If you’re a new blogger, it can feel like everywhere you look there’s a new tool or service touting its benefits. Many of them seem really good, but how do you know which ones to trust? And where should you be investing your blogging dollars? In today’s post, I’ll be sharing my favourite resources and the absolute best blogging tools I’d recommend for beginners.
While I’ve been blogging off and on since March 2012, I’ve started taking it much more seriously over the past year since leaving my corporate job. I began an intensive blogging course in February 2017 and then relaunched my site in September with a new brand, mission, and design. Since then, I’ve been blogging almost full time, balancing my days between my blog and my Etsy shop. And the tools and resources I’m sharing here are responsible for helping me take things to the next level.
If you haven’t read it yet, check out my post on the best way to start a blog in 8 easy steps.
On to the tools!
The Best Blogging Course for Beginners
Cost: Currently $797USD one-time fee
Without a doubt, EBA is the single best purchase I’ve made for my blog. At the moment, I’m a little over halfway through the course and I’m really enjoying it. Everything is laid out in an easy to follow, step-by-step way that makes blogging more simple and manageable. I’ll be posting a full review once I’ve completed it. And in the meantime, I highly recommend signing up for the waiting list so that you’ll be notified when it goes on sale (normally only once or twice a year).
The Best Website Domain and Hosting
Domain and Hosting from SiteGround
Cost: Roughly $70USD per year
As I mention in my post about the best way to start a blog, setting up your domain and hosting are some of the earlier steps you’ll take. Your domain is your website’s URL (mine is www.beyondthesafeharbor.com) and your hosting is essentially the “rent” you pay to have your site self-hosted and up and running every month.
That blog post shares more detail about why I love SiteGround and even provides step-by-step instructions for how to get set up. In short, SiteGround provides reliable domain and hosting services and outstanding customer support. Their Live Chat feature is fantastic and I use it any time I get stumped with a technical issue. They’ve always been reliable and responsive.
The Best Blogging Tools for Email
Blog Administrative Email from Google (G Suite Basic Plan)
Cost: $5 per month (I pay in CAD) and get 20% off your first year
While you can technically use your personal email address for blog-related communication, I’d highly recommend using a professional email address linked to your site. Mine, for example, is kate [at] beyondthesafeharbor [dot] com. This is the email I use when communicating with my email list, working with sponsors, and signing up for products and services. It looks more professional, lets me keep my personal emails separate, and the email address actually came free with my hosting from SiteGround.
To actually manage my emails, I pay $5 per month for the G Suite Basic Plan from Google since it’s way more user friendly than the built in systems from SiteGround. It looks and operates much like a personal Gmail account, making it intuitive to use if you’re a Gmail user.
Email Newsletter from MailerLite (Forever Free Plan)
Cost: FREE up to 1,000 subscribers
As you’ll learn, your email list is one of your biggest assets as a blogger. You may have heard of providers like ConvertKit and InfusionSoft, but they aren’t always beginner-friendly. MailerLite, on the other hand, is very user friendly, has loads of features, and is free for your first 1,000 subscribers. (While MailChimp is also free, it lacks options and functionality that MailerLite has).
Is your mailing list larger than 1,000 subscribers? This link will get you a $20 credit when you sign up, which covers your first two months!
The Best Website Design Tools
Ah, the pretty stuff! I redesigned my website this summer and became intimately familiar with these tools and providers.
Cost: $60USD one-time fee
As I mentioned in my earlier post, your website theme is the visual framework of your site and you have numerous options. You can choose between themes that work on their own and themes that are “child” themes and require a “parent” theme – the Genesis Framework – in order to work properly. (Since I’m no tech expert, the WP Beginner Article explaining this in more detail is a great place to start!)
The Genesis Framework is considered by many to be the gold standard and offers numerous benefits including additional widgets and plugins. I’d recommend purchasing it and then buying a child theme to operate within the framework.
Theme by Restored 316 Designs
Cost: $75USD one-time fee
A great theme not only helps your readers navigate, but also makes it easy to work with as a blogger. Restored 316 Designs produces well thought out themes that are visually stunning, and easy to customize. They also offer great setup articles, and I find myself referring back to their articles time and time again. Lastly, they have a great support team in case you have any trouble with your theme.
Looking for a theme that doesn’t require the Genesis Framework? Consider the Lynette Theme from Bluchic ($79USD) which I’ve used in the past! Bluchic is another great source for feminine WordPress themes.
Want something completely free? Consider one of the free themes that come pre-loaded with WordPress.
Logo and Brand Graphics by Pixel Me Designs
Cost: $250USD one-time fee
Laura, the designer at Pixel Me Designs, is an incredible designer and wonderful person. She has a great ability to understand exactly what you’re looking for and translate it into something beautiful. Laura designed my logo, business cards, and also created a suite of coordinating social media graphics.
The Best Graphics Tools
Creating eye-catching graphics for your blog posts is important for driving traffic to your site and alining your content with your brand. These are some of my favourite tools.
Cost: $33USD per year
I’ve been using PicMonkey for years for both my blog and Etsy shop. It’s easy to use and I find it super quick to edit and save photos and graphics.
I’ve recently started also using the free version of Canva and recommend it if you’re looking for a free alternative.
Stock Photos from Deposit Photos
Having well-composed, relevant photos for your blog posts really helps them capture your readers’ attention. I use stock photos in my post graphics, and will probably begin integrating them in my posts themselves over time.
AppSumo hosts promotions on great products for entrepreneurs, and I snagged an awesome deal on stock images from Deposit Photos last year. They have a huge range of great photos, but normally charge $1-5 per image, depending on your subscription plan. This deal for $39USD for 100 photos was a steal, but it doesn’t come up often. I’d recommend subscribing to the AppSumo newsletter to get notified of future sales.
If you’re on a budget or just looking for free photos, check out Pixabay, Pexels, or Unsplash. When looking for images from my posts, I start by browsing these sites. If I can’t find anything I like, I go to Deposit Photos and use one of my image credits. That helps cut back on costs!
Product Mock-ups and Graphic Design from Fiverr
Cost: $5USD and up for various gigs
If you’re not familiar with it, Fiverr is an incredible website where you can buy one of a number of products and services for $5USD. They have everything from logos to SEO help to tech support, and sellers from around the world. I’ve used the site numerous times for various things and I’ve been consistently impressed with the quality of services offered and the amazing price points. If you’re just starting out and on a budget, definitely consider using Fiverr.
The Best Social Media Scheduling Tools
Since starting to publish blog posts twice a week (which I post on social media afterwards), it became important to find scheduling tools to help me stay on top of things. I love how I can schedule my posts weeks in advance and have them publish to social media at the optimized time for each social network.
Later for Scheduling Instagram Posts and Pinterest Pins
Cost: FREE with Individuals – Free Plan
Later is a great free tool for scheduling social media posts. It lets you set a posting calendar with your ideal posting days and times which makes it much easier to see your schedule at a glance. I use it for Instagram and Pinterest. For Instagram, there’s a phone app that alerts me every time I have a scheduled post. I can then easily open Instagram and post it when it’s time.
The Individuals Free plan includes up to 30 Instagram posts per month and up to 30 Pinterest pins per month, which is more than enough for my needs. And if you sign up through my link, you get 10 more posts per month free. They also offer Twitter and Facebook scheduling, but I haven’t checked those out yet.
HootSuite for Scheduling Twitter Posts
Cost: FREE with Free Plan
I’ve been using HootSuite for scheduling my tweets, and so far it’s been working well. Their free plan lets you manage up to 3 social profiles and post up to 30 scheduled messages per month. I may look at migrating to Later for Twitter too, to have everything in one place, but for now I’ve been pleased.
Note that I schedule my Facebook posts within Facebook itself as I’ve heard Facebook favours posts published through that method.
Phew – that sums up the best blogging tools I recommend for beginners! There are so many tools and options out there, but these have really impressed me and I’d recommend them to anyone just starting out. If you haven’t already, check out my post about the best way to start a blog in 8 easy steps. And leave me a comment with any blogging-related topics you’d like to see me cover in the future.