I’ve been blogging for a VERY long time. I started blogging in May of 2007, so in blogging years, I’m practically an antique! Over the years, I’ve learned a LOT and one of the best things I’ve learned is which are the tools worth paying for and which are garbage.
I started as one of millions of hobby bloggers on a shoestring budget. Originally, I started on Blogger, which was then called Blogspot, didn’t own my own domain name (so I was AdriansCrazyLife.blogspot.com) and basically didn’t pay for anything. I also didn’t have any traffic to speak of or any source of income. My, how things have changed.
Now I’ve got all these things like business cards and licenses and all these various tools that are worth paying for to keep my blog up and running. These are the things I use to drive my traffic and earn my income from my blog and the products I sell. The nice thing is that I’ve been through the good ones and the bad ones, so I can definitely steer you in the best direction. Trust me – I ONLY recommend the tools that I personally USE and LOVE!
Disclaimer – Many of the tools I have will carry my affiliate links. This is one of the ways that I use to support my site and pay for all these lovely tools.
Price – Starts at $15/month, but varies depending on services.
Tailwind HAS to be first on my list. Obviously Pinterest wasn’t even on the horizon when I started, but it’s definitely the 800 lb. gorilla in the room these days and Tailwind is definitely the gold standard for schedulers. Well, I’ve heard that Board Booster is pretty good too, but I haven’t used it personally. I did use an early product called Viral Tag and I do still maintain a membership for it, but it’s definitely an inferior product. It doesn’t have the analytics or the flexibility of Tailwind, but it is useful for building boards in large volumes and quickly.
I’ve had a very beneficial relationship with Tailwind over the past several years. They’ve not only been helpful in scheduling hundreds of thousands of pins for myself and my clients, but they’ve also managed my analytics, and my Tribes. I also use it for my Instagram scheduling, such as it is. They’ve also given me hundreds of dollars in $15 commissions for referring people to their services – see my post on How I get my Tailwind for FREE. Even nicer, they are paying to promote that article and a couple of others on all their social media, which drives a lot of my traffic. See why they’re my favorite?
Disclaimer: As with any tool, your mileage may vary. Here are some stats to show you the results of typical users with this tool. I think that’s true of anything. I’ve seen people get AMAZING results with tools or strategies that I can’t always duplicate.
2. SiteGround Hosting
Pricing: Plans Starting at $3.95 per month (that’s less than a cup of coffee per month!)
My #2 recommendation would be my SiteGround hosting plan. I recently moved from an off-brand host you’ve probably never heard of – WebHostingHub. They were not only WAAAY more expensive, they were AWFUL. My site was SLOW, customer service was sketchy, I had to pay for lots of things that SiteGround offers for FREE (backups, SSL, virus scans, for example).
So it was basically costing me an extra $300ish a year to be with that crappy host. Moving to SiteGround was like a breath of fresh air! I can get a chat with a live person to help me literally within about 90 seconds and that is ANY time night or day! They set up my SSL for FREE in less than 15 minutes. That other host – it took like 2 weeks and cost me nearly $200 bucks. The point is, do you your homework before you select your host. It’s a critical choice. I just went with that bad host because that’s what the lady who set up my site recommended, but then I stayed with them for like 3 years – duh!
Here’s a post all about SiteGround that gives you more details. If you are looking at changing hosts, consider SiteGround, and please be sure to use someone’s link or affiliate code. It will give YOU a better deal, and it generates a nice bonus for the person recommending it. It’s just good karma! Here’s mine – https://www.siteground.com/go/helpfornewbloggers
Pricing – $9 to $49
This is another good and bad situation. When you sell Ebooks and other digital products, you need a service to handle your online payments and deliveries. I first tried a service called E-Junkie. It was cheap – just $5 a month, but it was BAD. It was so unprofessional looking, I think it was scaring off my potential customers. I only had a handful of sales for nearly a year because of a massive cart abandon issue. I actually feel pretty dumb that it took me almost a year to figure it out.
The switch to SendOwl was dramatic. It was not only hugely easier to set up and use, but my sales quadrupled. I’ve also been able to easily set up affiliates to increase my sales. If you sell digital products, SendOwl is definitely a great choice! They also have really nice customer service.
Prices – FREE to $100ish per month (for LOTS of subscribers)
I’ve had a pretty bumpy ride with Email services. Talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly! I’m not usually indecisive, but I struggled with this one. I started with Active Campaign, but HATED it! It was really complicated and inflexible and seemed like it was made for professional marketers rather than little bloggers like me.
I do use Mailchimp’s free service for a charity site that I work with. It’s not bad at all, especially for someone just starting out, but it didn’t really have enough horsepower for my taste. I even looked at MadMimi at one point – it’s super pretty, but again not much on features.
I looked at GetResponse and ConvertKit (you should hear cash register sounds if I had a soundtrack!). They definitely have all the bells and whistles, but at a price. Even with a fairly low amount of subscribers I was in the $50/month range!
So, I got SMART. I asked the lovely ladies in my amazing Facebook Group what they recommended. The hands-down answer – MailerLite!
Bingo!!! I switched to them – which took me hours and hours (because Active Campaign was such a pain to export my users and automation Emails). But I am SO much happier! They are not only waaaaay cheaper – they were free until I got my whole list moved over. My numbers are still low, so it will be about $10 a month until I grow to the next level.
They also have beautiful Email templates, easy-to-use subscriber management, very responsive customer service, and a terrific dashboard where I can see exactly how things are doing. They also have list segmentation, automations or drip emails (even on the free plan!) and landing pages, which I need to start using. Love it!
MailerLite is the bomb! Seriously, go try them out for free. If you use my code, you get $15 worth of FREE service with them and so do I. How’s that for nice? Here is my code – https://www.mailerlite.com/invite/962f550db27a5
5. Bluchic Themes
Pricing: Various prices
Do you like the look of my site? I’m loving it! And it was surprisingly EASY to set up. This is the Isabelle Theme that I purchased from a company called Bluchic. Even though I’ve been using WordPress for years, I’d never set up a new theme and I’ve been terrified to try it.
But this was super quick and easy (a huge PLUS in my book!). They had simple step-by-step instructions with little 2-3 minute videos to show you exactly how to set it up, customize the colors, set up your menus, hook up your social media, the whole enchilada! Yet another happy ending in the blogging world. Click THIS LINK for to see Isabelle in action with a brief demo.
They also have a nice graphics package that I’ve also purchased and used pretty extensively. It comes with matching Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and blog header images, like a couple of dozen of them. These flat-lay feminine themes are all the rage now, so I decided to go with it. Although I do have to tone down the pinky, pink PINK color scheme a bit. I’m not quite THAT girly and I don’t want to scare off any male bloggers who might happen along – (they are rare as unicorns though!) But again, it was super easy to change the pale pink colors in the theme to this pretty gold and navy color scheme that still looks very sophisticated.
Here’s an example – isn’t that just heavenly???
Bluchic definitely gets my recommendation for beautiful products that are very easy to use.
Pricing – from Free to $35/year for 5 gigs storage
Have you ever lost your whole site? Like GONE? I haven’t actually lost my site, but I came dang close one time after I hired a foreign guy from Fiverr and he hacked into my site. Here’s my post about Being Hacked. I would’ve lost nearly 10 years worth of posts, all my photos, comments, and just everything. Major devastation.
Now I hear you saying that your host backs up your site for you. Yes, so did mine. I even paid extra for it. But what I didn’t know was that the backups were only kept for ONE DAY. So, by the time you find out there’s a problem, figure out what to do about it and try to contact somebody – one day could have already passed. Boom – your backup is GONE and you are screwed!
I purchased Updraft that same day and I also bought it for our charity’s site due to all the excessive hacking attacks. It automatically saves backups on the schedule I set – I usually keep 4 to 6 days worth of backups. That makes this one of my most valuable tools worth paying for!
7. Social Warfare
Price: $29 for small sites up to $250/year for multiple sites
Yet another case where I tried to go with a freebie tool and found it unsatisfactory. I loaded Sumo.me on my site to manage my social shares. It was OK, but not fabulous. It kept track of my social shares just fine and offered heatmaps and some other tracking options, but didn’t offer good share options for my fans and readers.
On the 4th of July, I found a special where they were offering Social Warfare for just $20 for the year. So, I figured it was worth a try. It’s a great tool. You can control which images and specific text bytes to each social media platform and it makes it very helpful for your site visitors to share your posts.
And it’s easy to use – no big learning curve. Downside – you do need to manually edit each post to set up the images and text descriptions. I have over 400 posts on my other site, so it’s a work in progress, but I am finding it to be a helpful tool worth paying for.
Price – $4.95/month
This isn’t specifically a blogger tool, but staying on top of your Email is a critical part of being a blogger. And honestly, most of us SUCK at it. I’ll see posts on Facebook about people bragging about having 10,000 or even 20,000 unread Emails. That’s just dumb and not efficient. Email is a super important tool to treat so carelessly – definitely not good in a business-owner. You need to keep track of comments, social media posts, sponsored campaigns, and collaborations with other bloggers. And people get MAD when they think you are ignoring your Emails. Don’t get MAD, get Mailstrom and get it under control!
Goodness! Are we seeing a pattern here of me trying the free or cheap tool and then switching to a paid tool for better results? I started with just regular Gmail, tried a free service called Unroll.me for about a year – it was good, but not great. Then I switched to Mailstrom and it’s really brilliant!
Here are my two favorite ways to use it. I love the “expire” feature. If I don’t read newsletters or other information-type Emails in a few days, I’m not gonna. So I can set them individually by user to simply disappear from my Inbox after a set number of days. They all appear in an Expire folder, so I can rescue them if needed, but it’s SO helpful.
The other way I use it is to gather up Emails by type. I can grab 10 different threads from my son’s Scout Troop and pop them into a folder in 3 seconds. Or find all my Facebook or Pinterest notifications for a month and delete them all in one pop. This is the first time I’ve ever felt so in control of my inbox.
9. My Pinterest Ebooks
Pricing – $25 each
Couldn’t have a list like this without having my own products on it. I have not one, but TWO Ebooks for Pinterest. I have one for bloggers and regular website folks. The other one is designed for people who sell products, like Etsy sellers and people in Direct Sales like Mary Kay, doTerra, etc.
Each is 40-pages jam packed with all my BEST Pinterest tips – how to get Followers, how to set up your boards, comparing different schedulers, pin examples, and how to find group boards or better yet, create your own. Each one comes with a bunch of bonus items – lists of no-limit Group boards and Tailwind Tribes for all niches. Plus my unique style guide with over 100 different color combinations and a series of font pairings to make gorgeous pins.
10. My Coaching Sessions
Pinterest seems simple, but it’s sort of like chess. There are moves within moves and arcane strategies. It can be really complicated to do it properly and there are multiple ways to use it. I’ve worked with over 100 different clients so I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. REALLY ugly in some cases. And I love to give advice, so this is perfect for me. I actually put a lot of time into these sessions – I review your competitors, look at your analytics, tell you what you’re doing wrong or right. At the end, you end up with a big list of changes you can make to improve your account.
I have one more option – if you want to make the changes, but don’t have the time, energy, or technical know-how, you can hire me as a VA (Virtual Assistant) to make the changes for you, and even do your weekly pinning schedule for you. My monthly plans start at $100/month for a small-to-medium sized account. You can Email me for more details at adrianscrazylife at gmail. Note that I currently have a waiting list, but you never know.
So, I hope that helps you make some of these critical choices. I would LOVE it if you would Pin this Post or share it to Facebook. Go ahead – use my sharing buttons below from Social Warfare.
Bonus Item: I’ve just discovered a new tool called MiloTree. It’s a terrific option to be able to trigger your readers to Follow you on your various social media platforms. It’s very easy to set up, takes like 2 minutes and it automatically shows a different platform each time a reader comes to your site. Check out my POST on it.