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I’ve found out many things about blogging, and one of them is that it isn’t for the faint of heart! There is a huge learning curve, but there is a handful of resources I wouldn’t be where I am today without.
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On a few of these, I’m listing cost as a con, because let’s face it: It can be hard to invest money into your business, but it is so necessary because you have to spend money on a business to make money!
For me, I have to weigh the costs. If you don’t invest in your business, it’s going to show. If you do everything as free and cheap as possible, it’s going to show, and unfortunately, it could be a deterrent to other bloggers or brands who may be interested in working with you.
You could lose readers. Even if your content is Grade A, if it doesn’t come in a beautiful package, the sad reality is many people won’t care to open it. That hurts my little blogger’s heart because I know first hand how hard we work.
Alright, let’s dive right in with my absolute favorite blogging tools!
1) BLOGGING BLASTOFF
My very first real introduction to how to blog was Pete and Heather Reese’s Blogging Blastoff Course. Pete and Heather have been blogging for about ten years and now make six figures a month (yes, you read that right! Per month).
I started with the 5 day crash course before crazy hormones pushed me over the edge and I made the financial investment into Blogging Blastoff. It’s an intensive 30 day course (took me far longer to do with three kids under four – including a newborn!) which covers everything about blogging you could possibly imagine.
To date, it has been my largest financial investment into my blog, and the #1 most valuable thing I have purchased because the power packed knowledge in it is invaluable.
There are two things I absolutely love about it: once you purchase it, you have lifetime access. You don’t have to do it in 30 days! It is completely self paced, which helped me relax with three small kids including a newborn.
The second thing was that they provide real time help to you. They don’t throw you in the deep end of blogging with a few tutorials and expect you to swim.
They give you access to their Facebook groups, which I have used a lot. Arne in the tech group absolutely speaks nerd and has held my hand and helped me through some crazy tech issues when I had no idea what I was doing, and Pete and Heather have helped me with everything non-tech.
Those groups absolutely saved me in the early days. I would recommend this course to absolutely any blogger, even seasoned bloggers! You can view Pete and Heather’s income reports here. When I saw 6 figures a month, it was obvious to me they know what they’re doing.
I’ve referenced this course over and over, and I see myself doing that for years to come.
- Option to do payment plan
- Incredibly comprehensive
- Lifetime access to course + updates
- Real time help from blogging experts (FB Group access)
- Real time tech support (separate FB Group). Arne is the best!!
- Monthly traffic challenges can help you engage with bloggers in your niche
- Access to discounts when offered on their other courses
- Early access as they release new courses + products
- They made me think of things I never would have thought of!
- Generous affiliate program (33%!)
- Cost up front
- A lot of material to digest initially – especially when you’re new!
- They are affiliated with Bluehost so sometimes they can’t help if it’s an issue related to your hosting.
- Monthly traffic challenges are broad and don’t always help you reach your target audience.
- Monthly traffic challenges are time consuming and don’t always give you more traffic.
I did an in-depth review of Blogging Blastoff you can check out here.
2) PINTEREST WITH ELL
To learn how to absolutely own Pinterest, Ell Duclos’s course, Pinterest with Ell was a total game changer to me! Ell has this Pinterest thing figured out with over eight million monthly views and 100,000 pageviews/month from Pinterest on her blog, and she generously shares everything she knows in hopes of helping me and you!
I have been implementing her strategies since February, and have seen consistent growth and traffic from Pinterest since.
- Very affordable
- Real time help in her FB group (don’t have to purchase the course to access!)
- Incredibly comprehensive with real time tools as they come out.
- Lifetime access to course + updates. This was a lifesaver to me when Pinterest turned their algorithm upside down and backwards last month. I was LOST but Ell had her course updated with new strategies within probably two weeks of the changes. You can’t beat that!!
But if we’re talking about cons on Pinterest, consider these:
- Pinterest is fickle. It changes like the wind, so it’s best to focus on long term SEO as well so Pinterest isn’t your only source of traffic.
- Pinterest changes algorithms sometimes, which changes which strategies work best. These work great NOW, but could be obsolete in the future.
- Pinterest has frequent glitches and techy issues which are maddening.
- Pinterest growth strategies take time. It took me a solid three months to start seeing real growth on my Pinterest! I also had my few viral pins which was exciting!
- Pinterest growth strategies are a lot of work and can be difficult to keep up with. Pinterest is great for traffic and is an awesome tool, but it won’t just fall in your lap. You have to be consistent and put work into it to see real results.
You can see my consistent growth from Pinterest traffic since I started incorporating many of Ell’s strategies since February!
I have gone from about 500 page monthly views/ month to close to 400k, and it’s still growing (the earliest screenshot I have is about 30k because that’s when I noticed it was growing)!
I have also gone from literally less than 10 clicks per day to 150-200 clicks most days (shown below).
The road to success is never straight, but you can see obvious growth when you look at the big picture! These screenshots reflect my growth since the beginning of this year.
The very first thing you will do as a new blogger is to register your domain name. I have used and loved Siteground. Lots of people recommend Bluehost (even Pete and Heather!) but I went with Siteground because I had heard Bluehost’s customer service was not fantastic.
I have never had to reach out to Siteground personally, but have heard nothing but positive reviews about their customer service in different blogging groups I’m in! I have always been happy having my site through them.
- Self hosting is great for your brand and looks professional to have a “.com” instead of something like “tinyjoyfultreasures.weebly.com”, Wix, Squarespace, etc.
- Self hosting helps you come up in search results on Google. Search engines love self hosted!
- You have a plethora of plugins and themes to choose from!
- Self hosting allows you to customize and have more control of your site and how it looks (check out this amazing post on benefits of self hosting to read more)!
- Email address to match your brand.
- Fantastic customer service.
- You have to do a contract for a minimum of a year. I believe they do monthly payment plans, but I opted to do the three year payment up front so I wouldn’t have to worry about it for awhile.
4) A BEAUTIFUL THEME
I have had three or four themes on TJT. The very first one I wasn’t happy with. The last two have been by Blossom Themes and I have been very happy with both of them! I see myself staying with them for a long time! My current theme is Blossom PinThis, and I truly love it and the look it gives my blog.
- One time payment
- Mobile responsive
- Very customizable!
- Support available
- Beautiful & feminine
- Instagram feed option
- Pro version available with more advanced features
For me, Canva is an absolute must! I have the Pro version and love it. I use it to create all my pins, printables, and as I have gotten more comfortable with it I even rebranded my site with it myself!
With Canva, I created a new logo with matching Pinterest board covers, an animated Pinterest cover, signature, and more! I love owning it because I make all my graphics match now to create a cohesive brand.
Canva has even become my go to in my personal life to make cards, printables, journal pages, birthday banners and decor, and more!
- Interface is easy to learn and user friendly!
- Access to stock photos
- Fantastic photo editor
- Features to change text and photos to customize them further
- Option to create a brand kit
- Lots of fun elements
- You can make just about anything! I have made cards, printables, birthday party banners, invitations, hundreds of Pinterest pins, board covers and my cover video, Facebook and Twitter graphics, and my own blog logo and matching elements to name a few! I got it for my blog but use it for lots of personal uses now, as well.
- Ability to upload fonts
- Thousands to templates to choose from
- Lots of beautiful fonts to choose from
- Ability to animate graphics
- Sometimes it’s hard to get items exactly where you want them. The grids that allow you to move elements skip tiny spaces if that makes sense 😂
- Stock photos can be overused, which is why I recommend using a separate site for most of your stock photos OR at least scrolling down really far instead of using the top few (they’re the most popular). Resisting the urge to grab the most popular photos will help your designs stand out!
Lots of new bloggers get sucked into the black hole of free stock photos. I almost did, and didn’t really care about the legal repercussions at first because it didn’t seem like a big deal to me; until I realized that you can get in big legal trouble for using them.
The problem here is free stock photo sites don’t always get permission from the original photographer to share their photos.
Even if the site has “given you permission”, if the original photographer did not and comes across their photos on your site, you can be in a big legal mess. It stinks, I know. That’s why I always pay for my photos to make sure I’m protecting myself from legal repercussions.
It took a lot of doing, but after some searching, I finally found a stock photo subscription that was worth the cost to me!
Many of them are have a very businessy theme. You know the one where all the photos are a lilac on a laptop with a pen and a cup of coffee beside it. Those can be beautiful, but with a lot of motherhood and lifestyle content, they don’t always work for my site and personal needs.
That’s why I love Hautestock. It’s a combination of beautiful photos that range from lifestyle to entrepreneur, to health, social graphics, feminine floral mockups and more! I know that photos from Hautestock will always have the bright, crisp look I love and give my pins a unique look that is hard to achieve with Canva alone.
I remember the day I got it, I literally spent probably two hours going through photos because I loved them so much. No one was around and I was saying out loud, “Oh my gosh look how cute! Would you look at it? Gorgeous. Adorable. I love them. OH MY GOSH!”
No, I’m not making that up. I wish I was. 😂
- Beautiful, bright, crisp photos
- New collections added every week
- Graphics packs available
- Social media bundles
- Quotes graphics
- Wide range of collections that go beyond entrepreneurs
- Affordable and worth the money to me!
- Seasonal content that I love
Hautestock and Canva are awesome, but the thing that really pulls those things together in the Pinterest trifecta is Tailwind. I used to aim to pin 25-35 times a day, and I simply couldn’t have kept up with it if it wasn’t for this amazing scheduler.
Note: Since Pinterest recently changed their algorithms, I don’t pin as much as I used to. Now I pin 10-15 times/day and I’m still playing with how much I schedule to find my sweet spot, but I love it for days I know I won’t have time to pin and on weekends to give myself much needed breaks.
At this time, it is the only approved scheduler to be used with Pinterest aside from their scheduler that I am aware of.
I manually upload a few pins a day, and Tailwind does the rest! I schedule them and they automatically upload at the selected times. Easy peasy!
Pro tip: The tribes feature used to be huge, but it’s now come out that Pinterest is prioritizing business accounts that post only their own content. Repinning gets less attention and is primarily for personal users. It does help to repin to only secret boards if you are still repinning.
- Easy to learn and use
- Analytics for boards and pins!
- Tailwind browser extension for super easy pinning
- Schedule creator to personalize how much you pin daily
- Shuffle button
- Option to upload pins for brand new pins to be scheduled
- Board lists
- Saves me a ton of time!
- Analytics are more accurate than Pinterest (they are always very close to my Google Analytics).
- Boards insights
- Can be glitchy. I have had to upload pins twice sometimes because they don’t show up.
- Tribes is now a dated feature.
- If they don’t rise to meet the new Pinterest algorithm, it may not be worth the cost in the future.
8) PROTECT YOUR BLOG LEGALLY
I have come to love blogging, honestly. But there is a huge learning curve, like the day I read that you can bankrupt yourself and lose your house if you don’t protect yourself and your blog legally, and I panicked a little bit because I had no earthly idea how to do that.
I ran out on the deck and yelled some mumbled gibberish about losing our house if I got sued to Joey, who was working in the yard. He had no idea what I was talking about but I knew I had to get on that stat.
I had heard about having to disclose certain things and privacy settings, and had written what I thought was a solid privacy, cookie, and disclosure policy that I had on my blog. Little did I know, it didn’t hit ANY of the points I needed to!
I discovered Amira’s legal bundles and absolutely loved them. There are so many templates for everything you could imagine and they are so thorough and extensive. Amira is a blogger and lawyer and man, it shows! Her writing is incredible. I have the comprehensive legal bundle and have been so happy with it!
I remember the day I spent probably four hours in a Starbucks writing what I thought was awesome disclosure and privacy policies until I read hers! No joke, the day I bought them, I went through and filled in the blanks in about fifteen minutes. I’m not kidding!
I was blown away by how stinking easy it was.
I remember even saying to my husband, “Is that seriously it?! That was so easy!” I know that sounds corny, but it’s true. Ask Joey.
Protecting your blog doesn’t sound like a big deal, until you realize people could come after everything you own for a loophole you missed.
Anybody can access the internet, and everyone doesn’t mean you well. When I thought about it like that, it seemed like a small investment to make sure the roof over our heads was secure for our family. These documents gave me total peace of mind that our home and possessions are secure.
- Absolutely comprehensive and more thorough than anything I could write!
- Contained far more information than I was even aware needed to be included.
- Can purchase separately or in bundles.
- Bundles save more money! I have the comprehensive bundle and it’s been great for me.
- SO EASY. All you have to do is fill in the blanks! I wasn’t kidding when I said I did all of mine in 15 minutes. Absolutely crazy! I don’t speak legal talk, so if you don’t either, these will be ideal for you!
- Peace of mind that my blog and my family are legally protected.
- Access to Amira’s Facebook Group where she answers blog and law related questions!
- SO MANY templates to choose from for things I didn’t even think you’d need contracts for.
- Small investment to protect yourself and your assets.
- Cost. But it honestly did feel like a small price to pay to make sure I didn’t get myself in legal trouble.
3 BONUS TOOLS THAT HELP ME:
There’s a reason everyone talks about analytics! If you don’t measure it, you can’t improve it, and you can’t see the content your audience loves to know where to spend a lot of your energy.
For instance, 75% of my traffic has come from my post on how to make a postpartum recovery basket for the last two months! I have posts that I thought would have done a lot better than that one, but my audience loved it, and I wouldn’t know that without analytics!
Word of caution: I have a love / hate relationship with it because it’s hard to resist the urge to check them constantly.
They change like the wind. Watching the ebbs and flows will make you want to throw your computer out the window!
They’re always a day behind, anyway. Look at the big picture over watching the spikes and dips. Both are normal, and watching them can drive you nuts!
Facebook groups can be a fantastic resource! They’re chocked full of knowledge from people from all different walks who have different perspectives, which can be enlightening when we allow them to be!
They give a great platform to share and engage and are more intimate than pages which sometimes allow people to feel more free to share as it’s more private. I share my favorite ones that I’m a part of below!
Word of caution: Be selective on how much time you spend on share threads. They can be a huge time suck and not give you a huge return for your time.
Bonus word of caution: Know the group rules. It’s easy to get booted if you don’t follow them.
MY TOP 10 FAVORITE FACEBOOK GROUPS FOR BLOGGERS:
- Mom to Momprenuer – Hosted by Elna Cain
- Boss Girl Bloggers – Hosted by Ell Duclos
- Pinterest with Ell – Hosted by Ell Duclos
- VIP Blogging Blastoff Group – Hosted by Pete and Heather Reese
- WP Fast Launch – Hosted by Pete and Heather for WordPress Help (Blogging Blastoff Tech Support)
- Start a Blogging Business – Hosted by Pete and Heather
- Start a Travel Blog – Hosted by Pete and Heather
- Unlocking Your Success – Hosted by Shannon Wells
- A Self Guru – Biz Blog Community – Hosted by Amira
- Tiny Joyful Treasures Tribe – Hosted by me! This isn’t a group for bloggers per sae, but hey, I had to mention it! If you’re a mom and you love Jesus, joy, goal setting, growth, positivity, and tools to reach your full potential, you might love it! #Shamelessplug
PRINTABLE MONTHLY CALENDAR
I started doing this a few months ago, and I love it. I plan out certain things on certain days of the week, or at optimal times. For example, I started sending out my emails at times when my audience is most engaged on my blog (another thing I wouldn’t know without analytics) and I saw about a 30% increase in how many of my emails were opened, by making this one simple change!
It helps me stay organized without investing a ton of time doing the actual organizing itself!
Word of caution: Don’t spend so much time writing and planning that you flounder in the execution part (like I’ve been guilty of). I talked about that in more detail in this post.
It’s so easy to get excited and spend so much time planning, that, well… When it comes time to do something and that’s not as fun, it’s a lot harder than writing out your goals. Ouch.
Blogging is not easy.
But with a positive mindset, intentional joy, a lot of prayer, a willingness to learn and invest (in yourself, your knowledge and your blog), and a healthy dose of grit and determination, I truly believe anyone can do it. Especially if God is calling you there!
Remember to pin this for later reference!