Free Tools Every Indie Artist Should Use
Written by Patrice on May 10, 2016
It’s no secret. Being an independent artist is hard. And if you’re one who doesn’t have a set team behind you handling the day-to-day while you focus on the creative, then it can be even harder. But it doesn’t have to be that way. After working with many independent artists, I’ve identified 3 areas that are of concern: Marketing, Time Management and Budget.
No matter what industry you’re in, marketing is a high priority item so that you can promote and bring awareness to your service or product. When starting out, there is a possibility that you may be a team of 1 until you’re able to find someone knowledgeable enough to help. As a result, managing your time is key to ensuring that all tasks are completed. And most importantly, having a budget is necessary You must have funds set aside to invest in yourself.
While keeping in mind that time, money and marketing may be limited for an independent artists, I’ve gathered a list of free tools that you should consider using. These are tools that I’ve personally used and have shared with past and current clients.
Buffer is a social media scheduling tool that allows you to schedule posts to your various social media platforms. Buffer is free, but offer paid plans for more robust features starting at $10/month. What makes Buffer so cool is that you can pre-select the times you’d like your content to post to your social media networks, and then load up your “buffer” with content that will automatically go out at those pre-selected times. I prefer Buffer over other social media management tools because it frees up my day to focus on other business tasks, while still holding myself accountable to take the time to engage online. Since I’m the voice (and face) of The Bassline Group’s social media profiles, I still like to log on and engage with users and participate in Twitter Chats. Buffer simply handles my scheduled posts so that I have a steady stream of content going out, as I log in here and there to focus on engagement. Buffer also has a few other cool features too to help with sharing content; such as their Browser extension, a clean posting calendar, and a new feature called Content Library where you can set recurring posts. Content Library is in Beta testing and will be made available to the public soon.
Later (formerly Latergramme)
Later is a social media scheduling tool for Instagram. It allows you to bulk upload content to schedule, then will send a push notification to your mobile device for posting. Later’s free plan allows for 2 accounts and 30 posts a month, combined. Like Buffer, Later provides me with the capability to pre-schedule posts to ensure my accounts have a steady stream of content being shared, but yet have the flexibility to posts pictures on-site. I personally use Later to schedule promotional items, picture quotes, and time-sensitive posts. With the help of Later, I no longer have to remind myself to post a picture to Instagram.
There are a lot of email marketing tools out there. Some website builders, like Wix and Bandzoogle, offer email marketing tools within their platforms. But for those who are self-hosted and prefer to keep their email marketing separate, my favorite is Mailchimp. Mailchimp is free for up to 2000 subscribers, and it is extremely user-friendly. There aren’t any complicated dashboards to view, or heavy coding to learn. You can simply drop/drag your branded designs to create a visually appealing and informative newsletter. One thing I absolutely love about Mailchimp is that they offer reporting so that I can see how often and when my emails are being opened, who’s subscribed or unsubscribed, etc. Mailchimp is widely used and would be a great tool to add to your arsenal.
Canva & Pic Monkey
If Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator are out of your budget, know that you can use Canva and Pic Monkey for your design and photo editing needs. Both programs are absolutely free, with a few paid options for a more robust experience. However, as an independent artist, you can get quite a bit done using their free option. Canva is great if you wanted to design flyers, or quick social media images to share. Pic Monkey is great for editing and touching up photos. Depending on the design project, I may use both programs to create something catchy. For example, I’ll touch up a photo in Pic Monkey, then upload the picture to Canva to create a flyer. If your brand is already developed, using these programs would be great to create quick images on the fly for whatever may come up. No design experience is required, but I would suggest it, as a creative eye is needed when creating visually appealing images. Fonts, colors, shapes, pictures, etc. are very important.
Windows Media Player or iMovie
We’re becoming a society that feeds off of video content. So, if you’re someone who isn’t camera shy and can crank out videos at a steady pace, I would suggest checking out Windows Media Player or iMovie for all of your video editing needs. Both programs are available for free on your Windows or Mac computer. No fancy camera? No problem. You have a camera right at your fingertips. In fact, you’re probably using it to read this blog. If so, you could use your mobile device to record, then upload your video to your computer for editing. I was able to record and edit quite a few video blogs that have yet to be released. For those, I used my Samsung Galaxy S5 to record, a $10 camera tripod I purchased off of Amazon to keep the camera steady and my hands free, and Windows Media Player to edit (I’m not an Apple fan, sorry). Both programs allows you the ability to add rolling credits, background music, a watermark, and so much more. As an independent artist, video is extremely important for those who are looking to be booked for shows. So don’t let not having a videographer hold you back from putting out great content that shows your skills AND personality.
You hear a lot of blogs and articles speak on the importance of having merchandise to sell to help promote your brand, but we all know that those items must be purchased in advance, to sell for a profit. Well, look no further. Unlike sites like Teespring that only offer t-shirts with a set minimum, Teepublic is a merchandising print company that allows you to easily upload designs to your store, and gives customers the option of getting your design printed on a t-shirt, hoodie, canvas, phone cases and more! There is no bulk purchase required for stock. You simply upload your design, and they will print the orders and ship them as they’re received. Teepublic is absolutely free to set up and use; they earn a commission from each item sold. It is certainly not a bad option for those independent artists who are just getting started but would still like to offer their growing fanbase merch items to build awareness.
Last but not least…analytics. In any marketing campaign, analytics and reports are the most valuable asset. Analytics provides you with key information regarding how well your campaign performed, as well as the demographics of your audience. When working with clients, I always advise them to use their Facebook Business Page over their Personal Page because data is being gathered that you have access to and could use. For example, lets say you’re a band that wants to go on a 5-city tour. How would you know which 5 cities to hit up? Sure, you can post about it and see who responds, but wouldn’t be awesome to review a page on Facebook that shows you the age, gender, and location of those who actually showed interest in your page? Analytics on Facebook and Twitter are absolutely free to use. Instagram doesn’t offer analytics, but you can obtain that information through a third-party option called Iconosquare. It’s not free, but certainly affordable. Some third-party website platforms, such as Bandzoogle, offer reporting. But if you’re self-hosted, you can use Google Analytics to track your website traffic. When you’re getting a website designed, be sure to let your web designer know that you’d like to install Google Analytics. There’s a Google tracking code that must be added to your website files.
As you can see, there are many free tools out there for an independent artist to use. Everything discussed above are extremely important for the independent artist who’s attempting to increase their fanbase. But you must set aside time to utilize them, or gather the funds to hire someone to maintain them for you. Nothing is free, but majority of the tools are. You just have to know how to use them and develop a strategy that will lead you to success.
Buffer now offers Instagram integration!!! You can now schedule posts for Instagram on Buffer as you do for the other social networks. Like Later, it doesn’t post directly to Instagram because of Instagram’s API restrictions, but it will send a notification to your mobile device at the scheduled time so that you can post it manually. It’s awesome and I will be using this in place of Later. Thanks Buffer! You can read more about it here.