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While I still consider myself to be an intermediate blogger, I’ve learned a lot along the way and have some definite preferences when it comes to blogging tools. Here are some of my top recommendations. If you haven’t read it yet, check out my post on the best way to start a blog in 8 easy steps.
This page will be continuously updated as I discover new tools and resources!
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.
While I didn’t love GoDaddy as a hosting provider, they’re great for domains. In fact, I bought my domain for my Etsy shop through them and have been very pleased. They offer great prices and seem to always have some type of promotion running!
G Suite from Gmail
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.
Plus, get 20% off when you sign up here and use one of my promo codes:
G Suite Basic Plan: 64PMMJVL3XU9WM3
G Suite Business Plan: 64WA6MLHXA93JWX
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!
Genesis Framework by StudioPress
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 (from StudioPress) – 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.
Themes by Restored 316 Designs
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.
Pixel Me Designs
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.
PicMonkey Premium Membership
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.
While I try to use free photos as much as I can, sometimes I end up having to pay for them. In these cases, I always turn to Deposit Photos. They have a huge range of great photos, which normally cost between $1-5 per image, depending on your subscription plan.
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.
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.
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.