It’s funny, when I used to blog just for the sole sake of venting my thoughts out into the great abyss of the internet (and was mostly only talking to my friends and family on the other end), I needed nothing more than my Blogger or WordPress account and my computer to get by.
My, how the times have changed.
Now that I am a full-fledged… dare I say it… “blogger” who actually has a tribe of subscribers and content and products to put out into the world, things are a little more complicated.
I am still continuing to learn new tips and tricks every day. But the one thing I learned early on, is you have to have the right programs and systems in place, if you want your blog to function like a well-oiled machine.
Now, if you are new to the world of blogging altogether, you may already be wondering what I’m talking about. So, I thought I would give you an easy breakdown of some of my favorite blogging resources that will have you up and running like an efficient blogging rockstar in no time!
Squarespace – Website Creation
There will always be people who swear by WordPress and others who swear by Squarespace (and a bunch of other smaller names as well). But having been a former WordPress-er myself, I LOVE me some Squarespace. Granted, I did take an online course that introduced me to the program and gave me an overview of how to use it. But honestly, I think even without that course, I would’ve been able to figure SS out. That’s the wonderful thing about it… it is actually user friendly. Imagine that… a web design program that allows me to actually make changes to my own site, instead of having to pay someone to add every little button or line of text! Seriously, most of it is drag-and-drop, so if you can use a mouse, you can use Squarespace.
ConvertKit – Email Marketing
Now again, there will probably always people who swear by MailChimp, Infusionsoft or a million other email programs out there. But to me, ConvertKit is the way to go. Not only are their emails much more deliverable than some of the other programs (which means higher open rates for you!), but it is loaded down with genius features that are geared specifically toward professional bloggers and online entrepreneurs. Plus, they do weekly webinars on how to get started, so you’re not just left alone to figure it out!
Canva & PicMonkey – Image Creation
I seriously don’t know how I would survive (blogging-wise) without these two programs. I am NOT a graphic designer, yet I am able to make images that are gorgeous and professional looking in just a couple minutes on these two platforms. They each have their own perks – PicMonkey does cool things like filters, textures and even cosmetic tools like make-up, self-tan, highlights and airbrushing! While Canva gives you pre-made templates for all sorts of different uses, as well as a huge selection of pretty fonts and backgrounds. But the best part is, they’re both free!
Leadpages – Content Upgrades, Registration Pages and Webinar Pages
When I first saw the pricing structure for Leadpages, I winced and thought I would never sign up. But thank goodness I did because I use it CONSTANTLY. It is literally one of the lifelines to my blog. Not only do I use it for content upgrade delivery (if you don’t know what those are… they are freebies you give away in exchange for an email opt-in), but also for both webinar registration and my live webinar page. The cost MORE than takes care of itself and it is super easy to use… again, with a lot of drag and drop and it integrates easily with other programs like Squarespace and ConvertKit!
Buffer – Social Media Scheduling
There are lots of programs out there for social media scheduling like HootSuite, Edgar and Timely, but I am still sticking with Buffer for now. Buffer makes it super easy to load up all of your different social media platforms with images and posts, and schedule them to go up at a later time. You can access it both on your desktop or your mobile and can even install an extension on your web browser, to make it easy to save to your scheduled posts. The only thing it does not do at this time is schedule Instagram posts, but there are other great programs out there specifically for IG, like Onlypult, ScheduGram and Latergramme.
Evernote – Note Taking App
I am very much still a pen-and-paper kind of girl and I do still have plenty of planners, spiral notebooks and wall calendars to prove it. But with that said, there are some advantages to using an electronic note taking app as well. Mainly, that I can access my notes (and add to them) from anywhere at any time because Evernote syncs between my laptop and my phone. Plus, it’s super easy to use and lets you organize your thoughts into separate notes and notebooks. You can also drop in photos, videos and other media and share the notebooks with others if you are collaborating together.
Gleam – Giveaway Management
If you decide to run any type of giveaway or contest through your blog, you will most likely want to use some sort of program to manage it. Since some of the big names like KingSumo only work as a WordPress plug-in, I had to go looking elsewhere and I found Gleam. I find it very easy to use and can usually set up a new giveaway in just about 15 or 20 minutes. It keeps track of all the entries for you, draws the winner and reports all of the user data to you (on the paid plans) after the contest is over.
Buzzsumo – Content Analysis
Not only can you use Buzzsumo to get great ideas on what types of content do well in your niche, but you can also use it to look up what your best-performing blog posts have been. There is a limit on how many look-ups you can do on the free plan, but if you need more, you can always upgrade!
SumoMe – Social Sharing Buttons
Ever seen those little social share buttons on the side of a website and wonder how they got there? SumoMe is how! It’s a great, free tool that allows you to add all sorts of nifty little features to your site like the social share bar, welcome mats and “heat maps” that show where the most activity is happening on your site.
DPD – Digital Product Delivery
If you are selling any type of digital products like an e-book, or want to set up a special subscriber-only area of content, DPD is a great way to publish and distribute that content. You can set up multiple “storefronts” and manage multiple products within each one. You simply set up the products in advance, write the email copy that will go with them and bam, DPD takes care of the rest! So you can sit back and rest while you watch the money roll in!
Believe it or not, this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to blogging resources, and I could go on and on about the wonders of Google Hangouts, PhotoShop, Adobe Kuler, DPD and Iconosquare, but we’d be here all day.
So instead, check them out when you have time, but get going on these ten and I promise… you’ll be a blogging bada** in no time!
Jenn Baxter is an accomplished writer in Charlotte, NC, who has been published in The Charlotte Observer, Fort Mill Times, Charlotte Five, SOCIETY Charlotte Magazine and Lake Norman Magazine, as well as featured as a columnist on Beliefnet.com. Her freelance clients span across the US, as well as Australia and the UK, in the fashion & beauty, health & wellness, travel and life coaching industries.
In 2015, she launched her website, Live a F.a.s.t. Life, based on her own experiences with clean living and downsizing into a 160 sq. ft. tiny house. Quickly gaining recognition in the tiny house community, her posts have been featured on popular tiny house sites like CometCamper, Tiny House Talk, Tiny House America and Tiny House Jamboree.