My blog would be nowhere without these! We use these platforms on a daily basis, so if you’re looking for recommendations, this section is a great place to start!
If you’re new to blogging, you’ll need a web host to, well, host your website and domain name so that it has a place to live on the internet. Some platforms like WordPress.com or Squarespace don’t require hosting, but this is a BIG mistake! When you’re hosted on someone else’s platform, you don’t really own that entity, not completely at least! If you’re serious about turning your blog into a money-making business, set it up right from the start.
Bluehost: When first getting started, I highly recommend Bluehost. For starter’s it’s CHEAP! You can get hosting for $3.95/month. How many other businesses can you start for under $5?! They have great customer service, it’s easy to use and will cover all your needs. It’s a great way to dip your toes in the blogging world without a huge investment. Click here to see how to set up your hosting and install WordPress in just a few steps.
Flywheel: At some point, you will probably outgrow Bluehost, that’s a good thing! I hit this point a couple of years ago with my personal blog, and more recently moved BlairStaky.com over there too. This isn’t to say there’s anything wrong with Bluehost. I simply had a HUGE database that required something more specialized.
Flywheel has been incredible, their customer service is top-notch and they’re extremely helpful. You also get free SSL (which makes your site https:// vs http:// which Google is now prioritizing!). It is however more expensive than Bluehost, and hence why I suggest starting with Bluehost. I pay around $150/month to host my personal blog, and $25/month for this site.
WordPress.org: The platform both my personal blog and BlairStaky.com are built on. (SEO Tips: This is different and much more customizable and advanced than WordPress.com!) Most hosts have a “one-click” option for installing WordPress, which makes the whole process incredibly easy. If you want some extra help, I have a whole tutorial on setting up your blog on Bluehost here.
Empress Themes: Ideal for lifestyle and fashion bloggers. The Empress team has been designing and developing for this niche for a long time and all of their themes are highly customizable, beautiful and functional. The theme I’m using for BlairStaky is one of theirs! Themes will run you $39-69, a steal when you consider the cost of hiring a designer and developer to do it for you (at least $3000-5,000).
StudioPress: More WordPress theme greatness! They have some really great options for food and business bloggers. I’ve had a great experience with them as well. All of their themes run of the Genesis framework. Prices start at $59.95.
ThemeForest: Another great resource for WordPress themes. This is a HUGE marketplace for themes. When searching, make sure to click on WordPress, because they also sell templates for different platforms, plus plugins and more web stuff.
Etsy: One more spot to find some really great blog themes. There’s a wide variety of themes here that are priced all over the place. Some are as low as $15! These themes don’t undergo any manual vetting like the companies above do, so make sure to read the reviews and ask any questions you may have before purchasing.
MailChimp: The easiest email provider to begin building your email list. It’s free to get started and very simple and straightforward.
ConvertKit: If your email list is going to be a major part of your money-making strategy (and it should be!) I highly recommend ConvertKit. It’s also easy to use, and allows you to tailor and segment your audience a lot easier than MailChimp. This is what I use for all of my email marketing.
GSuite: When you get started, you’ll want to set up an email address with your domain, for example, email@example.com, instead of firstname.lastname@example.org. Some email providers block emails from generic email addresses, so to guarantee the most sends and opens, make sure you have this set up. I use GSuite. It’s easy, works just like Gmail and is very affordable.
Tailwind: My absolute favorite tool for Pinterest scheduling. It’s helped me grow my Pinterest following super fast and also ensures that I’m pinning something everyday. I also love the SmartLoop feature, Tribes and ability to look closely at my analytics each week. If you’re a blogger, you absolutely NEED this tool. You can try it for free, and plan start at $9.99/mo. Such a good use of $10 each month!
Planoly: My favorite tool for Instagram scheduling. I use the free option here as Instagram isn’t a huge money-maker for me, but it allows me to batch my content and have it all ready to go when it’s time to post.
Canva: Not a social media platform, but absolutely essential for creating awesome graphics for Pinterest and other social media platforms. A basic plan is about $15/mo and is 100% worth it for all the free templates you get—perfect for anyone who’s not design-inclined!
Photography Software & Equipment
Camera: I shoot with the Canon 60D with a 35mm lens. It has been the most versatile lens EVER! It’s an investment, but I’ve definitely made back my money. (Tip: Just buy the body of the camera, you won’t use the lens it comes with, anyway!)
If you’re on a budget, the 50mm f/1.8 lens is also great to start, but if you can, I recommend the f/1.4 or f/1.2! If you have someone else shoot your photos, then no need to worry about this section.
Adobe Lightroom: What I use to edit my photos. It’s quick and easy to batch edit and export web-ready photos!
Adobe Photoshop: Recommended for graphics and fine-tune photo retouching. You can subscribe to Adobe’s Creative Cloud photography plan and both of these programs come with it. If you subscribe to it, you’ll always have the most up to date versions too.
Adobe Lightroom for Mobile: One of the easiest ways to edit your photos on the fly and free!