In all my years of blogging, one of the things I’ve learned is that half the battle is having the right tools. That very thought is what inspired this page.
Wordpress is the world’s most popular blogging software. I started with a free wordpress.com site waaaay back in 2011. By 2014 I outgrew wordpress.com and decided to make the switch over to self-hosted wordpress.org. If you’re confused by the difference between wordpress.com and wordpress.org (I was terribly confused when I started) THIS POST will clear up any questions. The bottom line is WordPress is as good as it gets. It is the most affordable, most customizable, and most reliable platform out there. One of the best things I did from the get go of starting my blog was choosing WordPress as my platform.
Squarespace is a website building service that operates completely on using drag and drop tools. This makes it ideal for people who are intimated by the widgets or coding of WordPress. Squarespace sites always have clean professional looking layouts and designs. However, there are limitations. For example their basic Personal plan limits you to 20 pages, a blog, and 2 contributors. This may suit you for the time being, but might cause you problems as your blog grows. It’s not uncommon for people to start with Squarespace and switch over to Worpdress.
Blogger is a Google owned, free blog hosting service. The draw to Blogger is that it’s very easy to navigate if you’re not the most tech-savy person out there. This is great if you’re just starting out in the blogging world, but there are some big draw backs that come with it. You’re very limited with only basic blogging tools available to use, and customization to your site is extremely minimal. I’ve heard of a lot of people starting out with blogger, but eventually as their site grows, they end up switching to WordPress or Squarespace. Which can be tricky
Because I am a WordPress hosted blogger, my blog is built on the Genesis Framework. The Genesis Framework is exactly what it sounds like, it’s the foundation that your site is built on. It’s basically a “super theme”, that handles the basic layout, security, and SEO foundation of your website. Any custom or pre-made WordPress theme will require you to have the Genesis Framework. It’s a one time purchase for $60. You can buy it HERE.
When I decided to make the switch from WordPress.com to self-hosted WordPress.org I need to shop around and decide on a hosting provider. I did some research and decided on Bluehost for a couple of reasons: 1) it comes highly recommended by WordPress.org 2) it’s very affordable 3) it’s super easy to install/use 4) they offer 24/7 customer service and support. I’ve used their support “chat” feature and I’ve also called their support center and got to talk to a real person who completely helped me with my problem. I’ve been with Bluehost for 3 years now, and I have zero complaints.
I don’t personally use SiteGround, but I have heard nothing but good things about it from fellow bloggers. They are known for their awesome 24/7 customer service, a 99.9% uptime, and fast site loading speeds. They’ll even migrate your site over from your previous hosting provider…fo’ free! If I ever make the switch from Bluehost it’ll be to SiteGround.
If you’re a fan of my site theme then you need to check out Restored 316. Lauren and her team do some beautiful work. All of their themes are clean, feminine, and best of all, affordable. I was a little intimated when I found out I had to install the theme myself, but the instructions walk you through the entire thing. If I can do it myself, you can too! They also have great technical support.
Themeforest is part of Envato Market. It has literally the weirdest logo I have ever seen, but don’t let that scare you! ThemeForest has over 30,000(!!) WordPress themes and templates available for purchase. It can be intimating because there’s so many themes to choose from, but the site categorizes them all so it makes it much easier to narrow it down from there. Just by clicking the “blog/magazine” category you narrow your choices to under 2,000, and nearly all those themes are between $13-$60.
Canva is my go-to tool for creating graphics for my blog. Any photo you find on my site with writing on it was created in Canva. This is not a photo editing site. There are some minor photo edits you can do in Canva, but it’s very minimal. Canva specializes in making graphics. It’s super easy to use, and offers a lot of great images, fonts, and tools that can really help you make some beautiful graphics. It is free to use, but there are some elements that cost $1 to use. Don’t be scared! You can do tons of things with their free elements. In 2 years of using this program I’ve bought one element, so the grand total cost of me using this program has been $1. Yeahhhh, you can’t beat it.
Another awesome site for designing blog graphics is PicMonkey. It’s easy to use and offers a lot of editing elements for free. If you’re looking for photo editing, PicMonkey is going to fit your bill much better then Canva will. Some of my favorite elements on PicMonkey are “locked” and can only be accessed if you upgrade to PicMonkey Royale. It’ll cost you $33/per year or $4.99 per month, but you get a lot of extra editing elements and some really cool fonts. So if you’ll use it a lot, it’s completely worth the price.
I cannot stress this enough: if you want to thrive in the blogging world you need to jump on the Pinterest bandwagon. You cannot possibly spend 12 hours a day on Pinterest, and luckily there’s programs like Boardbooster so you don’t have to! For $5 per month, I can schedule up to 500 pins with Boardbooster. It saves me so much time and best of all it has awesome stats to I can follow my growth and see how each of my boards is performing individually.
Tailwind is another awesome Pinterest scheduling tool. Some people swear by either Boardbooster OR Tailwind, but I use an equal amount of both of them, and I have had great results. Tailwind basically does the same thing as Boadbooster, but in it’s own slightly unique way. Tailwind has customizable plans available and you can pay monthly, or if you pay yearly you can get a slightly reduced price. I have the Plus plan and pay $119 yearly (which averages out to around $10 per month). This gives me a 33% discount on the monthly price and I get to schedule an unlimited amount of pins.
The author of this course, Michelle from Making Sense of Cents, is an affiliate marketing guru. Seriously, she makes over $100,000 each month through her website and the majority of it comes from affiliate marketing. If you’re serious about learning how to monetize your site this course is going to be for you. I’m only about halfway through it right now, so I’ll update this further when I finish.
This is 12 week course is taught by Monica Scott of The Travel Hack. It gives you the ins and outs of what it takes to turn your blog from hobby to money making career. This course is weekly paced — meaning a new lesson is unlocked each week. I’m currently about half way through the course and so far I’ve learned a lot and really enjoyed it. I’ll be updating this space on my thoughts once I finish the course.