I’ve been blogging for a WHILE now. More than a decade, which makes me something of an antique in the blogging world. So, I wanted to give new or struggling bloggers some recommendations for the very best blogging tools that I use in my own business to boost my productivity. That’s the big trick to blogging. You’ve got to know a lot about just about EVERYTHING and somehow keep all the plates spinning. That’s why these tools are going to help you be a much better blogger.
Best Blogging Tools for your Website
Let’s start with the foundation – the blog hosting plan. This is the company who gives you webspace to run your site and they can also help you fix some of the problems that might happen with your site. Mine also provides free SSL security, free daily backups and free site scans, unlike my previous host (who shall remain nameless). My top pick is absolutely SiteGround.
In fact, I’ve just renewed BOTH of my sites with them for the next two years! It cost me a chunk of change, but that’s how much I like them. Their customer service is outstanding. I can get a live chat going within less than 2 minutes any time of the day. And usually they have my problem sorted out within 10 minutes. Now that’s my idea of PRODUCTIVE! Go here to my SiteGround post to learn more.
Next is your theme. That’s the software that creates all this pretty background and sets up your header and all your sidebar stuff. I’ve used several themes over the years and some of them were pretty bad. So now I use Bluchic themes on all my websites. This one is the Isabelle theme, which is terrific for bloggers, but they have several others. Shop around a bit. They have some new ones that are set up especially for female business owners.
I like them because they are simple to set up – they have great tutorials and it was super easy to customize my colors and create my header and slider images. I’ve tried some other themes that my clients used. NOT EASY to set them up at all and very limited choices in some cases. You can have pink or purple or blue on one site I was working with. Those were not the choices my client wanted, so she had to get a different theme.
People just starting out always want to use FREE THEMES, well because they’re FREE. However, you get exactly what you pay for and most of the time, free stuff is CRAP. That’s why it’s free. Also, the coding is critical so your website is properly mobile responsive, and also resistant to hacker attempts – very important. It’s like the transmission of your site – it’s gotta work right. Check out my really helpful post on WordPress security.
My last theme WASN’T coded properly, so I had a lot of trouble with it looking terrible on mobile and loading VERY SLOWLY. A good theme costs a bit, but it’s totally WORTH IT. This is one place where you WANT to take some time kicking the tires and be prepared to spend some money.
They also have some professionally designed social media graphics like this one so you can coordinate your look across all the different platforms. I highly recommend having a theme like this – it gives a cohesive and professional feel to your social media.
Here’s something else you absolutely NEED for your site. You need to have all the proper GDPR privacy policies and cookie popups in place, along with your site’s terms and conditions. Happily, this is very easy to do with this Legal Bundle from Amira Law, a lawyer specializing in online policies and processes. I’m sure you are thinking that there are free versions out there and some people are using them, however, Amira did a survey of several different ones and they were missing some crucial phrases and clauses, so they wouldn’t adequately protect you.
She also has a number of different legal templates on her sites for photo releases, sponsored posts, independent contractor agreements, etc. I have a whole post on this topic – Legal Protection for your Blog.
How ’bout a great course in how to learn to create and maintain your WordPress site? And it’s FREE. A 5 day course for free. That’s a pretty unbeatable deal. Here’s how to sign up for the course.
One service I offer is coaching for new or struggling bloggers. I can help with both the technical and practical aspects of blogging as well as motivational coaching to help you find your voice and get to a point where you are actually earning an income with your blog. This is something I have a lot of experience with. Check out my page to learn more about how my blog coaching works.
Here’s a helpful post on how to make $1,000 a month with even a small blog.
Email Campaign Blogging Tools
Once you’ve got a website, you need to get some subscribers and start creating newsletter content. I get a lot of questions from my clients about this one. Which one is the best service to use for the price? It’s a very important question because changing providers is kind of a big hairy PAIN. I’ve used several of them, so I am VERY confident in my choice of MailerLite as the best tool, especially for a smallish list.
Yes, I know a lot of people are going to say go with MailChimp. I do use it for a charity site I work with and honestly, I just don’t like it. The templates are kind of clunky. I had a hard time setting up my subscriber list the way I wanted to, and I don’t think their open rates are great.
I use MailerLite to push content out to my subscribers every week (every Sunday morning!) and also to share tips and great deals with them. I had previously used Active Campaign which I HATED. I’ve found MailerLite to be cheaper (it’s FREE up to 1,000 subscribers), easier to use, much PRETTIER, and it just works better.
I can even set up multi-step automations on the free plan to send out an Email series to my subscribers. That’s pretty awesome. Since it’s a free tool for a small list, you can try it with a small group of subscribers to see how you like it while you are building your list.
There is ConvertKit, which does seem to be the Cadillac of Email programs, but it’s got a Caddy-sized price tag too. If you’ve got 8,000-10,000 subscribers, that may be the right tool for you, but if you are small potatoes like me, I’d give MailerLite a try.Here's a cool productivity tip for you! I use a free Trello board to keep all my affiliate links in one place. Then I've got them right at my fingertips anytime I want to share them. Smart, huh?
Social Media Blogging Tools
Obviously, Pinterest is my big traffic source/money maker/obsession. And I really couldn’t do it without Tailwind and don’t think I haven’t tried. In addition to manual pinning, I’ve tested several of the other blogging tools on the marketing and I just didn’t find them as useful and feature-rich as Tailwind. They also have Instagram auto-posting with their patented hashtag finder and now auto-posting to Facebook and Twitter. Plus their Tribes, board lists and analytics are huge time-savers. Their looping feature is now in Beta testing (shhhh, I’ve been secretly ALPHA testing it for them for months now and it’s pretty cool!).
Best of all, I get my Tailwind for FREE and have for years due to their generous referral program. You can’t beat free, especially for a great program like Tailwind. It’s one of my most-used scheduling tools for my blog and saves me TONS of time!
Of course, my own Pinterest Planner is my top recommended tool! Since Pinterest is the best traffic source, your first strategy move is to learn exactly how to use it effectively. I’ve seen so many hours-long courses that cost HUNDREDS of dollars and take you weeks to actually get going. Mama ain’t got time for that! This is a simple Planner with a couple of short videos and a bunch of checklists and planning pages, so you can read it and implement it in a weekend and best of all, it’s only $25 bucks. Click here to learn more about it and get your copy.
Hopefully, you’ve seen my MiloTree popup inviting you to Follow me on one of my social media platforms. It’s a simple way to grow your social media Followers with almost no effort. And it takes like 2 minutes to set up for ALL your different platforms, including your newsletter. I think it’s quite brilliant and it’s worked extremely well for me. More info about it here.
Miscellaneous Blogging Tools
Quickbooks/PanicFree Tax Prep
When you are just starting out in business, all that tax and money stuff is SOOOOO confusing. What can you write off, what records do you need to keep, do you need a tax ID (yes!), do you need separate business accounts (YES), do you have to file quarterly taxes. All of these are very important questions you need to answer. Happily, I’ve got a whole post right here that gives you all the answers about these things and even offers you a 50% off deal on six months of Quickbooks Online. Sweet! Click over to the post here.
VA Virtual Assistant Courses
Did I mention that I recently escaped the clutches of Corporate life to pursue my VA Business full-time? It was wonderful to have a viable option when things at work got bad and I needed a Plan B. A qualified VA can make between $30-$50 an hour or even more, so it’s definitely an option worth pursuing.
Happily, there is a LOT of training available.
If you’d rather take an online class instead of personal one-to-one coaching, I have a good option for you. I am part of Hannah Dixon’s Digital Nomad Kit Inner Circle program and I LOVE it. It’s an open and diverse community 🏳️🌈 with members from all over the world and all walks of life. One of their mottos is “Embrace your weird” which fits in quite nicely with my “free spirit attitude” and the fact that I’m more than a little bit ADHD. I’m never going to fit into any specific box, and this group is just fine with that.
Hannah’s signature course – The Digital Nomad Kit – (soon to be renamed the Virtual Excellence Academy) has a HUGE treasure trove of lessons for the new Virtual Assistant – everything from how to set up your contracts and billing, how to impress and retain clients, how to use an endless array of tools for your business, and also some helpful resources for self-care and mental health for VA’s as well. Hannah’s lovely wife Kim leads a monthly self-care/meditation session that is very peaceful and relaxing and her Mom teaches a very powerful mindset challenge as well as other guest teachers.
If you’d like a free preview of some of the features of the kit, there is a Freebie Beginner’s Guide to Virtual Assistance you can check out. And she also runs a 5 Day Challenge for new Virtual Assistants several times each year.
These are the 3 Missions for the DNK group:
Enabling people everywhere to join the remote work revolution
Standing for fair pay, diversity and inclusion in the remote space and creating sustainable careers
Community first and prioritizing FUN!
Hannah has trained more than 10,000 Virtual Assistants with her amazing training and they are now working all over the world.
There are low monthly payments available – it’s one of the most affordable programs on the market and there are tons of tech tutorials available in her training course and there is a ton of help and support in the group. This is such a resource if you are interested in starting life as a Virtual Assistant.
Here’s a couple of helpful posts that will help you understand a bit more about the world of being a Virtual Assistant:
This is similar to my journey. I’d been working 9-5 for more than 40 years when I started my VA business in my late 50’s – go figure! Now I’m in my 60’s and I run my business with my 70-something sister, so don’t feel like this isn’t for you, even if you tend to be on a different path than the traditional business person or big name entrepreneur. So if you need help starting a virtual assistant business, this is a terrific and affordable way to stat making money QUICKLY and without a huge investment of time or money.
And if you are interested in personal coaching for to start your own VA business, here is my page for you to learn more about it.
Well, there you go – my best recommendations for you. If you have any questions or need help, leave me a comment. I’d also love it if you’d share this post with your blogger friends! Sharing is caring…