Creative Toolkit: 5 Free Online Tools to Speed Up Your Work

Working in the creative line can be a challenge. Whether you’re a graphic designer, a writer, an illustrator, a video editor or a content creator – there’s always a tool that could come in handy when it comes to working more efficiently or just to get the creative juice flowing. 

Most creative professionals are already wide aware of top-end tools and features found in industry-standard options such as Adobe Creative Clouds, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other alternatives for the rest of us. There’s a surprising amount of free creative software out there made available for everyone – even if you’re creating just for fun!

We’ve found some of the best free (and paid for premium features) tools you can utilise to start creating without having to go on a spending spree. 

1. Canva

Canva is powerful yet simple enough to use if you’re just a beginner. Canva has hundreds and thousands of graphics, templates and images you can use as part of its free plan. 

Canva has all kinds of template designs for just about anything you need. From Instagram posts to Twitter banners and logos to flyers – you name it. It may seem a little overwhelming when you first explore Canva but navigating around it is not that complex when you start getting a hang of things.

Just click on the search bar at the top right of the screen and type whatever it is you’re looking for! Once you’ve decided on a template you want to work on, you can easily upload images or play around with other features like adding on texts, changing background colors and even adding on other elements based on your preferences. 

When you’re done, click “Download” to save your post. Canva even has a vast amount of file types you can choose from; pdf, png, jpeg and more. The best part about Canva is that you always have an option to go completely free or choose to pay for premium features whenever necessary (no pressure!).

2. Grammarly

An essential amongst writers, Grammarly is a writing tool that helps you check for several types of errors – like grammar, punctuation or spelling mistakes. Although several special features are only made available to users who pay extra for premium, Grammarly’s free option is still designed to provide you with sufficient help. 

When it comes to writing (no matter how good you are), everyone could use an extra pair of eyes to proofread – and Grammarly is just that (minus an actual pair of human eyes. Score!) 

A professional could use it to proofread their emails, proposals or reports. A student can proofread their academic essays and assignments on Grammarly. A writer can use it to spot mistakes on their write-ups or articles. Grammarly is even a useful tool for social media creators who aim to prioritise error-free posts. 

3. Pinterest

Pinterest is one of the most popular image-based social networks. If you’re working in the creative line, you’re bound to hear or even come across Pinterest. This site primarily acts as a platform to gain creative ideas and inspiration visually. You can find thousands of images on Pinterest – from DIYs to “How-To” articles. 

Unlike other social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, Pinterest offers long-term stability when it comes to its marketing strategy. This is because Pinterest plays between traditional social media channels and search engine optimization (SEO) – bringing in website traffic and better brand awareness for your content. 

Many creatives use Pinterest to market their work, engage with other creatives and meet potential clients. Pinterest allows you to target where your work can be seen, enabling you to have a worldwide platform in which to advertise. 

4. WordPress

If you’re into blogging or simply just need your website to showcase your professional portfolio, WordPress is the place. WordPress is a great platform to showcase your creative works, to get recognition in your industry, earn extra income and reach out to more clients. 

While it can be slightly tricky to set up, there’s plenty of third-party websites and online forums that provide useful guides and step-by-step tutorials to get you onboard with WordPress, if you’re a beginner. WordPress even has its in-house guide to help you through each step. 

When it comes to building a solid website for personal or business use, WordPress is the best options as it provides the tools and resources needed for all marketing needs. With a wide variety of features such as plug-ins, permalinks, categories for blog posts and more with minimal restrictions, WordPress is the go-to option for website-building. 

5. Pixabay

Pixabay is one of the best “free” graphics stock in the market. The platform offers graphic images, illustrations, clip arts, film footages and music of high quality for commercial use. 

The best part; it’s hassle-free download process! Pixabay makes it easy for its users to download any image of their choice to their respective devices as soon as they click the “download” button. No need for sign ups, unnessary third-party links and licensing fee involved. 

The perfect option for students on a budget, creatives looking for royalty-free content or just about anyone looking to source free images and videos.

What The Pandemic Has Taught Me: 5 Life Lessons I Learned in 2020

This time last year, I was on a flight back from Langkawi to KL. I had gone on a weekend getaway to celebrate my birthday with some of my friends. Having just celebrated my birthday two days ago now in 2021, it got me thinking about how much can change in just a year. 

When word got out about the outbreak of Covid-19 around this time last year, everyone was in a state of shock. (myself included!) At the time, we still did not know that much about this virus type and how serious it was. It was only when the whole world was placed under total lockdown was when we really started digesting reality.

Just like that, we learned to slowly adapt to change. From days to weeks and weeks to months, what we thought was impossible eventually became the “new normal.” The pandemic has taught us to take a step back and evaluate our life choices. For me, it was one of the biggest turning points of my life.

Because, I learned to:

1. Appreciate the little things

As human beings, we are constantly seeking more that sometimes we forget to appreciate the simple things in life. Like how we are lucky to have a roof over our heads and food on our table. The pandemic made me realize that most of my desires were really just “wants” and not so much a “need.” 

Like how we need to prioritize our health and wellbeing above anything else, how we need food and drinking water to live, how we need nature’s resources for survival. It is when we learn to put things into perspective, is when we realize the insignificance of material things.

2. Practice self-care

Being home-bound for months meant that I finally had more time for self-care. I had more time to prepare healthier meals, to go for a run every morning, to get more sleep at night and even to pick up new hobbies and skills. 

A little bit of self-care really does go a long way. Rest and relaxation is essential to increase productivity and even reduces burnout. Here are some ideas to practice self-care.

3. Find beauty in my own city

One thing I’ve truly learnt about being placed under restricted movement is to explore and appreciate what my own country has to offer. The thing that hit me the most during the pandemic was probably not being able to travel abroad. Being an avid traveller, having to put all my travel plans on hold was hard to accept at first.

But, it eventually taught me to find alternatives when it comes to travelling – in fact, cheaper ones. I got the chance to explore local beaches, hike on new trails, try out different restaurants and just busk in all the beauty within a short drive away. It turns out, we don’t need to cross continents to enjoy travelling. 

Let’s take a look at some easy and creative ways to explore your city!

4. Be self-sustainable

Now that we have limited access to resources that were once easy to obtain, we are now forced to be more self-reliant in managing our day-to-day lives. I felt like I did some of the biggest self-development during this period of time, both personally and professionally. 

I learned how to save more money for a rainy day, to cook meals on my own instead of dining out and most importantly, to live with less (because we do not need so much junk in our lives!) 

Learning to be self-sufficient was one of the greatest things because it also taught me to care more for the environment and to always give back to society. 

5. Value Relationships

The pandemic made it harder than ever for us to connect with friends and family in our support network. We moved from talking in person over brunch to talking over video calls. Hugs and high fives were now switched to a distant wave, with space preventing physical contact. 

Yet, despite all the physical distance keeping us apart, we somehow became more acutely aware of our relationships and the importance of human interaction to our mental health. Be it with a romantic partner, friends, neighbours and even colleagues. 

The Pursuit of Work-Life Balance: 5 Ways to Switch Off Stress

With the ever-changing, fast-paced world we live in today, it’s easy to get caught up in our busy schedules that sometimes we often forget to put our own needs first. We are all always talking about the importance of a work-life balance, yet, we are all also guilty of taking it lightly – that is until we fall into the burnout trap.

There is no one hundred per cent guaranteed-way of a work-life balance, but there are a few simple ways we can do to improve it. Here’s how:

1. Schedule some “ME” time

Whether it’s the first thing you do in the morning or the last before you get into bed, giving yourself some “me” time keeps your mental (and physical) health in check. What should you do during your “me” time? Absolutely anything! (other than work of course). 

Give yourself an hour or more every day to indulge in your hobbies, to read a book or even carry out your self-care ritual. Anything that genuinely puts you in a good mood. “Me” time is a designated worry-free activity that takes your mind off the stresses of everyday life. 

2. Unplug from social media

There’s no denying how social media keeps us entertained, updated and most importantly, connected with everything that is going on in the world. But social media is sometimes also the reason why we end up feeling stressed too (without even realizing it!)

How often do you feel pressured to get the latest phone just because you saw a friend’s recent story update on Instagram about his latest purchase? Or how you feel unhappy with your body type because it is not what is seen as “ideal” according to social media standards? How about how mundane your life seems in comparison to an influencer who seems to be out and about living his or her best lives?

Sometimes, you need to disconnect to reconnect. Put your phone down. Stop scrolling through your feed and learn to appreciate what you already have right in front of you. Why not try out a tech-free activity instead? 

3. Keep Physically Active

Living a balanced life also means putting your physical health and fitness a priority. According to the World Health Organization, the average adult needs a minimum of 150 to 300 minutes of moderate exercise a week; about 21 to 43 minutes per day. 

Moderate exercise includes activities such as brisk walking, swimming and even mowing the lawn. Overworking yourself until you leave no room for physical health not only causes burnout in your professional life, but it can also increase the likelihood of developing heart diseases such as high cholesterol, obesity and high blood pressure. 

It can be easy to neglect your exercise routine, and instead opt for staying late at work. However, the more you choose to disregard your physical health, the faster it’s effect will catch up to you. Think of your health as a long-term investment. 

4. Take a vacation

As human beings, we all need some time off from work to physically and mentally recharge. Whether it’s just a weekend retreat to a fancy hotel in town or a 2-week Euro tour, taking a vacation not only allows us to escape from our repetitive work schedule for a little while but also enables us to regain inspiration, momentum and purpose in life.

A study even shows that employees who take vacations are more than 6.5% likely to be promoted or even earn a raise compared to those who leave at least 11 days of unused vacation time on the table. Not only that, employees tend to be happier with sufficient time off, driving at least 31% greater productivity at their workplace. It is a win-win situation after all! 

Read more about how taking a vacation is good for productivity and the economy.

5. Spend quality time with loved ones

Friends and family play an important role when it comes to sustaining a healthy work-life balance. When you have blocked in “family” or “friends” time into your planner, make sure your body and your mind is there too. Avoid taking phone calls, checking emails, writing reports or even browsing social feeds excessively.

Research shows that the amount of time spent with friends and family goes a long way towards boosting one’s happiness – even more so than an increased income! So,while money can’t buy you happiness, spending time with the ones you love always will.

Here’s a list of money-free things you can do with your loved ones over the weekend! 

My Healthy Morning Super Smoothie

Ever since the pandemic took over the world, we’ve all had major changes in the way we go around our everyday life. One of my significant turning points was the fact that I finally had time to put together a healthy super smoothie for breakfast.

The one thing that these uncertain times has taught me was the importance of health, which is why I decided to practice a healthier lifestyle. And what better way to kick off this journey by implementing a healthy diet. Starting with what I consume first thing in the morning.

My advice to those who’ve always wanted to embark on the “healthier lifestyle” path is to always start small (though I do feel this rule also implies anything you want to do in life). Starting something new can sometimes seem overwhelming, and so its always best to start small and build your pace through time.

If you feel like eating healthy throughout the entire day is too much work, you can always start by making sure you get your breakfast right. After all, breakfast is the most important meal of the day!

My healthy super smoothie is ideal for those who don’t have much time to prepare something fancy in the morning but still want something healthy to fuel them up until lunch break. All you need is a few basic ingredients and a blender and you’re good to go.

Let’s get started!

Step 1: Prep your ingredients.

  • 1 Banana
  • 2 Strawberries (Fresh or Frozen)
  • 1 tablespoon of Blueberries (Fresh or Frozen)
  • 1/2 a cup of cold Fresh Milk

Pro tip: For a more flavourful smoothie, you can consider adding

  • 3 tablespoon of Natural Yoghurt
  • 2 tablespoon of Honey
  • 4 cubes of ice

Step 2: Throw them into the blender. Blend for about 10-15 seconds until you get a smooth texture.

Step 3: Pour into a glass and enjoy your super (and healthy) smoothie of the day!