record my next audiobook. 

In the 1980s and '90s I recorded and/or produced about 26 record albums. Audacity offers about 50 times the recording and editing capacity available in the 8, 16, and 24-track studios of that time. 

Jerry Proppe and I producing an album at Sundae Sound in Calgary. Circa 1995

But don't be intimidated. If you are an entry-level user, this is also for you. It has a robust video tutorials to help when you get stuck. 

Check out the examples below. I wrote, produced and narrated each demo. Each was recorded using Audacity and a quality mic.

Corporate Video

Piper Process Systems

Grant Metal Products

TV Commercials

Raymond Shores Lakeside Resort

Dormir Bed & Foam

Radio Commercials

Dormir Bed and Foam

Check it Out

Design Platforms 

Photos, engaging graphics, and videos are the engines that drive social media, online marketing, and in-person presentations. 

There are several design platforms which provide excellent options. I've chosen Canva because it is one of the oldest platforms, continues to add new features, and is well supported. 


Canva allows you to design almost anything in minutes. It is easy to use and has excellent support from the company and video tutorials by independent users. 

Canva accommodates users at every level. If you are an experienced designer in a hurry, it makes your job faster. If you are a novice, there are marketing, social media, and business templates for everyday use like creating thank you, congratulation or invitation cards for family or friends. 

Canva also has a logo maker that simplifies design with customizable templates. It guides you in bringing your vision to life with your choice of shapes, colours, fonts, and other design elements. Just click and start creating!

Check it out


If you've ever created a PowerPoint show, chances are you've already used some level of PowerPoint graphics. However, there's a good chance there are elements that you've never used.

I've include it in my free options because it is underrated and underused. PowerPoint is part of Microsoft Office 360 and Microsoft 2021. 

This graphic uses Design Ideas. Click on the icon in the ribbon and various
options pop up on the right side. Paste in your text and 'Voila!' 

PowerPoint is a vast resource. However, I only want to focus on the graphics functions for this post. I define graphics as any image that is not a picture. 

The guide below shows how to make a single slide graphic using PPT. 

  1. Click save as
  2. Title the slide
  3. Click the down arrow on the bar titled PowerPoint Presentation 
  4. From the list, click .JPEG, .PNG, .TIFF or other formats
  5. Click save
  6. A box will come
  7. Click just this slide 

PowerPoint Basics

Check out Ram Gopal's video if you haven't used PPT for a while. 

PowerPoint for Beginners with Ram Gopal. 716,000+ views. 

  • Choose a blank slide or design template.
  • Choose background colour
  • Choose the colours of text
  • Brand the show by adding your logo to the master
  • Choose from a long list of fonts
  • Easily adjust the point size
  • Add shapes or sizes to profile messages
  • Insert photos from your files or the PPT stock images
  • Size and position photos
  • Animate the entry and exit of a specific text
  • Choose the type of transition to the next slide

Advanced PowerPoint

This video will move you out of your PPT comfort zone and add energy and engagement to your shows.

30 Ultimate PPT Tips 2022 

Do you create multiple presentations for different audiences? Then, this video is for you. It covers basic rules for colours, fonts, and point sizes and adds features like video annimation and gifs.  

31 PPT Presentation Tips - 2019

Video Editing 

I have spent many years in front of a camera. I was an artist on a music show for 18 years, I produce my own promotional videos, and continue to do TV interviews as a commentator. However, I was a beginner when it came to editing. 

I started using Corel Video Studio about 8 years ago. I needed a program that was cheap, would allow me to edit corporate and promotional videos and package my radio and TV interviews for YouTube.

Packaged Interview with Andrew Schulz, formerly on CITY TV – You Too Can be a Garage Sale Guru

Video of CBC Radio Interview – You Too Can be a Garage Sale Guru

Free Version

I started with a free version and soon moved up to a paid one. Once you start using VideoStudio, you won't want to change. 

I won't spend time explaining the program's benefits as there are too many for this post. So instead, I encourage you to watch the introductory videos in their Discovery Centre.  

What continues to impress me about the software are four things. 

  1. When I have a problem, they answer the phone or chat message 
  2. There are excellent beginner and advanced tutorials
  3. Each year new features are added in upgrades
  4. VideoStudio is reasonably priced

Introduction to Corel VideoStudio

These are a few of the built-in features. 

  • Customizable 3D titles
  • Animated AR Stickers
  • Animated features 
  • GIFs
  • Music track archive
  • Camera Movement transitions. 
  • Cinema-quality Color Correcting
  • Video Masking
  • Dynamic Split Screen Templates
  • Record audio direct OR
  • Import Audio files recorded elsewhere

Allow me to comment on the cost. After watching the introduction tutorials, you may want to skip the free trial and buy the software. 

You pay a one-time fee to buy it. Then, new features are added each year, which you can purchase through upgrades that cost half the purchase fee. 

Check it Out


Thanks for reading my post. I feel at least one free tool will make your life easier. Give it a try and let me know what you think. 

Please comment below. Also, add any free programs that you use. Let's start a conversation. 

Websites: and
Twitter: @RobynTbraley

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